Energy Round Table with Secretary Ernest Moniz

In a unanimous vote on May 16, the Senate confirmed Ernest Moniz as secretary of energy. A physicist who held an endowed chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Moniz has served on a number of boards of directors and commissions involving science, energy and security. These include President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the Department of Defense Threat Reduction Advisory Committee, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The new secretary joined the Energy Round Table to discuss nuclear waste disposal, federal-state collaboration, and the future of the Weatherization Assistance Program.

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5 Years of Energy

5 Years

For our fifth anniversary issue of State & Local Energy Report, we took a step back and looked at last five years of energy. Over that time, the United States has made dramatic changes in how it uses and produces energy. The wide adoption of shale gas has dramatically lowered coal consumption, the growth in solar has sparked a discussion of how the grid can best handle distributed generation, and electric cars gained market share. Here it is, five years of energy, by the numbers.

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News & Notes

President Obama has nominated Ronald Binz, the former head of Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Shortly after his nomination in June, Binz received the endorsement of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).

“He knows how the decisions made in Washington impact ratepayers across the country,” said NARUC president Philip Jones. “A strong federal-state partnership is essential as our nation confronts the numerous challenges ahead, and we are confident Ron, if confirmed, will maintain such a dialogue.”

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Beltway Roundup

Congress and the Obama administration are heading towards another “train wreck” on energy and funding matters. The House is utilizing a $967 billion figure for all discretionary appropriations bills, while the Senate is using a figure of $1.1 trillion. The House budget and allocations among the appropriations subcommittees assume that the 2011 deficit reduction deal will be breached by shifting funds from domestic programs to defense accounts. The Senate is proposing to breach the same deal by using the higher funding level. It certainly looks like the FY 2014 funding will look a lot like the FY 2013 funding, less a sequester of some 2%.

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The Keystone XL Pipeline: A Life Line for Thousands of American Workers

Last year, the U.S. spent approximately $434 billion on foreign oil.i That’s more than $1 billion each day. Too many of these dollars go to governments that are at once hostile to our country and do not enforce the same environmental or safety standards.

The unemployment rate in the construction industry reached 18% in 2012. In some regions of the U.S., unemployment remains above 20%.

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State Energy Policy: Moving Forward, Not Back

State Energy Policy: Moving Forward, Not Back

This was a year when renewable energy policy was supposed to be on the defensive. But the outcomes to date have been very different.

With many state legislative sessions ended or wrapping up, we can now see the results: The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is intact, if not expanded, in every state that has one; advanced energy policies in energy efficiency, financing, and offshore wind have gained ground; and new technologies for natural gas and oil extraction—hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” —are providing important new resources, but are also under scrutiny for their environmental impact.

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State Regulators Address Cyber-Security Concerns

As utility systems become modernized, companies are introducing a number of wireless elements to the system. These new technologies, such as smart meters, synchrophasers, and real-time monitoring of the transmission and distribution system, bring a new level of awareness and efficiency to the electricity grid. They can give consumers more control over their usage, and provide greater situational awareness to the utilities about the overall condition of their systems.

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Litigation Will Drive Some State and Local Energy Policies, Hold Back Others

Energy projects and policies attract lawsuits like lightbulbs attract insects. Some of the litigation swarming around the energy world will push state and local governments to move their energy policies toward greater use of renewables and efficiency. Other cases will pull in the opposite direction.

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Tax Reform: What Could It Mean for State and Local Energy Officials?

For the past couple of months, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have been talking about rewriting the tax code. When talking about energy budgets, we often only think about money appropriated. But the tax incentives lead to lost revenue or “tax expenditures” on energy policy. In 2010 they amounted to over $18 billion. By comparison, 2010 State Energy Program (SEP) funding amounted to approximately $25 billion. Tax spending on energy policy rivals direct spending both in amount and in incentivizing force across the country. A tax code rewrite could have far reaching implications for energy policy.

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Reaching Middle Market Homeowners Through Finance Programs and the Contractor Network

Financing programs must be consumer friendly—simple, fast, and easily communicated. To promote higher efficiency (and sometimes more expensive improvements), there must be a clear differentiation with “better” financing for high-efficiency improvements driven through lower rates, longer loan terms, and lower payments than those available for lower-efficiency products. A successful energy efficiency program faces many impediments—from consumer malaise to contractors’ rejection of overly complex program standards and processes. Implementing a simple, fair, and affordable financing program helps alleviate many of these hurdles and paves the way for sustainable program success.

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