In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • How did green energy fare in the new $1.4 trillion US year-end spending bill?
  • Demand for natural gas industry is dropping in the US for three reasons.
  • Lawrence, Kansas, plans to run on 100% green energy by 2050.
  • New Jersey utility Atlantic City Electric proposes to expand its EV programs.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Where’s the green energy on Capitol Hill?

The US House of Representatives approved a $1.4 trillion spending package on Tuesday. It’s expected to pass the Senate and get sign-off from Donald Trump.

So what’s in there on the green energy front? Frankly, not a lot.

Most House Democrats wanted tax breaks for offshore wind turbines, solar, electric vehicles, and big batteries. But Trump objected to them, so they were quashed to avoid a government shutdown.

Auto companies had lobbied to save the tax credit for electric vehicles, but EVs were left out in the cold due to serious lobbying from the oil sector.

As Electrek reported yesterday, an extension of the tax credit for EVs would have benefited US automakers GM and Tesla, who are the only automakers to have hit the 200,000 car limit for the $7,500 federal tax credit:

Currently, several foreign automakers can still make full use of the tax credit, thus disadvantaging current offerings from two domestic automakers when compared to foreign competition.

Electrek continues:

Taxpayers will once again qualify for a 30% rebate (up to $1,000) on costs associated with the installation of an EV charging station, a 10% credit (up to $2,500) on 2- or 3-wheeled electric vehicles such as electric motorcycles, and a $4,000 credit for the purchase of a new fuel-cell vehicle. These credits previously expired at the end of 2017, but will now be available through the end of 2020.

The package did include an increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by $208 million and increases funding for scientific research at the Department of Energy by $415 million.

The bill extended tax credits for biodiesel fuel and some wind turbines. It also revived expired geothermal tax breaks.

There are a lot of people that are unhappy about this watered-down green energy portion of the bill. The Washington Post reports:

‘We’re missing a huge opportunity,’ said Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), chair of the House and Commerce subcommittee on climate change and the environment. ‘To say I’m disappointed is an understatement.’ Tonko had led more than 160 House Democrats urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in an open letter in October to ‘prioritize’ including the clean energy tax credits in the final spending deal with Republicans.

Sierra Club’s executive director gave his assessment of the bill’s outcome on Twitter:

Natural gas hits a wall

Natural gas prices plummeted at the end of November, and it’s looking as though a warmer December is going to keep demand down.

As Barron’s reported at the end of November:

Natural-gas prices have been on the downswing despite initial expectations for a particularly cold winter. Cold weather caused prices to spike in late October and early November — they had reached as high as $2.86 — but worries about oversupply have caused prices to slip again. Unless the market recovers, this will be the first November since 2015 when the price was lower at the end of the month than at the beginning.

The New York Times also reported that there’s a glut of natural gas supply. In other words, supply is much greater than demand. On December 10, Chevron, the US’s second-largest oil company behind ExxonMobil, quietly mentioned at the end of a press release that it would be writing down $10 billion to $11 billion in assets, “more than half related to the Appalachia shale.”

The number of gas rigs deployed nationwide has dropped to 132, from 184 last year. Further, the Times reports:

In a recent report, Morgan Stanley estimated that demand for natural gas would grow for a few years but fall 13% between 2020 and 2030 as utilities increasingly switch to wind and solar power. Future regulations or a carbon tax put in place by lawmakers worried about climate change could accelerate the transition to renewables.

And finally, some cities and towns are banning natural gas. Brookline, Massachusetts, recently became the first New England town to ban natural gas hookups in new construction, and Berkeley, California, outlawed it in July (it starts January 1, 2020) — the first city to do so. Many other California cities followed suit. An understanding of the damage that fracking does to the environment, as well as concern for pipeline safety, has driven this push to drop gas. However, Massachusetts bans will likely be challenged in court.

Lawrence, Kansas, to go 100% green

Lawrence is the sixth-largest city in Kansas, with a population of nearly 97,000. It’s the home of the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.

And on Tuesday, Lawrence’s City Commission voted to adopt a policy recommendation from its Sustainability Advisory Board to adopt 100% clean energy. There will be a final vote in January.

The city plans to use green energy in 2025 for electricity in municipal operations, 2035 for electricity community-wide, 2040 for all energy sectors in municipal operations, and 2050 for all energy sectors community-wide, according to KSHB Kansas City.

City officials say it’s urgent to start working on this plan now.

‘In Lawrence, some of the changes in climate that we’re already starting to see are flooding, which we experienced a lot of this spring and summer, and the other component is the extreme heat and extreme cold,’ Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore told 41 Action News.

New EV support in New Jersey

Atlantic City Electric has proposed to expand EV charging infrastructure, offer rebates and special rates for residents and businesses, and help electrify public transportation in a filing with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The plan, which furthers its initial 2018 program, includes:

  • Public EV charging: Install, own, and maintain 245 public EV chargers across southern New Jersey and provide incentives for additional third party-owned charging stations.
  • EV charger rebates: Offer 50% rebates on EV charging equipment for homes, multifamily buildings, workplaces, and business vehicle fleets.
  • EV rate options: Provide residential customers with special electricity rates that encourage them to charge their vehicles during “off-peak” hours.
  • Innovation fund: Provide $2 million in grants for EV efforts in South Jersey, including projects to displace the use of diesel in low-income or environmental justice communities.
  • Electric school bus project: Launch a pilot project with a local district for 20 electric school buses and chargers.
  • Electric public transit: Work with NJ Transit to build infrastructure to support electrification of one of southern New Jersey’s bus depots.

Atlantic City Electric serves 556,000 customers across eight counties in southern New Jersey.

ChargEVC collaborates with policymakers to develop policies and incentives that address barriers to EV adoption. ChargEVC CEO Pamela Frank said:

Atlantic City Electric’s new filing is appropriate, necessary, and timely, given multiple state goals. Simply stated, without utility involvement in developing charging infrastructure, we have no chance of meeting our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and EV goals.

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