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Google Powers Up with Iowa, Oklahoma, and South Dakota Wind Energy

by Hanna Hunt – AWEABlog

Never one for small acts, Google recently announced that it will be buying a massive combined 536 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity from four U.S. wind farms. Here are the details on Google’s latest deals:

  • One 200 MW power purchase agreement (PPA) signed with EDF Renewable Energy for the entire output of the planned Glaciers Edge wind farm in Iowa
  • Two 98 MW PPAs signed with Avangrid Renewables for the entire output of the planned Coyote Ridge and Tatanka Ridge wind farms in South Dakota
  • One 140 MW PPA signed with Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) for output from Enel Green Power North America’s 300 MW planned Red Dirt wind farm in Oklahoma

Google is a global leader in renewable energy procurement, announcing last yearthat it would be powered by 100 percent renewables by the end of 2017. What’s most impressive about this news? Ninety-five percent of that will come from wind. And prior to yesterday’s announcements, Google had already signed agreements to purchase a total of 1,800 MW of U.S. wind energy.

Gary Demasi, Google’s director of global infrastructure, explained why wind energy represents a low-risk, high-value investment for Google: “Renewables from projects like [these] bring value to our business as we scale and accelerate investment in the communities where we operate … with solar and wind declining dramatically in cost and propelling significant employment growth, the transition to clean energy is driving unprecedented economic opportunity and doing so faster than we ever anticipated.”

And Google’s not alone. In total, corporate and other non-utility customers have signed approximately 7,000 MW of PPAs for U.S. wind power to date. Early leaders, which included Google and other high tech companies, are now being joined by a diverse range of retailers and household brands. For example, four companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Cummins, JPMorgan Chase, and Kimberly Clark, all signing PPAs for the first time last quarter.

Interested in learning more about the Fortune 500 companies and other non-utility customers investing in wind? Dive into our new interactive map below. The map includes all publicly announced non-utility wind PPAs at least 20 MW in size.

M&M’S® Shares Commitment to Making Clean, Renewable Energy Even Sweeter

M&M’S Launches Fans of Wind Energy Campaign to Engage Consumers on How Renewable Energy Can Counteract Climate Change

M&M’S, one of Mars, Incorporated’s most iconic and beloved brands, is addressing the importance of tackling climate change and how everyone – even colorful chocolate treats and their spokescandies – can make a difference. Today, M&M’S is launching its Fans of Wind energy campaign, using “Red” and “Yellow” as enthusiastic advocates for renewable wind-powered energy.

The campaign is part of Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation Plan which includes $1 billion of investment over the next few years to tackle urgent threats including climate change, poverty in the supply chain and scarcity of resources. This effort holds special meaning for M&M’S, since Mars sources wind power equivalent to the energy needed to produce all the M&M’S sold in the world.

https://youtu.be/LHkZz2nay04

Fans of Wind Energy
To inspire consumer action in preventing further climate change, M&M’S has tasked its brand personalities with sharing the message about renewable energy. Fans of Wind energy helps shine a light on one reason why everyone should care about wind energy: because climate change is real and businesses need to be a part of the solution.

Mars and M&M’S believe the science on climate change is clear. Fans of Wind energy is launching to increase awareness of the urgency of climate change, as well as the importance of everyone doing their part in combatting climate change, companies and brands included. In fact, Mars’ partnership with the 200-megawatt Mesquite Creek Wind Farm in Texasmarks the biggest long-term commitment to using renewable energy of any food manufacturing business in the United States. At this 25,000-acre wind farm, Mars purchases enough energy to power all of its sites in the United States.

“We have the power to act now to prevent further climate change,” said Berta de Pablos-Barbier, President of Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. “None of us will thrive without a healthy planet. Through the new Sustainable in a Generation Plan and our M&M’S campaign we are committed to doing our part. We are using our unique position as one of the world’s largest privately held, family-owned businesses, plus the power of our iconic brands like M&M’S, to do good for our consumers and for the planet.”

Addressing Climate Change
M&M’S and Mars believe the more consumers engage in dialogue about addressing climate change, renewable energy and a healthy planet, the more the world will change. There is no option not to become fully sustainable, both for the planet as well as for the business.

“One M&M’S candy on its own can seem small, but we know our brand can have a big impact on the world by doing what’s right to combat climate change,” said de Pablos-Barbier. “Thanks to the love consumers have for the brand, we’re hoping to make a bigger impact. Each of our consumers has the power to take small steps to increase their use of renewable energy to make big strides in ensuring the future health of our planet.”

Investing in a Healthy Planet
Thanks to wind energy, Mars is one step closer to decreasing its dependency on fossil fuels and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Mars partners with two wind farms – one in Texas and one in Scotland. And most importantly, Mars will continue to increase renewable energy usage to meet its goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations by 2040 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain by 67 percent by 2050.

“It’s rare to see product personalities become the voice of a cause – but we believe the campaign will help Mars and M&M’S explain our commitment to sustainable business efforts in a fun, relatable way,” said Tanya Berman, Vice President, Chocolate, Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. “Consumers are increasingly aware of the big issues our planet faces and expect the brands they care about to take action. This is one way we can raise awareness and bring color to the conversation around how renewable energy can counteract climate change.”

Consumers are invited to join M&M’S spokescandies Red and Yellow and pledge their support as Fans of Wind energy. Consumers can visit M&M’S World stores to purchase limited edition Fans of Wind energy inspired treats and enjoy a special photo moment. Alternatively, visit www.mms.com/fansofwind to learn more about climate change and renewable energy, and how they can support a healthy planet for all.

To find out more about the Mars Sustainable in a Generation Plan, visit: www.SustainableInAGeneration.com

About Mars, Incorporated
Mars is a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and the pets people love. With almost $35 billion in sales, the company is a global business that produces some of the world’s best-loved brands: M&M’s®, SNICKERS®, TWIX®, MILKY WAY®, DOVE®, PEDIGREE®, ROYAL CANIN®, WHISKAS®, EXTRA®, ORBIT®, 5™, SKITTLES®, UNCLE BEN’S®, MARS DRINKS and COCOAVIA®. Mars also provides veterinary health services that include BANFIELD® Pet Hospitals. Headquartered in McLean, VA, Mars operates in more than 80 countries. The Mars Five Principles – Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom – inspire its more than 85,000 Associates to create value for all its partners and deliver growth they are proud of every day.

For more information about Mars, please visit www.mars.com. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.

Contact:
Alicia Buksar
Senior External Affairs Manager
1-908-798-2970
alicia.buksar@effem.com

When Wind Turbines Move to Town – How Do Rural Communities Benefit?

By Anna Luke, American Wind Energy Association
Originally published on Into the Wind

It wasn’t always the case, but nowadays rural places are often among those in greatest need of new economic development. Sadly, the farm belt and Rust Belt have been losing jobs and investment for decades. It will take significant change to raise up rural communities, including welcoming new opportunities like wind. Rural areas already are home to 99 percent of the country’s wind turbines, with more on the way.

Building a wind farm can be a big change for a small town, but a number of benefits come along with those changes, including:

1. Job Creation

Hundreds of construction workers come to town during the build-out, bringing new regulars to the local diner. And full-time employees will have jobs at the wind farm, often a major new town employer. There are now more than 100,000 people working in the wind industry, and wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in America. This is a huge opportunity for young men and women who are looking for good-paying jobs in rural towns.


2. Economic Development

It’s typically pretty rare when a multi-million dollar economic investment comes knocking at the door of a small town. When else does that happen? Maybe when a new superstore wants to open a location near you or a sports team relocates to your area.

3. Increased tax revenue and/or lower taxes for individuals

When April 15 rolls around, how would you like to pay no local taxes? For the town of Sheldon, N.Y., the project generated so much tax revenue that local residents paid no taxes for eight years. Payments went to improving roads, building a basketball court at the town park, and erecting new walls at the town’s cemeteries.


4. Landowner Lease Payments

Rural landowners receive nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in lease payments every year for hosting wind turbines, acting as their new “drought-resistant cash crop.” Many project developers also provide payments to other residents living nearby as a goodwill gesture as well. These payments are significant income streams and can help keep the farm in the family.


5. Funding for Community Projects

The companies that own wind projects want to be good corporate citizens, and often donate to local charities and community projects like parades, restoration efforts, and youth clubs. For example, Enel Green Power North America and TradeWind donated $50,000 to renovate Leonardo Children’s Museum in Enid, Oklahoma, which included improvements like an interactive Power Tower exhibit on oil, natural gas, wind and solar power.

Utility-scale wind projects are a big adjustment for small communities, but they bring significant benefits to town. To hear about some on-the-ground experiences with wind, check out some more YouTube testimonials.

Rural Texas Speaks Out: Tells Lawmakers to Keep Supporting Chapter 313

One of the most valuable tools Texas uses to attract major investments to Texas is currently under assault in the legislature.  Lawmakers in Austin who don’t understand the innovative Chapter 313 program, are working to take this tool away from Texas counties and school districts.  The loss would be felt immediately, especially in rural areas that have used 313 to attract more than $32 billion in wind energy investments.

WIND BENEFITS ALL OF TEXAS.  Texas has benefited tremendously from wind energy’s growth.  Wind is bringing cheaper power to consumers statewide.  Wind is bringing new revenue streams to support farmers and ranchers.  Wind is creating new high-quality jobs, delivering economic opportunity in our rural communities.  And, wind is creating new, stable, long-term tax revenue for local governments and schools.

Wind energy has become the reliable, affordable, stably priced energy source that other industries rely on too.  More and more companies are committing to use wind energy from Texas to make their manufacturing cheaper, and to guarantee long-term affordably priced power.  From our chemical manufacturers on the Gulf Coast, to our automobile manufacturers in the Metroplex, to small factories in towns across the state; leading American companies are using Texas wind energy to be competitive and that wind is making Texas more attractive for job-creating investments.

313 WORKS FOR RURAL TEXAS.  One of the reasons that wind energy has been competitive in Texas is the Chapter 313 program.  As rural communities know well, Chapter 313 in our tax code gives local communities and school districts a discretionary tool to help attracts investments that grow the economy.  This essential tool helps communities compete against other states where taxes are lower by offering a short-term property tax reduction. Because wind energy projects are long-term projects with expected lives of 25 years or more, a short-term tax incentive delivers long-term value to schools and other property tax payers.

The attack on the ability of rural communities to attract investment is real.  If certain lawmakers in the capitol have their way, one of the most valuable and flexible economic development tools available to rural Texas will disappear, or be limited dramatically.  In some cases, proposed changes target wind energy development.  That means that, while other areas of the state will benefit from the program in other industries, rural areas with rich wind energy resources, will be left behind.

That’s why rural constituents are reaching out to Austin, keeping the pressure on until the legislature adjourn on May 29th.  Until then, they’ll be reminding them that rural Texas needs tools to attract investments and grow rural economies.  The Chapter 313 program is one of the most important tools available today, a critically important tool for rural economic development, and one that community leaders rely on to grow their tax base and economy that funds local schools and communities.

If you have questions about the 313 program, please contact Alerts@WindCoalition.org.

Clearing the Air: Lamar Alexander, You’re Wrong About Wind Power

by Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project could inject large quantities of high-value, low-cost wind power directly into the Tennessee Valley region from western Oklahoma. Recently Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) spoke on the senate floor in opposition to the project, and wind energy. We are disappointed that Sen. Alexander continues to use outdated information regarding wind energy. He has a responsibility to support the best interests of his constituents; however, his personal opposition to wind power is clouding the interests of Tennesseans.

Sen. Alexander says that wind power is unreliable. However, Oklahoma’s regional grid operator (the Southwest Power Pool, or SPP) recently reached a record wind power penetration level: at one point, the entire region generated 52% of its electricity from wind power. SPP is eyeing perhaps 75% wind energy penetration levels in the long-term. As shown by Oklahoma’s example, wind power can provide low-cost, reliable energy.

Sen. Alexander says that wind power is expensive. However, his information is outdated. With its considerable wind energy resources, Oklahoma had the lowest electricity prices in the country last year. Tennessee ranked #28.

Sen. Alexander would have Tennessee turn its back on the single energy resource that is arguably doing the most to drive energy prices down all across the country.

Clean Line will have a small but beneficial impact on TVA rates. TVA’s fuel costs could be reduced by $136 million per year, reducing rates by about 0.05 – 0.1 cents per kWh. High natural gas prices would increase the savings. Click the graph above to download the full analysis by SACE.

Sen. Alexander says that a long-term contract would put TVA’s low cost power at risk. In the US Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement for the Clean Line project, Leidos Electrical estimated that the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is likely to drive down electric prices in Tennessee, Arkansas, and beyond. Our team has studied the impacts on the actual rates TVA charges its customers, and concluded that the project would drive down TVA’s costs and electric rates. This benefit increases when the revenue TVA would earn from its fees for use of the existing TVA transmission system to “wheel” low-cost wind power to power-hungry neighbors.

Sen. Alexander criticizes wind energy, based on historical information from the Buffalo Mountain wind farm in Tennessee. That project became operational 13 years ago (in 2004), and wind turbine technology has advanced significantly since then. While the Buffalo Mountain project achieves capacity factors of approximately 20% per year, as expected, the LBNL study also shows new turbine capacity factors already exceeding 50%+ in high wind speed areas. Western Oklahoma wind farms could achieve 55%+ capacity factors. With oversubscription on an HVDC transmission line, capacity factors could go even higher.

Sen. Alexander says that the Tennessee Valley Authority’s integrated resource plan shows it does not need new baseload power plant capacity. On this point, we agree. We participated heavily in TVA’s most recent integrated resource planning process. TVA found that new baseload power plants, such as new coal and nuclear units, are not needed.

Raising this point is a red herring because wind power is not a baseload capacity resource. The Clean Line project delivers most of its potential value as an energy resource. Low-cost wind energy, when available, reduces costs by helping TVA further minimize its highest cost power plants. This is exactly how the high levels of wind power in Oklahoma have pushed its electric rates to the lowest levels in the country.

What Sen. Alexander did not mention in his floor speech is that he advocates for massive subsidies for untested, unproven and costly small-modular nuclear reactors – a baseload power resource, which Sen. Alexander says (with respect to wind) that TVA doesn’t need.

Sen. Alexander claims that the federal production tax credit for wind energy is a “wasteful” incentive. However, the PTC is phasing out, despite the fact that fossil fuel and nuclear industries still receive massive federal subsidies. The PTC has broad bipartisan support; even Sen. Alexander has voted for legislative packages that contained PTC extensions. Wind farm development companies need to sign contracts soon to qualify for the highest level of this important tax credit. Wind energy projects may up to four years to finish construction, after qualifying for the PTC. Projects that qualified in 2016 would have until December 31, 2020 to deliver power and retain their qualifying status. Project development firms need some level of assurance that projects have buyers. As the PTC begins to phase out, TVA – and its customers – will lose the opportunity to save tens of millions of dollars in savings if nothing is done.

Senator Lamar Alexander’s bluster against wind energy relies on outdated misinformation, that ignores current realities. TVA, and other electric companies throughout the region, should contract for wind energy on the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project, soon.

USFWS Eagle Rule is Sound. Misleading Anti-Wind Detractors? Not So Much.

In public venues, in news media, and in social media, anti-wind zealots continue to deliberately spread misinformation about the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) recent rules on eagles and the Eagle Conservation and Management Program.

Anti-wind alarmists claim that wind power companies have been given a “free pass” to harm bald eagle populations, up to 4,200 per year. This is false, and in most cases is a premeditated attempt to tarnish the reputation of wind energy by suggesting that wind power poses an unacceptable risk to eagles and wind power operations are being given special treatment not afforded to other energy producers. Neither is true.

Some clarifications are in order and, while they won’t stop the perpetually deceptive tactics of NIMBY wind opponents, they will help the public understand the truth about the USFWS rule.

To start with, the issued rule in not specific to the wind power. It applies to any person or entity that might unintentionally harm an eagle through an otherwise lawful activity, after first taking every step possible to avoid and minimize the threat. Other activities and industries that could potentially impact eagles that are eligible for permits are oil and gas development operations, farming and ranching operations, mining companies, utilities, and the transportation sector, among others.

While being presented by detractors as a recent development, the program itself is not new. Over 400 permits have been issued under this program since 2009, only three of which were issued for for wind power companies.

Contrary to some reporting and the public statements of paid anti-wind groups, impacts on bald eagles by wind turbines are vanishingly rare, with only a handful of recorded impacts in the four-decade history of American wind power.

Moreover, any entities that impact eagles without a permit – including wind energy operations – could face a severe penalty.

It is a gross mischaracterization of the rule to suggest that it gives entities a “free pass” to kill eagles without consequences. Only in return for working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to offset any potential harm to eagles and to provide conservation benefits to the species is a permit issued.

Because of incorrect reporting in the media and by deliberately misleading and politically motivated comments, Dan Ashe, the head of the USFWS elected to issue some clarifying remarks.  (Read Dan’s column on this subject:  “Our Unwavering Commitment to Eagles”)

On how the program conserves eagle populations, USFWS said, “Let me be clear: incidental loss of eagles is not new, and whether or not we issue permits, it will continue to occur. But our permit system enables us to reduce those losses and to secure action that compensates for unavoidable losses when needed. We can’t eliminate human-caused eagle loss any more than we can eliminate risk from any other facet of modern life. But these changes will enable us to effectively manage risks to bald and golden eagles and ensure the symbol of America maintains healthy populations for generations to come.”

Further, USFWS’s eagle conservation program does not provide permits to companies allowing them to kill any significant number of bald eagles each year. The number of eagle deaths the USFWS expects to authorize annually from all new sources will never come close to reaching thousands. They stated that this figure is in no way representative of the losses it expects, or would ever allow, under the eagle conservation program.

Rather, the figure represents USFWS’s scientific estimation of how many bald eagles could theoretically be harmed over and above current mortality rates, both through natural and all human-related causes, without the species declining due to reproduction rates.

USFWS said, “Some have mischaracterized the ceiling of about 4,000 bald eagles cited in our documents as the actual number of bald eagle deaths we intend to permit. In truth, this number represents the maximum number of bald eagles in the lower 48 states (with an equivalent number in Alaska) that our best scientific estimates indicate could be lost annually over and above current mortality rates by any means – both natural and human-caused – without resulting in population declines. The reality is we expect to issue just a few dozen permits annually, most for nest disturbance, some for loss from wind power projects and other sources, such as power lines… The total number of eagle losses we will authorize annually from new sources will be in the hundreds, not thousands, and we believe actual eagle loss will be significantly lower.”

On wind energy’s impacts on eagles, USFWS said, “Public attention on eagle loss in recent years has focused almost exclusively on wind energy. In truth, wind turbine collisions comprise a fraction of human-caused eagle losses. Most result from intentional and accidental poisoning and purposeful shooting. The majority of non-intentional loss occurs when eagles collide with cars or ingest lead shot or bullet fragments in remains and gut piles left by hunters. Others collide with or are electrocuted on power lines.”

The misinformation and deliberately misleading attacks by anti-wind activists do a disservice to the American public, which is deserving of accurate information.

The Home Depot Taps Texas Wind Farm for Renewable Energy

(Atlanta, Georgia)  The Home Depot® today announced its first major investment in a wind-powered renewable energy project.

The energy purchased from the wind farm is enough to power 100 Home Depot stores for a year while also providing $150,000 in local community benefits.The Los Mirasoles Wind Farm, owned and operated by EDP Renewables North America, is located in Hidalgo and Starr Counties, northeast of McAllen, Texas. Through a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA), The Home Depot’s annual purchase of 50 megawatts (MW) is a fifth of the wind farm’s 250 MW capacity. The farm utilizes Vestas V110 2.0 MW wind turbines and produces enough power to provide more than 70,000 average U.S. homes with clean electricity each year.

The Home Depot partnered with EDP Renewables for the Texas development in 2016. EDP Renewables operates globally with 41 wind farms across North America.  As a part of its renewable energy initiative, The Home Depot’s goal is to procure 135 megawatts of various renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, by the end of 2020.

In addition to the wind farm, the company also procures energy from solar farms in Delaware and Massachusetts with a combined annual output of 14.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh). More than 150 stores and distribution centers utilize on-site fuel cells that produce roughly 85 percent of the electricity each store needs to operate.

For more on The Home Depot’s wind energy project, visit: https://corporate.homedepot.com/newsroom/texas-wind-farm-renewable-energy

The Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer, with 2,278 retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico. In fiscal 2015, The Home Depot had sales of $88.5 billion and earnings of $7.0 billion. The Company employs more than 385,000 associates. The Home Depot’s stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: HD) and is included in the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

SOURCE: The Home Depot

 

Infinity Renewables and MJMEUC Sign Power Purchase Agreement

(Santa Barbara, California)  Infinity Renewables entered into a long-term power purchase agreement with the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) to sell wind energy from its Iron Star Wind Project, located in Ford County, Kansas. The wind energy, generated in western Kansas, will be delivered to MJMEUC customers in Missouri via the Grain Belt Express Clean Line, a high voltage, direct current (HVDC) transmission line. The new infrastructure project is under development by Clean Line Energy Partners and will bring clean, affordable wind energy from western Kansas to customers in Missouri, Illinois and surrounding states.

The planned purchase of up to 200 megawatts (MW) from the Iron Star Wind Project represents the first offtake contract from what will eventually be an approximately 4,000 MW wind energy project located near Dodge City, Kansas. A total of 500 MW of low cost, renewable energy and capacity will be available to consumers in Missouri via a delivery station in eastern Missouri, including MJMEUC customers.

“We are excited to be working with MJMEUC to enable Missouri Municipalities and ratepayers to benefit from low-cost, domestic wind energy produced in western Kansas. Infinity has a long history of successful power project development in western Kansas, and we are proud of the jobs and investment our projects generate for rural communities. We look forward to the additional economic growth that will result from construction of Grain Belt Express Clean Line and the ability to deliver low-cost wind to various markets and further develop Kansas’s exceptional wind resource,” said Infinity Renewables CEO, Matt Riley.

The continued growth of wind energy in Kansas resulted in one of the lowest-cost sources of energy in the United States. The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will enable more homes and businesses to harness one of America’s strongest domestic, renewable energy resources.

About Infinity Renewables – Infinity Renewables is a leading wind and solar energy project developer, providing landowners and communities the opportunity to participate in renewable, affordable, domestic energy projects for nearly 10 years. Over 1,200 MW of Infinity-developed projects are now operating throughout the central United States.

Source: Infinity Renewables

For More Information:  Contact Kathy Dowling / 805-569-6180

Natural Gas and Renewables, A Partnership With Which Coal Can’t Compete

By Jeffrey Clark
http://eecn.johnshopkins.edu/index.php/2016/11/15/1512/#ixzz4VtCXZCTF

In an ugly weekend for Texas football fans, the Longhorns were defeated by the West Virginia Mountaineers.  Sitting in the stadium, I reflected on our just-ended Presidential election in which energy issues – particularly the promise of a coal renaissance – played a major role.  I was struck by the bigger battle between these two states currently unfolding off the gridiron.  That competition is for the future of American electric power generation and, campaign rhetoric aside, it is one in which natural gas, wind, and solar from states like Texas and Oklahoma will resoundingly defeat the dirtier and increasingly more expensive coal from the mines of states like West Virginia.

Peaking in 2007 when it was used to generate half of the United States’ electric power, coal use has been declining steadily while the use of low-priced natural gas has been on the rise.  By 2015, coal’s share had fallen dramatically, with each fuel then providing about one-third of our nation’s power generation.  In coal country, this shift is often blamed on environmental policies, overregulation, and the growth of renewable energy.  In reality, the causes are more complicated.  While new regulations reducing harmful emissions from coal power plants have increased their cost of operations, the reduction in our use of coal is driven by economics, attributable primarily to the arrival of inexpensive and abundant natural gas.

Fuel switching by power generators is becoming common, with low natural gas prices the primary driving force.  A study by BTU Analytics concluded that natural gas priced near $2.50/MMBtu provides sufficient economic justification for shutting down coal plants and replacing them with newer gas generation.  This switching is also driven by the flexibility of natural gas generation, which allows it to work in concert with other low or no emission generators, especially renewables.

Unlike coal power plants which cannot be efficiently started and stopped, new gas generation units can ramp quickly, meaning that they can serve to balance generation fluctuations from variable generation resources like wind and solar.  A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a 1% rise in fast reacting natural gas generation was associated with a 0.88% rise in renewable generation.  The authors, analyzing data from 26 OECD countries, concluded “that renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.”

That “highly complementary” relationship is a simple one. Natural gas power plants provide power with reduced emissions, high reliability, and some price volatility; while renewables offer emission-free, low cost, fixed-priced power with variability in generation output.  Married together, they offer high reliability, lower prices, moderate price stability, and reduced emissions.

There is irony in the fact that many of America’s most energy-rich states import the fuels currently essential to powering their lives and economies.  The symbiotic partnership between natural gas and renewables is helping these states, including Texas, break their addiction to imported coal bringing wide-ranging economic benefits including energy independence, consumer savings on power, emissions reductions, rural economic development, and new tax revenue for governments and schools.

President-Elect Donald J. Trump has promised much to energy producers, leaving constituencies in the natural gas and coal producing communities hoping that their fortunes are about to rise.  But, unlike the annual battle that plays out on the football field, the contest between West Virginia coal and Texas natural gas is already in the fourth quarter and fans are walking out of the stadium.  Coal is not clean enough, affordable enough, or flexible enough to compete in the clean energy market of the future.  Instead, the future will be dominated by a new group of states harnessing new technologies, their infinite renewable energy resources, and their vast supplies of cleaner-burning natural gas.

Other Reading:

How Renewables Can Save Natural Gas – Bloomberg

Steelcase Announces New Wind Power Investment

25 Megawatt Power Purchase Agreement Further Diversifies the Furniture Company’s Renewable Energy Portfolio

Grand Rapids, Michigan– Steelcase Inc. (NYSE:SCS), the global leader in the office furniture industry, announced a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Apex Clean Energy for 25 megawatts of wind power. Since 2014, Steelcase has invested in renewable energy credits equivalent to 100% of its global electricity consumption. This latest investment will make up nearly half of Steelcase’s renewable energy purchases, directly support the construction of a new clean energy facility set to begin operations in 2016, and further diversify the company’s renewable energy portfolio.

“Our decision to partner with Apex and execute a long-term renewable energy agreement reflects our longstanding commitment to drive a clean energy landscape,” said Jim Keane, Steelcase president and CEO. “At a time when businesses and governments are working to align on climate strategies, we maintain a sense of urgency and optimism. We are focused on finding new ways to reduce our overall energy use and investing in innovative, economically beneficial projects like this one to take one step closer to a sustainable energy future.”

Under Steelcase’s long-term PPA with Apex’s Grant Plains Wind project, a 150-megawatt facility in Grant County, Oklahoma, Steelcase is committed to support production of approximately 100 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable wind energy each year. This amount is equal to approximately 70% of Steelcase’s U.S. electricity usage, or roughly the electricity needed to power 9,100 homes per year.

“Apex is proud to partner with Steelcase to help the company achieve its renewable energy goals,” said Mark Goodwin, president of Apex. “Our mission is to accelerate the shift to clean energy, and we do so by providing opportunities for visionary companies like Steelcase to participate in the energy market in the manner that makes the most sense for them. Steelcase has proven itself to be a leader in renewables investment, and we’re pleased that Grant Plains Wind fits with its corporate strategy.”

“After a record-setting 2015 for corporate renewable energy purchasing, we commend Steelcase for starting off 2016 with such a powerful long-term commitment for clean wind energy,” said Lily Donge, a principal at nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute and its Business Renewables Center, of which Steelcase and Apex are a member and sponsor, respectively.

Steelcase has a long history of supporting renewable energy development that dates back to 2001. The company is one of the top 50 green power users in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and received a Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA in 2014.

About Steelcase
For over 100 years, Steelcase Inc. has helped create great experiences for the world’s leading organizations, across industries. We demonstrate this through our family of brands, including Steelcase®, Coalesse®, Designtex®, PolyVision® and Turnstone®. Together, they offer a comprehensive portfolio of architecture, furniture and technology products and services designed to unlock human promise and support social, economic and environmental sustainability. We are globally accessible through a network of channels, including over 800 dealer locations. Steelcase is a global, industry-leading and publicly traded company with fiscal 2015 revenue of $3.1 billion.