electricity

Preferred portfolio cited in the PSC's order to initiate an investigation
Wyoming Public Service Commission

The Wyoming Public Service Commission has initiated an investigation into Rocky Mountain Power's (RMP) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filed on October 18, 2019.

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2019
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Power producers still intend to move forward with coal plant retirements despite a Clean Power Plan replacement under the Trump Administration. S & P Global Market Intelligence spoke with several major utilities with pre-existing plans to retire coal capacity. Taylor Kuykendall, a co-author, found the Affordable Clean Energy rule isn't changing anyone's minds.

Jim Bridger Power Plant
Pacificorp

Rocky Mountain Power is proposing a unique strategy to lower emissions at the coal-fired Jim Bridger power plant near Rock Springs: reduce its capacity. The utility is required under federal law and within Wyoming's state implementation plan to reduce certain emissions before 2022. Enacted in 1999, the regional haze rule, is meant to limit pollutants that disrupt visibility like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

Tony Webster, Wikimedia Commons

Energy companies in Wyoming are offering programs for customers to switch to renewable energy. Customers can pay between $5 and $15 per month to make their homes completely carbon neutral. Partial plans are also offered.

Net generation by select fuel source - notice the share of goal increasingly goes down from 2010 to July of this year
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Domestic coal-fired power plants are set to shut down at double the rate of last year. The retirements would remove about 6 percent of all coal-generated capacity in the U.S. This comes despite the Trump administration's promise to extend a lifeline to the coal industry.

Annual Solar and Biomass Electricity Capacity (2014-2017)
Electric Power Monthly / U.S. Energy Information Administration

Solar generation surpassed biomass in 2017 to become the third most generated renewable resource in the U.S., according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It still lags behind wind and hydropower.

Cally Carswell

  

In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to the country’s most far-flung communities, transforming rural economies. In Western Colorado, one of these co-ops is again trying to spur economic development, partly by generating more of their electricity locally from renewable resources, like water in irrigation ditches and the sun.

Stephanie Joyce

In fiscal year 2016, the University of Wyoming’s utility bill was $10.8 million—almost $2 million more than fiscal year 2015. Next year, as new buildings under construction come online, that bill is likely to increase, even as the University faces $41 million in budget cuts. That means there may be hard choices ahead—keep the lights on, or keep people employed.

Carbon emissions from burning natural gas are projected to surpass emissions from coal by around 10 percent this year. 

Will Stone / KJZZ

  

Julie and Jim Powell’s air conditioner has been fending off the summertime heat since they bought their traditional Sun City home two decades ago.

“It’s been a workhorse. It’s probably twenty years old, but it does the job,” Julie Powell said, peering at the noisy unit from the shade of her back porch. It’s only midmorning, but her graveled backyard is already too hot to venture across.

  

With hotter summer temperatures in the forecast, natural gas consumption is expected to increase in coming months, and prices along with it. 

Electricity demand is at its highest across much of the U.S. in the summertime because of air conditioning. The Energy Information Administration predicts this year, natural gas will provide a majority of that power, overtaking coal as the largest source of electricity for the first time.

WANDERLUSTIMAGES.COM

When we talk about energy efficiencies, we’re usually talking about efficiencies at home – turning off the lights, unplugging appliances. But power plants have efficiency issues as well – a LOT of energy is lost when we burn fossil fuels to make electricity.

We’re thinking about this because we received a question from a student, as part of our IE Questions project. Garrett Bess is 14, and he just finished up eighth grade at Wellington Middle School in northern Colorado. Here’s his question:

Stephanie Joyce

Inside the secured vault at Green House Data are rows and rows of glass and metal cabinets, chock-full of humming electronics and colorful cables.

“This is the cloud,” said Art Salazar, the company’s director of operations, as he led a tour of the building. “You're standing right in front of the cloud.”

The cloud, where you upload photos and stream video, is real, physical infrastructure, housed in data centers across the country.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Environmentalists, lawmakers, coal miners, and advocates of all types gathered to have their say at a public meeting this week, in Casper, Wyo, hosted by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Like most discussions of the future of coal, the debate was passionate and polarized.

“This is a politically motivated sham, pandering to the political allies of the secretary and the administration,” Richard Reavey, an executive at a coal company called Cloud Peak Energy, said in his public remarks.

Stephanie Joyce

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. fell by 12% in 2015, compared to 2005 levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

The EIA explains that this drop is largely the result of changes in our electricity mix. Over the past decade, shifts in sources of electricity, from coal to natural gas for example, have accounted for 68% of the total decrease in energy-related CO2 emissions. 

In 2016, for the first time ever, natural gas could overtake coal as the main source of electricity in the U.S.

A decade ago, coal accounted for almost 50 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. but in 2015, it was down to 33 percent. The dramatic decline has been fueled largely by utilities switching from coal to natural gas, as gas prices have fallen in recent years because of the fracking boom.

Now, the Energy Information Administration is predicting that in 2016, natural gas will surpass coal as the country’s leading power source, although only by a narrow margin.

Oregon Says No To Coal-Fired Electricity

Mar 4, 2016
David Hanson

Oregon lawmakers have passed a landmark clean-energy bill that lays out a timeline for Oregonians to stop paying for electricity from coal-fired power plants through its two largest utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Historically, electricity pricing has been relatively straightforward: the more you use, the more you pay. But today, that simple equation is not so simple. Increasingly, the time of day when you use electricity factors into the cost as well. It’s called time-of-use pricing, and while it can save money and energy, it’s not always popular.

Coal-Fired Power Plants Clean Up Their Act

Jan 8, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Fron

 

In Wyoming, nearly 90 percent of electricity comes from coal.  In North Dakota, 80 percent, and in Colorado, 60 percent. Even before the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan is implemented, these power plants must make retrofits to comply with current law that requires scrubbing emissions of dangerous air pollutants like mercury. Most of the nation's coal-fired power plants are racing to comply.

How does that retrofit happen? Reid Frazier of the Allegheny Front takes us to the Homer City Generating Station in Pennsylvania to see.

Flickr user mwwile via Creative Commons

  

In North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield, demand for electricity has skyrocketed – unlike much of the rest of country, where demand been flat since the recession. Dale Haugen has seen this first hand as general manager of the Mountrail Williams Electric Cooperative, which serves the heart of the Bakken. In the early 2000s, things were pretty grim at the coop's offices, and in Western North Dakota, in general.

Stephanie Joyce

Congress hasn’t passed an energy bill since 2007, but a bill is winding its way through Congress that has the chance of becoming law.

Earlier this year a bipartisan coalition sent Keystone XL Pipeline legislation to President Obama’s desk only to have it vetoed and the President has continued his battle against climate change. But some are still hopeful that a bipartisan energy bill could still pass. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis said that she believes targeted legislation might become law and that’s what a bipartisan group has come up with. 

NASA

If you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights, you’ve seen the most visible evidence of a solar storm. Bursts of electrically charged particles race towards Earth, and when they hit the Earth’s magnetic field, they cause beautiful auroras like the ones seen as far south as Colorado last month.

The aging United States electricity grid is facing an increasing number of threats, ranging from severe weather events, to solar flares, to cyber terrorism.

Inside Energy research found that major power outages have doubled every five years since 2000. It’s something the U.S. military is taking seriously. They're helping to lead the way in the development of smaller and more secure grids – known as microgrids.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

For Jim and Lyn Schneider, the decision to invest in $50,000 worth of solar panels and battery storage was easy. There were no power lines near their property. After buying land in a remote area near Alcova, Wyoming, their utility company estimated it would cost the couple around $80,000 to get electricity in their new home.

"It's like wow, we’re gonna have to be really primitive! We're gonna be cooking on a campfire! We're gonna have to really like each other," Lyn Schneider said between bursts of laughter.

Shane Reetz / Prairie Public Broadcasting

Across the nation -- and even in Wyoming -- power companies are adding more renewable energy to their systems. That creates new challenges for the electric grid… challenges that this country is just beginning to grapple with. In Denmark, the transition is happening more quickly - by 2030 the country’s power system is supposed to be 100 percent renewable. So already, industry and universities have been trying out potential solutions in the real world -- on a test island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Part 4 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the finishing touches on its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, but warnings against it are getting louder.

Many who deal in the energy sector- grid operators, lawmakers, and especially the coal industry- are piling on to the idea that transitioning away from coal to renewables and natural gas will destabilize our power grid.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The grid control room at Østkraft, on the Danish island of Bornholm, is a mix of old and new. On one side of the room, huge computer monitors detail the flow of electricity throughout the system. On the other, printed circuit diagrams hang on 60s-era control boards with dancing needles. Lounging at a desk in a grey jumpsuit and thick eyeglasses, engineer Erik Malmkvist jams to early 90s dance music, while explaining that his job is to do as little as possible.

“When I shall do anything, it costs us money," he says. "So, I do as little as possible.”

Bill Stevenson / Creative Commons

Part 1 in our Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid.

It was a blustery, cold January day in 1998 when the rain turned to ice. I was nine years old at the time, living in a town called Canton in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. The storm started early, but didn’t get serious until well after dark.

“I remember waking up in the night and hearing explosions outside,” my mom, Lynn Shepherd, recalled recently. “When the top of a tree comes off and it just splinters, the snapping is really an explosion. It’s like a gunshot.”  

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Part 3 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

On an overcast Florida afternoon five years ago, standing in front of a vast array of solar panels, President Obama pledged to modernize the nation’s power grid. He compared its current state to the road system before interstate highways. “It was a tangled maze of poorly maintained back roads that were rarely the fastest or the most efficient way to get from point A to point B,” he said.

An Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed transmission line that would carry electricity from Sinclair to the Western U.S. is now available for review. 

Beverly Gorny with the Bureau of Land Management says the company Transwest Express, LLC, first proposed the 730-mile long transmission line in 2007.  Her agency will be accepting written concerns for the next month.

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