December 4, 2014

Green energy powerhouse NextEra Energy to buy main Hawaiian utility

Clean energy company NextEra Energy announced on Wednesday that it will acquire Hawaiian Electric Utilities (HEU) in a $4.3 billion transaction. NextEra, which controls about 17 percent of U.S. wind capacity and 14 percent of U.S. utility-scale solar, will gain control of a company that provides power to 95 per cent of Hawaiian residents. Hawaii has the highest electricity prices in the United States due to its reliance on imported oil for 75 per cent of electricity generation. HEU has been struggling with grid reliability issues as distributed solar power has become increasingly popular throughout the island. The Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission publicly chastised HEU back in March for dragging its feet on clean energy adoption. “Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for both our companies as we seek to leverage our respective strengths, commitments to our customers and the communities we serve and the mutual goal of building a cleaner energy future,” said Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy in a statement.

 

Potential classification of Alberta oil sands petroleum as “dirty” back on table

In October, after years of internal debate and fierce lobbying by stakeholders, the European Commission reluctantly dropped its proposal to label Albertan oil as “dirty” due to its larger carbon footprint. Yet a committee in the European Parliament voted down the Commission’s proposal earlier today, putting the plans back on the agenda. “If the EU is serious about tackling climate change it should discourage the development of these highly greenhouse-gas-intensive unconventional fossil fuels,” said Dutch lawmaker Gerben-Jan-Gerbrandy in a statement. The veto of the Commission’s proposal will need to be approved with a full parliamentary vote.

 

Falling oil prices create opportunity to end fossil fuel subsidies

In October, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended price controls on diesel, the fuel that powers the tractors, trucks and generators of India’s politically powerful farmers. Leaders in emerging markets often talk about doing something about fuel subsidies before losing their nerves, but Modi’s new diesel reforms are likely to stick. Slashing subsidies as fuel prices fall worldwide mean that so much time will have passed before people pay higher prices that any political counter will lack all credibility. The unexpected plunge in oil prices has presented a group of countries with an opportunity to do something that never seemed possible when crude was trading closer to $100 per barrel. Will Indonesia be next?

 

Indian action on climate change

India may be preparing to unveil a new climate plan in early 2015, according to the Indian Business Standard. Three anonymous government sources told the publication on Monday that discussions are ongoing at the cabinet level. “The consultations have begun for it,” one of the sources told Business Standard. “We should be able to narrow down on the nature of targets we should aspire to. It is likely to include an indicative year by which India’s emissions could peak, as well as a fresh target for lowering the economy’s carbon intensity.” Any forthcoming announcements are likely to occur when U.S. President Barack Obama makes his scheduled visit to Delhi in January.

 

Rain a welcome sight in drought-stricken California

Several inches of rain fell for the third day across most of California, which finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented three-year drought. Last month saw only 70 per cent of average November rainfall across the state, and it will take many more storms like this to restore water levels back to normal. In San Francisco, for example, every inch of rain erases only three per cent of the current water deficit. While the opportunity to replenish water levels across the state was welcomed by residents, the heavy rains have resulted in a number of sinkholes and mudslides. A 20-by-30 foot sinkhole opened up in the middle of a residential San Francisco neighbourhood overnight.

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