Senators introduce bill to establish national RES program

Read the full story in Biomass Magazine.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M, has introduced legislation that aims to establish a national renewable electricity standard (RES). The bill would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Rant: How the REC effect stunts the low-carbon economy

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently posted a new YouTube video, and it’s not about the dangers of climate change or mercury or any of the many other depressing topics the EPA has to address. Instead it’s about renewable energy, and specifically about voluntary Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

The high-quality video RECs: Making Green Power Possible, produced by the EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program, is an uplifting story of how we can contribute to saving the planet by promoting renewable energy and purchasing voluntary RECs.

There’s just one small problem with the message: It’s grossly misleading.

Growing Green Energy: A Review of Extension’s Role in the Development of Advanced Biofuels

Read the full article.

The development of advanced biofuels is expanding the possibilities for purpose-grown energy crops. Growers, producers, and other stakeholders will need a reliable source of information to assist with decision-making regarding renewable fuel supply chains. This review examines Extension’s role in the innovation of advanced biofuels by documenting and summarizing Extension work in existing biomass-derived energy programs. This review highlights strategies used by Extension programs that help make renewable energy innovations successful.

USDA Announces Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners can now apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. These efforts help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, support America’s clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution. The resources announced today are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well.”

USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested. Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register or are available by contacting state Rural Development offices.

USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.

Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

USDA is offering a second type of grant to support organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000. Applications for these particular grants have been available since December 29 of last year and are due February 12.

The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million in annual funding for the duration of the 5 year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.

In 2013, owners of the Ideal Dairy restaurant in Richfield, Utah, used REAP funding to install 80 solar modules and two 10-kilowatt inverters, which convert energy from solar panels to electricity. The owners have saved, on average, $400 per month. These savings have helped them preserve their restaurant and livelihood.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Climate change: California lawmakers to introduce sweeping new measures to increase renewable energy, cut fossil fuel use

Read the full story in the Contra Costa Times.

California lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping package of bills that would boost the Golden State’s reputation as a national leader in the battle against climate change.

If enacted, the legislation would in the decades ahead trigger fundamental shifts in the kind of cars Californians drive and the way they power their homes and businesses.

The bills would beef up the state’s investments in clean energy, increase building efficiency standards and cut gasoline use in half by requiring cars and trucks to meet tougher emissions and gas mileage standards.

Report explores future of green energy in Michigan

Listen to the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Green energy has made big strides in Michigan over the past several years. That’s thanks in large part to a 2008 law that required the state to get 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2015.

The “10 by 2015” mandate is about to expire…and the state is on track to meet its goal.

But what happens next? Can Michigan continue its move toward renewables? Or will efforts to green the energy industry stall without a legislative mandate?

A report by the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute tries to answer those questions.

Current State talked about the report’s findings and the future of renewable energy in Michigan with co-author Jeremiah Johnson, who is also an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.