EREN Network News
April 11, 2001
News and Events
- White House Budget Emphasizes Incentives, Cuts Research
- Governor Davis: California's Summer Depends on Conservation
- BPA: Conservation Key to Avoiding Massive Price Increases
- University of Waterloo Wins Clean Snowmobile Challenge
- City of Davis Acquires Solar Power Plant, Plans Upgrade
Energy Facts and Tips
- Consumer Guide to Renewable Energy
About this Newsletter
- Summer Gasoline Prices Expected to Remain High
News and Events
White House Budget Emphasizes Incentives, Cuts Research
The Bush administration released its detailed budget
proposal on Monday for fiscal year 2002, which begins
October 1, 2001. In terms of renewable energy and energy
efficiency, the budget proposes expanded tax credits for
renewable energy but cuts funding for most renewable
energy and energy efficiency research and development.
The President's budget is meant to serve as a starting point
for Congressional budget negotiations.
The budget proposes allowing homeowners to receive a
solar energy investment tax credit that is currently applicable
only to businesses. The credit would apply to solar electric
and hot water systems, excluding swimming pool heaters,
and would be equal to 15 percent of the cost of equipment
and installation, with a maximum of $2,000 for each type of
system. The budget also proposes expanding the existing
production tax credit, which currently applies to wind power
plants, biomass power plants supplied by dedicated energy
crops, and energy from poultry waste. Due to expire at the
end of this year, the credit would be extended through 2004,
and would be expanded to include more biomass power
facilities. Co-firing of coal with biomass would be eligible for
a limited credit, also. See the "Tax Incentives" section near
the end of the Energy budget on the White House Web site.
The White House budget also proposes cuts of 25.9 percent
in renewable energy research, development, and
deployment. In preparation for closing out research in
concentrating solar power, its budget is reduced by
85.9 percent. Research funding for geothermal energy,
photovoltaic systems, solar building technologies, and wind
energy systems are all cut by roughly 48 percent. Last-
minute budget changes held funding steady for hydrogen,
hydropower, biomass and biofuels energy systems, and
electric energy systems and storage.
For research, development, and deployment of energy
efficiency technologies, the budget proposes an overall cut
of 7.3 percent. The big winner in this arena is the
weatherization assistance program, which receives a budget
boost of 78.8 percent. State energy program grants and
energy-efficient power technologies are held at roughly level
funding, but all other energy efficiency programs are cut by
31.2 percent overall. This includes programs for energy
efficiency in transportation, buildings, and industry, as well
as the Federal Energy Management Program, which aims to
reduce federal energy use.
The administration's detailed budget for DOE is available on the DOE Web site
(PDF 761 KB).
File pages 7-8 (pages 4-5 of the document's introduction)
address energy efficiency and renewable energy in general,
file pages 17-20 (document pages 14-17) address
renewable energy in detail, and file pages 105-108
(document pages 104-107) address energy efficiency.
Governor Davis: California's Summer Depends on Conservation
The only way for California to make it through the summer
without blackouts is to cut electricity demand by 10 percent,
Governor Gray Davis announced last week. In a live
address, the governor reiterated the need to save energy in
the state. "Conservation is our best short-term weapon
against blackouts and price-gouging," said Governor Davis.
See the governor's press release.
The governor had plenty to deal with this past week, as the
state's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
(PG&E), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On Monday, the
governor announced an agreement to buy Southern
California Edison's transmission system for $2.76 billion,
thereby helping that utility avoid bankruptcy. See Governor
Davis' press release.
See also the PG&E press releases.
One company responding to the Governor's request is the
Macerich Company, one of the largest owners and operators
of shopping malls in the United States. While taking
immediate action to cut energy use by roughly 5 percent in
its California malls, the company is also committed to
decreasing energy use at its more than 40 malls across the
country. Macerich anticipates average energy savings of
15 percent through such projects as the installation of high-
efficiency air-conditioning units, thereby saving at least
30 million kilowatt-hours per year. The company is giving
first priority to upgrades at its California properties. See the
Macerich press release.
BPA: Conservation Key to Avoiding Massive Price Increases
With the drought continuing in the Northwest, the Bonneville
Power Administration (BPA) on Monday largely echoed the
warnings heard in California. While not threatening blackouts,
BPA warned that tight power margins could drive wholesale
electricity prices up as much as 250 percent after October 1st.
BPA called for the region's retail utilities and large industrial
customers to make commitments to reduce energy use within
the next 60 days.
BPA also announced last week that it will not initiate the
planned release of water through spillways at dams to assist
juvenile salmon in their spring migration to the sea. The water
saved by not spilling is sufficient to generate 1,000 megawatts
enough to serve a city the size of Seattle.
BPA is also helping its customers save energy. The power
administration is working through the region's utilities to offer
customers two coupons worth $6 apiece for the purchase of
energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. BPA
estimates that it will save half a megawatt of energy for
every 100,000 energy-saving bulbs put into use. See the
BPA press releases.
University of Waterloo Wins Clean Snowmobile Challenge
A student team from Ontario's University of Waterloo won
first prize at the Clean Snowmobile Challenge, held in late
March. Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers
(SAE), the event challenges engineering students to design
a cleaner and quieter snowmobile without significantly
compromising performance. Most surprising is that the
Waterloo team won with a two-stroke engine although
standard on today's machines, two-stroke engines are
generally noisier and have higher emissions than the heavier
four-stroke engines. Waterloo was, however, strongly
challenged by a four-stroke machine from Kettering
University. The Waterloo snowmobile achieved a fuel
efficiency of 20 miles per gallon while reducing emissions of
carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and hydrocarbons by
60 percent relative to a standard snowmobile. See the SAE
For detailed results and photos, see the Clean Snowmobile Challenge page on the SAE Web site.
City of Davis Acquires Solar Power Plant, Plans Upgrade
After months of negotiations, the California Energy
Commission (CEC) announced last week that it was
transferring ownership of the 15-year-old PVUSA solar
photovoltaic power plant to the City of Davis. Originally part
of a research effort called Photovoltaics for Utility Scale
Applications, or PVUSA, the 86-acre facility in Davis was
bought by the CEC in 1996. Since September of last year,
the CEC has looked to pass ownership of the aging facility to
The City of Davis has big plans for the facility. The city
council has approved a 20-year lease of the facility to Nuon
Renewable Ventures, a Dutch company, which will run and
refurbish the facility to produce 800 kilowatts of electricity.
Future plans are to expand the facility to 2.5 megawatts of
solar energy capacity enough to power 2,500 average
California homes. See the April 6th press release on the CEC Web site.
Consumer Guide to Renewable Energy for Your Home or Business
This new Web site on EREN shows consumers how they
can buy electricity made from renewable sources in their
state, evaluate the environmental benefits of clean power,
and learn how clean power is generated. In addition, the site
helps visitors decide if owning a renewable energy system is
right for them by helping to evaluate the available
technologies, teaching about connecting to the grid and
sizing a system, and presenting the available incentives. A
special section on powering a home or small business with a
small wind system is also included. The site is provided by
DOE's Office of Power Technologies.
For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site,
Energy Facts and Tips
Summer Gasoline Prices Expected to Remain High
The average spring and summer gasoline prices are
expected to remain high, at about $1.49 per gallon,
according to a new report by DOE's Energy Information
Administration (EIA). The prices will be lower than last year's
average of $1.53 per gallon, but will be the second-highest
summer average prices on record. Low crude oil and
gasoline stocks will contribute to price volatility, according to
Natural gas prices are also expected to remain elevated
through the summer, and could have an impact on electricity
prices. As anticipated, the amount of natural gas in
underground storage reached the lowest levels ever recorded
by EIA at the end of a heating season on March 31st. The
need to replenish the natural gas in storage while meeting
the demand for electricity generation from natural gas will
keep an upward pressure on natural gas prices. See the EIA
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