Offshore Wind Acceleration Plan
The US Energy Department released (March 29) a plan that it says will help accelerate the deployment of offshore wind energy in support of reaching the Administration's goals to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, and also a pathway to 110 GW or more by 2050.
In general, the strategy seeks to help reduce industry costs, increase the availability of materials, and drive technology improvements through a “whole of government” approach; meaning, Energy will help coordinate actions across the Federal Government.
The strategy is built primarily around reaching two key cost-focused implementation goals:
Reducing the cost of fixed-bottom offshore wind to $51/megawatt-hour (MWh) by 2030 from 2021 levels of $73/MWh;
Reducing the cost of floating offshore wind energy in deep waters to $45/MWh by 2035 from today’s estimated $150/MWh.
Examples of key actions in the strategy to help achieve the goals:
Direct Federal R&D towards wind technology design optimization for the purposes of improved power generation and operating efficiency, as well as reduced environmental effects on the natural environment and aviation radar systems.
Supporting the development of domestic US supply chains to help reduce costs and ensure the supply of manufacturing inputs.
Enhance planning and coordination towards improved transmission infrastructure of energy produced from offshore wind.
Deploying Federal financing of wind energy infrastructure, such as for offshore wind power plants.
Wind Energy Auction Proposed for the Gulf of Mexico
The Interior Department announced (February 22) a proposal for the first wind energy auction in the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposal includes a 102,480-acre area offshore to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two areas offshore to Galveston, Texas (102,480 acres and 96,786 acres). The Department is seeking public comments on which, if any, of the two lease areas offshore Galveston should be offered for sale. The potential auction areas collectively have the potential to power almost 1.3 million homes using wind energy.
The proposal will have a public comment period for 60 days, with no current public timeline for a final plan and sale.
Increased Light Bulb Efficiency
The Energy Department issued a proposed rule (December 19) intended to further strengthen the energy efficiency of light bulbs.
In April, Energy finalized a rule intended to hasten the near-term phase out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more efficient alternatives, such as LEDs, by implementing a 45 lumens per watt bulb standard. LED light bulbs last 25 to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Businesses will only be able to import noncompliant bulbs until January 2023, and retailers can only sell them until July 2023.
This latest rule proposes to gradually phase-in an even higher standard, increasing the efficiency level from 45 lumens to 120 lumens. DOE claims that if adopted within the planned time frame, the higher standard will deliver consumer benefits of up to $20 billion dollars and conserve roughly 4 quadrillion British thermal units of energy in the 30 years after implementation.
California Residential Solar - Pricing Changes
The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) approved a plan (December 15) that would change solar metering for future persons who install home solar systems. Under the plan, the state’s net energy metering (NEM) tariff program would be made more restrictive. NEM enables homeowners to get electricity bill credits at retail rates to offset monthly energy expenses.
While existing solar customers will be able to maintain their current NEM approach for 20 years, future customers will face stricter financial terms that could reduce credits substantially (potentially upwards of 75 and 80 percent). Reduced credits are due primarily to solar customers being subject to rates tied to how much electricity is worth at a given time of day, and also because of a fixed monthly fee for such customers. The CPUC believes that current generous pricing under the NEM has unfairly impacted the cost of energy, including the sustainment of the energy grid, on non-solar customers.
The CPUC has been considering actions on this issue since last year, when controversy over prior proposals led to the indefinite tabling of the matter last December (2021). Leaving current rooftop solar users out of the new system for 20 years likely paved the way for approval of the changes. The CPUC claims that the changes will not undermine future rooftop solar adoption.
California is first in the nation in adoption of solar, with about 1.4 million installations and about 25% of energy generated from solar.
California Offshore Wind Energy
The Department of the Interior announced (December 7) the results of its first offshore wind lease sale off of California's coast. The awards went to five companies bidding a combined $757 million for five lease areas. The areas have a potential to produce more than 4.6 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power over 1.5 million homes.
Lease awards were within two designated wind leasing areas. One area is the Humboldt Wind Energy Area in northern California, about 21 miles offshore of Eureka. Designated in 2018, this approximately 206 square mile area has the potential to generate up to 1.6 gigawatts (GW), enough to power approximately 560,000 homes.
The second area is the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area comprising about 376 square miles of California’s central coast offshore. It has the potential to generate 2.9 GW of power, enough energy to supply more than 1,000,000 homes.
These leasing actions follow a California Energy Commission (CEC) report (August 2022) estimating the maximum feasible capacity of California offshore wind, and also to establish capacity targets for 2030 and 2045. The report establishes a preliminary planning goal of 25,000 MW (25 GW) by 2045, with a minimum of 8 GW of offshore wind over the next decade. The two areas to be leased in December have to potential to produce 4.5 GW of offshore wind alone.
For some perspective, California has some 41 GW-worth of generating capacity in place via natural gas (2018). California wind energy generated on land in 2021 produced about 15K GWh (gigawatt hours) constituting about 7.8% of California’s in-state power generation, while natural gas produced about 97K GWh, about 50% worth of in-state power generation.
The CEC report says that its offshore wind capacity targets are preliminary and “are designed to be potentially achievable but aspirational.” It also says that while North Coast wind as a resource is “one of the best in the world,” it is relatively isolated from the California power grid and that additional transmission infrastructure will be needed to deliver offshore wind energy from this region. Moreover, there is a need for long-term planning for the subsea infrastructure and the ability to use existing onshore infrastructure.
Inflation Reduction Act and Renewable Energy
The recently-enacted Inflation Reduction Act (August 2022) includes an estimated $370 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency incentives. Proponents of the Act claim that the measures collectively will yield an estimated 40% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Key renewable energy provisions include:
$30 billion worth of production tax credits to accelerate U.S. manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and critical minerals processing.
$10 billion worth of investment tax credits to build clean technology manufacturing facilities, such as facilities making electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.
10 years of consumer tax credits for home energy efficiency/renewable energy retrofits such as rooftop solar.
The Biden Administration claims that the provisions of the Act will, by 2030, result in the production of an estimated 950 million solar panels, 120,000 wind turbines, and 2,300 grid-scale battery plants.
Major Hydrogen Energy Project Loan
The Department of Energy announced (June 8th) a large Federal loan guarantee, more than $504 million, for the largest clean hydrogen storage facility to be built in the world. The Advanced Clean Energy Storage Hub project will be located in Delta, Utah. The company building the project – ACESDelta – says the project will “initially” convert over 220 MW of renewable energy (e.g. wind, solar) to 100 metric tonnes per day of hydrogen, which will then be stored in two salt caverns with initial capacity of more than 300 GWh of clean energy that can be redeployed when it is needed.
The intent of the facility is to feed energy to the local power generating facility, which is converting out of coal and to natural gas and hydrogen by 2025. The ACESDelta facility intends to provide the powerplant with 30% of its energy needs via hydrogen energy, with a long-term goal of powering the plant with 100% hydrogen energy by 2045.
Initiative to Boost Clean Energy
The Biden Administration announced (June 6th) that it is taking actions to both boost long-term U.S. clean energy production, mainly solar and hydrogen fuel cell energy, and also ensure the deployment of near-term projects.
This is being undertaken principally in two ways -- invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate the growth of domestic clean energy capacity, and temporarily reducing tariffs on solar production from countries in Southeast Asia to ensure that major U.S. solar projects are deployed for the near term as U.S. production ramps up.
The DPA can be used to compel domestic manufacturers to prioritize production in support of the particular DPA policy goal irrespective of the manufacturer’s own business goals. For example, the President recently utilized the DPA to compel suppliers of two domestic infant formula makers to prioritize their orders of critical supplies over orders for other purposes.
The clean energy items targeted by the Administration using DPA authorities will include electrolyzers, fuel cells, platinum group metals, solar photovoltaic modules and module components, transformers, electrical power grid components, electric heat pumps, and insulation. Relevant Federal agencies, in this case primarily the Department of Energy, will identify specific domestic companies that do or can produce connected products, and use administrative processes to compel production actions.
More information on the initiative HERE.
Manufactured Housing Efficiency Rules
The Department of Energy issued (May 18, 2025) final new efficiency rules on new manufactured housing. Updated standards are controversial in that they could lead to higher cost to buy manufactured housing, a type of housing that directly serves moderate-income Americans. The Energy Department estimated that on average, the standards will save the mobile home residents about $475 per year in utility bills and eventually cut carbon emissions by 80 million metric tons, the equivalent to energy use of over 10 million homes in one year.
The challenge is the additional cost to a purchaser from adding insulation, better windows, and more efficient heating and cooling systems. The standards try to address cost concerns with a tiered approach to standards, with different standards for single- (i.e., less expensive) and multi-section (i.e., more expensive) manufactured homes.
Energy also says it is “supporting the establishment of credit-enhancement mechanisms,” such as loan-loss reserves (LLRs), to drive down the cost of financing for manufactured housing and increase access to affordable housing. LLRs are a credit enhancement approach used by State and local governments to provide partial risk coverage to lenders so that they are more willing to finance riskier housing projects.
Required Production of Inputs for Clean Energy
The Biden Administration announced (March 31, 2022) that it will use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to require companies to produce the “minerals and materials” that are needed for clean energy production (e.g., batteries). Example minerals identified in the announcement include lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese.
The President issued a directive supporting the policy the same day. The Directive calls for the Department of Defense (DOD) to “create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore sustainable and responsible domestic production capabilities of such strategic and critical materials” through project feasibility studies; projects at existing mines, mine waste reclamation, and other industrial facilities; and mining processing projects. While DPA implementing regulations will likely take time to fully implement, DOD will eventually be able to identify specific companies that would be required to accept contracts from the Department to produce targeted materials.
Efficiency/Renewable Energy Funding Increase for FY 2022
Congress took final action on FY 2022 appropriations (March 10, 2022) and provided a $338 million, 11.7% increase for energy efficiency and renewable energy activities in the Department of Energy.
Large Solar & Wind Project Approvals
The Department of the Interior recently approved a number of significant utility-scale solar and wind energy projects. Approved projects include:
Oberon Solar Project, on Interior/Bureau of Land Management public lands and generating enough energy to power 142,000 homes (500 megawatts).
Arica & Victory Pass Solar Projects, on public lands and generating enough energy to power 132,000 homes (465 megawatts).
Vinyard Wind 1 Project, off the coast of Massachusetts, generating enough energy to power over 400,000 homes (800 megawatts).
South Fork Wind Project, off the coast of Rhode Island, generating enough energy to power over 70,000 homes (130 megawatts).
BLM says that it is currently processing over 100 54 utility-scale wind/solar/geothermal projects proposed on public lands.
The Interior/Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says it expects to consider at least 16 offshore wind energy projects between now and 2025.
Clean Energy Corps
The U.S. Department of Energy announced (January 13, 2022) that it is building a new "Clean Energy Corps" that includes about 1,000 employees funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Corps will help Energy implement a variety of programs, projects, and activities related to clean energy that were funded before and within the Infrastructure Act. The group will be a cross-functional team covering missions that cross Energy offices, and including a broad range of administrative, operational, engineering, and science-skill needs.
Appliance Efficiency Standards
The U.S. Department of Energy officially replaced via a rulemaking process loosened efficiency standards for dishwashers and clothes washers/dryers that were implemented near the end of the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration standards effectively exempted so-called "short cycle" appliances from efficiency regulations. Energy claims that the Trump Administration changes were "improperly promulgated", and its rulemaking reinstated standards that were applicable prior to the Trump Administration changes.
Residential Gas Stoves Methane Releases
Researchers at Stanford University found that more than three quarters of a sample of 53 residential gas stoves in California released methane when they were turned off. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100 year period and was responsible for 10 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
Infrastructure Act and Clean Hydrogen Programs
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes:
$8 billion to develop at least four regional clean hydrogen hubs to demonstrate the production, processing, delivery, storage, and end-use of clean hydrogen;
$1 billion for a demonstration, commercialization and deployment program intended to decrease the cost of clean hydrogen production from electrolyzers; and,
$500 million for a clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling program to support a clean hydrogen domestic supply chain.
Renewable Energy Policy Goals
In April of 2021, the Administration established carbon reduction target goals for the United States with accompanying policy and operational actions across the Federal Government to help achieve the targets. Included is the goal of producing 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. Presently, (non-nuclear) renewable sources of energy (e.g., solar and wind primarily), account for only about 20% of utility-generated electricity.
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new goal of expanding community solar capacity to five million homes by 2025, up from an estimate of 600,000 homes today. Community solar encompasses members that support a solar array, usually located near their community. Members receive a portion of the revenue from the energy produced, typically as savings on their monthly electric bill.
Solar Futures Study
DOE released a Solar Futures Study (September 2021) which found that with certain actions to help advance the adoption and distribution of solar energy, solar power has the potential to account for as much as 40% of U.S. electricity production by 2035. Achieving this goal will require not only the continued rapid deployment of solar energy capacity, but also electrical grid upgrades, storage capacity, and policy incentives to encourage solar power generation over fossil fuels.
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Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project - Record of Decision
Mining activities on public lands are subject to review and approval by the Federal Bureau of Land Management within the U.S. Department of the Interior. Thacker Pass is located on public lands within Nevada. This Record of Decision and Plan of Operations Approval concluded that the project "is not anticipated to affect any threatened or endangered species or significant scientific, cultural, or historic resources, as these resources are either not present or the effects will be mitigated".
Status: this Decision was completed on January 15, 2021
This is a proposed rule of the U.S. Department of Energy that sets a "backstop" standard for lightbulbs of 45 lumens per watt. Lightbulbs that fail to meet this standard cannot be sold in the United States. This would likely bring all but a few uncommon types of bulbs under an efficiency standard.
Status: this proposed rule was published on December 13, 2021.