April 27, 2022
The Federal Government took action yesterday, to phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs in the United States.
Here is a summary rundown on that policy issue, as well as other recent and significant issues pertaining to energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.
Incandescent Light Bulbs - Canceled
The Department of Energy (DOE) finalized a rulemaking (April 26, 2022) phasing out incandescent light bulbs in favor of more efficient alternatives, primarily by implementing a new 45 lumens per watt bulb standard. LED bulb lighting, which meets the higher standard, uses at least 75% less energy and lasts 25 times longer than incandescent lighting
Businesses will be able to import noncompliant bulbs until January 2023, and retailers can sell them until July 2023. Once fully implemented, DOE estimates that over the next 30 years, the rules are projected to cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons — an amount equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year. The estimate of collective energy use cost savings for consumers is $3 billion per year.
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.
Home Weatherization Funding
DOE began its process (March 30, 2022) of distributing an infusion of $3.1 billion in new Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funding. The WAP program finances home energy retrofits such as electrification, heat pumps, LED lighting, insulation, and sealing up leaks. Funding was provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Efficiency/Renewable Funding Increases
Congress took final action on FY 2022 appropriations (March 10, 2022) providing a $338 million, 11.7% increase for energy efficiency and renewable energy activities within DOE. The Biden Administration budget request for next year, FY 2023, includes a proposed increase of $800 million or another 25% increase. Total annual funding would reach $4 billion under the request.
California Rooftop Solar
The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) decided to table its controversial proposal (December 13, 2021) to modernize the State's Net Energy Metering System (NEM). A decision on the proposal had been scheduled for the end of January, but a decision was deferred indefinitely. It is not known if, or when, the proposal will be considered again.
The proposal had a number of elements, including measures to help grow energy storage for homeowners utilizing rooftop solar and enable lower-income Californians to take advantage of rooftop utilization and other distributed solar capacity. Significant controversy arose, however, over provisions of the plan to levy a "grid participation charge" on rooftop solar customers, which could cost users an average of $50-$80 per month. In addition, the CPUC plan would have reduced utility bill credits, mostly for future customers, on the electricity they do not use and return to the utility through the grid.
Proponents of the proposal argued that with the growth of rooftop solar in California, non-solar customers are paying disproportionally more (potentially more than $200 per year) to maintain the State's electric grid than customers with rooftop solar. A large number of opponent organizations held that rooftop solar and other distributed solar systems must be kept cheap and remain strongly incentivized to encourage adoption and meet long term climate goals.
California is first in the nation in adoption of solar, with about 1.4 million installations and about 25% of energy generated from solar.
Large Solar & Wind Project Approvals
Department of the Interior agencies have recently approved a number of significant utility-scale solar and wind energy projects including:
Oberon Solar Project, within Interior/Bureau of Land Management public lands and generating enough energy to power 142,000 homes (500 megawatts).
Arica & Victory Pass Solar Projects, within public lands and generating enough energy to power 132,000 homes (465 megawatts).
Vineyard 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).
Interior/Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says it expects to consider “at least” 16 offshore wind energy projects between now and 2025.
Interior/BLM says that it is currently processing over 100 utility-scale wind/energy/geothermal projects that have been proposed for public lands.
Manufactured Housing Efficiency Rules
The DOE issued (January 14, 2022) an environmental impact statement (EIS) connected to its proposed rulemaking on higher efficiency standards for new manufactured homes. Updated standards are somewhat controversial in that they could lead to increased costs to lower-income Americans helped by the relative low cost of manufactured homes.
DOE's proposal could lead to average cost increases of $750 per unit for homes below a $63,000 sales price, and upwards of $3,900 to $5,300 in cost increases for higher priced/larger homes. Cost changes are primarily affected by more efficient and extensive insulation, better windows, and more efficient heating/cooling systems. Final rules are expected by May 2022.
Appliance Efficiency Standards
DOE 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. DOE claims that the Trump Administration changes were "improperly promulgated", and the rulemaking reinstated standards that were applicable prior to the Trump Administration changes.
Clean Hydrogen Expansion
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act enacted last November included:
$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.
$500 million for a clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling program to support a clean hydrogen domestic supply chain.
Community Solar Goal
DOE announced that it has established a new goal/performance target 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.