The United States used less energy in 2015 than in 2014, and it did so with less waste, according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's annual examination of the country's demand, TreeHugger reports. LLNL estimated U.S. energy consumption in 2015 was 97.5 quadrillion BTU. For reference, 3,600 BTU is equivalent to about 1 kWh. The largest change from year to year was a 12% decline in coal, almost entirely attributable to the electric power sector, LLNL said.
Installing solar panels on your roof is not just for tree-hugging environmentalists. The increasing ease of the process and the financial returns have made going solar practically mainstream. Washingtonians are embracing solar power in a big way. In the District, residential solar installations have tripled since 2011, said Chelsea Barnes with EQ Research. “By the end of 2020, the amount of installed solar capacity will be 300 percent higher than today,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Nationwide, it grew 10 times between 2008 and 2015.”
The U.S. Senate acted in a bipartisan fashion to pass a sweeping energy bill, touching on everything from cybersecurity for power plants to the future of the grid. The bill resulted from collaboration between Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell.
The solar power industry is about to get a big boost in San Francisco. On April 19, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to become the first major US metropolitan area requiring that new buildings install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. California already mandates that new buildings with 10 floors or less designate at least 15% of their rooftop area (pdf, p8) as being ready for solar panel installation. The city of San Francisco now requires that builders actually install solar panels in these areas (at a minimum) starting in 2017. Larger buildings are exempt for now.
The District of Columbia is sailing ahead on wind energy, having signed the largest wind power deal ever made by an American city. That agreement means a Pennsylvania wind farm will generate 35 percent of the city government’s electricity over the next 20 years.
The sharply divided U.S. Senate is poised to pass comprehensive energy legislation for the first time in nearly a decade, forging a rare bipartisan compromise -- even if the result is far less ambitious than energy packages of years past. "It’s probably not going to be known for the sweeping changes it makes to the U.S. energy system," said Sarah Ladislaw, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "But it is a big deal because it shows bipartisan energy policy is still possible. In this Congress, in energy policy, that matters."
A new analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows that strengthening Michigan’s clean energy policies, together with a national carbon emissions-trading program, provides a sensible way for the state to deliver significant health and economic benefits to residents and comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
Last week, even as Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company,declared bankruptcy, the U.S. government issued striking figures showing how much coal production in the United States has declined in the space of just a few years. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, stated that the U.S. production of coal last month totaled 52 million short tons — which was a 36 percent decrease from levels seen just one year earlier, in March of 2015. Looking at annual production numbers over the past few years, combined with EIA’s prediction for total production in 2016, gives a similar message.
In a rapid turn of events, the bipartisan “Energy Policy Modernization Act” went from the legislative dustbin to an upcoming Senate floor vote. And not a moment too soon considering the unexpectedly rocky road the bill embarked on since it was first introduced. In February, the Senate took up the bipartisan bill, introduced last summer by Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), that would modernize our nation’s energy policy for the first time since 2007. Yet, the bill—on track to pass owing to strong support on both sides of the aisle—was derailed when a small group of senators objected because of an impasse over funding for the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and other separate policy initiatives. Votes on final amendments to the bill were postponed, and the package ultimately stalled, leaving our nation’s energy sector without the comprehensive policy reform it desperately needs.
In December, 196 countries adopted the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, creating the first universal pact to put the world on a path towards a zero-carbon, resilient future. Since then, some concrete steps have been made while examples of substantial progress that took place in 2015 is just now coming to light. Countries, regions, cities and businesses are taking action to move the world in the right direction toward a low-carbon, climate resilient future. With global leaders gathering in New York on April 22 to sign the Paris Agreement, now is a good time to reflect on the changing landscape of the global response to climate change.
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