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OBAMA LEGACY: Quiet but Big Changes in Energy, Pollution

HANGZHOU, China — Mostly unnoticed amid the political brawl over climate change, the United States has undergone a quiet transformation in how and where it gets its energy during Barack Obama's presidency, slicing the nation's output of polluting gases that are warming Earth.

As politicians tangled in the U.S. and on the world stage, the U.S. slowly but surely moved away from emissions-spewing coal and toward cleaner fuels like natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar. The shift has put the U.S. closer to achieving the goal Obama set to cut emissions by more than a quarter over the next 15 years, but experts say it is nowhere near enough to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

The overlooked changes took center stage Saturday in China. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping entered the world's two worst polluters into a historic agreement to ratchet down heat-trapping pollution. Obama hailed "the investments that we made to allow for incredible innovation in clean energy."

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Elon Musk aims to refit 5m homes with solar roofs

 Elon Musk’s solar company has its sights set on replacing 5m rooftops in the US with traditional roofing materials integrated with solar cell technology.

SolarCity’s plans, announced last month, to develop traditional roofs made entirely from solar panels are part of a goal to make sustainable homes more aesthetically appealing, convenient, and ultimately affordable to the average homeowner. It’s betting that people who need to replace their roofs will be attracted to the company’s solar cell option because it won’t require additional work or dramatically alter the look of the home.

In an August conference call with investors, company chairman Elon Musk said people are forced to postpone solar adoption when they know a roof replacement is imminent and that “there is a huge market segment that is currently inaccessible to SolarCity.” He added that the company’s solar cell roofing “looks way better” and “lasts far longer than a normal roof”.

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CAISO Moves To Increase Renewables, Maintain Grid Stability

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) board of governors says it has accepted proposed tariff revisions that will ensure wind, solar and battery storage resources are capable of providing needed grid services. In doing so, renewable resources must adjust their systems so that power voltages and currents remain in sync with grid operations, CAISO says.

According to the operator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-required revisions establish uniform rules for making sure new renewable resources – or resources planned to be upgraded – take the steps to align alternating currents and voltages with grid requirements. This, therefore, will help avoid energy inefficiencies and losses that occur when the grid and resources are not properly in sync, CAISO asserts.

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Voters Give Green Light to Solar Tax Break

Primary-election voters Tuesday approved the expansion of a renewable-energy tax break that backers say will help businesses and spark the expanded use of solar energy in Florida.

But while the measure had support from an array of groups, they are divided on an unrelated solar amendment on the November general-election ballot that could lead to a major political fight.

The proposed constitutional amendment approved Tuesday was known as Amendment 4 and was placed on the ballot by the Legislature. It is designed to extend a residential renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties.

Shortly after the polls closed, the measure was more than 10 percentage points above the required 60 percent threshold needed for approval of constitutional amendments.

The preliminary results indicated that the measure, which backers say will spur growth in solar and renewable energy, was supported in almost every county.

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States Are Leading Winds Of Change In U.S. Renewable Energy Revolution

Today, states are at the epicenter of America’s renewable energy revolution. And, because we have 50 state energy markets, big positive advances in state policy can accelerate the pace of this historic shift.

Consider that New York, the 3rd-largest U.S. state economy, has now committed to meeting 50 percent of its power needs from clean, reliable, low-cost energy sources such as wind by 2030. That makes it the 5th state to commit to a 50 percent or more target for clean power, joining Oregon, Hawaii, California and Vermont. Other states such as Kansas, whose wind energy production has nearly tripled in the past five years, have voluntary aims to achieve up to 50% of their electricity needs through wind energy.

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States review clean energy projects for New England region

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts officials are joining with electric utilities to evaluate more than 50 solicitations from companies to build plants that would generate clean energy for all three states.

The states are hoping to leverage their combined purchasing power and attract projects they possibly couldn’t lure on their own. The goal is to ultimately lower consumers’ utility costs in a high-price region of the country, while also meeting respective clean energy and environmental goals in fuel cell, solar and hydropower election generation.

“It’s the first time the New England states have joined together in a coordinated procurement for clean resources,” said Katie Dykes, deputy commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “When you can expand your buying power and shop together, you can perhaps attract bigger bids.”

And that’s what apparently has happened, with more than two dozen entities proposing more than 50 projects.

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Is blue the new green? Wave power could revolutionize the renewable-energy game

Unless you’re a surfer, a sailor or the owner of beachfront property during hurricane season, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about the power of waves. That may be changing soon.

Like a large, slowly building swell miles from shore, the wave-power revolution has quietly and gradually gained momentum. And this month it began the crest: The Department of Energy announced it would allocate as much as $40 million in funding to develop of the nation’s first open-water wave-energy-testing facility in a location to be determined.

When it comes to tapping the commercial viability of this renewable resource, we could be on the cusp of a tidal change. For decades wave energy has lagged behind wind energy and solar, in part because harnessing it is so complex. It involves a number of factors — the speed, height, direction of a swell and the intervals between swells — and more variables equal higher costs.

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Renewable Energy Generation Breaks Records Every Month in 2016

Electricity generation from wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies have set monthly records every month so far in 2016, based on data through June released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Wednesday.

"Both hydroelectric and nonhydroelectric renewables have contributed to this trend, but in different ways. After a lengthy West Coast drought, hydro generation has increased and is now closer to historical levels. Nonhydro renewable generation continues to increase year-over-year and has exceeded hydro generation in each month since February 2016," the EIA said.

According to EIA's data, net U.S. electricity generation from non-hydroelectric, utility-scale renewables—biomass, geothermal, solar and wind—through June 2016 was 17 percent higher than in the first half of 2015. Electricity generation from conventional hydropower also rose, by nearly 12 percent. Combined, production from all utility-scale renewable sources was up 14.5 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

Not only has electricity generated by renewables exceeded previous levels in every month so far in 2016—in other words, more renewable energy was produced in January 2016 than any other January on record, more renewable energy was produced in February 2016 than any other February and so on—but renewable utility-scale electricity generation hit an all-time high of 16.55 percent of total domestic generation.

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How Will a Clinton or Trump White House Affect Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy has made significant inroads into the U.S. energy system and even in the era of low fossil fuel prices, costs for solar and wind installations are down dramatically.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry trade group, costs to install solar panels fell by more than 70 percent over the last 10 years and during that time, solar saw a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 60 percent. The trade organization for the wind energy industry, the American Wind Energy Association, said costs are down more than 90 percent since the early 1980s.

Federal tax policy and renewable energy mandates from various states spurred much of the rapid development. With a new presidential administration set to take office in 2017, how much further federal renewable energy policy may expand, or if it may contract, could be determined by whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected.

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Colorado launches first low-income rooftop solar project

The Colorado Energy Office (CEO), Energy Resource Center (ERC), and Colorado Springs Utilities announce the installation of a 2kW rooftop solar power array as part of the state's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The CEO WAP provides free, cost-effective energy efficiency measures to income-eligible households in all of the state's 64 counties. Historically, the WAP has only allowed energy efficiency measures, but the Department of Energy recently authorized CEO to be the first state to integrate rooftop solar into weatherization services. This project with ERC and Colorado Springs Utilities will demonstrate the feasibility of combining energy efficiency measures with rooftop solar energy offerings to help reduce utility bills for residents most in need—those paying more than 4 percent of household income on energy costs.

"The impact of this project is threefold: it addresses energy burden by reducing both home heating and electric costs; it enhances opportunities for distributed generation; and it demonstrates the viability of rooftop solar offerings for low-income households," said Joseph Pereira, Director of Low-Income Energy Services for the Colorado Energy Office. "We appreciate the Department of Energy's receptiveness to this innovation in the program and the forward-thinking efforts of our partners at Energy Resource Center and Colorado Springs Utilities as we explore the best use of solar to assist those in need."

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