Author Archive for repenergy

Salazar resigns! What’s next for energy?

January 23, 2013 | By
By now, news of the impending departure of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has caused a ripple throughout the industry.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Old news, right? Perhaps, but questions remain. Foremost, what will become of all the energy issues for which he has championed — renewable energy, oil and gas drilling, America’s energy independence?

Energy wins

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Salazar’s list of energy wins is long. He launched what has been called a “renewable energy revolution”. He prioritized offshore renewable energy development, issuing the first-ever offshore wind leases in federal waters. He advocated for a new model of conservation, which furthered the nation’s goal of energy independence. He authorized 34 solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands for a total 10,400 MW — enough to power more than 3 million homes and oversaw solar energy development in the West. His aggressive push for the most rigorous oil and gas safety and reforms in U.S. history ultimately led to more drilling in the Gulf, paving the way to energy independence. President Obama gives Salazar much of the credit for his role in successful efforts to expand responsible development of domestic energy resources.

Even before becoming Secretary,  as a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Salazar helped lead the passage of the 2005 and 2007 Energy Policy Acts — one of the most significant and comprehensive energy bills in decades.  The 2007 Farm Bill which Salazar also helped lead included key energy provisions.

Enough said.

______________________________
Salazar’s list of energy wins is long. He launched what has been called a “renewable energy revolution”.
___________________________

Salazar’s successor

Obviously, no one knows for sure what will happen, but there are theories.

“In the short-term, the impact will be minimal, but only due to the uncertainty around who the administration will pick to fill his role,” said Jason Rodriguez, CEO and director of research at Zpryme.  “However, we expect his successor to be another champion of renewable energy and the advancement of the nation’s electric grid.”

Despite his positivity, Rodriguez does admit that Salazar’s successor may have an uphill battle when it comes to advancing renewable energy projects.

“His successor will not have the same momentum or mandate to push along renewable energy projects,” said Rodriguez. “Salazar had the stimulus funds on his side. So the next Secretary of Interior will have to tread carefully and strategically with the projects and proposals they wish to get behind.”

“I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier…,” Salazar said in a statement. “I look forward to helping my successor in a seamless transition in the months ahead,” he added.

Who Salazar’s successor will be has been the subject of much speculation. The contenders range from outgoing Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and former New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, Bill Ritter, former Governor of Colorado, and Director of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management John Berry.

“All of the potential candidates will be a great champion of renewable energy and the smart grid, but Governor Gregoire or former Governor Ritter are probably the strongest candidates when it comes to being able to execute multiple large-scale projects at a very high level,” said Rodriguez. “Their experience in running a state government will serve them well as Secretary of the Interior.”

Another milestone

Despite Salazar’s rapidly approaching retirement, the hard work hasn’t stopped.

Under Salazar’s direction, the Interior recently designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development.

“This project is a key milestone in our work to spur smart development of solar and wind energy on public lands across the West,” Secretary Salazar said in a statement. “Arizona has huge potential when it comes to building a clean energy economy… we continue to work closely with states, local communities, tribes, industry, conservation and other groups to reduce potential resource conflicts and expedite appropriate projects that will generate jobs and investment in rural communities.”

Salazar resigns amidst rumors that Energy Secretary Stephen Chu also plans to leave, and follows the departure of the Environmental Protection Agency’s top administrator Lisa Jackson.

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Tell President Obama that solar is ready!

By Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO

Yesterday, in his inaugural address, President Obama vowed to fight climate change and called for strengthening the clean energy economy.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.

–President Barack Obama, January 21, 2013

Today, the solar industry employs more than 100,000 Americans at 5,600 companies, mostly small businesses, across all 50 states – this is more than double the number working in solar in 2009.  By nearly all measures, the solar energy industry has been one of the fastest growing industries over the last 5 years and we expect a record 2012 for installed solar capacity, despite a slow economic recovery.

We need all the people who support the industry to join us. Please take a moment and forward this email to 5 of your friends. They can join here.

The President can help lead the way to making a stronger solar industry. The new 113th U.S. Congress must also work together to make this become a reality. We need to maintain the ITC so that solar can compete on a level playing field with other energy sources. We need to streamline the permitting process and cut red tape for small businesses and homeowners. We need to defend net metering policies across the nation.

We need to tell policymakers that the solar industry is ready to lead. Heck, we’ve been ready.

We have a commitment to the generation that will build our future. Let’s make sure it’s one with a stable climate and clean, reliable energy sources.

Join us as we work to make sure this administration knows that the next four years is crucial to success of the solar industry. We need the President’s leadership to make that happen. We need Congress to work together to pass sensible policy. Most of all, we need your help us take a stand.

Tell your friends to join our advocacy list and get involved.

Sincerely,

Rhone

Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO

Study: Solar ‘Net Metering’ To Provide Over $92 Million in Benefits to California Ratepayers, Electrical Grid

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 15, 2013 – A study released today by the Vote Solar Initiative finds that net-metered rooftop solar will provide more than $92 million in annual benefits to  ratepayers of California’s three investor-owned utilities.  Net metering is a program that provides rooftop solar customers with utility bill credits for the surplus clean energy that their solar systems feed onto the electric grid. Net metering has been a key driver of the rapid expansion of solar across California’s rooftops, with two-thirds of home solar installations now occurring in low and median income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 California Solar Initiative report.

The study comes as the state’s investor-owned utilities– Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric– increasingly criticize net metering, which reduces their ability to justify the capital investment infrastructure projects that earn them a guaranteed profit.

The study was commissioned by the Vote Solar Initiative and was authored by consultant and former California Public Utilities Commission advisor Tom Beach of Crossborder Energy. Using a CPUC-approved economic model and data from solar customers, the study assesses the overall impacts of net metering to ratepayers in territories covered by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric.

It finds that the financial benefits of net metered power outweigh the costs, with a total net benefit value of more than $92 million annually by the time the state’s net metering program is fully subscribed. Benefits include: savings on expensive and polluting conventional power; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines, as net metered solar’s surplus energy is sent to the grid locally; and savings on the cost of meeting carbon reduction and renewable energy requirements.

“When someone decides to put solar panels on their roof, they not only generate clean power, but also reduce strain on the electric grid while offering financial benefits to all ratepayers,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of The Vote Solar Initiative. “We’ve got a long way to go in revamping an antiquated energy grid and growing California’s clean economy, and net metering is critical to those efforts.”

In addition to the bill-saving ratepayer benefits outlined in the study, solar provides environmental, public health and economic benefits. Thanks to policies like net metering, California is home to a fast-maturing solar industry, which now employs over 43,000 Californians and has attracted over $10 billion in private investment.

“It’s crystal clear that the way we produce and consume electricity needs to evolve,” said Daniel Kammen, University of California Berkeley Distinguished Professor in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), and Professor of Public Policy in the Goldman School of Public Policy. “The good news is that net metering is doing what it was designed to do—accelerating solar adoption while reducing our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels and kick-starting one of the most promising job-creating industries of the 21st Century.  Solar produces energy at the times of highest cost to the utilities, so with the right market incentives, it is a simple ‘win-win-win’ for ratepayers, utilities, and the environment.”

Solar adoption has helped school districts and other public agencies survive steep budget cuts, with savings from solar installations freeing up funds to retain teachers, educational programs, and important government services. Over the next 30 years, schools and public agencies will save more than $2.5 billion on energy bills via net-metered solar systems.

“Bill savings from solar projects coupled with efficiency are important at a time when schools have been forced to cut budgets and grow classroom sizes.  Net metering helps taxpayer-funded institutions operate more efficiently by allowing schools to use these utility savings for other purposes such as books, supplies and teachers,” said Anna Ferrera, Executive Director of the School Energy Coalition.  “Not to mention the added benefit of having our students witness the clean and natural resources that can power their classrooms and computers.”

A link to the full Crossborder Energy study and a Vote Solar summary fact sheet with infographics is available here

LA’s Solar Feed-in Tariff Making A Big Leap

by

Los Angeles has long been something of a solar underperformer, given its size and sunny clime. The group Environment California reported that as of late 2011, despite being nearly three times larger than San Diego, LA had less installed solar capacity (37 megawatts to 36 MW) and fewer installations (4,507 to 4,018) than its neighbor to the south. And a 2011 UCLA study found that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was generating less than one-sixth as much solar power per customer as state leader Southern California Edison.

But the city has been taking action to step up its solar game, revamping a broken rebate program and sticking its toe into the feed-in tariff waters with a 10 MW solar pilot program. Now the LADWP is dramatically expanding that feed-in tariff, approving a 100-megawatt program that’s being called be “the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation.”

los angeles rooftop solar

image via Shutterstock

A feed-in tariff has been the major tool for Germany in becoming the world’s solar leader. A FIT works by guaranteeing solar power producers a profitable price for the electricity their systems produce. In LA, the Department of Water and Power will offer 17-cent-per-kilowatt-hour contracts for projects at least 30-kilowatts in size (the equivalent of about six typical home rootftop systems), up to a total of 20 megawatts of new installed power every six month.

The program could become even larger in the near future; DWP said in in March it will entertain a lant to add another 50 megawatts to the FIT.

In addition to clean-sourced electricity, advocates say the FIT will be a jobs creator for LA.

“The full 150-megawatt program will be a major economic driver for Los Angeles, creating 4,500 jobs and generating a half-billion dollars in economic activity at full scale, while also eliminating 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016,” the DWP said.

Still, as admirable as these moves by LA are, the city has a long way to go in making solar a significant part of its power equation. As Southern California clean-energy blogger Chris Clarke noted, “LADWP can deliver around 7,200 megawatts of power to its customers, meaning that a 100-megawatt FiT, when fully subscribed, will account for less than 1.4 percent of the utility’s generating capacity.”

Solar emerging as competitor for utility-scale electric generation

January 13, 2013 | By

The adoption of U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants is expected to accelerate during the next decade, according to research from Frost & Sullivan. This will move the technology forward as a contender in a pool of conventional forms of electricity generation.

Renewable portfolio standards, federal incentives such as investment tax credits and loan programs are driving large-scale commercialization of solar energy. As solar energy competes with conventional forms of electricity generation, the potential market for utility-scale solar power plants in the country is on the rise.

Cumulative PV solar installations in the U.S. reached 1,855 MW with the utility-scale segment accounting for 32.2 percent.

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“Though no new CSP plants were installed in the United States during 2011, projects totaling more than 1.4 gigawatts were under construction,” said Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst Georgina Benedetti, which should speed up overall market growth.

However, before banks and investors fund these projects, they need some level of assurance that a power plant will operate long enough to see a return on their investment.

“Therefore, well-established project developers using proven technologies will have an advantage in obtaining financing,” said Benedetti.

For more:
– see this article

Related Articles:
Solar robust even in economic downturn
Muni’s feed-in tariff will boost CA solar energy
California gaining PV market share

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Ontario nearly coal-free

In 2003, Ontario’s government made a decision to stop burning coal. Since that time, Ontario has cut its use of coal by nearly 90 percent, and more than 80 percent of its power generation comes from water, nuclear, and renewables.

Lambton generating station

The last of Ontario’s coal plant operations will cease by the end of 2013 — a year earlier than originally planned. In 2014, Ontario’s use of coal is expected to be less than 1 percent of total electricity generation — down from 25 percent in 2003.

Ontario’s two largest coal-fired electricity plants, Nanticoke and Lambton, will close early as a result of the province’s improved electricity grid, increased efficiency, strong conservation efforts, and diversified supply of clean energy — effectively shutting down 17 of the Province’s 19 coal plants.

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Zpryme’s Smart Grid Insights and FierceSmartGrid are conducting a survey to assess the current sentiment and outlook for the Smart Grid industry on a monthly basis. We would like to invite utility, energy, and Smart Grid executives to participate in this month’s survey. Click here to take the survey.

Ontario currently uses less coal-fired generation in its energy mix than any G8 nation and has been none the worse for wear. Clean energy and a modern electricity system have created tens of thousands of jobs and attracted investors and a high-quality workforce.  In 2012, the renewable energy sector saw $12 billion in capital investment.

In fact, in 2011, Ontario was the world’s leading region for renewable energy projects, according to the Financial Times’ fDi Intelligence think-tank.

By the end of 2014, Ontario will be one of the few places in the world to eliminate coal as a source of electricity production.

For more:
– see this article

Related Articles:
Goodbye to coal?
FirstEnergy ready for more coal retirements
Exelon sells off Maryland Clean Coal
Future of coal unclear

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Now Re-elected, President Obama Should Examine US’ Renewable Rank

By Paul Gipe

US Well Behind in Solar, Wind, Biogas, & Geothermal Development
Germany has 20 Times More Solar per Capita than the USA: Italy 14 Times More
Denmark has Nearly 5 Times More Wind per Capita than the USA
Australian Solar PV Development has caught up with that in California
Ontario Rivals California in Solar per Capita

In his stirring acceptance speech, re-elected President Barack Obama noted that climate change would be on the agenda in his second administration–despite its marked absence during the campaign.

Obama then tried to unify a divided country by closing with a popular American rallying cry of how the US “is the greatest nation on earth” and our best days as a nation are yet to come.

Considering the resounding defeat of the fossil-fuel industry’s propaganda campaign against President Obama, and his new found interest in climate change, just where does the US rank relative to its development of renewable energy?

Yes, the US has more installed renewable energy generating capacity than many other countries. But the US is also a large country and is one of the world’s most populous. Yet, relative to its population, the US is well behind in the development of its solar, wind, biogas, and geothermal energy compared to that in many other countries.

Solar

What prompted the following comparison of renewable energy development per capita, was the surprising announcement by Renewables International that the Czech Republic had reached the threshold of 2,000 MW of installed solar photovoltaic (solar PV) capacity. This development had been preceded earlier this year by the unexpected success of solar PV in Great Britain where 1,300 MW had been installed due to their wildly popular feed-in tariff. And then this week came reports that Australia, another unknown market for solar PV, had surpassed 2,000 MW of installed capacity.

These events call into question just what the renewable industry and, more importantly, what the American renewable trade press call a success.

Consider for example, the news from Australia. If estimates of installed capacity by mid-year are correct, Australia will have caught up with California in total installed solar PV and will substantially have surpassed California in solar PV installed per capita (0.8 kW per capita vs. 0.5 kW per capita). This is nothing short of remarkable.

A combination of conditions makes these events seem so unlikely. Australia is dominated by the fossil-fuel industry: the country is a major exporter of coal, mostly to Asia. Britain is notably cloudy, wet, and windy and the ruling conservative coalition has a penchant for fossil fuels and nuclear over renewables. And if one was to believe all the dire trade news, solar PV in the Czech Republic was dead–and buried.

In looking at selected markets for solar PV worldwide, the accomplishments of several countries stand out relative to the US. Most well known are Germany and Italy.

Up to mid-2012, Germany had installed 20 times more solar PV capacity per capita than the entire US; Italy had installed 14 times more per capita.

The solar industry in the US is on track to have its best year ever as huge new central-station solar power plants are coming on line. Analysts expect the US to install 3,500 MW of new solar PV this year. Even so, Germany will install twice as much at a fraction of the cost as the US, and Italy will install far more than the US on a population adjusted basis.

While Italy remains second fiddle to Germany in total installations worldwide, growth of new solar PV installations continued robustly with nearly 2,500 MW installed in the first half of 2012. If growth continues at this pace, Italy could install as much if not more solar PV capacity in absolute terms as the US this year.

Due to falling hardware prices, feed-in tariffs have been cut dramatically in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Greece, and France. These countries all have substantial fleets of PV systems already in operation, and more capacity is continuing to be installed despite the lower tariffs.

The Czech Republic, the poster child for government reaction to stop a booming solar sector, has nine times more solar PV capacity than the US and, as noted, will exceed 2,000 MW of total installed capacity by the end of 2012.

Spain, similarly afflicted with a reactionary attempt to rein in massive solar PV development, still has five time more solar PV per capita as the US.

But, it’s the Australian market that has taken analysts by surprise. With its federal system, each state, as well as the capital territory have their own solar policy, making it difficult for the trade press to follow the pace of development.

The Australian solar boom has been powered by a mix of policies among the different states: feed-in tariffs, capital subsidies, and net metering. Some jurisdictions have used feed-in tariffs in combination with capital subsidies. No one should be surprised that a boom was the result.

The Czech Republic, Spain, Greece, and Australia all have installed more solar PV capacity per capita than the one-time green powerhouse of California.

New Jersey has installed almost twice as much solar PV capacity per capita as California. Despite New Jersey’s success, recent American press reports continue to label California as a “green leader”. Could regional bias be at work? What makes California “greener” than New Jersey in reference to solar PV?

And in the “great white north,” the province of Ontario, Canada has installed as much solar PV per capita as California after only a few short years of Ontario’s troubled feed-in tariff program.

Another unsung success story is solar PV in France, a country more associated with nuclear power than with solar energy. France has installed almost as much solar PV per capita as California. In 2012, France has nearly doubled total installed solar PV capacity from 1,500 MW to nearly 3,000 MW by mid-year. Is pro-nuclear France greener than anti-nuclear California?

Admittedly, new contracts have ground to a halt in France after the previous government of Nicolas Sarkozy effectively strangled new solar development. Despite President Sarkozy’s attempt to kill the solar industry, there is a substantial backlog of projects–more than 1,500 MW–that will come on line in the coming months. Thus, France will continue to rival California in solar PV capacity per capita well into 2013 and possibly beyond.

One of the most surprising successes has been Denmark. In less than one year, Denmark has installed nearly 100 MW of solar PV through a traditional subsidy program. The rapid growth of solar in Denmark has surprised everyone, including the Danes. While small in absolute terms, Denmark has leapt ahead of the US in solar PV per capita after only a few months even though the US has been developing solar energy for decades.

Last week Denmark’s minister of energy introduced new legislation that may extend solar PV development further. In what appears to be a net-generation feed-in tariff, the minister proposes that Denmark pay DKK 1.30 ($0.22 USD) per kWh for excess generation from solar PV systems less than 6 kW. The bulk of self-generation will offset the Danish retail price of electricity, the highest in Europe. This could extend Denmark’s solar boom.

Among the markets selected, the US leads only China in solar PV capacity per capita.

Wind

The US fares better in wind than in solar PV, but it still lags many countries particular the true leader in wind: Denmark.

When California faltered in the late 1980s after the first tax-credit driven “wind rush”, Denmark–and Northern Europe in general–picked up the mantle of leadership in wind energy development both in absolute terms and in capacity per capita.

Denmark operates nearly five times more wind capacity per capita than the US and a majority of that is owned by its own citizens.

 

Spain has installed more than three times as much wind capacity per capita as the US.

Installations per capita in France are behind those in the US. Nevertheless, wind in both countries face similar obstacles. As in the US, an unstable policy environment in France threatens continued growth of wind energy.

Wind was seen as a threat to incumbent state-generator Electricité de France (EDF), consequently former President Sarkozy place onerous new restrictions on wind development. Only 250 MW of new wind capacity was installed in France by mid-year, half of that typically installed.

The new government of Francois Hollande has yet to put their stamp on renewable energy policy and instead have deferred action until a “national debate” on energy is completed. If Hollande chooses a rapid development path, France could surpass the US in installed capacity per capita. If Hollande doesn’t take corrective action soon, France will likely miss its 2020 renewable targets.

Geothermal

Though the US has the most installed geothermal generating capacity in the world, it still substantially trails many countries in capacity per capita.

Iceland remains in a class by itself with nearly 200 times more geothermal capacity per capita than the US.

New Zealand, one of geothermal energy’s pioneers, remains a leader with 14 times more geothermal per capita than the US.

Biogas

Biogas remains the renewable energy technology most under appreciated in the US.

Industry analysts and renewable policy advocates alike often overlook biogas because the technology isn’t seen as “sexy” as solar PV or wind. Yet in Germany, biogas alone will generate more than 20 TWh this year. That’s as much as all of Germany’s famed solar PV produced in 2011.

With the exception of dairy farmers in New England and the Midwest, there has been very little development of biogas generation in the US compared to Europe in either absolute terms or in capacity per capita.

German farmers operate nearly 200 times more biogas capacity per capita as American farmers. Austria operates 60 times more biogas capacity per capita as the US.

In conclusion, the US lags many of its peers internationally in the development of renewable energy technologies.

While the boom in US solar PV installations in 2012 is good news for the American renewable industry, the development of geothermal and biogas remain stalled relative to the success seen in other countries. Worse, the failure of Congress to extend the federal tax-credit for wind energy has caused the market for wind in 2013 to collapse.

Rather than leading renewable energy development, the US is in danger of slipping further behind its peers.

As President-elect Obama weighs how best to tackle climate change in his second term, and as Congress grapples with the budget and “entitlements”, maybe now is the opportune time for the nation to consider sweeping revision of its renewable energy policies that go well beyond traditional tax subsidies and Renewable Portfolio Standards. It could well be the time for the US to consider a comprehensive suite of policies that have worked so well elsewhere.

These policies, for example, can be found in Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act. This law grants all renewable generators the right to connect to the grid, the right to be paid for their electricity, and–most importantly–spells out how much they will be paid and for how long.

Most of the jurisdictions leading in renewable energy development worldwide incorporate these principles within their renewable energy policy in one form or another. Maybe it is time for the US to do so as well.

-End-


This feed-in tariff news update is sponsored by the , An Environmental Trust, and the David Blittersdorf Family Foundation in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.


CASE Statement on ITC Critical Circumstances Decision

WASHINGTON, DC – November 7, 2012 – We are pleased that the ITC has determined that there were no critical circumstances, and thus no reason to apply the tariffs retroactively. This means that tariffs will not apply to modules made with Chinese cells that were imported into the U.S. during the period of the investigation. As several witnesses testified at the ITC’s hearing in October, those adversely affected by retroactivity would have been small- and medium-sized U.S. solar businesses that functioned as direct importers and were caught in the middle of SolarWorld’s protectionist case.

Now that both Commerce and the ITC have ruled, we will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the U.S. and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution. Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today’s interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition. Going forward, we must avoid a repeat of the SolarWorld saga, as the growth of the solar industry here, in Europe, and around the world is too important to be upended by one company’s self-serving crusade.

About CASE: The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), a coalition of American solar companies representing 97% to 98% of the U.S. solar industry jobs, believes free trade and industry competition are critical to making solar electricity affordable for everyone. CASE is united in its commitment to creating jobs through the growth and development of the American solar industry. For more information about CASE, please visit: http://coalition4affordablesolar.org/

FERC slams Barclays with $470 million fine

By Travis Mitchell

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday proposed a $470 million fine against British bank Barclays as punishment for allegedly manipulating California energy markets from 2006 to 2008.

The Order also calls for $18 million in fines for four individual Barclays traders involved in the scandal, which FERC called a “highly coordinated and discussed” scheme to manipulate the western U.S. power market over 35 months. Total losses to market participants were pegged at nearly $140 million.

More specifically, the Order outlines that, “Barclays generally began by assembling substantial physical index positions in the opposite direction of its fixed-for-floating financial swap positions. Barclays flattened those physical index positions in the next-day fixed-price physical markets in a manner designed to move the daily index settlement up if it was buying and down if it was selling.”

The bank has 30 days to defend itself against the accusations and the penalty. If the penalty holds, it’s another huge financial blow for the bank, which was just recently fined $450 million for its involvement in the Libor interest rate setting scandal.

In a statement released Thursday, Barclays admitted no wrongdoing.

“We have cooperated fully with the FERC investigation, which relates to trading activity that occurred several years ago. We intend to vigorously defend this matter,” the bank said.

This is the latest push by FERC to crack down on energy market manipulation in California. Back in September the Commission launched an investigation into allegations that JPMorgan skimmed $80 million off inflated profits in the state. FERC has taken similar action against Deutsche Bank.

 

Bloomberg Endorses Obama, Citing Climate Change

By

In a surprise announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result he was endorsing President Obama.

Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent in his third term leading New York City, has been sharply critical of both Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the president’s Republican rival, saying that both men have failed to candidly confront the problems afflicting the nation. But he said he had decided over the past several days that Mr. Obama was the best candidate to tackle the global climate change that the mayor believes contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage.

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote in an editorial for Bloomberg View.

“Our climate is changing,” he wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s announcement is another indication that Hurricane Sandy has influenced the presidential campaign. The storm, and the destruction it left in its wake, has dominated news coverage, transfixing the nation and prompting the candidates to halt their campaigning briefly.

More than that, it appears to have given a new level of urgency to a central issue in the presidential campaign: the appropriate size and role of government.

As the Federal Emergency Management Agency began undertaking relief efforts across the Northeast, Mr. Romney found himself in the tough position of having to clarify a statement he made last year in which he appeared to back giving the states a larger share of the federal government’s role in disaster response.

But Mr. Bloomberg’s endorsement was largely unexpected. For months, the Obama and Romney campaigns have sought the mayor’s endorsement, in large part because they believe he could influence independent voters around the country.

Mr. Bloomberg has steadfastly withheld his support, largely because he had grown frustrated with the tone and substance of the presidential campaign – recently deriding as “gibberish” the answers that Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney gave during a debate to a question about an assault weapons ban. He has expressed disappointment with Mr. Obama’s performance over the past few years, and concern about what he has described as Mr. Romney’s shifts in views over time.

In announcing his endorsement, Mr. Bloomberg listed the various steps Mr. Obama had taken over the last four years to confront the issue of climate change, including pushing regulations that seek to curtail emissions from cars and power plants. But the mayor cited other reasons for endorsing Mr. Obama, including the president’s support for abortion rights and for same-sex couples, two high-priority issues for the mayor.

At the same time, Mr. Bloomberg said he might have endorsed Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, except for the fact that the Republican had abandoned positions he once publicly held.

“In the past he has taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care – but he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the very health care model he signed into law in Massachusetts,” the mayor said of Mr. Romney.

Mr. Bloomberg did not endorse a presidential candidate in 2008, when Mr. Obama ran against Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Even in his endorsement, the mayor continued to express criticism of the president. He said that Mr. Obama had fallen short of his 2008 campaign promise to be a problem-solver and consensus builder, noting that he “devoted little time” to creating a coalition of centrists in Washington who could find common ground on important issues like illegal guns, immigration, tax reform and deficit reduction.

“Rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice,” Mr. Bloomberg said of Mr. Obama, “he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.”

In a statement, Mr. Obama said he was “honored to have Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement.” The president acknowledged Mr. Bloomberg’s chief concern, saying climate change was “a threat to our children’s future, and we owe it to them to do something about it.”

“While we may not agree on every issue,” the president added, “Mayor Bloomberg and I agree on the most important issues of our time.”

And, alluding to the damage from the hurricane, Mr. Obama said: “He has my continued commitment that this country will stand by New York in its time of need. And New Yorkers have my word that we will recover, we will rebuild, and we will come back stronger.”

The endorsement is the latest effort by Mr. Bloomberg to affect the national political debate as he nears the twilight of his tenure in City Hall.

Last month, the mayor announced that he was creating his own “super PAC” to support candidates from either party, as well as independents, who he believed are devoted to his brand of nonideological problem solving, and who supported same-sex marriage, tougher gun laws or school reform. A billionaire, Mr. Bloomberg said he would spend from $10 million to $15 million of his money in highly competitive state, local and Congressional races.