As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Congress gave a boost to carbon capture—a method for diverting emissions from crude production and coal- and gas-fired power plants—through the so-called 45Q tax credit. For every qualifying project, the boosted 45Q doubles a pre-existing tax credit to $50 per ton of carbon dioxide buried in underground storage and to $35 per ton that is used in a consumer product or to stimulate oil recovery.
“The act also expands the ‘EOR’ [enhanced oil recovery] credit to carbon oxides used for other industrial purposes, changes the definition of the entities to whom the credit applies, and sets capture thresholds for small facilities, electric generating facilities, and direct air capture facilities,” write Frederick R. Eames and David S. Lowman Jr. in Lexology.
Many see the potential for this credit to spur a renewed look at projects with carbon capture and storage and re-enliven policies around it.
“Now, with [the tax credit], the economics are looking very attractive,” said Roger Ballentine, a consultant and board member of 8 Rivers Capital, which is financing NET Power, a carbon capture project near Houston. “People are asking, should I do this. Before, those conversations weren’t even happening. Any major project like this will be a challenge. But the business case gets that much better with [the tax credit]. Once there is a business case, that’s why they happen.”
The nudge from the tax credit could help the technology to be more profitable.
“The reality of any technology development, particularly in the energy space, is it’s very difficult to move technologies into the marketplace without some sort of push,” said Walker Dimmig, spokesperson for NET Power. “The energy marketplace is incredibly competitive.”
Court Orders Enforcement of Methane Leak Rule
Last week, U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s attempt to delay an Obama-era Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule that sought to reduce venting, flaring and leakage of methane gas on public and tribal lands. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that BLM did not justify its decision to delay core provisions of its 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule by one year.
“The BLM’s reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule, and so plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits,” Orrick wrote. “They have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.”
In the lawsuit brought by environmental groups and two states—California and New Mexico—Orrick also denied a request to move the case to Wyoming where a similar case is pending.
The ruling was only on the BLM’s proposed one-year delay. It does not directly affect the BLM’s proposed repeal of several methane rule provisions announced earlier this month. That proposal removes at least seven elements introduced under Obama’s rule, including creation of waste minimization plans by companies and emissions reduction standards for well completion.
In announcing the changes to that portion of the rule, the BLM said that many of the former requirements were duplicative of state laws or had a higher cost or lower benefit than previously estimated. Once the BLM proposed repeal is published in the Federal Register, a 60-day public comment period will begin.
Reports Indicate Growth in Renewables in Cities
Worldwide, 101 cities are getting at least 70 percent of their total electricity supply from renewable energy—more than double the number since the 2015 signing of the Paris Agreement according to the Carbon Disclosure Project, which tracks climate-related commitments by corporations and governments.
The London-based Carbon Disclosure Project attributes the increase to the growing number of cities reporting to it (currently 570) and to a global shift to renewable energy. It reports that cities are investing $2.3 billion in 150 clean energy development projects and $52 billion in low-carbon urban infrastructure projects such as energy efficiency upgrades, electric transport networks and smart city programs.
“Cities are responsible for 70 percent of energy-related CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions and there is immense potential for them to lead on building a sustainable economy,” said Kyra Appleby, director of cities at the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Notably, more than 40 of the cities identified in the report are powered entirely by renewables, including Burlington, Vermont, which gets its electricity from wind, solar, hydro and biomass. Although only a few of the 100-plus U.S. cities that report their energy mix to the project have achieved 70 percent or greater renewables generation, another 58 U.S. cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, are planning to hit the 100 percent renewables target within 20 years.
Meanwhile, two new studies shed light on renewables potential and actual deployment in the United States.
In one, scientists at the University of California at Irvine, the California Institute of Technology, and the Carnegie Institution for Science revealed that the country could reliably meet about 80 percent of its electricity demand with solar and wind power generation “by building either a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours’ worth of the nation’s electricity demand.” Both options would entail huge—but not inconceivable—investments, they said.
A study by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy revealed that solar deployment is growing in some southern states, including North Carolina, where the solar market, one of the nation’s largest, is driven by favorable implementation of federal laws requiring renewable energy procurement, a state tax credit, and a renewable energy mandate. South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia are also emerging as significant state markets.
Globally, falling costs are playing a role in renewables uptake. According to data released by the World Economic Forum, unsubsidized renewables were the cheapest source of electricity in 30 countries in 2017, and they are expected to be consistently more cost effective than fossil fuels globally by 2020.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.