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EGEB: China can’t curb coal, California green projects at risk, NJ solar costs

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Today in EGEB, China’s attempts to cut coal emissions don’t seem to be working. The bankruptcy of California’s PG&E endangers power purchase agreements with hundreds of suppliers. And New Jersey looks for ways to reduce its high solar costs.

China — the world’s largest coal producer and consumer — enacted numerous regulations in 2010 that aimed to curb coal methane emissions. But a new report from Nature Communications indicates the nation has failed to meet its goals.

The report found Chinese emissions actually increased from 2010 to 2015, and regulations had “no discernible impact” on that rise. The trend is “largely attributable to coal mining” and the findings come from examining satellite data on methane emissions.

Though the report doesn’t account for the past three years, it’s hard to imagine things improved drastically during that time. China has shown an inability to reduce emissions over a recent five-year period. It’s another harrowing setback in the goal of reducing climate change on a worldwide scale.

PG&E Projects In Peril

In California, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday. Thousands of victims of the state’s wildfires are alleging damages and liabilities stemming from the company’s equipment. Shortly after its bankruptcy filing, PG&E made moves to renegotiate its supplier deals for green energy projects, The Wall Street Journal reports.

PG&E is seeking the authority to rid itself of “up to $42 billion in power purchase agreements with roughly 350 different suppliers, the majority for solar, wind and other green energy,” the report notes. The company is attempting to sidestep federal regulators. PG&E wants bankruptcy court to determine the ultimate fate of these PPAs.

These PPAs are critical to renewable energy, and they’re on the rise. Corporations purchased more clean power than ever through PPAs last year.

How the case proceeds will determine not just billions of dollars worth of renewable energy projects in California, but  also the fates of these suppliers. Many of them have revenues that are completely tied to agreements with PG&E. Any damages recouped from the dissolution of such deals “would be paid at a fraction of its value as an unsecured claim against the bankruptcy estate.”

Garden State Solar Rates

New Jersey has shown a commitment to renewable energy sources. The state master plan aims for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. The state also announced a community pilot solar program to help low-income families, renters, and businesses use solar power. But the state is searching for ways to reduce its solar costs, as its long-established rules have created inflated prices, the Asbury Park Press reports.

According to the state’s board of public utilities, solar power in New Jersey was sold at a cost of $203/megawatt-hour in December 2018. Consumers in neighboring Pennsylvania paid $13/MWh during the same month. Director of the state’s Division of the Rate Counsel, Stefanie Brand, told the Press,

“We have to find a way to not pay so much for solar or we’re not going to succeed in our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sometimes you throw around billions and people lose sight of the fact that it does all come out of people’s utility bills. We have to be smarter about it.”

New Jersey regulators are now working on a new solar subsidy which will set a limit to the total levy passed on to consumers. The outdated rules saw solar developers build out capacity quickly, and higher rates were locked in.

Paying high solar prices is an obvious cause for frustration. A study last year revealed that solar power is half the price of coal power in the U.S

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