Article courtesy of RMI.
By Katie Siegnerm, Mark Dyson, & Gabriella Tosado
Despite serving only 13 percent of US electricity load, electric cooperatives loom large in conversations about the US energy system’s past, present, and future. The initial vision for nonprofit electric co-ops dates back to the New Deal, when the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 authorized the creation of co-ops to serve rural areas bypassed by the larger electricity providers of the time. Today, 832 distribution co-ops and 63 generation and transmission (G&T) co-ops still serve the majority of rural America, including more than 90 percent of persistent poverty counties (counties with at least 20 percent of their population living in poverty).
As the energy transition ramps up, bringing the benefits of low-cost renewable energy to more and more places, electric co-ops the opportunity to replace their aging coal fleets with wind and solar projects. This can lower electric bills and drive rural economic development in areas that need it.
“If You Know One Co-op…”
Through several years of engagements with co-op leadership and stakeholders, we have learned that electric co-ops face unique and varied constraints as well as incentives when it comes to decarbonizing their generation mix. Co-ops have lagged other utilities in retiring their coal plants, although a spate of coal retirement announcements and emissions reduction goals set by several prominent G&Ts in the past year indicates they may be closing that gap. A combination of rapidly falling costs for renewable energy and battery storage technologies, state climate policy, and member demand for carbon-free electricity is driving that shift.
Nonetheless, a number of G&T co-ops are continuing to operate aging and increasingly uneconomic coal plants without plans for their retirement. This can be due to the nature of some co-op financing structures as well as regulatory and governance models that muddy the economic signal for retirement. For example, coal plants may have undepreciated value that the G&Ts are seeking to recover, and in some cases, they act as the collateral on G&T debt obligations, making their retirement a risk to lenders.
What’s more, co-ops’ nonprofit status limits their ability to take advantage of existing tax credits for wind and solar development. And G&Ts with a history of asset ownership may be reluctant to shift toward greater shares of third-party-owned generation (e.g., wind and solar projects contracted for through power purchase agreements).
In short, co-ops’ situations and needs are as varied as the geographies they serve — as the saying goes, “if you know one co-op, then you know one co-op.” As such, there hasn’t yet been a silver bullet approach that can overcome the barriers to full co-op participation in the clean energy transition.
Federal Policy Can Support and Speed the Co-op Energy Transition
Policy intervention can smooth the path forward for the cooperative energy transition by allowing G&Ts to retire uneconomic coal and replace their fossil generation with clean energy alternatives. This could spur rural economic development and clean tech asset ownership opportunities while at the same time lowering member electricity bills.
Today, federal policymakers have the opportunity to facilitate a coal-to-clean transition among electric co-ops through investment that incents co-ops to retire their coal assets and replace them with renewable generation. The White House includes funding for transitioning rural co-ops to clean energy in its American Jobs Plan, and additional proposals outline incentives that would be available to co-ops for each kW of coal that they replace with clean energy. These proposals also provide direct support to impacted coal plant and mine communities.
The replacement of rural cooperative coal with wind and solar would yield economic development benefits stemming from the construction and operation of those projects, largely in rural communities. Our analysis shows that the tax revenues, land lease payments, and wages generated by these projects, in addition to their low-cost electricity, have the potential to more than offset any cost of the policy.
Planting Seeds of Opportunity in Co-op Territory
To quantify the benefits that might accrue to rural communities from a policy that facilitates co-op coal retirement and re-investment in clean energy, we developed estimates for the direct local revenues that new wind and solar projects could produce in the states where the coal was retired based on our Seeds of Opportunity report methodology. The analysis uses the capacity expansion model from UC-Berkeley and GridLab’s 2035 Report to estimate the share of wind and solar projects that would be built in a particular state, as well as the report’s state-level capacity factors for wind and solar.
While we assumed full generation replacement with wind and solar, the economic development benefits could vary based on the actual choices co-ops make upon retiring their coal fleets. For instance, the addition of battery storage, transmission assets, energy efficiency projects, and other clean energy technologies that might be needed could yield additional revenue streams and energy bill savings over and above what is captured here.
The coal plants captured in this analysis are at least partially owned by co-ops and extend across 23 states and 33 co-op territories. Arkansas and North Dakota, the two states with the most coal plants (five each) that might take advantage of federal policy incentives to retire, could see $4.8 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, from replacing their co-op coal generation with new wind and solar projects.
In Ohio, retiring the 1,265 MW Cardinal coal plant could spur over 4,000 MW of wind and solar project development, contributing nearly $2 billion in revenues to the state’s rural economy. Florida’s even larger Seminole coal plant, should it utilize federal policy incentives to retire, could pave the way for 4,400 MW of solar projects that would generate $2.3 billion in economic development to rural parts of the state.
The map and table below illustrate the location of all coal plants with a share of co-op ownership and the new wind and solar capacity that would be needed to offset each plant’s 2019 annual generation. We then show the economic development that these projects would produce over the course of their lifetimes.
We recognize that coal plant retirements raise questions about maintaining the reliability of the local electric grid. The wind and solar replacement capacity modeled here indicates what would be needed to fully replace the annual generation of the retiring coal, but of course, the grid reliability considerations are more complex.
In some cases, the co-op territory or region may have excess capacity on the system, which is a fairly prevalent characteristic of regional grids, as we document in a recent white paper. This makes replacement capacity unnecessary. In other cases, the co-op may need new capacity as well as other grid resources such as flexible demand or storage to maintain system reliability. These solutions will be developed on a co-op-by-co-op basis — what is shown here is the local economic upside that any new renewables capacity would bring.
Co-ops Can Be Renewable Energy Leaders
Co-ops are poised to play a leading role in enabling rural America to reap the benefits of wind and solar development. Federal policy that unlocks this potential is likely to see a strong return on investment in the form of jobs and revenues flowing to rural residents, landowners, and communities.
A $10 billion investment to support co-ops’ energy transition efforts as contemplated in the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan would yield just over $50 billion in wind and solar-induced economic development revenues — benefits five times greater than the cost of the policy. Coupled with the lower operating cost of renewable energy and transition support to impacted communities, a modest federal incentive could provide outsized economic benefits to rural communities and position cooperatives to be renewable energy leaders.
Africa’s waste industry just got a whole lot cleaner with its first electric garbage truck
Africa received its first heavy-duty commercial electric truck this past week, a Volvo Trucks FE Electric garbage truck (waste collector). The electric garbage truck will be the first fully electric heavy-duty truck from a global manufacturer to begin operation in Africa, marking a significant milestone as we move closer toward a sustainable transportation industry globally.
Volvo Trucks is leading the charge toward a cleaner future with a broad lineup of zero-emission heavy-duty electric vehicles.
Founded in Sweden in 1927, Volvo Trucks has a rich history in the truck-making business. The company’s first truck rolled off the line in 1928, and Volvo has been leading the industry to new heights ever since with innovations, such as the three-point safety harness, the first fully integrated sleeper compartment, and unique designs to increase efficiency.
Seeing the progression to fully electric vehicles sooner than many of its counterparts, Volvo Trucks moved the industry forward again, releasing its first electric commercial truck, the FL Electric, in 2019.
Volvo followed it up, unveiling the Volvo VNR Electric featuring a larger battery designed to extend range.
In September, Volvo added three massive 44-ton heavy-duty EV trucks to its portfolio, bringing its total lineup to six, the most extensive in the industry, as it continues to add zero-emission options in different commercial categories.
The company’s trucks are helping companies go electric to reduce emissions and promote a zero-emission global transportation industry across the globe.
Volvo’s most recent electric truck was delivered to Africa. Volvo delivered its first heavy-duty truck to Morocco, a Volvo FE electric garbage truck, which is a big step for both the truck maker and Africa as they move closer to achieving their climate goals.
Volvo delivers first heavy electric garbage truck to Africa
In a press release, Volvo said it had delivered a series-produced zero-exhaust emission garbage truck to the city of Rabat in Morocco. Martin Nilsson, managing director of Volvo Trucks Morocco, said:
This clearly shows that zero-emissions trucks have a role to play in many parts of the world.
Volvo’s extensive heavy-duty EV lineup makes electrifying in all parts of the world possible. Arma, a Moroccan waste management company, will use the zero-emission truck to, well, collect waste, of course.
By replacing the existing diesel fleet with a Volvo FE electric during typical routes, Volvo says over 20 tons of CO2 could be saved annually.
The addition is part of Morocco’s unconditional climate goal of reducing emissions by 18.3% by 2030. Volvo is also aiming for 50% of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030.
Tesla expands its virtual sales presence with remote test drives
Tesla is expanding its new sales strategy of using virtual sales advisers with remote test drive locations to Europe.
In the summer of 2021, Electrek exclusively reported that Tesla was implementing a new sales strategy. At the time, we reported that the main changes were that the automaker was moving away from high-rent locations in malls and shopping districts in favor of delivery centers and remote test drives.
The strategy is again focused on online sales, but Tesla has recognized that physical presence is still necessary to enable test drives.
When someone used to place an order for a Tesla vehicle online in North America, the customer was assigned a “Tesla Advisor” at their local store to help manage the process leading up to the delivery.
Instead, Tesla started to assign orders to “virtual sales advisors” not assigned to any specific stores, and customers could go to cheap remote test drive locations with Tesla vehicles in parking lots.
The company has been gradually implementing this new strategy in North America. Tesla has now expanded its strategy to Europe with its first remote test drive hub location in Sweden:
Tesla explains the simple process of using the location:
Book an appointment at http://tesla.com → call us when you’ve arrived → we remotely unlock the vehicle for you & walk you through the basics → test drive for 30 mins → drop off vehicle at the same location.
This enables Tesla to operate these locations with very few staff. The company simply needs to make sure those vehicles stay clean and charged.
When we first reported on the new strategy in 2021, sources told Electrek that Tesla was already seeing some success with the first few locations in the US.
Now that the company is expanding this strategy in Europe, we have to assume that the automaker is happy with it and has decided to implement it in new markets.
Use CRAFTSMAN’s cordless electric pole saw to trim your trees as spring arrives at $129 in New Green Deals
As today is the first official day of spring, you’ll want to get ready to trim your yard up and get it ready for warmer weather with spring and summer parties on the horizon. That’s where CRAFTSMAN’s 14-foot cordless pole saw comes to play. It’s on sale for $129 right now, which is the first major price drop that we’ve seen since last summer when the same deal came around back in May. With no gas or motor oil, this electric pole saw can reach up to 14 feet and take care of branches that need to come down from your tree. We also have a wide selection of Tesla and e-bike discounts in today’s New Green Deals, so you won’t want to miss that either.
Head below for other New Green Deals that we’ve found today and of course Electrek’s best EV buying and leasing deals. Also, check out the new Electrek Tesla Shop for the best deals on Tesla accessories.
Trim your yard up as we head into spring
Amazon is offering the CRAFTSMAN 20V Cordless 14-foot Pole Chainsaw for $129 shipped. Down from $169, today’s deal marks the first major price drop that we’ve seen since last summer. In fact, it marks the second-best price that we’ve seen since it hit $98 back in July of 2021. Perfect for getting your yard ready for spring, this pole trimmer will get your trees in tip-top shape as the weather warms up. There’s up to 14 feet of reach with the extension pole and you’ll find the angled head and blade allow for reaching where straight trimmers just can’t get to.
The included 4Ah battery pack allows for extended runtime compared to smaller models and there’s a charger included as well so you can always be ready to go. Of course, being battery-powered means no motor oil or gas will be required, and maintenance is minimal. Not sure what you’d need a trimmer like this for? Well, often there are low-hanging branches on trees that can get in the way of proper airflow through the leaves or possibly are hanging off of a branch below precariously. This allows you to trim things up without having to hire a professional service, saving you both time and money this spring.
EGO Power+ 21-inch electric lawn mower now $100 off before spring at $399, more from $228
Amazon is now offering the EGO Power+ 21-inch 56V Cordless Electric Lawn Mower for $349 shipped. Normally fetching $499, you’re looking at the best discount to date thanks to the $150 savings applied today. This clocks in at $50 under our previous mention and is the lowest we’ve seen this year. Powered by a 5Ah battery and rapid charger that are included in the box, this EGO Power+ mower arrives with a cordless design that can tackle medium-sized yards with a 45-minute runtime. Alongside a 21-inch cutting deck, there’s also 3-in-1 bagging features for bagging, mulching, and side discharging cut grass. Spring is right around the corner, making today’s discount a great chance to start off the new season on the right foot with a chance to ditch gas and oil from your lawn care routine while saving some cash along the way.
Also seeing a discount today courtesy of Amazon, the EGO Power+ 18-inch 56V cordless chainsaw is also marked down for one of the very first times. Dropping down to $315.61, this electric offering is now matching the all-time low from the usual $379 price tag. It’s one of the first chances to save since launching last summer, and delivers much of the same integration with the EGO Power+ 56V ecosystem. Perfect for getting all of those suspicious tree branches taken care of as you begin cleaning up the yard from winter this electric chainsaw is also ideal for chopping up the rest of that fire wood that lasted through the past few months, too. Plus, the 14-inch model is also on sale right now for $227.99 with the on-page coupon, down from $299 and marking a new all-time low.
Don’t let the lights go out when the grid goes down
The official ALLPOWERS Amazon storefront is offering its S1500 Portable Power Station for $499 shipped once you clip the on-page coupon. Originally $999, this portable power station fell to $899 in February before hitting $799 earlier this month. Today’s deal marks a new all-time low at $500 off and saves 50% from its normal going rate at Amazon. This portable power station has a lot to offer, with a constant output of up to 1,500W and the ability to peak at 3,000W. There’s four total AC outlets, three 2.4A USB-A ports, and even 100W USB-C PD output. All of this combines to power up to eight devices at one time through traditional plugs, while you’ll also find a 10A cat plug for an additional output option. When it comes time to recharge the ALLPOWERS S1500, it can be plugged into the wall, connected to solar panels, plugged in through USB-C, or even your car’s 12V/24V outlet.
Now that you know what all the ALLPOWERS S1500 has the ability to do, what all could it help you with? Well, a power station like this is great to have around for many reasons. As we head toward summer, and into hurricane season later in the year, there’s a good chance your power might go out. There have already been a number of bad storms across the US so far this year, with many losing power for hours or days. A power station like this that can output up to 1,500W concurrent or 3,000W peak means you can run a refrigerator, freezer, and even your TV and networking gear all without having to use a single drop of gas or oil at home. Plus, this power station can be recharged with solar panels like we mentioned, so when the power is out for an extended period of time, you can still enjoy at least some creature comforts at home.
New Tesla deals
After checking out the CRAFTSMAN 20V cordless 14-foot pole saw on sale above, if you keep read, you’ll find a selection of new green deals that will make your Tesla experience better in multiple areas. From storage to keep recordings on to phone mounts, car chargers, and anything else we can find, it’ll be listed below. Each day we’ll do our best to find new and exciting deals and ways for you to save on fun accessories for your Tesla, making each trip unique. For more gift ideas and deals, check out the best Tesla shop. Keep reading on for e-bike, Greenworks, and other great deals.
New e-bike deals + electric scooter discounts
If you’re looking to get out and enjoy the sunshine still after using your new electric mower, than we recommend you experience it than on another e-bike or electric scooter you just got at a fantastic price through one of our deals and sale below. You can use it for fun, exercise, or even transportation to and from work or the coffee shop. We have several people here that will regularly commute to coffee shops or offices on their e-bike, as it cuts down on fossil fuel usage as well as allows them to enjoy some time outdoors on nice sunny days. Below, you’ll find a wide selection of new e-bike deals and electric scooter deal in all price ranges, so give it a look if that’s something you’d be interested in picking up. As always, the newest e-bike deal and electric scooter discounts and sales will be at the top, so shop quick as the discounts are bound to go away soon.
Additional New Green Deals
After shopping the CRAFTSMAN 20V cordless 14-foot pole saw on sale above, be sure to check out the other discounts we found today. These new green deals are wide-ranging from outdoor lawn equipment to anything else we find that could save you money in various ways, be that cutting gas and oil out of your life or just enjoying other amenities that energy-saving gear can bring. As always, the newest deals will be at the top, so shop quick as the discounts are bound to go away soon.
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