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Whether you call it the Architecture of Abundance or the Plethora of Pipelines, the new GOP energy plan ignores the utility scale solar surge.

Clean Power

Utility-Scale Solar Outshines New GOP “Architecture of Abundance” Energy Plan

Whether you call it the Architecture of Abundance or the Plethora of Pipelines, the new GOP energy plan ignores the utility scale solar surge.

Last Friday, the Energy Department rolled out a new report that highlights the rapid growth of utility-scale solar power in the US, but somehow it seems to have slipped the attention of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Just yesterday, the Republican-led body unveiled its ambitious new “Architecture of Abundance” energy plan, and utility-scale solar gets nary a whisper.

Say, don’t we pay these guys to pay attention to these sorts of things?

The next question is, what are they paying attention to instead?

growth of US utility scale solar

The Architecture Of Abundance Energy Plan

The Architecture of Abundance sketches out a legislative framework (and we use the word “sketch” lightly) for ensuring that 20th-century fossil fuels have a continued role in the energy landscape of the 21st century.

So yes, they are paying attention to fossil fuels.

Specifically, they are paying attention to the infrastructure needed to bring those fuels to market, and the fingerprints of the Keystone XL pipeline are very much in evidence here.

Of the four elements in the Architecture of Abundance plan, the first one deals with “modernizing” the US oil and gas pipeline network. If you think that means inspecting and upgrading the 2.3 million (yes, million) miles of aging oil, gas, and refined product pipelines in the US — which are badly in need of attention — guess again.

It simply means adding more pipelines, more quickly. Here’s a couple of snippets from “Section I: Modernizing Infrastructure:”

America faces different energy challenges today than it did a decade ago. Chief among them is a shortage of modern energy infrastructure to carry abundant new supplies of oil and gas to consumers. These challenges threat en energy reliability and affordability . For example, delays and red tape in the permitting process prevent America from constructing the safest, most reliable, and oftentimes more environmentally sound routes of energy delivery [note to readers: “safest” is shorthand for pipelines are more safe than railways].

…This draft to modernize the transmission, reliability, and security of energy distribution will address the permitting challenges for current domestic and cross – border pipelines and transmission lines [note to readers: Keystone is a cross-border pipeline requiring State Department approval].

Are we reading too much into this? Okay, so let’s skip over Section II, which looks like a pretty ambitious job training program except for the conspicuous lack of a funding stream, and go to “Section III: Energy Diplomacy for a Changing World” (break added for readability):

…This draft will seek to improve coordination and strengthen energy partnerships with our North American neighbors and to establish a process to evaluate how energy permitting decisions impact international energy security.

From a decision to allow the export of energy commodities to a decision on infrastructure, policymakers should assess our national interest with an eye toward our allies and our ability to leverage our resources to advance our foreign policy goals.

Once again deploying our special Keystone decoder ring, we figure that “North American neighbors” means Canada (unless we missed something), and “export of energy commodities” means the Keystone XL pipeline, which will enable the Canadian company TransCanada to transport tar sands oil from Canada down to Gulf Coast refineries in the US, and from there to overseas markets.

The Architecture Of The Koch Connection

Since the Architecture of Abundance plan is batting .500 when it comes to increasing the mileage of oil and gas pipelines in the US, we’re thinking that an equally accurate and equally alliterative title for the plan would be “The Plethora of Pipelines.”

That brings us right around to the Koch brothers. As we’ve previously noted, the wealthy industrialists (among the wealthiest persons in the world, according to our friends over at Fuel Fix) don’t have a direct stake in the pipeline, but apparently they do have a huge stake in Canadian tar sands.

More to the point, Koch Industries, its subsidiaries, and its indirect subsidiaries, are stakeholders in thousands of miles of US pipelines, including the Trans Alaska Pipeline and the massive Colonial Pipeline. If the company’s business is to grow in any direction, pipelines is a good guess.

To connect the dots, the formerly reclusive Koch brothers recently announced that they will be devoting about $1 billion of their combined $100 billion wealth to elect their favorite candidates to office in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Let’s Pay Attention To US Utility-Scale Solar!

It sure looks like Koch Industries architects had a hand in the Architecture of Abundance, but maybe that’s just us.

Meanwhile, let’s turn our attention to that new utility-scale solar report from the fabulously successful Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO — and props to former President George W. Bush, who established the office during his tenure).

The report was announced in a February 6th Energy Department blog post featuring the new 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight project in Riverside County, California, which received a $1.46 billion loan guarantee from the LPO for its developer, First Solar.

To sum it up in a nutshell, the total installed US utility-scale solar capacity stood at only 22 megawatts before 2009, and there were no utility-scale solar projects clocking in at more than 100 megawatts at that time.

Twisting the knife, in 2008, the US Energy Information Administration predicted that the total installed utility-scale solar capacity in the US would only tote up to a paltry 140 megawatts.

Since 2009, aside from getting totally owned by the Desert Sun project alone, that official forecast has been eclipsed by more than a score of utility-scale projects each topping 100 megawatts.

As described by the Energy Department, the first five were kickstarted by LPO, and another 17 have been financed independently.

Speaking of abundance, since solar energy is by far the most abundant source of energy on Earth, we’re more than a little concerned that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are paying off a House Committee that has studiously gone out of its way to ignore the obvious, but maybe that’s just us.

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Image credit (screenshot): Courtesy of US Department of Energy.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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