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The five most important names in renewable energy that you’ve never heard of

wind transmission lines
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Five people will make a decision soon that will have an outsized impact on the future of renewable energy in America. I’m not talking about big shots like Obama, Koch, Boehner, Bloomberg, or Steyer. I’m talking about names many have never heard of:  Moeller, Norris, LaFleur, Clark, and Binz (if he is confirmed). These are the chief electricity officers of the United States of America -- they are the commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

You’ve probably heard this before: “Scientists agree that in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must generate 80 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2050.”  No single entity will play as crucial a role as FERC in ensuring that the infrastructure exists to handle new renewable energy generation.

President Obama’s climate plan is a courageous step forward and deserves the widespread media coverage it has received. But only the acceleration of utility-scale renewable energy projects can take us where we need to go.

Modernizing our nation’s power system is a daunting task, but there are good reasons to be optimistic. America has enough wind and solar to power the entire country more than a dozen times over. And with the cost of wind and solar going down every day, rapid development of large-scale generation projects appears inevitable.

But if you place the map of regions with the best wind and solar energy on top of a map of our current transmission system, you won’t find too much overlap. Transmission is the key to unlocking America’s virtually unlimited renewable resources and delivering their energy to users.

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The truth about renewable energy: Inexpensive, reliable, and inexhaustible

We’ve all heard the common myths about renewable energy: It’s expensive; it can’t be relied upon; there just isn’t enough of it to meet our energy needs. But as technological advances and plummeting costs drive explosive growth -- U.S. installed wind capacity has grown sevenfold to nearly 47 gigawatts in the last seven years -- real-world experience is shattering long-held assumptions every day. Even ardent supporters of renewables may be surprised by what we’re learning.

Renewable energy actually reduces electricity prices for businesses and consumers. A new analysis [PDF] conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid found that adding more wind power to the electric grid could reduce wholesale market prices by more than 25 percent in the Midwest region by 2020 -- $3–$10 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the near term, and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030. Those savings would be passed along to consumers through lowering retail electricity prices by $65–$200 each year.

Read more: Renewable Energy

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The dirty little secret behind the ‘transmission debate’

Utilities scare consumers into believing they don’t deserve or can’t afford a better, cleaner energy system. The United States is fortunate to have some of the richest and most diverse renewable energy resources in the world -- wind in the Great Plains, solar in the Southwest, and even more wind off the Atlantic coast. As much electricity could be generated every year from these resources as the United States consumes as a whole -- several times over. The trick is getting that energy to market. The electric power transmission network in this country was not designed to reach deep into …

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Defending the Great Energy Monopoly

How the Wall Street Journal twisted the facts on transmission

The Wall Street Journal recently published an editorial, "The Great Transmission Heist," that took a swing at renewable energy. That's not surprising. What is surprising is that the piece wholly abandoned not only the facts, but fundamental market principles related to the energy sector. The Journal attacked a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposal [PDF] that would create a more fair and rational framework for modernizing the nation's electric grid. Specifically, the guidelines would ensure that everyone who benefits pays, regardless of arbitrary boundaries and proposals generated by various regions. Critics of the new rule, particularly incumbent utilities that …