ESG & Industry Updates

Transportation Decarbonization: Medium & Heavy Duty Vehicles

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jan 30, 2023 1:07:12 PM

As we have been discussing, the US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization breaks the Transportation sector into seven categories, each of which has its own targets for emission reduction/elimination, and strategies for how those declines in emissions will be achieved. The second segment by emission % is Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles.

For the purposes of the Decarbonization Blueprint, “Medium and Heavy Duty On-Road Trucks and Buses” includes everything from heavy-duty pickup trucks to long haul semi’s (and everything in between). MHDV make up approximately 5% of vehicles, but they are responsible for 21% of transportation emissions. A further 50% of those emissions are from heavy duty trucks that make up about 10% of the total MHDV category. So when we are talking about this category’s emissions, most of the effective action that can be taken should be focused on a small segment of the total. The other simultaneous focus for MHDV category is the social and environmental justice issue. Where the emissions from light duty vehicles are more ubiquitous, the emissions from MHDV are often concentrated in major urban areas and along disadvantaged corridors within the country.

In terms of the numbers, 81% of the MHDV segment is diesel powered, and unlike light duty vehicles, there is not really a clear ability to easily pivot to EV or hydrogen options (outside of potentially in some of the lighter vehicles that run smaller ranges without heavy freight – like postal trucks). So the suite of zero emission options for the MHDV segment will necessarily be more varied than LDV or other segments where there is less variation in use and function for the vehicles in question. That means a LOT of research & development. Additionally, turnover and replacement timelines for heavy duty vehicles are substantially longer than those for light vehicles, so all the proposed new changes would end up slow rolling out on newer vehicles over time. This is where renewable diesel options will likely become a key factor in pushing MHDV toward hitting emissions goals.

In November of 2022, the US joined the “Global Memorandum of Understanding on Zero Emission Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles” introduced at COP26 which agrees that we will be on a path to 100% new zero-emission MHDV by 2040 at the latest, with a target of 30% by 2030. In January 2023, the EPA announced their “Final Rule and Related Materials for Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles: Heavy Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards” that sets new emission standards for HD vehicles in line with the Decarbonization plan (you can read that EPA rule here: Control of Air Pollution From New Motor Vehicles: Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards )

All of this to say that despite the lack of current technology with which to make the changes required to hit emissions targets, it appears all the rules and regulations coming out across Federal Agencies are intending to follow through on the goals set. This portion of the policy obviously carries serious implications for trucking and transportation companies across the board in terms of their equipment purchasing, maintenance of current options, etc. This is definitely a portion of the plan that is still very much unsettled in terms of immediate and longer range impacts. We will keep a close eye on developments and continue to keep you informed of major changes that impact the industry.

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Topics: EPA, carbon emissions, emissons, Biden Administration, paris accord, decarbonization

Transportation DeCarbonization Blueprint: Light Duty Vehicles

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jan 20, 2023 10:41:32 AM

The US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization splits the Transportation sector into seven categories of focus: Light-Duty Vehicles, Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Off-Road, Rail, Maritime, Aviation, and Pipelines. We will discuss the major items involved in each of these, from largest % of carbon share to least, starting with Light Duty Vehicles.

Light-Duty Vehicles produce 49% of current transportation emissions (of note, for the purposes of the Blueprint “current” refers to 2019 levels due to the pandemic and related shutdowns making 2020 & 2021 data unreliable/useless).

The United States has over 280 million light duty vehicles on the road and these vehicles:

  • Account for 75% of passenger transport miles,
  • Account for 50% of total transportation energy use and emissions
  • Consume over 120 billion gallons of gasoline annually
  • Emit over 1,000 MMT CO2 annually

As we are all aware, Light Duty Vehicles (LDV) in the US have been subject to increasingly strict emissions requirements over the past few decades, and we have seen a massive increase in the availability of electric vehicles (EV) as well. To put specific numbers on it, in the past 15 years, LDVs have seen a 30% improvement in fuel economy (some of the ultimate impact of this however was mitigated by the trend toward larger, more fuel intensive passenger vehicles during that time period). EV have seen an explosion in popularity, it used to be you’d see a Prius or Volt here or there, now you would be hard pressed to drive to Boston without getting stuck behind a Tesla or two. Again, in terms of specific numbers, EV sales reached over half a million vehicles sold, bringing the total to 4.5% of market share in 2021 (18% in California!).

One of the major focuses of the blueprint in the LDV sector is the promotion of EV and zero emission vehicles, with an obvious preference for EV adoption. In tandem with EV adoption, there is a necessary push for charging infrastructure to make them a more feasible option for consumers. The goal is to have 50% new light duty EV sales by 2030, which would be a major step down the road to the ultimate goal of 100% EV adoption.

There is also an included focus on “Funding Research and Innovation” in this section of the Blueprint, which largely functions as an acknowledgement that we aren’t quite there on battery life and battery cost. Part of the legislative language in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) included large investments toward the development of a reliable EV manufacturing supply chain. The legislation also references research and development aimed at achieving price parity between EV and traditional combustion engine vehicles to make them more accessible to the average consumer in terms of price, practicality, and maintenance costs over time. Studies indicate that battery cost has dropped 90% from 2010 to 2020, and projections indicate that when the price reaches $100/kwh the MSRP on EV will hit parity with combustion engine vehicles. The legislation mentioned above intends to fund the research on battery technology to make those price levels reality.

So that is the overview, the major takeaways being that the major goals for this section are:

  • “Achieve 50% of new vehicle sales being zero-emission by 2030, supporting a pathway for full adoption, and ensure that new internal combustion engines are as efficient as possible.”
  • “Deploy 500,000 EV chargers by 2030”
  • “Ensure 100% of Federal Fleet procurement be zero-emission by 2027”

Obviously, for the purposes of energy suppliers, particularly at the consumer level, the growth of EV adoption implies a longer-term shift in the mix of gasoline demand and delivery, especially to stations and municipalities. Actual changes in market share of EV and zero-emission vehicles is something to watch.

Next up, medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses.

Stay Tuned!

 

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Topics: EV Charger, EPA, carbon emissions, emissons, Biden Administration, ev, dot, decarbonization

Biden Admin Releases US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jan 13, 2023 8:09:33 AM

January 10th, 2023 the Biden Administration released the US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization.

The Blueprint is an interagency developed framework of strategies and actions to take carbon emissions out of the Transportation sector by 2050, developed by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Transportation (DOT), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s the conclusion essentially of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between those departments that they would develop the outline to drive policy decisions and regulatory updates focused on the goal of decarbonization in the sector through 2050 in a cooperative manner between federal agencies.

Another way to think about it is the blueprint is basically what the plan is for implementing actions for the investments created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) from November 2022, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) from August 2022. These bills established billions in funding for infrastructure and outlined aggressive action on climate change (respectively). The blueprint developed is part of the process for allocating where investment and change happens to push the country toward the enormous mitigations in emissions that the BIL and IRA legislation attempted to make possible.

As we’ve discussed previously, the Transportation sector is the nations largest source of greenhouse gas, and accounts for a third of all domestic GHG emissions, so emissions mitigation/elimination across this sector is obviously a goal in the context of Climate Change. The blueprint additionally sought to develop action plans for the sector with environmental justice in mind – the concentration of emissions and negative impacts from the transportation sector have historically been concentrated in low income, urban, and minority areas of the country and that is an additional factor that needs to be addressed.

The strategies in the blueprint are aimed at ensuring the US hits both the President’s stated commitments on emissions reduction, and the US Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. In order to hit both 2030 targets and 2050 goals, there is a mix of short- and long-term recommendations.

The report specifically seeks to

  1. “Increase convenience by Implementing System Level and Design Solutions”
  2. “Improve Efficiency through mode shift and More Efficient Vehicles”
  3. “Transition to Clean Options by Deploying Zero-Emission Vehicles and Fuels”

The method for doing so is split into strategies, goals, and action plans by transportation subset (or mode). They are:

  1. Light-Duty Vehicles (49% of current emissions)
  2. Medium- and Heavy-Duty On-Road Trucks and Buses (21% of current emissions)
  3. Off-Road Vehicles and Mobile Equipment (10% of current emissions)
  4. Rail (2% of current emissions)
  5. Maritime Vessels (3% of current emissions)
  6. Aviation (11% of current emissions)
  7. Pipelines (4% of current emissions)

We will go through each mode individually, and highlight what we think the important takeaways are for each in terms of what things may impact energy suppliers either directly or via end users (customers) over the upcoming weeks.

Definitely a topic to keep an eye on, because if the U.S. intends to hit the lofty goals on emissions reduction it set itself, there will likely need to be some big big changes out there in the market.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Topics: EPA, climate change, carbon emissions, dot, decarbonization

California Hydrogen Blending Study Shows Potential Obstacles

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jan 9, 2023 10:23:14 AM

Another avenue being looked into for decarbonization in the US is hydrogen blending. Hydrogen blending would use existing natural gas infrastructure for transport, which obviously makes it very appealing from an infrastructure & logistics standpoint as the majority would already be in place.

However, it isn’t clear exactly what impacts hydrogen might have on said infrastructure, and if it would behave similarly to pure natural gas, or we would see issues with pipeline degradation or operational risks like leaks. California is looking into the issue thoroughly.

The “Hydrogen Impacts Study” commissioned by the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) published its results on hydrogen blending impacts in July. The study found that:

  • Hydrogen blends of up to 5% in the natural gas stream are generally safe, but higher blends result in a greater chance of pipeline leaks and embrittlement of steel pipes.
  • Blends of above 5% would require modification of existing appliances to avoid malfunctions, and blends of more than 20% would raise the risk of plastic pipe leaks and subsequent ignition of gas outside the pipeline
  • Due to the lower energy content of hydrogen, more hydrogen-blended natural gas would need to be supplied to consumers to deliver the same amount of energy that they currently use with pure natural gas.

The study concluded that real world demonstrations will be necessary to determine safe levels, and ensure that risks like ignition are eliminated. Southern California Gas, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southwest Gas filed a joint application with CPUC to implement demonstration projects. The projects seek to use a phased up approach to determine safe levels and assess if hydrogen blending is a feasible next step towards decarbonization for California.

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine last month on Hydrogen Blended Natural Gas and the projects in California. If you would like to read more details on the blending and the pilot demonstration programs you can read that article in its entirety here: Study on 'Hydrogen Blending Impacts' Reveals Potential Obstacles

 

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Topics: renewable energy, hydrogen, decarbonization

Banned In Boston? City Seeks to Stop New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Posted by Kelly Burke on Oct 4, 2022 1:23:09 PM

In August of this year, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law House Bill 5060 “An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind” into law

A controversial part of the bill was a provision allowing for a pilot program of 10 cities and towns to require all new building projects to be electric (with the exception of hospitals and labs). The Boston City Council in September voted to become one of those cities, after the proposal was introduced by Mayor Wu.

How the provision works is it would allow individual cities to develop local ordinances preventing new building projects (or large scale renovation/rehab projects) from using fossil fuels and enforce those ordinances by denying permits. (As an aside, you may remember that Brookline MA, one of the ten pilot cities, one night at a town meeting voted to ban oil and gas infrastructure in town in 2019 – a provision that was ultimately struck down. Essentially, the policy Brookline attempted to enact in 2019 is in some ways the blueprint for how the ordinances in the new pilot program work.)

It's unclear whether Boston will be allowed to join the program, as there are already 10 slated participants (Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton and West Tisbury). Conceptually, cities and towns that are not the size and population of Boston would seem to be a better fit for a pilot program of any kind – it is possible they will get approved however, because a requirement of participation is that the town meet the States 10% affordable housing target, and West Tisbury looks like it will fall short.

Speaking of affordable housing, one of the main concerns around the pilot program is that it would drive up costs for construction and extend timelines for building (particularly as multifamily dwellings are non exempt from the ordinances) which could further exacerbate Boston’s existing housing crisis, as well as continue to push lower SES community members out of the City, something that has already picked up steam post pandemic. The other half of that coin is serious reservations about the impact to union jobs in the program cities, particularly for pipefitters. 

On the other hand, 70% of Boston’s carbon emissions are from buildings, according to the City’s latest Climate Action Report, so in that sense going right to the source makes sense on some level.

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine that goes into more detail on the bill and its support/objections. You can read that article in its entirety here: Boston Seeks to Ban Fossil Fuels in New Buildings

 

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Topics: Mass DOER, Massachusetts, climate change, carbon emissions, boston

Inflation Reduction Act - Relevant Industry Item Snapshot

Posted by Kelly Burke on Aug 22, 2022 12:43:46 PM

 

Last week President Biden signed into law the “Inflation Reduction Act”, which is essentially a slimmed down adjunct bill to the “Build Back Better Act”. As the name implies, ,the goal would be to combat the crippling inflation facing the country currently – although most analysis by both CBO and federal groups has not concluded that would be the case in the long term. We shall see.

In the meantime, we pulled together some of the major industry-relevant items to keep an eye on

Federal analysis of the Inflation Reduction Act projects that the law will help cut United States emissions to 40% lower than 2005 levels by 2030. This aligns with the longer term goal of a net zero emission economy by 2050.

$370 billion dollars of the $740 billion dollars contained in the Inflation Reduction Act are directed toward addressing climate change, (including the potential cost of tax credits)

Among the points focused on are:

  • Removing the per-manufacturer cap on tax credits per unit sold of Electric Vehicles, which is meant to stimulate growth in EV sales and usage. However, there is also a provision that EV batteries have to be sourced 40% from domestic sources, which will be a major hurdle for some companies.
  • $60 billion in production tax credits for companies involved in domestic clean energy production, including multiple incentives for nuclear production to the tune of $30 billion
  • EPA granted the authority to fine oil & gas companies for emitting excessive methane emissions. This is a first of its kind provision that would kick off in 2024 and fine $900 per metric ton initially, and increase annually thereafter.
  • $9 billion dollars toward promotion of consumer adoption of renewable energy for residential use in the form of solar, heat pumps and electric systems instead of natural gas.
  • $60 billion for Environmental Justice programs, in the form of both renewable energy conversions and pollution, drought, and flooding remediation for impacted communities.
  • $51 billion for renewable energy production
  • $51 billion for clean energy investment
  • $3.2 billion for carbon capture technology
  • $27 billion for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (a financing agent for startups focused on decarbonization, essentially)

Of note is that most of the federal analysis seems to conclude that the emission reductions projected would require a heavy reliance on Carbon Capture & Store technology, which at the moment is a complicated and cost prohibitive solution in many situations.

As with any massive piece of legislation, its hard to predict how different provisions will impact industry segments until the rubber hits the road as they say. Definitely something to keep an eye on as it unfolds.

Stay Tuned!

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Topics: carbon emissions, Biden Administration, environmental justice, inflation, ev, Inflation Reduction Act, Carbon Capture

Solid State Batteries Could Change the EV Game

Posted by Kelly Burke on Aug 3, 2022 2:01:43 PM

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We're all familiar with both the rise of electric vehicles, and the lingering concerns some have regarding their adoption - namely, driving range, time to recharge, and battery lifetime limits. It's long been assumed that solid state batteries could be the key to solving all of these issues at once, while simultaneously enhancing safety but until recently it looked like it would be quite some time before the technology got to a point where it was scalable and practical. We may have reached that point sooner than expected, however. 

So what even are solid state batteries? . Right now, most EV currently use the familiar lithium ion battery, which uses a liquid or gel electrolyte solution between positive and negative electrodes to both store and release charge. Solid state batteries instead use a solid material for electrons to pass through (ceramic, glass, etc). The lack of liquid/gel allows for holding a  larger amount energy per unit of mass, which means solid state batteries have the potential to increase range. Because of the decreased overall mass (they're roughly half the size of a lithium ion battery) auto manufacturers can allot nearly twice as many batteries to the reserved battery holding areas within the standard EV setup. Additionally, the lack of liquid means more temperature stability for the battery, and removes much of the need for added cooling mechanisms currently in place to avoid the risk of fire & overheating that is present in standard batteries. 

In terms of battery lifetime and the cost to update or replace EV batteries, some manufacturers are estimating that the prototype models they are currently running will be able to stand up to 1000 charges, and with double the battery capacity, the math works out to newer solid state running EVs potentially running a little over half a million miles prior to needing battery replacement. 

The other main highlight is that an additional long standing issue with the move to EV and general electrification has been the impracticality of lithium ion powered heavy freight, long haul trucking, aircraft, or grid level energy storage. By changing the battery variable, that equation may become solvable in time. 

We did an article for Oil & Energy magazine this issue to discuss Solid State Batteries' potential in the EV market, and specifically what Solid Power, one of the industry tech leaders, is doing. You can read that article in its entirety here: Solid State Batteries are Game Changers

For more by way of background on EV batteries and whats going on with that technology - the video below does an excellent job explaining how Lithium, Hydrogen, and Solid State batteries work, and what the benefits and limitations are of each: 

 

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Topics: climate change, electric vehicles, battery, ev, solid state battery

Boston Based "Farm to Grid" Renewable Energy Pioneer Acquired

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jul 21, 2022 8:45:00 AM

Boston based Vanguard Renewables, a pioneer in the food & dairy industry waste-to-energy space has been acquired by BlackRock for $700 million dollars, with a plan to invest up to an additional billion dollars in the company’s expansion, according to the Wall Street Journal this morning. The expansion plan reportedly focuses on commissioning up to 100 anaerobic digesters for renewable natural gas production across the United States by 2026.

We’ve written about Vanguard’s projects in MA before, so this expansion is particularly exciting, and obviously timely with the push toward renewable natural gas we are seeing in the marketplace.

As a refresher, agricultural and food waste has been a continual issue in terms of both disposal, generated methane emissions, and waste forever. As part of the effort to address that, in 2014 Massachusetts  banned disposal of commercial organic waste by businesses that produce more than a ton of organic waste per week. Organic waste was the second largest contribution to landfills in the State before 2014 and the ban served to divert that waste. But the problem became, well, divert it to where?

The solution that arose in the form of anerobic digesters is genius and has the potential to have a transformative effect on both natural gas production and the impact of the agricultural sector on climate. As a sector of the economy, agriculture contributes 11% of total carbon emissions, not including land use and other factors, according to the EPA. 

carbon emissions EPA

Anaerobic digesters take the methane and other emissions from organic waste (chiefly cow manure, but also food waste) and transform it into renewable energy. The process as a whole serves to divert food and animal waste, reduce odor, capture methane emissions, and produces organic fertilizer which lowers chemical usage. Additionally, the energy farmers produce can be sold back to the grid. It’s a pretty perfect sytem. Extrapolated outward across multiple states, its pretty clear implementing this process would have relatively immediate and tangible impacts.

Anaerobic Digester Chart

 

For more information on how the digester process works (and a focus on the MA site), read this article from Oil & Energy: Farm to Grid 

For a more in depth look at the process and Vanguard’s currently operational projects in Massachusetts, check out their website: Vanguard Renewables

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, methane, carbon emissions, renewable energy, renewable natural gas

National Grid to Pivot NY to Renewable Nat Gas, Green Hydrogen Power

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jul 7, 2022 3:30:00 PM

 

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National Grid has announced it plans to transition New York away from natural gas by 2050 via a combination of renewable natural gas and green hydrogen. New York City alone creates 70% of the State’s emissions, and almost half of those are a direct result of heating buildings and heating water with fossil fuels across its 1 million+ buildings.

National Grid’s strategy is that renewable natural gas and green hydrogen will be used in tandem with electrification projects and renewables like solar. The renewable natural gas and green hydrogen are necessary for reliability of the grid, at least with current technology in place.

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy magazine this month on the topic. You can read that in its entirety here: National Grid says it will pivot to renewable gas and green hydrogen.

Additionally, a quick overview on renewable natural gas & green hydrogen is below.

Renewable Natural Gas

Renewable natural gas, or biogas/biomethane is captured when methane is released from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, food waste, and livestock manure. Emissions from these sources are recurring and otherwise contribute to greenhouse gas emissions but with the renewable natural gas process, they are harnessed, purified, and used to provide gas for cooking, heat, etc, through pipelines in the same manner as conventional natural gas.

Renewable natural gas is chemically similar to conventional, and can run through the same pipeline systems which is a huge plus for infrastructure concerns. However, the infrastructure to purify the captured emissions is essentially nonexistent currently.

There is some concern among environmentalists that biomethane pushes could push agricultural operations to scale further in order to be more cost effective. However, it is worth pointing out that the emissions from the agricultural sector are so high currently, that it seems unlikely capturing spilloff would ultimately function as a detrimental factor in terms of the broader emissions picture.

Even with that particular criticism aside, the infrastructure upgrades and purification setups needed and their associated costs make it unlikely that renewable natural gas can serve as a comprehensive replacement on its own.

Green Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is the cleanest of the hydrogen options and produces zero carbon emissions. It’s produced by electrolysis. H20 is split into hydrogen and oxygen, so there is no waste and the environmental impact is zero. If the process is powered by renewable sources like wind or solar, it is considered a green fuel and has no environmental emissions cost.

The issue with green hydrogen is the infrastructure costs that would be associated with required upgrades to pipeline infrastructure. Currently, 26 pilot programs are running in the United States to test use in existing pipelines as well as production and storage methods.

So while green hydrogen may be the most promising of the solutions long term, it definitely is LONG term.

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Topics: New York, Biofuels, carbon emissions, renewable energy, hydrogen

Renewable Advocates Target ISO New England over Natural Gas Preference

Posted by Kelly Burke on May 9, 2022 8:45:00 AM

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In March, RENEW Northeast and the American Clean Power Association (ACPA) filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) asking the agency to find that ISO New England market rules “provide undue preference to natural gas only resources” and to direct the grid operator to fix its ruled to end that preference.

 

The allegation is based on how the reliability is weighted for natural gas versus “intermittent” resources like solar and wind. For example, solar is scored lower for reliability based on winter supply issues, wind turbines are lowered through summer months based on projected output, but natural gas is presumed to have 100% reliability despite growing concerns that capacity problems in the Northeast Region would potentially make gas inaccessible under full winter loads in extreme situations. If you recall, natural gas capacity in the region has been a concern for quite some time. 

We wrote an article for Oil & Energy in April laying out the details and basis of the complaint, as well as how the capacity auction works and served to generate this complaint. You can read that article in its entirety here: Renewable Advocates Target ISO New England

 

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Topics: natural gas, Solar Power, renewable energy, ferc, offshore wind

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