Op-Ed: Montana Is Blessed With Vast Renewable Energy FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Jeff L. Fox for the Billings Gazette:The Bozeman Daily Chronicle recently editorialized that it’s “Time Montana realized coal’s limitations.” Similarly, The Billings Gazette recently ran editorials claiming that “Montana can’t stake its future on coal,” and Montana’s economy and energy sector must “Diversify or die, it’s our choice.”The editorials ran in response to the state’s grappling with the reality of a shrinking coal sector. Both editorial boards correctly identified that the challenges facing Montana’s coal sector extend far beyond the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” carbon regulations. Both also correctly identified that Montana’s economy is diverse, and that further diversification will help us shrug off any coming coal losses. However, neither fully captured the opportunity that renewable energy development can play in building a brighter future for Montana.Montana is blessed with one of the best wind resources in the United States, which can help power our state and large portions of the economies of Washington, Oregon and California, just like Montana’s coal currently does. Additionally, our solar energy resource is more than adequate to meet a sizable portion of our own in-state demand, if we get serious about utilizing it.People who want to invest in and help build Montana’s renewable energy future are already here, ready to bring forward the clean energy that is in demand. Reviewing the interconnection requests on NorthWestern Energy’s system reveals every utility-scale electric energy project being actively developed (more than 50 in total on NorthWestern Energy’s system) is either a wind or solar energy project. Not every project currently being developed is likely to be successful, but the fact that all are renewable is an indicator of where we are going and where we should focus our efforts.Tallying up proposed wind projects statewide reveals there are more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy being actively developed right now in Montana. If built, 2,000 megawatts of installed wind energy would probably represent something like $3 billion in capital investment, more than 11,000 construction job years, and more than 500 permanent jobs, based on the “Employment Effects of Clean Energy Investments in Montana” report authored by energy consulting firm Synapse Energy.Two thousand megawatts is a good starting point, but we have nearly limitless low-cost wind potential in Montana that can complement the renewable resources in neighboring states. How much wind resource we develop is really up to us, but commitment to even a modest goal could provide significant economic impact to help with our energy transition.Matching coal’s economic footprint would provide support for Montana’s rural communities, pumping tax dollars, local spending, landowner payments and, most important, jobs into small towns, without disrupting their character. A wind project in every county would help keep small town schools — the lifeblood of rural Montana communities —in good health.Meanwhile, Montana is seeing our first utility-scale solar projects being developed and community solar projects taking off with rural electric cooperatives leading the way. The rooftop solar market is experiencing sustained double-digit growth in Montana and today there are already more than 50 main street Montana-based businesses involved in selling, installing and connecting rooftop solar energy systems.Finally, large pumped hydroenergy storage projects proposed for Montana could further increase the value of wind and solar energy potential.The transition to cleaner energy is happening all across the country. It can happen here, too.Nationwide the solar industry already employs more workers than the entirety of the coal industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects wind energy technicians to be the fastest growing occupation in the nation through 2024.None of this is to suggest the challenges facing coal communities aren’t real and potentially painful. Together, we all must ensure that utilities, mine operators, and politicians do right by the workers if those jobs disappear or are phased out. But, Montana also has enormous benefits to realize in the clean energy transition, if we are open to seizing the opportunities.Guest opinion: Renewables can diversify Montana’s energy economy
Fewer Queenslanders are applying for mortgages according to new research.Mr Luffman said the figures could indicate people were turning to credit to support their household and discretionary spending.“Given the current subdued growth in household incomes, and below-neutral consumer sentiment, it is understandable that Australians may be becoming more circumspect in their use of consumer credit products,” he said.Mortgage applications are a good indicator of homebuyer demand and housing turnover.It comes as Brisbane home prices recorded their slowest rate of growth in four years over the past financial year, rising just two per cent, according to CoreLogic. Fewer Queenslanders are applying for home loans according to new data. Picture: Chris PavlichThe finding comes after CoreLogic data revealed the number of homes up for auction across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth fell for the fourth straight week in the seven days to July 16.More from newsMould, age, not enough to stop 17 bidders fighting for this home3 hours agoBuyers ‘crazy’ not to take govt freebies, says 28-yr-old investor3 hours agoGET THE LATEST REAL ESTATE NEWS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX HERENationally, consumer credit demand rose 10.3 per cent in the June quarter, driven mainly by a surge in personal loan applications, according to Equifax’s latest Quarterly Consumer Credit Demand Index.Credit card applications in Queensland rose 4.5 per cent in the three months to June, the second largest increase after Tasmania.Personal loan applications also picked up strongly in Queensland — jumping 19.6 per cent during the quarter.Extreme inner-city renovationDo these five things before you make an offerBuyers with a bad case of FOMO Fewer Queenslanders are applying for home loans, according to new research. Picture: Brendan Radke.FEWER Queenslanders are applying for home loans in another sign the state’s housing market is beginning to cool.Mortgage applications fell 3.4 per cent in Queensland during the June quarter, according to credit reporting agency Equifax.Nationally, home loan applications were down nearly one per cent during the quarter.Equifax senior general manager Angus Luffman said it marks the second consecutive quarter of declining mortgage applications, signalling the start of a “downward trend” in all states.“Any debate about whether the housing market is softening should now be put to rest,” Mr Luffman said.“We can clearly see that, even in the historically strong geographies on the eastern seaboard, mortgage application demand is slowing or already in decline.”
Many people are only slowly beginning to realise the harm low to negative interest rates are causing and, without a lobby, the concerns of savers and pension funds are hardly taken seriously, the head of the board of trustees at Swiss multi-employer pension fund Profond told delegates at a trade fair in Zurich yesterday.All of Swiss pension funds’ assets have been affected by the low to negative rates environment, said Olaf Meyer, criticising central banks’ monetary policy as “politically motivated redistribution” of financing from the private sector to governments.Prices have become political prices rather than market prices, he said, adding: “We’re no longer operating in a market system.”He said Swiss Pensionskassen were faced with low yields in listed and unlisted assets, a domestic currency that had become a burden and a large gap between members’ pension expectations and the yields attainable via traditional investment strategies. Picking up a point made earlier by Dewet Moser, alternate member of the governing board of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), that real interest rates were still positive, Meyer said it was very difficult to explain this to individuals who tend to think in nominal terms.“That’s something we have to live with,” he said.As to how Pensionskassen can respond to the rates environment, there are two main choices, according to Meyer – adjusting investment activity (by buying real assets and hedging exchange rates, for example) or adjusting benefits.The latter is already happening in Switzerland to an extent that has not been seen for a long time, he said.By way of conclusion, Meyer noted that unlisted assets had become more attractive and that a failure to change investment strategy would entail lower benefits at most Pensionskassen.Monetary policy needs to become a more substantial part of Pensionkassen’s new investment strategies, he added.Meyer’s presentation came after the SNB’s Moser acknowledged that negative rates were a burden for Pensionskassen but also argued that the direct negative effect was limited.He defended the removal of the cap on the Swiss franc/euro exchange rate in January 2015 and the introduction of a -0.75% deposit rate the following month, saying the negative rate was working even though it is “not a magic cure”. As for the impact on Pensionskassen, he said he understood negative rates were a burden but that he could not offer any prospect of relief, as they were unlikely to disappear any time soon.When the Swiss central bank set interest rates at -0.75% in February last year, the country’s pension funds called for an exemption, asking to be granted accounts at 0% interest with the SNB instead – the request was denied.Moser yesterday said the international low-rate environment was the bigger challenge for Pensionskassen than the domestic situation but that, together, these still only represented “the tip of the iceberg”.Far more important, according to Moser, are aspects such as increasing life expectancy, investment regulations and the conversation rate applied by pension funds (Umwandlungssatz).He called for political solutions, saying Swiss occupational pension provision needed to be reformed.He declined to comment on the nature of such reform, however, saying later that, although he deliberately mentioned the need for reform, he could not elaborate, as this was not a matter for the central bank.The call for reform is by no means new in Switzerland, and the topic is the subject of much debate – and some concrete action.A reform package is in the midst of going through Parliament, with Altersvorsorge 2020 (AV 2020), as the package is known, having most recently been part of a three-day debate in the lower chamber earlier this month. The relevant committee, the commission for social security and health, is due to discuss AV 2020 again on 12-13 May.