Shale Gas Zones Focus on Economics

Department of Energy Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Gas Paula Gant said February 18 that the plan to create sustainable shale gas growth zones would center on economic development for areas where the natural gas boom is already occurring. Zones are likely to be implemented, for example, in the Utica and Marcellus shale gas plays, but the concept is still under development.

More Data Needed on Methane Leaks

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced February 19 that more data is necessary to determine how much methane leaks through the natural gas production process. An interagency methane emissions working group, comprised of individuals from the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House, will consider the issue.

Nuclear Loan Guarantees Announced

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced February 19 that the agency will finalize $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to support Southern Company’s Vogtle nuclear power plant expansion in Georgia. The project, overseen by the Southern Company and Oglethorpe Power, is already under construction. The agency conditionally approved $8.33 billion for the project in February 2010, but final negotiations stalled.

Grid Resiliency State Collaboration

During remarks to the Innovative Smart Grid Technologies conference February 19, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said that the agency has increased its outreach efforts to states and regions as it continues to improve electric grid resiliency. Threats to the national grid include cybersecurity attacks, extreme weather linked to climate change, physical attacks, space weather, and interconnection issues.

Computer System Efficiency

The Department of Energy released a pre-publication determination February 21 announcing that it has reconfigured its approach for future energy efficiency regulations, incorporating its earlier computers and servers determination into one process and expanding the scope to include backup battery systems. The agency issued a pair of proposals on computers’ and servers’ efficiency in July.

Smart Grid Lessons

Public and private officials began to assess the Department of Energy’s smart grid investment program during an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference last week. As the $3.4 billion stimulus program winds down, industry leaders find that while consumer resistance to smart grid devices was smaller than anticipated, they still have an impact, and beneficial grid standards would help the industry grow more rapidly.

Loan Guarantee Support Affirmed

Speaking to the National Governors Association February 23, Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz restated his support for the agency’s loan guarantee program, despite critics’  attempts to discredit it the last three years in the wake of the Solyndra incident. The agency still has $40 billion of existing authority under the program and plans to use it.

$10 Million for Geothermal

The Department of Energy announced February 24 $10 million to improve subsurface characterization for enhanced geothermal systems by developing methods that quantity underground reservoir properties as they change over time. The funding will support up to ten three-year collaborative research and development projects to apply innovative technologies to obtain and process précises data to better target and explore potential geothermal sites.