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Electric Utilities

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Hurricane Ian may be long gone from Florida, but the job of restoring power and searching for anyone still inside flooded or damaged homes presses on. About 400,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity Tuesday in Florida and it will be the weekend before most power is restored. Meanwhile, the much weakened storm isn't finished. Officials warned that Ian's remnants could still cause coastal flooding from Long Island, New York, south to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Eighty-four deaths have been blamed on Ian, including 75 in Florida, five in North Carolina, three in Cuba and one in Virginia. Authorities say the death toll could rise as crews continue searching homes in the hardest-hit areas.

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Days after Hurricane Ian carved a path of destruction from Florida to the Carolinas, the dangers persisted, and even worsened in some places. It was clear the road to recovery from the storm will be long and painful. More than 500,000 homes and businesses remained without power Monday in Florida and it will be the weekend before most power is restored. And Ian still is not done. Officials warned there still was the potential of coastal flooding from Long Island south to North Carolina's Outer Banks where the only highway to the barrier islands was closed by sand and seawater. Seventy-eight deaths have been blamed on Ian, with 71 of them reported in Florida.

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Virginia's Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is calling for expanding nuclear power generation in the state, and reevaluating a recent clean energy law celebrated by environmentalists. His administration laid out those and other goals in a 29-page state energy plan unveiled Monday. The plan also calls for restoring greater authority to state regulators who oversee the state’s powerful utilities. The energy plan carries no force but offers insight on policy choices Youngkin’s administration may pursue. Environmental groups and some Democratic state lawmakers were broadly critical of Youngkin’s plan. They vowed Monday to push back on any attempt to roll back environmental reforms enacted in recent years.

Europe is facing unprecedented risks to its energy supply this winter. That's the word Monday from the International Energy Agency. The IEA says in its quarterly gas report that people will have to save at least 13% over the winter if Russia cuts off the last trickle of gas that's flowing to Europe. The Paris-based group says only by saving, can Europe avoid a severe shortage if Russian gas halts completely over the war in Ukraine. Europe also could wind up competing with Asian countries for scarce supplies of liquefied natural gas that come by ship. Things will be even tighter if the weather is cold late in the winter.

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U.S. officials are vowing to unleash a massive amount of federal aid in response to Hurricane Ian as the death toll rises amid recovery efforts. The monster storm killed at least 68 people, including 61 in Florida. Hundreds of thousands of people and businesses remain without power. Officials warn that flooding could still worsen in parts of Florida because the rain that fell has nowhere to go. The weakened storm is still bringing havoc as it drifts north. The remnants are forming a nor’easter dumping rain on Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Rainfall on the already inundated Chesapeake Bay could lead to significant tidal flooding.

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The lights are out at a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that has provided electricity to millions of people across the southwestern U.S. for nearly a half-century. The closure of the San Juan Generating Station follows years of legal battles by environmentalists and mounting regulatory pressures aimed at curbing pollution and climate change. The realities of closing the plant and the adjacent mine are now setting in for surrounding communities, many of which are home to Native Americans. Hundreds of good-paying jobs are evaporating along with tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue that's used to fund local schools.

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After being encircled by Ukrainian forces, Russia has pulled troops out from an eastern Ukrainian city that it had been using as a front-line hub. It was the latest victory for the Ukrainian counteroffensive that has humiliated and angered the Kremlin. The city of Lyman was a key transportation hub for the Russian front line. A day earlier Moscow had annexed as part of Russia. Kyiv has retaken vast swaths of territory beginning in September. With Lyman recaptured, Ukraine can now push further into the occupied Luhansk region, one of the four regions that Russia annexed Friday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his military have vowed to keep fighting to liberate all regions from Russian control.

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Crews are starting to fix Florida's electric grid by repairing and rebuilding where lines were damaged or flooded by Hurricane Ian. Florida Power & Light said Friday evening that it had restored power to 1.2 million customers but 850,000 remained without power. The company's CEO says Florida Power & Light has enough poles, generators and wire in stockpile to the repair work, but power-industry officials warn supply chain issues could threaten the grid if there's another natural disaster somewhere else in the U.S. They say there's a shortage of distribution transformers that take electricity from high-voltage lines and reduce it to levels that can be used in homes and businesses.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of sabotaging the Russia-built gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Putin claimed that the West had turned from sanctions against Russia to “terror attacks,” sabotaging the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. The White House said Putin's comments were outlandish and just an attempt to distract the world from his annexation on Friday of four parts of Ukraine. President Joe Biden said of Putin: “What he's saying we know is not true.” The comments came ahead of an emergency meeting Friday at the U.N. Security Council in New York. Denmark and Sweden said the blasts, which set off huge methane leaks, probably were due to several hundred pounds of explosives.

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European Union energy ministers have adopted a package of measures to ease an energy crisis, including a levy on windfall profits of fossil fuel companies. But an agreement on capping natural gas prices that is supported by a majority of countries remained off the table. The package approved Friday includes the windfall levy on oil, natural gas and coal companies, a temporary cap on the revenue of low-cost electricity generators, and an mandate for the 27 EU countries to reduce electricity consumption during peak price hours. With energy prices skyrocketing across Europe, the proposals from the European Commission are designed to help raise $140 billion in relief for people and businesses hit by the crunch.

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Former executives and directors of Pacific Gas & Electric have agreed to pay $117 million to settle a lawsuit over devastating 2017 and 2018 California wildfires sparked by the utility’s equipment. The settlement was announced Thursday by the PG&E Fire Victim Trust, which was established to handle claims filed by more than 80,000 victims of deadly wildfires ignited by PG&E’s rickety electrical grid. The nation's largest utility calls the settlement “another step forward" as it continues working to reduce risk from its electrical system. PG&E has been blamed for more than 30 wildfires since 2017 that wiped out more than 23,000 homes and businesses and killed more than 100 people.

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The U.S. death toll from Hurricane Ian’s passage has risen to four overall after an official said late Thursday that two residents of a hard-hit barrier island on Florida’s western coast were confirmed dead. Dana Souza, city manager of Sanibel, said the deaths were confirmed by fire officials but offered no other specifics.Two other people have also died. A 38-year old man from Lake County died Wednesday in a motor vehicle accident after his vehicle hydroplaned and a 72-year old man in Deltona was confirmed dead on Thursday. Officials with the Volusia sheriff’s office said the man went outside to drain his pool and fell into a canal.

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The Biden administration is proposing a new permitting program for wind energy turbines, power lines and other projects that kill bald and golden eagles. The move comes amid growing concern among scientists that a rapid expansion of renewable energy in the U.S. West that's now underway could harm golden eagle populations now teetering on decline. The Fish and Wildlife Service program announced Thursday is meant to encourage companies to work with officials to minimize the harm to golden and bald eagles. There are about 350,000 bald eagles but only 40,000 golden eagles, which need much larger areas to survive and are more inclined to have trouble with humans.

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Russia is planning to annex more of Ukraine on Friday. The move represents an escalation of the seven-month war that is expected to isolate the Kremlin further, draw more international punishment and bring extra support to Ukraine. An annexation ceremony is planned in the Kremlin. The annexation would come just days after voters supposedly approved Moscow-managed “referendums” that Ukrainian and Western officials have denounced as illegal, forced and rigged. In an apparent response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an emergency meeting Friday of his National Security and Defense Council.

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European Union nations are continuing to import and export nuclear fuel that is not under EU sanctions on Russia. The Ukrainian government and environmental activists want the ongoing trade to end. A ship carrying uranium that departed from France was heading toward the Russian port of Ust-Luga on Thursday. It was the third time in just over a month that the Panama-flagged Mikhail Dudin ship docked in Dunkirk to transport uranium. Environmental group Greenpeace France says the ongoing shipments are “financing the war in Ukraine, extending (Europe’s) energy dependence and delaying the transition to renewable energy.” The EU’s executive arm didn't propose targeting Russia’s nuclear sector in a sanctions package presented Wednesday.

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Germany plans to spend up to 200 billion euros helping consumers and businesses cope with the surge in energy prices. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday that the government is reactivating an economic stabilizing fund previously used during the global financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Scholz said Russia’s decision to cut back natural gas to Europe and the recent leaks on two pipelines showed further Russian energy supplies couldn’t be expected in the near future. Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted that the fund would not entail further regular borrowing, saying Germany is “expressly not following Great Britain’s path.”

Shares in luxury automaker Porsche have risen on their first day of public trading. The maker of the 911 sports car made its market debut Thursday on the Frankfurt stock exchange. Parent company Volkswagen carried out an initial public offering that is one of the largest in European history. Volkswagen reaped more than 9 billion euros for selling the shares to investors. It's money that the German automaker will need to invest in new technology and software as the global auto industry shifts to electric cars. The IPO is a venture into turbulent markets, as the war in Ukraine, inflation, rising interest rates and an energy crunch have raised fears of recession in major economies.

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A renewable energy facility in Oregon that combines solar power, wind power and massive batteries to store the energy generated there has officially opened as the first utility-scale plant of its kind in North America. Clean energy experts say the project, which can power 100,000 homes, addresses some key challenges facing the industry as the U.S. transitions away from fossil fuels. Interest in on-site battery storage to even out production from solar or wind generation has soared, but the combination of wind, solar and storage batteries at one location promises to make the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility particularly efficient.

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German automaker Volkswagen is holding a share offering for a minority stake in its luxury division, Porsche. And it will rank among the largest in European history. Volkswagen could reap as much as 9.5 billion euros to fund its push into electric cars and software. The deal lets Volkswagen tap investor interest in getting a piece of Porsche's fat profit margins. Volkswagen is completing the lineup of investors who will get a piece of the deal. Late Wednesday, Volkswagen priced the offering at 82.50 euros a share — at the top end of its estimated range. The shares are expected to start trading Thursday.

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The Arizona Supreme Court says the state utility regulation commission can't prevent a single member from issuing subpoenas to investigate companies the panel oversees. The former commissioner who filed the case, Bob Burns, says Tuesday's decision will prevent others on the panel from uniting to shield utilities from scrutiny. Burns has fought for years to get the state’s largest electric utility to acknowledge that it spent millions to elect two Arizona Corporation Commission members in the 2014 election. Subpoenas he issued in 2016 to Arizona Public Service Co. seeking to prove that it was spending to elect its own regulators were blocked by the four other commissioners. APS later admitted it spent millions on commission races.

Germany’s Economy and Energy Minister says the country will keep two of its remaining three nuclear power plants running until April to help prevent an energy shortage in the coming months. Tuesday’s announcement officially, albeit temporarily, reverses Germany’s long-held plan of shutting down its remaining nuclear plants by the end of the year. Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck said the two reactors — Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim north of Stuttgart — would continue until mid-April.

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Federal investigators have taken possession of a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. utility transmission pole and attached equipment in their probe into the cause of a Northern California fire that has become the largest in the state this year. The utility said Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the U.S. Forest Service is conducting a criminal investigation into the Mosquito Fire. The blaze that started on Sept. 6 has scorched 120 square miles and destroyed at least 78 homes and other structures. It is 85% contained. The utility said in a statement it is cooperating with the federal investigation and noted that the U.S. Forest Service has not determined the cause of the fire.

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Officials are fanning out across Puerto Rico to gauge the damage inflicted by Hurricane Fiona. People are returning to homes now empty because flooding has destroyed belongings. And they fret about how they will rebuild their lives after a devastating hurricane for the second time in five years. Fiona hit a week ago and about 45% of Puerto Rico’s power customers remain in the dark,. About 20% of water customers have no service. Gas stations, grocery stores and other businesses have temporarily shut down due to lack of fuel for generators.

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General Motors says it will spend $760 million to renovate its transmission factory in Toledo, Ohio, so it can build drive lines for electric vehicles. It’s the first GM engine or transmission plant to begin the long transition from internal combustion engines to EVs. GM has a goal of making only electric passenger vehicles by 2035. The investment will keep the jobs of about 1,500 hourly and salaried workers at the Toledo plant, which now makes four transmissions used in pickup trucks and many other GM internal combustion vehicles. It’s good news for workers in Toledo, who have been worried about the future of their plant.

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