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Today’s Lede: Michigan PSC approves large gas-fired power project. Michigan’s utility regulators approved DTE Energy’s $1 billion investment in a new 1,100-megawatt natural gas-fired generation facility, doubling down on the state’s policies putting no stock in electricity markets, either for retail choice or the region’s competitive wholesale market to provide adequate resources. Environmentalists and clean-energy advocates decried the Public Service Commission’s ruling. They had argued DTE’s evaluation of the need for the plant failed to account for the role renewables and energy conservation could play.

“DTE Electric’s recent and planned investments in energy waste reduction, renewable energy and energy storage, when coupled with this highly efficient gas plant, demonstrate that Michigan is a great example of an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to meet our energy needs in a reliable, affordable manner that protects the environment,” said PSC chair Sally Talberg.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that DTE failed to adequately consider alternatives, including a portfolio of renewable energy solutions that would lead to greater savings, more jobs, reduced risk, and environmental benefits, the Commission authorized a $1 billion plant that would not pass muster with Michigan’s laws if it were proposed today,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Case No. U-18419. Click through here to access the docket.









PJM unveils fuel security initiative. PJM Interconnection announced today that it will undertake an examination of fuel security risk in what it termed the next phase of its grid-resilience initiative. Resilience is a new term introduced into the electric industry’s lexicon last year with the Trump administration’s advocacy of consumer subsidies for coal and nuclear power plants that are struggling economically in the competitive wholesale power markets operated by PJM and other regional market operators.

“The PJM grid remains reliable even with the resource retirements analyzed to date and investment in new, increasingly more efficient gas-powered generation sources. While the grid also remains fuel secure given these changes, the potential for continued evolution of the fuel mix underscores concerns [regarding] the long-term resilience of the grid,” PJM said in announcing the fuel security assessment.

In a March 2017 report, PJM concluded that its system could remain reliable with the addition of more natural gas and renewable resources, but that “heavy reliance on one resource type” raises potential resilience risks beyond existing reliability standards. “To address longer-term questions of fuel security, PJM will initiate a process, starting immediately, to analyze fuel-security vulnerabilities and establish criteria to assess areas in the PJM system that could face future fuel security issues,” PJM said.

“Competitive markets remain the best mechanism to maintain a reliable and fuel-secure system at the lowest reasonable cost to customers,” PJM President and CEO Andy Ott said. “We have the ability to identify risks to the system and to put a value on resources that offset that risk.”


ISO-New England report examines cold snap experience. A two-week cold snap in New England caused the region’s power plants to burn more than double the amount of oil it burned in all of 2016, according to ISO New England. An extreme 13-day cold wave beginning Dec. 26 caused the region to burn more than 2 million barrels of oil for electricity during the stretch, which is more than double the 1 million barrels of oil burned in 2016, Joe Cooper reports in Hartford Business. Switching to burning oil increased greenhouse gas emissions to 220,000 tons per day, up from 100,000 per day in the days prior.

“The cold temperatures, together with winter storms and other complicating factors, led to some of the most challenging conditions our system operators have ever had to navigate,” said Peter Brandien, ISO New England’s vice president for system operations. Click through here to access the report.

See also:

Possible power plant closure raises concern about New England’s electric supply. David Brooks reports for the Concord Monitor that ISO-New England will seek out-of-market compensation for the Mystic 8 and 9 generating facilities operated by Exelon near Boston. Exelon’s threat to shut down unless it can make more money selling its power “has added more urgency to a long debate about how to maintain the stability of the region’s power grid during winter, and how to get the six New England states to share the expense,” Brooks writes. “The big elephant in the room is cost allocation,” ISO-NE President Gordon van Welie said at a regional energy forum held by the New England Council. “No one’s going to escape the effects of the problem, and so therefore we think the region as a whole should pay for this problem.”


Electricity isn’t a free market, but it should be. So states the headline of an op-ed in the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner newspaper by Philip Rosetti, energy policy director at the American Action Forum, a think tank promoting free market-based policy solutions.

Rosetti begins by noting that Energy Secretary Rick Perry, in advocating for Trump administration-backed interventions in electricity markets to prop up struggling coal and nuclear power plants, maintained that “we don’t have a free market” in electricity.

“Secretary Perry is half-right, but half-wrong. Electricity isn’t in a free market, but there is a market, and it ought to be free,” Rosetti writes. “Is there any other industry in which customers fear scarcity because of an increase in low-cost production? Of course not. Markets have churn, and so the lost capacity from failing coal plants does not mean a permanent loss of overall power-generating capacity.”

Rosetti counters arguments put forward by market-intervention advocates regarding grid “resiliency” and subsidies for other generation resources. Market competition and not government intervention is the cause of declining profitability for coal plants, he says, citing his own research (click through here). The recent cold snap illustrated how markets compensate plants in the face of demand, rather than demonstrate why certain resources should receive out-of-market competition, he writes.

“Electricity markets are fundamentally working, and overly expensive plants are closing. The answer to reliability concerns is policies that expand market competition and reduce the power of policymakers to intervene. Markets, by their nature, reward the services that people want.”


Enviro group challenges Alabama Power’s fees for distributed solar. The Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging a five-year-old order by the Alabama Public Service Commission allowing Southern’s Alabama Power Co. to charge customers who install solar some $300 annually in fees, the Asociated Press reports. Over the lifetime of the customer’s solar installation, the fees could add some $9,000 in costs, the group maintains. The Southern Environmental Law Center and a Birmingham-based law firm, Ragsdale LLC, filed the complaint on behalf of two people and Gasp Inc., which advocates energy production that reduces air pollution.

The complaint and petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief alleges the utility’s fees are “unfair, unreasonable, unjust, discriminatory, contrary to the public interest and otherwise unlawful.” The case is Docket Number 32767. Click through here to access the filing.

In a statement provide the Associated Press, Gasp executive director Michael Hansen said neighboring states are experiencing business and job growth linked to the solar energy industry that largely is bypassing Alabama because of the utility’s policies. “If solar customers were treated fairly, Alabama would have the opportunity to reap these same benefits,” he said.


W.Va. energy lawyer advocates competitive electricity market access for manufacturers. West Virginia’s large manufacturing and industrial customers should be granted “direct access” to wholesale electricity markets, “enabling them to purchase directly from other electricity suppliers the low-cost and renewable energy supplies that West Virginia utilities are simply incapable of providing,” Jamie Van Nostrand, a long-time energy regulatory attorney, law professor and director of the Center for Energy & Sustainable Development at West Virginia University’s College of Law writes in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

“[W]e urgently need to take action to position the state for the future to be able to attract the 21st century businesses that will provide jobs for West Virginians,” Van Nostrand writes, maintaining that “the job providers of the future require an electricity supply that is predominantly renewable, and low cost.” The state’s policies relying on aging coal-fired power plants represents “a higher-cost path.”

Van Nostrand notes that a recently failed legislative measure, Senate Bill 600, contained provisions that would have allowed manufacturers access to competitive markets as well as provided rate incentives to attract manufacturers to invest in the state. “The sponsors of SB 600 recognized that the competitive economic advantage that West Virginia has long enjoyed due to low-cost electric rates has eroded.”

Both “new economy” businesses, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple, and “old economy” businesses, such as Walmart, Toyota, Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical and Budweiser, have corporate sustainability objectives requiring their electricity supply to be procured from renewable energy sources, he notes. With 95 percent of the electricity produced in West Virginia being coal-fired, the state is poorly positioned to attract such businesses. Nor is West Virginia meeting the demand for low-cost electricity, as the state’s rates continue to rise because of a failure to take advantage of low-cost natural gas and other resources.

“West Virginia is losing badly in the competition to attract jobs, and rising energy costs are a major contributor. The time to act is now; there should be a sense of urgency about this issue to move quickly to position the state for a rapidly changing energy marketplace.”

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Coal extracted a steep price, now gas is taking W.Va. down same path. Gov. Jim Justice’s recent call for a tax on natural gas resources to fund schools echoed a similar proposal made 65 years ago targeting coal. Supporters say the state’s actions over the past few years have positioned West Virginia to compete for growth. But critics fear that West Virginia won’t fully share in the riches the industry creates and will be forced to bear the long-term environmental, health and infrastructure costs, much as it has for the now-dwindling coal industry.


‘No flexibility,’ Dominion CEO warns as S.C. lawmakers ponder rate issue. As South Carolina’s lawmakers ponder how much the state’s electricity consumers should be on the hook for SCANA’s failed $9 billion investment in new nuclear, Dominion CEO Tom Farrell said on Friday’s earnings call that there is “no flexibility” in terms of the $7.9 billion bid his company has made to acquire the Palmetto State’s troubled investor-owned utility company. “We’ve made our offer,” he said.

“Farrell hasn’t been shy about his plans for SCANA if lawmakers meddle in the electricity rates it collects from ratepayers of its South Carolina Electric & Gas subsidiary. Touch the rates, and Dominion’s walking,” Thad Moore writes in the Post and Courier.


Newspaper urges Maine PUC to support offshore wind project. The Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel editorial board is urging the Maine Public Utilities Commission to support a power purchase contract that would require the state’s electricity consumers to subsidize the installation of an offshore wind project spearheaded by the University of Maine. The editorial boosting the Maine Aqua Ventus 12-megawatt, two-turbine demonstration project notes the Gov. Paul LePage-appointed PUC has questioned requiring the state’s consumers to pay more than $180 million extra on their bills to support the project over the 20-year life of the contract.

That works out to about 73 cents per month for the average Maine electricity consumer. That’s a small price to pay to support a project that would help establish the state’s leadership in the offshore wind industry, the editorial says. Ripping up the contract would mean losing an $87 million grant from the federal Department of Energy and would cost Maine taxpayers $11 million for a bond issue to support the project.

“The ultimate price would come at the expense of the state’s credibility as a business partner, giving investors a very good reason to look elsewhere before deciding to put their money to work here,” the editorial board maintains, noting the experience with Norway’s Statoil five years ago in the wake of Maine “reneging” on a power purchase agreement to support an offshore wind project the company sought to build. “The company took its $120 million and invested it in Scotland instead of Maine. If the PUC repeats that sorry episode, the damage to Maine’s reputation will be complete.”

While the project’s cost to consumers is roughly three times the average price of power in the market today, supporting the offshore wind research and development effort will help establish the state’s bona fides in a nascent industry that will provide jobs and investment, the editorial argues. “Maine has put too much into ocean wind power to abandon it. The PUC should not sink this proposal, or the state’s credibility.”

See also:

Effort to build offshore wind industry in Maine may hinge on 73 cents. Pending action at the PUC could imperil a 2014 power contract for floating turbines off Monhegan Island that would raise electric bills less than $1 a month.


Other electric industry news of note:

New Jersey BPU grants Sayreville steel plant discount on energy bill. Gerdau Steel is getting a discount beginning tomorrow on its energy bill, savings that could help the Sayreville steel plant stay competitive with rivals. The Board of Public Utilities has granted the only active steelmaker in New Jersey a 50 percent reduction of a surcharge on its energy costs, which amounts to about $1.5 million annually, according to Gerdau.

As nuclear power loses ground to natural gas, environmentalists are torn: Are the risks worth saving it for climate’s sake? Nuclear’s precarious situation creates a dilemma for environmental groups, which have long opposed nuclear power. “If they’re replaced by plants that burn fracked gas, then that’s definitely a problem,” said Tom Schuster, a senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania. But, Schuster said, nuclear energy carries its own environmental problems: radioactive waste, impacts from uranium mining, and the risks of a Fukushima-like disaster. Also, he says, money spent keeping nuclear plants open could be spent building out the renewables sector.

Batteries have a dirty secret. Energy storage is considered a green technology. But it actually increases carbon emissions, David Roberts writes in Vox. “The way it’s typically used in the U.S. today, it enables more fossil-fueled energy and higher carbon emissions. Emissions are higher today than they would have been if no storage had ever been deployed in the U.S.,” Roberts maintains. “In and of itself, energy storage is neither clean nor dirty — it is neutral, as likely to boost the revenue of fossil fuel plants as it is to help clean energy. If policymakers want to use it as a tool to enable clean energy, they need to be conscious of its characteristics and smarter about its deployment.”

Free market groups call for repeal of Clean Power Plan. Public policy analysts from 20 free-market organizations, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, today filed a joint comment letter in support of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal to repeal the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Power Plan. “We strongly support repeal of the CPP based on EPA’s reading of the Clean Air Act,” the groups declare in their joint filing. “This action is critical to end the previous administration’s economically destructive war on fossil fuels and deter future attempts to inflate EPA into a national climate policy legislator and energy czar.”

Can San Diego Ditch the Power Company? Not Without a Fight. A utility-supported campaign against community choice aggregation in San Diego promises to be a “major test” for municipal aggregation, which has taken a foothold throughout the country, Ivan Penn writes in the New York Times. “The model has met growing resistance from traditional retailers of power, which have found profits squeezed as energy-efficient appliances and residential solar installations reduce demand,” Penn writes.

The highs and lows of American electricity. Why do consumers in some states pay more every month despite lower electricity prices — and vice versa? Last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute published its annual assessment of state electricity prices. Click through to the report here. Prices in many states fell last year, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, but the reality is one of high retail prices for coastal elites and cheap power for those with abundant natural resources. But by other measures, “expensive” states to live in also have some of the most affordable power in the country. It’s a paradox: Some states have low electricity prices but residents pay more to power their homes, and others have high prices and low consumer bills. But the occurrence of high prices paired with high bills is rare.

The crux of Nevada’s ballot Question 3, energy choice. Although an NV Energy representative said the company is not granting interviews about the ballot question, an email statement said that NV Energy is working with the Coalition to Defeat Question 3. The goal, NV Energy stated, is “to make sure all Nevadans have the facts about this risky and costly Constitutional Amendment, which has the potential to dismantle an electricity system that already provide[s] low costs, increased clean energy production, great customer service and industry-leading reliability.”

Utility-backed program to replace net metering in Michigan faces opposition. The Michigan Public Service Commission’s “changes to net metering slams the door on Michigan residents who want to save money on their electricity bills by generating their own clean energy,” state Rep. Gary Glenn, the Republican chair of the House Energy Policy Committee, said in a statement. “The MPSC was supposed to conduct a comprehensive study of the cost of service for distributed generation, but protected the financial interest of two monopoly utilities and failed to side with the ratepayers.” Utilities argue that customers with rooftop solar are subsidized by all other ratepayers for the cost of using the electric grid. However, MPSC staff noted in a February report that this figure can be difficult to determine due to “data availability issues” and the relatively small number of net metering customers in Michigan.

Connecticut regulators investigate utility power shut-offs. Connecticut regulators, responding to requests by U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, are investigating the practice of power shut-offs to utility customers following a report of rising disconnections by Eversource. Katie Dykes, chair of the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, told Murphy PURA will establish a proceeding on uncollectable accounts to evaluate trends in program costs and participation.

Florida regulators approve ‘experimental’ DSM program for Gulf Power. Florida regulators have approved an experimental demand side management (DSM) program for Gulf Power that essentially pays a capacity price to commercial and industrial loads as a way to reduce peak demand. Utility officials say the “experimental” label applies to the pilot nature of the program, which expires at the end of 2021 and has a 50 MW subscription limit. Click through here to read the PSC’s order.

‘Carbon fee’ town hall sheds light on ballot issue in Athens, Ohio. Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council Executive Director Eddie Smith gave a brief description of the proposed 2 mill carbon fee, which would only affect those enrolled in SOPEC’s Opt-Out Electric Aggregation program. The fee, he explained, is intended to account for some of the “full cost” of carbon emissions. Customers can “completely offset that fee” by reducing at least 2 percent of their monthly carbon consumption, Smith said. “You can avoid 2 percent of your monthly consumption in a lot of very easy ways.”

Iowa governor may decide on bill to limit energy efficiency spending. A lobbyist for the Iowa Environmental Council says the bill could devastate utility-sponsored energy conservation programs in the state. The Iowa House of Representatives debated S.F. 2311 (click through here for the bill) overnight Thursday before passing it 52-42 about 5 a.m. Friday. The state Senate already approved an earlier version and is expected to sign-off on the House amendments. The legislation would cap spending on utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs at a level substantially below what is currently spent, and it apparently would allow utilities to charge higher fixed fees on customers with solar panels.

Two Dems, one Republican seek to unseat Ga. PSC Commissioner Pridemore. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Tricia Pridemore to her seat in February to fill the vacancy left by former Chairman Stan Wise, who retired from the commission after 23 years. The biggest issue on the table for the commission is likely to be Plant Vogtle, where two nuclear reactors are under construction. The project is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Detractors say the costs of building the plant come out of ratepayers’ pockets, but supporters say Vogtle, the nation’s only nuclear plant currently under construction, will someday provide the state with abundant, cheap energy.

N.Y. bill would continue compensation system for buying solar energy. LIPA is considering a new system that would compensate commercial solar producers based on a complex array of factors, such as geographic location and environmental benefits. With backing from the Republican chairman of the Senate energy committee, a Long Island assemblyman has introduced a bill that would delay for three years a new state system for buying solar energy from customer rooftop solar

New York to launch utility energy registry this summer in data-gathering effort. “Ready access to information regarding customer energy usage is vital to the success of the Distributed Energy Resource market,” New York Department of Public Service spokesman John Chirlin said in an email. He said the registry is an online platform to “promote and facilitate community-based energy planning and energy use awareness and engagement.”

Frack Dominion; Natural Gas Pipelines Are Obsolete. Dominion Energy is setting Virginia up to fail — with fracked gas pipelines that are unnecessary, obsolete and will keep Virginia behind the rest of the world for many years to come. Natural gas may have been a good transition fuel at one time, but that transition is over. The tipping point has been crossed, in which cleaner alternatives like wind and solar either already are cheaper than natural gas, or are rapidly becoming cheaper than natural gas.

Will Texans get burned? Forecast says a hotter summer and less available electricity. With the state facing a hot summer forecast expected to drive up demand as ERCOT’s reserve margin shrinks to the narrowest in 11 years, Texans are being warned to lock in their electricity rates before summer arrives.

Texas PUC gives nod to Xcel Energy wind projects. The Public Utility Commission of Texas gave verbal approval for a 1,230-megawatt wind energy expansion for Texas and New Mexico, the last approval needed before construction can begin. The proposed expansion will involve two new wind farms that Xcel Energy will build and own near Portales, N.M., and near Plainview, Texas. Work on those projects is expected to begin next year.

Wisconsin utility companies are told to credit customers $130 million, to start. The proposed July bill credit represents the first six months of tax savings the utilities will have amassed since Congress passed major changes to the tax code in late 2017, lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. On a separate matter, the PSC has released a planning document that projects little growth in the state’s use of electricity over the next six years and says Wisconsin residents pay less for power than the nationwide average.

Florida regulators look at utility hurricane plans. After Hurricane Irma temporarily knocked out electricity for millions of Floridians in September, state regulators next week will hold a two-day workshop to look at utility preparedness and storm-response plans.

‘Shocking’ electricity bills spark concern about smart meters in South Carolina, but Duke says they’re accurate. Customers complaining their electricity bills more than doubled and nearly tripled are among local residents blaming higher power bills on their new smart meters, the digital meters that transfer information about electricity usage through wireless technology to utility providers. A spokesman for Duke Energy Carolinas said the smart meters are accurate — more accurate than the analog meters they have replaced. Duke has installed more than 500,000 smart meters in the Upstate over the past few years, according to the company.

Pa. PUC slates hearings on Transource project. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will host eight public input hearings in May to gather comments regarding the east and west transmission line applications submitted by Transource Energy. Transource, the company hired by PJM Interconnection, wants to construct a proposed $320 million electric system upgrade with approximately 40 miles of new 230-kV overhead transmission lines across Franklin and York counties. Click through here for more information on the project. The project is running into stiff opposition from landowners and others. Click through here to access the opposition’s website.

Former BPA employee runs for Clark Public Utilities Board of Commissioners seat. Judy Chipman has announced her plans to run against incumbent Commissioner Jim Malinowski. Chipman recently retired from a 16-year career at the Bonneville Power Administration, an experience she says gave her “a deep knowledge of the industry.”

Anheuser-Busch touts 2025 sustainability goals. Now, we are challenging ourselves to do more through our 2025 Sustainability Goals. The goals, which will guide our sustainability efforts in the U.S. through 2025 focus on four key areas: renewable electricity and carbon reduction, water stewardship, smart agriculture, and circular packaging. The company aims to have 100% of purchased electricity come from renewable sources; and reduce CO2 emissions across the value chain by 25%

Battle escalates over Eversource bid for Connecticut water company. Connecticut Water Service Inc. struck back at Eversource after the state’s dominant electric and gas utility announced it is reaching out to shareholders of the Clinton water company urging them to reject a proposed merger with a California firm. Eversource informed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission it is seeking proxies from Connecticut Water shareholders to vote against the merger with SJW Group of San Jose, Calif. The Eversource offer is valued at $750 million. Carol Wallace, chairman of Connecticut Water’s board of directors, slammed Eversource, citing an unrelated decision by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to investigate Eversource’s practice of disconnecting electricity from nonpaying customers. “Eversource’s proxy campaign is an overt attempt to derail the SJW Group merger of equals and the many benefits it provides in order to promote Eversource’s inferior proposal and distract from its record of chronic underperformance and highly-publicized poor customer service,” Wallace said.

Opportunities and challenges greet Jeff Martin, Sempra’s new CEO. After going through perhaps the most momentous year in its 20-year history, Sempra Energy gets a new CEO on Tuesday. Jeff Martin takes over for Debra Reed, who is retiring as president and chief executive, less than two months after Sempra wrapped up its largest deal ever — spending $9.45 billion to acquire Oncor, the biggest electric utility in Texas. The acquisition grows Sempra’s workforce to 20,000 employees and expands its customer base to 43 million worldwide.

Tesla’s foe in Calif. fight over electric vehicle rebate: utilities. Tesla Inc. and Ford Motor Co. have urged the California Air Resources Board to let automakers pay out the rebate at the moment they sell the car, as a way to boost sales, instead of making consumers wait for a check from their utility or a credit on their bill, Bloomberg’s John Lippert and Mark Chediak report. Passing out free money is a great way to build brand loyalty, and Tesla and utilities are elbowing each other hard for the privilege. Eileen Tutt, executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition, whose board includes California utilities, said in an interview before the hearing that she’s “adamantly opposed” to letting automakers pay out the rebates. She said the utilities should continue doing so, though she’s meeting with Tesla and others to discuss possible improvements.

EcoFlow raises $4M from unconventional investors to grow its mobile power business. EcoFlow, a U.S.-Chinese hardware firm developed by former DJI engineers that sells portable power stations, has pulled in a Series A round of over $4 million ahead of the imminent launch of new products and an international sales expansion. The Shenzhen/San Francisco-based company has taken an interesting route. Founded in 2016, the startup burst on to the scene when it launched its River product in an Indiegogo campaign that pulled in $1 million. Today, River is available in the U.S. where it is sold via Home Depot, Camping World, Amazon, HSN and the EcoFlow website for $599 upwards.

Psst! Hey mister … wanna buy a hydroelectric plant? It’s nearly a century old, has suffered some damage from a rock slide, and is currently not operational. Despite those downsides, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Friday it plans to offer for sale its small Kern Canyon powerhouse, located at the mouth of the canyon off Highway 178. Another damaged and non-operational hydroelectric facility in Tulare County may also go on the auction block this summer.

LaDuke: Power microgrids can keep the lights during climate disruptions. It all makes good sense. Rural electric cooperatives can get 0 percent financing. And, with new technologies, microgrids can separate safely from the main utility during outages and use only self-generated electricity. And in normal times, excess energy can be sold back to traditional utilities. University of California San Diego saves about $850,000 monthly on utility bills through a system of solar panels, fuel cells, generators and batteries (Winona LaDuke is executive director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation).

Sierra Club slams Trump administration’s coal goal. When Americans are asked in polls what kinds of energy our government should prioritize, invariably a majority—regardless of political affiliation—say renewables. And a solid majority of people in this country agree that the United States should take “aggressive” action on climate change. Yet instead of embracing clean energy, Trump is throwing a lifeline to the coal industry through actions like repealing the Clean Power Plan. It won’t work. Coal is in irreversible decline in this country for a simple reason: No one wants to pay more for the worst choice.

Global solar investment pushes ahead of fossil fuels. In 2017, the world invested in solar like never before, according to a new global trends report. Driven largely by China, global solar investment was $160.8 billion, up 18 percent on the year before. Harnessing energy from the sun to make electricity accounted for more than half (57 percent) of the $279.8 billion that was invested in renewables in 2017 and far outstripped the $103 billion invested in coal and gas generation, according to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report. Click here to access the report.

Electricity retailers find a receptive audience in Singapore. They say response to Open Electricity Market pilot in Jurong has been positive and encouraging; amid intense competition, residents there are enjoying a buffet of options.

Alberta’s competitive energy retailers could face service-quality regulation and publication of consumer complaints. Under proposed legislation, described as being intended to protect electricity and natural gas customers from “poor service”, Alberta energy retailers could face service-quality regulation by the Alberta Utilities Commission, backed by administrative penalties of up to $10,000 per day for ongoing failures to comply. Another proposed law would re-constitute the Utilities Consumer Advocate with a responsibility to publish information relating to retailers’ compliance, including consumer complaints and their outcomes.

Japan’s Top Power Utilities See Power Sales Decline. Reuters reports that two out of Japan’s three big power utilities projected a decline in electricity sales in the new business year as new entrants continue to grab market share following liberalization of the $73 billion retail power market two years ago. Japan’s former 10 power monopolies have barely recovered from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the resultant high fuel costs after most reactors were shut and costly safety upgrades. They now face an exodus of customers with Japan’s retail market thrown open to hundreds of firms.


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Today’s lede: Large corporate energy users driving clean energy, regulatory reform. One of the leading drivers of change and potential disruption in the electric industry is the increasing demand from corporate large energy users for access to renewable energy supplies and innovative energy technologies.

A recent survey sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund (click through here) illustrates that corporate decision makers increasingly see access to clean energy as a driver of shareholder value. EDF’s survey of some 500 corporate executives at companies with $500 million to $5 billion in revenue in the retail, manufacturing, energy, technology and finance sectors found that nine in 10 of the C-suite executives polled agree that emerging technology can help their company’s bottom line as well as the environment.

More than 70 percent reported that their business objectives and environmental goals are more aligned than they were five years ago, largely due to technology innovation. Seven in 10 said that technologies offering environmental benefits have already taken root in their industries, and three quarters consider the environmental impact of new technology when making implementation decisions.

Recent headlines support the poll’s findings. Elizabeth Weise wrote recently in USA TODAY about how tech firms like Google and Amazon are driving demand for clean energy, forcing traditional utility suppliers to adapt. “Every time you save a photo to the cloud, buy something on Amazon, open a Google doc or stream a movie, you’re probably pulling electricity from a wind turbine in Texas or a solar farm in Virginia,” Weise writes in the lede to her report (click through to the story here). “In fact, your clicks and taps may have helped build them.”

Since 2008, renewable energy has doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent of the U.S. energy mix, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (click through here). “A big part of that shift stems from tech companies’ rapid buildout of cloud storage centers and a move to burnish their public image by vowing they’ll run these centers on sources like wind and solar,” Weise reports. “Rather than lose these deep-pocketed customers, the nation’s power companies are changing policies and crafting deals that meet increased demands for renewable energy, in some cases shifting away from traditional electricity supplies like coal and natural gas.”

“We have the ability to shape the market,” boasted Michael Terrell, energy policy lead for Google. “If you build it, we will come.”

In a recently released report on the economic and community benefits of its data centers, Google details the economic boost from its commitment to green energy (click through to the report here).

“To satisfy its commitment to renewable energy, Google has made long-term contractual commitments that have resulted in $2.1billion of investment in the construction of eight new renewable energy generation facilities. In addition to the obvious and important environmental benefit, these investments also resulted in one-time construction activity that generated additional economic impacts,” the Google report says.

Rachel Gunter reports in Market Realist that Google succeeded with its renewable energy purchasing goals in 2017 by purchasing enough green energy to meet 100 percent its consumption. As a result of its renewable energy contracts, Google’s global capital investment has increased more than $3 billion, Gunter reports (click through here).

Marianne Wilson wrote recently in Chain Store Age about Walmart’s progress in arriving at its goal to have half of its electricity needs met by renewable energy sources by 2025 (click through to the story here).

“As a result of several new solar and wind projects, Walmart plans to more than double the amount of renewable energy it uses in the U.S. and increase the percentage of global electricity needs supplied by renewable sources above the current 28 percent,” Wilson reports, detailing recent renewable energy investments by the company.

Walmart, long a proponent of competition and choice in electricity, is seeking to crack the armor of monopoly protection for utilities in Virginia with a proposal pending before the State Corporation Commission to aggregate its stores’ demand and supply them with renewable energy from a competitive supplier (see details in Electric Industry News here).

Walmart and other large energy users seek to use their clout to promote regulatory changes in support of their clean-energy goals. Last year, Advanced Energy Economy, a business group promoting sustainable energy practices and technologies, announced the formation of an Advanced Energy Buyers Group “to expand access to energy that is secure, clean, and affordable.” Joining Walmart in founding the effort were powerhouses like Microsoft, Amazon and Lockheed Martin.

“In many markets across the country, policies and regulations must be brought up to date to allow companies to reach the goals they have set. The Advanced Energy Buyers Group will work toward policy solutions that make it easier for companies to pursue advanced energy solutions like wind power, fuel cells, demand response, energy storage, hydropower, solar, and more,” the press release announcing the buyers group states (click through here).


Right-leaning think tank authors advocate electricity competition in Minnesota. Ending monopoly regulation in Minnesota would benefit consumers by spurring investment in cleaner and more diverse energy resources while enhancing grid reliability and keeping prices affordable, Mike Franklin, president of the Minnesota Conservative Energy Forum, and Adrian Moore, vice president of policy at the Reason Foundation, write in MinnPost.

“We’re seeing a paradigm shift on the right where policies based on less government, free markets, and state control (rather than top-down federal policies) can also be pro-environment and pro-clean energy,” the conservative-leaning authors say in arguing for an increasingly diversified energy portfolio from a competitive marketplace for energy.

“For over a century our electricity sector has been dominated by utilities — government-created monopolies with profits guaranteed by legislative action. It’s a business model that any free-market conservative should abhor,” they write. “If we loosen regulations and encourage competition, prices will drop, choices will increase, and rapid innovation will follow.”

The duo cite the experience in the telecommunications industry, where “breaking up monopolies focused on maintaining the status quo, and allowing the market to drive innovation” resulted in a rapid transition from “landline telephones with only voice technology, to a world where everybody has an interconnected supercomputer in their pocket.”

Consumers can thank free markets and competition that fundamentally altered our world for the better, Franklin and Moore conclude. “It is past time that we do the same inside the energy marketplace, ensuring that grid modernization not only improves our grid and national security, but protects ratepayers and levels the playing field for energy producers, large or small.”


Manchin again urges Defense Production Act help for coal-fired power plants. Following up on a letter to President Trump, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has written a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Defense Secretary James Mattis to urge using the president’s authority under the 1950 Defense Production Act to shore up economically struggling nuclear and coal-fired power plants in competitive wholesale power markets. Manchin cited the role of coal and nuclear plants in providing “essential reliability service and resilience attributes” during recent cold weather stresses on the grid.

“The security of our homeland is inextricably tied to the security of our energy supply,” Manchin said. “Therefore, the ability to produce reliable electricity and to recover from disruptions to our grid are critical to ensuring our nation’s security against the various threats facing our nation today — whether those threats be extreme weather events or adversarial foreign actors.”–DPA.PDF?cb


Environmental advocate decries threat to competitive, clean energy. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Dick Munson has taken to the pages of PV Magazine to warn the solar and wind energy industries to be “worried – very worried” by the Trump administration’s apparent inclination to intervene in competitive markets to financially prop up economically struggling coal and nuclear plants in the competitive wholesale power markets.

“Rather than allow market forces to close uneconomic power plants, Trump may direct DOE to pay coal and nuclear units to run, plus give a profit to their utility owners. The cost – a staggering $8 billion annually – means that old and dirty power plants would never have to worry about competition from cleaner, more affordable energy sources like solar, wind, and natural gas,” Munson writes. “What should be obvious is that distorted markets would make it far harder for solar and wind projects to compete. Trump’s consideration, in fact, poses an existential threat to the burgeoning renewable-energy industry.”


Are solar tariffs spurring U.S. investment? Ben Geman ponders in Axios whether the announcement from First Solar that is would invest $400 million to expand production capacity with a thin-film PV manufacturing facility in Ohio represents a trend in domestic investment spurred by the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs on imported solar energy systems.

The announcement, which CEO Mark Widmar said on the company’s earnings call would “further solidify our position as the largest U.S. solar module manufacturer,” comes on the heels of news that SunPower — which had opposed tariffs — was buying SolarWorld Americas, one of two domestic manufacturers that petitioned for the tariffs, Geman writes.

“It’s tough to say if the (tariff) penalties had much effect on First Solar’s decision, which the company said will triple its U.S. capacity,” Geman writes, noting the company didn’t overtly cite the tariffs as a factor in its decisionmaking. But “published reports and sources I touched base with last night say the tariffs were at least an indirect factor for the company, which is a solar project developer as well as manufacturer.”

Geman cites a Greentch Media report that tariffs affecting other companies have improved First Solar’s strategic position. The result is First Solar’s project development business has grown strongly “while competitors have been stymied by new solar tariffs,” Julia Pyper writes in Greentech Media.

ClearView Energy Partners analyst Timothy Fox said there was little interest in expanded domestic manufacturing before the trade penalties, Geman notes, quoting from an email he received from Fox:

“Three recent announcements — NextEra raising its purchase order from JinkoSolar’s Florida facility (3/30), SunPower buying SolarWorld Americas, (4/16) and First Solar building a new plant (4/26) — suggest that the domestic solar industry is adapting to the President’s trade decision.”


New Hampshire completes glide path to full competition. Eversource’s Public Service New Hampshire subsidiary is issuing $636 million in bonds to cover the stranded costs of generation investments made at power plants it has now fully divested. The securitization marks the culmination of a two-decade transition from monopoly regulation to full competition in the state’s electric industry.

New Hampshire was one of the first states in the country to open its electricity market to competition in the late 1990s, but it subsequently allowed PSNH to retain ownership of plants that the original legislation had required it to divest. This subsequent legislative retreat from restructuring set the stage for the company to invest hundreds of millions to install emissions scrubbers at its Merrimack power station, a questionable investment decision since the coal-fired facility was unable to compete economically in New England’s competitive wholesale power market. That investment risk was borne by PSNH’s customers.

As more and more of the utility’s customers sought competitive supply, the investment increasingly became unsustainable as fewer customers remained in ratebase to pay the cost. Ultimately, New Hampshire lawmakers acted to set the state back on a glide path to full competition and required PSNH to fully divest its remaining generation assets.

The resulting securitization will result in a minor decline in costs for PSNH’s default service customers, and a similarly minor increase in costs for customers taking supply from competitive providers, Michael Cousineau writes in the Union Leader.

Cousineau quotes New Hampshire’s consumer advocate, Donald Kreis welcoming the bond issue as a means of lessening costs for consumers. But he otherwise was critical of the utility’s spending decisions.

“This stems from PSNH having made a hugely improvident investment decision by wasting $400 million on a scrubber at Merrimack Station,” Kreis said, underscoring the importance for readers to recognize that “the relentless zeal of utilities to buy new toys always ends up on the back of ratepayers.”


California PUC slaps PG&E $97.5 million for improper back-channel communications. In continuing fallout from a scandal that erupted in the wake of a 2010 fatal pipeline rupture in San Bruno, the California Public Utilities Commission leveled $97.5 million in penalties against Pacific Gas & Electric for engaging in improper backchannel communications with PUC officials, including then-chairman Michael Peevey, George Avalos reports for the Bay Area News Group.

In the wake of the pipeline explosion, communications – including tens of thousands of emails – became public illustrating a cozy relationship between the commission and the utilities it oversees. In one email exchange, Peevey castigated PG&E for its “inept” public relations management of the crisis.

Avalos notes that a federal jury in 2016 convicted PG&E of six felonies for crimes the utility committed before and after the San Bruno event. “PG&E was branded as a felon after a judge sentenced PG&E in 2017, following the convictions,” he writes.



SCANA tells investors it hasn’t decided on the future of its dividend. Thad Moore writes in the Post and Courier that SCANA Corp. “threw the future of its dividend into question” by telling shareholders it wasn’t sure if it would make its quarterly payments as of July.

“The announcement, which was included in the power company’s earnings report, highlights the pressure building on SCANA to cut its dividend. After its nuclear project failed, angry ratepayers have called on the company to cut its dividend and give them the savings,” Moore relates. “The delayed dividend decision also acknowledges that before long, SCANA might not have a choice. The state Legislature is deep into a debate over a plan to slash its electricity rates, which could force the company to cut its shareholder payouts.”


Economist urges against Duke-backed limits to PURPA contracts in S.C. The1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act is driving $5.2 billion investment in new renewable energy generation in South Carolina. A Duke Energy-supported measure to limit PURPA contracts to 10 years should be rebuffed by state lawmakers, Ben Johnson, an economist with the South Carolina Solar Business Alliance, writes in the Post and Courier.

The billions in renewable energy investment in South Carolina is diversifying the state’s energy portfolio, stabilizing electric rates, increasing state and local tax revenue, helping to modernize and strengthen the state’s electric grid, increasing employment and economic activity, and reducing the state’s exposure to the long-term economic, environmental and political risks associated with fossil fuels, Johnson says.

“Utility customers will absorb none of the risks of schedule delays or cost overruns, and they will absorb none of the operational and technological risks associated with these PURPA investments. Furthermore, because prices are fixed throughout the initial contract term, customers are shielded from price volatility,” Johnson writes in a state buffeted by SCANA’s failed $9 billion investment in new nuclear generation.

“In contrast, customers bear enormous risks when utilities generate power using their own generators — throughout the life of the investment — which can be 35 years or more. Customers are required to pay all of the costs incurred by the utility regardless of whether the plant costs more than projected, whether construction is delayed, or even whether the plant produces as much power as originally planned. Moreover, natural gas prices are currently at unusually low levels, but customers will be on the hook if prices once again double or triple. The utilities are immune from these risks, since they just pass the costs through to their customers.”

Duke Energy-supported legislation to prohibit PURPA contracts longer than 10 years is inconsistent with industry standards allowing 15- to 25-year contracts and will further increase the risks borne by electricity consumer, Johnson asserts. Duke’s own solar projects in other markets have an average contract duration of 18 years.

“Not only would prohibiting longer-term PURPA contracts increase risks to consumers, it would reduce competitive pressures. Financing is harder to obtain without a predictable long-term stream of revenues to help repay the loan. Since hydro, solar and wind projects require 30-plus year investments, short-term debt financing is fundamentally illogical and undesirable. For some potential competitors, financing may be entirely unattainable, because shorter-term financing requires higher loan payments, making it harder to meet the loan payments.”


DOE provides $60 Million to support U.S. advanced nuclear technology development. The Department of Energy has selected 13 projects to receive approximately $60 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies. DOE intends to apply up to $40 million of additional FY 2018 funding to the next two quarterly award cycles for innovative proposals under this FOA.

“Promoting early-stage investment in advanced nuclear power technology will support a strong, domestic, nuclear energy industry now and into the future,” said Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “Making these new investments is an important step to reviving and revitalizing nuclear energy, and ensuring that our nation continues to benefit from this clean, reliable, resilient source of electricity. Supporting existing as well as advanced reactor development will pave the way to a safer, more efficient, and clean baseload energy that supports the U.S. economy and energy independence.”


Other electric industry news of note:

PSEG will pay $39m for bidding errors affecting how much customers paid for electricity. Public Service Enterprise Group will pay $39 million to settle allegations of numerous violations by a subsidiary concerning its bidding into the nation’s largest energy market, Tom Johnson reports in NJSpotlight.

Ohio Regulators Green-Light Utility’s $10M Plan to Install More EV Charging Stations. A rebate program gave American Electric Power Ohio approval to spend up to $10 million on rebates and incentives to encourage Ohio drivers to use electric vehicles.

Electricity prices rise nationwide, fall in Oklahoma. The average American will spend 3 percent more this year on summer cooling, but many Oklahomans likely will end up paying less. Nationwide, electricity expenses from June though August are expected to increase because of higher retail electricity prices and slightly higher projected energy use to meet increased cooling demand, according to a report last week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But Oklahoma doesn’t look to be following the national trend. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. residential customers this month began receiving an average monthly savings of $13.34 because of lower fuel costs led largely by utility upgrades and lower natural gas prices.

Avista’s three-year rate plan denied by Washington regulators. Washington regulators shot down Avista’s request for three years of rate hikes on Thursday, approving a one-year increase in electric rates instead. The Spokane-based utility is in the midst of major changes – including a proposed sale to Hydro One Ltd. of Toronto – that weigh against approving a multiyear rate plan, the three-member Utilities and Transportation Commission wrote in its decision. Instead, Avista received approval to increase electric rates 2.7 percent for residential customers starting May 1. Natural gas rates will decrease 1.2 percent. Avista’s savings from the 2017 federal tax reform bill tempered the impact of the electric rate increase and contributed to the natural gas decrease. In January, the UTC told utilities they had to pass tax-related savings onto customers.

Wisconsin customers’ bills will drop because of the lower corporate tax rate. We Energies electric customers will receive a one-time credit in July and a slight decrease in electric rates in subsequent months from a portion of the savings from the company’s lower federal corporate tax rate, state regulators decided on Thursday. The Public Service Commission determined that 20 percent of the immediate savings from the lower tax rate should be passed on to customers. The remaining 80 percent of the savings will go toward paying down deferred costs that stood at $424.5 million as of Dec. 31 but that are not included in current rates.


Wisconsin ratepayers to get rebates from tax savings; WE Energies to apply most of savings to debt

Arizona utilities cautious over costs, reliability for proposed 80% clean energy mandate. Arizona utility regulators are considering a proposal to modernize the state’s electric grid, adding more renewables along with energy storage to help integrate the intermittent resources. Comments on the proposal were due this week. And while utilities addressed concerns over implementation in the filed comments, they expressed optimism about meeting clean energy goals. Just what those goals are is what will be hashed out. Robert Walton

Oman rocks might be harnessed for carbon sequestration. Scientists say that if this natural process, called carbon mineralization, could be harnessed, accelerated and applied inexpensively on a huge scale — admittedly some very big “ifs” — it could help fight climate change. Rocks could remove some of the billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the air since the beginning of the Industrial Age.


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Today’s lede: FirstEnergy takes formal action to shut down 4 GW of nuclear capacity. FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. has certified with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission its intent to shut down more than 4,000 megawatts of nuclear generating capacity at plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, John Funk reports in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The company’s decision “to permanently cease power operations” starting in 2020 at the Davis-Besse facility in Ohio, and in 2021 at the Perry plant in Ohio and the and Beaver Valley plant in Pennsylvania, is in response to “severe economic challenges,” Donald Moul, the utility’s chief nuclear officer and president of FirstEnergy Solutions, said in the notice provided federal regulators.

The move affecting some 2,300 jobs and a significant chunk of baseload generation in the PJM Interconnection market is sure to fan the flames of controversy surrounding the utility’s efforts at both the state and federal levels to obtain consumer subsidies for its struggling power plant fleet.

The Trump administration has been sympathetic to the company’s plight. Last year Energy Secretary Rick Perry advanced a proposed rule to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would have required consumer subsidies to economically prop up struggling coal and nuclear power plants operated in competitive wholesale power markets by FirstEnergy and other companies.

FERC rejected that proposal earlier this year, and instead opened an investigatory proceeding to examine power grid “resilience,” a new term Perry introduced into the electric industry’s lexicon of jargon. That proceeding could evolve into a more market-based system of rewarding plants for their ability to provide power under periods of high demand or stress on the power grid.

But that isn’t happening nearly fast enough for FirstEnergy, which filed for bankruptcy protection for its competitive power arm, FirstEnergy Solutions, at the end of last month. The utility has asked the Energy Department to issue an order pursuant to its emergency authority under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act requiring PJM to provide extraordinary financial considerations to facilitate continued operation of its economically struggling nuclear plants and coal-fired facilities.

Perry’s public comments have provided a mixed message regarding the administration’s views regarding action under Section 202(c), which critics have complained would stretch the boundaries of DOE’s authority given the lack of an actual emergency situation in terms of continued reliable operations of the PJM grid. Any true emergency is for FirstEnergy’s shareholders, not consumers, they argue.

But recent reports indicate the administration is also considering President Trump’s authority under a 1950 law that allowed President Truman to intervene in the steel industry during the Korean War. Again, critics cite the lack of war or other emergency to justify such extraordinary action.

The company has also pledged to continue lobbying for state-level subsidies from lawmakers in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

See also:

Understanding grid resilience implications for market design: Beyond the NETL study. Researchers at the R Street Institute and Resources for the Future address the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory study cited as supporting efforts by the Trump administration to intervene in competitive wholesale power markets to support economically challenged coal and nuclear plants. “The study raises some important questions. However, most of the information provided is either incomplete or off-point for a discussion of resilience.”


COUNTERFLOW: The Surreal, the Absurd and the Tragic. Veteran energy lawyer Steve Huntoon writing in RTO Insider provides perspective on the economics surrounding FirstEnergy’s efforts to obtain out-of-market financial help for its power plants. “In the tough competition for weakest bailout argument, the winner is the argument that if we didn’t have all the coal plants we had last winter, there would have been an electricity problem, which is like saying if we didn’t have all the Fords we had last winter, there would be a car problem,” Huntoon writes. “All the Fords aren’t disappearing overnight. And the Fords that do disappear are being replaced by better Fords.” Huntoon also notes that FirstEnergy and its shareholders have been more than adequately financially rewarded for the power plants, which as part of the restructuring process in Ohio and Pennsylvania were awarded billions in stranded costs. “FirstEnergy’s customers paid it $6.9 billion in return for the company’s transition from a regulated environment to a competitive environment,” Huntoon notes, “and now FirstEnergy wants customers to bail them out all over again.”


EIA: Federal financial interventions and subsidies in U.S. energy markets declined since 2013


Newspaper columnist skewers Nevada PUC’s dark forecast for customer choice. The 109-page report Nevada regulators issued warning that implementing customer choice would cost the state more than $100 million and result in higher prices for consumers should be viewed as an “in-kind contribution” to the NV Energy-led effort promising to spend $30 million to defeat the Energy Choice Initiative, Thomas Mitchell writes in the Elko Daily Free Press.

Noting that PUC Chairman Joe Reynolds’ assertion in a foreword to the report that applying market forces is inappropriate for electricity, which he called “a basic necessity of modern life. Like air. Like water. Like food,” Mitchell sarcastically observed: “Thank goodness for those government regulated monopoly grocery stores.”

More than 70 percent of voters approved the ballot question in 2016, and another voting majority must approve the initiative a second time this November before the state constitution can be altered to end monopoly protection for utilities and permit electricity competition. The PUC’s negative outlook in the report has generated a good deal of controversy among backers of the energy choice, who see the report as an attempt to sway voters against the measure.

“While Reynolds says the report neither supports or opposes the initiative, the bulk of its findings appear to find fault with the proposal,” Mitchell notes.

See also:

Clean energy jobs on rise, growing economy in Northern Nevada and beyond. From the 1.9 million-square-foot and growing Tesla Gigafactory 1 in Storey County to the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes solar field in Tonopah, jobs in the clean energy sector are on the rise and growing the economy in Northern Nevada and across the Silver State. All told, there are roughly 31,000 Nevadans currently working in the state’s clean energy sector, according to the Clean Jobs Nevada 2017 report.


Economist and financial industry vet expect electricity prices to rise soon. Electricity demand and prices in recent years have been flat, a remarkable development following more than a century of progressively higher electricity prices and demand growth, year-to-year. But economist Leonard Hyman and financial industry veteran Bill Tilles warn in that electricity prices should rebound soon.

“The tea leaves seem to tell us that after a relatively long period of stability, electricity prices will soon rise, perhaps quickly. Interest rates are moving up. And on the commodity front, oil prices have been on the move as well. This is likely to affect utility fuel costs both directly and indirectly. (New England for example burned several million barrels of oil to produce electricity last year.) When we add in recent legislative moves to prop up aging, uneconomic power stations, we have even more reason to think so.”


Writer with Michigan free-market think tank supports PSC’s net metering decision. The avoided-cost methodology the Michigan Public Service Commission recently adopted as an alternative to net metering finds sympathy with Jason Hayes of the free-market advocacy group, Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “[A] utility pays too much when it is forced to pay retail prices for the excess electricity generated by people with solar panels,” Hayes writes.

“Michigan’s government needs to take a consistent stance that it will not support subsidies or special favors for any energy producers,” he maintains. “Michigan has already erred by forcing residents to endure the higher costs and less reliable service that comes from having government-protected monopoly utilities as the only real option to provide our electricity. Doubling down on expensive, subsidized, and government-mandated options that charge above-market net metering rates only reinforces that mistake.”


PUCO-approved rate plan for AEP gets plaudits from enviros. Two environmental groups issued statements supporting the Electric Security Plan the Public Utility Commission of Ohio approved for American Electric Power. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Ohio Environmental Council lauded the rate agreement for keeping fixed charges low for residential customers while providing millions to support electric vehicle charging station rebates and microgrids. The rate settlement also provides for future investments in grid modernization and the smart grid, and commits AEP to either build of purchase 900 megawatts of energy from renewable sources.

“This ambitious agreement is a big boost to innovation and the clean energy economy. Ohioans can expect more customer choice and less pollution, without any unnecessary increases to their electricity bills,” EDF’s Dick Munson said. “Both the environment and consumers will see benefits from this case, and Ohio’s grid will be more reliable and resilient as a result,” said the environmental council’s Miranda Leppla.

The environmental groups were parties to a settlement agreement supported by AEP Ohio, PUCO staff, Ohio Energy Group, Ohio Hospital Association, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, Electric Vehicle Charging Association, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group, IGS, Retail Energy Supply Association, Industrial Energy Users—Ohio, Constellation NewEnergy, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.




See also:

Ohio regulators say utilities can’t keep federal tax cut. State utility regulators in Ohio rejected legal arguments by the state’s four big electric utilities seeking to avoid returning proceeds from the federal tax cut to customers through rate reductions. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s unanimous decision means American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy and FirstEnergy must continue to set aside all money from the tax cut until PUCO irons out details about how rates will be lowered.


Other electric industry news of note:

PSEG settles with FERC over alleged power market rule violations. New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group will pay an $8 million civil penalty and disgorge $28.9 million plus $4.5 million in interest to settle allegations with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that its trading unit violated power market rules between 2005 and 2014 (Docket No. IN18-4-000).

In Illinois, blockchain startups seek to work with utilities on grid software. Blockchain startups say utilities and regulators in Illinois have been more open to working with them than in other states, Kevin Stark writes in Energy News Network. “Revolutionary rhetoric around blockchain’s potential to make traditional utilities obsolete has fostered tense relationships in the energy world. Startup companies boasting about wanting to democratize the electric grid with peer-to-peer software haven’t been welcomed everywhere by the monopoly firms that have managed the system for nearly a century. In Illinois, though, a less-antagonistic dynamic is emerging, with blockchain companies courting collaboration with the state’s largest utilities,” he writes.

Complete energy democratization is coming. Let’s get ready. Blockchain may play a key role in the next 10 years of electricity.

N.C. attorney general appeals decision allowing Duke Energy to charge customers for coal ash cleanup. State Attorney General Josh Stein’s office said in a filing to the North Carolina Utilities Commission he considers its decision to pass along what could total billions of dollars for handling the potentially toxic chemicals in coal ash to be “unlawful, unjust, unreasonable, or unwarranted.”

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma proposes revised settlement for its Wind Catcher plan. Talks between interested parties and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma over its proposed 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher project have generated a revised agreement that’s gained some support and should be reviewed by elected regulators, a utility executive stated in a filing it made this week. The revised proposal is now supported by the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers.

1,200-MW natural gas-fired power plant would supply energy to New York. North Bergen OK with proposed site, but administration, environmentalists argue it would add to air pollution in stressed urban area.

A regional grid helps, not hurts distributed renewable energy. Writers with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Vote Solar, and a former Colorado Commissioner make the case in Greentech Media for a regional transmission grid. “A regional grid operator will be beneficial for renewable energy development, including distributed generation, for multiple reasons,” the writers argue. By having access to wholesale markets, distributed energy resources can capture value that is unavailable in areas without liquid power markets.

The benefits of nuclear flexibility in power system operations with renewable energy. In a case study using representative utility data from the Southwest United States, we investigate the potential impacts of flexible nuclear operations in a power system with significant solar and wind energy penetration. We find that flexible nuclear operation lowers power system operating costs, increases reactor owner revenues, and substantially reduces curtailment of renewables.

PJM generators, DR providers clash over seasonal resources at FERC. Demand-side management providers clashed with generator interests over PJM’s treatment of seasonal resources at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission technical conference this week, Gavin Bade writes in Utility Dive. “Demand-side resource providers said the rules are little more than an attempt to raise revenues for merchant generators,” Bade writes..” PJM told regulators it is considering changes to its capacity market rules through a stakeholder task force, and that any changes from that group could be in place before the grid operator’s May 2019 base residual auction.”

Berkeley, Calif., to get a little greener with new alternative to PG&E. “Berkeley and other cities participating are really taking their energy needs and decisions into their own hands, reducing greenhouse gas consumption and emissions and saving communities a little bit of money,” said Annie Henderson, East Bay Community Energy spokeswoman. ”We are a unique community, so there were a lot of voices that were heard in the process and developing the authority. We’re coming into a landscape that is a bit more mature. We get to innovate off that.”

California’s energy choice. The Golden State can impoverish its population with draconian environmental policies or embrace its unmatched power resources.

Advanced Microgrid Solutions’ hybrid-electric building fleet goes live. How a 10-megawatt fleet of batteries in California office buildings fits into the state’s distributed energy timeline.

NYISO board rejects capacity market zone decision, intensifying disagreement. The New York Independent System Operator Board of Directors has rejected a stakeholder appeal concerning the creation of new rules for capacity market zone elimination and for new zones, finding current existing capacity zone governance and pricing satisfactory.

New York to take bids for 20 large renewable projects by 2022. The Empire State state has announced a solicitation for 1.5 million megawatt hours of renewable electricity, to be delivered by 2022.

ComEd files for $23 million rate decrease in Illinois. “Our filing includes a rate request for distribution services, or delivery of electricity, in 2019 of $2.7 billion. This represents the decrease of $23 million from the ICC approved rate that took effect in January of this year. It will result in the decrease of about 50 cents on the average monthly residential customer bill. This is the third time we have filed for a rate decrease since the smart grid law was passed,” a utility spokeswoman said.

Newton, Mass., Power Choice is ‘opt-in’ not ‘opt-out’. “That means that if electric customers take no action at all, they will be part of the program at the ‘standard’ level of renewables that the city decides on. However, in addition to other choices, customers will have the option to opt out of the program at any time with no charge, or to opt up to purchase all of their electricity from renewable sources,” Ann Berwick, Newton’s co-director of sustainability, explains in

State Supreme Court wants additional review of Vermont gas pipeline cost overruns. The Vermont Supreme Court has told a state utility board to reopen a Vermont Gas Systems rate case involving tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns for its Addison County natural gas pipeline.

Pa. PUC asked for expanded work to ‘stabilize’ ground at Chester County pipeline site. Sunoco is preparing to drill 10 more holes behind homes in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township to stabilize land where sinkholes raised concerns about the safety of an existing pipeline and two more under construction there.

Coronal Energy must seek zoning change for solar array near Walkersville, Md. A proposed solar array near Walkersville has been sent back to Frederick County to seek a zoning change after being denied approval by the state. This is the first large solar project to be turned down for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity since a county ordinance that limits the size and location of solar arrays took effect July 15.

Wind power is leading energy charge with strong U.S. market through 2020. The Global Wind Energy Council released its Global Wind Report: Annual Market Update, showing a maturing industry successfully competing in the marketplace, even against heavily subsidized traditional power generation technologies. More than 52 GW of clean, emissions-free wind power was added in 2017, bringing total installations to 539 GW globally. Click through here to download the report.

Wind, solar power could be key to salmon survival in the Northwest. A new study concludes that four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington State could be effectively replaced by renewable power and more conservation. Fred Heutte of the Northwest Energy Coalition explains why.


How solar scored a ‘game-changing’ victory in Florida. Regulatory approval of Sunrun’s solar lease could signal a turning point for the Sunshine State.

National Hydropower Association report identifies market, regulatory challenges to pumped storage hydropower’s growth. The report finds that some of pumped storage hydro’s key attributes, such as grid reliability and the integration of additional renewable resources, are not adequately compensated within the current environmental and power markets and regulatory constructs. Despite ensuring that electric supply securely matches electric demand and in real-time, market, policy and regulatory burdens continue to hinder its growth.

Yes, solar and wind really do increase electricity prices – and for inherently physical reasons. Solar and wind energy drive up electricity prices because, as intermittent resources, they require “expensive additions to the electrical grid in the form of natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries, or some other form of stand-by power,” Michael Shellenberger, president of Environmental Progress, writes in Forbes. Transmission “is much more expensive” to support wind and solar “than other plants,” he argues.

Californians’ strong preference for natural gas as an affordable energy choice. The California Building Industry Association, affordable housing advocates, and community and business organizations representing millions of Californians today announced the results of two new studies that reveal the high cost of electrifying California homes and a strong preference among voters for more affordable natural gas appliances: (1) Switching to all-electric appliances would cost CA consumers over $7200 upfront, with an estimated total annual increase of $877 in appliance and energy costs; and (2) a new poll shows two-thirds of voters in California oppose eliminating use of natural gas and only one-in-ten would choose solely electric appliances.

Power system sustainability ratings program aims to follow the LEED. It’s been 18 years since the LEED certification was introduced for the building sector. Now, a similar program is targeting power systems.

EPA recognizes SC Johnson as a top user of green power. SC Johnson is ranked No. 71 on the Environmental Protection Agency’s national top 100 List of the largest green power users from the Green Power Partnership. SC Johnson is using nearly 117 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, which represents almost 63 percent of its total power needs. “Through our efforts to eliminate and reduce waste at our global facilities, to finding ways to recycle our Ziploc brand bags, we have consistently worked to improve the environment,” said a company spokeswoman.

Meet the top companies changing the face of the electric grid. The 2018 Grid Edge Innovation Awards: Our top picks for the projects, companies and partnerships breaking new ground on the grid edge.

Hawaiian electric companies among top utilities in nation for energy storage. Hawai‘i Electric Light announces that Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawai‘i Electric Light companies are among utility companies that led the nation in connecting energy storage to their grids in 2017, earning top spots on the annual Top 10 utility industry lists compiled by the Smart Electric Power Alliance.


Study forecasts $4 Billion Data Center Power Market. The data center power market in the U.S. is projected to generate revenues of more than $4 billion by 2023 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 5 percent during the forecast period. The increasing investments from colocation and cloud services providers on data center are propelling the growth of the data center power market in the U.S. The boost in investments added approximately 1GW of power in the U.S. market during 2017. The colocation data center development contributed to around 80% in 2017, with major investments made in the South Eastern and South Western Regions across states such as Virginia and Texas. Click through here to download the Data Center Power Market in US – Industry Outlook and Forecast 2018-2023.—industry-outlook-and-forecasts-2018-2023-300636247.html


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Today’s lede: Poll finds voter support for two energy-related ballot questions in Nevada. A poll conducted for The Nevada Independent found strong voter support for initiatives pending on the ballot in November’s election to open the state’s electricity market to competition and to require 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources, Riley Snyder reports.

The electricity customer choice ballot measure passed overwhelmingly in 2016 with more than 70 percent of voters approving it. It must again pass muster with voters this November in order to effectively change the state’s constitution and allow electricity competition in Nevada.

The poll found voters support the Energy Choice Initiative by a 54 to 16 percent margin, with 30 percent undecided. After presenting respondents with arguments from both the initiative’s supporters and detractors, support for the measure climbed to a 64 percent net favorable rating, 14 percent unfavorable and 22 percent undecided.

“A significant chunk of voters also appear to have entrenched support of the ballot question — a full 46 percent of respondents said they ‘strongly’ support the measure after being presented with arguments from both sides, with only 8 percent ‘strongly’ opposed,” Snyder writes.

The polling also found voter support for the Tom Steyer-financed effort to pass a ballot initiative requiring the state to adopt a 50 percent renewable energy portfolio standard by 2030.

“Self-identified Democrats were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the proposed ballot question, with 84 percent saying they would vote for it compared to only 6 percent opposed. But the measure also did well among self-identified independents (a 65 percent to 22 percent split) and Republicans (52 to 34 percent),” Snyder writes. “Voters who gave a favorable impression of President Donald Trump said they would support the initiative on a 52 to 35 percent margin.”

The Mellman Group poll sampled 600 likely voters in Nevada between April 12 and April 19 and has a margin of error of 4 percent.


Virginia SCC rejects competitive provider’s bid to provide partial service to utility customer. Virginia utility regulators have rejected a proposal by a biomass energy producer to meet the partial supply needs of Ferrum College, an Appalachian Power Co. customer. Ferrum LLC, or English Biomass, a licensed competitive power supplier in Virginia, had sought to provide 25 percent of the college’s electricity needs from a 500 kV biomass plant, deemed a 100 percent renewable energy resource. But the State Corporation Commission said it could not approve having a utility customer partially served by a competitor.

A competitive service provider “may not provide partial competitive electric service as part of retail access,” the SCC concluded. “Such partial competitive electric service is not mandated [under state regulations] and would be inconsistent with the Commission’s reasonable implementation of the retail access provisions of the Virginia Electric Utility Regulation Act.”

Nothing in the Commission’s Rules Governing Retail Access to Competitive Services establishes procedures for the sharing of service obligations between a competitive service provider and the incumbent utility, the SCC ruled. Rather, the Retail Access Rules establish the duty of a competitive service provider to “[p]rocure sufficient electric generation and transmission service . . . to serve the requirements of its firm customers,” the order said.!.PDF


Michigan lawmakers decry PSC action ending net metering. Some state lawmakers and rooftop solar advocates say the Michigan Public Service Commission’s decision replacing net metering with a less remunerative system of compensation for distributed energy resources is unfair to consumers, , Emily Lawler reports for MLive Media Group.

House Energy Policy Committee Chair Rep. Gary Glenn (R), an outspoken advocate of listing the 10 percent cap on electricity choice in Michigan, has has scheduled a May 8 hearing on the PSC’s ruling, which he complained “protected the financial interest of two monopoly utilities and failed to side with the ratepayers.”

“Michiganders who want to use rooftop solar [will pay] unfair rates for the clean energy they generate, which will make investing in rooftop solar unaffordable for many Michigan families,” complained Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D), who has sponsored bills promoting net metering.

“This short-sighted decision is beyond what the legislative directive was in the 2016 energy bill, which sought to ensure that rooftop solar users were covering their grid costs,” said House Agriculture Committee chair Rep. Tom Barrett (R).

“The solar industry will be looking at all options to fix this short-sighted decision, including legislative solutions,” said Alliance for Solar Choice spokeswoman Amy Heart.


FirstEnergy CEO pledges to ‘keep fighting’ for power plant subsidies. In remarks on Monday’s earnings call, FirstEnergy President and CEO Chuck Jones pledged to “keep fighting” for out-of-market financial support for his company’s uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants, Kathiann Kowalski reports for Energy News Network. FirstEnergy is lobbying for consumer subsidies to prop up its power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and has asked Energy Secretary Rick Perry to issue an emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act to require above-market compensation in the competitive wholesale power market operated by PJM Interconnection.

“More than 5 million of our utility customers are still exposed to the uncertainties of competitive markets,” Jones said. “Therefore, I will continue personally to advocate for regulatory or legislative solutions, including FES’s application for an emergency order under the Federal Power Act, that recognize the attributes of fuel-secure baseload generation and to insure our customers continue to have a stable, reliable power supply.”

Free-market advocates at the Environmental Defense Fund and the libertarian think tank R Street Institute criticized FirstEnergy’s gambit.

“They’re asking the DOE to declare that not just their power plants but every coal and nuclear unit in PJM should be given a profit guarantee,” said Dick Munson, director of Midwest Clean Energy for EDF. “If that is approved, it will destroy competitive markets. The boldness is just stunning.”

“It’s hard to dream up anything so anticompetitive,” said Devin Hartman, R Street’s electricity policy manager. “It’s just a Hail Mary attempt by a company going bankrupt,” Hartman said. Noting FirstEnergy has announced its intent to exit the generation business, he suggested the company is “looking for ways to make sure that their assets get as much value as they can.”

In the report’s “kicker,” Kowalski concludes by quoting Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., at an April 12 congressional hearing, likening FirstEnergy’s strategy to “calling 911 because your credit card got declined.”

See also:

U.S. coal bailout review slows after Trump faces pushback

  • Bankrupt power company’s emergency plea seen as premature
  • Tough political decision has led to review, comment period

A bankrupt power generator’s plea for President Donald Trump to help saving money-losing power plants has drawn opposition from key administration officials, slowing action on the proposal, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.


Perry’s latest bid to save coal


Free-market think tank argues against pending bills in New Hampshire. Lawmakers in New Hampshire are considering legislation that would adversely affect consumers by requiring them to pay above-market prices for electricity, Andrew Cline, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a Concord, N.H.-based free-market think tank, argues in the Concord Monitor.

“New Hampshire over the years has created layers of subsidies for expensive energy sources preferred by politicians,” Cline writes, citing the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and renewables mandates. “For a great example of how these wealth transfers work, consider a few bills in the Legislature this session that would expand these subsidies.”

Specifically, he pans pending bill that would expand net metering (Click here for link to Senate Bill 446), require consumers to further subsidize the Burgess Biopower plant (Click here for link to Senate Bill 577), and require utilities to obtain a set amount of their default power supply from biomass plants (Click here for link to Senate Bill 365).

“By compelling ratepayers to subsidize uncompetitive businesses, legislators have deliberately raised New Hampshire’s electricity rates, helping to make them among the highest in the nation. Far from helping the state’s economy, these high rates discourage out-of-state companies from moving here and in-state companies from expanding,” Cline writes.

Cline draws an analogy to the craft beer industry to reinforce his argument against electricity subsidies. “Smuttynose Brewery, a signature New Hampshire craft brewer, went out of business last year after finding that it had misread the market. It’s unlikely that many beer drinkers would have supported subsidizing Smuttynose by raising prices on all other beers,” Cline writes. “New Hampshire would be better off if legislators treated the energy industry a little more like it treats the beer industry. If it did, Granite Staters could afford more beer and more electricity. Win-win.”


AEP to put nearly $18B into upgrading its power grid. Nicholas Akins, chairman, president and CEO of Columbus-based AEP said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting Tuesday that its grid investments would total $17.7 billion through 2020, including $12.8 billion in transmission and distribution systems and $1.7 billion in renewable energy. “Any time we can invest in transmission and distribution is a huge opportunity for us to improve the quality of service to our customers, and we’ve been successful doing that,” Akins told Columbus Business First’s Tristan Navera. AEP’s transmission and distribution business grew “noticeably” last year, contributing 72 cents per share of earnings, an increase of 33 percent from 2016, Navera noted. Akins told shareholders the generation business is more volatile than distribution, given Ohio’s embrace of competition. The company favors a more “stable business plan,” Navera reported.


House panel to examine NEPA ‘weaponization.’ The House Natural Resources Committee will take up the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental reviews before federal agencies can undertake any significant action. The law is a significant factor in federal regulation of the electric and energy industries, whether hydropower licensing and pipeline certification at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or environmental rules promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The focus of the hearing will be on the “weaponization” of NEPA, according to a staff memo.

“Although originally intended to increase awareness regarding the effects of federal actions on the environment, NEPA’s vague and ambiguous language has exposed the federal government to excessive litigation and resulted in perverse outcomes for agencies, the environment and taxpayers,” the memo states. “Increasingly, NEPA has become a weapon of choice by litigation activists to stop, delay, restrict, or impose additional costs on all types of federal actions. This has resulted in the expansion of prolonged environmental reviews, mounting paperwork, detrimental project delays and a range of adverse fiscal and economic impacts.”



Other news of note:

Oil majors’ push into utilities will be ‘increasingly favored strategy.’ BMI Research group report finds European oil and gas majors have already begun a push into the utilities space, both in terms of power generation and distribution, and forecasts an even more crowded utilities marketplace as oil majors increase activity in power distribution, renewable energy and the energy services. The report finds significant investment in power plants and distribution and electricity networks by some of Europe’s largest oil and gas firms will soon see utilities form a much larger part of company portfolios and will become an “increasingly favored strategy”.

Hawaii’s governor signs law tying electricity rates to benchmarks. Customers of Hawaiian Electric Co. and its subsidiaries will no longer pay electricity rates based on utility expenses, under legislation Gov. David Ige signed into law requiring establishment of performance-based metrics for utility compensation.




Colorado Senate approves second storage bill, waits on House. The Colorado Senate on Monday voted 26-9 on third reading to approve HB18-1270 (Click here for link to bill), which directs the development of mechanisms to enable investor-owned utilities to acquire energy storage systems, while restricting their size to 15 MW. Because amendments were added on the floor, it will need to be approved again by the House.

Maine utilities Commission hosting hearing on Emera’s proposed 12 percent rate hike. The Public Utilities Commission is asking Maine’s electricity consumers to share their thoughts at a public hearing on Emera Maine’s proposed 12 percent increase in its distribution costs and on its response to last fall’s wind storm.

Florida PSC approves two new pipeline projects. The Florida Public Service Commission approved two projects for Peninsula Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities Corporation, involving the construction of new natural gas pipelines in West Palm Beach and in Escambia County as well as two transfer stations in Escambia County. “Providing natural gas service alternatives to Escambia County boosts economic and job growth in the important Pensacola area market,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said.

Pacific Power analysis shows storage pilot projects currently uneconomic. Oregon was an early adopter of energy storage, but it could be slower in implementing new projects.

Community choice energy decision pending in Northern California. Utility customers in Davis, Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County are about to decide whether to choose Valley Clean Energy or Pacific Gas & Electric & Co. as their electricity provider.

Connecticut utilities ‘hit hard’ in new customer value survey. The United Illuminating Co. and Eversource Energy, Connecticut’s two largest investor-owned utilities, finished in the bottom half of the rankings in four of the five categories used by the Wired Group to rate electric utilities around the country (click here for more on the ranking). The ratings draw on data from filings with two federal agencies as well as findings of J.D. Power and Associates.

New York boosts efficiency target, makes way for more solar and energy storage. New York regulators green-light multiple initiatives to advance the state’s clean energy goals, while the governor doubles down on energy efficiency.

Tradition introduces innovative energy procurement pricing system. Tradition Energy (click here) has created an innovative online electricity and natural gas supplier pricing system for businesses and governmental organizations. The Tradition Energy Pricing System provides users with quick and easy access to a centralized database of comprehensive client and market pricing-related information. The system’s processing capability enables more pricing transactions at a lower cost, and due to the large volume of Tradition’s daily pricing activity, more suppliers can participate.

Industry leaders to address market enhancements that improve the energy consumer shopping experience. The National Energy Marketers Association’s 21st Annual National Energy Restructuring Conference takes place April 30-May-2 in Washington, D.C. NEM’s annual conference will focus on “Energy Choice 2.0: A New Era in Consumer Choice, Innovation and Opportunities.” Participants will include federal and state energy policy officials as well as energy and technology industry leaders.

What is Electrify Asia and how will it revolutionize the energy world. Utilizing the Ethereum blockchain to provide affordable energy, Electrify Asia aims to provide affordable energy to the Asian area by cutting out the middleman.


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Today’s lede: Dominion a victim of its success, would-be competitors say. Virginia’s Dominion Energy is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of state politics in Richmond. A major utility company with extensive energy holdings, the company is generous with its campaign contributions and generally gets its way in legislative debates affecting its core businesses.

That was evident about a decade ago when the company faced losing its monopoly status under state law. The utility shepherded legislation through to the governor’s desk shutting down the opening of Virginia’s electricity market to competition. More recently, Dominion secured legislation that clipped the wings of the State Corporation Commission’s authority to review rates and order refunds to consumers if the utility is overcollecting.

That came to a head in the current legislative session after the SCC reported Dominion was pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars that otherwise would be refunded to consumers. But even in the recent legislative backlash to that revelation, Dominion successfully fought off a bill that would fully restore the SCC’s oversight (and refund) authority. Instead, state lawmakers passed a Dominion-backed bill that allowed the utility to keep much of its monopoly rents in return for investing in grid modernization and renewables.

But competitive retail energy providers are working to crack Dominion’s legislative armor, with Direct Energy seemingly leading the charge. The company recently obtained an order from the SCC that will allow it to provide renewable energy to a suite of facilities operated by Reynolds.

“Independent retail energy companies that buy and sell electricity say Dominion’s success at shaping the state’s energy policy has led to higher-than-necessary prices, unhappy customers and new opportunities for other energy companies,” the Associated Press reports.

“The market has caught up to them,” said Leonard Pulley with EA Power Solutions.

“I see a big trend moving in the direction of competition despite the best efforts of Dominion,” Direct’s Ron Cerniglia told the Associated Press.

Now Walmart, long a supporter of competition in electricity, has entered the fray. The retail behemoth wants to shop for competitively priced electricity to meet the aggregated supply needs of its stores in Virginia. “And several other large companies, including Target, Microsoft and Home Depot, indicated during this year’s legislative session that they’d like state laws changed to make shopping around easier,” the Associated Press reports.

Low natural gas prices, maturing competitive retail energy markets, and rising utility prices are driving renewed interest in electricity market restructuring, Phil O’Connor, an industry consultant and former Illinois utility regulator, told the Association Press, which cited an analysis O’Connor conducted for the Retail Energy Supply Association finding that prices have declined in competitive states while monopoly regulated states have experience price increases. “There’s a growing awareness of the divergence in price paths,” O’Connor said.

But Dominion isn’t resting on its laurels. It is asking the SCC to reject Walmart’s bid to aggregate its stores and has filed a legal challenge to the SCC’s decision allowing Reynolds to aggregate its Virginia facilities and obtain supply from Direct. Dominion argues that consumers are better off under its monopoly umbrella.

“There may be a few examples of customers who are willing and able to accept the risks and potential volatility of choosing an alternative supplier, but most of our customers prefer the safety and stability we offer,” Dominion spokesman David Botkins told the Associated Press.

Dominion maintains the state shouldn’t allow customers to aggregate, arguing that, if too many of its customers aggregate and obtain competitive supply, then its remaining customers would be forced to pay higher prices. “It constitutes very bad precedent and policy,” Dominion asserts.


Efforts to buttress coal won’t overcome market forces, former Colorado governor says. The Trump administration’s efforts to prop up coal are unlikely to overcome the overwhelming market forces in favor of cleaner energy sources, maintains Bill Ritter, the former governor of Colorado who heads Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy.

Administration efforts to subsidize coal-fired power plants and reverse the Clean Power Plan “can do little to change underlying market forces, which are driving innovation, closing coal plants and promoting investment in clean technologies,” Ritter argues in a piece written for The Conversation.

“In the last eight years, utility-scale solar costs have declined by 86 percent and wind energy prices have fallen by 67 percent,” Ritter notes. “Natural gas prices, which were highly volatile and often spiked in the early 2000s, have now stabilized at much more affordable levels. They are likely to remain so as production methods improve and sources expand.”

Market forces will continue to favor lower-cost wind and solar, and large-scale adoption will result in an integrated system of renewable resources with consistent output that will overcome concerns about the reliability of these intermittent generation resources, he said. He cited efforts in Western states to establish integrated regional transmission systems powered largely by clean sources as indicative of this market-driven trend.

“I expect this dramatic transition to become more pronounced over the next 15 to 20 years. U.S. energy production and consumption will continue to evolve toward a cleaner, more stable and more intelligent system,” Ritter concludes. “This is good news for U.S. energy consumers and for efforts to protect our climate, environment and economy for future generations.”



See also:

Trump likes coal, but that doesn’t mean he’s hostile to wind. “On designated federal lands and off-shore, this means an equal opportunity for all sources of responsible energy development, from fossil fuels to the full range of renewables,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a recent op-ed in The Boston Globe. “As we look to the future, wind energy — particularly offshore wind — will play a greater role in sustaining American energy dominance.”


The energy revolution is not being televised. The energy revolution has already begun, David Von Drehle writes in the Washington Post. “Likely for the first time in history, a human society (ours!) has broken the linkage between sustained economic growth and greater consumption of energy,” Von Drehle writes. “An iron law, burn more to make more, has been erased. In its place, the United States — by far the world’s leading energy consumer — has chalked up a near-record nine consecutive years of economic growth while keeping its total consumption of energy flat.”

According to U.S. Energy Information Agency statistics, more than 9,000 BTUs of energy was consumed for each real dollar of growth in the U.S. economy in 1990. But in 2017, a real dollar of growth consumed fewer than 6,000 BTUs. The agency projects consumption will fall to about 3,000 BTUs per dollar of growth by 2050. Carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of growth have been falling since 2008.

“What does this tell us? That change is not just possible, it’s real. Your Energy Star appliances, LED lightbulbs, aluminum vehicles and weatherstripping are not merely symbolic efforts. They are part of an efficiency revolution at home, at work and on the road that’s producing meaningful results without disrupting our way of life,” the Post columnist observes.

He also notes the decline in coal-fired generation and the rise of wind and solar resources. Wind is expected to eclipse hydro resources within the next year. “Imagine that. In the 20th century, water power, source of about 7.5 percent of U.S. electricity, modernized the Tennessee Valley, turned darkness to dawn in the Pacific Northwest and gave the Nevada desert its garish neon Vegas glow. Now, in the space of a single generation, windmills will overtake dams.”

Von Drehele also waxes enthusiastic about the resulting drop in climate-altering carbon emissions and the prospect for carbon-capture technologies to make further inroads. “Congress can goose this progress by creating a revenue-neutral tax on carbon dioxide emissions and steering the proceeds into further research and incentives for investment. But don’t hold your breath. It will be enough for now if the government simply sticks with policies already in place. Because clearly, they’re working.”

S.C. lawmakers evaluate candidates for state utility commission. A South Carolina panel of lawmakers and political appointees has formally begun the search for three utility regulators, against a backdrop in which utility regulation has become freighted by surging electricity costs in the wake of SCANA’s $9 billion failed effort to build new nuclear generation facilities. “A select group of lawmakers and political appointees on the Public Utilities Review Committee interviewed 11 candidates, weeding out some of the would-be public service commissioners,” Andrew Brown reports in the Post and Courier.

California customer choice advocates, IOUs face off on departing load charge. Differing proposals send the fate of California’s customer choice movement to regulators

Glen Falls, N.Y., exploring options for buying energy. The Sustainability Committee met recently with Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance to learn about the process of community choice aggregation, in which the city would buy energy from an alternative supplier. “If we form a whole bunch of people together as a big buying group, we can drive prices down,” Louise Gava, Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance project leader.

Hawaii PUC rethinks the economics of utility regulation. Hawaii’s public utilities commission is considering how to amend the traditional rules of the game to support the state’s 100% renewable energy goals while insuring utility companies are not asked to shoulder more than their fair share of the burden associated with those changes.

Google touts $1.8 billion data center investment in Oregon. Google issued a report Monday highlighting the economic contributions of its six U.S. data centers, including its original facility in The Dalles. The company was the first of several large data hosting companies to capitalize on Oregon’s relatively low power costs and uniquely advantageous tax structure.

Power-sucking Bitcoin ‘mines’ spark backlash

Mining operations with stacks of servers suck up so much electricity that they are in some cases causing power rates to spike for ordinary customers. And some officials question whether it’s all worth it for the relatively few jobs created.

“We don’t want someone coming in, taking our resources, not creating the jobs they professed to create and then disappear,” said Tim Currier, mayor of Massena, a village just south of the Canadian border, where bitcoin operator Coinmint recently announced plans to use the old aluminum plant site for a mining operation that would require 400 megawatts — roughly enough to power 300,000 homes at once.

In for a shock? Here’s where your state stacks up on electricity prices. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute recently released its annual state-by-state comparison of electricity prices. In a blog post, GEI Senior Director for Policy Heath Knakmuhs detailed some of the top-line findings as well as some of the variation across states: “Not surprisingly, of the eight states that experienced a decline in their electricity rates from 2016 to 2017, half of those states are either awash with shale gas (Pennsylvania and Ohio), or directly border them (Delaware and Maryland).  Since New York’s leaders have an irrational aversion to new pipeline infrastructure, they are burdened with higher electricity prices (up .31 cent/kWh last year), while they impose a blockade against American natural gas reaching New England states.  Things have gotten so extreme that some states are importing Russian gas from across an ocean instead of utilizing shale from just a few hundred miles away.”

Navigant Research sees North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific will account for 90% of small distributed energy storage capacity. A new report from Navigant Research examines the global market for small distributed energy storage systems, providing forecasts segmented by region, technology, and building type, through 2027. The small commercial energy storage segment is expected to experience strong growth in regions where economics and policy provide incentives.

Access to data: Bringing the electricity grid into the Information Age. Timely and convenient access to utility and customer data is vital to moving the electric utility industry into the digital age, unlocking value and engaging customers in new ways.

Xcel Energy backs out of regional electric group. Since 2013, Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy have been part of a group of regional power companies looking at joining a multi-state power association called the Southwest Power Pool. Xcel has 1.4 million customers in Colorado and several analysts said Xcel’s decision is probably fatal to the idea of creating a regional transmission group. “They were the big players so that’s probably the end of it,” is how one analyst put it Monday.

FERC approves PJM proposal to implement energy efficiency market restrictions. Federal regulators have approved PJM Interconnection’s process to implement any local restrictions on an energy efficiency resource participating in the wholesale market, while simultaneously rejecting challenges to a December order that exerted its authority over the market.

Energy storage and smart grid firms enjoy surge in VC interest. Global investment in energy storage and smart grid firms soared during the first three months of the year, according to a new report from consultancy Mercom Capital Group that underlines the growing interest in smart technologies deemed critical to the deep decarbonization of power grids.


Energy, a bright spot in NAFTA talks, bogged down by dispute over rule change. Energy companies are balking at a U.S. bid to drop a rule meant to protect investors from government intervention

Solar battery electricity can be cheaper than grid power. Battery electricity can be cheaper for households than grid power in Australia, Choice says. Using solar battery electricity from your home energy storage system can be cheaper per kilowatt-hour than using grid power, according to Choice. The consumer advocate says a large enough solar array and battery storage system can be a cheaper option, depending on time of day and the feed-in tariff you get from your energy supplier.

A view from a decentralized UK future. In the UK, consultant Arup has released its Energy systems: A view from 2035 report, which suggests that all these trends towards a smarter, decentralized energy system will continue. Electricity is (by 2035) low carbon and local, says Arup, with many consumers no longer relying on the grid; and the UK is a nation of energy (self) producers, with small-scale generation at the distribution level and ‘behind the meter’ providing nearly half the country’s generation.

UK runs without coal power for three days in a row. Demand lower following recent warm weather, making it easier for gas, renewables and nuclear to cover UK’s needs.


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Today’s lede: State court to decide constitutionality of S.C.’s Base Load Review Act. Lawyers representing South Carolina electricity consumers have asked a state court to weigh the constitutionality of the Base Load Review Act, which they complain limited utility regulators’ ability to staunch the pass through of costs from SCANA’s failed nuclear power plant development effort.

“The motion is the first official legal test for the controversial law since the S.C. Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion last year calling the statute ‘constitutionally suspect,’” Andrew Brown reports in the Post and Courier newspaper. “The legal challenge could quickly lead to a precedent-setting case in front of the state Supreme Court, if Circuit Judge John C. Hayes strikes down decade-old legislation.”

South Carolina’s electricity consumers potentially are on the hook for some $9 billion spent on the utility’s now-abandoned V.C. Summer Nuclear Station boondoggle. How much of those billions consumers ultimately will bear financially has roiled the state legislature, where contrasting measures requiring the utility’s shareholders to bear a significant amount of those costs have prompted Dominion Energy to threaten withdrawal of its offer to acquire the fiscally wobbly SCANA.

A utility spokeswoman deferred comment on the court challenge, in which attorneys representing utility customers and state Solicitor General Bob Cook question the law’s constitutionality. They say the law eliminated the ability of ratepayers to challenge the nine rate increases SCE&G requested over the course of the failed nuclear power development project. And it limited the authority of the Public Service Commission, turning electric customers into “powerless financiers,” according to their filings. “The result was that ever-increasing financing charges were passed along to customers for a project that was unnecessary before construction began, never properly planned and mismanaged from the start.”


Xcel delivers blow to SPP’s western expansion efforts. The jockeying over various interest seeking to establish a foothold for organized wholesale power markets in the West took a turn late last week as Xcel issued a statement announcing it would discontinue is collaborations with the Southwest Power Pool/Western Area Power Administration Mountain West Transmission Group effort.

“Over the past several years, Xcel Energy and other regional electricity service providers have been investigating the potential to join a regional transmission organization. Recently, Xcel Energy completed a review of the Mountain West’s proposal to join a regional transmission organization. After much deliberation, Xcel Energy has determined that continued engagement in Mountain West is not in the best of interests of our customers or the company,” said David Eves, Xcel Energy’s executive vice president and group president for utilities.

Xcel cited a number of factors for its decision, including limited benefits for the company’s 1.4 million customers in Colorado, lack of market expansion opportunities for the proposed ROT, uncertainty over the RTO’s costs, and limited benefits given the proposed RTO’s small footprint.

“While Xcel Energy continues to believe in energy markets, recent developments with RTOs have introduced an increased risk of more significant changes to state-regulated retail electric service than Xcel Energy had anticipated,” the utility company said.

“Xcel Energy will continue to focus on initiatives that will benefit our customers, keep bills low, and facilitate the addition of renewable resources on our system. Our customers and the state of Colorado benefit when states control their own energy policy,” Eves said.

The announcement “blew a hole in Southwest Power Pool’s plans for a western power market,” Politico Morning Energy’s Kelsey Tamborrino writes, calling Xcel’s concerns about limited ability for western expansion of the proposed RTO “perhaps most intriguing,” given competing regional market initiatives spearheaded by the California ISO and PJM/PEAK.


Casino executive charges Nevada PUC with bias in electricity choice report. A casino executive blasted as a violation of state ethics law a recent report issued by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission warning of adverse consumer costs from implementing electricity choice, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Nevada Independent report.

“It is a 110-page opinion letter from a biased regulator who thinks he has the opinion of a judge,” said Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government relations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., a leading advocate of the pending Energy Choice ballot initiative. Voters in 2016 overwhelmingly approved the ballot question, which must receive voter approval again this November in order to effectively change the state’s constitution to end monopoly regulation and allow electricity competition.

In particular, Abboud attacked PUC Chairman Joe Reynolds, who he said violated state ethics laws by using his role as state utility regulator to express his opinion on the ballot initiative. “Joe Reynolds was hired to oversee the regulated utility, and nowhere in the law does he have authority to issue advisory questions about energy policy,” Abboud said. “This is not an objective report, and this is not an unbiased regulator.”

Abboud’s attack came at last week’s meeting of the governor’s task force charged with examining issues associated with implement customer choice in electricity. While the task force last year asked the PUC to investigate the issue, it specifically voted against the report weighing in on costs, according to the Nevada Independent. Reynolds said at the time he could not “in good faith” author a report analyzing the ballot question without including the financial impact. The report ultimately did look at costs, suggesting that implementing choice would cost more than $100 million and would raise consumers’ electricity costs for at least a decade.

Hayley Williamson, assistant general counsel for the PUC, noted the report was provided at the request of the governor’s task force. “The PUCN followed an extensive public process for this investigation, which was consistent with all of its investigatory dockets and is meticulously set forth in the report. Over 4,700 pages of records have informed the PUCN’s analysis and those are provided in the appendix for anyone to review,” Williamson said in a statement.

“The governor believes that personal attacks have no place in energy policy discussion, or any policy discussion for that matter. Governor Sandoval remains committed to an open dialogue on this topic and looks forward to a continued robust discussion on energy in Nevada,” Mary-Sarah Kinner, spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Sandoval, said.

Meanwhile, Jon Ralston, the Nevada independent’s editor, is calling for candidates vying to replace Sandoval as Nevada’s governor to clarify their positions on the ballot question: “[Republican Attorney General Adam] Laxalt has indicated he supports the Energy Choice Initiative – his chief political patron, Sheldon Adelson, is behind it. The two Democrats both said they voted for ECI in 2016, but then flipped recently at an AFL-CIO panderfest (labor is helping NV Energy try to kill the plan). I would love to see a debate only on energy issues, which are abstruse but which the next governor must lead on.”

See also:

Nevada’s retail choice battle will greatly impact solar, everyone agrees. But for better or worse?


Axios reports on ‘Trump’s electricity solution in search of a problem.’ Amy Harder writes in Axios regarding the Trump administration’s ongoing quest to provide out-of-market financial assistance to coal and nuclear power plants struggling to remain economically viable in competitive wholesale power markets.

“President Trump is directing his administration to prop up financially struggling coal and nuclear power plants to ensure the electricity grid is resilient and reliable, but government data and most objective experts say there is no such problem,” Harder reports. “Trump repeatedly asks his advisers about how to revive the economically struggling coal and nuclear industries, according to officials following the deliberations. These kinds of power plants are facing competition from cheap natural gas, among other factors.”

Harder says it’s unlikely the administration will give FirstEnergy an emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, given a similar request from FirstEnergy coal supplier Murray Energy was denied last year. The administration also is considering exercising emergency powers under a 1950 law giving the president extraordinary powers to nationalize industry, a national security power that President Truman exercised during the Korean War. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is weighing what steps it can take to prop up power grid “resiliency” after rejecting a rule proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry calling for consumer subsidies for coal and nuclear plants.

Harder notes that the Energy Department’s own data finds most power outages are not the result of resource shortages, and grid operator PJM Interconnection has reported that no emergency exists to support FirstEnergy’s bid for extraordinary intervention in the market.

“There is no data that backs up the bogus resiliency argument, so it looks like this is about bailing out specific coal and nuclear plants rather than saving the grid in an emergency or preserving two generation technologies for the long term,” Harder quotes Alison Silverstein, a former FERC official who contributed to a grid-reliability assessment the Energy Department issued last year.

“The [power plants] shutting down now are more expensive and inefficient and under-utilized than other plants,” Silverstein said. “And markets are supposed to weed out weak competitors and assets.”

See also:

FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy could shed light on affiliate dealings

Blurred lines between the parent company and subsidiaries could leave utility customers paying more in the long run.


FERC commissioners defend competitive markets amid coal and nuclear struggles


Penn State professor laments nuclear engineering students face disappearing jobs. Edward Klevans, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering at Penn State University, says nuclear engineering students today are training for jobs that may not exist when they graduate. “As an educator, I can say for sure that the fate of hundreds of future engineers depends on leaders in Washington, D.C, and Harrisburg taking action to fix market flaws that unfairly disadvantage nuclear-power plants,” Klevans writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Newspaper calls for ‘fixes’ to N.J. bill providing nuclear subsidies. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy should insist on “fixes” to legislation mandating consumer subsidies to support continued operations at the state’s nuclear power plants, the editorial board at The Press of Atlantic City says.

“The subsidy shouldn’t have been set by legislators, who lack the expertise and probably the information needed to set it at an appropriate level,” the editorial says. “Murphy should conditionally veto the PSEG nuclear bill, requiring the Legislature to send him a version in which the need for and level of the subsidy is determined by the Board of Public Utilities with the assistance of the state Division of Rate Counsel, which represents the interests of New Jersey ratepayers. The bill currently allows the BPU to exclude the rate counsel from reviewing information and advising ahead of its thumbs up or thumbs down decision.”

Meanwhile, David Roberts, who writes on climate change issues for, calls it “reason for celebration” that New Jersey policy makers have embraced financial support for nuclear. “The only way to reduce power-sector emissions in New Jersey is to have nuclear and renewable energy work together — to keep nuclear plants open as long as possible so that growth in renewables builds on top of them and replaces natural gas,” Roberts writes. “And that, miracle of miracles, is exactly the course New Jersey has chosen.”

In other New Jersey news, Tom Johnson in writes that Public Service Electric & Gas has reached agreement with state regulators to spend $1.9 billion to upgrade its aging gas pipeline system under a deal that could be approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities as early as this week.

“The stipulated settlement, reached among BPU staff, the state Division of Rate Counsel, and others, would allow the state’s largest utility to replace hundreds of miles of cast iron and steel pipes over the next five years with new gas mains,” Johnson writes. “The proceeding is the latest by PSE&G to modernize its pipeline system, which has the most cast-iron pipes of any utility in the nation. Those pipes also are the most likely to leak, releasing methane, a potent source of greenhouse-gas emissions, into the air.”


Boston Globe editorial board blasts ‘Beacon Hill’s pipeline folly’. Massachusetts lawmakers have effectively adopted a “pipeline tax” in the way of higher energy costs by blocking financing of a new natural gas pipeline, the Boston Globe’s editorial Board says.

“When members of the Legislature, egged on by Attorney General Maura Healey, blocked financing for a new natural gas pipeline into New England in 2016, they claimed to be saving money for ratepayers and helping the environment. But nearly the opposite has happened instead. And now the damage — environmental and financial — is starting to pile up,” the editorial states.

“The costs to the region’s consumers, and the needless environmental damage, are the direct result of Massachusetts elected officials’ decisions. And those costs should lead the Legislature to rethink its stance and join efforts by other New England states to expand the region’s pipelines — before federal regulators and the region’s grid operator start taking decisions into their own hands.”


Conn. Consumer Counsel seeks order shutting down marketing by retail power provider. Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz is asking the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to issue a cease-and-desist order against Liberty Power that shuts down the competitive retail electricity provider’s door-to-door and telesales marketing efforts.

“Liberty has an established record of abusive, deceptive, and illegal marketing practices,” Katz said in a press release. “Many of Liberty’s Connecticut customers either may not even realize that they are enrolled with Liberty or are enrolled with Liberty due to overly aggressive solicitations that included false promises of savings. The financial harm to Connecticut consumers is substantial: during the years 2015 to 2017, Liberty customers in Connecticut paid approximately $7,719,948 more than they would have if they had been on the utility standard service rate.”

Katz said her staff has reviewed voluminous evidence—including “hundreds of actual recordings and written transcripts” of Liberty’s telemarketers and door-to-door solicitors, which “revealed a disturbing pattern of Liberty employing abusive sales tactics.” Katz blasted what she called “predatory practices” that “cannot be tolerated in Connecticut’s retail electric marketplace.”

Katz alleged the company “has an extensive record of complaints alleging consumer fraud and abuse both here and in other states.” Specifically, she cited a recent settlement with the New York attorney general and a pending investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general.

“Liberty Power was surprised and disappointed to learn of the Office of Consumer Counsel’s request that PURA order the company to stop all telemarketing and door to door sales activities,” a company spokesman said in a statement emailed to newspapers. Liberty has supplied “substantial information in response to numerous and extensive interrogatories” from both PURA and the consumer counsel , the company said.

“Liberty Power has invested heavily in its quality control program and is committed to ensuring that customers are treated fairly and given meaningful choice in securing their electric supply,” the Liberty spokesman said. “The company believes that [Katz’s] motion is premature and is confident that when PURA evaluates this matter, it will conclude that the measures being sought . . . are unnecessary.”




Competitive supplier agrees to $98k settlement with Pa. PUC. Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission has accepted an agreement with Plymouth Rock Energy settling concerns that the competitive retail supplier “billed electric generation supply service rates that were higher than the rates promised,” Paul Ring reports in Energy Choice Matters. The company reportedly agreed to pay a $98,683civil penalty.


Michigan ‘dismantles net metering,’ solar magazine complains. “Over the protests of many different parties, Michigan has become the latest state to experiment with destroying the fundamental policy for distributed solar in the United States,” Christian Roselund writes in PV Magazine.

The Michigan Public Service Commission replaced the state’s net metering program with a less generous compensation scheme that “could kill the state’s distributed solar market in its cradle,” Roselund writes. “Unlike net metering, which calculates net generation versus consumption over the period of a month, Michigan would attempt to calculate total customer-sited generation and total consumption – even though questions have been raised as to whether the state’s advanced metering infrastructure is up to that task.”


Analysis Group assessment of RGGI faulted. A recent Analysis Group assessment of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Inititative, known as RGGI, gave the regional carbon emissions trading “an A+,” but the assessment “fails Math 101,” David Stevenson, policy director for the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute, writes in

“They claim greenhouse gas emissions are falling, the state economies are growing, and renewable energy is on the rise,” Stevenson notes, asserting that “only if you grade on a curve” can you agree with Analysis Group’s conclusions that RGGI is working.

“When you check the math, you’ll find that RGGI has no impact on emissions, has had minimal impact on improving energy efficiency, and done very little to increase wind and solar power generation,” Stevenson asserts. “What RGGI has done is put upward pressure on electricity rates which, in turn, has driven energy intensive businesses out of the RGGI region—along with the good-paying jobs those businesses supply.”


Southern says Vogtle ahead of schedule despite skilled labor deficit. The mammoth construction project to add new nuclear power plants at the Vogtle nuclear power station is ahead of schedule despite a shortage of skilled labor, Southern Co.’s Georgia Power utility company reports.

“A report filed by the company to the Georgia Public Service Commission ahead of Vogtle construction progress hearings next month identified difficulties in meeting craft labor requirements at the plant as one challenge that could hamper efforts to meet its completion forecast of 2021 and 2022,” Anastaciah Ondieki reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The project’s construction contractor, Bechtel, faces challenges in providing skilled labor to the plant that employs over 5,000 people, Ondieki writes. “Bechtel must attract the necessary labor force to support the project completion goals,” the report said.–politics/skilled-labor-shortages-hit-vogtle-georgia-power-reports-progress/xaVdaBLjix0WXj4v6jYFwI/


California ballot initiative seeks Public Utility District option for Klamath dams. As proceedings to remove four dams on the Klamath River move forward, one local group is attempting to set in motion a completely different outcome – a takeover of the dams to be operated by a Public Utility District, David Smith writes in the Siskiyou Daily News in Northern California.

“A local steering committee has placed a number of petitions locally in an effort to gather enough signatures to get an initiative on a ballot this year – likely the November ballot – to let voters decide whether or not a PUD would be formed in the county,” Smith reports.

“The proposed initiative would create and establish a PUD within the boundaries of Siskiyou County. The PUD would be for the purpose of generating, manufacturing, purchasing, acquiring, transporting, and accumulating all forms of energy and capacity for the members of the district and transmitting, erecting, purchasing, leasing as lessor, exchanging and mortgaging plants, building works, machinery, supplies, apparatus, equipment and electrical transmission and distribution line systems as necessary, convenient or useful to carry out the district’s purpose of providing low cost electricity,” the petition reads.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is considering whether or not it will allow the current owner of the dams – PacifiCorp – to decommission the dams and allow the Klamath River Renewal Corporation to demolish them. Apparently, those pushing the PUD-formation effort believe that a publicly owned utility company would be exempt from FERC jurisdiction.


Former utility official argues against privatizing Jacksonville, Fla, municipal utility.

Preston Haskell, a former chairman of the JEA board, argues against efforts to privatize the city’s municipal utility. “While the recent dialogue and debate concerning the potential sale of JEA has in certain ways been productive and valuable, it has now become unduly divisive and distracting. It is time to end this unproductive discussion so that our community and its leadership can return its focus to other important matters,” Haskell asserts. “Although no single, comprehensive study has been made on this subject, it is clear that consideration of asset values, unresolved liabilities facing JEA, potential future costs to ratepayers and many intangible factors demonstrate that selling JEA is not in our city’s best interests.”


Millenials embrace energy efficiency. “Energy efficiency has become a mainstream goal in most commercial real estate,” according to the Property Manager of Chicago-based Beal Properties. “Millennial tenants especially place energy efficiency as one of the highest priorities when looking for a rental, and they do so for two reasons. Naturally they wish to save on energy usage – but even more importantly, this demographic is even more concerned about how their lifestyle impacts the environment and their personal carbon footprint.”


Sell Tesla shares because BMW, Audi competition is coming: JP Morgan

  • P. Morgan reaffirms its underweight rating on Tesla shares, citing the electric car pipelines from German luxury automakers.
  • “When similarly priced high-end long-range electric vehicles become available from prestigious brands with strong reputations for both service and build quality, we believe this could represent a meaningful headwind for Tesla,” the firm’s analyst writes.

“Tesla has, to date, faced relatively little competition in the market for luxury electric vehicles, and so we think shoppers have been willing to cut the automaker some slack when it comes to some aspects of service and build quality,” analyst Ryan Brinkman wrote in a note to clients. “When similarly priced high-end long-range electric vehicles become available from prestigious brands with strong reputations for both service and build quality, we believe this could represent a meaningful headwind for Tesla.”


Wave of large solar power projects puts spotlight on local N.Y. laws

The growing wave of large solar power projects coming to the mid-Hudson holds the promise of lower electric bills and cleaner energy, but the projects often spark resistance from some in the community. About 35 commercial or industrial projects are in the approval pipeline in Orange County. Another dozen or so have cropped up in Ulster County and 19 in Sullivan County, according to local planners.


New York advances REV, moves to bring more energy storage online

The New York Public Service Commission on Thursday approved a suite of measures to advance the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision, including new time-based rates for a 12,000-customer smart energy community upstate and changes that could bring additional energy storage onto the distribution grid, Robert Walton reports for Utility Dive.


Colo. State Sen. Scott disappoints with vote on electric vehicles

Lou Villaire, an energy analyst and lecturer at Colorado Mesa University, writes in The Daily Sentinel of “a disappointing party-line vote” in which the Colorado Senate Transportation Committee killed a bill (SB 216) that would allow utilities to invest in building out electric vehicle infrastructure. “The bipartisan bill sought to address the biggest question that EV drivers face — where can I charge? — by allowing utility companies like Xcel to set up charging stations across the state,” Villaire says. “The testimony in committee showcased supporters from the Front Range to the Western Slope who passionately testified in favor of the bill. The deciding vote came down to Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, who seemingly ignored his constituents and chose to continue our reliance on oil, quash innovation, and stall the expansion of clean transportation to the Western Slope.”


Opponent of Boulder municipalization effort whacks departing city official.

Patrick Murphy, an outspoken opponent of efforts by city officials in Boulder, Colo., to leave Xcel’s system and establish a municipally owned utility, blames the city’s departing director of the municipalization effort for leaving “mayhem” in her wake.

“Heather Bailey has left a mark on Boulder and it is more like a bruise than a blue ribbon. Still, the muni mayhem continues. It will be hard to tell exactly what she is responsible for and what she did at the behest of council and the city manager. Her efforts, combined with poor legal advice, have turned the muni into an expensive, divisive delusion, in my opinion. The legal effort as well could either be the result of poor legal counsel or poor direction from the council. Ms. Bailey, however, is where the buck stopped, and she is abandoning the ship. That may be couched in many flowery positive or negative terms, but Boulder is left holding the bag she filled with less than fully transparent details.”


Perched on a platform high in a tree, a 61-year-old woman fights a gas pipeline in Virginia

The Washington Post’s Gregory Schneider reports on efforts by Theresa “Red” Terry to block a pipeline construction project. He notes how “the 61-year-old mother of three is perched on a platform 32 feet in the air between two oak trees, trying to stop a natural gas pipeline from coming through land granted to her husband’s family by the king of England in Colonial times.”


Utility companies file first application for Middleton-Dubuque transmission line

MADISON — The three utility companies that want to build a high-powered transmission line from Middleton to Iowa submitted an application to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

American Transmission, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative want to build a 345-kilovolt transmission line from Middleton’s Cardinal Substation to Dubuque, Iowa, according to the group’s filing.

Thomas Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, said the group has a number of questions about the project, including whether it is necessary and if it will benefit customers in Wisconsin, now that the application has been filed.

“We want key questions answered,” he said. “At a time when we’re witnessing rapidly evolving technologies, have the utilities proposing the line considered alternatives to a big high-voltage line to meet the power needs of Wisconsin?”


Illinois regulators: Utilities must pass along tax overhaul savings

The Associated Press reports that the Illinois Commerce Commission has approved an order requiring utilities including to pass along their federal tax overhaul savings to customers. The order requires each utility to credit consumers with the estimated tax savings beginning with their next billing cycle.


Avista’s proposed sale to Hydro One subject of Monday hearing in Spokane Valley

A public hearing on Avista Corp.’s $5.3 billion sale to Hydro One Ltd., of Toronto, takes place today in the Spokane Valley City Council chambers, Becky Kramer the Spokesman-Review. A second hearing is scheduled in Colville tomorrow. “Members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission will be at the hearings. For the transaction to go through, the three-member commission must determine the sale is in the best interest of Avista’s ratepayers.”


CenterPoint Energy (CNP) to Acquire Vectren (VVC) for $72/Share

CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) and Vectren Corporation (NYSE: VVC) today announced they have entered into a definitive merger agreement to form a leading energy delivery, infrastructure and services company serving more than 7 million customers across the United States.

“This merger represents a significant step toward our vision to lead the nation in delivering energy, service and value. By combining our two highly complementary companies, we are creating an energy delivery, infrastructure and services leader that will drive value for our shareholders and customers, while enhancing growth opportunities for our businesses,” said Scott M. Prochazka, president and chief executive officer of CenterPoint Energy. “From the evolution of customer expectations to the development of innovative technologies, this is a time of extraordinary opportunity for our industry. As a combined company, we will continue to focus on a future that benefits our customers, employees, communities and shareholders.”

Vectren Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Carl L. Chapman said, “With CenterPoint Energy, we’ve found the right partner to begin the next chapter for Vectren and our family of companies. They share the same core values and dedication to the communities they serve, which is evidenced by the commitments they have made to our employees, philanthropic outreach, and Evansville, Ind., our home, where CenterPoint Energy will locate the newly combined company’s natural gas utility operations headquarters. Together, we will be a stronger, more competitive company that will be well-positioned to continue to provide value for our stakeholders in the years to come.”



Introducing Greeneum: A blockchain powered, decentralized platform built to incentivize green energy production

Greeneum is pleased to announce that it has created the world’s first blockchain-powered sustainable, scalable and secure energy and data trading platform; which we believe is the first major step towards ending a global reliance on toxic and non-renewable energy sources including fossil fuels. To protect contributors and bring greater transparency to these projects, the Greeneum platform is built on the ethereum blockchain. Agreements are held on this distributed ledger, which helps to ensure that terms are secure and visible at all times.

Greeneum’s platform is a first of its kind marketplace and energy production management system.  It enables contributors from around the world to invest in green energy projects including solar, hydro and wind power; while concurrently creating production efficiencies during demand fluctuations.


Brooklyn solar company sees canopies as way for city to go green

Built for New York City’s small, flat roofs, panels can work on rooftops anywhere

Patrick Sisson reports in on a Brooklyn, N.Y., company’s solar “canopy” system designed to take advantage of the abundance of flat roofs in urban areas. “The Brooklyn Solar Canopy Company believes its modular, nine-foot-tall, raised solar panels can help make the economics of solar add up for more New Yorkers,” he writes.

“This just seems like a ridiculous business opportunity,” says company CEO T.R. Ludwig. “When you drive around and look at all the rooftops in this city that can add solar, and the recent developments in the industry, it feels like it’s a magical time.”


New Wind Procurement Program Launches for Texas Customers

Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit Inc. – makers of products such as TurboTax, QuickBooks, ProConnect and Mint – has announced a new program, Purely Green, that will share its corporate wind power procurement in Texas with commercial and residential customers.

Intuit teamed up with retail energy provider Just Energy to launch the program. Purely Green is designed to offer discounted renewable electricity to hundreds of thousands of electricity customers across Texas. The renewable energy and renewable energy credits will be sourced from EDP Renewables’ (EDPR) Lone Star II Wind Farm, located near Abilene, Texas.

Houston-based Renewable Power Direct (RPD) worked with Intuit and Just Energy to structure the program and to source the physical wind power from EDPR.

“This program is a game-changer for Texas electricity customers,” says Eric Alam, CEO of RPD. “Thanks to Intuit’s leadership, we expect other large companies that buy wind and solar energy to begin exploring how best to share and leverage their green energy choices for customers and employees. This could significantly boost future demand for renewable energy and greatly expand the climate benefits of corporate green power programs.”

“This program enables Texas residents to leverage Intuit’s buying power to access discounted green power for their homes and businesses,” adds Sean Kinghorn, sustainability program lead for Intuit.


America’s Smart Grid Dreams Fading Without Congressional Support

Congress hasn’t allocated funding explicitly for the Smart Grid since the Obama stimulus package in 2009, the Congressional Research Service noted this month, and without Congressional support, the grid could develop in slow and piecemeal fashion, with increased risk of incompatible parts, Jeff McMahon writes in Forbes.

Current funding levels, delivered through Department of Energy programs, state programs and utilities, cannot meet the estimated cost to modernize the grid by 2030, according to Richard Campbell, an energy-policy specialist for CRS.

“Congress could provide funding to help bridge the funding gap if it chooses to accelerate adoption of the Smart Grid,” Campbell writes in an April 10 report to Congress. “A number of near-term trends—including electric vehicles, environmental concerns, and the ability of customers to take advantage of real-time pricing programs to reduce consumer cost and energy demand—would benefit from investments in Smart Grid enabled technologies.”


Environmentalists Condemn EPA Coal-Ash Proposal

The Associated Press reports on efforts by environmental groups to fend off changes proposed by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt that they say would gut federal coal-ash regulations enacted in 2015.

“What Pruitt would like to do is to allow states or the polluters themselves to set their own standards for those chemicals that don’t have a federal MCL,” said Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel with the environmental law firm Earthjustice.


Fracking Pushes Concentrating Solar Power Growth Overseas

Bobby Magill reports that concentrating solar-thermal power plants will remain in low demand in the U.S. for the foreseeable future as companies such as SolarReserve LLC develop new plants overseas. “The U.S. is a different market than the rest of the world because we have a whole lot of cheap natural gas from fracking,” SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith told Bloomberg Environment.


China plans first spot electricity trading as Beijing reforms power market

Reuters reports that China will launch its first real-time spot electricity markets in eight regions, the National Energy Administration said on Friday, as Beijing accelerates efforts to liberalize power prices currently set by the government.



Posted on


Today’s lede: Trump administration weighing extraordinary action to support coal-fired power plants. Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg reports that the Trump administration is considering whether to invoke authority under the 68-year-old Defense Production Act to prop up coal-fired power plants that can no longer compete economically in competitive power markets.

President Harry Truman exercised that authority during the Korean War to cap wages and imposed price controls on the steel industry, Bloomberg notes, describing the law as empowering the president to “effectively nationalize private industry to ensure the U.S. has resources that could be needed amid a war or after a disaster.”

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin sent a letter to the White House yesterday calling for the administration to invoke its authority under the 1950 law.

“The security of our homeland is inextricably tied to the security of our energy supply,” Manchin argues in the letter. “The ability to produce reliable electricity is critical to ensuring our nation’s security against the various threats facing us today – whether those threats be extreme weather events or adversarial foreign actors.”

“This would extend the statute far beyond how it’s ever been used before,” Bloomberg quotes Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard University. “This statute did not contemplate the sort of use that apparently now the administration is considering.”

See also:

Obscure Coal CEO Rains Money on Trump While Outflanking Rivals


Concerns mount regarding cryptocurrency electricity consumption. A landmark regulatory decision in New York last month is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the growing backlash against energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining. Entrepreneurs cashing in on the craze for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have become a huge electricity suck, given the tremendou amounts of data-crunching required. Currency miners seeking to maximize profits are increasingly setting up shop in locations with inexpensive electricity.

Last month, the New York Public Service Commission made headlines with an order allowing municipally owned utilities to charge higher rates to cryptocurrency miners, and the upstate city of Plattsburgh adopted an 18-month moratorium on cryptocurrency mining.

Lloyd Alter writes in Treehugger that bitcoin mining is using as much power as nearly 5.7 million U.S. households, and more than all the electricity consumed in New Zealand, while producing 30,162 kilotons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. “Lately, those bitcoin miners have been chasing cheap and dependable electricity around the world, with Iceland being the hot cool spot, thanks to lots of real geothermal and hydro-electric power and only 340,000 people to use it,” Alter notes.

New York isn’t the only area generating a backlash against currency mining. Municipally owned utilities in Washington State, which like New York’s municipals benefit from low-priced hydropower resources, are increasingly acting to thwart miners. The Mason County Public Utility District has acted to halt bitcoin mining operations, following in the footsteps of the Chelan County PUD last month and municipalities throughout Eastern Washington — including Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Entiat — that adopted zoning controls or moratoriums on cryptocurrency operations, Arla Shephard Bull writes in the Kitsap Sun.

Eiland Glover, co-founder and CEO of Kowala, is promoting adoption of alternative algorithms for cryptocurrency mining that help lessen electricity consumption and growing market power concentration. “Currently, global bitcoin mining consumption totals over 36 terawatt hours, an energy expenditure that could power approximately 3.3 million homes,” Glover writes in

“Profit-seeking miners are presented with an irresistible incentive to seek out places where electricity is cheapest. Some miners have moved their rigs to areas with cheap hydropower, while others have obtained electricity in questionable ways, in China and elsewhere,” Glover notes. “Since a lot of electricity generation is subsidized, utility companies (specifically in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and China) have recently been scrambling to accommodate escalating demands for crypto-mining power in a way that is deemed fair to all of their customers. These utility companies shouldn’t grow too complacent about the problem they face: If there’s a sustained rise in price, we could see a massive rise in mining-based demand for electricity that will cause even greater disruption.”




Trump’s solar tariffs seen driving desired U.S. investment. President Trump’s embrace of import tariffs on increasingly inexpensive photovoltaic solar electricity products was roundly decried by the U.S. solar industry and environmentalists as a regressive action that would drive up costs for consumers and tamp down adoption of rooftop solar, impacting a sector driving jobs growth. But Amy Harder writes in Axios of at least two instances where the tariffs are having the desired effect of driving U.S. investment.

Harder interviews SunPower CEO Tom Werner. The California-based company, majority owned by French oil and gas company Total, recently announced the acquisition of SolarWorld, one of the U.S. manufacturers that had petitioned for imposition of tariffs. Harder asks Werner if the acquisition couldn’t be interpreted as the tariffs having the desired effect of encouraging domestic manufacturing.

“I’ll answer that and say yes,” Werner says. “This [SolarWorld purchase] is catalyzed by the tariffs and by the administration’s desire for American solar manufacturing. It was my concession and SunPower board agreed with me, that it was appropriate for us to take a leadership position and swim with the current with the administration.”

The article also quotes Max Xia, vice president of overseas marketing at LONGi Solar, one of China’s largest solar companies: “We will decide by December whether to invest in a plant here. We have started looking at several sites in the USA. We think for the solar market in the USA, don’t worry about the tariffs. We bring the solution to offset this impact.”

Politico, meanwhile, reports that Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., has introduced the bipartisan “Protecting American Solar Jobs Act,” H.R. 5571. The measure would repeal the Trump administration’s tariffs on imported solar panels.


FERC OKs final rule to promote wholesale power market transparency. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a final rule yesterday intended to promote transparency in the wholesale power markets it regulates. The action stems from an initiative launched in 2014 to examine price formation in organized competitive power markets. The order addresses transparency regarding uplift payments, operator-initiated commitments and transmission constraint penalty factors.

In the order, FERC concludes that “market operators’ practices with respect to reporting uplift payments and operator-initiated commitments, and their tariff provisions regarding transmission constraint penalty factors, are insufficiently transparent and result in rates that are not just and reasonable.”

To address these concerns, FERC’s new rule “requires regional market operators to report, on a monthly basis: total uplift payments for each transmission zone, broken out by day and uplift category; total uplift payments to each resource; and the commitment size, transmission zone, commitment reason, and commitment start time of each operator-initiated commitment. The rule also requires regional market operators to include in their tariffs the transmission constraint penalty factors used in their market software, the circumstances under which those factors can set locational marginal prices, and any processes by which they can be changed.”

In response to comments, FERC declined to adopt a proposal that each market operator that allocates the costs of real-time uplift to deviations do so only for those market participants whose transactions are reasonably expected to have caused the costs.

The commission also adopted a new final rule addressing generator interconnections in the organized markets.






FERC launches review of its policy governing natural gas pipeline reviews. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved an order launching an inquiry seeking information and stakeholder perspectives to explore whether, and if so, how, to revise existing policies regarding its review and authorization of interstate natural gas transportation facilities.

The notice of inquiry “poses a range of questions that reflect concerns raised in numerous public comments, court proceedings and other forums. Through the NOI, FERC is seeking input on potential changes to both the existing Policy Statement and the structure and scope of the Commission’s environmental analysis of proposed natural gas projects,” FERC said in a press release.

The commission has been under increasing pressure from environmental activists opposed to increasing infrastructure enabling fossil fuel consumption. It recently responded to a court remand faulting FERC’s procedures for failing to take carbon dioxide emissions properly into account as part of its environmental review of pipeline applications.


See also:

FERC’s 2017 State of the Markets Report



Florida PSC declaratory statement allows residential solar equipment leases. The Florida Public Service Commission today issued a declaratory statement affirming that Sunrun can offer residential solar equipment leases in Florida without becoming a regulated utility. After reviewing Sunrun’s draft lease agreement, Commissioners determined that Sunrun’s 20-year solar equipment lease is not a retail sale of electricity. “Residential equipment leasing makes solar more attractive for some customers, and today’s decision confirms that Florida’s ratepayers have that option,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham.


Other news items of note:

Nevada voters to choose between Buffett-backed utility and casino-backed power market

The state’s net metering fight is over; will a competitive retail energy market help or hinder solar development?

This year, the money and leverage of Adelson and Switch CEO Rob Roy are up against the money and leverage of the Warren Buffet utilities. If Question 3 passes this fall,  the legislature will be required to establish a competitive energy market that enables retail electricity providers (REPs) to assume the role now filled by NV Energy.

FERC’s Chatterjee opposes MOPR as ‘standard solution’ for state-mandate subsidies

Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Neil Chatterjee told House lawmakers he does not support a provision in a recent FERC order establishing Minimum Offer Pricing Rules (MOPRs) as the “standard solution” to deal with state power subsidies, Dive’s Gavin Bade reports. “Chatterjee said he voted for the order including the provision because it was ‘necessary’ to ensure approval of a two-part capacity market auction proposed by ISO-New England. Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick issued statements opposing the provision, which Chatterjee now says he should have done.”

Michigan PSC approves utilities’ request for lower reimbursements for solar roof customers

Tracy Samilton reports: “Becky Stanfield of Vote Solar says there was no good reason to drop net metering, and in fact, states that studied the issue found that solar customers were putting something on the grid that was even more valuable than what they were paying their utility for. That’s in part because solar can create energy at times when it’s most needed by the grid – hot, sunny days when electricity demand is high.”

Petoskey, Mich., city-owned utility gives city electric customers choices on renewable energy

The municipal utility’s program allows customers to earmark 25, 50, 75 or 100 percent of their usage to come from renewable energy, Arielle Hines reports.

Michigan PSC approves rate hike for DTE Electric, but your bill won’t rise

The Michigan Public Service Commission approved a $65 million rate increase for DTE Electric Co., Keith Matheny reports. But overall bill costs will drop, officials with the state’s largest electric utility said. “In November, the Detroit-based utility self-implemented a rate increase of $125 million, which it was legally allowed to do, as it awaited a decision by the MPSC on its rate case. Since the total approved today is just over half of the amount that was self-implemented, DTE will file a separate case to determine how much is refunded to customers,” the PSC said in a press release.


Pa. PUC Approves Final Implementation Order for Act 40 of 2017; Clarifies Provisions for Solar Credits for Out-of-State Facilities

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission formally established new qualifications for systems qualifying for solar credits under the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) Act.  The Commission unanimously adopted a joint motion reaffirming the law’s provisions to “close the borders” for Tier 1 solar credit qualifications; thereby eliminating eligibility for certain out-of-state facilities. “The Commission is clarifying Act 40 implementation in a way that has broad-based support among stakeholders and is consistent with legislative intent,” said Chairman Gladys Brown.  “As other states that have passed similar legislation have recognized, this is an important tool for Pennsylvania to promote environmental stewardship and economic development.”

Colorado House approves weakened PUC ethics bill

House Bill 1281 no longer bars utility executives and officials from serving on the PUC for at least four years after leaving their industry jobs. It does ban anyone who has a continuing financial interest in a regulated utility from serving. It also requires a PUC commissioner to recuse themselves from voting on any matter where people could “reasonably” assume they had insider knowledge about a utility. Bill sponsor Rep. Daneya Esgar said dropping the outright ban on any utility official from serving on the PUC was key to getting bipartisan support in the House, Peter Roper reports.

Mass. Gov. Baker expects shorts delay in offshore wind project selection

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker told a meeting of the Energy Storage Association that the selection of an offshore wind power supplier for Massachusetts could be pushed back a few weeks, Statehouse News Serve reports. The initiative is of interest to the group because it is tied to energy storage designed to ensure availability of clean energy during peak demand hours. “If it is enacted, Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to use a clean peak standard, which would specifically encourage electricity storage and clean energy sources to step in and help meet demand when electricity is most needed, according to the Northeast Clean Energy Council,” the news service reports. The initiative is going to “open markets and enable storage,” Kelly Speakes-Bachman, the association’s CEO, predicts.

Aggregation deal should lower electric bills for Mansfield, Ohio, residents next year

Mansfield’s current electric aggregation contract with FirstEnergy Solutions expires next year, Emily Mills reports. The city received proposals from six electric suppliers as they searched for a new contract: Dynegy, FirstEnergy Solutions, Constellation Energy, AEP Energy, IGS and Capital Energy. Dynegy offered the lowest price, at 4.915 cents per kilowatt hour for 34 months.

Central Hudson proposes lower fixed rate, higher use rates in N.Y.

The utility initially proposed increasing the electricity fixed rate by $1, to $25 per month. One of the watchdog groups, Citizens for Local Power, responded that the rate should be lowered from $24 to $10.


Eversource customers in Conn. to see rates rise under PURA Decision

PURA’s decision also lowers the fixed fee Eversource customers are charged, regardless of how much electricity they use, from $19.25 to under $9.50 a month.


Pa. PUC to investigate PECO rate hike request

PECO filed a request with the Public Utility Commission March 29 for approval of an $82 million — or 2.2 percent — increase in the rates it charges customers for the delivery of electricity. If approved as filed, the increase would raise a residential customer’s bill by 3.2 percent. As a result of Thursday’s order, the rate case will now be assigned to the Office of Administrative Law Judge for an investigation and recommended decision.

Idaho PUC hears comments in opposition to Hydro One’s acquisition of Avista

Matt Evans, IPUC spokesman, said the commission has received more than 80 comments in opposition to the merger proposal in advance of the public hearings that are to be scheduled for late May. Coeur d’Alene’s Steve Adams is among those who oppose the transaction. “A foreign-owned corporation should not own or control our dams, electrical or natural gas infrastructure,” he wrote to the IPUC. “It is a matter of national security.”

Deal approves $216M for Idaho utility hydro dam relicensing expenses

Company renewing 3-dam hydroelectric Snake River project

Idaho officials have approved an agreement allowing a utility company’s $216.5 million in relicensing expenses for a three-dam hydroelectric project on the Snake River on the Idaho-Oregon border.

Vermont utilities boost electric car incentives

Two electric companies serving northern Vermont, Vermont Electric Co-op and Green Mountain Power, are expanding and renewing incentives for customers to purchase electric vehicles.

Proceedings to Investigate Performance-Based Regulation for Electric Companies in Hawaii

The electricity industry in Hawaii is in a period of dramatic transition, from centralized fossil-fuel based generation to renewable energy and distributed technologies. In addition, changing customer preferences and expectations require the state’s electric utilities to adapt and develop new ways to meet customer needs and achieve the state’s energy goals.

Banks Are Sweetening Their Terms for Solar as Confidence Rises

  • Lenders take smaller cut to win deals amid fewer U.S. projects
  • Panel installations set to rebound in 2019 after two-year drop

“Investor confidence has increased, causing debt costs to fall despite rising interest rates,” said Ed Fenster, executive chairman of Sunrun Inc., the largest U.S. residential-solar company. “Our spreads are coming down faster than the base rate is increasing.”

Tesla Probed by California Regulator on Workplace Conditions

  • State doesn’t disclose details, including what triggered probe
  • Company denied report this week that it underreported injuries

CPS Energy Recognized As Environmental Champion For Second Year In A Row By Market Strategies International

CPS Energy has been designated a 2018 Environmental Champion for the 2nd year in a row by Market Strategies International.  The study shows that demand for programs to help consumers manage their energy use and reduce their own environmental footprint has seen a steady increase over the past four years. Many utilities across the nation have recognized this trend and are benefiting from the consumption and carbon footprint management offerings they have implemented.

Eco-Socialism or Bust

Building a bridge toward a socialist energy future requires a vision of a system that removes the profit motive from the delivery of utilities services and establishes energy as a universal human right alongside other basic human needs.

Cory Bernardi says Australia’s government needs to ‘level up’ playing for electricity generation

Leader of the Australian Conservatives party Cory Bernardi is pushing for new investments in reliable baseload power. Instead of taxpayers funding the building of a new coal-fired power station, Senator Bernardi is suggesting the government use market forces, Chris Kenny writes.

The flexible future of green energy

The UK’s transition from fossil-fuel guzzler to renewable energy pioneer is being driven by flexible technology and clever investment, says Matt Setchell of Octopus Group

“Ten years ago, most of the energy generated in the UK came from around 50 large power plants,” Setchell says. “We now have a million generating assets of different sizes, distributed around the grid.”

Electricity costs expected to drop in Romania after competition body reveals market rigging deal

According to the competition regulator, their investigation showed that several energy companies entered a market rigging deal at the expense of consumers.

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Today’s lede: Nevada regulators conclude electricity choice a costly proposition for consumers. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada has issued a 109-page report concluding that it will cost the state $150 million to implement customer choice in electricity, and that allowing competitive choice will raise consumers’ costs for at least a decade, Riley Snyder reports in The Nevada Independent. The report will provide ammunition to efforts funded by NV Energy to persuade voters against approving a ballot initiative in November that would change the state’s constitution to allow competition in electricity.

“Though the report claims to be neutral, the conclusions and analysis undoubtedly will thrust the state PUC — a 3-person board appointed by the governor with about 100 staff members — into the middle of a divisive and expensive fight among some of the most powerful and well-funded businesses in the state,” Snyder reports.

Voters overwhelmingly supported the ballot initiative when it was included on the ballot in the November 2016 election. It must be approved again in a vote this fall to effectively alter the state constitution.

The commission’s report was requested by the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice, a 25-member advisory committee formed last year and charged with developing recommendations for implementing competition should the ballot question be approved again in November. However, the report specifically addresses projected costs of implementation, a topic the committee specifically voted against including, Snyder reports.

“The PUC has written a one-sided report as a power grab to protect NV Energy’s monopoly and attempt to overturn the will of 73 percent of Nevada voters,” Yes on 3 spokesman Bradley Mayer said in a statement.

The public should dismiss the report since the commission did not follow administrative proceedures and allow for public input into the report’s findings, Jon Wellinghoff, a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman and Nevada consumer advocate employed by the Yes on 3 campaign, told Snyder.

“It’s more than disturbing to me that a regulatory agency that acts under the Administrative Procedure Act under the state of Nevada is issuing findings without any evidence,” Wellinghoff said. “It’s completely beyond the scope of what the PUC was tasked to do.”



S.C. bills clash over how much nuclear costs shareholders must shoulder. The South Carolina state Senate voted to disallow cost recovery for SCANA’s failed $9 billion investment in new nuclear generation capacity. But the amount clashes with a House measure that would be more generous to the state’s consumers and require the utility’s shareholders to absorb a greater share of the failed V.C. Summer project’s cost.

The Senate vote prompted Dominion to once again threaten to call off its proposed acquisition of SCANA, since lawmakers seek to hold consumers harmless for an amount greater than Domionion has proposed. SCANA called the vote disappointing and said it would consider legal action should the measure become law.



Michigan regulators adopt compensation alternative to net metering. The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved an alternative pricing mechanism for distributed energy resources that eventually will replace net metering in the state. The commission voted to adopt an approach developed by staff in response to state law directing the development of  “the appropriate tariff to reflect cost of service for customers of rate-regulated electric utilities who participate in alternative energy net metering or distributed generation programs,” the PSC said.

“After reviewing the staff report and comments filed by stakeholders, the Commission agreed these pricing parameters ensure DG customers are assessed for their fair and equitable use of the electrical grid. It also provides an independent framework for equitably compensating DG customers for excess power sent out to the grid,” the PSC said.

Customers enrolled in net metering or enrolled before the utility’s final distributed generation rate approval in rate cases filed after June 1 can remain in the net metering program for 10 years.,4639,7-159-16363-466700–,00.html




Illinois economist finds low-income consumers more reactive to price increases. Illinois State University has announced the unsurprising conclusions of research finding that consumers respond to increasing prices by reducing electricity usage.

“As you would expect, if rates increase, people tend to use less electricity,” said Adrienne Ohler, the Illinois State University economist who spearheaded the study. “We are also finding, however, that low-income households respond to a 1 percent price increase differently than high-income households. Low-income households have a greater percentage reduction in electricity.”

The study results echo the findings of a report prepared by the Brattle Group nearly a decade ago for the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Efficiency. That analysis found that low-income consumers are especially responsive to dynamic pricing of electricity.

“Contrary to the arguments about the inability of low-income customers to respond to price signals, these results show that low-income customers do shift their load in response to price signals,” the Brattle authors wrote.


Other news items of note:

In California, people without rooftop solar panels pay a $65 per year subsidy to those with them


Large Corporations Are Leading America’s Surge in Solar Deployment

SEIA Releases Solar Means Business 2017 Report, Highlighting America’s Leading Corporate Solar Installers

Wind powers forward to reach 30 percent in four states

  • New Mexico emerges as a leader, growing wind power faster than any state
  • Wind power capacity and generation keep breaking records

FERC chair takes up coal lobby line on plant retirements

Massive transformer stuck for hours during move to Deerfield substation in N.H.

Timing could be everything in Michigan fight over DTE natural gas plant

Waltham, Mass., city council hears energy aggregation plan to help save residents money

R.I. ratepayer advocacy agency ask PUC to slash National Grid’s requested rate hikes

Rhode Island regulators are recommending large reductions in the increases in gas and electric distribution rates sought by National Grid, arguing that a total hike of only $11.3 million is needed versus the $45.8 million proposed by the state’s dominant utility.

Rate reductions coming in July for customers of Virginia’s two largest electric companies

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission is ensuring that Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power Co. reduce rates so customers benefit from the corporate tax cut contained in federal tax legislation passed by Congress in December 2017.

Rates going down next month for Entergy’s Louisiana customers

The five elected regulators have asked all of the state’s privately owned utilities, natural gas companies, and water providers to report how much each expects to save from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. PSC staff is vetting those reports and similar rate reductions are expected to be announced by those companies.

Deal approves $216 million for Idaho utility’s expenses

East Bay Community Energy to replace PG&E as Berkeley’s main electricity provider

Bittwatt Launches Electricity Trading on the Blockchain with True Real Time Pricing

Blockchain technology is not only for trading cryptocurrencies. Electricity can now be traded with the benefits of the decentralized, transparent and flexible platform.

Green Mountain Power’s Distributed Energy Business Isn’t Scaling Fast Enough

RMI gives the Vermont utility advice on how to boost its limited uptake of Tesla Powerwalls, smart water heaters, EV chargers and other DERs to meet the state’s aggressive clean energy goals.

Purely Green offers wind power credits to electricity customers in Texas

Intuit and Just Energy Launch a Corporate Renewable Energy Program for Texas Residents

Walmart says it’s doubling its use of U.S. wind & solar energy

Walmart announces emissions reductions, charging station expansion and increased renewable energy use


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Democratic gubernatorial candidates oppose Nevada electricity choice ballot question.  Nevada’s top two Democratic gubernatorial candidates have announced their opposition to the voter initiative on November’s ballot that would open the state’s monopoly-protected electricity sector to competition, Riley Snyder reports in the Nevada Independent.

Clark County commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani both confirmed with the publication that they planned to vote against the Energy Choice Initiative, despite having voted in favor of it when the matter first came before voters in 2016. The measure, adopted then by more than 70 percent of those voting, must receive voter approval a second time before the state’s constitution can be amended to permit electricity choice.

Despite prior comments in favor of the ballot question, it is perhaps unsurprising that Sisolak announced his opposition at an AFL-CIO conference earlier this week. Unions have long been opposed to competitive electricity reforms, which they see as a threat to union jobs.

“After listening to the concerns of Nevadans across the state, I believe Question 3 is harmful to Nevada and I cannot support it,” Sisolak said in a statement provided the Nevada Independent. “I have long had concerns about the negative impact the initiative could have on consumers, labor, the environment and our economy. Question 3 risks the reliability of our electricity system, threatens the jobs of hardworking men and women and could slow our growing renewable energy sector. It provides too much risk without guaranteeing rewards of lower rates for consumers.”

A spokesman for Giunchigliani told Snider the former state lawmaker “opposed deregulation in the Assembly, and she’s seen this experiment hurt consumers and jobs. As she said previously, she has serious concerns that this would hurt ratepayers again and these concerns have not been addressed. She will not be supporting this initiative this year.”

Yes on 3 spokesman Bradley Mayer predicted voters “will not be swayed by special interest groups that are pressuring candidates” to oppose the ballot measure.

Snider writes that the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Adam Laxalt, has previously indicated he would supports the ballot question.

“With the absence of a competitive energy market in Nevada, we deny our customers the freedom to lower their electricity costs,” Laxalt reportedly said at a National Energy Marketers Association meeting in Las Vegas last year. “And that is why we must open our energy market to consumers both large and small.”


FERC commissioners promise to address coal state lawmakers’ concerns. An appearance by all five Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members before a House oversight panel on Capitol Hill allowed coal-state lawmakers to express their support for out-of-market interventions to stem an ongoing wave of coal-fired power plant closures.

The FERC commissioners received pointed questions regarding a unanimous decision earlier this year rejecting a proposed rule forwarded by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have forced consumers to subsidize uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants in the nation’s competitive wholesale electricity markets.

Veteran energy reporter John Siciliano reports in the Washington Examiner that lawmakers “hounded” the FERC commissioners over the issue of power plant subsidies, with lawmakers from West Virginia unsurprisingly at the forefront.

Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, cited FirstEnergy’s efforts to move its Pleasants County, W.Va., merchant power plant into ratebase, a move that West Virginia state regulators found was not in ratepayers’ interests. McKinley said that absent federal support the plant likely will shut down with devastating economic consequences for plant workers and the county’s tax revenues.

“If this power plant closes down, [there’s a] very high likelihood that the coal producer that supplies that power plant will similarly declare bankruptcy,” McKinley said. “Wouldn’t it be more efficient and prudent to try to find a vehicle, a means [under the Federal Power Act or] some modification of that, so we can keep some of our marginal power plants operative?” Siciliano quotes McKinley asking the FERC regulators.

The FERC commissioners defended their decision to reject the proposed rule forwarded by the Trump administration, and pointed to a pending fact-finding initiative they launched instead to weigh concerns about maintaining grid “resiliency” should baseload coal and nuclear plants be supplanted by intermittent resources like wind and solar, and by natural gas-fired plants with what coal and nuclear supporters argue have supply dependency and price volatility concerns.

FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre called the resiliency question “one of the trickiest areas” the commission is engaged with, Jasmin Melvin writes for S&P Global Platts.  But those concerns are “very much within the scope of the matters that we will be looking at as we make our decisions going forward,” he promised the House lawmakers.

“I think, over the course of time, Secretary Perry will be proven right,” Melvin quoted Neil Chatterjee, who otherwise defended FERC’s decision rejecting the Energy Secretary’s rule proposal. “We are going to ultimately have resilience challenges in this country, and we need to be prepared for them. I think this [pending FERC] docket will allow for that.”


See also:

Closing nuclear power plants would increase air pollution: report


N.C. high court judges hear arguments on challenge to Duke’s monopoly. Lawyers representing a clean-energy advocacy group that installed a rooftop solar system on a Greensboro church as a challenge to Duke’s monopoly status in North Carolina argued before the state Supreme Court that their client, NC WARN, is not selling electricity to the public, just to the church.

NC WARN’s attorney, Matthew Quinn, argued that for the group to be a utility it has to sell electricity to the public. A single contract with the Greensboro church does not constitute selling to the public, he argued, according to various published accounts.

“NC WARN is not interested in selling power. NC WARN is engaged in an altruistic program designed to combat the climate crisis,” the Associated Press’ Emergy Dalesio quoted Quinn arguing before the court’s seven justices.

“This is not altruistic,” Lisa Sorg, writing for Progressive Policy Watch, quoted Duke Energy attorney Dwight Allen. “NC WARN is trying to be a utility.”

The argument did not appear convincing with one of the court’s judges, based on questions he reportedly asked in response to Quinn’s arguments.

“Part of this project is to do multiple replications of this approach. So to say, ‘well it’s just one,’ what about the next one?” AP quoted Justice Paul Newby, who also questioned how NC WARN can claim it wasn’t selling electricity when the contract was called a power purchase agreement. “It seems to me you’re wanting us to ignore the expressed language of the agreement,” Newby said.

At one point, Quinn referred to “the sale of power,” according to Travis Fain, WRAL statehouse reporter.

“I’m not sure you meant to say that,” interrupted Sam J. Ervin IV, one of the elected Supreme Court judges hearing the arguments. Ervin is a former North Carolina utility regulator and chaired the electricity committee for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He is the grandson of former U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin who played a prominent role in the Watergate hearings.




Another major oil company makes significant investment in electricity. Following on the heels of Shell’s investments in Europe’s electricity sector, France’s Total announced yesterday it has acquired a significant stake in French utility company Direct Energie. It seems clear that fossil fuel producers are looking ahead to a future world in which electric vehicles and other transitional technologies make oil less of a cash cow for shareholders. Clearly this expectation of declining demand for oil also is driving reforms by Saudi Arabia’s leadership.

“Big Oil’s move into the European power market shows the majors are preparing for a future in which fossil fuels are diminished in the energy mix and consumers demand charging points alongside gasoline pumps at fueling stations. For Total, it’s also part of a plan to add customers for its growing natural-gas production and to increase control of its distribution,” writes Bloomberg’s Francois De Beaupuy.

“We now have, among the European oil majors, an unexpected battle emerging for market share in western European gas and power,” Beaupuy quotes Rob West, an analyst at Redburn Europe Ltd. “It is fascinating.”

The question for now is when will we see similar moves into the U.S. electricity sector?


Justice Dept. says Minnesota transmission siting law unconstitutional. Minnesota state law favoring transmission line development by incumbent state-regulated utilities over out-of-state developers is unconstitutional, the federal Justice Department said in a court filing.

Mike Hughlett reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding a brief filed in support of a legal challenge by LSP Transmission Holdings, which was denied an opportunity to build a transmission line due to a 2012 state law providing utilities a right of first refusal in transmission line development.

LSP wanted to build a 40-mile power line connecting an Xcel substation with a planned substation. Although LSP owns more than 500 miles of transmission, none of it is in Minnesota, so under state law Xcel Energy and ITC Midwest LLC had “first dibs” on the project, Hughlett writes. LSP is challenging the law on interstate commerce grounds, and the Justice Department has now weighed in in agreement.

“Minnesota’s right of first refusal law has an unconstitutional discriminatory effect because it favors in-state entities,” the Justice Department brief said, asserting that the law “causes substantial anticompetitive effects in interstate commerce.”


Other news items of note:

State-federal concerns could dim FERC’s landmark storage order

Wider access to a variety of markets has been hailed as the basis for energy storage growth, but state concerns could thwart an overarching solution.

FERC Affirms Broad Jurisdiction Over Energy Efficiency Resources, Participation

N.H. energy strategy shifts from subsidizing renewables to lowering rates

New N.H. energy plan likes nuclear power, worries about electricity rates, isn’t too interested in trains

N.H. Gov. Sununu cites high electric rates, releases energy plan

Another View – N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu: A new energy strategy for New Hampshire

Illinois Commerce Commission allows co-op customers to participate in 30% cash back program for solar

Ruling means cash-back incentive not restricted to IOU customers

Virginia moves closer to increasing clean energy

SB 966, signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, has the potential to accelerate advanced energy in Virginia, saving money for customers and boosting job growth, Harrison Godfrey, executive director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, writes in the Virginian-Pilot.

Nebraska clean energy activists seek path around Legislature

Activists are pitching a clean power plan directly to utilities instead of trying to sell state lawmakers on it.

Missouri utilities question data collection recommendations in DER report

Grafton, Mass., sees cost savings from aggregation contract

Changes promised for Calif. wildfire bill that sparked utility spending fears

California lawmakers pave path for higher electricity, gas bills

Duquesne Light seeks rate increase for 600,000 customers in Pa.

Sunoco proposes changes to Mariner East 2 construction in Chester County; Pa. DEP sets public hearing

U.S. Wind Power Slows Thanks to Tax Policy Meant to Boost It

  • Turbine installations in 2017 fell 14% to 7 gigawatts
  • Congress extended tax credit, easing pressure on developers

Daily on Energy: Is Trump on a climate collision course with Japan, France?


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Today’s lede: Maine officials advocate steps to tamp down rising utility T&D costs. There is a roiling debate under way in Maine regarding rising electricity costs, and rising utility rates for transmission and distribution are a key factor, the state’s public advocate and a former director of Gov. Paul LePage’s energy office point out in the Bangor Daily News. See “Costly infrastructure is driving up Maine’s electricity costs”.

The economically troubling rising cost of electricity is “driven by more and more costly wires, poles and substations. This is a burden on Maine’s economy and households, and plans for further grid build-out at ratepayers’ expense keep coming, with [Central Maine Power] announcing a $214 million expansion for electricity infrastructure in Greater Portland in March,” observe Barry Hobbins and Ken Fletcher.

Hobbins is Maine’s public advocate and a former state legislator, where he co-chaired the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Fletcher, a former executive in Maine’s paper industry and director of the governor’s energy office, is chairman of the board for the Efficiency Maine Trust. Fletcher also is a former Maine legislator with energy experience.

“Under state and federal regulations, monopoly utilities like CMP earn a guaranteed rate of return for spending ratepayer money on new wires and poles, creating a clear financial interest in making sure we have plenty of wires and poles to keep lights on but discouraging creative and cheaper alternatives to wires and poles,” the two write.

They fault Maine utility regulators for dragging their feet in implementing the Legislature’s 2009 smart grid framework and for “the rather stunning decision” last year to put the state’s utilities in charge of developing alternatives to wires infrastructure development.

They cited a pilot project in Boothbay Harbor where a $6 million investment in a combination of energy efficiency, distributed solar, storage and other alternatives to new wires was undertaken as an alternative to CMP’s proposal to build a new $18 million transmission line that would have cost consumers $75 million over the life of the transmission line. “There may be many more opportunities to capture this kind of savings, but they face big barriers, including those stemming from utilities’ financial interests,” Hobbins and Fletcher write.

“The electricity grid of the future won’t be — or shouldn’t be — the same as the grid of the past,” they write. “New and exciting technologies provide a powerful collection of alternatives to new wires, from the latest versions of well-known technologies like energy efficiency to rapidly emerging technologies like battery storage, distributed generation and sophisticated information tools to monitor and control demand for power. Many of these technologies give consumers more control and choice, and they can have a lower cost than new wires and poles.”

The two supported a formal recommendation by the commission’s professional staff to designate an independent coordinator to identify and propose lower cost alternatives to utility investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure. “[W]e should have an independent party with no financial interest in wires and poles to analyze and develop lower-cost alternatives to wires and poles.”

They called for amending LD 1487, An Act to Control Electricity Transmission Costs through the Development of Nontransmission Alternatives, now pending before the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, to establish such a “policy of independence and assign a group of stakeholders, including utilities and Efficiency Maine, to recommend how the details should work. This proposal would provide a bit more competition in an otherwise monopolistic arena.”

The issue is apparently not lost on state utility regulators, as evidenced by a passing comment made by Commissioner Carla Peterman of the California Public Utilities Commission during the recent National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners meeting in Washington, D.C. “As generation costs go down, we see transmission costs go up,” Peterman observed.

See also:

Central Maine Power responds to higher-than-average electricity bills

Answers can only be found through examining electricity use at each individual property


Viridity installs 1MW Johnson Controls battery at N.J. water treatment plant. Viridity Energy has installed a Johnson Controls one megawatt capacity battery at an Atlantic County Utilities Authority water treatment facility in New Jersey, Michelle Brunetti writes in the Press of Atlantic City. The electricity storage plant is being operated by Viridity under a 20-year agreement, and provides frequency regulation to the competitive wholesale power market operated by PJM Interconnection.

“Every two seconds we are putting in or taking out energy,” Viridity’s Paul Reed notes. “We respond to a signal PJM sends to operators.”

The battery augments the 7.5 megawatts of wind power and a 500-kilowatt photovoltaic solar field at the authority’s site, which altogether supply about 60 percent of the plant’s energy needs, Brunetti writes. “On the most energy-consuming days, usually the hottest, the battery will stop doing frequency regulation and start providing power to the wastewater treatment plant, so it can avoid paying the higher peak demand rates.” This offsets electricity demand the plant would otherwise take from the grid, Reed notes.



See also:

Ormat‘s Viridity to Begin Construction of 40MWh Energy Storage Systems in New Jersey

Energy Storage Systems Expected To Be Operational In Late 2018


Cape Cod official calls for more Massachusetts offshore wind development. Stable, responsible development of a wind power industry off the coast of Massachusetts that achieves the full potential requires developing multiple projects concurrently and accelerating the schedule for power purchase agreement solicitations, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross writes in The Barnstable Patriot.

More than 2,000 megawatts of new offshore wind development has been proposed by Vineyard Wind, Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind in the Federal Wind Energy Area more than 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard was molded with community engagement that minimized fishing, recreation, transportation, viewsheds and environmental impacts, the commentary observes.

“By ensuring robust competition and diversity in the offshore wind industry from the start, the Commonwealth will pay decades worth of dividends into the state’s economy long after the first turbines are spinning,” Northcross writes.

See also:

New study finds that the market value of offshore wind varies significantly along the U.S. east coast


More news items of note:

Tesla Is Temporarily Shutting Down Model 3 Production. Again.

During the pause, workers can choose to use vacation days or stay home without pay. This is the second such temporary shutdown in three months for a vehicle that’s already significantly behind schedule.

Tesla production pause adds to Model 3 concerns

The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States

The Analysis Group’s Review of RGGI’s Third Three-Year Compliance Period (2015-2017)

The Yin and Yang of Bitcoin

Deregulation of U.S. power markets once made electricity the most volatile commodity in history. Could regulation be bitcoin’s yin to electricity’s yang?

Solar ownership still tilts towards high income, but evolving

An analysis of more than 800,000 solar installations has found that the median income of pv adopters is $32,000 per year higher than the median of all households, but the median income of buyers is on a downward trend.

ComEd Files for $23 Million Decrease in Customer Electric Rates in Illinois

Customer Reliability Improves by 50 Percent and the Average Residential Bill Remains Stable

Galesburg, Il., aldermen approve new contract for energy aggregation

Illinois town officials warn residents about electricity solicitors.

FERC rejects CAISO’s proposals to modify capacity procurement

California wildfire bill could lead to overspending, group warns

California bill aimed at wildfires effectively bans clean energy that may help prevent them

North Carolina approves solar rebate, coal ash fine for Duke

Boston shares RFI responses for municipal electricity aggregation program

Why Berkshire Hathaway’s utility is aiming for 100 percent renewable energy

Voltus Secures More Than 600 MWs of Demand Response in MISO for 2018

Up to $30,000/MW-Year Available for Customers

Most MISO zones clear capacity auction at $10/MW-day

The case for C&I storage investigated

Integrated Single Electricity Market delayed by IT issues

The start date for Ireland’s new single electricity market has been delayed for three months due to IT issues