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Electric Industry News, April 11, 2018

Today’s lede: ‘People are going to die in the dark,’ coal magnate Murray declares. Robert Murray, CEO of coal producer Murray Energy, said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “did not do its job” when it rejected a proposed rule forwarded by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to provide consumers subsidies for economically struggling coal-fired power plants in the competitive wholesale power markets, Josh Siegel writes in the Washington Examiner.

Murray called the subsequent request from FirstEnergy that the Department of Energy exercise its emergency authority under the Federal Power Act to prop up the utility’s ailing coal-fired power plants “probably the only option right now” to ward off what he said was an impending “disaster” from the decline in coal-fired generation in the marketplace.

“Something has to be done here,” Sigel quoted Murray, who said that coal-fueled generation must make up 20 percent of generation in order for the grid to remain stable. “If it goes any lower, people are going to die in the dark,” Murray declared.

Meanwhile, Rob Powelson, a Trump appointee to FERC, apparently got riled up seeing Murray’s comment asserting the commission failed to do its job by rejecting consumer subsidies for coal generation. Politico reports that he fired off a tweet that said,“I challenge Bob Murray to a debate on CNBC or Fox News.” He subsequently deleted the tweet, and his office declined to comment to Politico.

Powelson, a staunch advocate of markets, was seen as a pivotal opponent of the consumer subsidy scheme advanced by the Trump administration. Insiders suggested his willingness to vote with FERC’s two Democrats against the proposed rule required FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre and fellow Republican Neil Chatterjee to capitulate and join in a unanimous vote against the measure.


Granting FirstEnergy request ‘would be a clear abuse of statutory authority.’ The Trump administration should deny FirstEnergy’s request for an emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and instead let the markets work to the benefit of consumers, according to an op-ed placed in the Washington Examiner by a trio of authors with a libertarian think tank and two groups representing large electricity consumers.

No emergency exists to justify the Department of Energy exercising its emergency authority to ensure grid reliability, and to do so “would cost consumers billions and destroy market competition,” write Devin Hartman of the R Street Institute, John Hughes of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, and Owen Kean of the Advanced Energy Buyers Group.

Granting FirstEnergy’s request when the evidence shows no grid reliability threat exists “would be a clear abuse of statutory authority,” they argue. Rather, serving the public interest “actually means letting markets run their course.”

See also:

Perry says he may not declare an electric grid emergency


S.C. bill to lift cap on solar net metering dies despite majority support. A bill in the South Carolina House to lift the state’s 2 percent cap on solar net metering failed to advance, despite having the support of a majority of lawmakers, because it failed to garner a two-thirds majority, Sammy Fretwell reports in The State. The measure received 61 yeas and 44 nays.

The bill had passed the House last week in a 64-33 vote, but a point of order was raised regarding the need for a two-thirds majority vote. Advocates blamed the state’s utilities and Gov. Henry McMaster for bringing political pressure to bear against the measure.

The utilities “are showing the people of South Carolina they run this state,” Fretwell quoted Rep. Peter McCoy (R). “I’m embarrassed,” said Rep. Katie Arrington (R). “This is not what we are supposed to be.”

But Rep. Bill Sandifer (R), who had led efforts to defeat the measure, lauded the outcome. “It was a good vote,’” he said. “It is better for the state.”

Fretwell described Sandifer as a long-time ally of the state’s utilities who has received $69,000 in utility campaign contributions since 2005.

See also:

S.C. power companies holding tax savings that could reduce rates until regulators weigh in


City official pans Michigan lawmaker’s effort to expand electricity competition. A controversial 2016 Michigan state law that kept limits on electricity competition at 10 percent of each utility’s load and established mandates for capacity obligations that could limit reliance on resources outside the state is threatened by a state Rep. Gary Glenn’s efforts to pass legislation expanding competition, Lapeer city commissioner Catherine Bostick-Tullius writes in a Detroit News op-ed.

That 2016 legislative compromise set the state “on a new course, one that keeps our energy Michigan-made, reliable, affordable and cleaner. We keep our energy jobs in Michigan, too.” Bostick-Tullius writes. “But unfortunately some are seeking to deregulate Michigan’s energy market, a goal that would undermine and even roll back this new plan for our energy future.”

The op-ed cited the experience in other states that opened their electricity markets to competition. In Illinois, she noted, the attorney general “filed a federal complaint to put a stop to collusion and price gouging.” In California, the adoption of a competitive electricity market “led to rolling blackouts, market manipulation and price gouging,” she said, calling Michigan’s experience with electricity competition a failure.

She called it “upsetting” to see lawmakers like Glenn “trying to chip away at the protections already in place to make sure we have access to Michigan-made electricity that’s reliable and affordable.”


Finalists chosen to compete for $20 million carbon dioxide competition prize. The XPRIZE Foundation announced the ten finalists in an international contest for solutions to carbon dioxide emissions, sponsored by NRG Energy and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. Each finalist will receive $500,000 as they jockey to win the $20 million grand prize.


Other news items of note:

U.S. FERC says PSEG unit violated power market rules

Federal Power Rules Threaten New England Renewable Energy

How location-based prices and utility rewards could help California’s electric grid

Illinois blazes new trail in anticipation of private microgrids using utility wires

Advocates want We Energies customers to get savings from closing coal-fired power plant in Wisconsin

Results of third-party audit of Central Maine Power bills may not come until end of year

The state’s request for proposals lays out a lengthy timeline that could further erode public confidence in a utility already taking heat over unusually high charges.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to hold hearings on UGI Electric rate increase request

Let PG&E ‘off the hook’ for Calif. wildfire costs? If not, your utility bills could rise

Viewpoint: Colorado PUC needs to boost energy efficiency goals

Another push to get more clean cars on New Jersey’s roads

Proposal would deliver rebates of $100M annually over three years to drivers who switch to plug-in vehicles

U.S. Sen. Whitehouse preps bill directing study, pilot program for natural gas demand response

In the electric sector, demand response programs help reduce peak load and prices. New legislation would direct federal regulators to study its potential for gas markets.

A pessimistic Tesla forecast

World’s First Micro Energy Hedging Platform To Benefit Texas Businesses

Direct Energy Business and LO3 Energy launch Texas micropower by leveraging Exergy™ platform and creating cost-effective power procurement platform

Exergy – Blockchain-Based World’s First Micro Energy Hedging Platform

Oracle Utilities realizes $2 billion in energy efficiency savings for consumers

Zenergy Brands Closes Acquisition of Retail Electric Provider, Enertrade Electric

New Behavioral Demand Response Service Drives Consumer Engagements For Retail Energy Providers

How millions of electric cars could power your home

Three things consumers want from electricity providers

Utilities are working to improve the customer experience, but what do consumers really want? Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s Patty Durand explores.

An optimistic Jigar Shah talks tariffs, taxes and state leaders in clean energy

Competition open for second and third rounds of Alberta Renewable Electricity Program

Power generation a matter for the free market, Australia’s energy minister argues


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