Today’s lede: N.J. lawmakers to vote on controversial nuclear subsidy bill. New Jersey lawmakers are expected to approve today a controversial bill that would provide $300 million annually in consumer subsidies for nuclear power plants operated by Public Service Enterprise Group. The measure is packaged with other legislative proposals that would promote energy efficiency, renewables and offshore wind development, making the nuclear subsidies more palatable to Gov. Phil Murphy, who has made environment protection a key policy objective for his administration.
But even environmentalists are panning the legislative package, as Tom Johnson reports in NJSpotlight.com. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, derided the clean-energy bills as “green cover’’ to win support for nuclear subsidies Tittel suggested are not economically justified.
“A nuclear bailout will ice out our transition to a clean-energy future,” Johnson quoted Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “It’s a bad deal for ratepayers and the environment.”
“Delivering hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars to a profitable corporation is not sensible energy policy, it is extortion,” said Lena Smith, Food & Water Watch advocate. “It is astonishing that Trenton lawmakers are even considering granting this outrageous handout.”
Leading the charge for the nuclear subsidies is Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who has a history of fostering legislation in New Jersey requiring consumers to subsidize power plant development in the state. His bid to subsidize gas-fired power plant development previously was struck down by the courts, and the billion-dollar power plant project he sought to have consumers underwrite was built anyway dependent on revenues from the PJM Interconnection competitive market and not subsidies.
Another measure in the legislative package, which would direct the Board of Public Utilities to approve a pilot offshore energy project by Fisherman’s Energy, was opposed by 11 environmental groups in a letter to the governor and key lawmakers, Johnson reports.
Tom Davis, reporting for the Patch, quoted Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo as noting the legislation will “jack up” electric bills by $55 per year, with about $40 of that added cost going to underwrite PSEG’s nuclear operations.
David also notes the opposition of Rate Counsel Stefanie A. Brand, who in a report to state lawmakers asserted, “Your job is to put them first.”
PSEG spokesman Michael Jennings has been assertively defending the nuclear subsidy bill. PSEG is “sympathetic to the cost to ratepayers, but the opposition is being disingenuous and providing a false choice,” Davis quotes Jennings. “The cost to customers will be far greater if the plants were to close, as has been demonstrated by several economic studies.”
In an apparent nod to opposition from New Jersey business and industrial consumers, Jennings added: “And that will be a greater burden on businesses and make it more difficult to achieve the clean energy future we all want.”
Meanwhile, NEI is on the offensive backing out-of-market support for nuclear. Maria Korsnick, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and CEO, is on the offensive in support of measures at both the state and federal levels to support economically struggling nuclear power plants.
In a missive delivered as part of NEI’s 2018 Financial Community Annual Briefing, the title of which specifically references Akron, where FirstEnergy (which is seeking an emergency order from the Trump administration to support its nuclear plants) is headquartered, and Trenton, where today’s vote on New Jersey nuclear subsidies will take place, Korsnick offers an impassioned argument for maintaining nuclear power as part of the nation’s generation arsenal.
“The future of nuclear energy will be shaped by the choices being made by the White House and Congress, by individual companies, by state legislatures and governors and by federal agencies. And to be clear—there are choices to be made<” Korsnick writes. “The market is forcing us to make fundamental choices. Do we want to preserve a diverse electric system? Do we want to be prepared when fossil fuel prices change again? When weather extremes create competing demands for natural gas, or freeze the coal piles? Do we want to hold on to clean air? Do we want to sustain the industrial base and talent base that is linked to our national security? We didn’t have to stress these virtues ten years ago, but in today’s market, we do.”
And that’s just the start of the six-page, 3,234-word impassioned, articulate, thoughtful and comprehensive stemwinder in support of her economically threatened industry.
“We need a healthy domestic nuclear industry, to keep the lights on, to keep air pollution in check, to keep thousands of people in good-paying, year-round jobs, to keep municipal budgets funded, to keep our expertise base that helps us with exports in a global market,” Korsnick concludes.
“And in places that have carbon emission goals, nuclear is essential to meeting them,” the letter continues. “But most of all we need to recognize what we’ve got and not let it slip away through incremental decisions, or careless decisions, that take us in directions we’ll regret later on. We need to make choices that will sustain the fleet, help us innovate, and thrive.”
Politico, meanwhile, reports that Kosnick sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry in support of FirstEnergy’s highly controversial bid for extraordinary relief under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, which gives DOE authority to issue orders in emergencies to ensure the lights stay on.
“The simple fact is that nuclear energy’s many benefits are not being recognized by the markets in which they operate,” Korsnick said in the letter to Perry. “We are therefore writing to request that immediate action be taken to prevent the closure of these four nuclear power reactors.”
Nuclear Closures Undo Years’ Worth of Climate Progress
In 2015, nuclear facilities in the U.S. alone generated as much zero-carbon electricity as all the wind turbines on the planet combined.
FERC, Perry Struggle To Define And Address Grid Resiliency
Trump May Greenlight An $8 Billion Attack On Competitive Energy Markets
Taxpayers shouldn’t foot the $8 billion bill to bail out a failing energy company
Ga. PSC candidate swipes at consumer costs for nuclear investment. John Noel, Democratic candidate for District 3 of the Georgia Public Service Commission, said his campaign is intended to protect consumers from needlessly paying for Southern Co.’s $25 billion investment in the Vogtle nuclear power plant.
Consumers are paying to build a plant the state doesn’t need, Noel said, calling “a vote for the incumbent is a vote for higher rates.”
As reported by Thomas Lynn in the Valdosta Daily Times, he advocates cutting the state’s losses with the project and ending the construction of the planned new nuclear reactors. Instead, consumers would be better off with utility investment in solar and wind.
“We need to quit building dinosaur plants and be more innovative,” Noel said. “You need a Public Service Commission that’s looking after your interest and not those at the utility company.”
Noel faces two other candidates in the May 22 primary to determine who will run against incumbent Republican Chuck Eaton.
Noel accused the current five-member PSC of being bought by the power companies, Lynn reports. “There are five people sitting in fancy chairs in some room on the fourth floor of a building in Atlanta making decisions for us and we don’t have a clue who they are,” Noel said. “I want to change that.”
For 19 years Noel has owned and operated Energy & Environment, a business specializing in energy efficiency projects. “My whole life, my job has been reducing people’s energy bills,” he said. “I know a little something about energy and being efficient.”
FERC convenes two-day technical conference on distributed energy resources. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will conclude today a two-day technical conference examining the integration of distributed energy resources in the competitive wholesale power markets it oversees. The issue was one that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., exacted a promise from Commissioner Neil Chatterjee to address when Chatterjee was a Trump nominee requiring Whitehouse’s confirmation vote.
FERC describes the conference as an examination of the participation of DER aggregations in Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) and Independent System Operator (ISO) markets and to more broadly discuss the potential effects of DERs on the bulk power system. The discussions are intended to address two broad sets of issues related to DERs.
“First, the technical conference will gather additional information to help the Commission determine what action to take on the DER aggregation reforms proposed in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Electric Storage Participation in Markets Operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (NOPR). In the NOPR, the Commission proposed to require each RTO/ISO to define DER aggregators as a type of market participant that can participate in the RTO/ISO markets under the participation model that best accommodates the physical and operational characteristics of its DER aggregation.
“As discussed in Order No. 841, the Commission is taking no further action in Docket No. RM16-23-000 regarding the proposed DER aggregation reforms. Instead, the Commission will continue to explore the proposed DER aggregation reforms under Docket No. RM18-9-000. All comments previously filed in response to the NOPR in Docket No. RM16-23-000 are incorporated by reference into Docket No. RM18-9-000, and any further comments regarding the proposed DER aggregation reforms, including discussion of those reforms during this technical conference, should be filed henceforth in Docket No. RM18-9-000. Second, the technical conference will explore issues related to the potential effects of DERs on the bulk power system and any comments related to these issues should be filed in Docket No. AD18-10-000.”
Got that? The agenda for the technical conference can be viewed here. An archived live stream of the technical conference can be viewed here. For more information about this technical conference, please contact David Kathan at (202) 502-6404, email@example.com, or Louise Nutter at (202) 502-8175, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill advances in Congress to nullify judge’s decision regarding Snake River dams. Legislation is advancing in Congress (H.R. 3144) to effectively nullify a judge’s ruling directing federal officials to assess the benefits of breaching federal hydropower dams on the Pacific Northwest’s Snake River as a means of protecting endangered salmon runs.
The House Natural Resources Committee voted 23-17 to approve a bill barring any breaching of the dames until at least 2022, and would override the judge’s order to spill water to help fish migration, Annette Cary reports in the Tri-City Herald.
“The bill is a troubling attack on legal action,” Cary quotes Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. “If we enact the bill, it would overturn lawfully rendered court decisions simply because bill sponsors don’t like them.”
But Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., supported the legislation, arguing that the federally owned hydropower system “has been mired in third-party litigation, questionable judicial edicts and onerous federal regulation for decades.”
“Without Snake and Columbia River dams and the many benefits they provide, life in Central Washington as we know it would be unrecognizable,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., who co-sponsored the bipartisan bill authored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
“I represent communities that actually live with the consequences of forced increased spill or potentially breaching dams, whether through higher electricity rates, higher transportation costs, reduced access to irrigation water, reduced flood control and more,” Newhouse said.
McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse Bill to Protect Columbia and Snake River Dams Passes Committee
Ashley Brown weighs in on Iowa energy legislation. Ashley Brown , executive director of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group and a former Ohio utility regulator, has authored an op-ed in the Des Moines Register offering “fact vs. myth” regarding utility reform legislation pending in Iowa.
“Rather than focusing on the substance of the proposed measure, some critics of the bill have mischaracterized key elements of the bill and its effects,” Brown writes, citing his experience as a regulator and head of HEPG to argue that “recent claims against Senate File 2311 should not be taken at face value.”
Specifically, the op-ed debunks arguments that the measure will raise rates. “Regulatory pre-approval, if adopted, would have the effect of reducing utility financial risks, and thereby lowering the cost of capital for new projects, would provide significant benefits for consumers,” he writes.
The op-ed also targets arguments that the bill would negatively impact energy efficiency and renewables. “Iowa is one of the nation’s leading producers of wind energy and the bill would not change that progression,” he says. And while conceding that “the bill does propose to cap the revenues expended on utility energy efficiency programs and imposes a specific test for measuring the effectiveness of the programs that consumers pay,” he calls it “a legitimate question for debate whether those proposals have merit, but it is clear, that the fate of energy efficiency in Iowa, and the rest of the country for that matter, does not rest with the size and scale of utility efficiency programs”
Brown said continued debate over the measure “ought to stick to the merits of the issues presented rather than being swayed by speculation and conjecture, often incorrect, about the impact of what is being proposed.”
Other news items of note:
N.Y. attorney general announces $550,000 settlement with energy service company that illegally deceived consumers
- Liberty Power Holdings, LLC falsely promised consumers lower prices, switched their energy service provider without their consent
- AG’s ongoing investigation into ESCOs has already won back $5 million for consumers
- AG offers tips to protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous energy service companies
“Today’s settlement returns more than half a million dollars to consumers who were deceived by Liberty, which falsely promised savings and enrolled consumers without their consent,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “My office will not tolerate exploitative businesses that prey on unsuspecting New Yorkers and their hard-earned cash.”
Idaho Power has joined the CAISO energy imbalance market
D.C. City Council bill would establish U.S.’s first independent DER authority
A new bill proposed in the District of Columbia’s city government would create an independent authority to oversee the growth of distributed resources and energy efficiency, including the power to review utility investments, Gavin Bade reports in Utility Dive. Read more:
Council opposes Pa. legislative proposal, says property taxes would skyrocket if bill passes
“Middletown Borough Council on April 3 went on record opposing legislation introduced in the state House that would prohibit the borough from using money derived from selling electricity to subsidize the general fund,” Dan Miller reports in the Press & Journal. Read more:
Fate, Texas, Power Aggregation Kicks Off
Fate residents to save money on their electric bills
“The City of Fate experienced so much success with their last Fate Power Switch Program that they’ve launched another one. Last year, one in four Fate households registered and saved an average of $368 per year on their energy bills – just by accepting the winning provider’s offer,” Jessica Larson writes in Blue Ribbon News. Read more:
Colo. PUC allows Pueblo, others to join Black Hills Energy tax case
“The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will let the city of Pueblo and other interested parties take part in deciding how Black Hills Energy shares its lower federal tax bill with ratepayers,” Peter Roper reports in the Pueblo Chieftain. Read more:
NYC’s Energy Reduction Program Saves Millions
Board OKs Southern California Edison Agreement in Next Phase of Electricity Buying Plan
Tesla is the biggest short in the US stock market
Too much competition in electric cars means Tesla stock will drop to $84 by end of 2019: analyst
- Too much competition in the electric car industry will send Tesla stock down to $84 by the end of 2019, says analyst Gordon Johnson. It’s currently priced at more than $300.
- “The real issue we have with Tesla is competition,” Johnson says.
- He says by 2022 there will be more than 100 electric cars on the market.
Energy storage charges forward
U.S. large-scale batteries lead global energy storage deployment
An inaugural global energy storage report by GTM Research finds that while the United States remains the world’s leading market with newly installed capacity of 431 MWh, China is poised to rise to second place globally in 2019.