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Electric Industry News, April 16, 2018

Today’s lede: N.C. high court to hear group’s challenge to Duke’s monopoly protection. The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in a case challenging a ruling by the state’s Utilities Commission that Duke’s monopoly status under state law bars the installation of solar panels on a church by a third-party provider, the Associated Press’s Emery Dalesio reports. NC WARN, a clean energy advocacy group, is challenging the ruling, which resulted in a $60,000 fine imposed by the commission.

“If the group prevails, it could put new pressure on Duke Energy’s monopoly. State regulators say a ruling for NC WARN would allow companies to install solar equipment and sell power on site, shaving away customers and forcing Duke Energy to raise rates on everyone else,” Dalesio writes.

According to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, the Tarheel State is one of only nine states that explicitly bar residential consumers from buying electricity generated by solar panels on their rooftop from a third party that owns the system. North Carolina law allows purchased or leased solar panels, but not payments simply for the power they generate, as is the situation in the case involving NC Warn. The group said it defied state regulators in a test case to challenge Duke Energy’s monopoly-protected status.

In court filings leading up to tomorrow’s oral arguments, the Utilities Commission painted NC WARN’s action as a threat to stable rates for customers that don’t opt to install photovoltaic panels to self-generate.  If allowed, the installation would set a precedent in which “the customers with the highest profit potential, such as commercial and industrial customers with large energy needs and ample rooftop space,” Robert Josey, an attorney for the Public Staff, the state’s official utilities consumer advocate, told the court. The result would be a decline in power sales for Duke resulting in increasing costs for customers remaining on the utility’s system, he said.

Dalesio writes that NC WARN’s three-year agreement called for the group to install a rooftop solar array, which NC WARN and not the cgurch would own, and the church would pay about half the retail rate for the resulting electricity. Under those conditions, the payback to the advocacy group would take 60 years. Attorneys supporting the commission’s ruling said that arrangement clearly showed that NC WARN was not producing electricity “for the public” and was intruding on Duke’s protected monopoly status.

Rev. Nelson Johnson, pastor of the Faith Community Church in Greensboro, said NC WARN sought to reduce “the effects of Duke Energy’s monopoly control that has such negative impacts on power bills, clean air and water, and climate change.”





DOE will ‘expedite’ decision on FirstEnergy’s bid for emergency support, Perry tells lawmakers. In various public comments in recent days, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears to offer somewhat mixed signals as to the Trump administration’s receptiveness to a request from FirstEnergy for an emergency order under the Federal Power Act propping up the utility’s economically struggling power plants.

At a recent Bloomberg forum, Perry was quoted saying that issuing an emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act “may not” provide the best means of helping FirstEnergy.

But in an appearance on Capitol Hill last week, Perry appeared to have bought into the utility’s argument that power plants closing because they are no longer economic represents a real threat.

“When we look at national security in particular, if you’re in New York City and Wall Street were to lose power, I think anyone would say that puts our national security in jeopardy,” Perry said, promising that “expedition is of importance” in terms of a response to FirstEnergy.

Utility Dive’s Gavin Bade reports that, when a House lawmaker demanded that Perry “use whatever legal power you have” to support economically struggling generators, Perry replied that is “exactly what has to happen.”

The American Petroleum Institute weighed in last week, arguing that granting FirstEnergy’s request “would be at odds with your stated goals of energy dominance, economic growth, and improving America’s infrastructure.”

“The natural gas industry and the shale revolution are poster children for ‘letting the markets work,’ API said in a filing made public Friday, which cited the U.S. shale gas revolution as “a prime example of competition at work . . . This would not have been possible without the competition that was enabled by regulators having the courage to ‘’et the market work.’”

The American Spectator, a conservative publication, criticized Perry for his anti-market statements. “I don’t think we want a free market in electricity. Do we want a free market for the military? No!” the publication quoted him as saying at the Bloomberg forum.

“Of course, the current energy market is hardly a perfect free market. Overly burdensome energy regulations and subsidies to both green energy and fossil fuels distort the playing field. But the solution to that is to clear the board of the other subsidies, not add new ones. Perry should focus on creating a free energy market, not attempting to make the market less free than it already is,” the American Spectator asserted.

Crain’s Cleveland Business editorialized against the remedy FirstEnergy is seeking, but argued the company deserves a prompt response either way so it can plan its business accordingly. “The government’s interest should be in helping to provide a long-term solution to the problems facing FirstEnergy Solutions and other coal and nuclear producers while protecting the security of the electrical grid, not in looking backward with an emergency order,” the newspaper said.

“Last week’s announced closure of FirstEnergy’s three emissions-free nuclear plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio, plus Exelon’s previous announcement to prematurely close Three Mile Island, will immediately erase the environmental benefits of more than 25 years of wind and solar development in our region,” Mike Pries, a county commissioner from Dauphin County, Pa., writes in the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Pries co-chairs the Clean Jobs for Pa. Coalition, an advocacy group dedicated to keeping Three Mile Island in operation.









Kentucky net metering bill dies as session ends. A highly controversial utility-backed bill in Kentucky that solar advocates had fought hard against died a quiet death over the weekend as the state’s legislative session came to an end, Morgan Watkins reports in the Louisville Courier Journal. The measure (HB 227) had undergone numerous permutations as lawmakers sought to find common ground, but the legislation ultimately failed to win support,

“We are very pleased with the outcome, but at the same time, we want to raise the issue of the tremendous lobbying expense incurred over two sessions now, to move legislation which only serves to protect the monopoly interests of the utilities,” said Lane Boldman, Kentucky Conservation Committee director. “It is a waste of time and money at ratepayer expense,” Boldman said, encouraging lawmakers to “begin an actual dialogue with solar installers and utilities on real solutions that benefit the customer.”


S.C. columnist, citing utility political clout, says state should reconsider Santee Cooper sale. South Carolina state officials should reconsider efforts to sell the state-owned Santee Cooper utility given the display of raw political clout shown by the failure of House legislation to lift the state’s 2 percent capacity cap on net metering, Brian Hicks writes in the Post and Courier.

“You’d think SCANA wouldn’t have enough power in South Carolina these days to charge your cellphone. But they showed us,” Hicks writes in a column critical of SCANA, the parent of South Carolina Electric & Gas, and Duke, which has proposed to purchase SCANA. Together the two utilities helped kill “legislation that would have allowed residents to defray more of their power costs by using solar energy.”

Given the display of utility political clout, Hicks questions the wisdom of selling Santee Cooper to a private utility company. “Do we really want to sic another of these soulless Wall Street dividend factories on South Carolina residents?”

See also:

Editorial: No excuse for solar bill failure

South Carolina’s electric utilities won a legislative victory at the expense of millions of customers on Wednesday.


Building lawsuits instead of power plants: Where South Carolina’s nuclear fiasco stands now


Utility’s bid for PSC approval of $1 billion power plant gets pushback in Michigan. Michigan regulators are being urged to reject a utility’s proposal to have its captive ratepayers finance a $1 billion proposed natural gas-fired power plant in the state. DTE Electric has a pending request before the Public Service Commission for a certificate of necessity to build the 1,100-megawatt power plant at the expense of consumers.

“[A] large number of interested parties — including state and national experts in energy, environmental law and public health — have intervened in the case, providing testimony that showed that DTE’s analysis was grossly deficient and incorrect. Witnesses repeatedly demonstrated how the company failed to accurately analyze the full potential for energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy to displace the need for the proposed power plant – and do so at less cost,” Robert Nelson, a former PSC commissioner, writes in the Detroit Free Press.

“As we near the date for the commission’s decision on DTE’s $1 billion gas plant, it’s important to remember that not too long ago the state faced a similar proposed gas build from Consumers Energy. That plant was never built thanks to the utility—and yet still—the lights stayed on. DTE should take a page from the Consumers Energy playbook and adapt to what’s in the best interest of Michigan families,” the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ariana Gonzalez writes in a blog post.

Nelson, the former regulator, notes that even the PSC’s advisory staff has weighed in against approving the plant.



Dark horse opponent tars influential Ohio state lawmaker with ‘Big Money’ label. The Cincinnati Inquirer has published an op-ed by a candidate hoping to unseat Ohio State Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican wielding huge clout on energy issues in the state. Clayton Adams, a special education teacher at Aiken High School who hopes to unseat Seitz, accused his opponent of being in the pocket of “big money” energy company campaign contributors.

“He’s received massive donations from corporations such as Duke Energy, First Energy Corporation, NextEra Energy, NiSource Energy, the Ohio Coal Association, Dayton Power and Light, Direct Energy, and more,” Adams writes, specifically citing Seitz’s role in 2014 legislation that wind advocates complain gutted mandates for renewable energy in Ohio.

“It’s time to elect someone who will put West Siders first instead of corporations. I pledge to work to roll back cumbersome regulations that surround green energy in our state. You would think a Republican like Seitz would be a champion of deregulation, but money makes us do the darndest things,” writes Adams, who admits to being younger in age than Seitz’s tenure as a state lawmaker. “Regardless of political party, we are all tired of politicians who are bought and paid for by corporations and millionaires.”


Other news items of note:

State unable to predict cost of Nevada ballot question raising renewable standards

DOE’s Perry promises to not sell off BPA assets without Congressional approval

The idea to privatize BPA, which provides wholesale power to electric utilities across the Pacific Northwest, has received strong pushback.


The Trump administration has officially clipped the wings of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Opinion: Who Will Spur the Next Energy Revolution? Not Private Industry

Some say the government can no longer afford to invest in energy research, but we say it can’t afford not to

Activists maintain opposition against proposed N.M. nuclear waste facility

Ameren’s $133 million tax windfall should go to consumers

Lower taxes means Black Hills owes Colo. ratepayers $45 million

Eversource agreement with chocolate manufacturer could serve as energy saving template for N.H.

The partnership uses a combination of investment by the companies and rebates from Eversource to pay for equipment upgrades and improvements that make mechanical systems more efficient in their energy use.

N.H. Electric Cooperative offers cheaper charging for electric vehicles as long as they avoid peak hours


N.H. consumer advocate: Decoupling: Not just for unhappy spouses, but utilities, too

Letter: A better path to energy security in N.H.

New York provides $15 million for grid resiliency

The move aims to support the city’s energy storage and renewable power goals

New Jersey passes bills for nuke subsidies, 50% RPS, 2 GW storage target

Solar power’s new look: more landscape-friendly siting

Will Annapolis, Md., landfill’s panels light the way to alternatives for rural farmland sites?

PSC to hold second hearing on solar farm proposed in Massey, Md.

Press release: Michigan PSC opens docket for Consumers, DTE, I&M to file electric distribution plans for public review

MPSC opens docket for Consumers, DTE, I&M to file electric distribution plans for public review

“The Commission’s focus on long-range and transparent planning for our electric distribution systems benefit customers in two ways,” said Sally Talberg, chairman of the MPSC. “Replacing aging infrastructure will improve safety and reliability. It will also help in integrating new technologies such as demand response, distributed generation, and increased use of electric vehicles.”

The plans, which look ahead to 2022 and beyond, will be a crucial piece in being able to thoroughly evaluate investments in aging electrical distribution systems to ensure they are safe, reliable, and resilient. A long-term outlook allows for greater analysis of spending plans, as well as provides the information needed to make informed decisions in future rate cases.

Electric reliability is a priority of Gov. Rick Snyder, who set targets for Michigan being in the top quartile for the number of outages as measured by the system average interruption frequency index (SAIFI), and the top half for how long power is out, as measured by the system average interruption duration index (SAIDI).

See also:

DTE wind contract can go forward: DTE Electric will be allowed to enter a contract with Polaris Wind Energy LLC to build the Polaris Wind Park in Gratiot County (Case No. U-18111). Under the contract, Polaris will design, engineer, build, install, start-up, and test the Polaris Wind Park and then DTE will buy the facility, which is expected to produce 168 megawatts of power. It’s expected to be operational before March 1, 2020. DTE estimates the cost from the wind park will be $1,577 per kilowatt hour.,4639,7-159-16400_17280-466249–,00.html

See also:

Indiana Michigan Power’s $49 million electric rate increase approved,4639,7-159-16400_17280-466248–,00.html

Being choosy about your energy provider could impact your rates in Ohio (sponsored content)

Wyoming agrees to Rocky Mountain Power’s plans for 3 new wind farms — but Utah officials must OK it, too


Press release: Idaho PUC accepts Rocky Mountain Power long-range planning document

BOISE (April 12, 2018) – Regulators have accepted a long-range planning document outlining how Rocky Mountain Power intends to meet the demand for electricity among its customers over the next 20 years.

Rocky Mountain Power’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) represents a “cost-conscious plan to transition to a cleaner energy future,” according to the company, which serves approximately 75,000 customers in eastern Idaho.

Oregon’s top utility regulator resigns early

Though it has happened before, having only two members can be problematic, as it can result in split decisions on important rate cases and policy decisions.

PacifiCorp, for instance, is currently looking for the commission’s approval to undertake a massive investment in new wind farms and a transmission line. Decker has already signaled support for the plan, while the commission’s lone Republican member, Stephen Bloom, has reservations.

Tie votes go to the utilities, which don’t necessarily result in the best policy outcomes, said Bob Jenks, executive director of the ratepayer advocacy group, Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board.



Panda Power emerges from bankruptcy

Feds want more financial information in Vermont Yankee deal


Minnesota regulators approve Xcel electric car pilot program

Information on Marin (Calif.) Clean Energy program

Agenda for April 17 meeting of East Peoria, Il., city council

Item No. 2 – Adoption of Resolution No. 1718-132 on its Second Reading – Resolution approving Electricity High-Demand Response Program Agreement with Voltus Inc.

Blockchain Platform Hopes To Stop Electricity Bills Surging Through Energy Marketplace

A new Blockchain platform is aiming to stamp out energy waste and misuse by designing a ‘simple, sustainable and scalable system’ which eliminates imbalances between supply and demand.

EnBW, Bosch start up storage battery at German coal-fired power plant

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German automotive supplier Bosch [ROBG.UL] and utility EnBW on Friday started a storage battery at EnBW’s coal-fired Heilbronn plant that will supply the balancing power market at times when demand outstrips supply.

EVs appeal to Italy’s sense of fashion, energy firm says

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