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Today’s lede: MidAmerican looks to become first utility with wind supplying 100% of load. Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy is seeking Iowa regulatory approval for a nearly $1 billion investment in new wind energy capacity, which when brought on line would make the utility the first to meet all of its demand needs from wind, Donnelle Eller writes in the Des Moines Register. MidAmerican said it will be the first investor-owned electric utility nationally to meet the goal, which the Des Moines-based utility announced in 2016.

“If the project is approved, it will allow our customers to get 100 percent of their annual energy use from a clean, renewable and cost-effective source,” said MidAmerican CEO Adam Wright. “This is, no doubt, historic.” The utility currently gets about half of its energy needs from wind, he said.

MidAmerican said the investment, slated for completion in late 2020, would allow the utility to freeze consumer rates for as long as a decade and a half. “With wind, we don’t need to buy fuel to make the energy,” Wright said. “This is a big reason why MidAmerican Energy’s rates are 37 percent below the national average.”

The Iowa Utilities Board must approve the 591-megawatt investment before MidAmerican can move forward. Eller reports that MidAmerican has nearly 2,200 turbines with a wind generation capacity of 4,400 megawatts at 27 wind farms across Iowa. With this newest project, MidAmerican will have invested some $12.3 billion in wind generation in Iowa since 2004, according to the report.

Even though federal production tax credits are being phased out, MidAmerican said this newest project will qualify for the full amount of credits, Eller reports. MidAmerican will receive about $10 billion in federal production tax credits for the investment, covering the capital costs needed to build the wind farms.

In 2017 wind generation accounted for about 37 percent of Iowa’s electric generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Iowa’s reliance on coal for electricity has dropped from 76 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2017, the agency said.


See also:

Iowa utilities adjusting efficiency programs to meet new spending caps. Karen Uhlenhuth reports for Energy News Network that Iowa’s three investor-owned utilities have until July 9 to file updated plans with the Iowa Utilities Board revising their upcoming five-year energy-efficiency plans to reflect a new law limiting how much they can spend on the programs. The board must approve the plans by March 31, 2019. If it doesn’t, there will be no efficiency programs at all, Uhlenhuth writes:

The law, passed during the 2018 legislative session, imposes several constraints on utility efficiency programs, including a cap on what utilities may spend on them. The law limits efficiency spending by electric utilities to 2 percent of retail revenues, a substantial reduction from the roughly 7 or 8 percent they now spend. Demand response investments also will be capped at 2 percent, and efficiency spending by natural gas providers will be limited to 1.5 percent of revenues.

The caps are so low they are certain to override almost any other consideration, said Kerri Johannsen, the energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council. “This is structured to tie the hands of the consumer advocate and groups like ours that make sure we are getting as much cost-effective energy-efficiency as possible,” she said.


Economics support solar investment by utilities. A contested decision on solar energy development by the municipally owned utility in Jacksonville, Fla., is the latest development signalizing that economics support investment in the renewable energy resource, David Bauerlein reports in the Florida Times-Union. Electric utilities are “seeing the numbers they need to switch on more solar,” he writes.

“In a sign of how heated the solar industry is becoming,” Bauerlein reports, JEA’s decision to award a solar development contract has triggered a bid protest. “JEA determined the top-ranked firm is groSolar/EDF, which is one of the largest renewable energy developers in the country. That selection is under challenge by the second-ranked firm Florida Renewable Partners, a NextEra Energy company. The battle for JEA’s business comes at a time when utilities are deciding the price is right for solar power after the cost of the technology dropped dramatically over the past decade.”

“They dip their toes in the water first because they don’t trust their own economics — it seems too good to be true,” said Bryan Jacob, solar program director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “When they realize it does meet their cost expectations and output and reliability and all the other criteria they’re interested in, then they go all in, and we’re starting to see that, not just in Florida.”

FPL, the state’s biggest electric utility and the third-largest in the nation, is in the midst of building solar farms that will end up adding 10 million solar panels at 38 solar plants from 2016 to 2023, enough to power about 400,000 homes, Bauerlein reported.


Trump tariffs seen driving investment in U.S. solar cell manufacturing capacity. Domestic photovoltaic cell manufacturing capacity is on pace to double in the wake of the Trump administration’s imposition of import duties on imported solar cells, Bloomberg reports.

“Hanwha Q Cells Korea on Wednesday said it will build a factory in Georgia. JinkoSolar Holding Co. of China is planning one in Florida. And U.S. companies SunPower Corp. and First Solar Inc. say they’ll boost production in Oregon and Ohio,” Bloomberg’s Brian Eckhouse and Chris Martin report. “The expansion underscores how immediate the reaction has been to the tariffs Trump imposed on imported panels in January to spur domestic manufacturing. The duties could increase production capacity in the U.S. by at least 3.4 gigawatts, compared with 1.8 gigawatts at the end of last year, and would add to even more capacity already planned, based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.”

“Absent the Trump tariffs, this wouldn’t be happening,” Jeff Osborne, an analyst at Cowen & Co., told Bloomberg News.

“Trade disputes are forcing these companies to build capacity in the U.S.,” said Peng Peng, general secretary of China New Energy Investment & Financing Alliance, an industry group.

Eckhouse and Martin observe that it remains to be seen, however, whether these factories will create jobs. “While the plants announced by Hanwha and others will boost U.S. production, they’re unlikely to employ armies of workers, analysts said. As panel prices have declined, solar factories have become increasingly automated,” they write.

“While the Trump Administration will claim this as a win, America’s victory is modest,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Hugh Bromley said. “The profits will flow offshore, and the highly-automated production lines will bring few jobs.”

Julia Pyper, reporting for Greentech Media, quotes Wood Mackenzie’s MJ Shiao as being bearish regarding the long-term viability of new production capacity in the United States unless companies find ways to dramatically cut costs, particularly as tariff levels decline and the federal Investment Tax Credit sunsets, rendering manufacturing plants economically unviable.

“I still have concerns about the long-term competitiveness of these module assembly facilities versus imports once the tariffs expire,” Shiao said. “These manufacturers will need an aggressive cost-reduction road map once both the tariffs sunset and the ITC phases out if they look to remain in operation.”



Austin Energy financials point to revenues from the well off and the poor. Austin Energy’s as-yet-unaudited financials indicate that the city-owned utility is breaking even supplying electricity to middle-income customers, meaning its revenues received exceeding expenditures are derived from wealthy people with large homes and poor people with really drafty homes, Jessi Devenyns reports in the Austin Monitor.

Austin Energy saw an increase in revenues from last year, Devenyns writes. “We moved from a $5 million loss in 2017 to a $7 million gain in 2018,” said Russell Maenius, Austin Energy’s chief financial and risk officer. Maenius explained that when consumers are using electricity at the system average rate, Austin Energy does not make money.

This prompted Austin Energy Chair Cary Ferchill to observe that higher revenues must be coming from somewhere to counterbalance the utility’s usage by average users, Devenyns reports. He concluded that “either rich people with really big houses or poor people with really crummy houses” are behind the improved revenues.

Ferchill explained that this is in part due to the new technology and insulation that is being installed in newer homes and remodels. Older homes that are “leaky” will not be able to effectively utilize their electricity, and therefore those residents are paying more because they have to use more kilowatt-hours on average to keep their houses comfortable. “You can’t affect that with rates,” he said. The other half of the equation, he attributed to customers who had the financial wherewithal to heat, cool and illuminate their above-average size homes.


Maine Democratic gubernatorial candidate heads renewable storage company. Maine Democratic gubernatorial candidate Adam Cote says if elected he will divest his 20 percent ownership in the clean energy company he heads, Renewable Energy Storage of Maine, Darren Fishell reports in the Bangor Daily News. The company has essentially been “dormant” since 2014, but Cote hopes as governor to enact policies that would improve the fortunes of clean energy companies.

“The trials of Cote’s company shed light on how his business career has shaped his approach to achieving his goal of powering Maine by 100 percent clean energy within 10 years and how it ties into a broader economic plan for the state,” Fishell reports. “One major policy he’s proposed could create new opportunity for energy storage technologies in the same way that a lack of such support during the eight years of Republican Paul LePage’s governorship contributed to the company suspending operations.”

Fishell quotes Cote supporter Fortunat Mueller with ReVision Energy saying clean energy companies have “been playing defense” during the LePage years.


More electric industry news of note:

Fishermen’s Energy gets ‘third wind’ on offshore wind pilot. N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy signs bill requiring BPU to accept application from Fishermen’s. Fishermen’s Energy is going to get another shot at convincing the state to approve its small, pilot offshore wind project about three miles from Atlantic City. Gov. Murphy yesterday signed without comment a bill (S-1217) that requires the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to accept an application from Fishermen’s and review it within 90 days. For Fishermen’s, it will be the third time the 24-megawatt offshore-wind project will have come before the regulatory agency. The two previous times, the BPU rejected the proposal as being too expensive to ratepayers, who will pay for the electricity from the wind turbines. To clean-energy advocates and legislators, however, the bill is viewed as jump starting the state’s nearly eight-year-old effort to develop offshore wind as a viable and cleaner source of electricity in the state. “Wind energy offers the opportunity to create jobs in a growing sector of the economy at the same time we generate clean energy that helps protect the environment,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, the sponsor of the bill. For Murphy, the project, if approved, offers a chance to get an offshore wind project operating before he has to run for re-election a little more than three years from now.

Assessing NYISO’s carbon pricing straw proposal. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) recently released a Carbon Pricing Straw Proposal (Proposal)1 to advance the State’s energy and environmental goals by reflecting the cost of carbon emissions in wholesale energy market offers via a “carbon charge.”  The Proposal also considers carbon charges on electricity imports into NYISO, outlines a methodology for returning carbon charge “residuals”2 to consumers, and contemplates minor changes to NYISO’s capacity market and transmission planning processes.

Lawmakers push to protect Eastern Kentuckians in utility rate cases. Eastern Kentucky lawmakers met in Pikeville Wednesday to discuss how to protect people in utility rate cases. They hope to push through legislation that would give the Public Service Commission (PSC) more authority to hold utility companies more accountable. The PSC would be required to consider whether utility rates are affordable for customers. The legislation would also simplify bills by reducing the number and amount of charges. This legislation failed to pass in the 2018 General Assembly, but lawmakers have not given up. “With twice the amount of workers making minimum wage and the third slowest wage growth in the country, Kentucky families are struggling,” Attorney General Andy Beshear said. “Many have to choose between basic needs like food and medicine and ever-increasing energy costs. This legislation would require the PSC to consider affordability when contemplating rate increase requests. This is one more tool that would help ensure Kentuckians receive a fair rate.”

W.Va. utilities save millions because of federal tax reform. Appalachian Power Company saved $235 million dollars from the federal tax cuts and the company is proposing passing the money back to its customers in a variety of ways. The multi-pronged proposal is in a filing with the state Public Service Commission due Wednesday. The PSC is requiring all utilities to tell it their tax cut savings and what they plan to do with it. West Virginia Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts told MetroNews the money clearly belongs to the customers. “They (the utilities) had taxes in their rates and now the taxes in their rates have significantly decreased—so they shouldn’t be able to keep collecting and keeping those higher taxes in their rates,” Roberts said.

Pa. lawmaker vows to fight appeal of Mariner East shutdown. State Sen. Andy Dinniman said he would fight Sunoco’s attempts to appeal a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) judge’s order to halt operation of the Mariner East 1 pipeline and prohibit construction of the Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X pipelines in West Whiteland Township. “This fight is far from over,” said Dinniman, D-19. “And Sunoco’s response is a further indication of just how out of touch they still are. The judge’s decision and its potentially wide-reaching impacts on the pipeline regulatory environment in Pennsylvania is the result of Sunoco’s own stubborn refusal to do its due diligence in respecting homeowners, public safety and our local property and environmental rights. “Sunoco and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, have been their own worst enemy. And they only have themselves to blame for making the Mariner East Pipeline a case study of how and where not to install a hazardous material pipeline,” he added.

Tesla Model 3 gets Consumer Reports recommendation after update. Automaker responds to test results and reduces stopping distance by nearly 20 feet. Consumer Reports now recommends the Tesla Model 3, after our testers found that a recent over-the-air (OTA) update improved the car’s braking distance by almost 20 feet. The software update came a week after Consumer Reports published test results that showed stopping distances for the Model 3 that were significantly longer than any other contemporary car. That braking performance, along with issues with the Model 3’s controls and ride comfort, initially prevented the car from getting a CR recommendation. Last week, after CR’s road test was published, Tesla CEO Elon Musk vowed that the automaker would get a fix out within days. Until now, that type of remote improvement to a car’s basic functionality had been unheard of. “I’ve been at CR for 19 years and tested more than 1,000 cars,” says Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, “and I’ve never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.”


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Today’s lede: Writer supports community choice aggregation because he worked for utilities. Mark Hughes is a California resident and former employee of two utility companies. He is an industry consultant, and advocates for electric vehicles and community choice aggregation. He says it is because of his experience working with two different monopoly-regulated utilities that he supports community choice aggregation as an alternative to utility service. Monopoly utility regulation doesn’t work in the best interests of the consumer, Hughes writes in the La Jolla Light. “It’s actually incentivized not to.”

From January of 2013 to this year, San Diego Gas & Electric’s electricity rates increased between 48 percent to 67 percent, depending on what type of service is provided and the maximum amount of electricity used, Hughes notes. Over that same period of time, the Consumer Price Index rose only 6.7 percent. Why the tenfold difference? “It’s simple: People follow the rewards.”

Regulated investor-owned utilities can earn higher profits by overspending, Hughes says. Since the utility is paid a guaranteed rate of return on its capital investments, this incentivizes the utility to build as expensively as possible. Given this, regulated monopoly utilities have no reason to shop for the least-costly electricity source and often purchase overpriced power. And the utilities know how to work the regulatory process to get the best outcome.

Support for San Diego’s proposed Community Choice Energy program would provide competition to SDG&E by allowing customers to choose who provides their electricity. This will help provide SDG&E with the incentive to hold down costs, particularly given San Diego’s objective of obtaining 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035, Hughes writes. “SDG&E will have to think twice about signing overpriced contracts for power,” he writes. And San Diego’s community choice energy program, “as a nonprofit entity, is incentivized to serve customers, not shareholders. Its primary goal is low-cost, increasingly renewable power.”

Not surprisingly, Hughes concludes, “SDG&E and its parent company, Sempra Energy, are fighting [community choice energy] with all the influence they can bring to bear. In that, they’re only doing what they’re incentivized to do. “Let’s reward them for doing something else instead, shall we?”


PG&E shares tumble after getting blame for wildfires. Pacific Gas & Electric’s stock took a tumble after release of a Cal Fire report blaming the utility for wildfires in the state, George Avalos reports for the Bay Area News Group. The utility acknowledges in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it faces some 175 lawsuits on behalf of at least 2,500 plaintiffs who suffered financial losses as a result of wildfires. “Under inverse condemnation, the utility could be strictly liable for property damages and attorneys’ fees if its equipment was a substantial cause of a fire, even if the Utility followed established inspection and safety rules,” the utility said in the SEC filing.

PG&E’s CEO, Geisha Williams, has said the utility will pursue all legal, regulatory and political venues in a quest to ease any financial burdens connected with the fires “and shift those responsibilities to ratepayers,” Avalos reports. PG&E believe wildfires are due to climate change, and suggests that a “new normal” of destructive wildfires confronts the utility. “There is no simple fix,” Williams said. “The new normal needs new solutions.”

“PG&E is trying to change the conversation and the narrative from negligence and their possible responsibility and call all of it the new normal,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill. “There is nothing new about PG&E’s negligence. We saw it eight years ago in San Bruno,” Hill said, referring to a catastrophic explosion of a PG&E pipeline that killed eight and resulted in felony convictions of the utility and a $3 million fine.

See also:

Editorial: California solar panel mandate may be big mistake. California is among the world’s leaders in its commitment to using cleaner energy. A 2015 law requires the state to get half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. But the state’s electric utilities have made such progress that the California Public Utilities Commission says there’s a chance the goal could be met by 2020. A 2017 Los Angeles Times investigation found that so much money had already been invested in California solar power that it had created a glut that was forcing ratepayers to pay billions of dollars “for power they don’t need.” Against this backdrop, the California Energy Commission’s decision to require rooftop solar panels on nearly all new single-family homes and low-rise multi-family housing projects starting in 2020 seems hasty and daft.


Former Perry political adviser seen as ‘FirstEnergy’s secret weapon.’ Jeff Miller formed a one-man lobbying firm after serving as a political adviser to Energy Secretary Rick Perry when, as Texas governor, Perry ran for president in 2016. Miller Strategies LLC has earned more than $3.2 million from lobbying since early 2017 representing FirstEnergy and other companies, Bloomberg’s Ari Natter reports. According to lobbying disclosure reports, FirstEnergy Service Company has paid Miller $110,000 a quarter starting in the third quarter of 2017 to lobby the Energy Department and the White House on “issues related to grid resilience.”

Perry is seriously considering FirstEnergy’s request for the Department of Energy to use its emergency authorities to help FirstEnergy’s power plants obtain out-of-market support for its economically struggling nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The Trump administration is also seriously considering using presidential emergency authority provided under a 1950 war production statute. Miller is “FirstEnergy’s secret weapon” in obtaining consumer subsidies to bail out its generation fleet, Natter writes.

“I don’t think we would be talking about the FirstEnergy thing if they didn’t have Jeff,” said Mike McKenna, an energy lobbyist who led Trump’s Energy Department transition team.

Miller also helped his client, Southern Co., by lobbying the Energy Department to award $3.7 billion in conditional loan guarantees for its troubled nuclear power expansion project in Georgia, Natter reports. Miller is known as a prolific fundraiser, Natter reports. “A day after Miller attended a fundraiser dinner in April with Trump the president promised to look into the possibility of using emergency aid during a visit to West Virginia’s coal country.”

Any action by the Trump administration to help FirstEnergy also could benefit other Miller clients such as Southern Co. and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“Critics say Miller, while doing nothing illegal, is exploiting his close relationship with Perry in a way that runs contrary to President Donald Trump’s call to ‘drain the swamp.’” Natter writes. “This is the swamp that Trump promised to drain,” said Public Citizen’s Craig Holman. “The fact that it is becoming swampier shows that Trump is making no effort to clean up Washington.”

Fred Wertheimer, a long-time advocate of divorcing money from politics, cited Miller is an example of a systemic problem in Washington, Natter writes. “Welcome to Washington,” he quotes Wertheimer saying. “This is the system.”


Embattled Missouri governor steps down, leaving fate of utility rate bill to successor. After weeks of political turmoil and mounting scandal, embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has resigned in the face of a criminal trial and impeachment. This leaves the fate of controversial utility rate legislation just approved by state lawmakers in the hands of Greitens’ successor, Lt. Gov. Michael Parson, a farmer and small-business owner. “In terms of ideology, Mr. Parson differs far less from Mr. Greitens than he does in style. For example, they both generally support tax cuts, deregulation for businesses, and abortion restrictions,” Maggie Astor writes in the New York Times. SB 564 (click through here) is intended to give utilities greater flexibility in changing rates approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission. Critics say it will result in higher costs for consumers. A PSC staff analysis projects an increase in consumer costs of nearly 10 percent over a 10-year period beginning in 2019. Revenues for the utilities would go up $282.5 million over that time as a result of the bill, Jordan Larimore reports in the Joplin Globe.



Solar advocates tout jobs provided vets in S.C. When you’re advocating something, it’s always good to say you’re protecting kids, especially with clean air advocacy. But if you’re touting clean-energy jobs, it’s always good to say you’re hiring veterans, especially in South Carolina.

That’s what James Koehler and Jonathan Morgenstein did in an op-ed published in the Post and Courier advocating policies to ease rooftop solar adoption by electricity customers. They argued for passage of provisions in the to-be-finalized state budget that promote “solar choice” for consumers.

“What’s at stake here, besides promoting more customer choice? Thousands of South Carolina jobs for both civilians and the men and women who served in America’s military,” they write. “Solar strongly favors veterans, and that’s a fact.”

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan “have flooded into America’s solar industry. In 2016, while producing only 1.35 percent of electricity nationally, solar employed twice as many veterans as those working in natural gas generation, and four times as many as coal power generation.” In South Carolina, veterans make up 8.2 percent of the total workforce, but they fill 10.1 percent of South Carolina’s solar jobs, the duo relates. “Which means that every time a new South Carolina solar job is created, we are 23 percent more likely to be employing a military veteran than for other new jobs. And these are well-paid jobs, with installers averaging $20 to $25 per hour, which is at least $2 more per hour than the national average for high school graduates.”

Three-thousand people are employed in South Carolina’s solar energy industry, which the writers call “a job-generating machine.” While solar provides less than 0.5 percent of South Carolina’s electricity, it employs more than 20 percent of all South Carolinians working in power generation.

Morgenstein, who served twice in Iraq with the Marine Corps, is founder and CEO of Empowerment Solar LLC. James Koehler is vice president at Charleston-based Palmetto Solar.

“Since the V.C. Summer disaster, South Carolinians want energy choice and no more shenanigans from the utilities. We already face the highest electricity bills in the country. We already have to pay for a failed nuclear plant. All of this is thanks to SCANA and its political cronies in Columbia,” the pair say. “Should the six budget negotiators decide not to extend solar customer choice incentives, South Carolina’s military veterans will bear a disproportionate share of SCANA’s manipulations. We and our state legislators owe our veterans more than that. We and our state legislators owe our veterans an energy system of the future – one that promotes choice, competition and new ways of doing business.”

See also:

Santee Cooper sale must mean lower rates for customers. That’s the headline of an editorial in the Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina. “Of all the criteria for weighing a potential sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper, by far the most important is that a deal leave customers better off than they are right now,” the paper’s editorial board says. “So South Carolina officials should be extremely skeptical of any deal from Florida-based NextEra, a power company aggressively seeking new acquisitions nationwide. NextEra has expressed interest in Santee Cooper, according to a recent story from Post and Courier reporter Thad Moore.”

Last fall, Gov. Henry McMaster announced that Santee Cooper was up for sale. “He seems to think it’s the best way to pay off the nuclear debt without forcing roughly a million electric customers to keep paying higher bills indefinitely,” the editorial notes. “The caveat, however, is that the wrong sale could leave customers paying higher bills not just for the next few decades, but forever. That’s because investor-owned utility companies are allowed to charge a fixed profit margin so that shareholders can earn a return on their investment. SCANA paid shareholders about $350 million last year, for example.”

One option the editorial board recommends would be to sell all or part of Santee Cooper to a coalition of the state’s electric co-ops. “That would let the utility effectively remain nonprofit while giving ratepayers some relief. It’s an option worth exploring.” But any potential deal ought to involve greater oversight of the utility, possibly through the Public Service Commission.

“It’s frustrating that Santee Cooper ratepayers continue to pay for something that they will never use. That must be remedied. But it would be far worse for customers to pay even higher rates — forever — after selling out to an investor-owned utility,” the editorial board says.


Other electric industry news items of note:

Clean energy coalition challenges DTE Energy gas plant proposal. A coalition of clean energy organizations asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to reverse the decision of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to approve a massive new natural gas power plant to be built by DTE Energy. The MPSC decision would allow DTE Energy to charge its customers to build the $1 billion gas plant, for ongoing fuel and for operations and maintenances of the plant for decades to come. The organizations, which include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Ecology Center, the Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar, contend that DTE failed to demonstrate that its plant was the most “prudent” means of supplying power to its customers, as required by Michigan’s utility planning law. “We are at a turning point in the electric industry, and our concern is that DTE is rushing the plant through without considering whether it really is needed, in light of newer, cleaner, and less costly alternatives,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It is critical that the MPSC be required to fully and faithfully implement the law, to ensure that Michigan customers are not on the hook to pay for last-Century technology, when a clean, modern grid is more affordable now.”

Nevada gubernatorial candidate addresses energy choice initiative (video). Fred Conquest, a Republican running for governor of Nevada, said in part: “I am opposed to essentially how they’re structuring the argument, but I support Question 3. And the reason for that is what Question 3 does — it changes the business model of Nevada Energy, in that Question 3 allows you or me or anyone who wants to produce their own electricity, and if they produce more than they need, they can sell it back to Nevada Energy. Then Nevada Energy is the distribution arm of all of this energy, and if there’s excess energy they can sell it to California or where ever they want. But the way it’s set up right now, the reason NV Energy is spending all of its money on this is because they don’t want to change the business plan. They have all of these old production facilities that they’ve depreciated, and they’re going to have to mothball them or take them down and it’s going to cost a whole lot of money.”

On Politics: Should Nevadans deregulate electricity?  When analyzing complicated ballot proposals it’s best to follow the money. So far the initiative has been largely bankrolled by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation ($2.35 million), Switch ($1.7 million), the Valley Electric Association ($100,000) and MGM Resorts ($10,000). An opposition group, the Coalition to Defeat Question 3, led by Nevada Energy, has pledged to raise and spend $30 million to defeat the proposal. Between the two sides they’ll probably squeeze the cute GEICO gecko commercials right off our screens this fall.

How will energy choice affect rural Nevada? If the Energy Choice Initiative (ECI) amending the state Constitution to create a competitive market for electricity passes again in the fall its impact on power bills in rural Nevada will depend on how the Legislature writes the rules to make it happen.

Michigan law gives activists new venue for holding utilities to pledges. Integrated resources plans could offer Michigan activists a venue to make sure utilities follow through on recent renewable pledges. Michigan activists who struck a deal with utilities this month to boost renewable energy generation will have a new forum for holding the companies accountable. Organizers of the Clean Energy Healthy Michigan campaign dropped a ballot initiative to boost the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 30 percent by 2030 after DTE Energy and Consumers Energy agreed to voluntarily reach 25 percent by that year. Thanks to a 2016 state law, both companies will soon have to show regulators — and the public — detailed plans for meeting future generation demands, including renewables, through a process known as integrated resource planning. Michigan hasn’t had such a process in years, but the legislature two years ago instructed regulators to develop a more robust set of requirements. Utilities must file these plans at least every five years.

Poll finds majority of Illinois residents want clean energy option. A new poll shows that Illinois residents overwhelmingly want to be able to choose their energy supplier, choose clean energy and want more renewable energy in the Illinois power system. The poll commissioned by CleanChoice Energy, a renewable energy company that provides 100% clean electricity to customers across the country, was conducted by SurveyUSA. SurveyUSA interviewed 550 Illinois adults who rent or own their home, pay their utility bills, and have at least some input on the household choice of their utility company. Support for energy choice through Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers (ARES) cut across the typical partisan divide with both Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly agreeing that they want to be able to choose clean energy. Highlights from the new survey: 83% of Illinois residents want to be able to choose clean, renewable energy as a source for their home; 79% of Illinoisans want to be able to choose who provides their electricity; 78% of Illinois residents would be interested in 100% of their electricity being renewable energy if provided the option; 81% of residents want the right to choose an alternative provider even if their city or town has selected a provider through a municipal aggregation program. Illinois residents overwhelmingly support the renewable Alternative Retail Energy Supplier model for clean energy delivery (77%), more than rooftop solar (45%) and other home efficiency products and smart thermostats (62%). Survey results can be found here.

Here’s how to avoid higher electric bills when prices go up in Texas this summer. The cost of electricity is expected to go up this summer. If you are in a variable rate electric plan or your contract is expiring soon, you could get hit with some of the highest rates we’ve seen in years. Three large coal power plants in Texas closed at the beginning of 2018. Combined, they made enough electricity to power more than 2 million homes. Some 400,000 people moved to Texas in 2017, and now the operator of our state’s electric grid is predicting record-breaking demand for electricity this summer. Energy insiders say the trifecta will add up to higher electric rates. If you are currently in a contract with an electric provider that will last through August, you probably won’t feel much of the impact. If your contract is expiring anytime now through August or you are on a variable rate plan, you need to sign a fixed-rate contract now.

Pa. PUC ALJs  tour Transource power line route to explore school and trout impacts. Administrative law judges from the Public Utility Commission on Tuesday visited several places in Franklin County where Transource Energy wants to erect a high-voltage transmission line. They walked part of the Chambersburg Area School District’s cross-country course at Falling Spring Elementary School. They also saw where the line would cross the Falling Spring, a picturesque coldwater stream that supports a wild trout population.


Pa. county commissioners approve gas contract with second company. Schuylkill County will be getting the fuel for its two office buildings in the city for the next three years from a different company than the one supplying gas for the courthouse and prison, the commissioners decided on Wednesday. The commissioners voted to sign a three-year contract with Direct Energy Business Marketing LLC, Houston, to buy natural gas to be used to heat the Children & Youth Building, 324 N. Centre St., and the Human Services Building, 410 N. Centre St. Under the terms of the contract, the county will pay Direct Energy a fixed price of $3.036 per decatherm of gas for the two buildings. The contract will run from Nov. 1 through Oct. 31, 2021. The deal saves the taxpayers money, County Administrator Gary Bender said.

More N.Y. lawmakers turn up heat on utility companies. The response of local utility companies to the March nor’easters is once again in the spotlight in the Hudson Valley. Con Ed Chairman John McAvoy faced a grilling from state lawmakers in Westchester Tuesday. The continued public pressure follows two devastating nor’easters back in March that left tens of thousands of people across in the Hudson Valley in the dark for days.

Cape Light Compact announces decrease in electric pricing. South Yarmouth, Mass. – Cape Light Compact is pleased to announce a substantial decrease in electricity prices for its green aggregation power supply program for the next six-month term, beginning on customers’ June 2018 meter read dates and ending on December 2018 meter read dates. With this new pricing for the upcoming term, the Compact’s power supply program will continue to provide cost savings to customers against the utility’s basic service pricing and support renewable energy resources. “We are pleased to be able to offer our customers’ savings against the utility’s basic service rate while supporting renewable energy above and beyond state requirements,” said Maggie Downey, Cape Light Compact Administrator, “and we are proud to provide a safe and stable power supply option that doesn’t require customers to sign a contract and doesn’t come with any surprise fees or charges.”

Ohio power markets can affect W.Va. When a coal-fired power plant is retired, the tax revenue that goes to local government and local schools can plummet. The shutdowns of Killen and Stuart will hit the local schools in Adams County, Ohio, particularly hard. In a telephone interview, Brian Rau, superintendent of the Manchester Local School District, said funding in his district has gone from $12,000 per student to $8,000 per student in recent years. The district has 882 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, so that’s been about a $3.5 million drop in funding. The question now is what happens when the two plants close, he said. “Since 2004, Manchester local schools was 80 to 85 percent locally funded. Now we’re going to be like other schools and be 80 to 85 percent state-funded,” he said. West Virginia’s market is still regulated and thus is friendlier to electricity produced from coal.

Michigan PSC approves nearly $50.3 million in rate cuts. The Michigan Public Service Commission approved settlement agreements with seven utilities to pass on to ratepayers their savings from the federal tax law rewrite, beginning in July. Three other utilities had no impact from the changes.,4639,7-159-16363-469777–,00.html

How much energy does it take to grow weed vs. mining Bitcoin? Power authorities are concerned about Bitcoin’s energy use; how does it stack up against growing bud? Based on price, the closest analog to one kilogram of pot ($12,000) in Bitcoin is two whole bitcoins—currently valued at $14,800. Let’s look at how much energy it takes to generate two new bitcoins as a reward from solving a block of transaction data. One solved block of Bitcoin data currently generates 12.5 bitcoins for the miner. If we divide the amount of kilowatts it takes to solve a block by that number, and multiply it by two, we see that generating two bitcoins—currently worth $14,800—uses just under 100,000 kWh of electricity, which at consumer rates in the New York area would cost roughly $19,000. At rates that industrial cryptocurrency miners prefer (say, two cents per kWh), that would cost around $2,000. This amount of electricity could power two dozen average American homes for a month; that’s an entire small community.

The downfall Of Tesla. It has been a tough year for the wildcat auto maker. Tesla has been a difficult company to sort out on a fundamentals basis. Investors must value Tesla utilizing a unique technique, one that has little precedent in the broad market. The bear thesis is easily made, but do not expect the bulls to simply go away. A case for investment can be made, but it should be placed on the aggressive periphery of a portfolio.

Audi’s first electric car enters production to compete with Tesla. The Audi eTron is a 248-mile range all-electric crossover-SUV that looks a little bit like a lifted station wagon. It enters production in various stages in 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. Over 250 units are already on the road for durability testing, which started over a year ago. With customer production beginning in 3Q 2018 and European deliveries underway in 4Q 2018, the U.S. dealerships get their units in 1Q 2019. Why Europe first?  Electric car incentives are being reduced in some geographies that are conveniently close to Audi’s Brussels factory. That’s why Audi’s eTron sales will first be focused on countries such as Norway, Holland, Germany and Belgium – and perhaps also Austria, Sweden and Switzerland.

Fiat Chrysler investors want electric road map in CEO’s swan song. Fiat Chrysler (FCA) boss Sergio Marchionne is expected to outline new plans for electric and hybrid cars in a strategy presentation on Friday, aiming to ensure the world’s seventh-largest carmaker remains in the race in the absence of a merger. The 65-year-old will present FCA’s strategy to 2022, his final contribution to the company he turned around and multiplied in value through 14 years of canny dealmaking. After failing to secure a tie-up he said was necessary to manage the costs of producing cleaner vehicles, Marchionne needs to show the group can keep churning out profits on its own, even as emissions rules tighten, SUV competition intensifies and worries around his succession abound. Marchionne had long refused to jump on the electrification bandwagon, saying he would only do so if selling battery-powered cars could be done at a profit. He even urged customers not to buy FCA’s Fiat 500e, its only battery-powered model, because he was losing money on each sold. But Tesla’s success and the need to comply with tougher emissions rules have forced Marchionne to commit to what he calls “most painful” spending.

Why you should buy General Electric Co. stock after dip. Buy GE stock amid positive catalysts and attractive valuation. Investors should buy General Electric Company stock, as help appears to be on the way for its beleaguered Power business, while its other businesses appear to be performing quite well and it has multiple additional positive catalysts. Moreover, GE stock is fairly cheap at current levels.

3 reasons to avoid General Electric Co. stock. If GE were a boat, it would be named Titanic. If you own General Electric Company stock, Wednesday’s 7.3% decline was the company’s worst day in almost a decade. That’s saying something given GE stock has lost over half its value since the end of 2016. If you’re considering buying GE stock given how low its share price is — except for 2008, the company’s stock hasn’t traded at these levels since 1996 — do yourself a favor and read these three reasons why you absolutely should not buy the stock. You can thank me later.

RBS introduces new energy financing policies to support low carbon transition. These changes follow the bank’s substantial reductions in fossil fuel exposures and growth in renewables in recent years as it refocuses its business on the UK, Ireland and Western Europe. RBS now has sector-leading expertise in sustainable energy financing and has funded more British renewable energy projects than any other UK bank for the last six years running. There is growing interest in the role banks can play in tackling climate change. Energy supplies are changing rapidly as coal becomes a declining part of the mix and attention turns to cleaner forms of energy to support the Paris Climate Agreement and national targets. In March, RBS announced it was committing to provide £10bn of funding to the sustainable energy sector between 2018 and 2020 and that 80% of its energy project financing went to renewables in 2017. The new policy changes being announced build on this momentum. Covering the mining, power and oil and gas sectors, they mean the bank will not provide project-specific finance to new coal fired power stations, new thermal coal mines; oil sands projects; Arctic oil projects, and unsustainable vegetation or peatland clearance projects.

Large German power users must repay illegal grid use state aid: EC. Large German electricity users will have to pay their grid use charges for 2012 and 2013 after the European Commission ruled that their full exemption financed by a levy on final consumers was illegal state aid. “Fully exempting certain large users from these charges is an unfair advantage and increases the financial burden on other electricity users,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said on Monday. Germany has to calculate the amount each beneficiary must now pay, using a methodology set by the EC. The beneficiaries avoided paying an estimated Eur300 million (about $346 million at current rates) in network charges in 2012 alone, the EC said.

Tesla leads charge against Australian generators over market access. The Tesla big battery and demand response projects may well have delivered spectacular savings in the grid stability market last summer, but they face a wall of resistance from incumbent utilities over further access to the energy market. Tesla, EnerNOC and others are pushing to make technologies like “virtual power plants” and demand response more widely available in Australia’s wholesale energy markets. They argue, after their success in South Australia and across the National Energy Market, that they could deliver increases in competition and significant savings to consumers. But Australia’s incumbent generators, led by Snowy Hydro and the main lobby group, are fighting back, having seen the gas cartel’s earnings smashed by the presence of the Tesla big battery in South Australia and EnerNOC’s demand response activities.


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Today’s lede: ‘Greed disguised as green.’ Consumers last week took it on the chin in New Jersey, as Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a measure imposing some $300 million annually in subsidies they’ll be forced to pay to prop up nuclear power plants. But consumers in Minnesota dodged the bullet as legislation died in the legislature that would have carved out a special rate-setting procedure for the state’s nuclear power plants.

Nora Brownell, a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and at the Pennsylvania PUC when it implemented competitive restructuring of that state’s electricity sector, told the Washington Post that nuclear power needs “a new model without putting an extraordinary hidden tax on ratepayers.” New Jersey’s imposition of consumer subsidies is “uneconomic, unfair and unrealistic” and “will totally screw up [electricity] markets,” Brownell said, characterizing the New Jersey law as “greed disguised as green.”



National Security Council has the lead on power plant subsidies. The White House National Security Council has been brought in to help determine whether the federal government should prop up economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants, Politico reports, citing sources in the natural gas and utility industries. Politico deemed it the “next move” in Trump administration’s efforts to provide out-of-market financial assistance to baseload coal and nuclear power plants. “The council will spend between six to 12 months studying whether the retirement of those power plants poses a national security risk that would warrant the federal government to intervene and use the authorities under the Federal Power Act or the Defense Production Act,” Politico reports.


Take a lesson from down under? Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Simms is warning policy makers in that country, where utility oversight and rising electricity prices have been a struggle, not to “gold plate” generation assets as they have for transmission assets, Sophie Vorrath reports in

“Australia’s current obsession with ‘reliability’ of electricity generation could lead to the same sort of expensive energy asset gold-plating Australia has already seen in its poles and wires sector, Australia’s competition watchdog has warned,” Vorrath reports.

In comments broadcast on ABC Radio, Simms said there were already too many consumers paying “way too much” for their electricity, in large part due to unrealistic reliability standards placed on network companies in the past. He warned that the current focus on reliable generation – often misrepresented by conservatives in politics and the media as baseload fossil fuel generation, like coal – was excessive, and risked a similar outcome for consumers, Vorrath writes.

“We’ve had excessive reliability standards in the past, and that has pushed up the poles and wires investment operating costs and consumers have paid for that in a big way,” Simms said on the radio program. “Around 40 per cent of the increase in (electricity) prices… is due to higher network charges, so they are a crucial part of the equation. What we want to make sure (with the National Energy Guarantee, click through here) is that there is not an excessive focus on generation reliability, because…. a minute part of any outage is due to generation.”

Usually outages are due to the network, Simms said. “So let’s not overly focus on generator reliability, let’s have a balanced scheme that, yes, achieves reliability… but let’s do it in a way that can also help us lower electricity prices by integrating our energy and our environmental markets.”


Steyer under attack in Michigan, Arizona over RPS ballot initiatives. Billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer reportedly agreed to drop his efforts to pass a ballot initiative in Michigan to impose stricter renewable portfolio requirements for electricity suppliers after the state’s leading utilities pledged to ramp up their commitments to renewables like wind and solar (click through here). But that didn’t stop the conservative-leaning opinions page of the Detroit News from carrying a scathing op-ed by Timothy Benson of the Heartland Institute charging Steyer with leading an effort to increase electricity costs for Michigan consumers.

“Tom Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund manager from San Francisco — who, by his own admission, fell off his ass like Saul of Tarsus and found the one true faith — has all the passion and fiery proselytistic zeal of those who have experienced a Pauline-like conversion. A part of Steyer’s formidable fortune came from his hedge fund’s investments in coal entities overseas, you see, but now, post-Damascus, he is so fervently and fanatically into the crusade of radical environmentalism that he makes Al Gore look like your standard milquetoast Episcopal bishop,” Benson writes. Phew! And that was just the lede.

The piece goes on to complain that Steyer’s efforts to raise Michigan’s renewable portfolio mandate from 15 percent by 2021 to 30 percent by 2030, for which he has reportedly spent some $2 million, will raise electricity costs for Michigan consumers. Benson paints Steyer as an elitist out of touch with the economic struggles of Michigan consumers.

“Thomas Fahr Steyer is an alumnus of the Upper East Side’s Buckley School (annual tuition $45,000), the Phillips Exeter Academy (annual tuition $53,000), Yale University (annual tuition $53,000), and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (annual tuition $68,000). The son of a partner at white-shoe Sullivan & Cromwell, a youth who summered on Nantucket, he has most assuredly never once had to worry about the cost of electricity since his birth on third base. He’s obviously a brilliant man, and his career at Farallon, his hedge fund, is legendary on Wall Street, but he has no conception of the harm his pet policy can have on those struggling to keep food on the table or the lights on in the house. His climate zealotry will be costly to working Michiganians.”

Meanwhile, Steyer is continuing his efforts to place an initiative on the ballot in Arizona to raise that state’s renewables mandate to 50 percent by 2030. As part of the pushback against that effort, signs have been appearing – apparently fairly ubiquitously – urging voters to log onto “,” a website maintained by a group called Reliable Energy Policy, which is advocating against placing the initiative on Arizona’s ballot, Ciara Encinas reports for KYMA Channel 11 in Yuma.

Those logging onto the site are greeted by a photo of a man whispering into a wide-eyed woman’s ear, along with the caption: “Tom Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire from California, has a – Secret – a few of them, actually, and he’s keeping these secrets to mislead us and millions of other Arizonans to make all of us pay for his personal agenda by doubling your utility bill.”

“This is a grassroots group made up of people who are concerned about the astronomical rise in utility rates that would occur if this initiative were to be put onto the ballot and passed,” Encina quotes Barrett Marson, spokesman for Reliable Energy Policy. “Clearly Tom Steyer wants to bring his brand to across the country,” said Marson.

“Since APS is the only electric provider in the Yuma area, News 11 asked if they were associated with the information campaign. They said no and released a statement that said they do not support the energy initiative,” Encinas reports. “The ballot initiative by California billionaire Tom Steyer is irresponsible and bad for customers. It will dramatically increase electricity bills, kill thousands of jobs, eliminate millions in tax revenue, potentially increase carbon emissions in Arizona and make our state a less attractive place to do business,” said APS.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona said that is not the case. “What we would like to see is an honest, open debate about clean energy because Arizonan’s deserve the choice that seems right to them,” said Rodd McLeoz, spokesman for group supporting the ballot drive. “Solar used to be very expensive, but the price has gone down a lot. It’s now cheaper than building a gas plant,” said McLeoz.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona needs 250,000 valid signatures for the initiative to be placed on the ballot this November.



Did Southern Co. sell its Florida assets to NextEnergy because of debt load from Kemper, Plant Vogtle? Southern Co. is facing “significant adverse financial consequences” from its failed efforts to develop the Kemper clean-coal power plant in Mississippi and from its mushrooming costs to build new nuclear plants at Plant Vogtle in Georgia, prompting it to sell its Florida utility subsidiary, Gulf Power, plus a natural gas utility and power plant assets also located in Florida to NextEra Energy in a deal valued at $5.1 billion in cash and the assumption of $1.4 billion in debt. That’s what Leonard Hyman, an economist and financial analyst specializing in the energy sector, and William Tilles, a former utility equity research analyst and utility equities portfolio manager, write in their regular column in

“Why on earth would a smart management like Southern Company’s sell an asset like Gulf Power when other large utilities in the U.S. are doing just the opposite and aggressively acquiring? Simply put, two technology bets gone wrong and the significant adverse financial consequences thereof,” Hyman and Tilles write, referring to Kemper and Plant Vogtle. In Mississippi, Southern reached a settlement in which its ratepayers will be forced to eat a significant share of the failed clean-coal project, which is now operating as a pureplay natural gas-fired generating station. And in Georgia, regulators have signaled that they aren’t comfortable with consumers picking up all of the over-budget nuclear development project, they say.

Despite its size, regulators requiring company shareholders “to share the pain of over budget nuclear and clean coal construction have put Southern Company under financial pressure. A substantial amount of debt has been incurred to finance these ill-fated projects not all of which will be supported by future returns on these assets,” Hyman and Tilles observe.

Turning its Florida-based properties into cash “will reduce Southern’s considerable debt burden without impairing the company’s core assets or strategy,” they conclude, suggesting that perhaps Southern could sell other assets as well, such as its Nicor gas utility in Illinois.

“For NextEra, this acquisition continues its efforts to add regulated assets. But also concentrates the company’s regulatory risk even more heavily in the state of Florida. While this is not an immediate concern, even the most constructive political and regulatory environments can shift,” Hyman and Tilles write. “But this deal is accretive to earnings per share by perhaps 20 cents (2-3%)—which in an industry with no sales growth is a big deal.”

See also:

Potential Gulf Power sale may affect contract negotiation. NextEra Energy announced that it would acquire Gulf Power and Florida City Gas in a $6.475 billion deal. The City of Destin recently voted to extend its current contract with Gulf Power until Sept. 21 in order to continue negotiations with the utility company. The contract, which took effect 30 years ago, was set to expire this month. City councilman Parker Destin, who was appointed by the council as the city’s primary negotiator with Gulf Power, confirmed that the city is still in a contract extension with Gulf Power despite the change in parent companies from Southern Company to NextEra Energy. “It’s really just a changing of the guard,” said Destin. “Representatives from Gulf Power called me and said nothing will change when it comes to the negotiations.” Destin reiterated that his main goal is to provide the best utility deal possible for Destin residents, and said that the acquisition could possibly open up doors to lower utility rates.


Consumers Energy defends financial support for Michigan lawmaker’s political opponent. Consumers Energy confirmed an independent political action committee partially funded by it has contributed $2,500 to back former state Rep. Kevin Daley in his bid to defeat State Rep. Gary Glenn in a race for a state Senate seat, Jay Greene reports in Crain’s Detroit Business.

Glenn, who chairs an influential House oversight panel and is an outspoken advocate of ending Michigna’s 10 percent load cap on competitive access, “contends millions more dollars have been spent by Consumers to back Daley and other politicians who he says will be supportive of the Jackson-based utility’s positions,” Greene writes.

Last week, Glenn refused to apologize to Consumers for referring to the company as “terrorists” (click through here and here).

The confirmation of the utility’s political spending against Glenn come in the wake of the lawmaker’s accusations that Consumers is waging a big-dollar “dark money” political campaign against him as he runs for the state Senate seat. “As a result of our current monopoly system, utility bosses have tens of millions of dollars a year of our money to spend trying to handpick and elect politicians, like Kevin Daley, who they know won’t threaten their state-guaranteed monopoly privileges,” Glenn said in an email to Crain’s. A Consumers Energy spokesman, Katie Carey, confirmed that $2,500 was contributed to Daley in April from CMS Energy Corp. Employees for Better Government, a 28-year-old independent political action committee.

“Consumers Energy stands for the people of Michigan. As a good corporate citizen, we are engaged in the political process, welcome constructive dialogue and support pragmatic policies that are focused on safe, reliable, and affordable energy for Michigan, and we support organizations that provide education and advocacy related to such policies,” Carey said in the email. “Our contributions to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy came from the company’s general funds and were not reflected in utility customer rates.”

But Carey said she didn’t know whether money contributed by Consumers Energy a 501(c)4 organization founded in 2014 by Consumers and other anti-deregulation groups has been used to support Daley because it is an independent organization with its own board of directors, Greene reports.


Asian Chamber of Commerce calls for ‘no’ vote on Nevada electricity choice ballot initiative. The Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition to Question 3, the ballot initiative in Nevada to change the state’s constitution to end monopoly regulation and allow competitive choice in electricity, the Coalition to Defeat Question 3 announced.

“Question 3 would eliminate current consumer protections, result in higher electricity rates for small businesses and individuals, and put the reliability of our electricity system at risk,” said Sonny Vinuya, president of Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, which represents approximately 1,000 small business owners in Southern Nevada. “As an organization dedicated to promoting commerce, supporting economic development, and serving as a conduit of business opportunities for Asian American entrepreneurs, we cannot support this risky and costly measure.”

“Consumers and small businesses in deregulated states have faced significantly higher electricity rates, less reliable service, spikes in consumer complaints, and fewer consumer protections. That’s why we are committed to making sure all Nevadans get the facts about Question 3,” said Tracy Skenandore of the Coalition to Defeat Question 3.

Other groups and organizations recently joining the Coalition to Defeat Question 3 include the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada, AARP Nevada, Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, Latin Chamber of Commerce-Nevada, and the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans, among others.


More electric industry news items of note:

Trump scraps plan to sell off federal electricity assets. President Trump has scrapped plans to sell off the assets of many of the nation’s federally owned electric utilities from Tennessee to the Pacific Northwest. A group of Republican lawmakers announced late Thursday that they reached a deal with the Trump administration to kill off the proposal that was included in the president’s fiscal 2019 budget. “It was the right move for the Administration to abandon its plan to sell off Bonneville Power Administration’s assets,” tweeted Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. “This decision came after I joined w/ several other [Northwest] members of Congress to express our strong opposition to this harmful proposal.”

State Dept. announces talks with Canada to modernize the Columbia River treaty regime. The United States is pleased to announce the start of negotiations with Canada to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime on May 29-30, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The 1964 Treaty’s flood risk and hydropower operations have provided substantial benefits to millions of people on both sides of the border. The Treaty, a worldwide model for transboundary water cooperation, has also facilitated additional benefits such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation. Modernizing the Treaty regime will ensure these benefits continue for years to come. As negotiations proceed, the U.S. government will continue to engage regional stakeholders, Tribes, state government officials, and other interested groups.

W.Va. customers speak out against Appalachian rate hike. A proposed rate increase by Appalachian Power is being met with criticism by customers, who say West Virginia residents living on fixed incomes will be hard hit. And many also aren’t pleased by part of the rationale for the hike request — that less electricity usage means the power company needs to raise their customers’ monthly bills. Kay Dick, of Wayne, said she doesn’t know one person in her area that is not opposed to Appalachian Power’s request to raise residential customers’ rates by 11 percent. Dick, 66, said she and her husband are on fixed incomes and do everything to try to keep their electric costs down. “They tell us to conserve and we do, and now they want more money due to less usage by customers,” she said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.” Appalachian Power officials, however, say the increase is needed because no matter the level of electricity usage, the company still needs to maintain the infrastructure allowing electricity to be delivered.


Missouri bill revamping utility rate structures awaits governor’s signature. A bill that critics say will result in significantly higher electric rates for Missouri residents needs only the signature of Gov. Eric Greitens to become law. The Missouri House of Representatives last week passed Senate Bill 564 by a vote of 125-20. The legislation affects all of the nearly 2 million customers of investor-owned utilities in the state, including Empire District-Liberty Utilities, Ameren Corp. and Kansas City Power and Light. Under the bill, companies would be given more flexibility as to when and how they change their rates, in response to declining electricity usage, but state regulators and consumer groups say the result would be much higher bills for residential customers. The Missouri Public Service Commission staff recently released an analysis of the impact the measure would have on the state’s residential ratepayers. That analysis projects an increase of nearly 10 percent over a 10-year period beginning in 2019. Revenues for the utilities would go up $282.5 million over that time as a result of the bill, the staff analysis said. A spokesperson for Empire on Friday night said the company was not familiar with the PSC staff analysis, but that it believes the bill is an overall positive for consumers.

Missouri utility’s ambitious wind energy plan facing pushback. Proponents of cleaner energy in coal-reliant Missouri had lofty expectations in 2016, when Algonquin Power & Utilities bought Empire District Electric Co. At the time, Empire claimed it could build 800 megawatts of wind energy, close a 200 megawatt coal plant next April — about 16 years early — and save ratepayers as much as $325 million over 20 years. The utility said it could do this with a substantial investment from a tax-equity investor, by tapping the federal production tax credit and saving $20 million it otherwise would have to spend to make federally mandated environmental upgrades to the power plant it has proposed closing. Under the proposal, wind’s share of generation for Empire customers would have increased from 14 percent in 2016 to 51 percent by 2023. Coal’s share over that period would have fallen from 49 to 21 percent. “It’s great to see a utility embrace this stuff,” said James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri. However, the state’s Office of Public Counsel and the staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission are skeptical. They don’t trust Empire’s estimates of the future price of wind on the wholesale market, and they maintain that the utility has structured the deal so that the tax-equity investor – as yet unnamed – will be paid off during the first 10 years, leaving only crumbs behind for ratepayers. The City of Joplin also is worried about the possible loss of 55 jobs at the Asbury coal plant.

Baker adviser helped energy firms land big Mass. contracts. The top political adviser to Governor Charlie Baker also provided strategic and communications advice as a paid consultant to two companies that recently landed massive clean energy contracts in Massachusetts. Jim Conroy, an experienced political strategist who managed Baker’s 2014 campaign and is a key adviser on his reelection bid, also worked with Vineyard Wind LLC and Central Maine Power Co., helping the companies beat out competitors for what will be two of New England’s biggest energy projects. Conroy helped Vineyard Wind, a joint venture owned by Connecticut-based Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, to win contracts that would enable a wind farm to be built with as many as 100 turbines spinning about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Conroy also helped Central Maine Power land contracts so the company can build a nearly 150-mile power line to import electricity from Hydro-Quebec in Canada through western Maine for Massachusetts. Central Maine Power, also owned by Avangrid, won the contracts after Eversource Energy’s rival project, Northern Pass, was rejected by regulators in New Hampshire. Conroy, who is not a registered lobbyist, confirmed the arrangements to the Globe. He said he started working on both projects last year and provides help with big-picture communications strategy and branding. Baker administration officials say Conroy did not — and could not — influence the procurement decisions. “The governor’s office does not control the project selection process, as state law requires the utility companies to choose projects based on strict guidelines such as cost, permitting, and environmental impact,” said Baker’s communications director, Lizzy Guyton. “The evaluation team, comprised of the utility companies, selected projects for both renewable energy procurements based on numerical rankings for price criteria submitted by the bidders.” Guyton also noted that an independent evaluator selected by the attorney general has monitored the entire process.

Massachusetts lawmakers heed the call of businesses and advance clean energy proposals. “Companies and investors across Massachusetts have embraced clean energy as a business decision to help cut energy costs, reduce exposure to the volatility of fossil fuel prices, and stay competitive. Increasing the RPS will provide additional policy certainty for the clean energy industry, while supporting new investments and driving economic growth across the Commonwealth. We encourage the legislature and Governor Baker to follow the lead of the business community and pass an RPS increase to achieve 50 percent renewable energy supply by 2030.”

Three Mile Island’s future looks bleaker as it fails at power auction. The future of Exelon’s unprofitable Three Mile Island nuclear power plant looks even bleaker after company said today it failed at an annual auction for the future sale of its electricity. In addition to TMI, Exelon’s Dresden and Byron plants (both in Illinois) did not clear in the 2021-2022 auction to supply the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regional power grid, known as PJM Interconnection. Failing to clear the auction means the plants are not able to produce power at a price the market is willing to pay. Exelon says TMI has been unprofitable for six years. A year ago, Exelon said it would prematurely close the plant, which is near Harrisburg. It has one functional reactor after the other partially melted down in 1979. It is set to close in September 2019—15 years before its operating license expires. TMI employs about 675 people. Like coal, the nuclear industry has struggled amid slowing demand for electricity and competition from a glut of cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.

Bitcoin backlash as ‘miners’ suck up electricity, stress power grids in Central Washington. Public hearings for rural electric utilities are rarely sellout events. But the crowd that showed up in Wenatchee two weeks ago for a hearing about Bitcoin mining in Chelan County was so large that utility staff had to open a second room with a video feed for the overflow. The turnout wasn’t surprising. Chelan County, along with neighboring Douglas and Grant counties, has been at the center of the U.S. Bitcoin boom since 2012, when the region’s ultracheap hydropower began attracting cryptocurrency “miners.” These entrepreneurs earn Bitcoin by solving increasingly complicated mathematical problems established by the shadowy creators of the digital currency. The process, which the industry calls mining, involves trillions of computer calculations and sucks up huge amounts of power. As a result, an area famous for apples, wheat and conservative politics has been transformed into a kind of cyber-boomtown, with Bitcoin mining operations that range from large-scale, state-of-the-art warehouses to repurposed cargo containers to backyard sheds. By the end of this year, according to some estimates, the Mid-Columbia Basin could account for as much as 30 percent of the global output of new Bitcoin and large shares of other digital currencies, such as Litecoin and Ethereum. But as in any boomtown, success has come at a cost.

PUD’S dilemma in supply of power to bitcoin Miners. It is rarely that the public hearing for rural electric utility becomes sell-out event. But contrary to the usual precedents, a large crowd turned out at Wenatchee two weeks ago for a hearing about Bitcoin mining in Chelan County. Chelan County and its neighbouring Douglas and Grant counties, has attracting cryptocurrency “miners.”, due to the region’s ultra-cheap hydropower, ever since U.S. Bitcoin boom of 2012. Statistics show that by end of the year, the Mid-Columbia Basin could account for about 30 percent of the new bitcoins globally and also a higher share of older crypto, including Litecoin and Ethereum.

Bitcoin miners are crushing power grids In Washington State as electricity demands skyrocket. One of the biggest criticisms of cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin in particular, is the highly volatile nature of digital coins. However, that’s for investors and miners to worry about. A larger concern that is starting to draw increased attention is the power usage that comes from mining cryptocurrencies on a large scale. Over in Washington, where power is relatively cheap compared to other parts of the country, there’s a twofold concern—that power bills will go, and that electric utilities will not be able to keep up with demand.

Rouses Point, N.Y., imposes cryptocurrency ban. Village trustees in Rouses Point have voted to impose a 24-month moratorium on cryptocurrency-mining operations in the village. “Our priority is always in keeping the best interests of the taxpayers in mind,” Mayor Thomas Batha said in a statement about the ban on operations involving cryptocurrency, block-chain or similar data. “Data mining has the potential to really disrupt our village. At the moment, these substantial power users provide no compensating increase in jobs and do not yet have any discernible benefit to village residents,” he said. “We need some time to work through this issue.” The law includes provisions for possible civil penalties of up to $1,000 a day for violations. Due to the affordable electricity rates in Rouses Point, dozens of requests have been fielded by village officials from cryptocurrency miners. The City of Plattsburgh, which also has appealing electricity rates, also has imposed a cryptocurrency moratorium.

Did NH Supreme Court miss ‘the forest for the trees’ in Eversource gas case? Without that separation, deregulation does not exist and there is no free market for competitive electric prices. Deregulation has subjected consumers to more of the volatility in the electric market but allows the “educated consumers” to benefit significantly over the old integrated system. Last week’s Supreme Court said the PUC erred when it said the fundamental principle of restructuring is to separate generation from distribution and transmission. The Supreme Court said the law does not elevate separation above the other principles and insisted reducing electric rates was the primary consideration which allows flexibility with projects like Access Northeast. The decision was not unanimous as Senior Associate Justice Gary Hicks said, “the majority misses the forest for the trees.”

Sununu: NH Legislature has a lot to be proud of. We are working hard to lower our electricity rates – some of the highest in the nation – and some of the bills passed this session will chart New Hampshire’s course forward. These bills will allow for greater transparency and accountability to the ratepayer to ensure we are taking responsible, cost-effective steps to protect our environment. They will empower New Hampshire’s policymakers to strongly negotiate on our behalf throughout New England. These sound policies will lay the foundation to prevent rate-hikes now and in the future. Our goal is simple: to lower rates, to secure our electric system, and to take practical steps to protect our environment.

Vermonters being asked to sign up for water-heater technology. Water heaters may not be something people often think about, but the team at a local company wants to be on the one to revolutionize how they work. “A conventional water heater basically heats up in big, bulky 20-minute chunks,” said Mads Almassalkhi, the co-founder of Packetized Energy. Almassalkhi says that happens even when someone isn’t home or and when it’s not being used. And when a water heater decides it’s time to heat up may not be the best time for the electric grid we all use. “The notion of peaks happening in the afternoon is really becoming and old story and that’s not really true anymore,” said Almassalkhi. “Peaks are happening whenever the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.” Green Mountain Power representatives say when people are using a lot of energy during those peak times, the electric utility must turn to generators that are more costly to operate and use the dirtiest fuels. Almassalkhi says he wants to stop that. His product is called the Mello. It sits right on top of a water heater and is smart enough to know when it’s a bad time on the grid to ask for a big chunk of electricity.–483851311.html

FERC says N.J. must bear full cost of $1.2 billion transmission line. BPU argues reliability upgrade mandated by regional grid operator benefits New Jersey and New York, but FERC says Garden State must foot the bill. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a bid by New Jersey officials to overturn a decision in a multistate dispute concerning who gets saddled with the costs of a $1.2 billion transmission upgrade. In a decision rendered last Thursday, the federal agency denied a complaint by the New Jersey Board of Utilities in a case state officials argued unreasonably left ratepayers here bearing the cost of a reliability upgrade mandated by the regional grid operator, PJM Interconnection.

N.Y. utilities to spend $1.25 million on composite utility poles. The New York State Public Service Commission, along with Rochester Gas and Electric, the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation and other parties have a proposed a settlement over the way the two utilities responded to a March 2017 windstorm in the area. The storm caused power outages to more than 250,000 customers and Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered the PSC to investigate the way the two utilities had prepared and responded to that storm which left some customers without electricity for days. The settlement calls for RG&E and NYSEG to spend $3.9 million in a series of projects to “increase resiliency and improve emergency responses in the areas impacted by the March windstorm.” Approximately $1.25 million of that money will be used to install utility poles made of composite material such as fiberglass, which are a more durable alternative to traditional wooden poles. According to Democrat and Chronicle, more than 900 poles, most of which were made with wood, snapped or fell over during the 2017 windstorm.

California’s rooftop decree may be hasty. Don’t let the sun shine in just yet. It has the feel of a political gesture, something that Gov. Jerry Brown and other politicians can tout as part of their “resistance” to President Donald Trump on climate change policy, and that Brown can crow about when he hosts a global climate conference next fall before vacating the governorship. Tellingly, the new decree is being sharply criticized by the state’s leading energy experts, who – with perfect logic – complain that it’s being done in haste without adequate notice and study, rather than part of a rational energy policy, and has potentially adverse impacts.

Bills addressing utilities’ role in wildfires head to Calif. Senate for a vote. A pair of bills from Senator Bill Dodd, (D-Napa,) that will help protect people from wildfires sparked by utility lines or equipment, cleared the Senate Appropriations committee Friday and heads to the full Senate next week for a vote, Dodd’s office announced. “We know downed power lines have caused devastating fires in the past,” Dodd said. “And last fire season made clear the need to be innovative and proactive about protecting the public. These bills will help us achieve these goals and strengthen the utilities grid while preventing future disasters.” Senate Bill 901, which passed 7-0, requires utilities to adopt emergency shutoff plans to de-energize lines at risk of falling down in high winds or other natural events. Senate Bill 1088, builds a framework for strengthening utility infrastructure to prevent future catastrophes, by requiring the Office of Emergency Services and Public Utilities Commission to develop new standards to “harden” infrastructure to protect against damage during storms, floods, mudslides, wildfires and earthquakes. It passed 4-2. “We must do whatever it takes to save lives and prevent the kind of destruction we’ve seen throughout the state,” Dodd said. “It’s absolutely critical that we take these important steps to avoid another disaster.”

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Valley Clean Energy to launch June 1. On June 1, 2018 local leaders and community members will celebrate the launch of Valley Clean Energy (VCE). Thanks to VCE, over 60,000 electricity customers in Woodland, Davis, and unincorporated Yolo County will have the power to choose cleaner, more cost effective electricity when VCE launches. VCE is the new locally governed not for profit electricity program that is committed to delivering cost-competitive, clean and reliable electricity. Valley Clean Energy is set to deliver on this commitment with a 2.5% lower generation rate than PG&E while providing higher levels of renewable energy. In total, based on current PG&E rates, VCE will save its customers approximately $1.8 million dollars in the first full year of operation. This is possible because as a not for profit entity, VCE is designed to put its revenue back into the local economy to keep its rates competitive and invest in local projects that benefit the communities served by the program. Customers in Woodland, Davis, and unincorporated Yolo County will be automatically enrolled in VCE’s standard program. They will see their electricity generation rates reduced by 2.5% and know that 42% of their electricity came from renewable sources. Customers can also choose to upgrade to VCE’s UltraGreen 100% renewables program for 1.5 cents/kWh more than the standard VCE rate. As a community choice program, customers can also choose to opt out at any time and remain a full customer of PG&E.

Lincoln, Neb., electric system eyes economic incentives, discounts for big users who curb power use at peak times. As part of an effort to reduce peak loads, staff at LES are proposing a program in which Lincoln’s largest users of electricity could agree to have their service interrupted during peak load times, when energy use reaches all-time highs, in exchange for lower monthly bills. The interruptible service program would be available as a rider for at least some of the 280 firms in the light and power class of users. The program would benefit LES by helping reduce future costs that accompany those power-used peaks. “What really drives our costs is building new facilities” to make sure LES can handle the peak load times, said Zachary Wilkerson, the utility’s supervisor of rates and analytics.

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Minnesota overhauls interconnection standards to streamline clean energy. While state regulators took significant steps, some decisions were deferred. On May 24, Minnesota made new strides for clean energy and became the third state in the Midwest in the last three years to adopt wholesale reforms to their state interconnection procedures — creating a more transparent and effective interconnection process for customers. The updated rules are the result of more than two years of work at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), in partnership with Fresh Energy and the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). In May 2016, the three organizations jointly petitioned the PUC to initiate a proceeding to establish new interconnection standards that better align with where the current market for distributed generation is and achieve greater consistency with national best practices. The request stemmed, in part, from the state’s early challenges connecting community solar garden projects to the grid, which led to major backlogs and increased delays and costs for consumers and communities. This coalition of groups was also looking to streamline the interconnection process for rooftop solar systems, which constitute the vast majority of interconnection applications in the state.

NorthStar tries to reassure NRC on financial questions. NorthStar Group Services has tried to reassure federal regulators that it has the financial wherewithal to decommission the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and handle the long-term storage of its radioactive nuclear fuel. In filings made earlier this week with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NorthStar said one change, designed to provide an “assurance” rather than a corporate guarantee, increased its contribution to a “parental support agreement” by $15 million, from $125 million to $140 million, among other changes in its detailed and complex 74-page response. NorthStar wants to buy the shuttered nuclear power plant in Vernon for a nominal amount from Entergy Nuclear, and in exchange get the plant’s $552 million decommissioning trust fund. The company promises it can decommission the nuclear plant quicker and for much less than Entergy, which has estimated a $1.2 billion cost. NorthStar needs approval from both the Vermont Public Utility Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Hearings earlier this month in Montpelier before the PUC concluded, with the Scott administration supporting the sale after NorthStar and Entergy made concessions in March.

How greener grids can stay lit. A new index to guide utility demand bidding could balance electricity distribution and lower consumer costs as California solar-panel mandate takes effect. Without careful management, these sources, known as distributed energy resources, or DERs, have the potential to cause unreliable power delivery, or even outages, and lead utility companies to overcharge customers. A new paper by electrical engineers in the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside, offers a way to account for uncertainties introduced by both the electricity market and DERs so utility companies can balance the distribution grid and find the fairest customer rates. One way managers of the electricity market ensure equitable distribution of power is by offering incentives for customers to reduce, or defer, power consumption during peak hours. Customers can choose to use less electricity or shift their use to a distributed source, such as rooftop solar panels or batteries. Customers can also make more electricity available during peak loads by selling to the utility excess electricity generated by their rooftop solar panels. Consumers can thus exert a strong influence on the wider electricity grid and market. The problem, according to the researchers, is that the organizations overseeing the grid as a whole, known as independent system operators, or ISOs, do not dispatch, and often can’t see, the location of network DERs. They only see transmission lines and resources connected to them, such as collective demand at the substations and power plants. They determine market conditions based on the big picture without knowing details that might have important consequences in the power grid. “ISOs see the electricity up to the substation that feeds it into a consumer network but are blind to what happens among the thousands or millions of customers after that point,” explained Ashkan Sadeghi-Mobarakeh, a UC Riverside doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering and first author of the paper. “The demand of each customer at each location has a different local impact on the distribution network.”–hgg052418.php

Guest Opinion: Little reactor is a big edge in nuclear energy’s global race. NuScale Power continues on track to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America — even faster than expected. Two weeks ago, NuScale’s design completed the Phase 1 review of their design certification application by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s a huge deal because Phase 1 is the most intensive phase of the review, taking more hours and effort than the remaining five phases combined. NuScale sailed through in a year, faster than any design in history. NRC’s final approval is expected by September 2020. The first customer is certainly ready. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) will own the first NuScale plant, a 12-module SMR or 12-pack, and place it at the Idaho National Laboratory. It will be operated by our own Energy Northwest, one of the most effective and experienced nuclear operators in the world. This first application will take advantage of the SMR’s ability to completely help the Utah wind farms, removing the need for natural gas or hydroelectric to back them up.

Solar energy’s good for environment, business in Lake County, Il. At the end of January, the proverbial switch was flipped and a measured decision by the CEO of World Bioproducts LLC in Libertyville immediately began paying off. The 450 solar panels covering a sizable portion of the flat roof of the expansive 50,000-square-foot building began converting sunlight to electricity to power the company’s industrial-sized refrigeration units, boilers and heating/air-conditioning system. “On a sunny day, we’re generating more than we need,” says Bob Ward, a microbiologist by training who founded the food safety company — his third startup — about 10 years ago. That’s when his electric meter figuratively begins to run backward and the excess electricity being produced is notched as a credit against future bills. He won’t say how much the array cost but expects it to pay for itself in about five years. And while there is an environmental benefit, the move to solar ultimately was a business decision made possible by incentives that are fueling strong interest in solar as an energy source.

Hydro One and Avista file a settlement agreement in Oregon merger case. Hydro One Limited (“Hydro One”) (TSX:) and Avista Corporation (“Avista”) (NYSE:) today announced the achievement of an important milestone in the regulatory approval process of their proposed merger. The companies have filed an all-parties, all-issues settlement agreement in the merger proceeding before the Public Utility Commission of Oregon. This represents a full settlement which all parties have agreed is consistent with the public interest and will provide net benefits to Avista’s Oregon customers. The settlement agreement is subject to review and approval by the Oregon commission. “This is yet another key milestone as we navigate the path toward completing this transaction,” said Mayo Schmidt, President and CEO, Hydro One.

Rivals rise up to threaten Tesla’s battery business. Tesla’s enjoyed surprising success using lithium-ion battery tech to protect utilities from blackouts. Now Lockheed and others want in on that business. Everywhere you look in the field of battery technology, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) seems to be there already. The company’s even building a battery gigafactory in the Nevada desert to keep its battery empire well-supplied, and one of the reasons for this is that Tesla is rapidly outgrowing its origins as a car company, and finding new ways to make money by building huge, utility-scale energy storage complexes to help electricity companies shore up the stability of their electric grids. It’s a lucrative business — and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) wants in.

GridWatch will power the smart networks of the future. Our Start-up of the Week is Limerick-based GridWatch, an Irish energy company that specialises in smart energy grid monitoring. “The GridWatch team has created patented sensors that enable power utilities to better manage their smart grid distribution networks with the mass deployment of grid monitoring technology that supports network management and power network data analytics,” explained Dr John O’Flaherty, CEO and technical director of GridWatch. GridWatch is an electronics and software company that emerged from MAC, the National Microelectronics Applications Centre in Limerick, and provides smart data monitoring for energy utilities. GridWatch was recently selected as one of only 15 international companies to participate in Free Electrons, which describes itself as the world’s first accelerator programme that connects energy start-ups with global utilities.

Out of sync: APS seeks biomass energy plant proposals before USFS has cutting plan ready. APS is looking for new proposals that would use the small trees and branches from Arizona forests to generate a small portion of the energy the utility sends to customers around the state. The idea is to provide a market for woody material that needs to be thinned from overcrowded, high-risk forests in northern and eastern Arizona in order to reduce the risk of severe wildfires, improve forest health and benefit watersheds. There’s one big problem, though, according to the head of the state’s only utility-scale biomass power plant. It will be much more difficult for interested companies like his to respond to APS’s request because the Forest Service hasn’t put forward a large-scale tree thinning contract that would provide a guaranteed supply of biomass — generally small trees, treetops and branches, said Brad Worsley, president and CEO of Novo Power. Without a long-term assured fuel supply, his company faces major headwinds in getting financing for a new bioenergy project and in getting the final bid award from APS, Worsley said.

Blue-Green Summit Profile with the Tea Party’s Debbie Dooley. Debates between policymakers and experts about better approaches to environmental protection and bio-diversity preservation highlighted the EU’s Green Week. New Europe’s Violetta Rusheva talked to Debbie Dooley, one of the co-founders of the Tea Party – a splinter group of American conservatism that broke with mainstream Republican politics in 2009 by after their platform of far-right populism, libertarianism, nationalism, constitutional activism, and American exceptionalism. The movement first emerged out of anger over Washington’s bail-outs of failing banks, insurers, and auto companies, which quickly put the Tea Party at odds with the US’ traditional centrist political factions. Dooley sat down to discuss her views on the state’s role in the protection of the environment and as well as the power of the free market and competition.

Taiwan emerges as offshore wind’s next power base with 3.8 gigawatt tender. One of the most important renewable energy sectors, as we move forward and continue to shift away from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, is the offshore wind industry, which boasts high-yield renewable energy generation done at increasingly lower costs, and done so safely away from the majority of witnesses. It is the perfect clean energy technology. The offshore wind industry has, for the most part, been centred firmly in Western Europe. As of the end of 2017, the United Kingdom led the way with a total of 6,386 megawatts (MW) worth of offshore wind power installed, followed by Germany which boasted 5,355 MW. Denmark and the Netherlands each boasts over 1 gigawatt (GW) worth of offshore wind, and Belgium is not far off that marker either. Unsurprisingly, China is the regional ‘odd one out’ with 2,788 MW worth of offshore wind installed at the end of 2017, taking third place and the only non-European country to have over 100 MW worth of offshore wind. That, however, may soon quickly change.

Israeli government delays vote on power reform, talks about cows instead. Ministers realize that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t want to assume responsibility for the measure in the absence of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

South Africa’s Eskom utility must go, say energy experts. Sinking in debt, Eskom – as both a national generator and distributor of electricity – is the biggest stumbling block to developing affordable, clean power in South Africa, and should be unbundled. This was a broadly consensual view among financiers, business owners and energy experts at the African Utility Week conference in Cape Town. “Take transmission away from Eskom and put it into an independent transmission and market operator. This could be a subsidiary of Eskom initially, as a first step,” said Professor in UCT’s Graduate School of Business’s Infrastructure Reform and Regulation Management Programme, Anton Eberhard. Eberhard has presented before the public enterprises committee state capture enquiry into allegations of corruption and capture at Eskom.


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Today’s lede: No new gas-fired generation for Vistra, Dominion, Reuters reports.  Vistra Energy, which just acquired Dynegy, and Dominion Energy have both concluded they will not build any new combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plants and instead will focus on large solar generating stations, Reuters reports. The revelation comes in a story about how General Electric’s power unit is struggling economically in the face of a rapidly changing electric industry.

“This bearish view of fossil-fuel energy, reflective of a growing acceptance by utilities of renewable power sources, poses a hurdle to John Flannery’s plan to turn around General Electric Co.’s $35 billion-a-year power unit,” Alwynn Scott writes for Reuters. “GE’s chief executive spelled out the difficulty on Wednesday. Power profits will be flat this year after falling 53 percent in 2017, he said, and GE is planning that demand for heavy-duty natural gas power plants will be less than half what it forecast just over a year ago, and will stay at that level through 2020.”

At an investor conference, Flannery said new plant sales are “going to be tough.” He pointed to no “quick fix, but there is, at the end of the day, long-life assets here with intrinsic economic value. We’re going to make the most of what we have there.”

Projecting demand for electricity and natural gas power generators to grow about 2 percent annually, GE is cutting 12,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in costs at its power unit. GE has tripled sales incentives in the power division and is competing aggressively for new contracts to maintain plants and to get the call when utilities need parts or repairs during an unexpected outage, something of which GE had lost sight, Scott writes. “But some analysts and investors are skeptical about the long-term prospects of a business devoted to natural gas and coal power plants that are falling out of favor with utilities.”





Maine Gov. LePage seeks input on future of state’s electric industry. Maine Gov. Paul LePage is asking for expert advice regarding how Maine can benefit from the changes buffeting the electric industry. In particular, LePage seeks guidance in light of efforts by Massachusetts to import low-cost hydropower from Canada through Maine.

“We want to determine the possible efficiencies and benefits, especially reduced cost to ratepayers, that can be gained by a greater electrical integration of Maine with our neighboring Canadian provinces,” LePage said. “We also want to identify any obstacles to creating a more integrated electricity system between Maine and our neighboring Canadian provinces. For instance, there may be existing cross-border institutions, trade agreements or other mechanisms that could facilitate such improved integration.”

LePage directed his Energy Office to work with the Public Utilities Commission and the Public Advocate to report on the issues Maine should consider. He also asked Maine’s electric utilities, gas utilities and consumer electricity groups to identify issues his administration should consider “to reduce the energy costs and improve the lives of Maine citizens.”

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Some Mainers question hydro-electricity line for Massachusetts. Four Maine lawmakers wrote a letter to Massachusetts utility regulators urging them to reject the power purchase contract with New England Clean Energy Connect, a project that would run a new transmission line from the Quebec border to Lewiston, Maine. The lawmakers said they “see no clear economic or climate benefit to Maine people.” Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a big supporter of the transmission line, sent his own letter to Gov. Charlie Baker that was dismissive of the letter from the four lawmakers and critical of them for implying that their views were representative of the legislature.


Electricity company overcharged Maine customers millions, but was still losing money. In the same year power seller Electricity Maine charged Maine customers $30 million over the standard rate, the company was leaking millions. Kevin Dean, one of the company’s co-founders, said in court documents that, in 2015, Electricity Maine and its smaller operations in other New England states “had losses of over [$14 million] and were in trouble.”


Maine PUC adopts rule allowing utilities to have generation affiliates.  The Maine PUC adopted final rules to implement recently enacted legislation that permits an investor-owned transmission and distribution (T&D) utility to have generation affiliates subject to statutory restrictions and Commission-adopted standards of conduct. Click through here to access the order.


Legislative process, not ballot initiative, should decide electricity choice in Nevada, officials say. Nevada voters should reject Question 3, which would “cast in stone” electricity restructuring in the state, and instead should promote a legislative process to decide the details, Ron Knecht, Nevada Controller, and James Smack, Deputy Controller, write in the Elko Daily Free Press.

In 2016, more than 70 percent of voters approved the ballot question. It must be passed a second time this November in order to effectively change the Nevada constitution to end monopoly regulation and allow competitive choice in suppliers.

“Constitutions get in trouble when they dabble in very particular and passing matters. To the extent government must do so, it should be done via legislation that can be easily remedied, not constitutional provisions that are nearly cast in stone,” Knecht and Smack write. . “So let’s defeat Question 3 and then pressure legislators to do the job they should on this matter.”


Researchers correlate industry energy use with stock market performance. Tracking industrial electricity usage offers a “unique, accurate and significant predictor for future stock market fluctuations, a team of researchers has concluded in a new paper.

“Industrial electricity usage is measured very accurately and is difficult to manipulate. Year-over-year industrial electricity usage growth rate has a strong and significant predictive power for future stock market excess returns in horizons ranging from one month to up to one year,” according to the research paper (click through here) authored by Dayong Huang of the Bryan School of Business, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, with Zhia DA, of the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, and Hayong Yun, of the Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University.

Huang said the prediction methodology outperforms standard variables, including the output gap and the growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product. “Looking at industrial electrical usage tells a bigger picture of what we should be doing in the stock market. When there is high industrial electrical growth, the economy is booming.  If the economy is up, the stock market is up – but evidence now shows that the market will revert back to its norm.  It will correct itself.”

High industrial electricity usage today predicts low stock returns in the future, consistent with a countercyclical risk premium. Industrial electricity usage tracks the output of the most cyclical sectors, the paper finds. “This is just one variable for money managers to look at within a combination — but it’s a big one. It helps with market timing — when to allocate money in, and when to take it out. If the variable is too high, it’s time to consider taking money out. Usually, they are using historical data to make decisions. The present tells us about the past, so it’s critical to look at industrial electricity usage.”


Senators urge FERC to conclude DER market-integration efforts. A group of sixteen Democratic senators, led by Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urging the agency to conclude a rule on integrating distributed energy resources (DERs) into the wholesale power markets it regulates. The effort is an outgrowth of FERC’s February final rule on integrating energy storage into the markets (click through here).

“FERC recently found that increasing DER usage could increase security and resiliency of the grid. As usage of DERs increases, utilities, state public utility commissions, federal regulators, and stakeholders should work together to integrate consumer-supplied DERs into the grid. This will enable consumers to play a central role in strengthening reliability and avoiding unnecessary costs by supplying localized energy services. Technology-neutral wholesale markets that account for DER can complement grid modernization while lowering costs for consumers and improving grid reliability and resilience,” the letter says.

“Continued action by FERC to remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies can contribute to grid resilience and versatility, and lower prices for consumers. We commend your work on finalizing the energy storage rulemaking, and urge you to move forward on developing a DER guidance,” the letter said, asking FERC for an “update” on its efforts by June 15.

FERC held a technical conference on the issue last month (click through here and here).


Other electric industry news items of note:

PJM’s capacity auction attracts diverse, competitive resources. PJM Interconnection today released the results of its annual capacity auction, which successfully procured diverse and competitive power supplies for the 65 million people PJM serves. The auction procures power supply resources to meet electricity needs for three years from now in the PJM service area, which includes all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. PJM procured 163,627 megawatts of resources for the period of June 1, 2021, to May 31, 2022. The auction produced a price of $140/megawatt-day for much of the PJM footprint, compared to $76.53/MW-day last year. Prices are higher in some regions due to transmission limits. “PJM’s markets continue to retain and attract a diverse set of resources and promote competition to support reliability of the grid,” said PJM President and CEO Andy Ott. “The high-performing resources participating in our markets ensure that customers have reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost.”

Exelon, FirstEnergy nukes out of PJM capacity procurement. Despite the doubling of prices in PJM’s capacity auction for most of the grid manager’s territory, none of FirstEnergy Solution’s three nuclear power plants will get any payments. FirstEnergy Solution’s Beaver Valley, Davis-Besse, and Perry plants are all slated to retire, but they were required to bid into the auction under federal rules. “The auction results that PJM announced on Wednesday are as unfortunate as they are unsurprising,” said FES President Don Moul said in a statement. Exelon’s Three Mile Island and Dresden both missed the cut, and most of the capacity from Byron is also on the outside. The part of the grid they operate in saw more modest increases. Exelon says Three Mile Island will retire by October 2019 without policy changes, but Dresden and Byron are not at risk of closing early.

PJM capacity auction results show solar boom. The results of a 2021/2022 auction saw an additional 964 MW of utility-scale solar projects bidding in to supply capacity, suggesting a boom in solar.

Senate confirms NRC nominees. The Senate confirmed three nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday, after Nevada Sen. Dean Heller lifted two holds that had threatened the regulatory body’s quorum. In a statement, Heller said he received assurances that language authorizing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project would be stripped from the Senate’s NDAA and Energy-Water bill. The chamber confirmed Republican nominees Annie Caputo and David Wright, as well as the renomination of Democratic Commissioner Jeff Baran, by voice vote. In addition, the chamber confirmed Francis Fannon on Thursday to be assistant secretary of State for energy resources.

Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5. Tampa Electric Co. is taking a big step away from coal. The Tampa-based utility is spending $853 million to convert its coal-fired Unit 1 at its Big Bend Power Station to natural gas and retire coal-fired Unit 2 in 2021. Five workers died in June 2017 after performing a known-to-be-dangerous maintenance procedure on Unit 2. The incident resulted in a $126,749 fine from federal regulators and a “willful” designation for safety violations found following an investigation. Tampa Electric is currently appealing the designation. According to Tampa Electric spokesperson Cherie Jacobs, the June incident was not the primary reason for closing Unit 2. “Safety is our first priority, and it influences everything we do,” Jacobs said. “But it is not the driving force behind this project. This decision was in the works for more than a year, and this decision was made because it is in the best interest of customers.”

Potential buyer of Navajo plant seeks ‘glidepath’ to alternatives. The company interested in buying one of the nation’s biggest coal-fired power plants said it is serious about its purchase bid, but also said fossil fuels aren’t a financial winner over the long haul. Until then, New York-based Avenue Capital Corp. thinks it can squeeze some value out of the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, currently slated for closure at the end of 2019. “Extending the life of NGS beyond 2019 can provide a strategic glidepath to alternative energy resources, to a time when intermittent renewable resources can be economically stabilized by energy storage, while providing reliable power generation and economic value in the interim,” Craig Hart, a portfolio manager at Avenue Capital, told Bloomberg Environment. Keeping the plant running would also be a boon to the Navajo and Hopi tribes, whose economies rely heavily on Navajo Generating Station and the adjacent Kayenta Mine, owned by Peabody Energy, Hart said. A source familiar with Avenue Capital told Bloomberg Environment that “the firm believes the plant is in fundamentally sound condition.” The source—who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly—also said Avenue “is considering a different operating profile that would better match the needs of the current market,” raising the possibility that the company wouldn’t run the power plant as an all-the-time baseload generator.

U.S. electric industry, customers at odds on timing of flowing back extra tax collections. Comments sent to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the rate implications of last year’s historic tax overhaul appear to show some consensus that any accumulated deferred income taxes (ADIT) collected by electric utilities and pipelines over actual liabilities should flow back to ratepayers, but industry and consumer views diverged on the speed with which excess balances should be returned. The power sector agreed that any excess ADIT should flow back to ratepayers while cautioning against one-size-fits-all solutions and too hastily forcing refunds that could end up increasing rates paid by consumers. On the natural gas side, shippers urged FERC to develop a process to return excess ADIT funds to customers promptly, while some pipelines said adjustments should occur through the normal course of future rate cases and be amortized over time.

Rate freeze a win for Alliant Energy customers in Wisconsin. Wisconsin customers of Alliant Energy will see no increase to base electric and natural gas rates through 2020 under a proposal filed today with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW). Customer rates will drop for the remainder of 2018 due to bill credits following a separate PSCW decision issued today. “The rate freeze is a win for customers,” said John Larsen, president of Alliant Energy Corporation. “We’ve worked hard to hold the line on costs through 2020. It’s important to us to deliver cleaner power to families and businesses while keeping rates down.” The company reached agreement on the proposal with significant input and collaboration from the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG). If approved by the PSCW, the plan would be in effect 2019-2020. A decision is expected later in 2018.

Panel: S.C. closer to answering questions about its energy future — but it’s not done. Nearly a year after a failed nuclear project raised enormous questions about South Carolina’s energy sector, the state is still far from answering them. That was the takeaway of an energy summit Thursday that was organized by The Post and Courier on the future of the state’s energy policy. South Carolina has taken a few steps forward, experts say, but electricity issues could stay top-of-mind for years. The Legislature hasn’t yet passed a law addressing the demise of the V.C. Summer project, an ambitious effort to build a pair of nuclear reactors north of Columbia. And their debate has homed in on who should pay for the $9 billion fiasco, which was led by South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper.

Kansas regulators OK merger of state’s two largest electric utilities. Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light Co., won approval from state regulators Thursday to merge as equals. That clears the way for a combined company worth $14 billion serving more than 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri. “We feel (it’s) good for our shareholders, good for our communities, good for our customers, and good for our employees,” Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said. The Missouri Public Service Commission and the Kansas Corporation Commission both approved the long-pending merger proposal on Thursday. The companies had tried to combine last year, but saw their proposal rejected by Kansas regulators. The merger is projected to save Kansas customers $183.5 million in its first five years.

Second time’s the charm: Westar, Great Plains merger receives final approvals. Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy received long-awaited approval from the Kansas Corporation Commission to merge their companies, creating a powerhouse $14 billion electric utility. The Kansas regulator approval came Thursday afternoon, just hours after the Missouri Public Service Commission, which regulates Missouri utilities, gave its approval for the merger.

The cost of killing nuclear power. It’s been obvious for a long time that global warming would be a lot less of an urgent problem if environmentalists hadn’t killed nuclear power in the 1970s. Now an Australian researcher has totaled up the costs of anti-nuclear environmentalism. Peter Lang, a researcher at Australian National University and a strong advocate of nuclear energy, calculates that if nuclear energy development hadn’t been derailed in the 1970s by environmental opposition and government over-regulation, the United States would be getting 80 percent of its electricity from carbon-free nuclear energy today, instead of the approximately 20 percent it currently gets.

Hundreds speak out about Transource project in Pa. The New Franklin Fire Department Social Hall was the setting Tuesday and Wednesday for public input hearings on a transmission line application submitted by Transource Energy. During four hearings over the course of two days, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission administrative law judges in black robes and a panel of attorneys sat in front of a stark white wall beneath the fire company’s bingo board. Residents from Waynesboro, Chambersburg and across Franklin County waited like contestants on a game show for their names to be called to the front of the room to present testimony. One by one, they approached the microphone during Wednesday’s afternoon session, some dressed in slacks and button-down collared shirts, while others wore jeans and kelly green “Stop Transource” T-shirts.

Pa. PUC judge halts Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline, yet again. Less than a month after the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission allowed Sunoco Pipeline LP to restart its Mariner East 1 pipeline, a PUC hearing examiner on Thursday reversed course and ordered Sunoco to shut down operations again. Elizabeth Barnes, a PUC administrative law judge sitting in Harrisburg, issued an emergency order Thursday instructing Sunoco to immediately suspend service on the Mariner pipeline in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, where sinkholes appeared earlier this year. Barnes also ordered Sunoco to halt construction of two new Mariner East pipelines in West Whiteland, an impediment to completion of the expansion project on which Sunoco is spending $5.1 billion in Pennsylvania. Sunoco says the Mariner East 2, the first of the two new 350-mile pipelines, is 98 percent complete. The judge acted in response to a complaint from State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester), a vocal opponent of the project, about the safety of the construction in West Whiteland. The emergency order throws the Mariner East system, which delivers Marcellus Shale gas liquids to a terminal in Marcus Hook, into disarray.

Israeli government to vote on controversial electricity reform. The plan would loosen the grip the Israel Electric Corporation has over power generation –a goal that has eluded governments for more than two decades. The controversial plan for reforming the electricity sector is scheduled to go the cabinet for approval on Sunday, unless opposition from coalition lawmakers over the weekend proves powerful enough to block or delay it. The plan, which was reached in negotiations between the government, labor unions and the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation completed in December, would loosen the grip the IEC has over power generation –a goal that has eluded governments for more than two decades.

Ukraine approves secondary legislation required for launch of the new electricity market. On 14 March 2018, the National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission of Ukraine adopted several regulations necessary for efficient operation of Ukraine’s new electricity market starting 1 July 2019.


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Today’s lede: Is the great experiment of wholesale electricity competition ending? That’s the question asked by Tanya Bodell, executive director of Energyzt (, in commentary published by Electric Light & Power magazine. It’s also a question being posed by merchant power providers battling against intervention in the competitive wholesale power markets that favors select generation providers with out-of-market subsidies.

The advent of competitive wholesale power markets provided an avenue for “new technology with lower costs to proliferate,” Bodell writes. “Having toppled King Coal, natural gas is challenging the economics of the next lowest cost generation resource in the supply stack: nuclear power. At the same time, market intervention and public policies are being implemented at both the state and federal levels to stop, or at least delay, the coup. These challenges serve to attack the very markets that enabled the natural gas revolution in America.”

Bodell provides a fairly comprehensive list of the current challenges to the competitive market model, including fuel-diversity concerns prompted by growing predominance of natural gas-fired generation, state-mandated support for nuclear power in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the Trump administration’s efforts to impose consumer subsidies to support economically struggling coal and nuclear plants, New England ISO’s support for out-of-market compensation for Exelon’s Mystic generation facility near Boston, and legislation in Massachusetts requiring consumers to pay above-market rates to support offshore wind and imports of cheap Canadian hydropower. She also sees state and federal policies promoting renewable energy that have led to negative pricing in the markets as unsustainable, and calls for market rule changes to accommodate electrification of transportation and decarbonization of the grid. These market reforms are needed if competitive wholesale electricity markets are to survive, she asserts.

“As market intervention provides out-of-market support to selected projects, the level playing field is irreparably harmed, the role of markets declines, and unsupported generation resources cannot compete,” Bodell maintains. “The market was designed to implement the lowest-cost solution and has done so for twenty years.  However, policy initiatives now are looking to achieve other objectives including diversification, decarbonization and integration of renewables. The onslaught is unrelenting. If competitive electricity markets do not evolve to value these other attributes, they will be destroyed.”


Murphy signs N.J. bill establishing consumer subsidies for nuclear power. As expected, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed highly controversial legislation requiring electricity consumers to subsidize nuclear power production. The measure is expected to cost the state’s electricity consumers $300 million annually and is expected to support nuclear power plants in New Jersey and elsewhere. Most headlines focused on the financial impact Murphy’s signing of the bill, along with accompanying renewable energy mandate bills, will have on electricity consumers.







Sunnova CEO: California roof mandate good, but competition better. Sunnova CEO John Berger was on Bloomberg TV commenting on the recent California Energy Commission mandate for new housing in the state to sport solar roofs. “It certainly adds more growth to the marketplace and I would predict that more states are going to look towards California as they often do in many other areas of the economy and look to see about implementing something similar to what California just implemented,” Berger said.

“I think it really goes to the point of solar, especially solar for your home and batteries for your home, are normalized,” he continued. “This is a step in the direction of saying this is not alternative energy this is energy increasingly it will be the majority of energy over a period of time and I think is frankly happening much faster than people think.”

The broadcast then cut away to Hugh Bromley of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who related how solar equities really jumped on the news of the California rooftop mandate. Further on in the broadcast, Berger related his company’s position that subsidies for renewables like solar should be phased out and industry regulation restructured to promote competition.

Part of what is holding back greater solar adoption is the “flawed construct” of the federal investment tax credit that should be phased out under current law, Berger said, “but the big issue is that the United States has a very byzantine and very complicated and – frankly most of the people around recognize – broken power regulatory system.”

Berger continued: “We need to make sure that the monopolies, the current utilities, are put on a level playing field and that competition and consumer choice dominates the marketplace [and] not decisions by politicians – frankly it borders on crony capitalism with the monopolies and rent seekers. You need to have a level playing field here and when you do that, then a lot of costs are going to fall out of the system because a lot of effort’s been put into, ‘How do you slow rooftop solar down,’ and, ‘How do you slow batteries going into homes.’ We need to figure out ways to set the table up so it says, ‘Let the consumers decide.’ Let the markets decide and I guarantee you we’ll see a huge pickup in growth in residential solar and storage services.”


Nevada electricity choice advocates reserve $10 million in TV ads. In an apparent response to plans by an NV Energy-backed group to spend $30 million against the pending ballot initiative in Nevada to change the state’s constitution to allow customer choice in electricity, Nevadans for Energy Freedom, a group advocating a ‘yes” vote on the ballot question, known as Question 3, has reserved $10 million in television advertising spots, Riley Snyder reports in the Nevada Independent. A month ago the Coalition to Defeat Question 3 announced it would reserve $12 million in television ads ahead of the 2018 general election, Snyder reported.

“Having the right to simply choose your energy provider is too important to Nevada than to let NV Energy try to fool voters with a $30 million scare tactic campaign using ratepayer money,” said Bradley Mayer, spokesman for Nevadans for Energy Freedom, which enjoys financial support from the Las Vegas Sands casino and data management firm Switch. “Our coalition of almost 1,000 small businesses, renewable energy companies and the 72 percent of voters who support our measure is committed to ensuring Nevadans have the facts about lower rates, more renewables and more jobs that will come with energy choice.”

Nevadans approved the ballot question in the 2016 election with 72 percent of the votes cast being “yes.” In order to effectively change the state’s constitution to end monopoly regulation and provide for competitive choice, the measure must again be approved by voters in this November’s election.

See also:

Finance reports reveal aggressive spending in the gubernatorial race, big money for the Energy Choice Initiative. As Nevada candidates dash to the primary finish line, their latest campaign expense reports offer a telling look at their respective races — particularly in the gubernatorial world. But big money didn’t just flow to candidates running for office. The Energy Choice Initiative spurred more than $30 million from supporters and opponents.


How will energy choice affect rural Nevadans? One of the big questions lingering about a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would end electric power monopolies and create an open and competitive market electricity is: Just how will it affect customers of rural Nevada’s power cooperatives?


Clean energy advocate: Alabama Power’s solar rooftop fee an unfair tax. The $5 per kilowatt month fee the Alabama Public Service Commission authorized Alabama Power to assess customers who adopt rooftop solar is an unfair tax that hasn’t been proven to be just, reasonable, nondiscriminatory or in the public interest, Daniel Tait of Energy Alabama, a clean energy advocacy group, maintains in an op-ed in, the Alabama Media Group.

“Regular, hardworking Alabamians who generate their own solar electricity are being singled out unfairly and taxed by Alabama Power and the Alabama Public Service Commission,” Tait writes in support of a challenge to the PSC’s order by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of GASP. “Alabama Power claims that the fee — otherwise known as the Capacity Reservation Charge — covers the cost of having enough power ready just in case solar generators need some juice from the grid. That sounds reasonable enough in theory, but Alabama Power has never really proven that the fee is necessary. For now, it’s basically there just because they say so.”

Alabama Power has not demonstrated why the fee should be set at $5 rather than some other number, Tait writes, asserting that’s because the utility lacks “the numbers to back it up.”

The fee is unjust and discriminatory because Alabama Power charges solar generators this fee in addition to any and all other service charges, Tait continues. “That means solar generators are the only people who have to bear this financial burden. So, again, it’s really just a tax on the sun,” he writes. “Or, as Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Katie Ottenweller put it: ‘It’s akin to going to the grocery store and getting an extra tax on your bill because you have a tomato garden in your backyard.’”

The fee is contrary to the public interest for two reasons, Tait continues. There was no evidentiary hearing, company testimony, or public comment period in support of the PSC’s decision.” So in other words, some corporate suits and Montgomery politicians decided to start charging a subset of property owners a little extra without giving them their fair say about it,” Tait asserts, calling it “downright un-American.” Further, he notes that Alabama ranks second-highest in residential electricity expenditures in the country, making investing in on-site solar one of the best avenues for Alabama consumers to take control of their household electricity costs.

“Alabama Power’s solar tax takes away most of the incentive for people to invest in solar in order to keep its customers shackled to the status quo,” Tait writes. “That hurts hard-working Alabamians financially. But it also hurts the state itself. If more people invested in solar, there would be less demand on the grid during peak hours.”

Tait also argues his point on grounds such as jobs and property rights. He cites the Southern Environmental Law Center’s position that Alabama law provides that utility rates “cannot unjustly discriminate against particular customers or a class of customers.” But the solar tax does this. Alabama law also says that rates “must be based on the cost of providing electric service to each class’” Tait notes. “Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing whether or not this is true in regards to the solar fee because of backroom deals.”

Tait concludes, “What it boils down to is this. Alabamians ought to have the right to generate electricity on their property without paying an extra tax. It’s their property, after all. The power company, which has a government-backed monopoly, shouldn’t penalize property owners for doing this.”


Co-ops ‘flying the coop’. Dennis Webb, writing in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, provides an excellent, comprehensive report on the grassroots rebellion under way against Tri-State G&T by co-ops in several states that want to move away from their coal-dependent electricity supplier and promote less costly, cleaner power sources.

“When a New Mexico electric cooperative anxious to lower its rates and pursue greater use of renewable energy learned that doing so would cost it a net $37 million exit fee from its contract with its wholesale power provider, it did what once might have been unthinkable,” Webb writes. “Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, based in Taos, decided to proceed and part ways with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. It determined that the price of renewable energy is so much less these days than what Tri-State charges that it and its member-customers still would save money in the long run by working with another energy provider to pursue a renewable-based approach.”

Webb suggests that this experience “might not end up being a one-off, as Delta-Montrose Electric Association is in negotiations with Tri-State about also possibly ending their contract, “after years of sparring with Tri-State over a 5 percent limit it places on local cooperatives for locally generated renewable and other energy.” He also relates how, in southwest Colorado, La Plata Electric Association has been considering ending its Tri-State contract. Read more:


More electric industry news of note:

Massachusetts gains foothold in offshore wind power, long ignored in U.S. New Bedford, Mass., hopes to soon be the operations center for the first major offshore wind farm in the United States, bringing billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs to the town and other ports on the East Coast. On Wednesday, that effort took a major step forward as the State of Massachusetts, after holding an auction, selected a group made up of a Danish investment firm and a Spanish utility to erect giant turbines on the ocean bottom, beginning about 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard. This initial project will generate 800 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough to power a half a million homes. At the same time, Rhode Island announced it would award a 400-megawatt offshore wind project to another bidder in the auction. The groups must now work out the details of their contracts with the states’ utilities. “We see this not just as a project but as the beginning of an industry,” Lars Thaaning Pedersen, the chief executive of Vineyard Wind, which was awarded the Massachusetts contract.



Ga. PSC races headed to November without runoffs. All three Georgia races for the Public Service Commission (PSC) will head directly to the November general election without runoffs. Incumbent Tricia Pridemore narrowly beat her Republican opponent John Hitchins to win her party nomination for the District 5 Public Service Commission race. Pridemore, who was appointed in November by Governor Nathan Deal, was in a tight race against Hitchins, a solar advocate who was outspent by the Pridemore campaign. In the primaries, candidate campaigns were centered around the viability of two new nuclear units being built in Waynesboro-Vogtle3 and 4- whose construction has been financed by Georgia Power customers since 2009. Democratic candidates in the campaigns said Georgia Power and its co-owners in Vogtle should bear the financial burden of Vogtle. Another central issue in the campaign was the need to invest more in renewable energy such as solar.–politics/psc-races-headed-november-without-runoffs/bnAZK6rQyEANgteHyt8PAM/

Nuclear generation falls out of PJM capacity auction as prices double. Politico reports: PJM Interconnection, which manages the nation’s largest power market, shed almost a third of its nuclear capacity in capacity auction results released yesterday for the 2021-22 delivery year. The auction, which provides extra payments to generators in return for staying available to run at any time, saw prices nearly double to $140 per megawatt-day, and it will generate $9.3 billion in revenue for companies with plants that cleared. Stu Bressler, PJM’s senior vice president for Operations and Markets said prices rose because companies were trying to make up revenue lost to lower energy prices. “The offers from supply resources into the capacity auction take into account the actual as well as the anticipated energy revenues when they construct those offers in order to meet their required revenues,” he told reporters Wednesday. More megawatts cleared the auction for every other fuel type. Solar capacity quadrupled and wind added 529 MW, making up for ground lost in last year’s auction. Coal added 500 MW compared to the previous auction, something that may catch the attention of the Department of Energy, which is trying to save coal plants. “The results of this auction should reassure everyone that the electricity markets are working and maintaining a reliable system,” said Susan Buehler, a spokeswoman for the grid operator. “PJM has always said we don’t believe there is any need for intervention.” PJM continues to have far more power than it needs to meet reserve requirements. In 2021-22, it will have a 21.5 percent reserve, well above the 15.8 percent target. That reserve is actually down 2 points from the auction to supply power for 2020-21.

Fayetteville, N.C., power rates to rise during peak hours. In May 2019, the Fayetteville Public Works Commission will implement time-of-use rates for electricity. The Fayetteville Public Works Commission plans to have a $389.5 million budget in the upcoming fiscal year, versus an anticipated spending total of $359.7 million for the fiscal year that ends on June 30. The proposed budget was presented to the commission’s board Wednesday. It doesn’t set any electrical rate increases as the PWC already implemented an electrical rate increase and a new monthly fee May 1. The PWC also previously approved special time-of-use pricing to take effect in May 2019. Customers then will pay more for electricity during peak demand times, and less during off-peak times. Some non-residential customers already have time-of-use pricing or peak-pricing rates.

How some small-business owners can now save on energy costs. As energy costs are one of the top three business expenses in 35% of small businesses, reducing energy bills could provide a significant boost to your bottom line. One of the simplest ways to do so is to take advantage of the competition brought about by energy deregulation. In my experience, very few business owners realize that they have any choice at all when it comes to their electricity options. But businesses in a number of U.S. states can now take advantage of the competition created by the deregulation of energy and reduce their utility bills by switching from a variable to a more budget-certain fixed rate and even, in some cases, getting green electricity with no initial investment. If you’re in one of the 17 states that already has electricity choice, here’s how to get started.

Oregon utility seeks 100 ‘average megawatts’ of renewables. Oregon-based utility Portland General Electric Company (PGE) has issued a request for proposals seeking 100 average megawatts (MWa) of renewable energy capacity. Conrad Eustis, director of Retail Technology Strategy at PGE, said that 1MWa is equivalent to 8,760MWh – adding: “Thus to get 10MWa from rooftop solar in our service area you would need about 91MW of rooftop solar installations, or 62MW of solar with single-axis tracking, or about 50MW of solar with single-axis tracking if installed in Eastern Oregon (but then you’ll need a transmission path).” Projects must be a minimum of 10MW in size and can use a range of technologies including geothermal, biomass, biogas, solar, wind and hydroelectric power. Bids can also be structured in a variety of ways, including power purchase agreements (PPAs) or proposals for facilities that PGE would own and operate.

Mint Energy sells retail contracts to Crius.  Mint Energy announced an agreement to sell the bulk of its U.S. retail power contracts to Crius Energy. The sale reflects Mint’s decision to withdraw from serving customers in the New England and Mid-Atlantic markets. “The present market conditions in these regions have led us to reevaluate our current business model in the energy space,” said Mints CEO David Reinfeld. “In light of this decision, we have and will continue to work diligently to ensure that there is a seamless transition of Mint’s customers to reputable supply companies, such as Crius Energy, as well as meticulously attend to our ongoing regulatory and financial obligations.”

A 100% renewable grid isn’t just feasible, it’s already happening. New study debunks myths claiming renewables can’t be integrated into electric grid. The ongoing debate around whether it’s feasible to have an electric grid running on 100 percent renewable power in the coming decades often misses a key point:  many countries and regions are already at or close to 100 percent now.

The Data behind NextEra’s $6.5B bid for Gulf Power and Florida City Gas. How a home-state advantage and technology synergies could make this third time a charm for NextEra’s acquisition ambitions. NextEra Energy Resources announced its $6.5 billion bid to buy Southern Company subsidiaries Gulf Power and Florida City Gas — its third attempt this decade to expand its share of regulated utility business beyond its flagship utility, Florida Power & Light. And unlike its previous $4.3 billion bid for Hawaiian Electric, or its $18.7 billion bid for Texas utility Oncor, both of which failed to garner state regulator approval, NextEra’s new bid has some significant home-court advantages — as long as it can satisfy Florida regulators that the deal won’t stifle competition.

Coalition signals competition law changes to deal with Australian energy market concentration. The Turnbull government is signalling changes to the competition law to deal with market concentration in the energy sector. The move comes as the energy market operator reports that the national energy grid maintained high levels of reliability over the summer, despite a number of heatwaves, and there were no supply interruptions due to insufficient generation.


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Today’s lede: N.H. Supreme Court remands PUC rejection of electricity consumers subsidizing new natural gas pipeline capacity. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found the state’s Public Utilities Commission erred in 2016 when it rejected a proposal by Eversource to have the utility’s electricity consumers subsidize the development of new natural gas pipeline capacity into New England. The court ruled the PUC incorrectly interpreted the 1996 law restructuring New Hampshire’s electric industry and remanded the matter for further consideration by the commission. Click through here to access the court’s decision.

In rejecting Eversource’s plan for electricity consumer funding to enable the expansion of Spectra Energy Partner’s Algonquin pipeline expansion project, Access Northeast, the PUC found that the legislative intent of the 1996 restructuring law was to promote competition in electricity. The court, on appeal, disagreed and instead determined the legislative intent of the law was to reduce electricity costs.

“Pursuant to its plain language, and reading the statute as a whole, we discern that the primary intent of the legislature . . . was to reduce electricity costs to consumers,” the court’s opinion said. “We disagree with the PUC’s ruling that the legislature’s ‘overriding purpose’ was ‘to introduce competition to the generation of electricity.’ Rather, as the statute provides, the legislature intended to ‘harness . . .  the power of competitive markets’ . . . as a means to reduce costs to consumers, not as an end in itself.”

The court further disagreed with the PUC’s finding that the law directs the “functional separation” of generation services from transmission and distribution services “and elevates that single policy principle over the others identified in the statute.” Eversource had sought to enter into a long-term capacity agreement with the pipeline, the costs of which would be borne by ratepayers. The PUC found that this was the equivalent of entering the generation business.

The ruling is a big win for Eversource and Spectra, and a setback to NextEra Energy and the Conservation Law Foundation, which has sought to uphold the PUC’s order.

The ruling could have implications for another PUC order rejecting Eversource’s proposed Northern Pass transmission project to bring cheap Canadian hydropower into the New England market, David Brooks writes in the Concord Monitor. “The state supreme court has given new life to Eversource’s multiyear effort to use money from electricity rates to help pay for a natural gas pipeline, and possibly to the stymied Northern Pass hydropower transmission project,” Brooks reports.

Eversource told the newspaper it “will revisit the PUC’s denial of the Power Purchase Agreement with Hydro Quebec … over the Northern Pass transmission line,” noting that the PUC’s denial “was based on the same flawed legal analysis that the Supreme Court today overturned” in the pipeline proceeding.

Regardless of any effort to resuscitate the power purchase agreement in the Northern Pass proceeding, Eversource would still need to overcome the rejection of Northern Pass by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, Brooks notes. But the utility said the PUC’s denial “resulted in the (Site Evaluation Committee) never considering the economic and environmental benefits” of the project. The Site Evaluation Committee was slated to discuss Thursday whether to rehear the Northern Pass application.

The New Hampshire court’s ruling contrasts markedly with a ruling by its counterpart in Massachusetts, which rejected a similar proposal to have electricity consumers finance natural gas pipeline infrastructure expansion to address New England’s perennial supply squeeze during high-demand winter months. “We acknowledge that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has interpreted that state’s restructuring law differently than we do New Hampshire’s statute. However, we disagree with the conclusion reached in that case,” the New Hampshire court said.

“The ruling could help resuscitate efforts to build natural gas pipeline projects in New England, but the likelihood those efforts will succeed without financial support from Massachusetts ratepayers is unlikely,” Bruce Mohl writes in CommonWealth magazine. “Massachusetts is the largest consumer of electricity in New England, and other states are unlikely to burden their ratepayers with the total cost of a new pipeline.”




Did FirstEnergy-funded ‘dark money’ group sink candidate because she rejected power plant subsidies? The Center for Public Integrity is suggesting that a “dark money” group with ties to FirstEnergy spent heavily against an Ohio congressional candidate because the state lawmaker refused to support legislation requiring Ohio electricity consumers to subsidize the utility’s economically failing power plants.

“Christina Hagan, a state representative who was running in the Republican primary for Ohio’s 16th congressional district seat, said a group called the Conservative Leadership Alliance targeted her with a barrage of attack ads after she declined to support legislation Akron, Ohio-based electric company FirstEnergy had lobbied her to help pass,” the center’s Sarah Kleiner reports.

Hagan wouldn’t support House Bill 178, which would have created “zero-emission credits” to provide FirstEnergy a projected $300 million annually from customers to shore up its struggling nuclear power plants. “I didn’t budge when they came into my office to lobby me,” Hagan said. “I’m sure they just wanted to make an example of me in my race for higher office that if you don’t play well, this is what will happen to you.”


DOE lab study assesses impact of high market penetration by renewables. An electricity market in which solar and wind energy resources have a high level of penetration would result in lower costs for consumers, but would increase volatility and impose greater demands on grid operators, a new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study concludes. Click through here to access the study.

“We find a general decrease in average annual hourly wholesale energy prices with more VRE (variable renewable energy) penetration, increased price volatility and frequency of very low-priced hours, and changing diurnal price patterns. Ancillary service prices rise substantially and peak net-load hours with high capacity value are shifted increasingly into the evening, particularly for high solar futures,” the lab concludes.

“In particular, our study shows how solar and wind tend to lower energy prices, but they add new complexity for operating the grid, which has big implications for regulators. For consumers, this research is a reminder that making the electricity grid cleaner with wind and solar is an evolving process that requires significant changes to how the power grid is currently run – but one that offers large opportunities, if we as a country can become more flexible when we use electricity,” the study’s authors write in commentary published by the Associated Press.


Bloomberg News assesses ‘Trump’s Doomsday Scenarios’ to support power plant subsidies. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, defending the Trump administration’s effort to impose consumer subsidies to support economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants, told Congress he did not want to receive “a phone call from someone whose grandmother has died in their home because the electricity went off in August where our days are 105 to 110 degrees.”

That’s an example of the “doomsday scenarios” the Trump administration is touting to support its efforts to prop up uneconomic power plants in competitive wholesale electricity markets. Another involves New York’s financial center being vulnerable to a blackouts. “There’s just one problem: Independent researchers and the department’s own data say the problem doesn’t exist,” Bloomberg’s Ari Natter writes.

“The Trump administration argues that the retirement of coal and nuclear power plants is harming the dependability of the U.S. power grid. That’s got them considering taking drastic steps — potentially within weeks — such as declaring a national emergency so they can guarantee profits for coal and nuclear plants, or invoking a Cold War-era law to order utilities to use coal and nuclear power,” Natter reports. “But the Energy Department itself found in a report last summer that the grid had become more reliable over the past 15 years despite a wave of coal- and nuclear-fueled power plants retiring due to competition from cheaper natural gas and an expanding use of wind and solar power that isn’t produced around the clock. A second report issued in October by the Rhodium Group, an independent research provider, analyzed Energy data to show that the vast majority of power outages were due to storms, not fuel supply problems or power plants that can’t keep up with demand.”

“The dark scary picture for the grid is just complete nonsense,” said Robbie Orvis of Energy Innovation, a think tank that supports policies to reduce greenhouse gases. “Claims about how losing all this generation would cause all this doom and gloom are not just grounded in reality.”

The White House’s National Security Council are convinced that something must be done, Natter reports, citing an anonymous senior Energy Department official.

“Critics are quick to declare that the grid is reliable, but when it comes to resilience, most people agree that the question is not if we have a problem, it is when,” Shaylyn Hynes, an Energy Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, adding that the Obama administration also studied the problem. “This significant issue has been reviewed for years, it is time to take action.”


Pension fund demands greater transparency in utility’s political contributions. NextEra Energy’s shareholders will vote tomorrow on an institutional investor’s proposal that would require greater disclosure of political contributions, Marcia Heroux Pounds writes in the Sun Sentinel.

“The New York State Common Retirement Fund’s proposal calls for the company to provide semiannual reports disclosing its policies and procedures for contributions to any political campaign. The fund also wants NextEra to identify the recipients, the amounts paid, and the executives who decided to make contributions on behalf of NextEra,” Heroux Pounds reports.

The shareholder proposal cites the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United where the court supported transparency as being in the best interest of shareholders. “If we can’t see how and where portfolio companies are spending our investment dollars, then we cannot determine if those political contributions serve the company’s best interests. There is an inherent risk in corporate political spending that only increases when the money is spent in the dark. We want daylight from the companies we invest in,” said Thomas DiNapoli, New York State’s comptroller and trustee of the retirement fund, the third-largest pension fund in the nation.

Such shareholder proposals are the target of a new group founded by George David Banks, a former special assistant to President Trump. The Main Street Investors Coalition, supported by business interests, looks to reform a process it says does not adequately represent the interests of “retail investors.” Click through here for a press release announcing the group.


S.C. attorney general to sue Energy Department over mixed-oxide fuel. In the wake of the Cold War a plan to turn plutonium from nuclear weapons into a mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear power plants was widely heralded. Some likened it to the biblical prophecy of beating swords into plowshares.

But Energy Secretary Rick Perry notified Congress earlier this month that it would end the project at DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which is 70 percent complete but years behind schedule and exceeding its original $4.8 billion budget. Perry’s letter certifies to Congress that there is a more cost effective MOX alternative, Colin Demarest reports in the Aiken Standard. DOE sees MOX as having a nearly $50 billion lifecycle cost while an alternative “dilute-and-dispose” process would only have a $20 billion lifecycle cost.

Now South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has formally notified DOE of his intent to litigate the decision. “On behalf of the state of South Carolina, please allow this letter to serve as notice of the imminent filing of litigation against the United States, the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and their respective officers in their official capacities by the state of South Carolina,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Perry.

The attorney general’s letter describes the waiver as “illegal,” “arbitrary,” “capricious” and “unsupportable by the facts.”


More electric industry news items of note:

N.J. governor expected to sign nuclear subsidy bill today. It is turning out to be a very good week for Public Service Enterprise Group. Public Service Electric & Gas, the company’s utility, won approval yesterday from state regulators to spend $1.9 billion over the next five years to replace much of its aging gas-pipeline system. In addition, Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign today a controversial bill (S-2313) that could provide PSEG with up to $300 million a year in subsidies from utility customers across the state to keep its nuclear plants afloat. Meanwhile, PSE&G has quietly updated its pending base-rate petition before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to boost its revenue request from the original $27 million it sought to $133 million, according to Stefanie Brand, director of the Division of Rate Counsel.

Utilities pressure Trump to spur sales of electric vehicles. Utilities are uniting to stop the Trump administration from weakening fuel-efficiency standards as they aim to benefit from the expected growth of electric vehicles. An unusual coalition of utilities, such as Exelon and electric carmaker Tesla sued the Trump administration in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this month for rejecting President Barack Obama’s tough fuel-efficiency rules and taking steps to weaken them. The litigation followed lawsuits from California and other liberal states, and environmental groups. Utilities hope increasing fuel-efficiency standards would spur demand for electric cars and encourage automakers to make them.

BP invests in fast charge battery company StoreDot. BP Ventures has invested $20 million in StoreDot, an Israeli technology company developing an electric vehicle battery with a range of 300 miles and that can charge in five minutes, the oil company said.

The decline of U.S. coal power looks a lot like Henderson, Ky. The city is kind of unique in that it owns its own power plant, Station Two, which went online in the early 1970s. Historically, it’s provided some of the cheapest electricity in the state. The city pays the power company Big Rivers to operate Station Two. But earlier this month, Big Rivers cut its contract with the city, saying it was no longer profitable for it to keep running the plant. Henderson historically has taken its cut of the power for the city and left Big Rivers to sell the rest on the open market. But right now, it costs about 33 times more to produce energy from Station Two than it does to buy it on the open market. Big Rivers spokeswoman Jennifer Keach said the power company was running at a loss for several years, so it did a study that found “Station Two units are no longer capable of normal, continuous reliable operation for the economically competitive production of electricity.” Now, Henderson has to decide whether it wants to continue running the plant without Big Rivers, or just close it down all together.

Avista announces plan for $165 million smart meter rollout in Washington. Avista’s Washington customers will get smart meters over the next two years, enabling them to track their energy use within a 24-hour period and helping the utility more quickly respond to power outages. The $165 million in new technology will replace a meter system with roots dating to the 1940s. Nationwide, more than 75 million electric meters fit the smart meter profile. Avista’s customers want and expect more real-time information about their energy use, said Heather Rosentrater, the company’s vice president of energy delivery.

Eversource: Time to rein in competitive electricity suppliers. Exec stops short of endorsing Healey’s bid to eliminate the firms. We feel strongly that the preying on electricity customers by unscrupulous competitive suppliers and marketers must stop.  For our part, we work closely with local and national consumer protection organizations, law enforcement, and the media to get the word out that we do not solicit – either by phone or door-to-door – on behalf of competitive energy suppliers. We also routinely post warnings and reminders on our social media channels. Though we’ve made headway in informing our customers about these and other scams perpetrated on unsuspecting consumers, we feel the time has come for legislative action.

N.Y. conference highlights energy affordability. State energy officials are holding a two-day conference focused on making energy affordable to people of all income levels. The Low Income Forum on Energy gets under way Tuesday in Albany. It’s hosted by the state Public Service Commission and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The forum will bring together utility experts, state officials and ratepayer advocates to discuss ways to make energy more affordable.

Pa. PUC sets public hearings for PECO rate hike request. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has scheduled five hearings in June, including one in Media, and one in Norristown, to gather public input on a rate increase request filed by PECO Energy Company. Under the request submitted by PECO, annual revenues would increase by $82 million (2.2 percent) and the average total monthly bill for a residential customer using 700 kilowatt hours would increase from $102.65 to $105.93 per month (3.2 percent).

N.H.’s governor right to recognize the value of nuclear power. Gov. Chris Sununu’s recently released

10-Year State Energy Strategy lays out a path to ensure the state’s energy supply remains secure, reliable and affordable, and nuclear energy is a major part of the solution. As the Office of Strategic Initiatives states in its report, Seabrook Station’s nuclear reactor generated approximately 56 percent of New Hampshire’s energy in 2016. Seabrook operates with a capacity factor close to 90 percent, meaning that like most nuclear plants, it runs almost continuously. This is vital for both holding down electricity prices and for maintaining New Hampshire’s energy resiliency in the face of extreme weather and natural events.

Storage will be energy’s next Big Thing. Think the plummeting costs of solar and wind are transforming the energy landscape? Then you should be betting on ways to warehouse that power. To understand why, consider: Unlike almost all their rivals in the energy-generation space, solar panels and wind turbines are mass-produced goods. That means they’re subject to the rules of continual improvement and falling costs that we see with semiconductors, household products and clothing as production volumes rise and factories undercut each other. Traditional power plants are essentially large-scale construction projects, which rarely achieve the same sorts of efficiency dividends. As a result, the cost of new-build renewables has been sinking. The highest-cost solar and wind projects in the U.S. will now produce electricity at least as cheaply as as the lowest-cost coal plants, according to a report last year by Lazard Inc.

Texas cities to challenge Oncor electricity rate request. The city of Tyler, Texas, as a member of the Atmos Steering Committee of Cities, which serves as the public advocate for rate cases in front of the Texas Public Utility Commission, will challenge a $19 million rate increase request by Oncor Electric Distribution. The Tyler City Council is scheduled to vote on the issue at its regular meeting today. The city manager and city attorney are recommending the council approve it. This is the first rate case since Sempra Energy closed its acquisition of Oncor in in March.

Patriot Energy’s peak notification program saves money, relieves strain on power grid. Cutting-edge opportunity to lower usage and reduce costs. Patriot Energy Group’s money-saving Peak Demand Notification program, which kicks off annually June 1, is available for businesses to enroll in to maximize savings for their bottom-line. “With summer on the way, energy consumption needs to be a priority for business owners, not only to slash monthly electric bills but also for long-term savings,” said Patriot Energy Director of Energy Services Craig Wall.  “Reducing your company’s consumption during peak usage times can drastically alter how much you’re paying for energy. And the best way to make sure you’re realizing these potential savings is through our Peak Demand Notification program.”

Conti Solar begins construction of largest landfill solar project in Ohio. Conti Solar has begun construction on the largest landfill solar project in Ohio. Located in Cuyahoga County, the 4 MW project is owned and operated by IGS Solar, a commercial and residential solar provider and an affiliate company of IGS Energy. Covering 17 acres of previously unproductive land, Conti Solar will manage the construction of the solar array that will sit atop a closed-and-capped landfill and transform an area of waste into a sustainable solar power generation plant. The project will be a cornerstone of Cuyahoga County’s sustainable practices. Via a power purchase agreement (PPA), Cuyahoga County will acquire 100 percent of the project’s energy through Cleveland Public Power. “IGS Solar is helping Cuyahoga County reduce energy costs for the next 20 years. They have been a reliable energy partner supporting the efficient and cost-effective addition of clean renewable energy for the county’s benefit, both environmentally and financially,” said Matthew Skidmore, CEO of Conti Solar.

Direct Energy releases new skills for customers with Amazon Alexa. Direct Energy, one of the largest energy and energy-related services providers in North America, today launched a new Direct Energy skill for Alexa that will help customers manage their electricity account and take advantage of the tens of thousands of other skills available on Alexa-enabled devices. This launch comes just a week after Direct Energy announced a program to offer customers in Texas the ability to sign up for new fixed-price electricity plans that includes an Amazon Echo Dot – the Power on Command plan and the Weekends on Command plan.


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Today’s lede: RMI sees new gas-fired power and associated pipelines as stranded assets.  The Rocky Mountain Institute concludes that $112 billion of U.S. gas plants proposed or under construction, and $32 billion worth of proposed pipelines to serve them, are at risk of becoming stranded assets, Axios reports. “Ratepayers could unnecessarily face billions in ‘locked in’ costs, warns RMI, a low-carbon energy think tank and advocacy group. And the profitability of existing gas-fired power plants will be increasingly threatened, the report says” (click through here).

“U.S. electricity generators may be committing their customers and investors to as much as $1 trillion in future investment and fuel costs through 2030 as they rush to build new gas-fired power plants. Yet advances in renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DERs) offer lower rates and emissions-free energy while delivering all the grid reliability services that new power plants can,” RMI maintains.

“RMI’s analysis finds that, because of recent innovation and rapid cost declines in renewable energy and DER technologies, clean energy portfolios can often be procured at significant net cost savings, with lower risk and zero carbon and air emissions, compared to building a new gas plant. More dramatically, the new-build costs of clean energy portfolios are falling quickly, and likely to beat just the operating costs of efficient gas-fired power plants within the next two decades—a sobering risk for investors and customers in a market with over $100 billion of already announced investment in new gas-fired power plants.”


Are New Mexico regulators saddling electricity consumers with future stranded costs? Commentary questioning whether New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission is protecting the public interest by continuing to approve large-scale fossil-fueled generation resources was published on the website of KRWG, New Mexico State University’s National Public Radio affiliated station, by Peter Goodman, a lawyer and freelance writer.

“The world is moving toward renewable energy sources. Soon each house, business, and manufacturer will supply most or all of its energy from solar panels,” Goodman writes. “That decentralization is what utilities fear most. If they can build and own huge systems – gas, coal, nuclear, even solar – they make big profits. By tying profits to capital expenditures, our state’s system arguably encourages waste.”

Lower solar costs and rapid improvements in energy storage are facilitating the electric industry’s transition to a more decentralized system, Goodman maintains, in which the power grid will become more like a bank, with consumers depositing excess power much of the time and occasionally borrowing back some. “We no longer need nearly so many huge gas-fired plants constantly sending large amounts of energy to our cities.”

The Public Regulation Commission has approved five new El Paso Electric gas-fired power plants in five years, Goodman notes. “These deals saddle us with those plants – and their high costs – for 40-50 years. One estimate says those new gas plants could cost us $5 billion over time,” Goodman writes. “A friend compares it to investing zillions in mainframe computers just when PCs were taking over the world. Will we spend decades paying for dinosaurs?”


Is the electric industry ready for renewable energy onslaught? A slew of solar and wind energy development is on the horizon, and the electricity sector isn’t prepared, David Roberts maintains in Vox. “More and more indicators point toward a future in which wind and solar power play a large role,” Roberts writes. “And so the people who manage U.S. electricity markets and infrastructure, who must make decisions with 20-, 30-, even 50-year consequences, are stuck making high-stakes bets in a haze of uncertainty.”

The uncertainty surrounding electric industry investment and regulation is compounded by the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama-era initiatives designed to facilitate the transition to clean energy, Robert says. “Should utilities and market managers bet that the Trumpian revolt against modernity will succeed in slowing the growth of renewable energy? Or should they bet that it’s a passing phase and renewable energy will triumph?” he posits.


Texas municipal utility’s new gas-fired power plant already uneconomic. The municipal electric utility in Denton, Texas, is fixing to bring online a new gas-fired power plant it developed. The plant will initially break even and maybe even make a profit, but will be operating in the red once the bills for $265 million in financing come due in 2020, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe reports in the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Denton Municipal Electric officials are projecting that the Denton Energy Center, a 225-megawatt facility with 12 natural-gas-fired Wärtsilä 18.8-MW reciprocating engine generators, will encounter a first-year operating loss of $1.8 million. “As the Texas electric marketplace settles in after all the changes happening now, DME’s financial projections show the power plant losing $12 million in 2023,” Heinkel-Wolfe reports. “We’re predicting that all the debt cannot be covered by market revenues,” said DME General Manager George Morrow.


Electricity markets ‘signal’ that FirstEnergy coal plants not needed, EDF attorney says. Grocers mark down the price of asparagus in the spring and strawberries in the summer because the produce is in season and stores have excess supply. The lower prices are a sign, or “price signal,” of excess supply, and the grocers are following the economic law of supply and demand. “Electricity markets follow the law of supply and demand, too. Falling electricity prices are a price signal that we have more power plants than we need,” writes John Finnigan, an Environmental Defense Fund senior regulatory attorney.

FirstEnergy is asking the Trump Administration to bail out its old coal and nuclear plants to make up for “more than a decade of bad business decisions investing in outdated coal and nuclear plants that can’t compete with newer, more efficient natural gas and renewable plants,” Finnigan maintains. The company wants consumers to pay higher prices for the electricity from its coal and nuclear plants we don’t need – especially when there are cleaner, more affordable energy options available, Finnigan writes.

“Just like seasonal fruits and vegetables on sale, falling electricity prices show we have more power plants than we really need,” he concludes. “Hopefully, our elected leaders will reject FirstEnergy’s greedy plea and allow our energy markets to do what they do best: operate according to the laws of supply and demand.”

See also:

Trump administration may give mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate coal industry. The Trump administration may try to resuscitate the coal industry by using laws that, in effect, conclude that national security is at stake because the reliability of the electric grid is at risk. That is a hard case to make both to Congress and to the public, which is experiencing stable electricity prices and cleaner options.


N.H. Gov. faces divergent constituencies when considering renewable energy bills. New Hampshire lawmakers have sent to Gov. Chris Sununu a suite of renewable energy laws that risk alienating various political constituencies depending on whether he signs or vetoes the bills, Dave Solomon reports in the Manchester Union-Leader.

Perhaps most problematic are three bills that involve consumer subsidies for biomass energy. “If he signs them, critics of the legislation, like the Business and Industry Association and the free market Josiah Bartlett Center, will accuse him of going against his own energy policy, just released last month,” Solomon writes. “If he vetoes them, the howls of protest from the forest industry and the people it employs will be heard from Pittsburg to Portsmouth.”

Senate Bill 365 would require utilities to pay above-market rates to the state’s six biomass power plants, and other small-scale renewable facilities like hydroelectric dams, the cost of which is passed along to consumers in their electric bills, Solomon notes. Senate Bill 446 would expand the state’s net metering program and allow biomass power plants to participate in the program that typically pays homeowners for rooftop solar generation at above-market rates. And Senate Bill 577 would extend a mandate for Eversource to purchase output from the Burgess Biopower plant in Berlin at above-market rates.

“Defenders of the three bills maintain they are sound energy and economic policy, ensuring that the renewable energy sector survives amid low natural gas prices,” Solomon writes. “But critics see them as nothing more than government subsidies for power plants that can’t compete in the free market, supported by ratepayers already paying some of the highest rates in the country.”

Sununu’s new 10-Year energy strategy released last month makes taming New Hampshire’s electricity costs a priority. Solomon quotes from a section of the strategy dedicated to renewables that warns against subsidies.

“While there is no doubt that biomass plants drive economic activity in New Hampshire, protectionist policies always have reciprocal costs,” the policy states. “Mandates to preserve biomass generation impose higher energy costs on ratepayers, and are not a sustainable mechanism to achieve cost-competitive and economically viable energy resources in New Hampshire.”

“To be clear, my energy policy does not call for an end to such subsidies,” Sununu said. “What my energy policy does is say any time we look at any of this stuff you have to do it through the lens of the ratepayer first … It doesn’t say we’ll sign any bill that has a subsidy or veto any bill that has a subsidy. It just says we are going to look at it through the lens of the ratepayer first.”

“A veto of these bills would be consistent with the state’s energy plan and with the governor’s goal of fighting increases in New Hampshire electricity rates. Letting the bills become law would undermine the plan and encourage legislators to ignore it going forward,” according to a statement the free-market Josiah Bartlett center. “The stated goal of these bills is to preserve several hundred jobs in the forest products industry. Yet by pushing electricity rates ever further upward, these bills jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs in other industries, particularly in manufacturing, which employs 70,000 people in the Granite State.”

The Business and Industry Association, in a similar statement, reminded Sununu of what the energy policy says, and urged him to veto the bills: “While the intent of SB 365 to subsidize 900 jobs in the timber and wood products industry is laudable, we cannot support public policy which further burdens other ratepayers, particularly manufacturers which employ 69,000 people and drive New Hampshire’s economy,” according to a letter the BIA sent the governor last week.

See also:

Letter: Sununu should sign net metering bill. As New Hampshire works to attract more young people, business and entrepreneurs, the infrastructure of a modern and resilient electric grid is a primary necessity. Senate Bill 446, which raises the limit of net energy metering to 5 megawatts, would be a significant step toward increasing the locally generated power and increased resilience of an energy grid that can serve our residents and hopefully new commercial ventures.


Michigan lawmaker stands by statement comparing utility to ‘terrorists.’ The relationship between Michigan State Rep. Gary Glenn and Consumers Energy has been strained during Glenn’s three-year tenure, John Kennett reports in the Midland Daily News. That relationship didn’t improve when Glenn compared Consumers Energy to “terrorists” he’d like to “shoot” (click through here).

In an email to the reporter, Glenn wrote, “I used an obvious analogy referring to the corporation’s threat to hold hostage the Hemlock Semiconductor legislation.” The legislation, House Bill 5902, would continue a subsidized rate for the manufacturer, Michigan’s largest electricity consumer. “Glenn said he neither misspoke nor regrets his words,” Kennett writes.

“If the CEO of Consumers wishes to appear before the House Energy Policy Committee to apologize for her corporate lobbyist’s threat to scuttle legislation directly affecting 1,500 jobs in the region I represent, I will certainly accommodate her,” said Glenn, who chairs the committee. “I know some observers believe my strongly worded statement won more votes for the legislation in committee than they had expected it to receive,” Glenn said of the committee’s 16-2 vote.

“Conflict between Glenn and Consumers has been an ongoing issue since Glenn introduced legislation to increase choice and competition in September 2015,” Kennett reports.

“We will remain at odds philosophically as long as Consumers Energy is a government-privileged monopoly with a 90 percent guarantee of the electricity market in their service area and a guaranteed 10 percent profit each year by law. I believe Consumers should have to compete for their business like everyone else, and that electricity customers should be free to choose where they buy their electricity rather than be compelled by law to buy from Consumers,” Glenn said.


House panel considers advanced nuclear generation tech. The House Energy and Commerce Energy Subcommittee is convening a hearing draft legislation to promote advance nuclear generation technologies. “There are a number of companies seeking to design and subsequently license advanced

nuclear reactor technologies,” a committee staff memo on the hearing notes. The memo summarizes H.R. 1320, Nuclear Utilization of Keynote Energy (NUKE) Act.



Other electric industry news items of note:

Ameren plans to build a large network of wind turbines in northeast Missouri. Ameren Missouri plans to build a wind farm in northeast Missouri that could provide electricity to 120,000 homes. The utility has contracted renewable energy company Terra-Gen LLC to construct 175 wind turbines on multiple properties in Adair and Schuyler counties. The wind farm would help Ameren Missouri reach its goal to cut its 2005 carbon emissions levels by 80 percent by 2050. The utility also must comply with the state’s renewable energy standard, which requires state utilities to generate 15 percent of their portfolios from renewable sources by 2021. Ameren Missouri currently generates 5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. “It’s a good time to invest in wind power,” said Ajay Arora, vice president of power operations and energy management at Ameren Missouri. “It’s gotten to a point where, with the technological advancements, it’s become an affordable and more importantly reliable choice for our customers,” Arora said. “Solar generation, wind generation, energy storage will be exciting new opportunities for us as we look to replace coal-fired generation.”

N.J. bill advances to provide clean-energy funding without upfront capital. With state and federal governments strapped for cash, a new way to finance clean energy and storm resiliency projects is moving through the Legislature. S-1611 (click through here) is actually not so novel. Modeled on programs already operating successfully in more than 30 states, the bill has been kicked around by New Jersey lawmakers for about a decade without ever becoming law. The bill aims to fund renewable energy projects, energy efficiency upgrades, and energy storage projects as well as storm shelters and hurricane-resistant and flood-resistant initiatives. The so-called PACE (property assessed clean energy) system is designed to access financing for such projects without any upfront cost, a hurdle that often prevents such initiatives from ever getting started.

N.J. AG challenges FERC order approving PennEast pipeline. The recent federal approval to the controversial PennEast pipeline is being challenged in appeals court by the State of New Jersey. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal filed a petition yesterday with the District of Columbia Circuit Court, asking it to hear the state’s arguments that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) erred when it issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the pipeline project in January. In February, Grewal asked FERC to stay the certificate and rehear the case, in a motion that was seen as a precursor to the legal challenge that it has now made.

Westar rate request would result in higher utility bills, especially for those with solar panels. Customers of Westar Energy could soon be paying higher rates for electricity, especially if they have solar panels or other renewable energy devices attached to their homes. The Kansas Corporation Commission will conduct a public hearing Tuesday in Topeka to take public comment on the company’s proposed new rate structure, which Westar officials describe as an effort to encourage customers to control how much electricity they use during peak demand periods. Customers who do not have solar panels or other forms of “distributed generation” would have the option of taking part in that program or not, depending on whether it would save them money. But their rates would be likely to go up under either scenario. But people who have those devices would be required to take part, and their bills could go up substantially. “It is a peak efficiency rate and it is aimed to reward customers who are able to curb their energy use and their demand on the power grid during the times of highest demand,” Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said.


S.C. co-op board allegedly enriched itself while customers paid high power bills. A Midlands electricity cooperative with some of the highest electricity rates in South Carolina is embroiled in controversy after its part-time board members gave themselves high pay and benefits, then worked to defeat proposals to rein in their compensation. With 13,600 customers, Tri-County Electric is one of the smallest electric cooperatives in the state. But the co-op’s nine-member board makes far more — about $52,000 a member in 2016, according to tax records — than their counterparts at South Carolina’s 19 other co-ops. In part, that is because the co-op’s board held 50 meetings last year, a high number by industry standards. The meetings were part of a years-long pattern of leaders of the St. Matthews-based company calling short meetings — as brief as 15 minutes long — and then collecting a $450-a-day allowance that they are paid to attend meetings.

Sycamore, Il., city council votes to enter electric aggregation agreement. City expects residents to save $18 in a year, but there’s still inherent risk to deal. Sycamore residents soon can expect a letter from MC Squared Energy Services after the City Council voted to authorize electricity aggregation and enter into a 12-month supplier agreement with MC Squared. The City Council voted, 8-0, to accept a bid from MC Squared through the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative (NIMEC) for a blended rate of 7.35 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). The rates will go into effect Aug. 1, and the contract will be revisited a year from now.

U.S. senator interjects himself in utility rate issue in Connecticut. A requested three-year natural gas rate increase of more than 15 percent sought by Eversource drew its first fire Monday as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal demanded it be scaled back. The utility said it has already reduced its proposed increase, which will generate $86 million to replace cast iron and bare steel gas mains with newer plastic pipe that is safer, more durable and better able to handle fluctuations in underground temperatures. “These rate increases seem blatantly unjustified and unsupportable by the facts,” Blumenthal said at a news conference at the Capitol. “And they threaten damage not only to those consumers, but to our entire economy, to small businesses as well as individual homeowners.” Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas did similar work while requesting smaller rate increases, he said.

Entergy New Orleans customers benefit from corporate tax rate cut. Average electricity costs for New Orleans residents could drop by $11 per month during the second half of the year, thanks to the federal tax cut that was passed by Congress in December, according to a preliminary plan that Entergy New Orleans is proposing to the City Council.

Pa. PUC to host hearings on proposed Transource power line. Local residents finally will have their chance to speak to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission officials this week about Transource Energy’s proposal to construct 29 miles of overhead high-voltage power lines through the heart of Franklin County, Pa. The commission will decide whether to grant Transource the authority to build the lines. Two administrative law judges — Elizabeth H. Barnes and Andrew M. Calvelli — will hear testimony Tuesday and Wednesday in Franklin County. The public input will be used by the commission in ruling on the Transource application.

Tesla needs to sell more expensive Model 3s so company doesn’t ‘die,’ Musk says. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the final details of the dual-motor, all-wheel drive version of the Model 3 over the weekend, including a top-of-the-line variant that is more expensive than a base-level Model S or X. While we’ve known for a long time that these were coming, this is the most clarity Tesla’s offered yet about specs, pricing, and options. Taken one way, it’s a sign Tesla is working through the early production struggles of the Model 3 and is ready to start offering more diverse options, much like it does with the Model S or X. But Tesla also needs to sell these more expensive Model 3s to grow its revenue at a time when the company is spending more money than ever. In the meantime, Tesla is holding back on making the cheapest version of what is supposed to be the company’s “mass-market” electric car — a decision that Musk says is a matter of life and death for the company.

Tesla and Consumer Reports continue feud following Model 3 review. Tesla and Consumer Reports have a sordid history of squabbling over car reviews, and that’s not about to stop just because the Model 3 is on the road. CR has stopped short of recommending the Model 3 following a handful of complaints, most notably braking. The publication found that the EV only came close to Tesla’s estimated 60-to-0MPH braking distance (about 133 feet) once — it more typically stopped in 152 feet, which was “far worse” than other modern cars and 7 feet further than a giant Ford F-150. This happened with a privately owned second tester, so it couldn’t be chalked up to a fluke. Not surprisingly, Tesla took issue with the claim. Who’s telling the truth? It’s not entirely clear.

FPL parent to expand Florida utility holdings with $6.48 billion in acquisitions. Florida’s largest utility company is about to get bigger, and investors like the idea. NextEra Energy, parent company of Florida Power & Light Co., announced agreements Monday to acquire Gulf Power, Florida City Gas and other assets from Atlanta-based Southern Company for $6.48 billion. Following the news, NextEra’s stock soared Monday, closing at $160.22, up $3.77 a share or 2.41 percent on the New York Stock Exchange. Its subsidiary FPL is already the largest electric utility in Florida, providing power to nearly half of residents and businesses. The acquisition expands its reach to northwest Florida, as well as adding natural gas assets. “These transactions will provide meaningful benefits for the state of Florida, and Gulf Power and Florida City Gas customers, as well as NextEra Energy shareholders,” said Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, in a news release.

GE Hitachi announces Dominion Energy as investor in small modular reactor tech. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) today announced that Dominion Energy will provide funding to help progress the BWRX-300, a 300 MWe small modular reactor design being developed by GEH. “Engaging customers is critical to product development, and we are thrilled that Dominion will invest in our new SMR to advance its commercialization,” said Jon Ball, Executive Vice President of Nuclear Plant Projects for GEH. “The BWRX-300 represents a significant improvement in the economics of new nuclear, an imperative for the long-term viability of the industry. It is more efficient, simpler, safer and needs a fraction of the footprint compared to the current fleet of light water reactors.” Dominion Energy’s funding of the BWRX-300 provides seed money to further work that could lead to commercializing this technology. The company has no plan at this time to build one at any of its commercial nuclear stations. “We believe that nuclear power has a vital role in ensuring a clean, reliable, and cost-effective supply of electricity to meet the needs of a growing economy,” said Dan Stoddard, Chief Nuclear Officer-Dominion Energy.

Cal-ISO defends plan to limit some congestion hedging, rein in speculation. The California Independent System Operator is defending its plan to limit financial speculation related to congestion revenue rights, arguing that market participants will still have ample opportunities to hedge congestion costs. “Given the significant ratepayer losses under the current rules, it is entirely reasonable for the CAISO to recalibrate its CRR release processes in a manner expected to reduce such shortfalls,” the grid operator said in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Army Corps of Engineers will leave Puerto Rico as thousands lack electricity (video)

UK power plant tests tech for ‘carbon negative’ electricity production. The U.K.’s largest power station is to pilot a program that could make its renewable electricity “carbon negative” — meaning that it takes out more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it creates. The scheme will involve Drax partnering with C-Capture, a spin-out from the University of Leeds that designs solvent systems for the removal of carbon dioxide from gas streams. “We will soon have four operational biomass units, which provide us with a great opportunity to test different technologies that could allow Drax, the country and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said  Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner. The first step of the project will start later this month, and will determine if the solvent developed by C-Capture is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. “We have developed fundamentally new chemistry to capture CO2 and have shown that it should be suitable for capturing the carbon produced from bioenergy processes,” Chris Rayner, C-Capture’s founder and professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds, said. “The key part is now to move it from our own facilities and into the real world at Drax.”

Rooftop solar poses blackout threat to Western Australia’s power grid. Extraordinary powers designed for emergencies such major power plant failures or bushfires are being triggered to protect WA’s main grid from soaring output generated by rooftop solar panels. In comments to a Parliamentary inquiry, the body that runs the south-west electricity system has warned the market can no longer cope with the solar power being pumped out during certain conditions. Experts have warned a looming crunch may lead to increased risks of blackouts and higher power costs for consumers. There is now almost 1000MW of solar powered generation across the south west interconnected system — the biggest single source on the grid — with about 200,000 installations on households. At issue is the uncontrollable way rooftop solar power floods on to the system, which is making it increasingly difficult for the market operator to maintain the high-wire act of keeping the grid “balanced”.

Japanese power plant operator seeks consent for new nuclear reactor. Chugoku Electric Power is seeking the consent of local governments to start the screening process to switch on a new nuclear reactor in western Japan. The power company’s No. 3 reactor at the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant was almost completed before the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. It’s in the city of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture. Under new regulations introduced after the Fukushima accident, the facility must pass a stringent screening process. Local governments must give their consent for the process to go ahead.

Electricity competition in Japan drives innovation. Environment, schools gain as electricity firms get creative. Smaller, newer electricity producers and retailers are coming up with inventive and resourceful ways to add extra value to their products so they can outdo competitors and avoid falling into price wars. Since power generation and the retail electricity market were opened up to competition two years ago, many small electricity companies have sprung up, and more than 10 percent of consumers have switched their providers. One of those, Tokyo Yudenryoku, has set up a system to reuse overlooked energy resources in the home to generate power, while tackling water pollution at the same time. “Tokyo is a big oil field,” said Yumi Someya, president of the power company, referring to the large amount of frying oil thrown out through domestic and commercial use in the city with a population of over 13 million. The project has set up 500 collection stations for household oil used to make tempura and other foods at supermarkets and public facilities in and around Tokyo, and about 20 to 30 tons of oil is brought in daily, according to Someya. The oil collected is used as fuel to run a generator in Gunma Prefecture that has a generating capacity of 145 kilowatts of electricity.


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Today’s lede: Utilities’ pledge gets Steyer to end Michigan ballot initiative drive. Michigan utilities pledged to have 25 percent of their electricity supplied from renewable sources by 2030, prompting billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer to suspend his efforts to place an initiative before state voters requiring the state to meet a 30 percent renewables portfolio standard mandate by 2030, Associated Press reporter David Eggert writes.

Current state law requires electricity providers to achieve a 15 percent renewable portfolio standard by the end of 2021. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy said they will accelerate plans to generate cleaner power through a combination of boosting the use of renewable power and energy-efficiency programs to meet the equivalent of a 25 percent renewable portfolio mix, Eggert reports.

Steyer called the agreement a “win for the people of Michigan,” asserting that “every American deserves the right to clean air and water.” The Steyer-funded group NextGen America had been working to obtain 350,000 signatures to put the 30 percent renewables by 2030 mandate on the November ballot.

DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson and Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe said in a joint statement that they appreciate that Steyer and other sponsors of the ballot drive “understand our commitment to carbon reduction and how Michigan’s energy plan puts the tools in place to achieve this goal in a thoughtful and affordable manner. Our two companies are overwhelmingly in favor of renewable energy and are focused on bringing additional energy efficiency opportunities to our customers.”

The utilities will detail how they will reach their clean energy goals when they file plans required under 2016 energy laws setting a non-binding goal of meeting 35 percent of Michigan’s power needs by 2025 through a combination of renewable energy and energy conservation, Eggert reports. Consumers has pledged to phase out electricity production from coal by 2040 with a goal of generating 40 percent of its power from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy by then. has pledged to cut carbon emissions more than 80 percent by 2050 by phasing out coal, boosting wind and solar energy, and building a 1,100-megawatt natural gas plant that the Michigan Public Service Commission approved last month. Consumers and DTE now will target a 50 percent clean energy goal by 2030 — half from renewable energy and half from an energy waste reduction benchmark.

Michigan Environmental Council President Chris Kolb called the announcement a “big step forward” and said his organization “will do everything in our power to ensure this commitment is fully implemented and the benefits to our state are fully maximized.”

Steyer’s NextGen America group also is pursuing renewable energy ballot initiatives in Arizona and Nevada.


GOP picketers greet billionaire Tom Steyer in Arizona. The Pima County Republican Party organized a throng of protesting picketers to meet billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer during an appearance in Tucson as the keynote speaker for a Democratic fundraising event, reporters for KGUN Channel 9 reported. Steyer is backing a ballot initiative to require half of Arizona’s electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030.

“Picketers lined the streets outside the event to rally against the billionaire. They argued Steyer’s harmful policies are not welcome here in Arizona. The new initiative will force Arizona to pay more for electricity, they added,” KGUN reported.

The Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also spoke out against Steyer’s “’Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona” ballot initiative. “If approved by voters, this misnamed proposal will mean higher electricity costs and lost jobs – while having no impact on public health and resulting in the closure of the nation’s largest source of emissions-free power: Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.”

Voter approval of the ballot initiative “will bring to Arizona the same energy regulations already in place in California, where electricity rates are 50 percent higher than our own. This is the last thing the Tucson economy needs,” the Hispanic chamber said.


Michigan lawmaker decries utility ‘terrorists.’ Michigan State Rep. Gary Glenn, a Republican, chairs the influential House Energy Policy Committee and has been a vocal proponent of lifting the state’s 10 percent load limit on retail competitive choice. But he’s also a backer of legislation that would extend consumer subsidies to lower electricity costs for the state’s largest electricity end user, Hemlock Semiconductor. Upset that a lobbyist for Consumers Energy threatened to sabotage the legislation, he likened the utility to “terrorists,” the Detroit News and Crain’s Detroit Business report.

Union and Chamber of Commerce allies rallied to the utility’s defense, demanding Glenn apologize and be removed as chairmanship of the committee.

“Those comments are not acceptable in any work place today,” said Patrick Dillon, president of the Michigan State Utilities Workers Council said. “The fact that he’s an elected official only makes it that much more important that he act professionally and civilly.”

“Every employer, regardless of size or type of business, has the right to participate in Michigan’s legislative process and should be treated with courtesy and respect,” Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley said in a statement. “There are times when people of good will may disagree on public policy, but state lawmakers must refrain from discouraging participation in the legislative process through reckless and disparaging comments.”

Beth LeBlanc, writing in the Detroit News, reported that Glenn, a Republican running for the state Senate in this fall’s election, was “unrepentant.”

Responding to the union rep’s demand that he resign as chairman, Glenn wrote in an email to the Detroit News: “One more on a long list of reasons I’m glad to have played a leadership role in helping make Michigan a right-to-work state, where individual employees are no longer forced to join or give money to such organizations under threat of being fired.”

In another email to LeBlanc, Glenn responded to the chamber official: “I understand and respect the Chamber’s obligation to respond on behalf of a prominent dues-paying member.”

Glenn suggested the chamber official appear before his committee “to apologize for her corporate lobbyist’s threat to scuttle legislation affecting 1,500 jobs in the region I represent.”

Jay Greene, writing in Crain’s Detroit Business, reported that after the hearing, “Glenn told members of the press that he believes Consumers is backing his opponent” in his campaign for a state Senate seat.



FBI probes failed S.C. nuclear plant as utility fights document production. The State newspaper continues its excellent reporting on the nuclear debacle in South Carolina. In separate reports, the newspaper relates how FBI agents and Department of Justice officials were inspecting the V.C. Summer reactor site as part of an ongoing probe as the utility, SCANA’s South Carolina Electric and Gas, is fighting document production requests from state utility regulators and environmental groups.

“It is unclear exactly what the FBI agents — 16 to 19 of them, according to a state agency — were doing at the Fairfield County site, which SCE&G and Santee Cooper abandoned last July after nearly a decade of work that cost $9 billion,” Avery Wilks reports. “But their presence shows the federal probe into the failed project is ongoing.”

The presence of FBI and Justice Department officials at the nuclear site was disclosed by the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, the state agency that polices utilities. According to a weekly site update the agency posted to its website, up to 19 FBI agents were expected to inspect the site.

“SCE&G is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations,” said utility spokesman Eric Boomhower. “We have been in regular contact with the agencies involved and have voluntarily provided them with access to the nuclear construction site.”

Last year anonymous sources told the newspaper that federal investigators sought to determine whether SCANA failed to reveal information about the failing construction project to its investors. Federal securities law requires the disclosure of information that could affect a company’s stock price. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has subpoenaed records from SCANA, Wilks reports. He also notes that a federal grand jury has been investigating the project since at least last September, and the State Law Enforcement Division is conducting its own investigation.

Meanwhile, Sammy Fretwell reports that SCE&G is “trying to keep secret thousands of pages of documents that could explain more about why the utility’s V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project failed last year.” The utility asked the state Public Service Commission not to force it to produce public records that it considers confidential under state law.

Environmentalists are seeking the records to bolster their legal case, alleging SCE&G did not prudently spend money while building the project and its customers should be reimbursed up to $2 billion in higher rates that they were charged. The utility, meanwhile, is miffed that the environmental groups released 70,000 pages of company documents that the two groups obtained as part of their lawsuit. The utility doesn’t want more records released to the public by the groups.

In a filing with the PSC, SCE&G says the groups “have no right to publicly disseminate every document they receive … as they apparently have done to date.”’ The utility claims some of the records the groups are seeking contain sensitive information.

Environmentalists have used the legal process to “gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements or release trade secrets,” SCE&G says.

Bob Guild, a lawyer for the environmental groups, said he’s not signing a confidentiality agreement, adding the public has a right to know what happened. His groups have released records they received from SCE&G and will do so again when they receive more records, he said. “We believe journalists are entitled to this information, regulators are entitled to it and ratepayers are entitled to it,” Guild said.

Fretwell also reports that the utility wants to withhold documents from the state Office of Regulatory Staff, which wants the records to better understand what went wrong with the failed new nuclear build effort.

“Many responses do not appear to comply in good faith” with laws requiring SCE&G to produce records, Regulatory Staff lawyer Jenny Pittman wrote in correspondence obtained by the newspaper. SCE&G says some of the documents that it won’t release are private because they involve attorney-client privilege.

“The assertion of attorney-client privilege with respect to Bechtel being hired in preparation of litigation does not appear to apply,” Pittman wrote.




Actor Alec Baldwin weighs into N.J. nuclear subsidies debate. Comedic actor and long-time anti-nuclear activist Alec Baldwin took a break from impersonating President Trump on Saturday Night Live to pen an op-ed urging N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy to veto legislation requiring the state’s electricity consumers to subsidize nuclear power.

“Gov. Phil Murphy has pledged an all-renewable energy future for New Jersey by 2050. He is to be commended,” Baldwin writes in the Asbury Park Press. “But, that goal won’t be achieved by doling out $300 million annually to PSEG and Exelon to bail out the Salem/Hope Creek nukes in Salem County as proposed by a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Democratic-controlled New Jersey Legislature. Those millions would come from ordinary citizens paying their electric bill.”

Such consumer subsidies would be better applied to implementing “a clean energy future,” Baldwin suggests. “I’m adding my voice to the chorus of outrage that has risen against this preposterous ratepayer-funded bailout. We know what this is about. It’s a shell game to guarantee an unfair 18-percent annual return to investors on the backs of ratepayers. And it’s New Jersey money that the companies could use to prop up their out-of-state nukes.”

Baldwin PSEG, noting it recently agreed to pay $39 million to settle allegedly violating electricity market bidding rules, and Exelon, citing Oyster Creek’s history of tritium leaks and airborne radiological releases. “These companies should not be rewarded with hard-earned New Jersey dollars,” he argues.

“If Gov. Murphy still leans toward signing the Legislature’s hair-brained bill that would award annual corporate welfare checks to the behemoths of PSE&G and Exelon, then he, at least, should do a conditional veto. That veto should not only include the conditions suggested by the environmental community and other coalition members, but also go a step further,” Baldwin concludes. “Any bailout for the Salem/Hope Creek nuke plants must include an ironclad commitment for an early closure date, and a full decommissioning by plant workers once operations cease. This is fair and just; it places the public health and safety of citizens first, while securing long-term, well-paying employment for the workers who have the institutional intelligence to carry out the task of dismantling the reactor, and securing the highly radioactive waste that will remain deadly for tens of thousands of years.”


Exelon seeks out-of-market payments to keep operating Mystic power plant near Boston. “Think your electricity bill is high now? Another charge could be on the way, but it’s one that might be crucial to keeping the lights on,” Jon Chesto writes in the Boston Globe.

Exelon Corp., owner and operator of the Mystic power plant, says New England’s competitive wholesale power market doesn’t generate enough revenues for it to keep operating the state’s largest power plant. ISO-New England, which operates the market and the region’s power grid, says the plant is needed to ensure grid reliability.

Now the matter of formally granting the facility reliability must-run status is before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Chesto reports that FERC approval would result in “an extra charge that could be baked into electric bills.”


More electric industry news of note:

Cal-ISO, ERCOT possible rough spots as US FERC looks ahead to summer. California and Texas are two potential tight spots for power markets and energy reliability this summer, even as most regions appeared prepared to meet summer demand, according to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff assessment (click through here and here). While most regions of the North American Electric Reliability Corp. are expected to meet reference margins, a level set by NERC to assess adequacy of power reserves, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas expects its margins to be below its reference margin level, FERC staff noted, amid a wave of generation retirements there. Yet, the California power market drew the most scrutiny at FERC’s monthly meeting, with Commissioner Robert Powerson remarking he was “very concerned” about reliability in the state.

Texas’ electricity market will see a make-or-break test this summer. The electricity grid that serves most of Texas, known as ERCOT, operates on a relatively rare energy-only electricity market. An energy-only market pays power plants only for producing electricity, while other markets provide “capacity payments” to generators to be available even when not producing power. Texas built this lean market to keep down costs, but this summer could pose a threat to its survival.

Advanced energy roadmap for Ohio. Learn how the next governor can make the Ohio energy system more secure, clean, and affordable—and drive economic development. Our energy system is going through a transformational change. Evolving consumer preferences, dynamic new technologies, and aging infrastructure are causing the energy system as we have known it to modernize. And with this change, comes opportunity. In addition to supporting more than 100,000 jobs in Ohio and 3.4 million jobs across the nation, the advanced energy industry is poised to provide the technology and know-how to bring in a new era of secure, clean, and affordable energy. The next Governor has an opportunity to harness the economic power of the advanced energy industry to transform the Ohio economy. As a business association representing a wide variety of energy technologies as well as major corporate energy buyers, AEE and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy have identified five key priorities as well as specific executive actions and legislative goals that will allow the next Governor to pursue an economic development agenda that takes full advantage of the potential of advanced energy.


Ga. PSC election can affect your utility bills. The statewide elected office with the biggest impact on your monthly budget and on the environment may be one you’ve never heard of. It’s the Public Service Commission, whose jobs include regulating the rates Georgia Power charges and the services it provides. The profile of the five-member commission rose late last year with its controversial decision to move forward on the over-budget and behind-schedule reactors being built at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro. Consumer advocates and the PSC’s staff testified that the project, for which Georgia Power is the majority owner, was uneconomic and could unduly burden ratepayers, but the panel gave it the green light. Despite a projected five years or more of delay and an expected doubling of the original price tag, the PSC has determined all the expenditures so far were “prudent” and that ratepayers must pick up the tab for them. Not surprisingly, Vogtle is a talking point for candidates.

“The Public Service Commission has the last word on how much clean energy Georgia Power will sell to its customers — they decide if we prioritize power plants that pollute our air, create global warming pollution or guzzle water from our rivers or if we prioritize clean and renewable resources like solar, wind or energy efficiency,” said Jennette Gayer, executive director of Environment Georgia. “This race is so important to Georgia’s air, water and green spaces.”

Solar onslaught prompts Vt. Town to boost energy planning efforts. Faced with an increasing number of solar project proposals, the town is establishing an energy committee with the goal of better directing energy projects in the future. Brandon residents interested in serving on the five-person committee, which would be a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, should submit a letter of interest to the Select Board. The board is expected to make the appointments at its May 29 meeting, according to Seth Hopkins, chairman of the Select Board.

Storage will be energy’s next big thing. The cost of renewables has been sinking. Harnessing the excess could be huge. Think the plummeting costs of solar and wind are transforming the energy landscape? Then you should be betting on ways to warehouse that power. To understand why, consider: Unlike almost all their rivals in the energy-generation space, solar panels and wind turbines are mass-produced goods. That means they’re subject to the rules of continual improvement and falling costs that we see with semiconductors, household products and clothing as production volumes rise and factories undercut each other. Traditional power plants are essentially large-scale construction projects, which rarely achieve the same sorts of efficiency dividends.

Western U.S. boasts the cleanest electric grid. The western United States has the cleanest electric grid, according to electric power generation data published by the U.S. Electric Energy Administration (EIA) earlier this year.  Hydroelectric, wind power and solar photovoltaic (PV) now generate about 42 of every 100 kilowatt hours in the West. Hydropower supplied about 26 percent of the western U.S. electricity supply in 2017.  Non-hydro renewables — variable wind and solar — combined added about 16 percent. Hydropower generation in the West was greater than normal in 2017, due to wet conditions, according to EIA. In February, Western utilities delivered about 55 terawatt hours of electric energy to consumers (one terawatthour equals 1 billion kilowatt hours). The U.S. Central region ranks second in renewable-source power production.

Bringing more renewable energy to Southern Colorado. Southern Coloradans value renewable energy and at Black Hills Energy, we’re committed to growing our renewable portfolio, while delivering the cleanest, most reliable electricity possible. We’re proud our energy supply is one of the cleanest in the state, powered solely by wind, solar and natural gas. Here’s the exciting news: Black Hills is proud to announce the 60-megawatt “Busch Ranch II” wind farm, which, upon completion in 2019, will bring our energy supply to 30 percent renewable energy resources, meeting requirements of Colorado’s renewable energy standard.

California utilities, solar developers advocate dialogue on new solar mandate. Utilities are welcoming a historic rooftop solar building code in California, but urging caution with its implementation in order to protect non-solar customers. At the same time, utilities and solar developers are calling for a dialogue among stakeholders to effectively integrate additional rooftop solar into the grid.

Close to Home: An all-electric path to zero net energy. The California Energy Commission has decided to go ahead with requiring solar systems on new housing. A cost estimate of $10,500 per unit has been circulated, and the claim that it will pay for itself has been made. My guess is that the cost estimate is low-balled, and whatever might be the time frame for repayment, this is more money than will be needed up front to build. For market rate housing this will drive up the floor for project feasibility, and for affordable housing it will take this amount right out of scarce and precious housing subsidies. This is bad policy and needs to be reconsidered. Since 2000, the cost of developing housing in Sonoma County has increased by well over 100 percent while incomes are up only about 30 percent. There are multiple causes for this disparity, but green building requirements are a factor, and zero net energy will push costs higher.

San Luis Obispo to start community choice energy program. “The goal of a CCE program is to promote greater use and development of renewable energy such as solar and wind – at potentially more cost-effective rates – while driving local economic development,” said San Luis Obispo Sustainability Manager Chris Read. After extensive groundwork, and a new partnership with the City of Morro Bay, the City of San Luis Obispo is now accepting proposals for an energy and technical services provider to launch a Community Choice Energy (CCE) program. The City Council voted at its May 15 meeting to officially seek bids with the goal of having its CCE program up and running by 2020.

Municipal aggregation Is ‘wave of the future,’ Crius CEO says. “I’m a big believer that community choice aggregation is the wave of the future,” for mass market customers, Michael Fallquist, Chief Executive Officer at Crius Energy, told attendees at DNV GL’s Energy Executive Forum. During a panel on customer focus and engagement, Fallquist said of municipal aggregation, “We think it is the wave of the future, because you are effectively creating collective bargaining power for individual residential customers, which ultimately will create more value, I think there’s ways to enhance it by allowing retailers to engage more with customers.” Crius has been an active supplier in serving municipal aggregations, among its suite of sales channels. “I think you’ll see more programs, not less programs, over time,” Fallquist said of municipal aggregations.

Alternative energy goals part of NYPSC-ordered audit at National Grid. The state is ordering three National Grid gas and electric utilities that cover some 3.8 million customers to report on their efficiency, particularly in helping Gov. Andrew Cuomo reach his ambitious goals to combat climate change by boosting renewable power and energy efficiency. “The audit will include an assessment of the utilities’ readiness to respond to the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, and closely examines how the utilities plan for and manage information systems projects, said Public Service Commission Chairman John Rhodes. Under the REV plan, the governor wants the state by 2030 to have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels, get half of its electricity from renewable sources, and markedly increase energy efficiency.

Washington regulators scrutinize Avista sale in Olympia hearings this week. Avista’s proposed sale to a Canadian utility gets another round of regulatory scrutiny this week. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission will hold “evidentiary hearings” on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday in Olympia to review how Avista would operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hydro One Ltd., of Toronto. Interest in the sale of Spokane’s homegrown utility is running high. About 80 Avista customers attended a public hearing last month in Spokane Valley on the proposed $5.3 billion sale. Some voiced concern about foreign ownership of Avista, which was founded in 1889 as Washington Water Power, generating electricity from falls on the Spokane River.

Pa. PUC cuts in consumers. The state Public Utility Commission deserves credit for its decision Thursday to direct 17 major utilities, including UGI and PPL Electric, to distribute to ratepayers $320 million of their tax-generated windfalls this year. In most cases, it will show up on bills in the form of credits. Some consumers will experience further savings because several utilities, including UGI, have announced reductions in gas-purchase costs that they must pass on to consumers. It’s unfortunate that regulation is necessary to ensure that consumers receive a secondary benefit from tax cuts that flowed mostly to the top, but fortunate that the PUC made the correct call on cutting in consumers on the windfall.

Boost for N.J.’s EV market with more charging stations, consumer rebates? The New Jersey Legislature is poised to tackle new measures to encourage the state to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector, Tom Johnson reports in The Senate Environment and Energy Committee will consider a pair of bills that would expedite the installation of charging stations across New Jersey for plug-in electric vehicles and provide up to $100 million a year in rebates to consumers who switch to zero-emission vehicles. The package aims to address the overriding concerns motorists express when considering buying a plug-in vehicle — the availability of charging locations and the time it takes to recharge, as well as the steep cost of the cars. Sen. Bob Smith, the chairman of the committee, is among those pushing hardest to jump start those efforts. One of his latest two bills (S-2252) would require various state agencies to develop a plan for a statewide public plug-in electric vehicle system.

Maryland Chamber of Commerce backs plan to expand electric vehicle infrastructure. The state’s power grid can be a key component in support of a safe, reliable, affordable and accessible electric transportation network of the future. And the time to do this is now. Utility involvement on the front end is imperative, given that the competitive market has not kept up with demands or policy interests in the expansion of EVs. Front-end support and participation allows utilities to put forth grid-responsible and sustainable EV charging solutions.

CEO: Portland General Electric seeks innovative approaches to power supply. For almost 130 years, Portland General Electric has provided energy to the region, and now under the direction of President and Chief Executive Officer Maria Pope, the utility company is looking at how to better serve the community, customers and companies that rely on its power. “I work with some of the most dedicated people at PGE,” Pope said. “Everyone wants to bring the best solutions so we can move forward the right way together.” Pope, who was appointed president on July 26, 2017, and voted to serve as CEO as well five months later, served as the guest speaker at The Future is Electric Business Leaders Luncheon.

Energy-efficient light bulbs harder to find, more expensive in high-poverty neighborhoods. Detroit area study finds that energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs are more expensive, less available in high-poverty urban neighborhoods.

Tesla is an ugly contrarian investment. Although you’ll find no shortage of bearish arguments against Tesla stock, don’t overlook the many positives. Although it is one of the most recognized technology names, Tesla has been recently making news for the wrong reasons. Primarily, investors are losing confidence that CEO Elon Musk has the right mentality to keep Tesla moving forward. As a result, TSLA stock took a beating. It’s not unusual to see volatility in this sector. Furthermore, tech firms don’t always meet expectations, and Wall Street is known to penalize underperformance sharply. That said, Tesla stock is particularly disappointing because Musk has promised much but has delivered comparatively little. With Tesla stock down 9% year-to-date, investors need a reason to stay onboard.

Musk has heavily leveraged his holdings of Tesla while Tesla’s financial leverage has risen. For many investors the calculus is simple; Musk is Tesla and Tesla is Musk.  His roles as Chairman, CEO and largest shareholder are inextricably intertwined.  That said, the extent to which Musk has used his stake in Tesla as collateral to support personal indebtedness is not necessarily well known.

Chinese startups elbow into electric auto industry. China is not only the world’s largest auto market but it is also the most advanced in the field of electric cars. Small wonder that so many startup companies are hoping to benefit from national policies favoring green cars. The startups are hoping to gain a foothold by rolling out electric car models with intelligent and connected features inside the vehicles. For them, an electric car is a smart device on wheels. “This year will be a crucial one for these startups,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association. “According to plans of these enterprises, a number of new models will be unveiled his year. Some of the companies, such as Shanghai-based NIO and VM Motor Technology Co, have even entered the stage of actual production.”

A ‘hostile environment’ for renewables: Why has UK clean energy investment plummeted? It’s very clear there is a very substantial downward trend in new investment, which is across the board in terms of investment in clean technology ranging from big wind farms right down to the effective collapse of the solar market.


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Today’s lede: Policy group pans bill subsidizing electricity for Michigan manufacturer. Hemlock Semiconductor, a major Michigan manufacturer employing some 1,500 people, has been exempt from state law barring rate cross subsidization since 2010. In other words, Michigan’s electricity consumers have paid a higher electricity rate to ensure Hemlock gets a low-cost rate from its electricity provider, Consumers Energy.

HB 5902, which was just passed in the House in a 77-31 vote, would make that exemption permanent (click through here). Jason Hayes and Jarrett Skorup with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy write about the “acrimony” surrounding the pending legislation.

“This bill highlights the market-corrupting nature of Michigan’s over-regulated utility system. By heavily restricting choice in Michigan’s electricity market and by barring competitive pressures against monopoly utilities, state law forces most Michigan businesses to endure the services monopolies choose to offer,” Hayes and Skorup write. “This bill uses the power of the Legislature to exempt Hemlock from the high monopoly utility rates that every other Michigan resident and business has to pay.”

In a free-market system, the standard practice would be for a large, reliable customer like Hemlock – the state’s largest electricity user – to request, and easily get, much lower prices than other businesses, Hayes and Skorup write. “But it’s not operating in a market system. That’s the unfortunate part of this story, and Hemlock is one of the big losers.”

By limiting electricity choice and competition, Michigan encourages situations like Hemlock’s, the writers say. “The real solution to this situation isn’t special legislation that creates special deals for specific companies. The permanent solution is move our electricity markets back to customer choice and open and free electricity markets.”

See also:

Michigan PSC opens investigation into DTE outages, electrocution death. The Michigan Public Service Commission has launched an investigation into DTE Electric Co.’s recent weather-related outages, and the circumstances around the death of a Detroit woman who came in contact with a downed electric line. More than 300,000 DTE Electric customers lost power on May 4 when a storm with winds gusting to 70 miles per hour hit southeast Michigan. Power was not restored to some customers until several days later. The Commission stated in its order (Case No. U-20169) that it is concerned parts of DTE Electric’s distribution system during large storms is unable to provide safe and reliable service, as is required by law.,4639,7-159-16400_17280-468893–,00.html


Virginia biomass developer to challenge regulatory decision. English Biomass will pursue a court challenge to a recent Virginia State Corporation Commission decision rejecting its bid to provide 25 percent of Ferrum College’s electricity needs as a competitive service provider alternative to Appalachian Power, the school’s utility provider, Energy News Network’s Elizabeth McGowan reports. The SCC ruled that English Biomass didn’t qualify under state law since it wasn’t providing 100 percent of the college’s electricity supply (click through here).

“We think the commissioners read the statute incorrectly,” Eric Page, English Biomass’s attorney, said. “We are going to get the Supreme Court to tell them what the General Assembly really meant.” A legal win would “encourage competitors to come in and build small facilities to supply small amounts of renewable energy to customers,” Page said.

But an attorney for Appalachian Power was confident the SCC’s decision would be upheld on appeal. “Splitting of service is not permitted in any of the 11 states where [American Electric Power, the parent company of Appalachian Power] operates,” Noelle Coates told McGowan. “It makes sense that the commission would uphold these tariffs because those provisions have been around for so many years.”

English Biomass is trying to pierce Appalachian Power’s monopoly via a state law that allows competitive third-party providers to sell to utility customers if they provide 100 percent renewable energy and the incumbent utility doesn’t have a tariff providing for 100 percent renewable energy on file with the SCC. The commission recently rejected Dominion’s bid for a 100 percent renewable energy tariff, which would have precluded competitors from whittling away at its monopoly dominance (click through here). Appalachian Power has a renewable energy tariff proposal pending before the commission, McGowan reports.

“What’s going on here has the common theme of anti-competitiveness,” said Will Cleveland, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville, Va. “Dominion and Appalachian Power are intent on getting something approved that blocks competition.”

Competition for clean energy keeps prices reasonable and allows customers to choose from an array of offerings, Cleveland said.


Solar workers, advocates in Mass. rally for ‘long-term stable growth.’ Andy Metzger of State House News Service reports on a demonstration by solar energy industry workers calling for Massachusetts lawmakers to ensure “long-term stable growth” in the industry.

“After some boom years, employment in the Massachusetts solar industry has dipped, losing about 3,000 jobs in the past two years. The industry now employs 11,500 people in Massachusetts,” Metzger reports. The solar industry advocates want lawmakers to lift the cap on net metering and the Department of Public Utilities to reverse a decision allowing Eversource to impose new fees on solar customers starting next year.

Metzger reports that Rep. Carmine Gentile, a Sudbury Democrat who joined demonstrators rallying for solar, was not optimistic about their policy objectives making it into law this session. “Hope springs eternal,” Gentile said, noting that the Legislature passed an omnibus energy law two years ago and that has “drawn our focus to other areas” as lawmakers approach the July 31 end of formal sessions.

“Currently, in addition to high subsidies paid to solar developers, costs associated with maintaining the local electric grid are unfairly borne by our non-solar customers,” said Eversource spokesman Michael Durand. “Which is why our regulators approved changes to our rates that will ensure developers of solar facilities installed after the end of this year will contribute to the cost of the maintenance and upgrade work that benefits every customer.”


Oregon debates new power line versus distributed energy. Norm Cimon, an advocate with Oregon Rural Action, took to the pages of the La Grande Observer to argue that the region’s electric grid will be less stable if a controversial proposed power line is built in Oregon. PacifiCorp, Bonneville Power Administration and Idaho Power propose to design, construct, operate and maintain a new 500-kilovolt transmission line from a proposed substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway Substation near Melba, Idaho—known as the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project or B2H project. Idaho Power is leading the permitting process for the project (click through here).

“The grid is more reliable and more secure with distributed generation,” Cimon argues. “It is less secure and sure to have more unpredictable failures with ever-increasing amounts of long-distance transport over high-voltage lines. That’s because feedback can amplify small fluctuations into grid collapse, just like those rock concerts that blew eardrums out. Adding yet another high-voltage power line to the existing grid will make it even less stable. The industry knows this but will not admit it because it will kill their business model and their profits.”

Research and real life experience argue strongly for turning away from ever-larger grid components to a more modular grid, Cimon writes, citing the findings of a Department of Energy laboratory:

“Microgrids, which are localized grids that are normally connected to the more traditional electric grid but can disconnect to operate autonomously, are another way in which the reliability and resiliency of the grid can be improved. Microgrids use advanced smart grid technologies and the integration of distributed energy resources such as backup generators, solar panels and storage. Because they can operate independently of the grid during outages, microgrids are typically used to provide reliable power during extreme weather events.”

“The development of a modular grid promises greater resilience and the ability to withstand the loss of external power,” Cimon writes. “Large power grids bring only the guarantee of large power failures.”


Senate’s ‘big four’ plan meeting on nuclear waste legislation. Politico reports that a bipartisan group of four senators plan to meet in an effort to move controversial nuclear waste disposal legislation. In addition to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the meeting would include Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. “Our staffs have been working, but I don’t know if a date has been set,” Murkowski told Politico. The planned meeting is being sought after the House passed a nuclear waste bill addressing interim storage as well as the planned long-term repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev. That bill is widely seen as DOA in the Senate, given the objections of the Nevada delegation.


More electric industry news of note:

Enviro-sponsored study targets Dynegy-owned coal plants in Illinois. In a bid to guarantee more profit from its coal fleet, Dynegy-Vistra—a Texas-based energy company that owns eight coal plants in Southern and Central Illinois—wants to saddle Illinoisans with a bailout. Despite the lack of evidence, the company justifies its move by claiming the state will suffer power outages if those coal plants close. However, a new study commissioned by NRDC and the Sierra Club and conducted by Vibrant Clean Energy confirms that Southern and Central Illinois’s energy supply will remain secure and reliable even with the closure of Dynegy-Vistra’s coal plants. In addition, the VCE study shows that closing the plants would save Illinoisans up to $14 billion between 2020 and 2030 and reduce pollution. This is in part because the Dynegy-Vistra power plants are significantly costlier to run and dirtier than other energy resources.

Illinois utility study seeks comment on grid modernization efforts. Amid ongoing efforts to find solutions to the most significant challenges facing Illinois’ electric grid, the Nextgrid Utility of the Future Study issued a call for public comment on issues related to cybersecurity, reliability, resiliency and customer engagement. Managed by the University of Illinois, in partnership with the Illinois Commerce Commission, NextGrid is a comprehensive 18-month study looking at trends in energy production, usage and transactions, grid modernization, and legal and regulatory needed to support grid modernization. The Nextgrid working group on Reliability, Resiliency and Cyber Security is seeking public comments to assist its efforts to study existing and emerging challenges to the physical and cyber security of the grid. Additionally, the group is evaluating potential attacks and solutions to mitigate risks.

Illinois lawmaker touts 2016 energy bill. Illinois, which passed grid-modernization bills in 2011 and 2016, ranked second in Gridwise Alliance’s Grid Modernization Index. The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, created incentives for utility efficiency and demand-response investment and builds on previous smart-grid efforts with modern regulatory and pricing approaches. It also removes market barriers to real-time power pricing options. “Illinois is now a leader with New York in helping its grid move forward and evolve in the 21st Century,” says Illinois Senator Sue Rezin (R). “Illinois chose to keep its highly reliable nuclear fleet operating at full speed for the next 10 years while phasing in the energy efficiency programs.”

Avista gives Montana town $4.5 million to help transition beyond coal. The community of Colstrip has agreed to a $4.5 million payment from Avista Corp. to help the community transition beyond coal. Spokane-based Avista, one of six utility owners of Colstrip power plant, is clearing the way for its $5.3 billion sale to Hydro One of Ontario, Canada. The sale requires the approval of utility commissions in every state in which Avista has customers. Montana AFL-CIO is expected to request worker training funding at a hearing in Helena when the Montana Public Service Commission gets its turn to consider the sale.

The race for Ga. public service commissioner – why it matters to you. Bad decisions by representatives on the Public Service Commission have led to these increased costs. Plant Vogtle has added a $100 per year tax to our utility bills. These rising bills and taxes place the highest burden on those with limited incomes. Families across the state are choosing between paying their electricity bill and buying groceries. That is not right. This position also has a direct impact on the health of black communities. Communities near coal plants are disproportionately black, leading to higher rates of asthma and other health concerns in our children. We must invest in clean, renewable energy.

Maine ratepayer group seeks thorough investigation of utility’s bills. Representatives of a group of 3,500 Central Maine Power ratepayers sent a letter to the utility company’s President and CEO Doug Herling detailing a series of problems with bills and service and asking that a thorough investigation be conducted. The letter follows a request by Maine Public Advocate Barry Hobbins to the Maine Public Utilities Commission to upgrade its summary investigation, which is delving into the technical aspects of CMP’s billing and smart meter system, to a comprehensive adjudicated investigation. Hobbins’ request was denied by the PUC, which said it was premature as the summary investigation was still underway.

Massachusetts rejects smart meter rollouts as competitive energy undermines the business case. How customers migrating to third-party and municipal electric services have put National Grid, Unitil and Eversource’s AMI plans in question.

Decision will help Texas customers put data to work. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) approved a settlement agreement regarding improvements to the Smart Meter Texas (SMT) portal, with a diverse group of stakeholders, including Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance (TAEBA) signing on to the agreement. These changes will make it easier for customers in much of Texas to have advanced energy companies provide services such as energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, and other energy-related software products and services – and fulfill the promise of smart meters, and the granular data they generate.

Pa. PUC cuts utility rates to reflect lower federal taxes. Pennsylvania businesses and residents will see lower costs for water, electricity and natural gas starting July 1 under action taken today by state utility regulators. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday approved rate cuts for 17 utility companies, reflecting newly lowered corporate taxes. The cuts take effect July 1.

New natural gas plant providing power to Del. co-op. The Wildcat Point plant, located in Rising Sun, Md., now fully operational, is owned and operated by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, based in Glen Allen, Va., which is partially owned by Delaware Electric Cooperative as a member cooperative. Delaware Electric Cooperative officials took part in a dedication ceremony at the plant May 8, celebrating the official end of nearly four years of construction at the facility in Cecil County. Wildcat Point is providing clean, affordable and sustainable energy to members of Delaware Electric Cooperative and 10 other nonprofit utilities in Maryland and Virginia. “This new power plant is capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electricity — that’s enough energy to power about 390,000 homes. Natural gas is also a cleaner source of power than other fossil fuels, meaning Wildcat Point will reduce the co-op’s carbon footprint,” said Bill Andrew, president and CEO of Delaware Electric Cooperative. The new natural gas plant has also helped to diversify Delaware Electric Cooperative’s portfolio of energy sources, which includes nuclear, coal, natural gas, landfill gas, wind and solar.

NextEra, Salt River unveil integrated solar and battery plant. NextEra Energy Resources and Salt River Project announced the opening of Pinal Central Solar Energy Center (PCSEC), a universal-scale, integrated 20-megawatt solar plant equipped with a battery system that will store energy and enable SRP to provide clean energy to customers when usage is at its highest and needed most. PCSEC, comprised of 258,000 solar panels on 257 acres of land east of Casa Grande, represents the first of three grid-scale battery storage projects slated to connect to SRP’s system. “The project’s design allows SRP to utilize solar and battery storage together to optimize clean energy output to benefit our customers,” said SRP General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Mike Hummel. “In addition, the plant will assist SRP in meeting our goals for renewable energy while reducing carbon emissions.” SRP will purchase all of the energy produced at the plant, which is owned and operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources.

Tradition Energy unveils an online shopping portal. Tradition Energy has launched a new online electricity and natural gas supplier pricing system. The Stamford, Conn.-based energy risk management and procurement advisory firm developed Tradition Energy Pricing System (TEPS) in an effort to improve the efficiency and transparency of the procurement process, and boost price competition among energy suppliers. “The new pricing system is innovative because the traditional way to gather pricing involves multiple manual steps that are performed using email and phone calls,” said Tradition Energy senior director of marketing Scott Merrell. “TEPS provides more procurement transparency to suppliers because the system is Internet-based, instead of being hidden within Tradition’s offline sourcing and pricing group activity. Having a central online portal reduces manual steps in the process of sourcing quotes from multiple suppliers and compiling it into a price report and then repricing it.” Because the entire process is iterative and transparent until the final, best quote is achieved, property owners benefit from greater competition among energy suppliers for their purchases.

Enel provides demand response services for New York luxury real estate group. The Enel Group’s advanced energy services division Enel X, through its U.S. subsidiary EnerNOC, will provide Glenwood Management with demand response services across a number of buildings in their New York City real estate portfolio, helping the real estate company financially while supporting effective management of the city’s electric grid. The demand response services will complement Glenwood’s existing Enel X-provided distributed energy resource portfolio, which includes 6.3 MWh of battery storage technologies and 2 MW of solar-plus-storage installations across its real estate portfolio. “The expanded agreement with Glenwood, one of Manhattan’s leading players in sustainability, is exemplary of the type of flexible, integrated end-to-end solutions Enel X can offer its customers,” said Michael Storch, Head of Enel X in North America. “Through the suite of technologies we offer, from battery storage to demand response, our real estate clients can invest in an energy solution that helps to contribute to overall grid stability, while enabling reliable economic returns.”

Takoma Park, Md., inks deal with CleanChoice Energy for opt-in renewables supply. CleanChoice Energy has been chosen by the City of Takoma Park, Md., to supply residents and businesses with renewable energy on an opt-in basis. Through the partnership, residents and businesses have the opportunity to support 100% Maryland-based clean energy. The City has long purchased 100% wind electricity through renewable energy credits for its own operations. Now, the City is helping local residents and businesses to reduce their own carbon footprint by making the switch to clean energy. “We’re proud of the efforts Takoma Park has taken to reduce our carbon pollution and be a national leader in sustainability,” said Kate Stewart, Takoma Park Mayor. “Helping our residents and businesses reduce their own footprint by choosing clean energy is the next logical step.”

Engie wins contract to supply N.Y. schools. The Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services (OCM BOCES), acting as administrative participant for the New York School and Municipality Energy Consortium (NYSMEC), awarded ENGIE Resources a three-year agreement to supply electricity to 170 school districts and municipalities throughout upstate New York. With the addition of OCM BOCES, ENGIE now serves more than 5,200 school sites in thirteen states including K-12, colleges, and universities. “Many schools face rising community expectations and challenges, but are budget constrained at the same time. That makes them very astute at procurement and helps keep us focused on offering the best possible solution,” said Jay Bell, Vice President of Sales for ENGIE Resources.

How large energy users can enable renewables. What is flexible demand? It simply means shifting the time that we use electricity: consuming more when supply peaks, and consuming less when supply is low or market demand exceeds supply. What enables this is the advent of smart digital technology solutions, which allow energy consumers to take full control of their energy consumption, doing so at times that are most convenient for the electricity grid. Adoption of these technologies at scale by large energy-consuming entities, such as retail park networks, utility companies or manufacturing businesses, would help balance out the entire national grid to smooth out peak demand and avert black-out risks. This is significant considering the nature of renewables

Nissan’s following Tesla into solar power and home batteries. Given the weather in the United Kingdom—that cloudy, foggy, drizzly country—it doesn’t seem like the best place to launch a business that revolves around solar power. But this is where the builder of the world’s best-selling electric car just started selling Nissan Energy Solar, a generation-to-acceleration scheme that equips customers with roof-mounted panels and a battery to store some of the electricity they generate. If they drive a Leaf, or Nissan’s e-NV200 electric van, they can combine the whole process and drive from Scotland to Wales to wherever, guilt-free, fog lights on, windshield wipers whisking away.

DOE issues multiyear cybersecurity plan for energy sector. Cybersecurity threats are outpacing the energy sector’s “best defenses,” and costs of preventing and responding to cyber incidents are straining company efforts to protect critical infrastructure, the Department of Energy warned as it released a comprehensive five-year cybersecurity strategy for the industry. The Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity (click through here) lays out an “integrated strategy” for DOE’s new Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. It essentially seeks to “gain an upper hand” in the fight against cybersecurity, outlining “disruptive changes in cyber risk management practices.” Power companies and utilities, along with oil and gas entities, have integrated advanced digital technologies to automate and control physical functions for improved efficiency and adjust to a “rapidly changing generation mix,” but this has created a “larger cyberattack surface and new opportunities for malicious cyber threats,” the plan notes. “Nation-states, criminals, and terrorists regularly probe energy systems to actively exploit cyber vulnerabilities in order to compromise, disrupt, or destroy energy systems. Growing interdependence among the nation’s energy systems increases the risk that disruptions might cascade across organizational and geographic boundaries,” it adds.  Though government and the private sector have continually increased spending on cybersecurity operations and maintenance (O&M), “it has become increasingly difficult for energy companies to keep up with growing and aggressive cyberattacks.”

Canada invests in next-generation smart grid technology. Michel Picard, Member of Parliament for Montarville, Quebec, on behalf of the Honourable Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, announced an investment of $949,000 for a next-generation smart grid project that will promote the rapid adoption of new renewable energy sources to bolster the electricity grid. The goal of the project is to develop and implement technology to integrate new sources of clean energy without compromising the stability and reliability of our grids. Natural Resource Canada funded the project — being led by Hydro-Québec’s research institute (IREQ) — through its Energy Innovation Program, which supports initiatives to accelerate clean technology development.


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Today’s lede: Bitcoin’s sucking up 0.5% of world’s electricity – and growing. Bitcoin mining is using an increasing amount of the world’s electricity, and its consumption is growing fast, a blockchain specialist with a leading accounting firm concludes. “Bitcoin has a big problem, and it is growing fast,” Alex de Vries, a senior consultant and blockchain specialist with PwC, writes in the journal Joule (click through here).

“The electricity that is expended in the process of mining Bitcoin has become a topic of heavy debate over the past few years. It is a process that makes Bitcoin extremely energy-hungry by design, as the currency requires a huge amount of hash calculations for its ultimate goal of processing financial transactions without intermediaries (peer-to-peer). We cannot observe this hashrate directly, but it is possible to derive this number from the observable difficulty and the actual time required to mine new blocks for the blockchain,” de Vries writes.

“This paper has outlined various methods that are currently used in determining the current and future electricity consumption of the Bitcoin network. These methods tell us that the Bitcoin network consumes at least 2.55 GW of electricity currently, and that it could reach a consumption of 7.67 GW in the future, making it comparable with countries such as Ireland (3.1 GW) and Austria (8.2 GW). Additionally, economic models tell us that Bitcoin’s electricity consumption will gravitate toward the latter figure. A look at Bitcoin miner production estimates suggests that this figure could already be reached in 2018. With the Bitcoin network processing just 200,000 transactions per day, this means that the average electricity consumed per transaction equals at least 300 kWh, and could exceed 900 kWh per transaction by the end of 2018,” de Vries writes.

Or as Rafi Letzter aptly summarizes the paper in, “The bitcoin network could use 0.5 percent of the world’s energy consumption by the end of this year, and it could soon cost so much to mine the cryptocurrency that it stops being profitable.”

“To me, half a percent is already quite shocking. It’s an extreme difference compared to the regular financial system, and this increasing electricity demand is definitely not going to help us reach our climate goals,” de Vries said in a statement (click through here). If the price of Bitcoin continues to increase according to some projections, the Bitcoin mining network could someday consume 5 percent of the world’s electricity, de Vries said, calling such an outcome “quite bad.”

“The marginal costs of mining are expected to tend to the [higher projections], as rational agents would undertake mining while the marginal costs are lower. At the same time, they would presumably decide to remove themselves from the mining pool if they would be operating at a marginal loss. These market forces drive the industry toward an equilibrium whereby firms will earn zero economic profit,” de Vries writes in his peer-reviewed paper.

But even if mounting Bitcoin production costs ultimately render the process unprofitable, that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to Bitcoin mining, de Vries suggests. “There may be various reasons for an agent to mine even when this isn’t profitable, and in some cases costs may not play a role at all when machines and/or electricity are stolen or abused. In one case a researcher misused National Science Foundation-funded supercomputers to mine $8,000–$10,000 worth of Bitcoin. The operation ended up costing the university $150,000. More recently, a mining facility in Russia (with 6,000 devices) was shut down after ‘not paying for several million kilowatt-hours of electricity.’”




See also:

Washington utility district extends cryptocurrency power moratorium. Chelan County Public Utility commissioners, in Wenatchee, Wash., have continued a moratorium on electricity requests from cryptocurrency miners. In three years, crypto requests could more than double the PUD’s local power load. Currently, 22 crypto miners use 9 megawatts of an approved 13.5 megawatts, PUD officials have said. There were another 19 crypto applications for 16.3 megawatts before the moratorium was imposed on March 19. Looking three years out, the PUD estimates 220 megawatts of crypto demand.


President reportedly pressuring DOE’s Perry on power plant subsidies. A “frustrated” President Trump, during a meeting with political donors earlier this month in Ohio, had an aide get Energy Secretary Rick Perry on the phone so the president could urge him to take action to prop up struggling coal and nuclear plants in competitive electricity markets, Politico reports.

“Faced with calls from donors to live up to his campaign promises, President Donald Trump is keeping the pressure on Energy Secretary Rick Perry to come up with a plan to bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants,” Politico reports. “So far, Perry hasn’t settled on a strategy — but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have options. The energy secretary is poring over alternatives that include the Defense Production Act, the Federal Power Act and the 2015 highway bill. Perry is also considering asking the Defense Department to pay plants to provide power to military bases, but it’s not clear that any of those offer a legally defensible way to save the plants.”

Energy Department officials “gathered with other senior Cabinet and White House aides at a deputies meeting last week at the White House and discussed whether the power plants could be considered critical infrastructure, and therefore qualified for federal help,” Politico reports.

See also:

FirstEnergy’s dangerous push for an $8 billion bailout. If the U.S. Department of Energy grants FirstEnergy’s latest request, which spans 80 plants in a 13-state region managed by the PJM grid operator, expect indebted utilities in other regions to listen up. If FirstEnergy gets a bailout, power companies from California to Florida to New Hampshire may ask for similar favors. Illegal government handouts could then ripple through America’s far-flung energy landscape. Left holding the bag will be ratepayers like you and me.


Florida public integrity group updates report alleging ‘regulatory capture’ at PSC. Florida’s four largest energy companies contributed more than $43 million to state-level candidates, political parties and political committees in the 2014 and 2016 election cycle, spent more than twice as much in the most recent four-year period than in a previously documented ten-year period, and have an “outsized lobbying presence” in Tallahassee, employing more than one lobbyist for every two legislators, Integrity Florida reports in an updated assessment sponsored by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (click through here).

In another recent report (click through here), Integrity Florida cited utilities’ political clout as contributing to regulatory capture at the Florida Public Service Commission. “What we find in this report is a form of corruption — legal and institutional corruption, but corruption nonetheless,” writes Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida’s research director. “Does the Public Service Commission truly serve the public? Among other things, the report finds the PSC meets the criteria for a ‘captured’ regulatory agency.”

This latest report has generated fairly high-level press coverage in the Sunshine State, with stories in publications such as the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald.

Utility companies strongly criticized the report as a political attack and the alliance as “a dark money group” for not disclosing its own donors, Elizabeth Koh writes in the Miami Herald.

The alliance “is an anti-utility group that has sued our company multiple times,” said FPL spokesman Mike Bubriski. “For a group that has integrity in their name, you’d think they’d have higher standards” he said. “It’s pretty clear it’s a compilation of publicly disclosed campaign finance report material, which is really ironic because the group that’s funding this doesn’t disclose where their money is coming from.”

“Representatives of the alliance said it files forms with some of its financial information with the government as part of its status as a nonprofit,” Koh reports.

“This really shows how the energy companies are able to capture the regulatory agency that’s supposed to be regulating them — the Public Service Commission — and (that’s) through their political influence with the Legislature,” Wilcox was quoted by Malena Carollo, writing in the Tampa Bay Times.






Key Mass. lawmaker cites ‘strong’ opposition to electricity consumer-funded pipelines. Massachusetts state  Rep. Stephen Kulik says opposition remains strong and could probably defeat any legislative effort to have electric consumers finance a new natural gas pipeline in New England, Bruce Mohl reports in CommonWealth magazine.

“There’s still a lot of resistance,” Mohl quotes Kulik, who is vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. “I think we could defeat that.”

Mohl’s report notes that pro-pipeline advocates were “dealt a major blow” in 2016, when the Supreme Judicial Court determined that state law barred the Baker administration from authorizing electric utilities to assess fees on customers to finance natural gas pipelines. “Efforts to change the law stalled amid overwhelming opposition in the Senate and strong opposition in the House. As a result, many of the pipeline proposals went dormant,” Mohl writes.

But the issue has resurfaced this year with Massachusetts business groups commissioning studies, lobbying state leaders, and making the case that more natural gas would ease periodic supply shortages during New England’s high-demand winter months and avoid the need to burn more heavily polluting fuels such as oil and coal, Mohl relates.

“The business groups haven’t made a move in the Legislature yet – and probably won’t until next year – but Kulik said opposition among lawmakers to having electric ratepayers pay for natural gas pipelines remains strong. He said the state shouldn’t be building more pipelines at a time when it needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, he said, the state should be focused on increasing energy efficiency and expanding solar, offshore wind, and hydro-electricity imports.”


Texas electricity prices declined in areas with competitive choice, rose elsewhere. Average residential electricity prices in areas of Texas with retail electric competition declined during a recent 10-year period, while average prices in deregulation-exempt areas increased, the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power reports (click through here).

“We have been conducting this report for years, and this is the most encouraging one yet for Texans living in areas with retail electric deregulation,” said Jay Doegey, TCAP’s executive director. “Average deregulated prices continue their decline — and while those prices have been consistently higher than prices in non-deregulated areas, the gap is the smallest we’ve seen. This is good news for Texans purchasing power from competitive providers.”

The law opening the market in Texas to competition is limited to the parts of Texas within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and exempts municipally owned utilities from competition.

TCAP’s report appears to echo the findings of last year’s study done for the Retail energy Supply Association by Phil O’Connor, former Illinois Commerce Commission chairman, which found nationally that states with competitive choice saw price declines while regulated monopoly states saw price increase over the past two decades (click through here).


Other electric industry news items of note:

If solar, wind hit 50% of generation, wholesale energy prices could fall 25% or more. In a world where wind and solar resources make up 40 to 50 percent of generation, wholesale energy prices will drop by as much as $16 per megawatt-hour, according to a study released Wednesday from a group of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (click through here).

Energy jobs grow despite solar dip in 2017. Axios reports that employment in U.S. energy industries grew by 133,000 jobs in 2017 despite the first dip in solar-related employment in several years. The energy efficiency sector alone represented half the growth, adding a net 67,000 new jobs, according to a new report. It was released by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative, a nonprofit led by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (click through here). Solar energy companies employed roughly 350,000 on a full- or part-time basis last year, a loss of 24,000 that represents the sector’s first employment dip since this dataset was collected in 2010. “The reasons for this decline are still unclear, but could include an increase in labor productivity, market saturation for residential solar, and/or concern over solar panel tariffs,” the report states.



Texas grid’s tight reserve margin seen attracting investor interest. The state’s main electricity grid, which is expected to be strained to near capacity this summer, has been attracting significant attention from power plant investors who are considering building new generation capacity in Texas, grid officials said. The trend signals that the state’s deregulated electricity market is working to balance power supply and demand, they said, although the new plants won’t be completed in time to change the near-term outlook for this year or next year, most likely. “There’s a high level of interest” in building new plants, said Warren Lasher, senior director of system planning at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the electricity grid that serves most of the state and is commonly known as ERCOT. Investors “are looking at market conditions and market opportunities,” Lasher said.

U.S. Northeast, Canada to have adequate summer power supply. The Northeast Power Coordinating Council expects adequate electric supply across the region this summer, even as the forecast is lower than the 2017 summer forecast, officials said. The region expects a summer peak load of 104,137 MW, which is 1,140 MW lower than the summer 2017 forecast, Edward Schwerdt, NCC president and CEO, said during a media call. “This continues the multi-year trend of declining forecast demand due to energy efficiency and conservation initiatives along with continued increase of behind-the-meter photovoltaic resources in New York, New England and Ontario,” Schwerdt said.

N.Y. proposal could end coal-fired electricity in the state. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation proposed regulations to effectively shut down the state’s remaining coal-fired power plants, Politico reports (click through here). The regulations would apply limits on carbon dioxide emissions to existing power plants, with a rationale based on mitigating the state’s contribution to climate change. Gov. Andrew Cuomo first promised to shut down all of the state’s plants in 2016.

Missouri Legislature approves changes to electric rates. The Missouri Legislature has passed a measure that could allow the biggest electric companies in the state to recover more of their costs for infrastructure improvements from customers. The bill, approved by the House 125-20, affects the nearly 2 million people who use The Empire Electric District, Ameren Corp. and Kansas City Power & Light Co. across the state. Companies would be given more flexibility as to when and how they changed their rates, in response to declining electricity usage. Proponents say this change will help modernize the state’s electrical grid. Opponents say this could dramatically increase what customers are paying. The bill next goes to the governor.

Mich. regulators review Consumers Energy rate hike, electric vehicle charging station plan. Consumers Energy Co. filed a proposal with the Michigan Public Service Commission for a three-year, $7.5 million pilot infrastructure program to support the fast-growing plug-in electric vehicle market in the Jackson-based utility’s electric service territory. Consumers Energy filed its EV plan as part of a $58 million overall rate increase request. A preliminary hearing is planned by the commission June 1 to consider the average 1.4 percent residential rate increase that would cover a 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2019. The rate increase request could have been more than $160 million if Consumers hadn’t received this year a decrease in its federal income tax rates.

Eversource customers in Mass. to see 5% summer electricity rate cut. Eversource plans summer electricity rates that are 5 percent lower than the current winter rate. If the rate is approved by the state Department of Public Utilities, Eversource customers in Western Massachusetts who are on the company’s Basic Service supply option will see the savings on their electric bill beginning July 1, the utility said Wednesday in a news release.  The proposed supply rate is 10.003 cents per kilowatt-hour, down from the current rate of 10.503 cents.

FirstEnergy CEO addresses shareholders about ‘eventful’ year. Chuck Jones, the head of FirstEnergy Corp., got right to the point in his speech Tuesday at the Akron utility’s annual shareholders meeting. “It’s safe to say the last week of March was one of the most eventful in our company’s history,” the chief executive officer said. “Through our multibillion dollar Energizing the Future initiative, we’re keeping pace with customer demand for electricity by upgrading and modernizing our transmission system,” Jones said. “We plan to invest up to $4.8 billion from 2018 through 2021 on these improvements.”

Silver Spring Networks acquisition boosts Itron’s earnings. Itron reported quarterly earnings for the first time as an integrated company, revealing Silver Spring’s share of now-bolstered revenue streams and project backlogs. For the first quarter of 2018, Itron reported total revenue of $607 million, up 27 percent from $478 million in the first quarter of 2017. This included $86 million of revenue provided by the “Networks segment” — Silver Spring’s new name — without which total revenue would have grown only 9 percent. Silver Spring also provided $1.4 billion to Itron’s total backlog of $3.1 billion at the end of the first quarter, up from $1.6 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2017. That includes 13 million total endpoints, on top of the 29 million delivered through the first quarter, CEO Philip Mezey said on Tuesday’s conference call.

Coal at Record in Europe Is Latest Pressure on Utility Earnings. China’s thirst for energy is roiling markets in Europe, jolting the outlook for coal-hungry utilities as they struggle to cope with tighter pollution and environmental rules. Coal for delivery next year in Northwest Europe touched a record $90.65 a ton on Tuesday, a fifth consecutive day of gains that together with higher costs on carbon emissions lifted the price of electricity in the process. China’s power generation needs has drawn in more cargoes of both coal and liquefied natural gas, diverting supplies away from Europe.

Direct Energy offers Amazon Echo Dot to prospective Texas customers. Centrica’s Direct Energy has launched a new program to offer Texas residents the ability to sign up for new fixed-price electricity plans that include an Amazon Echo Dot at no additional charge. The Power on Command plan offers a 24-month fixed price option, and the Weekends on Command is a 24-month fixed price plan that includes free weekends (Friday 6 p.m. until Sunday 11:59 p.m. CDT.)  “We are excited to work with Amazon and bring one of the most recognized smart home devices to our customers, the Amazon Echo Dot,” said Manu Asthana, president, Direct Energy, North America Home. “Today’s customers are demanding more from their energy providers through smarter devices and personalized energy recommendations. Direct Energy will continue to lead innovation through connected home experiences.” Soon Direct Energy customers will be able to link their accounts through the Alexa app through activating the Direct Energy skill that will help customers manage their Direct Energy account, in addition to access to the tens of thousands of other skills available on Alexa-enabled devices.

Centrica trials blockchain energy trading. Centrica and LO3 have collaborated to put together a local energy market trial in Cornwall, England. Blockchain technology will be used to create a peer-to-peer energy trading platform. Solar power and energy storage will also be integrated into the local energy trading system. Emily Highmore-Talbot, Centrica’s Head of Communications (Business and Innovation), answered some questions about the project for CleanTechnica.

Enosi uses blockchain to provide affordable clean electricity via decentralized grid. The Enosi Foundation (click through here) announced the launch of its open source, not-for-profit, blockchain based energy operating system, to challenge large energy companies with existing regulatory regimes, making the green energy space more efficient and transparent. Enosi levels the playing field in electricity retailing, thereby enabling communities, small businesses and startups to focus on value added clean energy. “We’ve seen what treating the energy space as a monopoly can do to decentralized energy trading and sustainable energy,” said Steve Hoy, CEO of Enosi, “The sector is inundated with outdated and heavily regulated practices, which are met with minimal competition and innovation. Enosi will change all of that. The electricity industry is ripe for disruption, and Enosi’s new approach to support green community energy will bring about the much needed change that the industry’s been waiting for.” Enosi has secured partnerships and agreements with various energy retailers and players in the industry including, California Clean Energy Foundation, Energy Locals, DC Power, Solar Analytics, Australian Photovoltaic Institute, and signed a cooperative research agreement with the University of New South Wales.

Half million UK customers switched electricity supplier in April. Over the course of April, 498,197 consumers switched electricity supplier, which is a four per cent increase on March’s figures. This brings the total number of customers who have switched supplier in 2018 to just under 1.8 million, which keep’s pace with last year’s figures, when a record 5.5 million electricity customers (one in six) changed provider over the course of the year. Energy UK, which published these figures today (16 May), said: “As switching increases year-on-year, so too do the gains by small and mid-tier suppliers with 23 per cent of customers moving from larger suppliers to these providers.”

Japan draft plan sets ambitious targets for nuclear energy. Japan’s government proposed an energy plan Wednesday that sets ambitious targets for nuclear energy use in the coming decade despite challenges after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The draft, presented to a government-commissioned panel, said that by fiscal 2030 nuclear energy should account for 20-22 percent of Japan’s total power generation. The industry ministry’s draft plan also sets a 22-24 percent target for renewable energy, with the remainder coming from fossil fuels, in line with goals set in 2015. The Cabinet is expected to approve the plan around July.

Agreement reached on electricity restructuring in Israel. The Israel Electric Corp., Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) and Ministry of Finance reached a collective agreement setting out details for implementing the reform of the electricity sector, which would end the monopoly of the government owned IEC and permit competition from private electricity producers. Signing such an agreement is meant to avert the need for cabinet and Knesset approval, which could alter or reject it.