Today’s lede: Large gas-fired merchant plant seeks FERC intervention in Calif. power market. CXA La Paloma, owner and operator of a 1,124-megawatt gas-fired, combined cycle power generation facility in Kern County, Calif., is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to intervene in California’s electricity market to require the California Independent System Operator “to implement and enforce a reasonable and transparent centralized resource adequacy procurement regime,” or RAP (See FERC Docket No. EL18-177, filed June 20).
In its FERC complaint, La Paloma argues a RAP, which would encompass many of the design features in the PJM Interconnection market and other regional wholesale power markets across the country, is needed to fix “fundamental problems” with the design of California’s wholesale power market, overseen by the ISO, which result in “market problems and inefficiencies.”
La Paloma says these problems stem from actions California regulators took in the aftermath of the turn-of-the-century market meltdown in California, which represent “numerous short-term, stopgap initiatives that have resulted in an inefficient system that favors more recently constructed power generation facilities, including many renewable plants that only generate energy intermittently. As a result, existing generators are not able to operate profitably and many are shutting down or being forced into bankruptcy.”
“Power plants like La Paloma are a source of much needed reliable and flexible generation,” Joseph Williams, La Paloma’s attorney, says in a press release. “However, the current market design is inadequate for those plants to survive. While existing plants with flexible capacity are leaving the market, the state is encouraging the construction of new power generation facilities that are unable to generate on demand and actually exacerbate the need for more flexible, reliable generation. We are asking FERC to direct CAISO to implement a Centralized RAP to address the need for flexible resources and provide for a fair opportunity to compete in a centralized, nondiscriminatory procurement process.”
The merchant generator wants FERC to direct the ISO to adopt “an auction-based, free-market system rather than relying on stopgap procurement practices.” This would ensure capacity enters the market when and where it is needed, unnecessary or uneconomic capacity retires and capacity prices are more transparent over the long term.
“CAISO has previously considered developing a functional, long-term system of centralized resource adequacy procurement, yet has taken no material steps to do so,” Williams says. “In fact, development of centralized resource adequacy procurement in California would not be novel. FERC has approved the transition toward centralized resource adequacy procurement in several other regions, noting the efficiency and reliability benefits that a more centralized structure provides.”
CBS report looks at growing wind energy industry in Texas. CBS This Morning took a deep dive into the contrast between growing wind energy production in deep-red conservative Texas and the pro-coal agenda of the Trump administration – an agenda being spearheaded by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who deserves credit as the former governor of Texas for helping to enable the state’s energy transformation.
John Dickerson set up the feature report, by National Public Radio’s Steve Inskeep, by noting Labor Department statistics showing that “solar panel and wind turbine technicians are the two fastest growing careers in the country.” He spoke those words against a graphic illustrating that the Bureau of Labor Statistics sees the growth rate for solar voltaic installers increasing 105 percent from 2016 to 2026. Over the same decade’s time, the statistics bureau sees the rate of growth for wind turbine service technicians increasing 96 percent. The next two fastest-growing jobs, according to the statistics bureau, are home health aides (47 percent) and personal care aides (39 percent).
“Texas is where you’ll find the most of those wind energy jobs,” Dickerson continued, speaking against a graphic citing an American Wind Energy Association statistic that Texas has more than 24,000 wind industry-related jobs.
In the feature report, Inskeep travels to the panhandle of Texas, where wind energy production is booming, and to Georgetown, a suburb of Austin, where the city’s Republican mayor, Dale Ross, has been getting a media attention for the town moving to become 100 percent supplied by renewable energy, primarily wind. “Surprisingly, one person who made this possible was President Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the guy who’s now been ordered to promote coal,” Inskeep notes.
The NPR news host goes on to note how the proliferation of wind energy in Texas is thanks largely to the $7 billion Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, or CREZ, initiative, that built transmission lines to bring wind energy from wind-production areas in the north and west of Texas to electricity consumption sinks in the state’s south and east (click through here). “It happened under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was governor then,” Inskeep says.
The report then cuts away to Inskeep’s interview with Georgetown’s GOP mayor. “This was first and foremost a business decision and if you win the business argument then you’re going to win the environmental argument,” Ross tells Inskeep. “It’s a totally different landscape,” Ross continues, noting that four coal-fired power plants have closed in Texas just this year, and that in the ERCOT market, Georgetown can procure wind- and solar-derived energy for $18 per megawatt-hour, while the prevailing rate for coal-fired electricity is $25/MWh.
“This is the economics of the matter,” Ross says. “You have that choice which one are you going to buy?” This prompts Inskeep to make a reference to Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.” To which Ross quips, “I may be able to teach Mr. Trump something when it comes to renewable energy.” The report then cuts away to a clip of the president at a Feb. 18, 2017, rally in Florida declaring “. . . very clean coal. We are going to put the miners back to work. The miners go back to work.”
Inskeep also interviews former Vice President Al Gore, who since losing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush has made a career of promoting renewable energy as a means of forestalling the effects of global climate change. “Market forces are moving the entire energy marketplace toward renewable energy,” Gore says. “I’m hoping they’ll follow the lead of Dale Ross rather than Donald Trump.”
Cutting back to Ross, the mayor gave Perry as governor credit for the state’s clean-energy transformation. “Without his leadership we wouldn’t be having renewable energy here,” Ross says. “Maybe he doesn’t want to take credit for it because his boss is a big coal guy.” Inskeep then clarifies that the Energy Department confirmed that Perry does take credit for the success of clean energy in Texas, and that promoting wind and solar are a key part of his job as Energy Secretary, but that Perry is “under pressure” to do something about economic forces leading to the shutdown of baseload coal.
“The public debate is all about coal jobs. it’s all about traditional energy. That’s where President Trump has driven it,” Inskeep says to close out the segment. “But the reality is there are very few jobs there.”
FERC’s McIntyre expresses confidence that Energy Department will make ‘right decision’. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre was the featured speaker at Tuesday’s Natural Gas Roundtable event in Washington, D.C. In a srum with reporters, he expressed faith that Energy Secretary Rick Perry would make “the right decision” in carrying out President Trump’s June 1 directive to take “immediate steps” to provide financial succor uneconomic coal and nuclear plants in competitive markets (click through here).
According to a memorandum obtained by Bloomberg News, the administration is weighing using DOE’s emergency authority under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, and presidential national security authority under the 1950 Defense Production Act, to intervene in competitive wholesale power markets and stem a pending tide of coal and nuclear plant retirements in the name of national security (click through here). All five sitting FERC commissioners at a recent Capitol Hill hearing expressed the view that there is no national security emergency justifying extraordinary intervention in the markets (click through here).
At the luncheon, McIntyre said any policy action being weighed by a governmental body should not go forward until the legal implications have been carefully weighed, Jasmin Melvin reports for Platts. “Once that has been undertaken, that amounts to a set of lay markers within which policy decisions can be made,” McIntyre reportedly said.
In the scrum with reporters after the lunch, Melvin reports, McIntyre said the standards for invoking emergency authority to address power issues “are spelled out pretty clearly not only in the relevant statutory provisions but also in DOE’s existing regulations.” McIntyre said that ultimately, “the law assigns that role to [Perry], so if anyone’s going to make the decision — right or wrong – it’s going to be him. And I trust that he will make the right decision.”
Melvin also quoted McIntyre saying during the scrum with reporters: “I think it’s important for us to remind ourselves that nothing has happened” yet. Although the leaked memo proposes avenues the administration could take, “that shoe has not dropped [and] we don’t know whether it will.”
But industry sources say the Energy Department was taken aback by the near-universal lack of support for exercising emergency powers to prop up coal and nuclear plants and is contemplating what steps can be taken to do an “end run” around the pro-markets FERC. McIntyre previously has said publicly that, should the administration call for supporting uneconomic plants, that FERC would fall back on old-fashioned cost-of-service ratemaking proceedings to determine compensation (click through here).
But that’s not what the utilities want. They want an above-market rent without opening their books to scrutiny. In each of the various states that have moved to prop up nuclear plants, whether Illinois, New York, Connecticut or New Jersey, the utilities have not opened up their books to regulators or policymakers. Exelon CEO Chris Crane, speaking to Utility Dive after McIntyre’s remarks, said his company does not support such an approach (click through here). “We would much prefer a market fix that is based off of a design basis that says, ‘Here’s your vulnerability and here’s what plants should be compensated at,’” Crane told Utility Dive at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual conference in San Diego.
Meanwhile, Politico interviewed Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, shedding some light on DOE’s current thinking. “We have very specific requirements under the law to do things like inventory critical infrastructure, particularly the infrastructure that serves our military installations. We take that role very seriously,” Brouillette told Politico, alluding to the national security justification cited for market intervention. “In the opinion of many policymakers, the [resiliency] problem has gotten a bit worse. It is beginning to have an impact on the security of our infrastructure. I want to make sure this is clear. Is it an economic security issue that we’re talking about? The answer to that is ‘probably’ at this point. If we’re talking about reliability, the lights still come on. But if you’re talking about resilience, we’re coming to a point where we as a country are going to have to address the resilience of our grid.”
“The National Security Council and, in particular, the deputies level … have been very active and there’s been a very engaging debate about the threat and what it means for the resilience of the grid. There’s not a debate about whether or not there is a threat. There has been no decision and we’re not just working backward. We’re not trying to justify a decision that was made by anyone.”
‘Restructured’ by any other name would smell as sweet. The following is a viewpoint from former FERC commissioner Tony Clark: What’s in a name? When it comes to electricity policy today, plenty; and it pays to keep that in mind when reading the breathless commentary surrounding the Trump administration’s potential lifeline to faltering nuclear and coal generators. To hear many in the energy and environment policy trenches describe it, you would be forgiven if thinking the Trump administration is proposing nothing less than the end of electricity markets and the restructured utility model. If that is true, it is late to the game, because the breakdown of the restructured utility model has been accelerating for years. While I am glad many are awaking to the realization that there are serious structural challenges in the restructured utility model prevalent in much of the Eastern U.S. capacity market regions, let’s not feign surprise that we are where we are. In reality, action by the Trump administration would be no more or less a threat to electricity restructuring than the many existing public policies, subsidies and mandates that are routinely labeled by their supporters as “investments.” It’s all a matter of perspective.
Half a cheer for Trump coal order. Critics have better fixes for grid stability, but try getting them past NIMBYs. Donald Trump doesn’t qualify even as a George W. Bush substitute, much less a Cato Institute acolyte, when it comes to adhering to the principle of nonintervention in markets. This we knew going in. But his latest on behalf of coal miners at least waves a fig leaf in the direction of a genuine problem. A presidential missive this month to the Energy Department could eventually result in grid operators, in the name of national security, being ordered to buy power from large coal and nuclear plants that otherwise would be shut down due to unprofitability. Such an order is somewhat unprecedented, but the fainting spells of energy lobbyists are hard to take, especially from a solar-and-wind promoter at the American Council on Renewable Energy who complained of “arbitrary market interventions.” Energy decisions are already highly politicized. That’s the problem, especially the mandates in many states to keep ratcheting up the share supplied by intermittent power sources. This has been coupled in the past decade with an epochal squeezing out of coal and nuclear in favor of cheaper natural gas.
Moore: Left’s free market for energy just hot air. All of a sudden, everyone on the left wants “free markets in energy policy.” As someone who’s advocated for that for, oh, about three decades, this riff should be music to my ears. But is laissez-faire energy policy really what liberals are seeking? First, some context. A few weeks ago, liberal activists leaked a draft of a Trump administration directive that would order utilities to purchase coal and nuclear power as part of their energy mix. There are good arguments for and against this policy, but what was fascinating was the indignant response from those on the left who hate fossil fuels. “Crony capitalism!” they shrieked in unison. This could cost hundreds of millions of dollars? That’s bad, for sure, but have you ever heard the Los Angeles Times rail against subsidies for wind and solar power? I haven’t. The Obama administration’s policy was to bankrupt coal, oil and other fossil fuels through regulation, while enriching their renewable energy pals in Silicon Valley with subsidies. Remember Solyndra? The company that was going to revolutionize solar power went bankrupt after the Obama administration gave it hundreds of millions of dollars. All told, $150 billion was pipelined into the green empire under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and most of the money funded such fiascoes. But now Trump is accused of “picking winners and losers”?
America needs coal and nuclear power for energy diversity. In the face of rising electricity demand, Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently unveiled a plan to preserve some of the nation’s key coal and nuclear power plants. It’s a sensible move since the nation’s power grid can’t rely solely on natural gas, wind, and solar. What America’s families and businesses need is a diverse mix of energy sources as a hedge against unexpected changes in energy cost or availability. And since it’s important to protect consumers from high energy costs—and to keep the nation’s power grid running—it’s important to avoid the premature retirement of coal and nuclear power plants.
Energy development: free market purists vs the state. Governments commonly provide subsidies or other support mechanisms for energy development to align the market with strategic goals, especially with regards to decarbonisation. But some argue that state intervention is a poor substitute for a free market dictated by consumer needs. How does the free market vs. state support debate shake out, and does it all boil down to perceptions of the urgency of the climate change crisis? In an essay appearing in the March/April 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations director of energy security and climate change Amy Myers Jaffe issued a warning call to the U.S. (click through here). Jaffe’s article, along with the editorial she wrote for the Houston Chronicle (click through here), argued that the US is in danger being left behind as it enjoys the benefits of its domestic oil and gas production boom, while its chief international rival China transitions powerfully towards renewable energy sources and technologies, supported by billions in direct government funding, tax credits and other subsidies. Without a proactive government willing to “devise policies to help innovation and promote the adoption of technologies that can rival Chinese products”, Jaffe maintained, the US risks getting mired in the fossil fuel energies of the past while China sets the terms of the global clean energy future. “The United States risks frittering away its dominance of the global energy market,” Jaffe wrote. “But with strong leadership and a long-term commitment, it can secure its energy future for decades to come.”
The value of markets. Organized wholesale electricity markets were created to address ever-increasing electricity prices and to encourage innovation through free-enterprise competition. PJM Interconnection’s markets have done just that. Competition has helped to create a less expensive, more reliable and cleaner grid that can offer market-based solutions to changes in public policy and the industry
ScottMadden’s energy industry update examines FERC’s inquiry into resilience. ScottMadden Inc. has released its latest edition of The Energy Industry Update. Themed “Recalibration,” this report focuses on the strategic drivers propelling our industry, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s inquiry into resilience in the bulk power system. In January 2018, FERC rejected a call from the Department of Energy (DOE) to promulgate a rule requiring wholesale power markets to price generation resources that provide system resilience, defined by DOE principally as those with on-site fuel supply. FERC, however, acknowledged the importance of resilience and initiated a new proceeding to investigate resilience in bulk power systems, receiving comments from regional transmission organizations and independent system operators in mid-March, with comments due from others by mid-May. “We think that every stakeholder wants a resilient and robust electric power system,” says Cristin Lyons, partner and energy practice leader at ScottMadden. “The challenge, however, is to arrive at a common and candid assessment of the issues the changing power resource mix presents, including costs and benefits.”
Other electric industry news items of note:
New Analysis: U.S. electric power sector continues transition to clean energy, reducing emissions. The nation’s largest electricity producers continue to transition to clean energy sources and, correspondingly, reduce air pollutant emissions, including contributors to climate change, according to the latest comprehensive analysis of U.S. power plant emissions, “Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States” (click through here). The analysis notes that this shift has been accompanied by a decoupling of economic growth and carbon emissions; from 2005 to 2017, electric sector CO2 emissions decreased 24 percent while GDP grew by 20 percent. Power plant emissions of other air pollutants such as sulfur dioxides (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and mercury also continued to decline. According to the analysis, coal and natural gas accounted for 49 and 20 percent, respectively, of electric power production in 2006. Only a decade later, a significant shift in market dynamics is evident: in 2016, 30 percent of electric power came from coal, while 34 percent came from natural gas–marking the first time that natural gas overtook coal as the largest source of electricity in the U.S. In terms of renewable energy, in 2016, 13.5 percent of electricity came from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydropower–a figure which rose to 17.1% in 2017. The percentage of the U.S. electricity generation mix derived from renewable sources is expected to continue rising as the cost of renewables continues to decline, as illustrated in Ceres’ recent report, In Sight of the Clean Trillion: Update on an Expanding Landscape of Investor Opportunities. “It is encouraging to see the progress that U.S. electric power companies have made in accelerating the transition to the clean energy economy, especially given the increased role that the sector will need to play to achieve our longer-range decarbonization goals,” said Dan Bakal, director of electric power at Ceres.
MidAmerican Energy passes 50 percent mark in renewable energy. MidAmerican Energy Company provided its Iowa customers with more than half of their electricity from renewable sources last year, the Iowa Utilities Board has verified. Through a board vote to approve the amount of renewable energy the company provided to its Iowa customers in 2017, the IUB verified that MidAmerican Energy served 50.8 percent of its retail electric load using renewable generation. MidAmerican Energy expects this percentage to grow annually as the company completes additional wind projects. “MidAmerican Energy has achieved an exciting milestone as a renewable energy leader,” Adam Wright, MidAmerican Energy President and CEO, said. “We have now crossed the 50-yard line and we’re moving closer to the goal, which is the vision we announced in 2016 to ultimately provide 100 percent renewable energy for our customers.”
The natural gas industry has a leak problem. The American oil and gas industry is leaking more methane than the government thinks — much more, a new study says. Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, that is bad news for climate change. The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, puts the rate of methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations at 2.3 percent of total production per year, which is 60 percent higher than the current estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency. That might seem like a small fraction of the total, but it represents an estimated 13 million metric tons lost each year, or enough natural gas to fuel 10 million homes. Thanks to a boom in hydraulic fracturing in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, natural gas has quickly replaced coal as the leading fuel used by America’s power plants. It has also helped, to some extent, in the fight against climate change: When burned for electricity, natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide that coal does. The shift from coal to gas has helped lower CO₂ emissions from America’s power plants by 27 percent since 2005. But methane, the main component of natural gas, can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period if it escapes into the atmosphere before being burned. A recent study found that natural gas power plants could actually be worse for climate change than coal plants if their leakage rate rose above 4 percent.
New Orleans city council approves first steps toward ‘community solar’ power program. The New Orleans City Council took the first steps Thursday toward creating a “community solar” program in the city, designed to make solar panels available to renters and low-income residents. In a victory for clean-energy advocates, the council voted unanimously to begin shaping the rules for such a program, which would allow residents to “subscribe” to a portion of the power generated by solar panels on warehouse roofs or on unused land. They will receive credits on their energy bills in exchange. The council hopes to approve a final set of rules by the end of the year.
Unbuilt R.I. power plants makes money anyway. The proposed Clear River Energy Center is already making money even though the fossil-fuel project has neither been approved or built. The proposed power plant is still pending before the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), but the nearly 1,000-megawatt facility was awarded a contract in 2016 to sell a portion of its electricity to the power grid starting in 2019. The natural-gas/diesel-fueled power plant won’t be ready in 2019, so the developer, Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, sold its power obligation to other energy producers for about half the money it would receive from the operator of the power grid, ISO New England. It’s a one-year payout of about $20 million for the Chicago-based company. “That is $20 million paid by New England ratepayers to Invenergy during one short year, for which Invenergy will do nothing,” said Jerry Elmer, one of the leading voices of opposition against the proposed facility. Last year, Invenergy received some $10 million for selling the electricity obligation it failed to deliver.
AEP gets another approval to build largest wind farm in the United States. A titanic $4.5 billion plan by AEP Corp. to build the largest wind power in the United States has landed another key approval. The Columbus-based utility’s proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project has landed required approvals from two of the four states it will ultimately serve. The Louisiana Public Service Commission approved the project on Wednesday, following the May approval by its counterpart in Arkansas. That leaves Texas and Oklahoma to approve the plan. The project would create a 2,000-megawatt wind farm in Texas and in Cimaroon County on the Oklahoma panhandle. About 800 wind turbines supplied by GE Renewable Energy will power the project that would be developed by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC. Invenergy would sell the farm upon completion, expected in in 2020. AEP’s Southwestern Electric Power Co. will own 70 percent of the project with the remaining 30 percent owned by Public Service Company of Oklahoma.
Alabama Power seeks to increase solar fee despite complaint. Alabama Power Company has asked the state Public Service Commission to dismiss a challenge to its fees for residential solar customers and at the same time proposed to increase the amount of those fees. The complaint, filed in April by the Southern Environmental Law Center, argued that the fixed charges assessed by Alabama Power to customers who generate their own electricity — through solar panels or other means — were “unreasonable, unjust, discriminatory, contrary to the public interest and otherwise unlawful.” Alabama Power countered that the fees were enacted in 2013 and hadn’t yet been challenged, and that the PSC has exclusive authority over electricity rates in Alabama. “Both federal and Alabama law recognize the appropriateness of charges for back-up power service, and no one objected to them when they were filed more than five years ago,” Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman said in an email. The company’s motion to dismiss the complaint also announced the “contemporaneous filing” of a request for the PSC to increase the amount of those monthly fees from $5 per kilowatt to $5.42 per kilowatt.
Trying to hold electricity deregulation in Texas to its promise. Sixteen years ago, Texas deregulated the electricity market at the urging of power companies and big industrial users. Consumers could shop for the best deals, the companies assured Texas lawmakers, and benefit by getting lower prices. But consumers who shop for attractive electricity deals on PowertoChoose.org, the website run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, are getting shut out of the very deals described in the promise of deregulation. Several retail electric companies in Houston won’t sell their electricity plans on the state-run website to existing customers or former customers. The bargains are only available to new customers.
California utility expects to pay $2.5 Billion for wildfires. A Northern California utility said Thursday that it expects to pay at least $2.5 billion in connection with deadly wildfires that whipped through wine country last October — some of them ignited by its fallen power lines. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. also warned that its liability could be considerably higher after state fire officials determine the cause of 21 major fires that devastated the region last year. They killed 44 people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and wiped out vineyards, marijuana farms and other agricultural operations. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has determined the cause of 14 fires and found the utility’s downed power lines started several. But state officials have not found what ignited California’s most destructive wildfire, which destroyed more than 5,000 buildings, including 2,800 homes in the town of Santa Rosa that was hardest hit by the deadly flames. PG&E said it is facing more than 200 lawsuits and expects more. One of the law firms suing the utility has hired celebrity activist Erin Brockovich, whose legal fight against PG&E over water issues was portrayed in a 2000 movie starring Julia Roberts. Prosecutors also are investigating whether PG&E should be charged with any crimes if it is found to have failed to follow state safety regulations. A U.S. judge fined the utility $3 million after it was convicted of six felony charges for failing to properly maintain a natural gas pipeline that exploded under a neighborhood south of San Francisco in 2010.
California tries again with 3 landmark clean energy bills. This time things are different. The energy landscape has changed and last year’s obstacles may have shifted for 100 percent clean energy, grid expansion and a storage program. The road ahead looks clearer for clean energy bills that stalled in Sacramento last year. California has championed clean energy and climate change mitigation, but legislators last year failed to pass SB 100, a 100 percent clean energy bill authored by Senate leader Kevin De León and supported by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill would increase the state’s renewable energy goal to 60 percent by 2030, and require entirely carbon-free electricity by 2045. A different bill to regionalize the California grid faltered last year, and one to create a long-term funding program for energy storage disappeared from the agenda before a vote last July. All three have returned to the hearing agenda this June, and evidence suggests old sources of opposition are receding. “I’m cautiously optimistic — I think we have a shot of continuing California’s leadership on clean energy and working with all parties to make it happen,” said Dan Jacobson, state director for Environment California.
Calif. PUC rejects $639 million natural gas pipeline upgrade. The California Public Utilities Commission Thursday rejected a $639 million proposed San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas natural gas pipeline that would have run from Rainbow to Miramar. The 47-mile-long, 36-inch diameter proposed line would have replaced an existing 16-inch pipeline along the Interstate 15 corridor at ratepayers’ expense. However, with a 5-0 vote the commission found that the project “is not needed for safety or reliability,” as SDG&E claimed. SDG&E will now have to conduct a high-pressure water test on the existing line, due to safety regulations passed after a San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion killed eight people in 2010. SDG&E officials claim the test could take up to four years, and impact as many as 125 homes and structures near the line. “Today’s decision denies the public a complete analysis of a project to replace a nearly 70-year-old pipeline in favor of costly testing that will result in significant community impacts with negligible benefits,” the utility responded in a statement.
Anonymous buyer agrees to purchase Redondo Beach AES power plant. After two years on the market, a buyer has emerged to purchase the AES power plant in Redondo Beach, Calif. setting the stage for another contentious land use debate in the city. While the deal has not yet been completed, Mayor Bill Brand confirmed the utility company is working with a single buyer and will likely ink a deal in a month or so. The exact price is unknown. Eric Pendergraft, Director of Business Development for AES, said he could not comment on the sale process as he was bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
Clarendon Hills, Il., opts for renewable electricity for aggregation. Clarendon Hills is going green with its electricity. With the village’s current electrical aggregation contract with Dynegy Energy set to expire at meter reading dates in October, the village board voted unanimously Monday to contract with MC Squared Energy Services to provide renewable energy, which uses Midwest wind to provide its power.
The contract is for one year. Clarendon Hills will receive a designation as a United States Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Community, and all energy produced will be considered renewable energy. This compares with the ComEd offering of 14.5 percent renewable energy, said Peter Nickell, assistant to the village manager. Village Board member Greg Jordan said he firmly supported both continuing with electrical aggregation and contracting for renewable energy. “I don’t see any reason to not continue with aggregation,” he said, noting that residents likely would have to deal with several electricity providers soliciting their business if the village decided to stop using aggregation. “I think that would be aggravating,” he said. “The wind power is environmental and may help sell the village.”
N.J. BPU to vote on JCP&L’s controversial Monmouth power line. Jersey Central Power & Light’s quest to build an $111 million high voltage line between Aberdeen and Red Bank is coming down to the wire. The state Board of Public Utilities is due to decide JCP&L’s request at its Friday public meeting, more than three months after an administrative law judge recommended the board reject it. JCP&L has said the project will bring a third transmission line into Red Bank to serve the area and improve system reliability.
Franklin Co., Pa., commissioners side with Transource opponents. County Commissioners on Thursday took formal action to oppose the Transource power transmission line. Transource is seeking approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for rights of way to erect 13-story-tall monopoles and string high-voltage transmission lines for 29 miles through Franklin County and 16 miles through southern York County. Residents in both counties have organized to fight the project. Commissioner David Keller said the county has no plans to get into the legal fray. “We’re helping to raise awareness and encourage others to support the opposition,” Keller said.
Wyo.’s High Plains Power selects Landis+Gyr for smart grid deployment. Project will start with advanced metering and other supporting applications. Landis+Gyr (Swiss: LAND.SW) announced it has reached an agreement with High Plains Power to provide advanced metering and network technology for the utility’s smart grid deployment. Based in Riverton, Wyo., High Plains Power is deploying about 13,000 meters over a wide geographical area. The utility selected Landis+Gyr’s Gridstream® AMI solution after a successful system pilot project earlier this year. It plans to deploy the multi-purpose RF mesh network as the backbone for advanced metering to start, with plans to add distribution automation in the future. “When looking at updating our current AMI system, we based our decision in part on the ability to support future initiatives for demand management, reliability and all of our operational goals,” said Marlene Morss, Chief Executive Officer at High Plains Power. “Another factor was Landis+Gyr’s proven success with their network in widely dispersed service territories such as ours.”
Dominion Energy, Richmond, Va., leaders deliver AC units to public housing. Dominion Energy and the City of Richmond teamed up to help seniors in Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority communities. They launched an initiative to provide 400 air conditioning units to elderly RRHA residents. Homes in Gilpin Court, built in the 1940s and 1950s have no central air. In addition to providing the units, Dominion is helping to fund the costs to run them. “It means a lot that the city cares about its residents,” a neighbor named Grace said. “We live here [and] heard so many bad things, so it’s a wonderful thing that they’re doing something so wonderful.” We’re told about 80 of the 400 units will be given to Gilpin Court residents. The Remaining 320 will be placed into homes across the Richmond area.
NOPEC offering USDA low-interest program for energy-efficiency projects. The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) has been approved to administer a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) low-interest loan program to commercial property owners for energy-efficiency property improvements. NOPEC is the largest nonprofit public retail energy aggregation in the State of Ohio, according to NOPEC officials. Currently, its aggregation supplies electricity and natural gas to more than 800,000 residential and small business customers in 220 member communities in 14 Ohio counties. Officials said the NOPEC program — Savings Through Efficiency Program (STEP) — is made possible through the USDA’s Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP). Officials added NOPEC is the first organization in Ohio — and one of the first in the country — to be awarded money through RESP to help small businesses lower their energy consumption and costs through energy-efficiency upgrades.
Should S.C. residents pick up utility’s tab for environmental violations? Water rates are going up in parts of York County, one state agency says, in order to pay legal fees after a utility company broke environmental laws with illegal discharges into waterways. The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff is asking the S.C. Public Service Commission to reconsider its recent decision allowing increased rates for Carolina Water Service customers. In May, the service commission allowed increases of between 13 percent and 24 percent for water and sewer, depending on area and service type. The regulatory staff office filed a petition Wednesday, saying the service commission went with rates that Carolina Water didn’t propose until after public hearings. The petition also said the service commission picked a rate “unsupported by the greater weight of evidence” that it should be lower and that it didn’t account for Federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act impacts.
Three big trends in micro electricity grids. As America’s power mix undergoes big changes, a new trend is taking off: microgrids. Microgrids are what their name indicates — small, mostly isolated and equipped with their own power supply. This technology has the potential to make electricity more flexible and resilient, as intermittent renewable energy becomes more widespread and weather becomes more extreme. Mike Gravely, a top official at the California Energy Commission, has developed microgrids around the Golden state for more than a decade. He spoke to Axios about where the industry is going.
Microgrid developer finds fertile ground in the Texas electricity market. Texas is giving rise to innovative microgrid projects as developers leverage opportunity in a state that produces more electricity than any other. A case in point is Electrical Midstream, one of the 12 microgrid developers selected to participate in the Microgrid Financing Connection program, launched at the Microgrid 2018 conference to help match projects with financing. As its name signals, the startup company has its roots in the oil and gas sector, where CEO Mark Fisher previously oversaw design and construction of electrical, instrumentation and control systems.
Sodium- and potassium-based batteries could be key for smart grid of the future. From electric cars that travel hundreds of miles on a single charge to chainsaws as mighty as gas-powered versions, new products hit the market each year that take advantage of recent advances in battery technology. But that growth has led to concerns that the world’s supply of lithium, the metal at the heart of many of the new rechargeable batteries, may eventually be depleted. Now researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found new evidence suggesting that batteries based on sodium and potassium hold promise as a potential alternative to lithium-based batteries. “One of the biggest obstacles for sodium- and potassium-ion batteries has been that they tend to decay and degrade faster and hold less energy than alternatives,” said Matthew McDowell, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering. “But we’ve found that’s not always the case,” he added.
Will Porsche’s electric car push take down Tesla? Fomerly known as the Mission E, Porsche’s Taycan has some impressive specs and is scheduled to go into production in 2019. While Tesla is making strong progress in its production of the Model 3, other car companies aren’t sitting by idly. General Motors Co. recently said it will up its production of the Chevy Bolt as global demand for the mid-priced all-electric sedan remains high. Further, the Detroit-based automaker says it plans to introduce 20 electric vehicles globally by 2023. It’s not alone either, as Mercedes-Benz has said it plans to introduce 10 electric vehicles by 2022. Others are falling in line, too. One those players? Porsche, which has been pushing forward with its electric car plans. Just this month, it announced that its Porsche Taycan model, formerly known as Mission E, will go into production next year. The company says the new vehicle will look like a Porsche and drive like a Porsche.
Westinghouse loads fuel in second Chinese nuclear power plant. Westinghouse Electric Company and its customers, China State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and Shangdong Nuclear Power Company Limited (SDNPC) announced today that Haiyang Unit 1, the AP1000 nuclear power plant located in Haiyang, Shandong Province, China, has begun to load fuel. “This is a great day for Westinghouse, our China partners and the nuclear industry. Haiyang Unit 1 continues to demonstrate our ability to deliver safe, innovative solutions for power generation,” said José Emeterio Gutiérrez, Westinghouse president and chief executive officer. He added, “Westinghouse will continue to deploy AP1000 technology throughout the world and demonstrate our technical leadership in the nuclear energy industry.”