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Today’s lede: Consumer interests accuse Wisconsin regulators of glossing over state’s rising electricity costs. Consumer interests and competitive retail suppliers are criticizing the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s latest draft Strategic Energy Assessment, a regular report required by state law, for attempting to obscure escalating electricity costs in the state, a mounting concern in particular for industrial users.

The Citizens Utility Board, industrial consumers and competitive suppliers are faulting the draft SEA for examining utility costs in the monopoly-regulated state on an aggregated bill basis, which reflects declining usage, rather than the unit cost of electricity, which is rising, in order to have Wisconsin electricity costs compare favorably with other more energy-intensive states, Chris Hubbuch writes in the La Crosse Tribune. “Overall Wisconsin customers pay about 10 percent more for electricity than the Midwest average, and residential customers are hit the hardest,” he reports.

“While reductions in average usage per customer have contributed to average residential electric bills remaining relatively flat, CUB remains concerned that continued increases in electricity prices will cause utility bills to exceed those of nearby states and the Midwest average,” the Citizens Utility Board said in comments to the PSC.

“Energy is a major cost of doing business, and its affordability can help or hinder job creation, particularly when those costs are greater than energy costs in neighboring states and other areas of the country,” the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group and the Wisconsin Paper Council said in joint comments.

The Professional Energy Association and the Retail Energy Supply Association said in joint comments the draft SEA “does not confront the unpleasant reality that Wisconsin experienced the second highest percentage increase in overall . . . average electricity prices in the contiguous United States over the past two decades.”


GOP failure to price carbon has contributed to nuclear power being uneconomic, climate activist says. Long-time climate activist Joe Romm notes that Nobuo Tanaka, former head of the Internation Energy Agency, has described new nuclear power facilities as “ridiculously expensive” and “uncompetitive” when compared to solar power. “At the same time, existing U.S. nuclear power plants are ‘bleeding cash,’ as Bloomberg has repeatedly documented. Saving them would require a subsidy of at least $5 billion a year, according to a July 19 analysis by the Brattle Group,” Romm writes in

“But every time conservatives in Congress have had the chance to vote for the only sustainable way of saving nuclear power — by putting a price on carbon pollution that could make it more competitive — they overwhelmingly oppose it,” he laments. “Conservatives in the Senate killed the cap-and-trade climate bill that passed the U.S. House back in 2009 — a bill that would have dramatically improved the economics of nuclear relative to fossil fuel plants. A rising price on carbon dioxide emissions would instantly help the economics of emissions-free nuclear power compared to one of its biggest competitors: natural gas. Studies have shown that the nuclear fleet could be preserved with a CO2 price averaging just $20/ton.”

Still, just last week the House passed a resolution rejecting a carbon tax, Romm notes. “The anti-carbon tax proposal was supported by an astounding 39 GOP members of the ironically-named ‘Climate Solutions Caucus.’”


Newspaper editorial boards in Ohio, Texas, denounce Trump administration’s call to subsidize baseload nuclear, coal. The editorial board at the Youngstown Vindicator in Ohio urged readers to rise up in opposition to the Trump administration’s “midguided” efforts to require consumer subsidies for uneconomic baseload coal and nuclear power plants. The editorial came in response to a recent report in the paper in which a developer says the administration’s proposed bailout threatens his company’s planned $900 million natural gas-fired power plant in the area (click through here). “Everyone that has an IQ of more than 25 is upset about this,” Clean Energy Future LLC President Bill Siderewicz complained to the newspaper. “This is so un-American.”

“In the free enterprise system, government places few restrictions on the types of business activities or ownership in which citizens participate. And, government does not pick winners and losers,” the newspaper’s editorial says. “Unlike the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which saved the American auto industry from disintegration and the nation’s economy from collapse, the shrinking of the coal and nuclear industries will not trigger a national crisis.”

The administration’s subsidy proposal also came under fire from the editorial board at the San Antonio Express-News. The editorial drew a contrast between Rick Perry’s record as governor of Texas, where he proudly took credit for the state’s competitive electricity market and booming wind energy development, and his role today as Trump’s Energy Secretary, where “Perry has chosen to promote the beleaguered coal and nuclear industries at the expense of ratepayers and also wind and natural gas power sources.”

“Perry works for an administration that is unabashedly pro-coal, and its ties to the industry have been well-documented. But Perry’s persistence in bailing out the coal industry debases his own legacy on energy in Texas. Let’s be clear. Perry’s plan would cost the public billions simply to sustain uneconomic plants. It’s bad economics and bad environmental policy. Perry should remember what he championed as governor. That would mean endorsing energy policies in the interest of American consumers and enterprise, not select industries,” the editorial concludes.



FERC convenes technical conference on power grid ‘resiliency’. When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this year rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed rule requiring consumer subsidies for coal and nuclear power facilities with 90 days’ fuel supply on site, the agency opened a docket to examine power grid “resiliency,” which was the basis for the rejected rule proposal. Today FERC convenes a technical conference to build the record for its proceeding, which could help determine whether certain resources contributing to grid resiliency get favored financial treatment in FERC-regulated wholesale power markets (click through here).

Politico notes that today’s technical conference comes after the deadline for public comments in FERC’s resiliency docket recently closed.  Alison Silverstein, an industry consultant and a speaker at today’s technical conference today, told Politico: “The fun is in how differently everyone explains how a resilient system is actually manifested. This is where everyone’s talking up their book – transmission folks think resiliency means more wires, coal people say it’s fuel security, NERC says it’s standards and drills, services and studies,” she said. “I don’t envy FERC, which will have to find some public interest, statute-based rationality from a conversation where everyone’s talking across each other.”


Connecticut opens bidding from zero-carbon energy producers. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will begin accepting bids from zero-carbon energy producers today, under a quasi-market-based approach the state adopted to promote clean energy.

The program was initially intended to promote renewable resources such as wind and solar, but after much jostling about the issue of Dominion’s threats to shut down the Millstone nuclear power station, the state opened the program up to nuclear energy from Millstone. But now it remains to be seen if Dominion even offers to bid power from Millstone, Benjamin Kail writes in The Day. “After years of lobbying and debate among lawmakers, environmentalists, power companies and utilities, Dominion claims DEEP’s draft RFP released in June is unworkable at a time when Millstone’s future is in jeopardy,” Kail reports.

DEEP in February agreed to include nuclear in the RFP, saying it would grade bids received from so-called “at risk” energy producers on factors such as price, environmental benefits, grid reliability and fuel diversity, Kail reports. Bids from new zero-carbon projects will also be scored on price and non-price criteria, but proposals from existing facilities not at risk of closure will be evaluated on price alone. Given data indicating Millstone should remain profitable for at least the next decade, this has raised questions as to how the state would evaluate a bid from Millstone.

DEEP will pick winners submitting bids in response to the RFP by late 2018 or early 2019. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority will approve final contracts between energy producers and utilities by spring of 2019.


D.C. Circuit issues two opinions upholding FERC. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of appeals issued two decisions today upholding FERC on appeal. In one case, Verso Corp. v. FERC, the court upheld FERC’s decision ordering refunds in a cost-allocation proceeding. “We conclude that the reallocation at issue here does not constitute an impermissible retroactive rate increase,” the court said.” Having established that the existing rate was unjust and unreasonable, and having determined that a different methodology would comply with cost-causation principles, FERC had authority to order refunds and corresponding surcharges under Section 206 and its broad remedial authority under Section 309.”

In the other decision issued today, NextEra Energy Resources et al. v. FERC, the court upheld FERC’s decision to allow an exemption to the minimum offer price rule in the ISO New England forward capacity market for a limited amount of qualifying renewable energy resources. Generators had challenged FERC’s decision, but the court found “FERC engaged in reasoned decision-making to find that the renewable exemption to the minimum offer price rule results in a just and reasonable rate.”$file/15-1098.pdf



More electric industry news of interest:

Offshore wind is likely the next big U.S. renewable sector. At this moment, 30 megawatts of offshore wind turbines are sending power to Narraganset Electric, the National Grid affiliate serving Rhode Island. They are the only offshore turbines in operation in the U.S., a pittance considering Europe is closing in on 20,000 MW in operation. But in the U.S. renewable sector, offshore wind is generating increasing excitement. Between dropping costs, ambitious state renewable targets, and a host of European developers looking to bring their knowledge stateside, the long-awaited U.S. offshore wind surge is now widely seen as imminent. “The U.S. will certainly take advantage of the path already traveled by the EU offshore market and will be in a position to catch up in just a few years,” said Alejandro de Hoz, the vice president of U.S. offshore for Avangrid Renewables.

FirstEnergy won’t say what it’s done with Ohio grid modernization money. Ohio regulators let FirstEnergy collect $168 million a year from ratepayers with virtually no strings attached for how it is spent. Ohio ratepayers have paid FirstEnergy’s utilities roughly a quarter of a billion dollars since January 2017 under a distribution modernization rider (click through here). Now, critics say FirstEnergy is stalling on saying just what it’s doing with that money, which regulators approved without any requirements that it pay for specific projects. The mandate for consumers to pay the rider is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court of Ohio. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy’s utilities have been collecting the $168 million per year, and regulators could renew the charge for another two years after 2019. “To date, FirstEnergy has stymied the efforts of the state-designated advocate of its consumers to discover information about its subsidy charges,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston and assistant counsel Zachary Woltz said in a July 13 brief (click through here).  They and other challengers see the charge as an unlawful “backdoor bailout” for FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries. And critics say any hypothetical rationale for the rider as a tool to boost the company’s credit position in advance of future projects became even weaker after FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy five months ago.

Californians should not pay for utility negligence when it comes to wildfires. Looking at billions of dollars in damages caused by last year’s wildfires in California, powerful special interests are already lobbying the state capitol to shift the liability. Major investor-owned utilities, insurance companies, trial lawyers and others are all playing “hot potato” with liability for damages. Those at risk of getting stuck with the tab are the groups getting cut out the process: Ratepayers. California’s ratepayers already pay some of the highest utility rates in the country. Electricity rates for California families are already 41 percent higher than the U.S. average. But the pain goes beyond the energy bills you see at home. It’s also reflected in the availability of jobs with good wages, and overall costs of living in California because electricity rates for factories, farms, and food processors are a staggering 86 percent higher than the U.S. average. These rates are not only high. They are also climbing. In 2010, commercial ratepayers paid 21 percent above the national average. Today, it’s 49 percent. We’re leaving the rest of the country behind in our skyrocketing energy costs. hat does this have to do with wildfires? Well, the major utilities are now pushing legislation to make you pay for the damages on your utility bill.

If utilities don’t get help on wildfires, California could be in another energy crisis. Nearly 20 years ago, deeply flawed public policy sent electricity costs soaring, caused widespread rolling blackouts, bankrupted one utility and nearly another and led to statewide public outrage. It also stalled California’s march toward a cleaner, more renewable energy future. The new electricity market designed in 1996 was manipulated by out-of-state energy wholesalers, including Enron, which pocketed billions of dollars from consumers. Representing the central coast in the Assembly as speaker pro tem, I helped enact a legislative fix, but the energy crisis left Californians shaken and uncertain. Today, a perfect storm has emerged that could prove just as damaging. Due to court rulings and incoherent regulations, California’s utilities face outsized financial risks from wildfires that cannot be effectively managed until conditions change.

Fort Collins, Colo., crafting goal for 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Fort Collins is making strides toward a 100 percent renewable electricity goal for 2030, a long-discussed benchmark that could hold considerable weight because the city co-owns its power provider. Meeting the proposed goal would mean a major cut in greenhouse gas emissions and a paradigm shift for Platte River Power Authority, the electricity provider for Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park and Longmont. But the goal will need sign-off from Fort Collins City Council and the Platte River board of directors to become official.

Unitil plans $60 million grid modernization project in N.H. Growing customer base fuels expansion of service areas. Unitil is expanding national gas to three New Hampshire towns and plans to spend $60 million in electric grid modernization as a result of past earnings growth and the anticipation of strong demand driven by robust economic development in the region, according a Thursday afternoon earnings call. The $4.2 million gas expansion – planned for Epping, Atkinson and Kingston – has yet to be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, said Alec O’Meara, in response to NH Business Review questions. The grid modernization is based on similar efforts in other states he added. Details have yet to be worked out.

Appalachian Power to lower rates in Va. based on federal tax cut bill. Next month’s electric bill will be a little lighter for customers of Appalachian Power Co., which is passing along its savings from tax cuts imposed by Congress. An estimated $50 million interim rate reduction, spread out over Appalachian’s 1 million customers, means that monthly bills will decrease about 6 percent for the average residential account. That amounts to $4.83 for someone who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month, the utility said in an announcement Monday.

Where blockchain will really matter in energy. In 2017, startups raised over $300 million to apply blockchain technology to energy, and deal flow has only ballooned in 2018. Although evangelists herald blockchain as the new internet, capable of upending mainstays of the energy sector like the centralized power grid, many applications have created more hype than value. There has been a dearth of straightforward, publicly accessible data on blockchain experiments in the energy sector, but that’s starting to change. What we’ve seen so far makes clear that some of the humbler initiatives — those that work within the existing system and partner with incumbent utilities and regulators — are likely to have the greatest impact.

Big utilities scheme to make solar customers pay more. When homeowners install rooftop solar panels, their electricity bills go down. That’s a threat to the profit margins of big utility companies, and in response they are scheming to undermine the economic benefits of going solar. Nationwide, many utilities are lobbying state regulators to let them steal their customers’ savings from going solar and put it back in their own pockets. The utilities’ usual business model is to drive up the rate customers pay for each unit of electricity, but now they’re trying to make it more expensive simply to be connected to the electric system. Your electricity bill includes a flat monthly customer charge to cover the cost of reading your meter, the line running to your home, and administrative overhead. Historically, customer charges have usually ranged from $5 to $10 a month. But now utilities want to jack up the flat charge for residential solar customers, who not only use less electricity from the system, but in some cases generate enough of their own electricity to send some of it back into the system. The companies argue that these customers are not paying their fair share of electric system costs, unfairly shifting the burden of maintaining the system to non-solar customers. Of course, raising the flat charge is also a way of discouraging customers from investing in solar.

Heliene will become first foreign solar company to produce modules after Trump tariffs. Tariffs aren’t the only reason the Canadian company set up operations in America. Canadian-based solar company Heliene will soon be making modules at a retooled Minnesota production facility. It’s the first new plant since Donald Trump announced tariffs on imported crystalline-silicon solar cells and modules. JinkoSolar, Hanwha Q Cells, FirstSolar, LG and SunPower have announced moves to expand U.S. operations in recent months. But Heliene’s is the first foreign-owned facility to move into production after the Trump administration’s Section 201 decision. Though Heliene made the decision to move into the U.S. before the 30 percent tariffs were imposed, producing modules in Minnesota will help the company circumvent costly duties. “We didn’t do any announcement,” said company president Martin Pochtaruk. “We just got it done.”


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Today’s lede: Texas disapproval takes wind out of Wind Catcher’s sails. American Electric Power announced it would cancel its Wind Catcher project after the Public Utility Commission of Texas declined to approve the $4.5 billion project. The utility company sought to build the project in ratebase, and had received approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has not ruled on Wind Catcher, but earlier this year found AEP had not shown an economic need for the project and raised concern regarding consumers shouldering the 2 gigawatt project’s investment risk.

“We are disappointed that we will not be able to move forward with Wind Catcher, which was a great opportunity to provide more clean energy, lower electricity costs and a more diverse energy resource mix for our customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas,” said Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. “To realize the full benefits of Wind Catcher for customers, timely approvals were required from all jurisdictions so we could complete the project by the end of 2020 and be eligible for 100 percent of the federal production tax credit.”

Wind Catcher “was done in by shaky economics, and may become a teaching moment for other developers planning big clean-energy projects,” Bloomberg news’ Jim Efstathiou writes. “The decision shows that regulators are looking very closely at major wind projects as they face more competition with cheap natural gas. While some of the big wind farms already in operation got the green light in part because of renewable-energy mandates, new projects increasingly will have to hold their own based on the numbers.”

“More and more wind projects are being presented as cost savings for consumers, as opposed to just for meeting renewable energy goals,” said Paul Patterson, an analyst at Glenrock Associates LLC. “And that means the economics of projects are going to be heavily scrutinized.”

The project faced significant barriers from the start, Efstathiou writes. AEP wanted “up-front guarantees from regulators that customers would pay the costs, plus a profit, and the cancelation raises questions about whether that model will help utilities build other big renewable energy projects. Changes to the federal tax code and increasing competition from natural gas changed Wind Catcher’s economics, creating doubt about its potential benefits for ratepayers.”

“Basically it commits customers to pay $4.5 billion for a new system and you don’t know how that’s going to compare over time to what power would have cost,” Kit Konolige, a New York-based analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, said Friday. “It would have been a big increase in the rate base. When and how it would have paid off — those are fair questions.”

“These huge projects have always been a challenge,” said Amy Grace, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s hard when you’re competing on economics with some of the cheapest wholesale power prices in the world.”



Nevada newspaper skewers green groups on opposition to energy choice ballot question. The Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board wrote disapprovingly of the decision by four green groups to announce their opposition to the ballot initiative that would end monopoly regulation in Nevada and allow customer choice in electricity.

“The green energy industry has never been much for markets. In particular, solar and wind production have been goosed by taxpayer handouts and government portfolio mandates, justified as a small price to pay to wean the country off those evil fossil fuels,” the paper’s editorial board writes. “The Sierra Club and other environmental interest groups prefer the heavy hand of the regulatory state to markets and consumer choice because it’s easier to manipulate. They reject Question 3 because it threatens to empower electricity users, energy producers and the marketplace at the expense of politicians and bureaucrats handing out taxpayer subsidies to green interests and imposing onerous and expensive edicts on energy providers regarding renewables. In short, they worry that electricity users won’t make the ‘right’ decision if they have the freedom to choose.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. The Sands is funding efforts to pass Question 3, as the ballot initiative is known.



Anbaric exec argues for N.J. law to promote offshore transmission independent from offshore wind projects. Electricity consumers will pay the price unless New Jersey amends state law to separate offshore transmission development from offshore wind development, Anbaric’s Clarke Bruno argues in an op-ed published in

“Existing state law currently defines who is allowed to bid on and create these transmission lines. Eligible bidders for offshore-wind projects are limited only to companies who generate the wind, not the transmission companies that bring the wind power to shore and connect it to the grid for consumer use,” Bruno writes. “Companies that specialize in transmission lines, like Anbaric, are ineligible to even submit a bid to build a transmission line for offshore wind. This means we cannot submit a bid in the market where we have a proven track record of success. This limited competition could inadvertently allow for the development of an industry monopoly.”

That monopoly “could have bruising impacts on ratepayers,” Bruno warns. “This prohibition of an entire category of companies simply from bidding limits the responses for the state to review and ultimately pick the lowest cost and best solution for consumers,” he maintains, citing the potential for economic inefficiencies as each offshore wind developer builds proprietary lines.

“After eight years of little to no action, the Murphy administration has made clear it will embrace offshore wind for New Jersey,” Bruno writes. “The state squandered a tremendous opportunity to act earlier in the decade, meaning we must move and move fast. Moving fast, however, should not keep us from ensuring we harness offshore wind in a smart, cost-efficient manner with a focus on building a competitive industry that will thrive in the long term.”


Powelson exit seen boosting LaFleur’s influence at FERC. “Cheryl LaFleur won’t be wielding the gavel at FERC anytime soon, but she is about to become the commission’s most powerful member,” Politico reports. “The impending departure of Republican Robert Powelson will leave FERC evenly split along party lines, potentially throwing a wrench into the agenda for several months or longer until a fifth commissioner is confirmed. ‘In my personal experience at the FERC, a four-person commission can be very difficult,’ said former FERC Chairman Jim Hoecker. ‘Agencies like this are odd numbers for a reason. It’s always important for the chairman to develop a workable majority when opinions are divided.’”


More electric industry news of interest:

PG&E posts $1 billion loss as debate rages over wildfire claims. PG&E Corp. announced a loss of nearly $1 billion due to wildfire claims Thursday — and repeated its demands that the Legislature take steps to reduce the utility’s liability for future fires. One day after Gov. Jerry Brown released a proposal that would ease California utilities’ wildfire losses, the parent of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported that it lost $984 million during the second quarter as it anticipates an avalanche of claims from last fall’s deadly wine country fires. The utility’s chief executive, Geisha Williams, immediately pounced on the huge loss as evidence that the Legislature must act. Current law “is unsustainable and is already having very real consequences,” she said on a conference call with investment analysts. She added that the governor’s proposal, while welcome, “is insufficient” and she wants the Legislature to do more to shield PG&E and other utilities from wildfire claims. “A lot more work is necessary,” she said. “It doesn’t go far enough.”

In California, 100 percent solar and wind in 2045 will need $350 billion in energy storage. In California, both wind and solar generation are about ten times less in the lowest months versus the top three months. If California reaches the 80 percent mark for renewables there will be massive amounts of surplus generation during the summer months and would need 9.6 million megawatt-hours of energy storage. Achieving 100% would require 36.3 million. California should reach on 50 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2020 and could pass a bill to legally require 100 percent by 2045. In January, they voted to close a nuclear plant which is a carbon-free source that provides 24 percent of the electricity. The amount and cost of the storage will go over $350+ billion because of the wide variation in solar and wind power generation. $350 billion would still be less than 17 over-priced pairs of Vogtle AP1000 nuclear reactors. The two 1.1 GW AP1000 reactors are coming in over budget at about $20 billion for both. Twelve pairs of AP1000 reactors would cost $240 billion even with bad cost overruns and generate over 200 TWh that California needs in electricity.

California’s solar and wind integration challenge. As a leader in the global energy transition, California is putting some of the highest levels of solar and wind on its grid in the world to date. And while the state’s grid operator has made some progress, the integration of these resources is currently limited not by physics, but by market rules and operational practices.

Owner of Iowa’s lone nuclear plant plans to shutter it by 2020. NextEra Energy, owner of the Duane Arnold Energy Center, says it will retire Iowa’s lone nuclear plant in late 2020, five years earlier than anticipated. The Florida-based utility said Alliant Energy, the plant’s largest power user, has agreed to pay NextEra $110 million to shorten its agreement to purchase power from Duane Arnold. Alliant said it will partially replace the nuclear energy with wind energy from NextEra and expects new energy deals will save Iowa customers nearly $300 million over 21 years, even after the utility pays NextEra to end its contract early.

Project to import Canadian hydropower through Maine faces final review. Three companies that would distribute power from a controversial power line running from the Canadian border through Lewiston are in the final stage of approvals in Massachusetts for power purchase agreements on the project. The three companies, Unitil, National Grid and Eversource Energy, submitted their proposed, long-term contracts to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on July 23, for what would be their final approval for the project in that state. No date for completion of the review has been given.

Central Maine Power’s parent sees need for hardier grid. But Avangrid’s $2.5 billion plan to bulk up reliability during storms comes at a time of intense scrutiny on costs to ratepayers. Avangrid is pursuing a $2.5 billion effort to beef up its distribution system over the next 10 years in Maine and New York. Storm damage and recovery over the last 16 months in the two states and Connecticut, where Avangrid is headquartered, have cost more than $450 million. And as a changing climate fuels storms that are more frequent and intense, the company said, it needs to harden its electric grid to maintain reliable service. Over the next few months, Avangrid will zero in on exactly where upgrades should take place in each state and how much they will cost. Besides stronger poles, measures may include more-aggressive tree trimming, greater use of a special coated wire that resists falling branches and putting more portions of the system underground. Also being considered are emerging technologies such as microgrids, which involve small service areas with their own power supplies that can keep energy flowing when the wider system goes down. Avangrid said it will release specific details this fall for its plan, called Transforming Energy. For Avangrid to go forward, the Maine Public Utilities Commission will have to find that the level of investment and the strategies selected are reasonable and should be recovered over time in customer bills. “You have to have a varied approach,” said Michael West, a spokesman for Avangrid. “No one solution will fit all.” But it’s already clear that Avangrid’s plan will face hurdles.

Why Maine towns and cities are investing in solar projects. Solar projects on rooftops, in closed landfills and in other places have taken off in municipalities including Belfast, South Portland, Stockton Springs, Camden, Bar Harbor, Waldoboro, Waterville and Boothbay, among others. There are well over 25 existing municipal solar projects around the state, and the number is growing. In the past decade, disparate factors have come together that have made it much more affordable to install arrays both big and small, experts said. The price of solar panel pieces has plummeted in the past 10 years, experts said. A sizeable federal tax credit for renewable energy systems that doesn’t expire until 2021 has also really helped to entice municipalities to explore solar projects. Some folks are even taking a more regional approach to renewable energy. A group of residents on Mount Desert Island is working toward energy independence for the island by 2030. It’s not just about the bottom line, of course, said Dylan Voorhees, the climate and clean energy project director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. But without the benefit of the bottom line, it’s unlikely that so many municipal projects would be getting off the ground. “It works for rural Maine. It’s not a political thing. It’s about economics,” he said. “I think that there are communities where the environment matters. But folks are really in touch with town budgets. They pay for them through property taxes directly. I think that’s the fundamental thing — saving money is important across the board. And I think the long-term stability and predictability of it is really attractive to municipalities.”

SCE&G fights to keep nuclear charge on customers’ bills as court showdown looms. Almost a year to the day after SCE&G announced the failure of its effort to build two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, the utility plans to go to court Monday to ask a federal judge to make its customers keep paying for the abandoned project. Under a 2008 state law, SCE&G’s 700,000-plus customers now pay $27 a month, on average, to finance the half-finished reactors, originally expected to cost $9 billion. While the project has been dead for a year, SCE&G has kept the additional charge on its customers’ monthly bills — bringing in an extra $37 million a month. However, in late June, the S.C. Legislature passed a new law requiring SCE&G to drop its monthly rates by 15 percent, starting in August. SCE&G has gone to federal court seeking an injunction — a court order — blocking that rate cut, ordered by the S.C. Public Service Commission. Friday afternoon, SCE&G filed an amended complaint in federal court, saying the 2008 Base Load Review Act authorized the utility to hike its customers’ power bills as the nuclear power reactors were being built. SCE&G needs the money to pay for continuing costs, including billions in debt, stemming from the now-defunct project, the complaint said. “The General Assembly has elected to change the proverbial rules of the game after it has ended,” SCE&G’s lawsuit says. “If the court does not grant immediate relief, SCE&G will suffer massive and irreparable harm, including millions of dollars in damages that cannot be recovered.”

SCANA shareholders to vote Tuesday in nuke fiasco and one of the biggest sales in S.C. history. The biggest business decision in South Carolina’s history will be made exactly one year after the decision that caused it. It’s a proposal that affects hundreds of thousands of families and businesses from Charleston to Columbia — everyone who buys electricity or gas from South Carolina Electric & Gas. Investors in SCE&G’s owner, SCANA Corp., get their final say Tuesday on whether South Carolina’s biggest company should be sold. And for the first time since the company’s nuclear project was scuttled last year, individual shareholders will get to ask questions of top executives. If the deal goes through, SCANA will make up a fraction of a much larger energy conglomerate, Virginia-based Dominion Energy. If it doesn’t, SCANA will be back to square one, dealing with a firestorm from its failed nuclear project. Its abandoned plans to expand the V.C. Summer power plant currently cost ratepayers $37 million a month, nearly a fifth of their bills. Whether or not the deal is finalized, electricity users will be paying for decades — a half-century under SCANA or 20 years under Dominion. The V.C. Summer project was called off one year earlier, on July 31, 2017. For a moment, it seemed like the finale of the nuclear project’s saga, capping years of delays and budget overruns caused by construction problems and unfinished designs. It turned out to be the opening act of a profoundly complicated — and messy — debacle that is still playing out, one that hits the wallets of every SCE&G ratepayer.

It’s been a year since SC&EG pulled the plug. Here’s what to expect in Year 2. As we approach Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of the decision by SCANA Corp. and state-owned Santee Cooper to abandon construction of two nuclear reactors that were 10 years and $9 billion in the making, the action has moved mostly to the quasi-judicial Public Service Commission and state and federal courts. There are many, many, many things the Legislature still needs to do to improve our utility regulatory process and to improve the legislative process that laid the groundwork for the debacle. But those are about not making V.C. Summer-sized mistakes in the future — not about correcting the one it already made.

Ethics, renewable energy big issues in Arizona’s Corporation Commission race. Ethics have become a central issue in the race for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, amid controversies including bribery charges against a past chairman and charges that the state’s biggest power company is unduly influencing elections. In the primary, Republicans will have a choice of five candidates, including two incumbents; three Democrats are running, including two former commissioners. Voters in each party will pick two candidates to advance to the general election to vie for four-year commission terms.

Franklin, Wash., PUD stops accepting applications for cryptocurrency mining. The Franklin PUD has stopped accepting applications for electricity use for cryptocurrency mining and related blockchain operations. The moratorium, approved by the Public Utility District commissioners, will allow time for staff to review the effects of such high density loads that place large demands on the electric system. PUD staff also will research a proposed rate structure.

Indiana doing less to help boost energy efficiency. Before Mike Pence became part of a federal administration that has upended progress on a whole range of energy and environmental issues, the then-governor of Indiana had an opportunity to take a principled conservative stand for responsible energy policy. In 2014, consumer advocates begged him to veto Senate Bill 340, an effort by the utility industry to kill an innovative energy-efficiency program that was saving customers money and creating an estimated 19,000 jobs while encouraging conservation. In a classic display of fence-straddling, Pence allowed the bill to become law without his signature but he acknowledged the need to promote energy efficiency and urged lawmakers to take up the issue again. They did, serving up a parody of the original plan in 2015 that left it to the utilities themselves to pursue energy savings. Skeptics pointed out that this was like leaving foxes in charge of henhouse security, but Pence signed it into law. A new report commissioned by Indiana Citizens Action Coalition suggests those decisions may be proving costly. “In my opinion, the energy-efficiency standard was working,” the researcher said in a telephone interview. “Utilities were meeting the target. It was creating jobs.” Now, according to the report, many of those jobs have disappeared.

Report says N.Y. should prime solar market more. State utility regulators have unveiled a plan to add a gigawatt of new solar electricity generation to the electrical grid. The state Department of Public Service, the staff arm of the four-member Public Service Commission, unveiled two new white papers that outline the plan, which is part of the state’s so-called Value of Distributed Energy Resources plan. The plans outline how the state should support the incentive program and promote such projects around the state. Under what’s also called VDER for short, the state is providing tailored incentives to promote so-called “distributed” energy sources such as solar farms that are located closer to areas of need in the electrical grid, reducing the need for new power plants and new utility transmission equipment, both of which are costly to consumers.

Dominion Executive: Building a better electric grid in Virginia. Virginians will soon know the potential of the smart grid, and how it will transform the way we think about energy. The rise of solar power, electric vehicles, and the “self-healing” grid are just the beginning of what some have dubbed the “Internet of Energy.” For Virginia to remain strong, our energy grid must become more reliable and resilient. It must give customers new ways to manage their energy use and it must be secured against emerging threats. A modernized grid will also promote the integration of renewable energy. Dominion Energy is committed to having 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind under development or in operation by the year 2022. None of this will be easy. Fortunately, as of July 1, Virginia has a road map for reaching this ambitious vision: the Grid Transformation and Security Act. We supported this landmark legislation alongside a broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and business groups during the 2018 General Assembly. And we are already accomplishing some of its significant objectives.

Undergrounding transmission line in Virginia adds $120 million in costs to project. The saga of expensive underground transmission continues:  Now comes the Dominion Energy Virginia 230-KV line along I-66 which is needed for an Amazon facility and the growing data center industry. The State Corporation Commission has signed off and reports in the order a cost of $170 million or more to build it. Every step in this process has been heralded by press releases from Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, who sponsored legislation to order the SCC to approve the underground approach, which then became a major chip in the poker game behind the 2018 Dominion Energy legislation. The power line to serve the data center was first opposed outright, and then the push was to bury it. The parties reached an agreement on this route a few months ago. “Now that the State Corporation Commission has accepted Dominion’s application, western Prince William County residents can be assured that the Haymarket power lines will be buried,” said Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, in a release Friday. “This community-led effort, which I was proud to contribute to, will ensure the quality of life in western Prince William County is maintained. Last year, I promised to pass legislation to bury the power lines, and working together, we did.” The SCC estimated the cost of the 5-mile overhead project, which includes a new substation, at $51 million. So, that’s our cost to deliver reliable power in that region to Amazon and others, and $120 million extra is charged to maintain the lustrous beauty of I-66 through three miles of the route. Much of the route east of Haymarket is lined by subdivisions and 100-foot towers would be hard to miss.

How Louisiana solar power prospects shifting to business, utility-scale projects. As the Mall of Louisiana’s thousands of customers traverse its 1.5 million square feet of retail space on any given weekend, something is quietly happening above their heads: Hundreds of solar panels are collecting the sun’s rays and converting them into energy to help keep the lights on and the air conditioning blowing. At nearly 1.3 megawatts of power, the Baton Rouge mall’s system is among the largest in the state. Solar Alternatives, a New Orleans-based solar firm, completed the installation without fanfare in November. At about the same time, the firm completed a 700-kilowatt project atop Gretna’s Oakwood Center. In some ways, the projects represent where Louisiana’s solar industry, at least the rooftop side, currently stands. The demand for residential systems dried up almost entirely after a confluence of events — including the death of a state tax break for installations. Now, commercial rooftops are where the money is, said Solar Alternatives owner Jeff Cantin. While his business once did almost entirely residential rooftops, it is now split 50-50 between businesses and homes. As the rooftop part of the solar industry limps along, hoping for a lifeline from regulators or lawmakers, the other side of the solar industry — utility-scale power — is looking increasingly like the new frontier.

Arkansas utilities told to file plans for passing tax savings on to customers. The Arkansas Public Service Commission on Thursday ordered the state’s eight investor-owned utilities to explain to the commission how they plan to pass tax savings on to their customers. The commission gave the utilities 30 days to file their plans. Thursday’s order is the result of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Congress passed in December. It reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Disclosure filing reveals Fla. Governor owns $350,000 in utility’s stock. The federal disclosure showed Scott and his wife own more than $350,000 in stock of NextEra Energy Partners, which is an arm of Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, also is part of NextEra Energy. Scott appoints all the members of the state Public Service Commission, which decides rate cases and other issues for utilities.

Analysis: U.S. markets, politics drive nuclear power expansion in the South. The expansion of nuclear capacity in the U.S. Southeast may contrast with its contraction elsewhere, especially in competitive wholesale power markets, but the reasons, in effect, remain tied as much to supply and demand as they are to politics. For example, last week’s announcement that the Tennessee Valley Authority had ramped up its Browns Ferry Unit 3 to full power contrasts with claims from nuclear power operators in competitive market areas, who have either shut down nuclear plants or threatened to do so without state subsidies. TVA’s announcement involved the addition of 155 MW to the 1,155-MW unit, while two other plants of similar size are slated to receive by next summer similar upgrades, bringing the nuclear power plant site up to more than 3,900 MW of capacity, at a cost of about $475 million. The expansion of nuclear capacity is partly designed to achieve the TVA goals of expanding low- or zero-carbon power capacity. The TVA website maintains that 54 percent of its current capacity is from zero-carbon resources such as nuclear and hydro, and TVA plans to raise that percentage to 59 percent by fiscal year 2027. “This is one of the last gasps of increasing the capacity of the nuclear fleet through improvements rather than building new nuclear capacity,” said Jim Carson, CEO of the RisQuant Energy consultancy based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As economics improve, solar shines in rural America. Declining costs have helped some of the country’s smallest electricity providers expand their use of solar in highly innovative ways. A five-year effort by electric cooperatives to expand the use of solar energy in rural parts of the United States is coming to a successful conclusion. Under the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) program, which was run by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) under a cost share arrangement with the U.S. Energy Department, rural electric co-ops are on track to own or buy 1 gigawatt of solar power generation capacity by 2019. As of April, more than 120 co-ops had at least one solar project on line. Of those, half said they have plans to add more solar generating capacity. The accomplishment is no small feat. The consumer-owned structure of co-ops means that they can’t make direct use of federal tax credits, which have helped to spur solar adoption among investor-owned utilities. Co-ops often have had to come up with innovative financing arrangements to make the numbers work. In particular, solar adoption has benefited from big drops in the cost of solar PV cells in recent years. “As the cost went down, solar became more economically feasible,” says Tracy Warren, an NRECA spokesperson.

A crucial step for securing a threatened grid. To recover quickly from a major outage, electric utilities should be stockpiling critical equipment. Regulators can help make that happen. One issue in particular poses significant challenges to quickly restoring the grid: significant damage to key electric transmission equipment, and in particular to large, hard-to-find transformers. Replacing grid equipment might seem simple but, in reality, during a widespread disaster such equipment is generally not available for purchase off the shelf, nor is equipment that is ready to install usually in close proximity to where it is needed. In some cases, specialized transformers or circuit breakers will have to be manufactured, a process that can take many months to more than a year. Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey and New York provide stark illustrations of power-restoration challenges that involved lengthy delays in accessing major equipment. An important solution for making the grid more resilient is buying and pre-staging such critical equipment. The wisdom of stockpiling has been recognized by Congress and the U.S. Department of Energy, which last year issued a report supporting the creation of an industry-based “Strategic Transformer Reserve” to dramatically increase the number of spare transformers available for transport and installation. Some utility companies are already joining efforts to purchase and pre-stage critical transformers, circuit breakers and related equipment. For example, a group known as Grid Assurance LLC, of which Berkshire Hathaway, American Electric Power and National Grid are members, recently announced that six utilities with transmission facilities in 26 states had committed to joining its transformer and circuit breaker reserve consortium. Another program, based on sharing existing equipment through mutual assistance, was started in 2015 by a group of smaller utilities. Regulatory agencies across the country must seriously consider supporting the vitally important infrastructure investments represented by such programs.

Lockheed Martin’s compact fusion reactor. Lockheed Martin recently registered a patent on a revolutionary design of a Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR), a mobile device small enough to be mounted on a truck. One version is designed to produce 100 megawatts, enough to power a city of 100,000 people. The CFR, which provides clean energy without producing radioactive waste, has both civil and military applications. In principle, it can be installed on large aircraft carriers, submarines, large transport planes, and probably also fighter jets and large drones. If Lockheed Martin’s hopes are realized, the fear of global energy scarcity will become a thing of the past, and mankind will have the benefit of an environment unsullied by energy pollution.

Elon Musk: the volatile visionary at risk of steering Tesla off the road. Electric car firm has hit trouble, and Musk – who has a knack of making enemies – must explain to investors what is going on. The last time Elon Musk addressed the analysts who follow Tesla, his electric car company, he was – to say the least – rude. “Boring, boneheaded questions are not cool,” he told the analysts. “These questions are so dry. They’re killing me,” Musk complained. Predictably, the outburst led to a selloff for Tesla’s shares – one the company can ill afford. On Wednesday he gets another chance, when Musk must once more explain to investors what is going on at Tesla. Gene Munster, managing partner of venture capital firm Loup Ventures, has been a long-time fan of Tesla and Musk, and even he concedes another angry performance from Musk would be “a disaster”. “Investors have made their feelings known.If they ignore that, it would be a sign that he [Musk] has gone off the rails,” he said. And in the time since they last talked, Musk has shown plenty of evidence that he has, steering the company and his reputation into a multi-car pile-up of scandals that has left some wondering whether he can walk away.

Nova Scotia tidal turbine faces uncertain future as company yanks support. Questions are swirling around the future of an ambitious effort to harness energy from the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy, after a parent company in the Cape Sharp Tidal Venture turbine project abruptly pulled its support. On Friday, French marine energy company Naval Energies announced it will stop investing in tidal turbines. Its subsidiary, Ireland-based OpenHydro Group Ltd., which is partners in Cape Sharp Tidal with Nova Scotia’s Emera Inc., is now in liquidation. Nova Scotia Energy Minister Derek Mombourquette said the province found out about the OpenHydro’s insolvency on Thursday. “There was no indication leading up to it. We were made aware yesterday. I was disappointed … but ultimately you have a private company that is going through this process. They’ll have to determine the best path forward for them with their receivers,” he said. “We have a number of players across the world that are still engaged. You’re going to have technologies change, you’re going to have corporate entities change throughout the process but I am still very confident in the potential for our province.”

Japanese electric utilities crank up oil-fired power in face of heatwave. Japan’s biggest electric utilities are firing up old fossil fuel power plants and ramping up others that are already operating, pushing to meet demand as power prices hit record highs amid a deadly heatwave. The deployment of older, dirtier stations that use commodities such as crude and fuel oil highlights the lingering effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, which has left most of the country’s reactors offline as operators upgrade them.


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Today’s lede: In Minnesota newspaper, Heritage Foundation boosts benefits of customer choice in electricity. Market forces are the best way to expand renewable energy’s share of America’s electricity market, Nicolas Loris, the Heritage Foundation’s Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow, writes in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “Subsidies and mandates mask the true costs of integrating alternative energy into the grid — costs borne unwittingly by taxpayers and ratepayers,” Loris writes. “If renewables are cost competitive with conventional energy sources, they don’t need subsidies and mandates. And if consumers don’t mind paying more for wind and solar, fine! They should be able to do so — they just shouldn’t expect others to help pay their bills.”

Loris quotes electricity expert Devin Hartman of the R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that has taken a strong stance on promoting competition in electricity. “Competitive wholesale markets more efficiently and reliably integrate variable renewable sources like wind and solar, and spur innovation in advanced low emissions technologies,” Hartman says.

“Consumers can shop smarter when the shopping experience gives them more options, more information and more transparency in the transaction. That holds true whether you’re shopping for electricity or oatmeal,” Loris writes. “They’ve proved it down in Texas, where families and businesses reaped huge savings from a restructured electricity market.”

The Heritage Foundation official cites the experience of Illinois, where thanks to competitive reforms in electricity consumers now enjoy rates well below those in nearby states like Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan where officials have maintained monopoly regulation of utilities, or in the case of Michigan, have severely restricted customer choice. Minnesota consumers are “paying the price” for the state’s adherence to monopoly utility regulation, Loris says.

“A year ago, state regulators approved a rate increase of 10.6 percent over four years and a 6.9 percent hike for industrial and commercial customers. State legislators introduced a bill giving a similar discount to the state’s larger energy users,” Loris writes.”More recently, the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee advanced legislation that would change the way Xcel Energy could recover costs for maintenance and improvements to its nuclear power plants. By permitting Xcel to submit plant improvement proposals to regulators through a special proceeding rather than a traditional rate case, the legislation would exacerbate the major problem that harms families and businesses in monopoly-run utilities: shifting financial risk from the company to the ratepayers.”

A regulated, monopolistic marketplace, allows regulators to shift costs — and cost overruns — from utilities to ratepayers, and from the ratepayers with the biggest clout to the smaller consumers, Loris writes, noting that both business and consumer groups oppose the cost-shifting legislation. “Market-driven innovations are transforming the way Americans consume electricity. Minnesotans shouldn’t be left in the dark,” he concludes.


Large energy consumers opine against Trump administration plans to subsidize baseload coal, nuclear. “If the administration sides with the interests of a handful of uneconomic and outdated power plants, it will turn its back on the affordable and reliable electricity that is the lifeblood of the economy and a competitive advantage for American businesses — businesses like those who are members of our organizations. This decision would increase the cost of doing business here at home by tens of billions of dollars annually,” Caitlin Marquis of the Advanced Energy Buyers Group and John Hughes of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council write in the Washington Examiner. They were joined on the op-ed by Devin Hartman of the R Street Insitute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank taking a leading role in advocating for competitive markets.

The trio faults the Trump administration’s arguments that bailing out uneconomic power plants is necessary to protect national security, which they say have been advanced without any supporting evidence. “Every organization charged with keeping the lights on, from regional grid operators to utilities to even the administration’s own grid regulators, agrees that markets are doing their job and that bailouts aren’t needed,” they write. “If direct government intervention into the markets were needed to address upcoming threats, these groups would be calling for solutions. Instead, regulators, grid analysts, and consumers are unanimous in opposing the administration’s proposed actions.”

The administration’s proposed bailout would mandate the use of higher-cost energy through command-and-control regulation rather than allowing the competitive market to deliver the electricity we need at lower cost, the op-ed authors maintain. “This action would reverse decades of federal policy supporting fair market competition and American innovation in energy, injecting risk and uncertainty into investment decisions for energy companies that are bringing new, more affordable energy options to the grid. That mistrust of competitive market principles in and of itself is worrying for businesses.”

The bailout would benefit a small number of favored businesses at the expense of the rest of the economy, they conclude, calling the plan “an illogical and misguided command-and-control approach to managing the energy we use instead of putting faith in competitive markets – all in the name of solving a problem that experts say does not exist. As representatives of some of the largest energy users in the U.S. economy, we find this appalling. If the administration goes forward with this plan, choosing to side with a few well-connected interests that want protection against market realities instead of consumers large and small, we will not sit on the sidelines.”


More electric industry news of interest:

Much of the U.S. electric grid could go the way of the landline phone. If you’re old enough to remember landlines, maybe you remember the feedback loop that turned them from must-haves to luxury items. As customers started switching to mobile, the phone companies had to raise rates on the cord keepers to cover the cost of their telephone lines. That only pushed more people to defect, exacerbating the problem—and increasing the cost. It’s this sort of feedback loop that worries Sonny Garg. He’s the head of energy research for Uptake Technologies and spearheaded the data analytics firm’s new report (click through here) showing that over the past two decades, the investor-owned utilities that represent nearly half the US grid’s electrical load saw the effective cost of generating one megawatt of electricity rise 74 percent. Making electricity, in other words, is becoming a less profitable business. And Garg worries that these costs will eventually reach consumers and send ripples throughout the economy. “You don’t need a huge amount of people to leave to cause a huge issue with the grid,” he says.

Pro-renewable energy groups come out in opposition to Nevada’s energy choice ballot question. Four pro-clean energy organizations announced Thursday that they plan to oppose the Energy Choice Initiative on the 2018 ballot, citing potential uncertainty that passage of the measure could create for large-scale renewable energy development in Nevada. The four organizations — the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and Western Resource Advocates — said they planned to oppose the ballot question, which would amend Nevada’s Constitution by changing its current electric market structure to an open, competitive market by 2023. The measure, which passed 72 to 28 percent in 2016, must be approved again by voters this year to become part of the state’s Constitution. The groups largely cited a fear of uncertainty if the ballot measure passes, including Western Resource Advocates attorney Robert Johnston, who said his opposition was rooted in NV Energy’s plan to substantially increase renewable energy production contingent on the ballot measure not passing. The utility’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan, a state-mandated planning document for future electric supply and demand management, included plans to add more than 1,001 megawatts of solar capacity by 2021. “By taking NV Energy out of the electricity generation business at this critical juncture, passage of Question 3 not only will kill these important projects, but it is likely to create a cloud of legal and regulatory uncertainty that could chill the development of new renewable projects by anyone else over the next 4-5 years while the Legislature figures out the complicated details of restructuring Nevada’s electricity markets,” Johnston said in a statement.

With regulatory tweak, Nevada aims to direct more solar to scarred mining lands. The idea of using renewable energy, such as solar and wind, as a post-mining land use is one that appeals to conservationists, regulators and miners, groups that might often find each other on opposite sides of a policy debate. Conservationists in the Mojave Desert, where millions of solar panels have come online in the past decade, have battled renewable energy developers over the impacts that the sprawling arrays have on the desert ecosystem. More projects, they argue, should be sited on or around former mines, where the land has already been disturbed.

Aging grids drive $51 billion in annual utility distribution spending. Major utilities are spending more than ever on their distribution systems, largely driven by capital expenditures to replace aging equipment, according to new analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (click through here). Utility distribution spending has risen 54 percent since 1997, from $31 billion to $51 billion annually, EIA said following an analysis of major utilities representing about 70% of total U.S. electric load. During that same time, annual capital investment by these utilities for electric distribution systems nearly doubled — and remains the largest chunk of utility distribution system spending. That is also unlikely to change: some 70% of power transformers are 25 years or older, EIA said.

Letter: Keep California electricity rates out of Arizona. Supporters of California-style renewable energy mandates often forget to mention what comes with them: sky high California-style electric bills. The so-called “Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona” initiative would rewrite the state’s constitution and require Arizona’s regulated utilities to provide 50 percent of their power from renewables by 2030, just like California. If it’s approved, our electric bills would also look a lot like they do in California, where residential rates are among the highest in the nation at more than 15 cents per kilowatt hour — about 50 percent higher than here. While supporters like to cite low wholesale prices for solar energy, they ignore the other costs of using it, including system reinforcements, backup generation and battery storage. Those costs would skyrocket under the initiative, driving rates to California-like levels and beyond. If this ill-advised measure makes the ballot, voters should reject it and send this bad idea back to California where it belongs — not in Arizona’s constitution. – Vince Leach, State representative, LD11

Congressional hearing debates various proposals to fix bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. There was no consensus on how to solve chronic problems at the bankrupt Puerto Rico power company brought to the brink by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017 but plenty of proposals. The discussion ranged from a full takeover by the U.S. Department of Energy, to a privatization strategy that is in process, to the complete replacement of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority by an open competitive energy market.

Puerto Rico’s senate minority leader calls for new energy market. Puerto Rico needs an open energy market with microgrids and rural electric cooperatives to decrease dependence on its large utility, Eduardo Bhatia, the island’s Senate minority leader, told Bloomberg Environment. Bhatia is testifying July 25 at the House Natural Resources Committee’s oversight hearing, where the island’s electric utility will be front and center. The bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the largest public electric utility in the U.S., has faced corruption and mismanagement allegations and has had five new chief executive officers in the last 18 months. Puerto Rico’s utility needs to exist in an open market involving other players, including consumers producing their own electricity from solar panels, which he refers to as “prosumers,” he said in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Environment ahead of the hearing. Bhatia said he thinks the island needs to allow PREPA to exist but also encourage citizens to participate in the market by producing their own energy. “If you want to stick with PREPA, fine, but there are many other alternatives,” he said.

Texas PUC official urge consumers to consider fixed-rate electric plans. With record temperatures in central Texas there is already a strain on the power grid. After several power plants in Texas shut down last year, there is less of a supply for the market. If you have a electric plan with a variable or indexed rate you may be paying more this summer. There is no limit to the amount these plans can vary in price once you start. Public Utility Commission of Texas spokesman Andrew Barlow told Channel 6 external factors that affect wholesale electricity prices, such as plants shutting down, can affect market rates. “All of those factors come into play,” Barlow said. “Those prices are being set by a wholesale market. So if a retail eclectic provider has to go back to the wholesale market to purchase electricity, if that generator is operating when there is less supply and more demand, the price is going to go up.” Barlow said it may be a good move to get a plan with a fixed rate. Those plans are more expensive on average, but don’t have large price spikes caused by market swings.

Cogent Reports: Texas retail electric providers post historic levels of customer trust. Texas retail electric providers are hitting a home run when it comes to brand trust. Market Strategies announces nine Texas REPs as Most Trusted Utility Brands for 2018. The level of trust among these Texas REPs is unprecedented, and they are reaping the reward with a highly loyal customer base. These and other findings can be found in the 2018 Texas Retail Electric Provider Trusted Brand Study, a Cogent Reports study by Market Strategies International-Morpace.

N.J. BPU develops rules for offshore renewable energy certificates. Board of Public Utilities explains key funding mechanism for offshore-wind projects. Developers are keen, but some clean-energy advocates chide agency for lack of specifics. The state yesterday proposed a funding mechanism to develop offshore wind, one of the first concrete steps and perhaps most critical of the regulatory components needed to build wind farms off the Jersey coast. The new rule, proposed by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), sets forth the framework for how ratepayer subsidies will flow to the offshore-wind developers and how revenues earned by projects from the wind-generated electricity will be returned to utility customers. More significantly, the mechanism, dubbed Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates (ORECs), ensures that project developers obtain a steady and long-term stream of funding that will allow them to gain financing for the wind farms from Wall Street.

N.J. AG challenges FERC policy on natural gas pipeline reviews. Gurbir Grewal among several attorneys general critical of FERC’s decision to not take climate change into account in certification process for

natural gas pipelines. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is failing in its mission if it does not consider how new natural gas pipelines contribute to climate change, according to comments submitted yesterday by New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. Joining five other states and the District of Columbia in a challenge to FERC’S “inadequate review” of the pipelines (click through here), Grewal told the federal agency its present policy for pipeline review and certification does not fully satisfy its obligations to protect the public interest. “Unless FERC considers how a new pipeline contributes to climate change, it cannot fulfill its statutory mission, because there is nothing more critical to the public interest,” Grewal said in the accompanying comments. The agency is seeking input on updates to its gas pipeline certification policy, which was last updated in 1999. Grewal and the other states’ position contrasts with FERC’s recent announcement that it will refuse to consider the greenhouse-gas impacts of new pipelines, a decision described by critics as the “wrong call.” The federal agency has come under intense scrutiny in recent years as cheap natural gas supplies have led to a rapid expansion of pipelines across the country, including New Jersey. More than a dozen new gas pipelines have been proposed in the past few years, most triggering enormous opposition from residents and conservation groups.

‘It’s a tax on the sun.’ Homeowners calling Alabama Power fees for solar energy unfair.  As the summer temperatures heat up, rising power bills are sure to follow. More businesses and homeowners are opting for solar energy as a less expensive and more environmentally friendly alternative. The Bankston family loves life on the lake in Tuscaloosa. Solar energy panels seemed like a good way to save money on their energy costs until Dr. Jim Bankston learned of the monthly fees from Alabama Power. “I wouldn’t have done it, this doesn’t make any financial sense,” explains Bankston. His only recourse was to file a complaint with the Public Service Commission. He says the power company is taking advantage of customers, because they are a monopoly. Environmental group GASP in Birmingham calls the fees a disincentive for homeowners to switch to solar. Executive Director, Michael Hansen says without public hearings there’s no way to know what constitutes a fair fee. The power company provides back-up service to the homes. However, we’re told businesses don’t face similar fees and the payoff comes much quicker for going solar. SouthPoint Bank on Highway 280 has 200 solar panels. They’re expecting to save $10,000 a year. Computer models track what they use and produce to sell back to Alabama Power.

Middletown, Conn., water plant solar array reduces electricity use, consumer costs. Calling it a victory for the local environment and economy, officials Thursday praised the installation of a 714-panel solar array to help mitigate the effects of the “single largest energy hog in the city” — its water treatment plant. These solar panels, installed in June by Greenskies Renewable Energy, on Middletown property adjacent to the Higby Water Treatment Facility at 260 Meriden Road, Middlefield, is projected to save the city 280,000 kWh of electricity per year. “This is an important project, especially now with people conserving more and more water, and the demand for water is trending downward. Without this project, we would eventually need to raise rates,” said Joe Fazzino, acting director of Middletown Water & Sewer. “It will produce clean water using less electricity from the grid, which, in turn, helps stabilize water rates we charge customers,” Fazzino added.

Los Angeles faces new lawsuit over Department of Water and Power transfer of funds. A longtime critic of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power sued the city of L.A. over its routine practice of taking millions of dollars from the utility each year and spending it on basic services. The lawsuit, filed in the L.A. Superior Court and brought by Jack Humphreville, is one of several lawsuits filed in recent years that target the yearly transfer between the DWP and the city. Humphreville’s lawsuit alleges the DWP payment amounts to an illegal tax and asks a judge to order the funds collected earlier this year by the city — more than $241 million — returned to the utility. Humphreville’s attorney, Jerry Flanagan, said in an interview that the tax violates Propositions 218 and 26, which require voter approval for new levies. “If the DWP had collected money for infrastructure repair and power generation and used it for those purposes, we wouldn’t have a lawsuit,” said Flanagan, an attorney for Consumer Watchdog, a Los Angeles consumer advocacy group that also has been critical of the DWP. “The problem is that DWP collects money for one purpose and then transfers it to the city government for an entirely different purpose.”

Calif. PUC approves San Onofre nuclear settlement, trimming $750 million from original deal. Four years after approving a plan that charged ratepayers billions of dollars for the premature closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant, state utility regulators adopted a new deal Thursday that trims about $750 million from consumers’ electricity bills. By unanimous vote, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed to a new cost-sharing settlement that halts payments by utility customers for the failed power plant as of December 2017. The decision means that consumers would stop paying the $3.3 billion in San Onofre-related charges imposed on them after a radiation leak shut down the nuclear plant north of Oceanside in 2012. Under the plan approved by regulators in 2014, those charges were scheduled to persist until 2022. The agreement would save more than 6 million homes and businesses an average of about $120 over four years. Ratepayers also could see an actual rebate — most likely reflected as a credit on their bills — for closure costs they paid since December, when the revised settlement was agreed to in principle. “This is a marked improvement from the 2014 decision,” CPUC president Michael Picker said just before the vote. Commissioner Carla Peterman said, “Ratepayers deserve closure on this issue.”

Vermont PUC issues guiding principles for future alternative regulation plans. The Vermont Public Utility Commission issued an order providing guiding principles for future electric or natural gas utility regulation plans, which may include alternative regulation plans in combination with more traditional, cost-based rate requests. “The commission is committed to enabling Vermont’s electric and natural gas utilities to achieve their public service obligations and State energy goals,” PUC Commissioner Margaret Cheney said. “Just as we encourage utilities to propose innovative solutions to achieve those goals, it is imperative that we, as regulators, consider these solutions with open minds.”

W.Va. PSC wraps up utility rate investigation. The West Virginia Public Service Commission wrapped up its investigation into local utility rates. This after many utility companies, including AEP, have asked for rate hikes, despite receiving big savings from the president’s tax cuts. Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper asked PSC to intervene early last month after receiving dozens of complaints from locals about high rates and unexplained outages. “In this case with the power company alone, it’s well over 200 million dollars,” explained Carper. “They come up with all these new things that they’re gonna do for us but it is simple,” Carper added. “I testified to the Public Service Commission to just gorge this from them, give you your money back and deal with rate creases as they come.”

Dominion Energy launches grid-transformation program, paving way for Virginia’s energy future with 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind planned by 2022. New law saves Dominion Energy Virginia customers hundreds of millions of dollars. Calls for unprecedented expansion of solar and wind energy to be in public interest. Provides significant boost to energy efficiency and EnergyShare programs. Reduces outages, speeds restoration and improves service through new technology. Dominion Energy Virginia customers stand to benefit from a smarter, stronger and greener energy grid in the first set of plans filed today under the Grid Transformation & Security Act (GTSA). The landmark legislation, signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, became effective July 1 and provides a roadmap for Virginia’s energy future.  Dominion Energy is committing to having 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind — enough to power 750,000 homes — under development or in operation by the beginning of 2022. “Thanks to the Grid Transformation & Security Act, Dominion Energy plans to develop a system that meets the increasingly complex demands and expectations of our customers,” said Ed Baine, Senior Vice President – Power Delivery. “And we are doing it with more renewable energy.” The law paves the way for expanded investments in renewable energy, smart grid technology, a stronger, more secure grid and energy efficiency programs, all while keeping rates affordable. It provides hundreds of millions of dollars in bill credits and rate reductions for customers, and expands the EnergyShare program to help Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens.–300685854.html

Radioactive pollution leaked through floor of S.C. nuclear fuel plant. Radioactive uranium has leaked through the floor at the Westinghouse fuel factory on Bluff Road, contaminating the soil in an area of Richland County with a nearly 35-year history of groundwater pollution from the plant. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the uranium, a toxic substance used to make nuclear fuel rods, seeped through a 3-inch hole in a concrete floor in part of the factory where an acid is used. The hole extends 6 feet into the ground, according to the NRC. The NRC learned of the leak July 12. Officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said they have no reason to believe the uranium has trickled off the site or that public water supplies are threatened. However, the agency said it does not have the results of recent groundwater tests on the Westinghouse property. Those test results will show whether pollution in the soil washed into the area’s shallow groundwater, which seeps into creeks in the Congaree River flood plain.

MidAmerican Energy’s 2 Gigawatt Wind XI barrels forward In Iowa. MidAmerican Energy’s breathtaking 2 gigawatt (GW) Wind XI project continues to roll out across Iowa with several new announcements confirming another 341 megawatts (MW) worth of capacity across the Arbor Hill and Ivester wind farms. Earlier this month MidAmerican Energy — an Iowa-based energy company servicing parts of Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska — announced the 91 MW Ivester wind farm set to be developed in west-central Grundy County, Iowa. The project, yet another to be added to the growing 2 GW Wind XI development, will consist of 35 Siemens Gamesa wind turbines, generating electricity for the equivalent of approximately 38,000 homes. “This is an exciting year for MidAmerican Energy, as the Ivester wind farm is our latest addition that will help us increase wind generating capacity for our customers,” Mike Fehr, MidAmerican Energy vice president of resource development, said. US-based developer Mortenson said on Tuesday that it has been selected to build both the 91 MW Ivester wind farm as well as the 250 MW Arbor Hill wind farm which was announced earlier this year (alongside the 300 MW Orient wind farm). MidAmerican Energy announced the two projects in May, both of which will be built using wind turbines provided by Vestas Wind Systems. “We continue to have a strong relationship with MidAmerican Energy and look forward to helping them reach their goal of serving their customers’ electricity demand with 100 percent renewable energy,” said Tim Maag, vice president and general manager for Mortenson’s Wind Energy Group. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of Iowa’s wind energy revolution.”

Bloom Energy will be profitable this year, CEO says after IPO. Alternative-energy company will be profitable, cash-flow-positive this year and beyond; shares up 50 percent post IPO. Bloom Energy sold 18 million shares at $15 apiece in an initial public offering. Wall Street seemingly could not get enough of Bloom Energy Corp. on Wednesday, with shares rising more than 60% after an initial public offering that chief executive and founder K.R. Sridhar credited to his company’s ability to explain its purpose. Investors “understood very clearly what the size of the market is, they understood what the opportunity is,” Sridhar told MarketWatch in a telephone interview. Other solutions for rising global energy needs are “Band-Aids” that are not as reliable, as resilient to power fluctuations or as sustainable, he said.

What it will take for the U.S. offshore wind energy market to set sail. Some estimates size the potential for an offshore U.S. wind market at 2,000 megawatts. A New York consortium is getting more than $20.5 million to help advance the market and bring down costs. In 2010, Google described its foray into offshore wind energy in a blog post outlining its investment in a transmission project that aimed to ferry electricity from wind turbines via undersea cables to light up cities along the mid-Atlantic coast, from New Jersey to Virginia. Google knew it was early to an offshore wind energy market that didn’t exist, and believed it could help build one. Eight years later, there’s only one offshore wind farm in the United States, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island that started delivering electricity in December 2016. That’s a tiny fraction of the more than 2,000 megawatts that could be developed with current technology around the country, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Transmission, of course, isn’t the only building block for this new energy market that’s slowly taking shape. Significant technical hurdles for installing and operating windmills off deep coastal waters must be solved to really kickstart a construction boom and make the costs low enough to make offshore wind attractive to corporate energy buyers and power companies. “We’re technology-agnostic, but not cost-agnostic; these deals need to make sense financially, and that is a key driver in evaluating a project,” said Neha Palmer, head of energy strategy for Google, when asked about the company’s plans in owning offshore wind farms or singing power purchase agreements for offshore wind energy.

Is green energy competitive? The declining cost of solar panels and the widespread adoption of rooftop solar in California lead to many cocktail party discussions about the competitiveness of green energy. While at first glance it may seem that solar power and other renewable energy sources are able to compete with conventional resources, a closer examination of the characteristics and costs of electricity systems demonstrates that current renewable technologies are not economically competitive.

Blockchain projects threaten utilities’ choke hold on market. Blockchain is challenging energy firms’ hold on power by facilitating decentralized, peer-to-peer transfer of renewable energy. Germans are now doing it for themselves. The very same blockchain technology rocking the financial sector will also revolutionize Germany’s energy market. Some advocates even believe the digital ledger technology, which lets users exchange money, products or services via a digital contract – with no need for a central mediator – could make utility giants like RWE and E.ON redundant. Blockchain provides new freedom for electricity users to determine whether their electricity comes from wind turbines outside the nearest city or from traditional, coal-fired power plants. It even allows renewable energy prosumers – individuals who produce and consume – to sell the extra energy their solar panels generate, in the form of electricity, to their neighbor around the corner without the middle man. “Blockchain technology isn’t just hype,” Philipp Richard of the German Energy Agency, dena, told Handelsblatt. “It could really give the energiewende (energy transition) another push.”

Ontario’s hydro system needs politics out, and market forces in. Ontario’s electricity system plays a decisive role in the province’s politics. We saw the policy choices of the previous Liberal government bear themselves out in the recent election – a story we have seen in many previous elections. As a province, we tend to look at the policy area through a rather narrow lens, focusing on the particular whims and choices of the government of the day and how they impact prices. But Ontario’s new government has an opportunity to move beyond these incremental decisions, to allow market forces to truly determine the future of our system and put real, sustained downward pressure on electricity prices. After decades of successive meddling, and at the long-time insistence of the technocrat class, Ontario could well be on track to reforming the wholesale electricity market and implementing a competitive capacity auction. Auctions are used in neighbouring U.S. jurisdictions to put an end to directives from politicians and policy makers in how electrons are generated. Instead, they simply allow the market operator (in Ontario’s case, the Independent Electricity System Operator) to issue a call for bids on a specific amount of new power needed – and the cheapest source wins. No more tinkering or social engineering by ideologues or populists, for better or worse. And it’s perhaps the only sure-fire bet to ensure future procurements or price mechanisms don’t saddle us all with overpriced energy and higher hydro bills. A capacity market will put an end to government edicts and contracts, an end to Liberal governments making sole-sourced agreements with global green firms or smoothing out system debt to try and win an election. It will put an end to the practice of past Tory governments freezing prices, permitting brownouts to plague our economy and locking into expensive 40-year contracts with non-utility generators. In fact, the estimated benefits to Ontario electricity consumers are upward of $5.2-billion over the next decade.


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Today’s lede: Los Angeles looks to develop solar-powered pumped hydro at Hoover Dam. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is looking to develop a $3 billion pumped hydro project at Hoover Dam that will help California store excess solar-generated energy for use at more economical times, Ivan Penn reports in the New York Times.

“The Hoover Dam project may help answer a looming question for the energy industry: how to come up with affordable and efficient power storage, which is seen as the key to transforming the industry and helping curb carbon emissions,” Penn writes. “Because the sun does not always shine, and winds can be inconsistent, power companies look for ways to bank the electricity generated from those sources for use when their output slacks off. Otherwise, they have to fire up fossil-fuel plants to meet periods of high demand. And when solar and wind farms produce more electricity than consumers need, California utilities have had to find ways to get rid of it — including giving it away to other states — or risk overloading the electric grid and causing blackouts.”

“I think we have to look at this as a once-in-a-century moment,” said Los Angeles’ mayor, Eric Garcetti. “So far, it looks really possible. It looks sustainable, and it looks clean.”

The city aims to have the project completed in 2028, Penn reports, citing sources who believe the project could inspire similar development at other hydropower dams. But charting that course will require navigating past competing uses for the water, such as drinking and recreation, Penn notes.

“Any idea like this has to pass much more than engineering feasibility,” said the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick. “It has to be environmentally, politically and economically vetted, and that’s likely to prove to be the real problem.”


Florida PSC defends cost-allowance for pollution remediation before state supreme court. The Florida Office of Public Counsel is challenging a Public Service Commission ruling allowing Florida Power & Light to recoup $206 million from its customers to cover the cost of a 10-year groundwater pollution cleanup project at the Turkey Point nuclear generating station. The Office of Public Counsel is arguing before the Florida Supreme Court that the utility’s customers shouldn’t be required to “bail out FPL for the decades that the company allowed the hypersaline plume to spread and build up,” Jim Saunders reports, writing for the News Service of Florida.

The PSC responded with a brief filed this week urging the Supreme Court to uphold the decision, arguing that allowing FPL to recover the costs is “reasonable and commonsensical.” It referenced state law that allows utilities to pass along costs to consumers for expenses related to environmental regulations, a part of state law known in the utility industry as the environmental cost recovery clause, Saunders reports.

The salt water plume is a result of migration from the nuclear plant’s cooling canal system. The utility in recent years entered into consent agreements with Miami-Dade County and the Department of Environmental Protection to address the  groundwater pollution, so the PSC argues that under state law the utility is entitled to cost recovery. “The consent actions impose specific new requirements that apply to FPL in relation to its function as an electric utility, including the abatement or remediation of the hypersaline plume,” the PSC said. “The consent actions are environmental regulations pursuant to [the state’s environmental costs recovery law].”

“The money at issue will not pay for ‘compliance’ with laws or regulations designed to protect the environment, but instead will explicitly pay for FPL’s noncompliance because the costs are paying for cleaning up the effects of decades of FPL’s past, unlawful pollution,” the Office of Public Counsel maintains.

The dispute is similar to arguments at play in North Carolina, where efforts by Duke Energy to recover the costs of cleaning up coal ash pollution are in dispute, and in California, where lawmakers are moving to protect utilities from liability for wildfires.

See also:

Should customers or shareholders pay $185 million for FPL deal? Should Florida Power & Light customers pay $185 million so that 35,000 customers in Vero Beach have cheaper electric bills? Or should FPL’s investors foot the bill? That was the question before the Florida Public Service Commission when it made a little-noticed decision in June that allowed the company to charge the cost of acquiring the Vero Beach municipal electric company to its 4.9 million customers. Now, the organization representing the state’s largest electric customers, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, is challenging the decision and warning that the ruling could set the precedent for how regulators handle larger acquisitions by utilities in Florida. In a petition filed Monday at the PSC, the Power Users Group alleges that the state regulatory board violated precedent and “common regulatory practice” by allowing FPL to charge its customers three times the book value for its purchase of Vero Beach’s municipal utility.


More electric industry news items of interest:

Mapped: The U.S. nuclear power plants ‘at risk’ of shutting down.  Nuclear power plants generate more than half of the U.S.’s low-carbon electricity. However, record low gas prices associated with the U.S. fracking boom have made many existing nuclear plants uncompetitive in the current market. About 90 terawatt hours of nuclear generation is scheduled to retire in the next decade, more than all of the U.S.’s current solar generation. Studies suggest that another 135TWh is probably not cost competitive with gas plants and, therefore, at risk of retirement. This means the source of about 15 percent of U.S. low-carbon electricity could shut down and largely be replaced by gas, making it harder for the U.S. to meet its emission reduction targets. Research suggests that many existing nuclear plants would avoid being shut down if they were rewarded for their minimal CO2 emissions. Additionally, keeping existing nuclear plants open may be one of the lowest-cost forms of carbon mitigation, cheaper than building new wind or solar plants to replace them. If the U.S. is going to retain most of its existing nuclear plants, “additional programs to subsidize their life extension and continued operation will have to be implemented in just the next few years,” according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Campaign 2018: Nevada Rep. Titus against energy choice measure. U.S. Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada last week became one of the most prominent Democrats to come out against the proposed constitutional amendment that would open Nevada’s energy market to competition. “As the author of Nevada’s original rooftop solar law, I am deeply concerned that Question 3 would undermine Nevada’s clean energy future. If passed, it would reopen and undo Nevada’s progressive and settled net energy metering rooftop solar policies,” Titus said in a statement. “It also would jeopardize other new clean energy projects that can put us well on our way to doubling renewable energy generation in Nevada.”

Nevada earns a D+ on its renewable portfolio standard. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) programs intended to encourage renewable electricity generation. These typically statutory programs set renewable electricity supply goals and determine which energy sources qualify as renewable, and today the advocacy group Food & Water Watch released their Cleanwashing – How States Count Polluting Energy Sources as Renewable, and Nevada’s RPS earned a D+.

David v. Goliath: Power companies dwarf solar in lobbying fight over S.C.’s energy future. Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state. Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives and a failed nuclear project. Those utilities also poured more than $300,000 in contributions into state election campaigns through May of this year, largely to Republican incumbents, according to disclosure reports compiled by the National Institute on Money in Politics. The solar industry, which saw the nuclear fiasco as an opportunity to expand its footprint in the state, was outspent badly and lost. It spent more than $177,000 to hire 11 lobbyists during the 2018 legislative session. “Solar consumers are in a David versus Goliath battle with the big power monopolies,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition industry group.

Report: SCANA, Dominion offered $1,500 refunds to escape rate cut. Dominion Energy and SCANA Corp. floated raising customer refunds to $1,500 in order to gain support for the pair’s proposed merger — though with caveats that included lawmakers killing a bill to lower rates of South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) customers by 15 percent. State lawmakers passed a temporary rate cut for SCE&G in June related to the utility’s failed V.C. Summer nuclear power project, but the rate cut puts the $14.6 billion Dominion-SCANA merger at risk. The companies offered the enhanced customer refunds in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the rate cut bill, WIS TV reports. The merger is designed to bail out SCANA, SCE&G’s parent company, which faces billions in costs due to the canceled nuke. WIS TV’s report (click through here) that Dominion and SCANA were willing to raise customer rebates to $1,500 shows just how excited both companies are about the possible merger. But it also highlights the extent to which South Carolina lawmakers will oppose efforts to have ratepayers on the hook for V.C. Summer costs.

With community solar, N.J. moves to bring clean energy to customers that have been locked out. New Jersey has given billions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies for solar systems, largely to benefit the better-off. It’s now pushing to include less affluent residents. The state yesterday began mapping out ways to bring the benefits of solar power to communities underserved by the technology, with a focus on making it available and affordable to low-and moderate-income and urban customers. Those populations have largely been left out of the surge in solar systems throughout New Jersey during the past decade, when more than 90,000 arrays have been installed here. The cost has not been inexpensive — billions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies have been handed out to make it happen, with often the beneficiaries being higher-income suburban residents. Trying to address that inequity is the goal of a new pilot “community solar” program that aims to offer opportunities to bring clean energy to renters, multi-family dwellings, and environmental-justice communities.

High power rates still a risk as Trump proposes privatizing Bonneville Power Administration. We thought Northwest ratepayers could relax after the U.S. Department of Energy told lawmakers last May it would not consider privatizing the Bonneville Power Administration. We were wrong. The frightening proposal already has re-emerged, and it is infuriating. This time, the ill-conceived idea appears in a 132-page government reform report released last month by the Trump administration. It is titled “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” and a section of it encourages the selling of BPA power lines and other assets. The document says that ownership of BPA and other public power entities in the country would be “best carried out by the private sector, where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives.” Nonsense. The BPA is self-funding thanks to an ingenious rate plan implemented years ago. The capital investment, operation and maintenance of the BPA’s transmission system are paid for by those who buy the electricity through local utilities. And the best part? The power is provided to the region at cost. If BPA power lines and other assets were sold, that would no longer be the case.

Activist groups fighting new Duke Energy rates in N.C. Six nonprofit groups served notice on the N.C. Utilities Commission this week that they will appeal the panel’s recent ruling on Duke Energy Carolina’s rate-increase request. Five of the groups said they object to part of the decision that would allow Duke Energy to raise its residential facility charge — the base fee every household pays regardless of its power usage — by nearly 19 percent, to $14 a month from the current rate of $11.80. The sixth group, the Sierra Club, said its appeal will be based on the utilities commission’s decision to let Duke Energy charge customers roughly $546 million for what it spent from 2015 through 2017 cleaning up stored coal ash. All six groups filed formal notices Monday alerting the utilities commission they would be appealing to the N.C. Supreme Court, the forum for challenging the oversight board’s decisions. The nonprofits’ notifications followed on the heels of a similar notice of appeal that N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein served on utilities commissioners late last week. Stein and the protesting nonprofits were reacting to the commission’s June 22 decision that largely squelched Duke Energy’s initial application for a rate increase that would have netted about $647 million a year in additional revenue.

Appalachian Power’s tax cut plans put under microscope at W.Va. PSC hearing. Appalachian Power’s plan to use $235 million in tax savings to mainly offset various program costs doesn’t sit well with the state Consumer Advocate Division or other entities representing West Virginia ratepayers, whose electric bills continue to rise. The CAD, for one, wants the savings to flow back to customers promptly — a point made clear by CAD attorney Heather Osborn on Tuesday, the first of three days of hearings in Charleston on how federal tax cuts will affect utilities and their customers.

Michigan regulators cut electric rates for DTE, Consumers Energy. The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved nearly $270 million in electricity rate cuts for customers of DTE Electric Co. and Consumers Energy Co. because of utility savings from the federal corporate income tax overhaul. The panel on Tuesday ordered DTE to reduce rates by $156.9 million annually, for a $2.46 per month savings for a residential customer using an average of 500 kilowatt hours per month. It ordered Consumers Energy to cut its rates by $112.7 million annually, or $2.35 per month for similar residential customers. The commission said the rate adjustments will be reflected in customer bills starting in August.

Butte County, Chico, Calif., considering community choice aggregation. Butte County and Chico are considering a move to a less expensive way of providing electricity to business and residents, after a feasibility study of the community choice aggregation concept shows promise and savings. The option, approved by the Legislature in 2002, allows cities and counties to purchase power for their citizens from any source. That means locally, power could be purchased from more than just PG&E, and that flexibility would result in savings of 2 percent to 4 percent, according to the feasibility report prepared by EES Consulting. At 2 percent, Chico and unincorporated Butte County residents and businesses collectively could save $4 million a year. If Paradise and Oroville were to join in, the savings would climb to $5 million.

Illinois mayor advises aggregation program no longer cheaper than utility supply. We recently received information from Ameren Illinois about electricity rates. It’s a classic good news, bad news situation. The good news is that Ameren has lowered its rates. The bad news: they are now lower than O’Fallon municipal aggregation rate. Even the bad news part could be considered good news, because it can save you money. We felt it was important to let our residents know that they have the choice to opt out of the municipal aggregation program in order to take advantage of the lower Ameren rate. However, each resident will have to do their own research in order to determine what is best. O’Fallon’s municipal aggregation rate is higher than Ameren’s current default rate. However, Ameren may raise their rates at any time if they file with the Illinois Commerce Commission and demonstrate that its costs have changed. While the municipal aggregation rate is higher, it delivers price stability and is expected to provide savings over the contract term.

Amid triple-digit temps, public asked to conserve power. CAL ISO calls for Flex Alert during heatwave across southwest U.S. Cal ISO has issued a Flex Alert and is asking people across California to conserve power in order to avoid any blackouts as temperatures are expected to hit triple digits once again Tuesday. As a result of the triple-digit heat across the southwestern United States, including California, Arizona and Utah, a Flex Alert has been issued for Tuesday and Wednesday. That means residents are asked to set their air conditioning units to 78 degrees or higher during the heat wave to prevent overloading power supplies. In addition, Californians are urged to avoid using large appliances like washing machines and dish washers between 5 and 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and also turn off lights when they’re not in the room.

PG&E urging customers to conserve energy during today’s heat wave. California’s grid operator has called a statewide Flex Alert for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urges its customers to conserve energy as triple-digit heat will impact much of the company’s service area. The California Independent System Operator (ISO) issued a Flex Alert, a call for voluntary electricity conservation, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 24 and Wednesday, July 25. CAISO and PG&E are asking consumers to conserve electricity especially during the late afternoon when customers typically crank up their air conditioners. CAISO says high temperatures across the western United States, forecasts of increased demand, the lack of additional generation, tight gas supplies and high-fire risk were the factors prompting the Flex Alert. PG&E meteorologists forecast that temperatures will reach near 110 degrees in the hottest locations in the Central Valley, driving up energy demand and especially air conditioner use.

San Antonio heat wave leads to new electricity demand record. CPS Energy customers’ electricity demand reached an all-time high on Monday, four days after Texas’ grid operator reported record-high demand across the entire state. Driven by sweltering triple-digit temperatures, CPS Energy’s load reached 5,080 megawatts on Monday, beating a record of 5,017 megawatts set on Aug. 12, 2016, according to a tweet by CPS Energy Chief Operating Officer Cris Eugster. The new peak in San Antonio’s electricity demand came after two days of record-breaking high temperatures, according to National Weather Service data.

Maine PUC issues show cause order to retail supplier. The Maine PUC issued a show cause order to Electricity Maine, LLC in which the PUC, “directs Electricity Maine, LLC (Electricity Maine) to show cause why it should not be found to have violated Maine statutes and Commission rules regarding its operations as a licensed competitive electricity provider (CEP) in Maine and be subject to appropriate sanctions.” In the PUC’s order, the PUC stated, “Beginning in 2012, the Commission and utilities began to receive complaints regarding Electricity Maine’s marketing activities. Initially, the complaints involved Electricity Maine’s television and radio marketing claims regarding its pricing being lower than standard offer and the actual amount of such savings. More recently, the complaints have involved Electricity Maine’s door-to-door marketing and misleading or fraudulent claims such as working on behalf of the utility and the need to view customers’ bills.”

N.Y state audit raises issues about PSEG’s practices, LIPA transparency. PSEG Long Island doesn’t “consistently provide” customers and officials with information about high-risk construction projects, while LIPA’s transparency “could be further improved” and its rates are “relatively high” compared to other utilities in the state. Those are some of the conclusions of a 455-page management audit of LIPA and PSEG operations by an outside consultant for the state Department of Public Service. The two-year, $1.6 million audit by independent contractor Northstar provides a detailed and mostly positive view of how PSEG has improved service since taking over management of the LIPA system from National Grid in 2014. Last week, Newsday reported that the audit found LIPA had “relaxed” performance targets when PSEG took over the system in 2014, compared with those under which National Grid operated. PSEG can get more than $9 million in extra bonus pay each year by meeting the targets.

Vermont PUC approves contracts for over 10 MW of renewable energy. The Vermont Public Utility Commission approved the award of four contracts under Vermont’s Standard Offer program. These four contracts are in addition to three contracts awarded on June 15, 2018. The seven projects range from 90 kW to 2.2 MW in a diverse range of renewable energy technologies – five solar, one food waste anaerobic digestion, and one small wind. The successful projects will result in more than 10 MW of additional renewable energy in Vermont. The Standard Offer program uses a competitive bidding process, with price caps related to the cost of different technologies and with the lowest-priced bids accepted first. All four contracts awarded in this round were for solar projects ranging in price from approximately 8.8 cents to 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, which ranks them among the lowest-priced solar in the state.

The Bloom Energy IPO, Tesla and the shale technology revolution. If you are amongst those who bought stock in Tesla at its IPO in 2010, you’ve seen a 15-fold gain. That’s the kind of story founders and investors dream about. This week the market greets another and long-anticipated energy-tech IPO with Bloom Energy seeking to raise $250 million at a market value of around $1.6 billion; numbers essentially identical to Tesla in 2010. Will Bloom perform like Tesla? And will KR Sridhar, Bloom’s CEO, similarly ignite competition in fuel cells? We’ll soon see. Neither Bloom nor Tesla were first to market with their respective technologies. Indeed, the underlying technology for Bloom and Tesla emerge from similarly old foundations. Battery-powered cars predate the internal combustion engine, and the fuel cell predates Thomas Edison’s first generating station by almost a half-century. That both batteries and fuel cells are finally practical at scale emerges from the long march of critical advances in basic materials sciences. Tesla can now ride the new abundance of lithium battery chemistry while Bloom rides the transformative abundance of natural gas from shale. In a closing contrast between Bloom and Tesla, the two companies find themselves on the opposite side of the fallout from the shale oil & gas boom. The economics of next-generation internal combustion engines using oil kept cheap from the shale revolution redounds to the disadvantage of Tesla. On the other hand, the still-expanding shale revolution promises cheap natural gas for as far as the eye can see, which redounds to the advantage of Bloom.

Tesla may fall 40 percent as turnaround stalls: JPMorgan. Once a darling stock of investors, Tesla has fallen more than 18% since its 2018 high reached last month, and with a still relatively high valuation, J.P. Morgan expects that poor performance to continue throughout the year. In a note last Friday citing the high valuation as well as concerns about cash flow and more aggressive pricing on electric cars from rivals, analyst Ryan Brinkman reaffirmed a previously set price target for December 2018 that implies a more than 40% downside from Monday’s close, according to CNBC.

Tesla Supercharger network has now delivered over 400 GWh of energy. Tesla’s Supercharger network is arguably one of the automaker’s biggest assets and it is growing quite fast along with its fleet. The network has now delivered over 400 GWh of energy and it is rapidly accelerating as new stations come online and Model 3 deliveries are expanding. Tesla now has 10,720 Superchargers in operation at 1,330 stations around the world.

Tesla deploys new microgrid projects with Powerpacks in Samoa to help the islands go fossil fuel-free. One of Tesla’s earliest microgrid projects with Powerpacks was deployed in American Samoa and now the company deployed two bigger systems in order to help the country of Samoa transition their energy production from the more expensive and polluting fossil fuels, like diesel, to renewable energy.

WePower’s blockchain platform launch attracts thousands of users. Can the energy-blockchain startup get a gigawatt of renewables on the platform? Blockchain firm WePower had “a couple thousand registrations” in the first hours of launching the alpha version of its platform, said the company’s CEO, Nikolaj Martyniuk. The customers signing up were individuals looking to cut electricity bills, he said. WePower is also looking to sign power-purchase agreements with corporate customers, and is working with a number of prospects. The alpha version of the energy financing and trading platform went live earlier this month, after extensive security testing. It is expected to be fine-tuned until November, when it will be used to host an auction for energy delivered from merchant solar plants in the south of Spain. WePower is gradually opening up new functionalities on its platform. The first piece to go live was the auction feature, which is already being primed to help fund 300 megawatts of solar power. Conquista Solar, a Spanish merchant solar plant developer, intends to use WePower’s platform to raise cash for the first of six 50-megawatt PV plants in southwest Spain, which has some of the best irradiation levels in the country.

Fujitsu announces 100 percent renewable energy target, joins RE100. Japanese IT giant Fujitsu announced last week that it has committed to sourcing 100% of its needed electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050, coupled with its decision to join the RE100 initiative. Fujitsu becomes the latest in a long string of companies making large-scale renewable energy commitments, and the 140th to join the RE100 initiative — a global initiative designed to support and bring together companies making 100% renewable energy commitments formed by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project).

California power-storage company out to ease Ontario electricity costs. But here’s why Stem’s influence could actually increase power rates for residential customers. With $200 million in financing from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, San Francisco-based Stem Inc. announced Tuesday that it is moving into Ontario to help ease the pain of high power rates. Stem provides battery systems to large industrial and commercial customers, but CEO John Carrington said power storage is the least interesting part of the business. “Batteries on their own are not intelligent, they really have limited use-case, other than maybe backup power,” he said. “But with our (artificial intelligence) software, we can implement a variety of different solutions for our customers, for the utilities and for the grid operators.” This can be particularly useful in Ontario, where the Global Adjustment charges mean that off-peak power rates can be less than half the cost of electricity during peak periods. “We have been looking at the market for probably 18 months, and it’s an interesting opportunity because you have these Global Adjustment charges that drive pretty heavy energy bills, depending on the size of the company,” Carrington said.

Japan aims to have all new passenger cars be electric by 2050: panel report. By 2050 the central government aims to have all new cars sold in Japan be electric or hybrid vehicles, an economy ministry panel said Tuesday, amid intensifying competition in the global shift to green cars. The panel, which included chiefs of major automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd., also reported that a new industry organization will be set up by next March under which automakers will collaborate in the joint procurement of cobalt, an essential element involved in the manufacturing of electric car batteries. The move comes as global carmakers race to lock in battery supplies and move away from traditional combustion engines, and as China locks down supply chains to secure its own quickly growing battery sector.



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Today’s lede: Debate of wildfire liability bill heats up in California. Legislative debate in California over a bill (AB 33, click through here) to limit utility liability for wildfires is generating red-hot controversy, as evidenced by news coverage and multiple opinion pieces in recent days:

California lawmakers could change law to help utilities offset wildfire risk and save them billions of dollars. California has a history of power lines or faulty equipment sometimes sparking wildfires, and a state fire agency recently pinned the blame on PG&E for at least 16 of last year’s wildfires in Northern California, including some with fatalities. PG&E is pushing to reform California laws that allow utilities to face significant liability in wildfire disasters. The state’s largest utility appears to have some support from Gov. Jerry Brown, who in March suggested that lawmakers should “update liability rules and regulations for utility services,” citing extreme weather and climate change. A newly formed joint conference committee on wildfire issues is scheduled to meet Wednesday and state lawmakers will be looking at issues such as utility liability and accountability along with emergency preparedness and prevention. The panel will hear testimony from utilities, Cal Fire, the California Public Utilities Commission and wildfire experts. “This is the hottest issue in Sacramento now,” said Patrick McCallum, an education lobbyist and co-chair of “Up from the Ashes,” a coalition of fire victims, businesses, cities and counties.


California lawmakers to tackle key wildfire question: Who pays for damages? Nearly 10 months after wildfires ravaged the North Bay, a high-stakes legislative tug of war is underway in Sacramento, where the governor, state lawmakers, utilities, local government officials and fire survivors are battling over who pays for at least $10 billion in damages. As Santa Rosa and other fire-stricken communities struggle to rebuild, PG&E is lobbying hard for a limit to the financial liability of California electric utilities in the destructive wildfires expected to result from a warmer, drier California climate. Though Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have said they won’t retroactively change liability laws for the 2017 fires, groups representing fire survivors, trial attorneys and county governments have voiced opposition to any immediate change in liability policy. The issue has been described as the most weighty one now up for debate in the Capitol — and at the tail end of the legislative session.


The ‘new normal’ on wildfires isn’t reason enough to give utilities a free pass. California is making some real strides adapting to wildfires as a year-round threat. So it makes no sense to backslide now by giving a free pass to utilities for fire damage. Facing billions of dollars in potential costs, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and other utilities are seeking relief at the state Capitol, lobbying hard for it to happen when legislators return in August. A special committee of legislators, which meets for the first time July 25, is looking at ways to prevent or limit damage from wildfires – but also at revising the law on liability for wildfire damage. The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown should be very wary of any significant changes that shift the burden to homeowners and taxpayers.


Investor-owned utilities with sky-high rates want to pass even more costs to ratepayers. California’s investor-owned utilities — San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas & Electric — already have among the highest rates in the nation. (San Diego Gas & Electric’s are consistently the highest.) Nonetheless, these utilities continuously try to stick ratepayers with even higher rates, often of dubious legality. Management screwups should be charged to shareholders, but, for example, Edison wants to stick ratepayers with major costs of the failure of the San Onofre nuclear plant, even though it was caused by management bungling. Now they are at it again — possibly with the help of state politicians and the California Public Utilities Commission. Newly-amended bills would permit Pacific Gas & Electric to use state-authorized bonds to settle liability claims from the devastating wine country fires of last year. Those claims could be $10 billion to $15 billion. Buried in the AB33 is the statement that the huge possible liability, and uncertainty over whether the costs can be passed to ratepayers “create an imminent threat to the utility’s financial stability.” The legislation may take a new route in utility regulation: global warming may get some of the blame, even if a utility is found negligent. The bonds’ costs could be passed in part to ratepayers.


Opinion: Wildfire legislation will hold PG&E accountable. Bill before the Legislature would pay off fire victims and minimize costs to utility’s customers. AB 33 would provide timely compensation to the victims of the 2017 Northern California wildfires, ensure safe and reliable electric service to PG&E customers and hold PG&E accountable for its actions. Further, AB 33 assures that PG&E stockholders would pay for any damages the CPUC finds unreasonable. This is why I have introduced AB 33, the 2017 Northern California Wildfires bill. The 2017 wildfires in Northern California are expected to have caused $10 to $15 billion in damages. Preliminary reports suggest that PG&E wires were found to cause those fires. PG&E must pay for those damages, whether it was negligent or not. California court decisions in the 1990s ruled that if a fire is caused by power lines, the utility that owns the power lines is liable. This doctrine is called “inverse condemnation.” The court expected that these damages would be paid by the utility’s customers. The logic behind this ruling was that those who benefit from the electric infrastructure should pay for any damages that it creates. Subsequently, however, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that if a utility is found to be negligent, their stockholders — not the customer — should pay for the damages. If the utility is not found negligent, the customers still pay for the damages. The last time such a determination was made by the CPUC, it took 10 years. Thus, PG&E will have to pay $10 to $15 billion if its wires caused the fires and whether the company was negligent or not. Some years from now, the CPUC will decide whether PG&E was negligent and therefore whether the stockholders or customers are responsible for the costs. If tomorrow PG&E was told that it had to pay $15 billion for fire damages, it does not have the cash to pay it. Thus, PG&E would have to pay very large interest rates for bonds; this could cost ratepayers billions of dollars.


How to save PG&E and its customers — support AB33. The 2017 wildfire season left behind immense and tragic harm throughout California. Latest estimates show insurance claims totaling $12 billion statewide, leaving families and business reeling to recover. Some argue that financial fallout for the disaster belongs wholly to electric utilities, and it appears likely some of it will. Unfortunately, it is not the case that even large companies like PG&E — or any other utility — could foot the bill for all of the wildfire-related costs without causing serious harm to its customers and the rest of the state.

See also:

Why unification of the Western electric grid is probably inevitable. In most of the Eastern U.S., the electrical grid is organized under regional transmission operators, or RTOs. The West, with the exception of California, is not, and various stakeholder groups have been meeting to resolve that. Regardless of how these debates play out, many regard a unification of the Western grid as inevitable, with millions of dollars of potential savings to be gained from meeting electrical demands with increasingly cheap renewable energy such as is being produced by rooftop solar collectors in California or the giant wind farms east of the Rockies. In late April, Xcel Energy withdrew from the Mountain West Transmission Group to pursue benefits of an expanded market for electricity. The announcement surprised even key individuals in the Denver-based utility who had been working with eight other utilities operating in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico on potential alignment with the Little Rock-based Southwest Power Pool. Just how much money is at stake was suggested several days after Xcel’s announcement when the California Independent System Operator—or CAISO—reported that the organization’s Energy Imbalance Market had produced $330 million in savings since it was launched in November 2014. In just the first quarter of 2018, CAISO said, the market had produced $42.08 million in savings for the six participating utilities operating in seven Western States. None are in Colorado. Comparatively little up-front capital investment was required for the limited functions of the imbalance market. And a report released last week found that regionalization could save California alone more than $1.5 billion in energy costs by 2030. “Utilities realize we have to do something,” says Jennifer Gardner, staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group that operates in seven Southwestern states. “Regional markets would make a lot of sense. They work in other parts to the country. We need these markets to integrate all of the renewable energy.”


Western RTO could save California $1.5B per year by 2030, report says. California ratepayers could save $1.5 billion annually if the state enters into a full regional transmission organization (RTO) with surrounding states, according to a new report from the energy think tank Next 10. Benefits from a Western RTO include job market growth, opportunities to integrate renewables and further pressure to retire coal plants in the region, according to the report, while also leveraging economies of scale to reduce operating costs. Opponents worry that expanding the California ISO’s jurisdiction could mean a loss of control over the energy California consumes and hamper its ability to meet aggressive climate goals. The state legislature is currently debating a grid regionalization bill that failed last year.


California wants to reinvent the power grid. So what could go wrong? Two decades ago, when California deregulated the delivery of electric power, lawmakers, regulators and even some environmentalists hailed the decision as a way to lower consumers’ bills. The strategy proved disastrous. The plan resulted in an energy crisis that sent power bills soaring, prompted billions in penalties against utilities and banks for manipulating the new electricity market, and led Congress to enact laws to help prevent it all from happening again. Now the state’s leaders have a new proposal for an energy makeover, this time to create a single authority to manage the electric grid for most or all of the West. This plan, too, promises to cut costs for consumers — by as much as $1.5 billion a year — while helping to bolster use of carbon-free power sources. Gov. Jerry Brown has made the plan a signature effort in the waning months of his tenure, pressing state legislators to enact it. California already receives power produced in other states, but Mr. Brown wants to create a single authority that would manage the flow of electrons across the region.


If California is serious about fighting climate change, lawmakers have to commit to 100 percent clean energy. One of the great success stories in California’s fight against climate change has been the rapid greening of the state’s electrical grid. In 2002, when California enacted its first target for green energy, the state relied heavily on electricity generated from fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas. Just 12 percent of the supply came from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal power. The renewable portfolio standard the state adopted that year was dubbed the nation’s most ambitious green power goal; it required the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities to produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2017. Within a few years, it became obvious that 20 percent was going to be easy to reach, so lawmakers accelerated the mandate to 20% by 2010. Then they upped to standard even more — first to 33 percent by 2020, then to 50 percent by 2030. Even those targets have become attainable. Utilities are on track to deliver 50 percent renewables by 2020, a full decade before the deadline. Now California lawmakers are considering the most ambitious target of them all: requiring all utilities to obtain 100 percent of their power from renewable or zero-carbon sources by 2045. The sooner California sets the target of 100 percent renewable and zero-carbon energy, the better. Senate Bill 100 (click through here), written by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would first accelerate the existing renewable portfolio standard to require that utilities provide 60 percent of their power from renewables by 2030. That target shouldn’t be much of a stretch, given the growing number of solar and wind power projects across the West that are producing electricity more cheaply than fossil fuel power plants. Weaning the state completely off electricity produced from fossil fuels is a much more challenging job — in part because nobody knows exactly how it will be done.


D.C. Circuit rejects union’s appeal alleging market manipulation in New England. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined the Utility Workers Union of America Local 464 and its president, Robert Clark, lacked standing to challenge Federal Energy Regulatory Commission orders addressing the union’s allegations that the forward capacity market in New England was manipulated.

The incident at the core of the union’s appeal was highly controversial in New England, with members of Congress contributing to complaints about the alleged market manipulation and FERC, with one of its five seats empty, deadlocked 2-2 on the matter. On the eve of the eighth ISO New England annual capacity auction, the owner of the Brayton Point Power Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in New England, announced that it would shut the facility down, “too late for other wholesale electricity suppliers to participate in the auction and pick up the slack. The resulting constricted supply contributed to a spike in the auction clearing price, to the benefit of the owner’s other plants and to the detriment of retail electricity customers,” the court noted in its decision Tuesday.

The question of FERC’s deadlock on the matter, which allowed the auction results to take effect as a matter of law, was previously addressed by the appeals court in a decision finding it lacked jurisdiction since there was no final agency action to appeal (Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC, 839 F.3d 1165). Meanwhile, in two later proceedings involving subsequent ISO New England capacity auctions, the union “asked FERC to correct for what they assert were effects of Brayton Point’s illegal closure on the next two annual forward capacity auctions,” the court noted. “FERC denied the petitions and approved the (ninth and tenth forward capacity auction) results as just and reasonable because ‘the record [was] devoid of any evidence’ that the claimed manipulation in the earlier cycle affected them,” Tuesday’s court decision continued.

“Because no record evidence establishes a causal link between the claimed manipulative closure of Brayton Point and the clearing prices of FCA 9 and FCA 10 that FERC approved, we hold that petitioners lack standing to challenge FERC’s acceptance of those results.”$file/16-1068-1742077.pdf


House bill seeks to constrain state pipeline decisions. House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster released his long-awaited infrastructure discussion draft on Monday, Politico reports. The draft would target the authority states have previously used to block natural gas pipelines. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act would be amended to clarify that states may only consider water quality requirements that “are consistent with the intent and goals” of the law and “with appropriate water quality requirements under state law.”


More electric industry news items of interest:

Russian hackers reach U.S. utility control rooms, Homeland Security officials say. Blackouts could have been caused after the networks of trusted vendors were easily penetrated. Hackers working for Russia claimed “hundreds of victims” last year in a giant and long-running campaign that put them inside the control rooms of U.S. electric utilities where they could have caused blackouts, federal officials said. They said the campaign likely is continuing.

Russian hackers are said to have infiltrated US electric utilities. Russian hackers broke into the networks of key U.S. power companies last year, possibly causing blackouts, The Wall Street Journal reported. The attack was first detected in the spring of 2016 and continued throughout 2017, the Journal reported, citing officials at the Department of Homeland Security. It was carried out by hackers who worked for a Russian state-sponsored group previously known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear, the Journal reported. DHS officials said the hacking campaign is likely to continue. DHS did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Some companies that were compromised may not yet know they have become a victim in a Russian attack, according to the report. That’s because the hackers used the identities of actual employees to enter the utility networks — complicating efforts to detect the intrusions.

Idaho approves PacifiCorp wind project. PacifiCorp won approval Friday from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to move forward with its wind energy production plan. The Utah Public Service Commission approved the plan on June 22, and Wyoming approved certificates of public convenience and necessity in April. Oregon and Washington signaled support for the Energy Vision 2020 initiative as part of the company’s 2017 integrated resource plan. The project will add three new wind projects in Wyoming that will provide a total of 1,150 MW of new wind energy capacity and a 140-mile high-voltage transmission line in Wyoming. The new wind projects will increase the amount of wind capacity in PacifiCorp’s system by more than 60 percent. The additions will provide enough new electricity to power more than 400,000 average homes by 2020. The project will also upgrade the company’s existing wind projects with longer blades and newer technology that will boost output by more than 25 percent. “As this exciting initiative receives these approvals, we look forward to the benefits the projects will bring to all our customers in the form of low-cost renewable energy and a more robust transmission system,” said Cindy Crane, CEO, Rocky Mountain Power. “These investments will significantly expand the company’s Wyoming wind fleet and benefit both state and local economies.” PacifiCorp estimates its total investment at just over $3 billion. That’s about half a billion dollars less than the cost estimate when the project was first announced in April 2017 due to changes in scope and cost. The utility expects to complete the project by 2020. You can see the Idaho Public Utilities Commission order here.

Politics make quick action on FERC nominee unlikely. A combination of factors makes it unlikely that a replacement for Rob Powelson will be seated at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission anytime soon — and probably not until early 2019. That is the consensus of multiple sources contacted by E&E News in Washington and beyond. And politics — more than ever — are liable to be a leading consideration in what sort of person will replace Powelson, a moderate, independent-thinking Republican who once chaired the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “The ideal candidate is probably from outside the Beltway,” said Joe Hall, partner at Eversheds Sutherland LLP in Washington who practices before FERC. “I don’t think they should get a policy wonk — I think they need somebody who is very familiar with utility resource planning. Because that’s really where the rubber hits the road on all the big legal, climate change and industry issues that the commission needs to grapple with over the next couple of years,” Hall said. He added that he prefers a state commissioner or someone from industry “with a really strong background in integrated resource planning.” And being from the West would bring a perspective now lacking on the commission, he said.

New electricity shopping sites mislead customers, watchdog warns. In a private electricity industry that’s bilked at least $77 million from Maine residential customers, new entrants are trying to sell on something lacking: trust. A series of websites and services are cropping up to help customers navigate the electricity market, providing price listings from different companies in one place. But the top consumer watchdog in Connecticut — a more mature market for home electricity sales — is skeptical the sites have shoppers’ best interests in mind. The sites have problems, said Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Katz, ranging from misleading to possibly fraudulent claims. A Bangor Daily News review found the customer-facing sites provide incomplete price listings and questionable business ratings. The new marketplaces tout their independence as impartial clearinghouses for the best prices, but they can be limited by their own relationships with electricity suppliers.

Writer touts growth of community solar options in Rochester, N.Y., region. Until recently, if you wanted to power your house with locally generated solar energy, you had limited options. If you owned your home, you could put solar panels on its roof, if you could afford the initial investment and your property had good exposure to the sun. If you were a renter, you have had few options. Renewable energy advocates have long said that there’s a way to make solar power accessible to more people. They’ve argued in favor of an approach called community solar, where developers build larger solar projects and sell shares of the generated power to area households. Ever since New York officials removed some regulatory hurdles, community solar development has picked up statewide. In the Rochester region, there’s enough consumer appetite that Greenspark, based in the Town of Ontario, has “developed, installed, and filled” three projects in Ontario and Webster, which power approximately 200 households, says Meaghann Schulte, a company spokesperson. Greenspark is also working on a shovel-ready project in Parma, which could be online by October and would serve another 250 households, she says. “In fact, we have so much interest that we have had to place people on a waiting list for our next projects,” Schulte said in an e-mail. Greenspark’s customers generally pay less for electricity than they would if they bought it through Rochester Gas and Electric, Schulte says. The solar projects are all in RG&E’s service area, as are the customers. And recently, Washington, D.C.-based Arcadia Power started marketing its community solar program to Rochester area households. The company is partnering with ForeFront Power, a global corporation that’s building a solar farm in Red Creek, Wayne County, and another in Canandaigua. They’ll provide power for about 1,000 customers in the National Grid, NYSEG, and RG&E service areas, says Arcadia CEO Kiran Bhatraju. “It is customers buying power from a very specific renewable-energy project local to their community,” Bhatraju says. “It really wasn’t possible until recently.”

Community energy programs are accountable in ways investor-owned utilities are not. Solana Energy Alliance was created by the community, for the community, and it will be a key part of Solana Beach’s Climate Action Plan, delivering nearly half of the targeted electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions reductions. California has become a world leader on climate change, and local communities are joining in the call to create a carbon-free environment. One of the tools communities have to achieve our ambitious climate goals is creating locally run, greener electricity providers to offer an alternative to large investor-owned utilities. Communities across the state are jumping at the opportunity, known as community choice aggregation, to design and provide clean energy programs that meet the unique needs of their region. Solana Beach has recently joined this localized movement, building on the achievements of the many cities and counties in the state that have launched CCA programs in their communities over the last decade. This localized energy competition is new to Solana Beach, and, as a result, there has been some confusion and misinformation spread by those who might be afraid of change. I would like to help clear that up.

New lows in natural gas, but it holds at $2.70. From highs to lows in just one month. Storage is not filling quick enough. Production at highs, but so is demand. Natural gas fell to a new low before the release of the weekly Energy Information Administration data on Thursday, July 19, and then moved higher when the agency confirmed that the energy commodity continues to trickle, rather than flow into storage in the United States. Volatility in the natural gas market is nothing new as the price of the commodity tends to be as combustible on the up and downside as it is in its physical form. Since June, we have seen the price of natural gas move from a new high to a new low.

The one factor that could increase U.S. natural gas prices. Natural gas prices have fallen back to prices not seen since May, hitting the mid-$2.70s per MMBtu. The fall comes in spite of some very hot weather to start July, an increasingly important factor for prices since the electricity that air conditioners use is coming more from natural gas, now our main source of power. Consistently surpassing the 80 Bcf/d all time record mark, U.S. gas production has been bearish, and our demand being pretty consistent at 77-80 Bcf/d. So, although we are not in a bullish gas market, there’s one factor that will become more of a concern as we move toward the winter: storage. Natural gas inventories are simply not where we want them to be, now at 2,249 Bcf and almost 20% below the five-year average.

Another major oil player invests in clean energy. Rotterdam-based Vitol partners on a €200 million fund focused on European renewable projects. Oil and gas trader Vitol and renewables investor Low Carbon announced they’re partnering on a €200 million (about $234 million) fund to invest in renewable energy generation throughout Europe. Vitol’s commitment is the latest in a growing roster of fossil-fuel-centric companies showing confidence in clean energy through financial commitments. Among oil and gas majors, Shell has invested in solar developers like Silicon Ranch and storage company sonnen, Total has acquired energy efficiency company GreenFlex and invested in energy storage company Ionic Materials, and Engie has bought electric charging company EVBox. It’s worth noting that much of this appetite has come from Europe, whereas U.S. oil and gas giants have been more hesitant to drop money into renewables projects.

Nuclear energy sector needs more qualified workers: Lightbridge Corporation CEO. The CEO of the leading developer of next generation nuclear fuel technology says there is a job applicant shortage in his sector. “The president pointed out [Thursday] there are six million jobs that can’t be filled in the country because of lack of correct skills and in the nuclear power industry, we’re racing to fill some jobs,” Lightbridge Corporation CEO and President Seth Grae told FOX Business on Friday. President Trump introduced the “Pledge to America’s Workers” initiative Thursday aimed at creating 500,000 new opportunities through apprenticeships and work-based learning programs. “We’re seeing the administration really step up now and private-public partnerships that are helping with training,” Grae said during an exclusive interview on Countdown to the Closing Bell.”

Next-gen nuclear is coming – if society wants it. At a conference in 2011, Simon Irish met an engineer with an innovative design for a nuclear reactor cooled by molten salt. If it worked, Irish figured, it could not only solve the problems with aging nuclear power, but also provide a realistic path to dropping fossil fuels. “The question was, ‘Can we do better than the conventional reactors that were commercialized 60 years ago?” Irish recalled. “And the answer was, ‘Absolutely.’” Irish was so convinced that this new reactor was a great investment that he bet his career on it. Nearly a decade later, Irish is the CEO of New York City-based Terrestrial Energy, a company that expects to have a molten-salt reactor online before 2030. Terrestrial is far from alone. Dozens of nuclear startups are popping up around the country, aiming to solve the well-known problems with nuclear power — radioactive waste, meltdowns, weapons proliferation, and high costs. There are reactors that burn nuclear waste. There are reactors designed to destroy isotopes that could be made into weapons. There are small reactors that could be built inexpensively in factories. To former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, an advisor to Terrestrial, it feels as if something new is underway. “I have never seen this kind of innovation in the sector,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”

Norwegians quietly revolt against Tesla. Slow repairs in Norway hint at troubles as the automaker grows. As Tesla sales boom in Norway, customers are grousing about a dealership network and service operation that have failed to keep pace. Though Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk says the level of output Tesla has reached this summer means it’s finally become a real car company, the experience in Norway suggests Tesla’s woes don’t stop at the assembly line. Musk has struggled to ramp up production of a cheaper sedan, the Model 3, and the company is said to have pressed suppliers to return cash paid for components. In Norway, where plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles made up more than half of new car sales last year, Tesla is the lowest-ranked automaker on a list of brands for quality of service, and fourth-worst among companies in all sectors.

Retailer Leclerc to sell electricity to French households. French retailer Leclerc said on Monday it planned to start selling electricity to French households in autumn, targeting a market share of 10 percent by 2025. Privately owned Leclerc is now France’s largest food retailer by market share, having overtaken larger rival Carrefour, thanks to its focus on low prices. “I confirm that Leclerc is making a start in providing power to consumers … In a market of 32.4 million consumers, our target is to rapidly become the reference alternative supplier, recruiting three million clients by 2025, or a 10 pct market share,” CEO Michel-Edouard Leclerc said on his official blog.


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Today’s lede: Is Elon Musk a grand visionary or the architect of a house of cards? No one epitomizes the future of the electric industry more than Elon Musk, whose electric vehicle company is named after the mad genius of electricity innovation, Nicola Tesla. The company absorbed his cousins’ solar power business, and Tesla’s evolving product line – EVs, rooftop solar, battery storage – aim to be the vanguard of disruptive forces roiling the traditionally staid electric industry.

But he has not been without critics, who see his cars and Powerwall storage products as too high-priced to be economically practical. Prominent investors who have shorted Tesla stock apparently get under Musk’s thin skin. A month ago Musk took to Twitter to taunt the shorts (click through here), promising that within three weeks their shorting of Tesla stock would “explode.” Indeed, Musk appears to have finally rounded the corner on production problems hampering delivery of the Model 3, which while still more expensive than economy cars holds the promise of becoming the company’s first mass-market vehicle.

But rather than the shorts exploding, it appears that Musk is imploding under the weight of trivial controversies of his own doing (click through here). He apologized for labeling one of the Thai soccer team cave rescuers a pedophile for ridiculing Musk’s hastily put together mini submarine, which was not used in the rescue. And he reached a settlement with an artist for allegedly misappropriating, of all things, the image of a “farting unicorn” (click through here).

Photos of hundreds of Model 3 sedans parked in various Southern California staging areas were seized upon by shorts as evidence of a lack of demand for the Tesla EV after months of adverse publicity due to production problems (click through here). The company appeared to effectively counter that the photos were actually staging areas where the Model 3 was being aggregated for shipment to market (click through here). Musk took to Twitter to refute assertions (click through here) that cancelations of the Model 3 were outpacing orders (click through here). But then Musk tweeted a confirmation of a Wall Street Journal report that Tesla is asking suppliers to refund payments from the company. The Journal suggested the effort was designed to bolster flagging cash flow at the company. A company spokesman insisted the company is profitable, but Tesla stock took a tumble.

“Tesla has reached its artificial milestone of producing 5,000 Model 3s per week, and media outlets (and buyers) continue to post rave reviews,” Charles Morris writes in CleanTechnica. “The company’s three vehicles are the three top-selling EVs in the U.S. market. Model S has been consistently outselling every competing large luxury sedan for a couple of years, and it appears as if Model 3 will similarly dominate the small sedan segment. At least two sets of auto industry experts (Munro & Associates and a group commissioned by German automakers) have performed teardowns of Model 3, and concluded that the new EV should be earning a healthy profit margin. Does this really sound like a company in trouble?”

Morris suggests Tesla short sellers like Jim Chanos are engaged in media manipulation to support their short positions. He cites a YouTube presentation by Galileo Russell that builds on a previous post in which Russell refuted Chanos’s list of anti-Tesla arguments point by point (click through here). “Russell argues that the logic behind shorting TSLA has nothing to do with its products, and everything to do with financial engineering,” Morris writes. “As long as Tesla is reliant on the capital markets, it’s reliant on a perception of solvency. In other words, if potential investors can be convinced that the company is insolvent (whether it really is or not), they’ll remove their chips from the table, and a manufactured story will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Tesla holds its second-quarter earnings call next week.



See also:

Tesla’s battery maker suspends cobalt supplier amid sanctions concern. Panasonic Corp. said it was unable to determine how much of the cobalt used in batteries it makes for Tesla cars comes from Cuba, a country subject to U.S. sanctions, and that it had suspended relations with a Canadian supplier as a result of its concerns.


Electric vehicle revolution is going to result in job loses, warns UAW as it tries to unionize Tesla. The Union of Auto Workers has been trying to unionize electric vehicle production in the U.S. for a while now. It first tried and failed with Nissan’s Smyrna factory, where they manufacture the Leaf, and they are now pursuing Tesla’s Fremont factory. Now the UAW warns that electric vehicle revolution is going to result in job losses. Jennifer Kelly, UAW’s research director, made the comment when discussing auto import issues emerging through the building trade war. She said that the rise of electric vehicles could be dire for American jobs (via Transport Topics): “The workers who are making engines and transmissions today, their jobs will be eliminated when we make a transition to electric vehicles. We’re looking at a considerable net job loss just in that technological transition.” UAW is taking this stance just a month after the German automotive labor union released a study claiming that at least 75,000 jobs could be lost as the industry switches to electric vehicles.


Vermont utility says Tesla Powerwall saved $500,000 during heat wave. An innovative program in Vermont that uses batteries in customers’ homes as a “virtual power plant” paid off to the tune of almost half a million dollars during the recent heat wave, according to the utility running the project. “During that peak usage, peak hour, every megawatt that we can knock off is a real savings. That one hour is a very significant cost,” said Josh Castonguay, vice president and lead innovation officer for Green Mountain Power, which has a quarter-million customers in Vermont. At times during the heat wave that covered much of the first week of July, the utility – often known as GMP – drew electricity out of about 500 Tesla Powerwall batteries installed in the home of about 400 customers and fed it into the grid. This meant GMP had to buy less electricity from power plants when the wholesale price of power in New England, which changes every five minutes depending on demand and supply, was particularly high. This had a double price benefit. It saves on the momentary energy charge, but more importantly it can reduce the utility’s payment to the bulk transmission system in New England.


Houston Chronicle columnist suggests Rick Perry has sold his soul to Trump administration. After a plaudit-worthy stint as a governor promoting the competitive electricity market in Texas, Rick Perry, as Secretary of Energy in the Trump administration, is “struggling to find a plausible excuse to reward Trump’s coal-industry donors and supporters by blowing up the nation’s competitive electricity markets, which have made U.S. electricity bills the envy of the world,” Chris Tomlinson writes in the Houston Chronicle. “Pity Rick Perry. His boss demands not only his loyalty but his soul,” he says.

“The fact that Perry oversaw the groundbreaking privatization of the Texas electricity market makes his recent work especially galling. One might expect our former governor to cite his experience, defend free enterprise, encourage private sector solutions and denounce government interference,” Tomlinson writes. “Trump promised to save and grow the coal and nuclear power industries even though neither is competitive in the age of cheap natural gas and renewable energy. So he’s ordered Perry to devise a scheme to force private electric companies to buy expensive electricity from privately-owned nuclear and coal-fired power plants. For over a year, Perry has floundered in justifying this unprecedented government intervention.”

Tomlinson provides a good retrospective of the efforts to date. Beginning in April last year, he asked experts at the Department of Energy to assess the threat of increased reliance on natural gas and renewables and the loss of baseload coal and nuclear. They concluded there was no immediate issue. Then last fall, Perry proposed a rule to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requiring the use of coal-fired and nuclear power to guarantee power grid “resilience.” Earlier this year the FERC unanimously rejected the NOPR. And he cites the memo obtained last month by Bloomberg News, which outlined a plan to declare a national emergency under the Federal Power Act and/or the 1950 Defense Production Act.

“He says we can’t rely on natural gas power plants because pipelines are too vulnerable to cyberattack,” Tomlinson writes. “Therefore, subsidies for nuclear and coal-fired power plants are necessary because they keep weeks of fuel on site, Perry argued. His hyperbole fails even basic analysis. Whether it’s snow storms, heat waves, hurricanes or cyberattacks, the most vulnerable links in the power grids are transmission lines. Yet, the Energy Department has not declared an emergency to fortify them. When confronted with his faulty reasoning, Perry falls back on the last refuge of scoundrels: patriotism.”

“You cannot put a dollar figure on the cost to keep America free, to keep the lights on,” Perry said.

“It’s like Perry’s forgotten from where he came,” Tomlinson concludes. “Perry knows better than to pick winners and losers in a competitive market. He needs to stand up for his Texas values and drop this sham before it hurts consumers and Texas businesses.”

See also:

Trump’s energy proposal could derail gas-fired plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown Energy Center, located on a site in the Lordstown Industrial Park, is slated to be up and running next month, and Clean Energy Future has plans to invest a similar amount into building a second plant nearby. An energy policy proposed by the Trump administration, however, could derail plans for the second Lordstown plant and send companies such as his running from Ohio, said Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future LLC, which is developing the $900 million natural-gas power plant. Trump recently directed U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take steps to keep coal and nuclear plants running, a proposal Siderewicz said has caused consternation among many in the energy industry. The proposed bailout, which came to light May 31 when Bloomberg published a leaked memo from the Department of Energy to the National Security Council, has united a broad swath of interests, including petroleum, renewable energy, wind energy and natural gas groups, in opposition. Although Siderewicz voted for Trump, he had hoped the president would stay away from the energy industry if elected. Siderewicz is now sounding the alarm on the potential negative impacts of the policy. He said a bailout of the coal industry would shatter Ohio’s competitive energy market, endanger investments in gas-fired plants and cost consumers and businesses billions in higher electricity rates. “Everyone [who] has an IQ of more than 25 is upset about this,” Siderewicz said. “This is so un-American.”


DOE’s Walker, Little under consideration for FERC seat, industry sources say. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Bruce Walker and former Arizona utility regulator Doug Little are at the center of early conversations in Washington over who will fill an upcoming vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), according to more than a half-dozen industry sources close to the discussions who spoke with Utility Dive. Discussions over the replacement for Commissioner Robert Powelson, who will step down next month, are still evolving and could change over time, according to the sources, two of which said they had direct knowledge of conversations inside the administration. The Trump administration appears likely to appoint a figure more loyal to its energy priorities than Powelson, who repeatedly criticized its plans to keep retiring coal and nuclear plants online, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the discussions. The White House and Department of Energy declined to comment.


More electric industry news items of interest:

IEA: World is not spending enough on energy. Global energy investment fell by 2 percent in 2017, the third consecutive year of a decline, according to the International Energy Agency, which sounded the alarm this week, warning that the world is not spending enough on energy. “The overall trend of energy investment remains insufficient for meeting energy security, climate and air quality goals, and is not spurring an acceleration in technologies needed for the clean energy transition,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement. Global spending stood at $1.8 trillion in 2017, down 2 percent from a year earlier. Much of the decline occurred in the electricity sector, and the IEA declared 2018 “the year of electricity” to raise awareness about the problem. The ongoing electrification of the global economy puts extra emphasis on the need for more generation capacity. The declining investment in coal, hydro and nuclear power more than offset the increased spending on solar.

Major utilities continue to increase spending on U.S. electric distribution systems. Spending on electricity distribution systems by major U.S. electric utilities—representing about 70 percent of total U.S. electric load—has risen 54 percent over the past two decades, from $31 billion to $51 billion annually. This increase has been largely driven by increases in capital investment. From 1996 to 2017, annual capital investment by these utilities for electric distribution systems nearly doubled, which was similar to increases in transmission investment over the same time period. Annual spending on customer expenses and operations and maintenance by these utilities also increased slightly. This information is based on reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from major utilities. Electric distribution system costs have been increasing faster than the growth of any of the other variables. Capital investment accounts for the largest share of distribution costs as utilities work to upgrade aging equipment.

N.J. BPU goes giddyup as Gov. Murphy seeks fast track for clean energy. Traditional speed of state agency has been plodding, but now it’s been pitched into leadership role in rapidly changing energy sector. Most times, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is about as sleepy an agency as there is in Trenton — slow moving, often opaque, and rarely making significant enough decisions to draw much attention, or even less likely, controversy. Not anymore. With Gov. Phil Murphy advocating an aggressive clean-energy agenda, the quasi-judicial body finds itself on the political hot seat. It is juggling a range of policies that could vault the state into a leadership role in a rapidly changing energy sector. At the same time, it is overseeing a massive investment by the state’s utilities to modernize an aging power grid, something that policymakers here and across the nation agree needs to happen for more resiliency and reliability in an era of climate change. All these developments could leave consumers saddled with billions of dollars in new costs on their utility bills. Six months into his new role as president of BPU, Joseph Fiordaliso sounds like he would not have it any other way. “I have to start with one word — excitement. It’s exciting,” said Fiordaliso, a commissioner for the past 13 years before being appointed to head the agency by Murphy in January. “We’re really the focal point of the Governor’s agenda as far as clean energy is concerned.”

Arkansans generating solar power double, though group remains small. More Arkansans than ever are generating their own electricity, though the financial benefit of doing so could soon change. The state’s utility companies reported almost 1,000 households or other customers by the end of 2017 were feeding some power back into the grid, mostly using solar panels, rather than only using power. More than 400 of those net-metering customers are in Northwest Arkansas, utility officials said. More and more Arkansans are generating some of their own electricity, mostly using solar panels, in a process called net metering. It’s still a small group relative to the entire electricity system, but these customers have enough capacity to power hundreds of typical homes. Both counts are almost double what they were a year before and more than 40 times the number in 2007, according to the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities. The commission’s data shows net metering in the state at the end of last year could churn out enough power, about 9 megawatts, for 1,000 typical homes based on industry estimates. The net metering share of the grid is small, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of customers and capacity in Carroll Electric Cooperative, which provides energy for much of Benton and Carroll counties. But the trend is part of a rising tide in solar power production by utilities and non-utility generators alike. The state’s power providers are in the process of bringing hundreds of megawatts of solar capacity online in the coming years. The country as a whole is harnessing enough electrons from sunshine to power more than 10 million homes, according to a report this year from the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Georgia PSC candidate speaks at Sierra Club forum. “What we have found is the Public Service Commission is making a lot of decisions based on who pays for their campaigns,” Dawn Randolph said. She said that her opponent had accepted money from the utilities, including from the vice presidents and surrogates of Georgia Power and its parent, the Southern Company. “As a regulated quasi-judicial board, that you elect, I don’t think that we should be getting their money, from the people they regulate, and I have vowed, and as I did when I ran for this job in 2006, to not take money from those that I regulate.” “I am tired of being a blank check for an over-priced, undelivered product, which is called Plant Vogtle.”  The audience applauded loudly. “I will now channel Carl Sagan, and tell you that it is billions, and billions, and billions of dollars over budget.” “Can we shut it down? I don’t have access to all their proprietary information.  What I do know, there are a lot of great jobs there, there’s a lot of energy that’s supposed to be produced, but if this project is viable, why doesn’t Georgia Power risk share? Why do we as the rate-payers, the consumer, have to pick up 100 percent of the financing, that they’re making billions and billions of dollars in profit on?” Randolph said.

Mayor says Lafayette, La.’s utility not for sale. Lafayette Utilities System’s electric division is not for sale, Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said Friday. In an interview with The Daily Advertiser, Robideaux tried to put to rest concerns that he may consider selling the city-owned utility system’s electric division to NextGen, an affiliate of Bernhard Capital Partners Management. “Unless it’s an offer far, far above fair market value,” Robideaux said, “I don’t think the risk is worth it.” He will, however, consider allowing the company to operate and manage part of LUS. Bernhard representatives approached Robideaux in April 2017 about buying LUS’ electric division. When he declined, they came back with the idea of an operating agreement, which Robideaux said “is worth having a conversation about.”

Con Edison and National Grid want to help you buy an electric car. Can a digital cost-comparison service counteract declining load growth? New York utilities think electric cars are a good way to engage with their customers. New York utility Consolidated Edison this week launched an online marketplace to make it easier for customers to purchase electric cars. That follows a June decision by National Grid to add electric vehicles to its own online marketplace. As utilities stare down a future of flat or declining electricity consumption, electric vehicles offer a glimmer of hope. If customers suddenly need to buy electricity to fuel their cars, that means new load for utilities to fulfill, plus charging infrastructure and distribution upgrades that need to be built. (New York utilities don’t earn money on the volume of electricity sold, but do on capital investments to deliver it).

Israel Electric Corp. sets up cybersecurity center in New York. Cyber-Gym program aims to train US companies to fend off and cope with hacks to critical infrastructure. Israel Electric Corp. on Thursday set up its first cybersecurity training facility in New York with the aim of helping US companies and utilities to fend off hackers. The center is modeled on other sites the utility has already set up in Israel, Europe, Asia and Australia. The idea behind the so called Cyber-Gym training program is to duplicate real-world conditions in which hackers might try to break into the company’s systems — with teams simulating real-time scenarios and others practicing company reactions. The training program targets companies operating in critical industries like energy, manufacturing, infrastructure firms, banking, finance and insurance enterprises  — which are under constant threat of hacking and where a successful attack could prove catastrophic.


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Today’s lede: N.J. debates transmission links for planned offshore wind buildout. Tom Johnson writes in about an ensuing “battle” in New Jersey over whether offshore wind developers should build their own transmission links or should rely on independent transmission development. Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal of developing 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

“Before New Jersey approves any projects for offshore wind farms along its coast, the state must decide who will build the transmission lines that bring the power to customers,” Johnson writes. “It is shaping up to be a bruising battle, pitting the developers vying to build wind turbines offshore against a pair of companies that want to deploy the underwater power lines from the farms to shore and customers who will use the electricity.”

Competition among transmission developers will lower costs to ratepayers and minimize impacts on the ocean, said Clarke Bruno, president of transmission for Anbaric. Under current state law, only offshore wind developers can build the power lines to bring offshore wind energy to shore, Johnson reports. “It is the key to competition,” said Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development LLC, which is seeking to build an offshore transmission grid to aggregate power from offshore wind facilities.

“But the offshore wind developers, including those who have secured leases to build farms offshore, argued otherwise,” Johnson writes. Ørsted, which looks to build a project off Atlantic City, said it does not want to be held hostage to a third-party developer. That happened in Germany, where the developer had to wait two years for a connection to land, said Fred Zalcman, head of government affairs in North America. “We’re not willing to take that risk,” he said. Similar concerns were voiced by Deepwater Wind, which has a lease to develop a project off Cape May.

See also:

Shell’s offshore wind play energizes renewables industry. If Royal Dutch Shell Plc wins a federal lease to build an offshore wind farm in New England this fall, the company will be the first oil major with experience drilling in U.S. waters to enter the fledgling domestic offshore wind market. Shell’s interest in U.S. offshore wind development is seen within the industry as marking a shift toward the mainstream of the domestic energy sector, as offshore wind strengthens ties with the oil industry while harnessing one of the nation’s largest untapped sources of carbon-free electricity. An oil major with U.S. experience could help accelerate offshore wind development and demonstrate the strength of an entirely new domestic renewable energy industry, Liz Burdock, executive director of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, told Bloomberg Environment. “When a market leader such as Shell indicates its interest publicly, it shifts offshore wind from the peripheral to a major investment opportunity that captures people’s attention,” she said.


Fargo, N.D., urged to leverage franchise agreement to bring Xcel clean energy program to consumers. Dean Hulse is prodding city officials in Fargo, N.D., to convince Xcel Energy to make its Renewable Connect program available to the city’s electricity consumers, Patrick Springer writes in Inforum. The program derives all of its power from renewable energy sources. “The program has been popular in Minnesota—so popular that all of its capacity, 50 megawatts of wind generation and 25 megawatts of solar energy—is being used by customers,” Springer reports. “Hulse wants the city to use authority it has under its home rule charter to require Xcel to make the renewable energy program an option for electricity customers. Xcel has a franchise agreement with the city.”

“It’s going to take political will to make this happen, either at the state or local level,” Springer quotes Hulse, a Fargo resident and renewable energy supporter. “Fargo has the power through its home rule charter to make this happen.”

See also:

N.D. renewable energy advocate says EVs would save billions over decades. Imagine if, over the next 30 years, every motorist in Cass County, N.D., drove an electric car and every resident used electricity generated by renewable sources, such as the sun and the wind. Actually, John Bagu has done that thought experiment for you, and he crunched a lot of numbers to estimate costs and benefits. He calculates the conversion to electric vehicles and renewable energy in Cass County would cost $15 billion over the next 30 years, create more than 2,000 new jobs and save every county resident $1,600 a year. On the other hand, he said, simply doing nothing would cost $23 billion, create significant air pollution at an incalculable cost to public health and create no new jobs over the next three decades.


Washington, Idaho delay merger reviews after populist politician sacks Hydro-One leadership. Regulators in Washington and Idaho have delayed proceedings to review the proposed $5.3 billion acquisition of Avista Corp. by Hydro One after the Canadian utility’s chief executive and board were sacked by populist politician Doug Ford, the new Ontario premier.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which had been expected to decide by Aug. 14 on the transaction, has pushed the timetable off until Dec. 14. Similarly, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission has indefinitely postponed a July 23 hearing on the deal. “If a new board and CEO are not named by Aug. 15, the Commission has directed Avista to file an update on the circumstances,” Idaho regulators said in a press release.

Both Avista and Hydro One say they remain committed to the deal, which had been slated to close in late September, Becky Kramer writes in the Spokesman-Review.

A key factor for Washington regulators is the removal of Mayo Schmidt as Hydro One’s CEO, Elaine Williams reports in the Lewiston Tribune. Schmidt played an important role in negotiating the deal, and was expected to take a seat on Avista’s board post-merger.

“Without knowing who will fill the new board or serve as Hydro One’s new CEO, we do not know how Hydro One will approach the transaction. Likewise, we do not know what further impact political developments will have on Hydro One,” the Washington state attorney general’s public counsel said. “We do not know what philosophies and priorities the new CEO and board of directors will bring to Hydro One.”

“Avista and Hydro One agree with the Attorney General’s Office that more time might be needed to evaluate the merger, according to a document the two businesses filed jointly with Washington state regulators,” Williams writes “A Moody’s Investors Service report identified the changes in Hydro One’s leadership and the proposed Avista merger as being ‘credit negative’ for Hydro One, according to Avista and Hydro One.”

Similarly, it also would be “credit negative” for Hydro One if the province of Ontario succeeds in reducing some Hydro One customer rates by 12 percent, according to Avista and Hydro One.

“We . . . acknowledge that additional or modified commitments related to Avista governance may be necessary to alleviate any lingering concerns that the province of Ontario could affect Avista and its operations,” Williams quotes a statement from Avista and Hydro One.




Appeals court hands tribe victory in challenge to NRC order allowing uranium mining. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted a license for a uranium mining project without first vetting the environmental impacts, the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe, which has historical ties to the proposed project area, intervened in opposition because it feared the destruction of its cultural, historical, and religious sites. The staff of the Commission granted the license. On administrative appeal, the Commission decided to leave the license in effect – notwithstanding its own determination that there was a significant deficiency in its compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act – pending further agency proceedings to remedy the deficiency. The Commission grounded this decision on the Tribe’s inability to show that noncompliance with the Act would cause irreparable harm. In so doing, the Commission was following what appears to be the agency’s settled practice to require such a showing,” the court’s opinion explained.

“The National Environmental Policy Act, however, obligates every federal agency to prepare an adequate environmental impact statement before taking any major action, which includes issuing a uranium mining license. The statute does not permit an agency to act first and comply later. Nor does it permit an agency to condition performance of its obligation on a showing of irreparable harm. There is no such exception in the statute,” the court said.

“In fact, such a policy puts the Tribe in a classic Catch-22. In order to require the agency to complete an adequate survey of the project site before granting a license, the Tribe must show that construction at the site would cause irreparable harm to cultural or historical resources. But without an adequate survey of the cultural and historical resources at the site, such a showing may well be impossible. Of course, if the project does go forward and such resources are damaged, the Tribe will then be able to show irreparable harm. By then, however, it will be too late. The Commission’s decision to let the mining project proceed violates the National Environmental Policy Act. Indeed, it vitiates the requirements of the Act. We therefore find the decision contrary to law,” the court said.

The decision sends the case back to the NRC for further  consideration pursuant t NEPA. But the court allowed the license awarded Powertech to remain in effect. “We have no doubt about the seriousness of the order’s deficiencies. But we have not been given any reason to expect that the agency will be unable to correct those deficiencies, and we are concerned about the disruptive consequences of vacating the license while the agency proceeds to satisfy NEPA,” the court said. “Powertech reasonably relied on the NRC’s ruling and settled practice that permitted the continued effectiveness of the license the Staff issued. And it has represented to the court that its stock price ‘would plummet’ if the license were ‘suspended, vacated, or revoked.’ More important, it appears that the Tribe will not suffer harm – irreparable or otherwise – from a disposition that leaves the license in effect for now.”$file/17-1059.pdf


More electric industry news items of interest:

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity sues to block renewable energy initiative vote. Opponents of a initiative aimed at greatly increasing renewable energy production by Arizona utilities have filed a lawsuit to block it from landing on the ballot claiming many of the signatures should be tossed. The lawsuit filed in Arizona Superior Court Thursday by Arizonans for Affordable Electricity claims the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative does not have enough valid signatures to make it on the November ballot. The initiative would require utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030. “Our painstaking review of every petition submitted by the initiative campaign has uncovered widespread forgery and deception and an utter disregard for Arizona law and elections procedures. This is truly fraud on a grand scale,” said Matthew Benson, spokesman with Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, in a statement. Rodd McLeod, spokesman for the clean energy campaign, told the Phoenix Business Journal energy companies are terrified of Arizonans having a choice about our future of energy, so they’re going to do everything they can to stop the initiative. “We’re running a campaign to give Arizonans a choice, so we can move our state toward renewable energy,” he said. “We’re going to show up in court, and we are confident that we will win that election.”

S.C. judge rules on who can and can’t intervene in suit over VC Summer rate hikes. South Carolina’s House speaker and Senate president can intervene in a suit to strike down a law reversing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of S.C. Electric & Gas rate hikes relating to the abandoned V.C. Summer plant expansion. But Judge Michelle Childs says customers leading a class action suit against the utility are barred from intervening. The rulings Childs handed down Wednesday mean that Rep. Jay Lucas and Sen. Hugh Leatherman can participate in a hearing starting July 30 on a preliminary injunction to prevent the rate hike reversal. They will also be allowed to oppose in court SCE&G’s broader suit seeking the law the S.C. General Assembly passed last month mandating the rate rollback be declared unconstitutional. That sets up a direct confrontation between the utility and its detractors in the legislature who contend it must not be allowed to charge customers for the cost of the abandoned nuclear plant.

America’s power grids are not ready for summer heatwaves. Los Angeles has had blackouts and soaring electricity prices. Electricity prices across the nation have jumped to as much as double for late summer. The Secretary of Energy is calling for subsidies to make otherwise noneconomic coal and nuclear power plants available to the grid. The taxpayers of New York have stepped up with a $500 million bailout of two nuclear power plants. Electricity markets are supposed to be competitive and “de-regulated” to provide “choice” and lower prices to consumers, but now we have the characteristics of monopoly markets: reduced service and higher prices. How did we get here?

Texas power use to keep hitting records during heat wave: ERCOT. Homes and businesses in Texas used record amounts of power for a second straight day on Thursday and are expected to use even more in coming days as consumers crank up air conditioners to escape a brutal heat wave, according to the operator of much of the state’s power grid. To keep air conditioners humming, Texas utilities are buying electricity from all sources, boosting power prices to a near seven-year high earlier in the week. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said demand reached 73,259 megawatts on Thursday, topping the prior all-time high of 72,192 MW on Wednesday. One megawatt can usually power about 1,000 U.S. homes. But on a hot summer day in Texas, ERCOT said one megawatt could only power about 100 homes. “Our electricity providers are working around the clock to ensure consumers stay cool and safe. ERCOT has not issued any appeals for conservation, but will notify … stakeholders if system conditions change,” ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said in an email.

Texas power companies ask consumers to cut back as heat intensifies. Retail electric providers are asking consumers to cut back on their power use as high temperatures statewide strain the power grid and set two consecutive days of usage records. The state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, announced that Texas set a new all-time, system-wide peak demand record for two hours Thursday afternoon, topping out at 73,259 megawatts between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. That is more than 1,000 megawatts than the record set on Wednesday. One megawatt powers about 200 homes during a hot summer day in Texas. “We are headed as a state into even more extreme temperatures than we’ve seen in the past few days” according to ERCOT. “Everyone in the ERCOT market – from our operators to generators to transmission providers to retailers – is doing what they can to keep the power on for consumers.”

Can a Texas lawmaker who championed electricity deregulation rewire the system to work for consumers? “I have a little presentation for you,” I tell a state lawmaker in his office. He’s campaigning to be speaker of the Texas House. “I want to talk to you about shopping for electricity.” “OK,” he says. For me, this meeting is a decade in the making. That’s how long I’ve collected your stories about flaws in the state’s electricity shopping system. I’m boosting The Watchdog’s battle to fix the confusing and often deceptive retail setup. This time, let’s me and you play an insider’s game.

In Michigan, a big divide between utilities on replacing coal. Despite similar long-term clean energy goals, Michigan’s two major utilities have competing visions for replacing their coal generation over the next decade. DTE Energy is preparing to build a $1 billion, 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant it says is needed as it retires most of its coal fleet by 2023. While Consumers Energy went through a round of coal-plant closures in 2016 — and purchased two natural gas plants prior to that — the utility is forecasting another round of capacity need around 2030 when its remaining coal units are retired. When that happens, Consumers is planning a modular network of solar projects to help meet capacity needs. The utilities are different in size and serve different geographical regions of Michigan, making it difficult to directly compare the two. DTE also has relatively little natural gas capacity compared to Consumers.

Goldman Sachs puts a grim number on solar slump for his year. Anyone following clean energy knew this could be a tough year for solar. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. just put a grim number on how bad. The pace of global installations will contract by 24 percent in 2018, Goldman analysts led by Brian Lee said in a research note late Wednesday. That’s far more dire than the 3 percent decline forecast by Bloomberg NEF in the bleakest of three scenarios outlined in a report earlier this month. Credit Suisse Group AG is forecasting a 17 percent contraction. The anticipated slowdown would mark the first time the solar market has shrunk. It comes after China announced in late May it was curbing utility-scale development in the world’s biggest market, pulling the plug on about 20 gigawatts of projects. That will reduce global installations to 75 gigawatts, down from 99 gigawatts in 2017, Lee said in an email. “Lowering our coverage view to cautious, we believe oversupply is set to continue in the near-to-medium term as demand from the largest solar markets remains tepid,” Lee wrote in the research note.

NARUC panelists agree on need for fuel diversity, not on solution. State utility regulators and industry players broadly agree the U.S.’ growing dependency on natural gas as a generation fuel raises concerns for the power grid. But attendees of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ summer conference were split over whether it is a problem for the future or if the early closures of coal and nuclear power plants already pose risks to national security, future energy costs and electric grid resiliency. “Will we build ourselves into a problem? Will we become over dependent [on gas]?” asked Andy Ott, CEO of America’s largest regional electricity market operator, PJM Interconnection. “Certainly, there are problems needing to be fixed — but [it is] not a crisis at this point — we don’t need federal government intervention.” As more and more “fuel-secure” baseload power plants retire, NARUC commissioner and Arkansas Public Service Commission Chairman Ted Thomas asked at what point “should we start writing the checks” to prevent further closures and safeguard the reliability and resilience of the bulk power system?

Tell Gov. Northam that Virginia wants clean energy now. Right now the Northam administration is developing its Virginia Energy Plan, a roadmap for the commonwealth’s energy policy over the next decade. We need to ensure Virginia’s economy is built on energy efficiency, solar power and smart storage solutions instead of more fracked gas pipelines. Now is the time to tell Governor Northam that we support investments in clean energy! There are five upcoming public listening sessions where you can ask questions and tell the administration that we should work to replace an outdated, fossil-fuel based economy with a sustainable, clean energy economy. The administration is specifically seeking input on policies affecting solar power, offshore wind power, energy storage, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency, but you should feel free to weigh in on all energy issues. For details and meeting materials, visit the Virginia Energy Plan website. In particular, it is important to tell the Governor to eliminate barriers to customer-owned and third-party financed solar power.

Q&A: ‘Virginia is changing fast’ when it comes to clean energy. The Virginia Advanced Energy Economy was launched in February and Harrison Godfrey was chosen as its first executive director. The Virginia chapter is one of 27 such industry organizations that is part of a national association of businesses dedicated to secure, clean and affordable energy. AEE, with offices in Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco, works with a coalition of state and regional partners. Godfrey, 34, is a Virginia native who has worked for OPower (now Oracle Utilities) and Invenergy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of William and Mary and a master’s in public administration from Princeton University. In an interview with the Energy News Network, Godfrey offered perspective on Virginia’s new pivot beyond fossil fuels. He explains how AEE can capitalize on efforts by the Virginia legislature and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to fold renewables into what’s shaping up as a more progressive energy portfolio.

Nevada ballot measure to restructure energy market spells uncertainty, report says. A new independent report shows a restructured energy market in Nevada could benefit or hurt consumers, depending on a number of factors. Lawmakers may need to implement consumer protection measures if Ballot Question 3 passes, just one of the policy decisions that could be required if Nevada decides to restructure its energy market, according to a report released today by the Guinn Center. The report is titled “Restructuring the Electricity Market in Nevada? Possibilities, Prospects, and Pitfalls.”

Breaking down Question 3, Nevada’s Energy Choice Initiative (video). In just five months, Nevada voters will make a major decision about how energy is regulated in the state. In Question 3, voters are being asked to amend the Nevada Constitution to give residents and businesses the right to choose who they buy power from. It would end the regulated monopoly of NV Energy, which supplies power to most of the state.

Energy Department eliminates Nevada as test site for advanced geothermal research but project leaders say work will continue. The federal dollars would have gone to a field laboratory for enhanced geothermal drilling, a method to create better geologic conditions for geothermal power production. The drilling allows developers to fracture rock and create more pathways for heat by injecting water. It is similar to hydraulic fracturing but does not use the same sand formula or added chemicals. Nevada had strongly pushed for the grant as an effort to further position the state as a leader in geothermal energy, so much so that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Office of Energy pledged $1 million last year to help the research team. “Disappointment would be the word for [the decision],” said Nathan Strong, who helps lead economic development efforts for Churchill County. “I feel like I’m still licking my wounds.”

Jefferson County, Ore., utility-scale solar project goes live. The first utility-scale solar arrays in Jefferson County are operational, and the developer has estimated the combined value of the property at $37 million. “That’s a good chunk of change for our tax rolls,” said Janet Brown, Jefferson County manager at Economic Development for Central Oregon. “We were getting $280 a year off of each property,” she said. “It’s rangeland. There’s no irrigation, poor soil.” Jefferson County approved five-year tax abatements for the two solar projects, Adams Solar Center and Elbe Solar Center, Brown said. GCL New Energy, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based GCL Group, completed two 10-megawatt solar arrays outside Madras earlier this summer and is already selling power to PacifiCorp, company officials said. GCL developed two more 10-megawatt sites in Oregon, one outside Bly and one just east of Bend, and those will be completed later this summer and in the fall, construction manager Lyle Thompson said.

After backlash and outrage, Indiana utility drops $10 increase to fixed charge on electricity bills. Indianapolis Power & Light customers that had been dreading a massive increase to their electricity bills — some by as many as $10 to $20 a month — can breathe a sigh of relief. The utility, along with several other consumer advocacy groups, announced Thursday that it has reached a settlement agreement that will leave bills largely untouched. Most notably, the settlement would hold the fixed, monthly customer charge at the current $17 level for those using more than 325 kilowatt hours a month — the bulk of its residential cusomters. In IPL’s original request, it had asked to raise that charge by nearly 60 percent to $27.

Protest filed against Vero Beach electric-utility sale to Florida Power & Light Co. The city’s electric-utility sale to Florida Power & Light Co. could be delayed beyond Oct. 1, depending on the state Public Service Commission’s response to a protest filed Wednesday. The Public Service Commission approved the $185 million sale at its meeting last month and in a July 2 final order. With that last hurdle seemingly behind them, city and FPL officials moved forward to complete the transition. On Thursday, however, officials were scrambling to prepare a formal response to the protest, filed by the Civic Association of Indian River County. City Manager Jim O’Connor said he hoped the matter could be dropped. He, and other city officials, were surprised by the petition. “This sort of came out of the blue,” he said. “The question is how the PSC will review it. It would be our hope the PSC would just toss it out.”

Colorado Supreme Court restores Xcel‘s lawsuit against Boulder utility. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a dispute over Boulder‘s creation of a municipal electric utility should be heard in district court. The state‘s highest court disagreed with previous rulings by both the Colorado Court of Appeals and Boulder District Judge Judith LaBuda in the 2014 lawsuit brought by Xcel Energy. In its original lawsuit against Boulder, Xcel contended that the City Council‘s decision to form the utility was premature, and the city had not done enough work to show a utility could meet the city charter‘s requirements. LaBuda, however, ruled that the to create an energy utility. The Court of Appeals in 2016 of the lawsuit, finding instead that Xcel‘s lawsuit had been filed prematurely. The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed with Boulder‘s assertion that the Court of Appeals erred in its ruling, but it also agreed with Xcel that the company asserted a viable claim against the city. The matter is now sent back to district court for a decision.

Class-action lawsuit targets alleged Central Maine Power overbilling. A class-action lawsuit aims to recoup alleged overbilling of Central Maine Power customers last winter. The lawsuit filed Thursday adds to the woes for the state’s largest electric utility. CMP already is facing dual investigations over complaints of overbilling, one by the Maine Public Utilities Commission and another by an independent auditor. Attorney Sumner Lipman said it’s not clear what caused the overcharges but he told reporters that the facts speak for themselves. He said 97,000 customers’ bills increased by 50 percent or more, and another 200,000 saw smaller increases up to 50 percent. CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said that under state law the PUC is tasked with ensuring fair, accurate bills, and it has yet to issue its findings. Lipman said his role is to ensure customers are reimbursed.

Maine regulators to open new investigation over Central Maine Power rates. The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted Wednesday to launch a new investigation into whether Central Maine Power Co. has been overcharging its customers. PUC Chairman Mark Vannoy said the vote came in response to a complaint filed by over a dozen CMP customers on May 29. The complaint, led by former state Rep. Herbert Adams, D-Portland, accuses CMP of charging rates that exceed the state limit for the utility’s return on equity. It also alleges that CMP has been deliberately gouging customers to recoup losses from a massive storm in October that caused about 470,000 CMP customers to lose power across the state. CMP filed a response to the complaint June 8, denying the allegations and requesting that the complaint be dismissed.

Renewable energy won’t succeed without energy efficiency investment.  American electric utilities invested an estimated $7 billion in the trend in 2016. That’s a 375% surge from a decade ago — and it could just be getting started. While utilities are eager to clean up the power sector, they’re realizing that will be a difficult task for renewables alone to accomplish. Consider that, because power and energy aren’t the same thing, it takes 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar or 1.4 GW of wind to replace the electricity generated from every 1 GW of retired coal-fired capacity. That gap will close as technology improves, but time is of the essence to meet carbon emission reductions outlined in the Paris Agreement. That helps to explain why many utilities are turning to one of the most important, lowest-cost, and most often overlooked clean energy technologies available: energy efficiency. Long-term investors should pay close attention, as the compounding synergies realized from pairing renewables with energy efficiency could differentiate the best utilities stocks to own from the rest of the pack.

Solar power drives Australian electricity prices below zero during the middle of the day. When wholesale power prices in Queensland dipped into the red one morning last month, many experts in the complex world of electricity markets did a double take. The massive boom in large-scale solar in the state is only in its infancy. Yet already, the solar surge is hollowing out prices in the middle of the day, sending them into negative territory as ample supply outweigh lackluster demand. While brief instances of negative prices have become regular in renewables-heavy South Australia, they were thought to be still several years away in Queensland. “The boom in large-scale #solarPV in Queensland’s only just started, and already we’re seeing instances of daytime negative pricing via @NEMWatchAU,” tweeted National Electricity Market watcher Paul McArdle at GlobalROAM. “Challenges ahead…”

Japan’s Kansai region a major battleground for gas and electric utilities. Kansai Electric, Osaka Gas square off amid liberalized markets. Retail power and gas heavyweights Kansai Electric Power and Osaka Gas are locked in a struggle for dominance in the Kansai region, whose economy is nearly the size of South Korea’s and includes Osaka, the second-biggest city in Japan. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the country’s power monopoly system – in place for nearly 70 years – was partially dismantled in 2016, followed by the liberalization of the retail gas market a year later. Hundreds of new power sellers soon arrived on the scene, some with just a few dozen accounts. Since then, the Kansai region has seen the most gas customers, and the second-highest number of power customers, switch providers. Nowhere is that churn more evident than with Kansai Electric and Osaka Gas. Kansai Electric pulled about 580,000 retail gas customers from Osaka Gas, but lost about 680,000 power customers to it. Overall, Kansai Electric lost nearly 1.7 million power users. But its shares have risen 27 percent since the beginning of 2017, compared with about 1 percent decline for Osaka Gas. “It’s like the elephants battling horses. When power and gas firms battle it out against Tokyo Electric (Tepco) or Kansai Electric for an extended period, gas firms could lose,” said Reiji Ogino, senior analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Number of energy suppliers in the Netherlands quadrupled since liberalization. The number of suppliers of electricity and gas has almost quadrupled since the liberalization of the Dutch energy market in 2004, according to research by website Energievergelijk. Before deregulation there were only 12 suppliers for electricity, based in different parts of the country. Now, there are 47 which all want a piece of the cake. In total, 35 companies offer gas and electricity for consumers. The remaining 12 only offer energy contracts to businesses and multinationals.

Knesset approves ‘historic’ reform of Israeli electricity sector. 10-year, NIS 7.1 billion process aims to increase competition and streamline the Israel Electric Corp. The Knesset on Wednesday night approved in its final readings an NIS 7.1 billion ($2 billion) reform of the nation’s electricity sector, hailed as “historic,” which aims to increase competition and transform the main electricity utility into a more streamlined and efficient company. The reform was passed 42-4.

Israel passes law to break up electricity monopoly. Israel passed a law on Thursday to open the electricity sector to new competition and break up the monopoly held by its state-owned power utility. The reform was approved by the cabinet in June after the government, Israel Electric Corp. and its workers agreed on changes to end a 22-year stand-off. The legislation passed in parliament in an overnight vote. IEC, which for decades has managed every aspect of electricity from running power plants to connecting households, agreed to sell 19 production units in five sites over five years and form a subsidiary to manage two yet-to-be-built power stations that will run on natural gas. System management and planning will be taken away from the utility and sold to a different government-owned company, Israel’s Finance Ministry said in a statement.


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Today’s lede: Peak Reliability to wind down, close doors by end of 2019. Peak Reliability, the reliability coordinator for the Pacific Northwest, has announced that it will wind down operations and close its doors by the end of next year. The announcement comes after the California ISO last year withdrew from Peak and established itself as a reliability coordinator, offering the same services at Peak but at lower cost.

Peak CEO Marie Jordan indicated the decision to wind down operations is the result of “almost nonexistent” support for a more “slimmed down” PEAK with a leaner budget. “At this point, we’ve received overwhelming feedback from a supermajority of our funders that there’s more support for the wind-down budget scenario and the wind-down of Peak,” RTO Insider’s Robert Mullin quoted Jordan as saying during a conference call to announce the decision.

While Peak will end its involvement with a PJM Interconnection effort to establish a Western state regional electricity market in competition with efforts by the California ISO, PJM said it will continue to engage with stakeholders. PJM said in a statement it will “continue conversations” with potential participants to develop a “member-owned market for the West,” Mullin reports. “While some revision of the business plan will be required to describe how the business will be organized in the absence of Peak, the fundamental nature of the proposition and its value remain unchanged,” PJM said.


Sierra Club presses for economic data on utility’s coal-fired plants. Arguing that shutting down coal-fired power plants will save consumers money as well as help the environment, the Sierra Club is seeking access to data an Oregon utility wants protected as commercially sensitive information, Pete Danko reports in the Portland Business Journal.

The Sierra Club has filed with the Oregon Public Utility Commission to access the results of a PacifiCorp analysis of the economics of its coal power plants. While the information is subject to a PUC order treating the information as “commercially sensitive and confidential business information,” the Sierra Club maintains the utility hasn’t demonstrated how it could be harmed by release of the coal analysis.

“The very nature of the regulated monopoly protects it from a competitor moving in and undercutting its rates,” the group said in its filing. “Thus, from its protected perch PacifiCorp is obligated to be fully transparent with its customers about its resource choices.”

A Sierra Club commissioned report, released last month, found that half of PacifiCorp’s 24 coal units, “representing 3,173 MW of generation, were higher cost than replacement energy from solar PV, and all but two of PacifiCorp’s coal plants were higher cost than wind energy.”


Retail suppliers want to get out from under the utility’s billing system. Competitive electricity suppliers continue to advocate for supplier consolidated billing in Pennsylvania, despite an adverse ruling from the Public Utility Commission earlier this year, Kennedy Rose writes in the Philadelphia Business Journal. But the commission didn’t completely slam the door on the idea, and held a hearing on the issue earlier this month.

“Really, what we’re talking about is making electricity like every other product and services consumers buy in their everyday lives,” said Leah Gibbons, director of regulatory affairs at NRG. The competitive electricity supplier wants a direct relationship with its customer, not a line item on a utility’s bill. Giving utilities a monopoly on the billing relationship with customers limits the ability of suppliers to interact with customers and potentially introduce them to new and innovative products and services, NRG argues. “It’s engaging with the consumer in a much different way,” said Mike Starck, vice president and general manager at NRG.

But Pennsylvania utilities are pushing back against the effort. “PECO spokeswoman Afia Ohene-Frempong said the entire energy billing infrastructure would need to be reassessed and stakeholders would need to determine how things would work under a new system before any major changes could be made,” Rose writes.

“We can’t say we’re for it and put our customers at risk of confusion or possible [service] termination,” Ohene-Frempong said. “As much as we are in support of that competition and that business development, our customers will always come first.”


More electric industry news items of interest:

Think tank: Energy Choice ballot question would have uncertain impact on rates, wouldn’t directly lead to more renewables. A new report by a nonpartisan think tank pokes holes in advertisements run by both sides of the Energy Choice Initiative campaign, and warns that the state will need to address many uncertainties in a short amount of time if the measure passes in 2018. Although it did not explicitly recommend a position or say whether the proposed constitutional amendment was good or bad for Nevada, the 75-page report by the nonprofit Guinn Center for Policy Priorities (click through here) underlined and attempted to clarify much of the rhetoric surrounding the ballot question, including whether it would raise electric bills or lead to increased renewable energy production. The report found that data used by both sides of the well-funded campaigns supporting and opposing the ballot question to prove that rates would increase or decrease in a retail market were fundamentally flawed and result in an “apples-to-oranges” comparison that leads to “biased results.” It also states that passage of the initiative would not automatically result in more renewable energy use in Nevada and found “no correlation” between states with retail energy markets and higher renewable energy — a seeming contradiction of the group backing the initiative’s key plank that approval will “expand clean energy.” “According to the industry experts with whom the Guinn Center spoke, neither a restructured model with retail electric choice nor the current vertically integrated utility structure provides unequivocally a more optimal pathway to delivering more renewable energy onto the grid,” the report states. “In fact, these experts assert, there is no correlation between restructuring, or lack thereof, and increased renewables: the type of market model has no bearing on increased renewable energy.”

No longer a novelty, clean energy technologies boom all across the U.S. A new report documents the democratization of renewables, energy storage and electric vehicles in America. It was 1997, and stakeholders were working hard to help craft the first renewable energy standard in the State of Massachusetts, which ultimately passed as part of an electric utility restructuring act. At that time, the notion that Massachusetts would be one of the top solar states in the country was almost laughable, recalls Rob Sargent, who currently leads the energy program at Environment America. Today, renewable energy is taking off in virtually every state in the nation. A new report and interactive map released this week by Environment America takes stock of U.S. clean energy progress to date. It finds that leadership is no longer concentrated in select parts of the country, but that it is distributed across states with varying economic and democratic makeups. “You’re seeing an evolution that’s happening everywhere; and it will be interesting to see what will happen 10 years from now,” Sargent said. The “Renewables on the Rise” report (click through here) highlights how much has changed in a relatively short period of time, which can be easy to forget.

Texas sets another electricity-usage record for July, sixth this week. Texas’ electric grid operator planned for a challenging summer. Now, it’s here with electricity-usage records falling daily since Monday. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas set a sixth electricity-usage record in the last four days. Between 4 and 5 p.m. Thursday, Texas averaged 73,259 megawatts. That topped the amount of electricity used an hour earlier and also in consecutive hours Wednesday afternoon. Those numbers all beat the August 2016 mark of 71,110. On Monday and Tuesday, Texas also set consecutive records for usage in July.


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Today’s lede: Proposed bailout for baseload coal, nuclear could cost consumers $34 billion annually. A new Brattle Group analysis looks at a range of potential cost outcomes if the Trump administration implements a plan to require electricity consumers to subsidize uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants. The assessment is based on a leaked memo obtained by Bloomberg nearly two months ago.

“Arresting the retirement of uneconomic generating assets in the current market environment will likely prove quite costly,” the study concludes. “The magnitude and range of these estimates indicate the significant impact of yet-to-be determined policy design parameters and the uncertainty of the scope and impact of those choices on cost.”

Looking at a range of out-of-market payment options to keep the national fleet of coal and nuclear plants available for operation – and not counting the additional cost of actually generating electricity from the facilities – the Brattle Group provided the following estimates of direct costs:

  • $16.7 billion per year, or roughly $34 billion for two years as proposed, if every coal and nuclear plant in the country were given a uniform ($ per unit of capacity) support at the level of the average financial shortfall experienced by such plants;
  • $9.7 billion to $17.2 billion annually, or roughly $20 billion to $34 billion over two years, if only those plants now facing shortfalls were given payments sufficient to cover their operating losses; or
  • $20 billion to $35 billion annually, or $40 billion to $70 billion total, if power plant owners were also granted a return on their invested capital in addition to payments for operating shortfalls.

The report was prepared at the behest of a coalition of trade groups united in opposition to subsidies for baseload power plants. The group includes the Advanced Energy Economy, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Wind Energy Association, the Electric Power Supply Association, and the Natural Gas Supply Association, and the Electricity Consumers Resource Council.


More electric industry news items of interest:

Transmission line is ‘game changer’ for AEP’s $4.5B Wind Catcher, Texas PUC chair says. Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) is preparing additional information to present to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in an effort to win regulatory approval for its massive $4.5 billion investment in an Oklahoma wind farm. The 2,000 MW Wind Catcher Energy Connection project proposed by SWEPCO, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, came under scrutiny from the PUCT earlier this week as the regulators questioned the prudence of putting such a large investment on ratepayers, particularly with the inclusion of a $1.6 billion transmission line to move the energy from the wind farm. The wind project, which is being developed by Invenergy, has already been approved by regulators in Arkansas and Louisiana. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, which would be a 30% partner in the wind farm with SWEPCO, is seeking regulatory approval in Oklahoma for its investment.

Who should pay the cost of California’s wildfires? State lawmakers will grapple with how to allocate costs from wildfire damage claims this month in a conference committee set up specifically to hammer out new rules for wildfire liability. The committee will also explore ways to prevent or limit the damage from wildfires, such as by requiring better vegetation management and by setting clear protocols for cutting power during high-risk weather. With fires raging around the state, this discussion couldn’t come at a better time. It is reasonable to examine whether there might be a fairer way to assign costs than holding utilities strictly liable through inverse condemnation; after all, utilities can’t refuse to serve areas prone to wildfires or charge customers higher rates based solely on fire risk. Nevertheless, lawmakers must be careful not to give utilities a pass by removing the financial imperative to ensure their equipment doesn’t start fires. And frankly some of the proposals circulated in Sacramento in recent months would do just that.

Pro-PG&E wildfire bill written by lawmaker whose son works at PG&E. The East Bay assemblyman who wrote a bill that would make Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers cover the costs of settling lawsuits from last year’s wildfires has a son who works at the utility, The Chronicle has learned. Both PG&E and the office of the assemblyman — Democrat Bill Quirk of Hayward — confirmed Tuesday that his son, Ian, works for the company, whose equipment state investigators have blamed for starting 16 wildfires across Northern California in October. Both PG&E and Quirk’s office say that the personal connection has nothing to do with the legislation, though the bill would greatly benefit the company. The bill, AB33, would let PG&E issue state-authorized bonds and use the proceeds to pay for settling the more than 200 lawsuits sparked by the fires. The company’s customers would pay back the bonds over time. “We have 20,000 employees, and one of them is his son,” said PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo. PG&E supports the legislation, whose language is tailored specifically to the San Francisco company and, as currently written, would not apply to the state’s other utilities.

Report lays out arguments for and against expanding Western electricity market. As the California legislature debates the state’s energy future, a new study takes a fresh look at the pros and cons of creating a Western regional grid, and illuminates the complexities that have helped stall bills addressing the issue over the past three years. Grid regionalization could change how and where renewables are built, bought and sold, with ramifications for energy markets in California and across the West. “Regionalization raises a lot of issues, and we hope policymakers and other Californians who have questions about it can find answers in our new report,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of Next 10. “A carefully crafted regional transmission organization could be a game-changer for clean energy in the West. But as always, the devil is in the details.” The new report, A Regional Power Market for the West: Risks and Benefits, lays out arguments for and against expanding the western electricity market through the formation of a regional independent system operator (ISO). ISOs act as air traffic controllers for electricity, independently coordinating the planning and distribution of energy in a given area. Regional ISOs are common in most of the U.S., but in the West, the region is divided into a patchwork of individual operators, including the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Pending legislation would set the rules for how California utilities could join a regional market.

Supervisors decide to pursue Community Choice Energy Program for entire Santa Barbara County, cities. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to pursue a community choice energy program for unincorporated areas and interested cities, after a feasibility study yielded opposite conclusions to last year’s naysaying report. Community choice energy programs, or CCEs, allow counties and cities to choose the source of electricity, such as renewables including wind and solar, and set rates. Electricity would come from a different source, but still be delivered through existing utility companies to customers — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for the North County and Southern California Edison on the South Coast — said Jennifer Cregar, who works in the Community Service Department’s Division of Energy and Sustainability Initiatives.

S.C. electric cooperatives don’t want the state Supreme Court to take up Santee Cooper lawsuit. South Carolina’s electric cooperatives say Santee Cooper is slowing down a major lawsuit about who should pay for the failed Midlands nuclear project by asking the Supreme Court to take it up straight away. The co-ops, which buy the majority of the electricity generated by the Moncks Corner-based utility, say they’d rather have a lower court take up the case first so lawyers can piece together the facts of what happened to the project. The co-ops say Santee Cooper’s legal wrangling serves to delay that process in what’s sure to be an immensely complicated case. Santee Cooper, for its part, has said it wants the Supreme Court to resolve the case as soon as possible to clear the legal cloud hanging above it.

Maine regulators open new probe into complaint that utility has been gouging customers. A group of customers alleges that Central Maine Power’s rates exceed the PUC’s limit for return on equity. The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted Wednesday to launch a new investigation into whether Central Maine Power Co. has been overcharging its customers. PUC Chairman Mark Vannoy said the vote came in response to a complaint filed by over a dozen CMP customers on May 29. The complaint, led by former state Rep. Herbert Adams, D-Portland, accuses CMP of charging rates that exceed the state limit for the utility’s return on equity. It also alleges that CMP has been deliberately gouging customers to recoup losses from a massive storm in October 2017 that resulted in about 470,000 CMP customers losing power across the state. CMP filed a response to the complaint June 8, denying the allegations and requesting that the complaint be dismissed. On Wednesday, the PUC dismissed the portion of the complaint related to the October storm, but it approved the request for a general rate investigation. It gave CMP an Oct. 15 deadline to file the rate case.

Texas power demand set to break records during heat wave –ERCOT. Texas homes and businesses set a power consumption record for July for a second day in a row on Tuesday and are expected to break the all-time peak over the next week as consumers crank up air conditioners to escape a brutal heat wave, according to the operator of most of the state’s power grid. To keep air conditioners humming, Texas utilities bought electricity from all sources, boosting power prices to their highest in almost seven years.

Denver pledges 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Denver’s Mayor, who is seeking a third term, has pledged the city will source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In doing so, Denver has become the 73rd city in the United States to commit to a 100% renewable electricity target; however, few have aimed to complete the transition so quickly. Nine other Colorado cities have made a renewable electricity 100% commitment, but of course Denver is the largest. The population of Denver is 693,060 (2016). Hopefully the entire Denver metro area with a population of 3,470,235 will follow the city’s lead. Is this another political promise that cannot be met? The endorsement by Xcel energy would indicate that it is great policy based upon the economics alone. Colorado has an incredible combination of wind and solar resources. Only a handful of other states have similar resources. Split, by the continental divide, the eastern part of Colorado is a desert biome and has significant solar resources.

FERC requires expanded cyber security incident reporting. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today directed the North American Electric Reliability Corp. to develop, within six-months of the effective date of this final rule, modifications to the Critical Infrastructure Protection Reliability Standards to improve mandatory reporting of cyber security incidents, including attempts that might facilitate subsequent efforts to harm reliable operation of the nation’s bulk electric system. Under the current Critical Infrastructure Protection Reliability Standard CIP-008-5 (Cyber Security – Incident Reporting and Response Planning), incidents must be reported only if they have compromised or disrupted one or more reliability tasks. “Cyber threats to the bulk power system are ever changing, and they are a matter that commands constant vigilance,” FERC Chairman Kevin J. McIntyre said. “Industry must be alert to developing and emerging threats, and a modified standard will improve awareness of existing and future cyber security threats.”

Navigant: Energy storage PCS becoming a ‘crowded market’ The market for power conversion systems (PCS) used in energy storage is becoming “increasingly crowded” with competitors, while the diverse field of players will contribute to “rapid technological innovations and price reductions”, Navigant Research has said. Due to it being home to some of the largest and fastest growing markets for energy storage, the Asia-Pacific region could represent as much as 43.2% of the overall global market cumulatively for energy storage PCS. According to ‘Innovations in power conversion technology for grid storage’, a new report from Navigant, North America, Western Europe and Latin America will be other big contributors to the overall picture, although authors Alex Eller and Peter Asmus wrote that “all world regions are expected to see significant growth over the 10-year forecast period”.

Brown, Clark among Florida Public Service Commission finalists headed to governor. The names of six finalists for two open positions on the Florida Public Service Commission were forwarded Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott, with the list including two commissioners seeking reappointment to the panel that regulates utilities such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co. The Public Service Commission Nominating Council advanced —- without comment or opposition —- the six names to Scott after little more than an hour of interviews at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Scott has 30 days to make the two selections for the five-member Public Service Commission. The candidates for the $132,036-a-year positions are Commissioner Julie Brown, Commissioner Gary Clark, Anibal Taboas, Amir Liberman, Monica Rutkowski and Gregory Hill.

Duke Energy Carolinas files new rates to pass federal tax savings to North Carolina customers. Duke Energy Carolinas today filed new rates for North Carolina customers based on the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s (NCUC) order issued June 22. The proposed changes in customer rates include savings from recent federal tax reform. The new rates will remain below the national average, even after adjustments are made to reflect investments in cleaner, more reliable energy.

Texas Electricity Ratings announces 5 Star electricity providers in Texas. In the middle of exceptionally hot and exceptionally busy shopping season, Texas Electricity Ratings has updated their rankings for the best retail electricity providers in the state of Texas. For the first time in the history of their rankings, five electricity companies qualified for a 5-Star rating, showing that Texans have more quality choices for electricity than ever before.

PG&E demonstration project tests smart inverter benefits, electric grid impacts. Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced interim findings from an ongoing Electric Program Investment Charge project that aims to demonstrate the functionality of smart inverters. As more Californians power their lives with solar energy, energy storage and electric vehicles, PG&E is looking to the smart inverters that will be installed on those technologies to manage their interaction with the grid in support of continued clean energy growth. “We have a long history of embracing innovation and new technologies for the benefit of our customers and the communities we serve. The smart inverters being installed on our customers’ solar and energy storage systems, paired with our investment in grid operations systems and technology, show promise to facilitate distribution system reliability and power quality in the increasingly complex grid,” said Roy Kuga, vice president, Grid Integration and Innovation, PG&E.

DOE clarifies how utilities share cyber info in draft rule. Electric utilities would get more clarity on how to share critical cyber and physical security information with the Energy Department in a proposed rule that the White House is reviewing. The proposed rule would implement how the Energy Department would designate, protect and share critical electric infrastructure information from utilities. The information is about how a physical or cyberattack on the power grid could harm national security, the economy, or health and safety, according to a portion of the rule obtained by Bloomberg Environment. “Protecting our critical electric infrastructure information has been a priority of the Office of Electricity and the greater department,” a source within the administration told Bloomberg Environment. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because rule is still under review. It was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on July 10. “We’re increasing our standards and procedures related to critical electric infrastructure information following our congressional direction,” the source said.

How blockchain is transforming energy systems. Blockchain has begun to show promise for a wide range of energy applications, from energy trading platforms to carbon production registries to transaction frameworks in emerging markets. Distributed energy resources — including rooftop solar, energy storage and demand response — as well as microgrid systems and back-end business operating environments present other areas of opportunity.

Tesla is ‘aggressively ramping’ up its solar and energy products, says CTO JB Straubel. Ever since Tesla took over SolarCity to become part of Tesla Energy, the deployment of solar power has been slowing down gradually for a series of reasons ranging from a restructuring to market changes. Now Tesla is looking at a shift as it claims that demand is not a problem and now they need to increase production.

Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel made the comment to USA TODAY this week: “No one should see us as stepping back from solar. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s like with Model 3. People have come flooding in and are waiting on the product. So now we’re aggressively ramping our capacity.”


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Today’s lede: Did the Missouri Supreme Court re-energize stalled Grain Belt Express? The Missouri Supreme Court has found the state Public Service Commission erred when it relied on a precedent in an Ameren case to rule that the proposed Grain Belt Express transmission project should first get local county authorizations in order to cross the state. The ruling sends the project developer’s request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity back to the PSC for consideration.

It’s unclear how quickly the ruling might provide a lifeline to the stalled 780-mile transmission line project by Clean Line Energy Partners to take low-cost wind-generated electricity from Kansas through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana to higher-demand areas to the east. The PSC reportedly found the project in the public interest, since access to low-cost wind power would potentially save consumers millions of dollars, but felt the Ameren precedent required the project to first get approval from county authorities, where the project faces stiff landowner opposition.

“We think it’s a good decision for the state, not just for our project,” Clean Line Energy Partners President Michael Skelly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The reason you have a Public Service Commission is to have an eye out for what’s good for the state. What the Supreme Court did here is it reasserted the commission’s jurisdiction over transmission lines.”

“Missouri Farm Bureau members believe this decision makes it dangerously easy for property owners’ land to be taken by eminent domain for merchant transmission lines,” Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said in a statement. “We strongly urge the commissioners to deny this request.”

Regulators in Kansas, Illinois and Indiana have already approved the project in those states, but approval by the Missouri PSC would not immediately clear the path for the project to move forward. Illinois recently rescinded its authorization after finding the developer did not have a physical presence in the state and therefore could not qualify as a utility under state law, Bryce Gray reports in the Post-Dispatch. He quotes Skelly as optimistic that the setback in Illinois will be overcome, and that the project will remain economically viable despite the expiration of federal tax credits for wind energy.

Eric Dundon with the Hannibal Courier-Post reports that even with Missouri PSC approval the project would still need the assent of counties to begin construction. Dundon quotes Wiley Hibbard, presiding commissioner of Ralls County, as remaining steadfast in opposition to the project. “There’s no change in the county’s position, my position, or the citizens of Ralls County position,” Hibbard said. “I don’t see the assent from Ralls County forthcoming.”



Pinnacle West commits millions to fight Tom Steyer-backed ballot effort. Pinnacle West Capital Corp. has established an $11 million war chest for the upcoming political season, with a top objective to defeat a ballot initiative effort funded by billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer to require half of the state’s electricity be generated from renewables by 2030, Howard Fischer reports for Capitol Media Services. The utility behemoth has spent $7.53 million to defeat the ballot initiative, topping the $4.5 million in spending from Steyer, Fischer reports.

“Every dime we’ve spent this last six months is aimed at defeating this ballot measure before it increases electricity rates,” said Matt Benson, spokesman for the Pinnacle West-funded Arizonans for Affordable Electricity. “We’re up against a California billionaire who’s indicated he’ll spend any amount to cram this initiative down the throats of Arizona families.”

“Pinnacle West is no stranger to putting big money into political issues,” Fischer writes. “Two years ago the company spent $4.2 million to ensure that Republicans Andy Tobin, Boyd Dunn and Bob Burns won seats on the five-member [Arizona Corporation] Commission. The utility also has refused to confirm or deny that it was the source of $3.2 million from anonymous donors spent in 2014 to secure the election of Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little.”


More electric industry news items of interest:

EPA eases rules on how coal ash waste is stored across U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Tuesday to overhaul requirements for handling the toxic waste produced by burning coal, providing more flexibility to state and industry officials who had sought a rollback of restrictions put in place in 2015. The far-reaching rule will dictate how coal ash, which has contaminated waterways in two high-profile spills in Tennessee and North Carolina in the past decade, is stored at more than 400 coal-fired power plants around the country. The new standards — the first major rule signed by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler — will extend the life of some existing ash ponds from April 2019 until October 2020, empower states to suspend groundwater monitoring in certain cases and allow state officials to certify whether utilities’ facilities meet adequate standards. EPA officials estimate that the rule change will save the industry between $28 million and $31 million a year in compliance costs. “These amendments provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash, while ensuring human health and the environment are protected,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Our actions mark a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all policies of the past and save tens of millions of dollars in regulatory costs.”

Imperial Irrigation District sues Riverside County over ‘unprecedented’ solar power rule. California’s Imperial Irrigation District has sued Riverside County to block a new regulation that requires IID to bring back a popular solar program, starting a legal battle that will pit the public power agency against the Coachella Valley’s biggest rooftop solar company. The county ordinance, approved Tuesday by the board of supervisors in a unanimous vote, orders IID to provide higher compensation rates to its customers with rooftop solar panels for the electricity they generate and sell into the grid. The ordinance applies to homes and businesses in unincorporated parts of Riverside County, including the Coachella Valley communities of Bermuda Dunes, Mecca, Thermal and Thousand Palms. The La Quinta city council planned to discuss a similar policy Tuesday night. But if IID officials have their way, the county policy will never take effect. The public utility sued Riverside County last week after a preliminary vote by the supervisors on the solar policy, calling the new regulation “an unprecedented ordinance that conflicts with state law.” IID also slammed the board of supervisors for allowing Vincent Battaglia, founder of Palm Desert-based rooftop solar installer Renova Energy, to take the lead in defending the new ordinance. Riverside County’s legal counsel declined to comment publicly on the policy’s legality, instead deferring questions to Battaglia’s lawyers.

Editorial: PG&E’s power play. If Pacific Gas and Electric Co. hasn’t learned enough from its troubled past, recent events in Sacramento could explain why. The state’s politicians seem determined to shield the utility from responsibility. Newly amended legislation would allow PG&E to effectively escape billions of dollars in potential damages for last year’s Wine County wildfires by passing along the cost to its customers, The Chronicle reported this week. The proposal comes on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement with legislative leaders that they will consider narrowing utilities’ liability for future disasters. The unmistakable impression is of a comprehensive effort to inoculate PG&E against its own failures. Aside from the company’s lobbyists, lawmakers claim to be motivated by the need to head off a return to bankruptcy. Given that the full extent of the utility’s role in and responsibility for the fires has yet to be determined, however, a publicly financed bailout would be premature at best. If PG&E is preemptively protected from the last catastrophe, it will have that much less incentive to redouble its efforts to avoid the next one.

Electrical aggregation deal is saving Plymouth, Mass., residents millions. Plymouth’s participation in the “Municipal Choice Program” is into its second year, and the savings are adding up. Under this electrical aggregation agreement the supply-side of the cost of electricity for Plymouth residents and business owners has been frozen for three years at a rate of 0.1033 cents per Kilowatt hour (KWh). Meanwhile Eversource’s costs are going up and down. When Plymouth’s enrollment began, in October of 2017, there was only a slight benefit to participation. Eversource’s supply charge to customers was 10.57 cents, or a quarter of a penny higher than the aggregated price. Just a few months later, though, when Eversource bid on winter supplies for the period between January and June of 2018, their supply side cost rose over 2 cents per Kilowatt hour. That meant that Plymouth residents and business owners saved between 1.9 and 2.6 cents per Kilowatt hour for the six month period that ended June 30 of this year. All told that meant a savings of over $2 million for Plymouth residents and business owners. Supply prices generally drop during the summer, and that was the case again this year. Eversource’s summer rates (July to December 2018) are dropping to 11.4 cents, but that still translates to a savings of a penny per Kilowatt hour, and a total savings in Plymouth of over $855,000 for that period. iven that rates usually go up for the winter Plymouth Energy Officer Patrick Farah said that he expects the savings to continue through June of 2019.

Wis. utility’s rate settlement eyes depreciating fossil units, investing in renewables. Madison Gas and Electric filed a rate case settlement agreement with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin that seeks to lower electric rates and increase natural gas rates in 2019 and 2020. The settlement proposal would decrease overall electric rates by 1.94 percent in 2019, with no change proposed for 2020. The proposed decrease reflects the ongoing tax impacts of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well as the addition of lower-cost renewable generation capacity, such as MGE’s Saratoga, Iowa, wind farm currently under construction. The proposal would increase overall natural gas rates by 1.06 percent in 2019 and 1.46 percent in 2020. The proposed changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2019. As part of the settlement agreement, MGE identified steps it can take now to benefit customers both in the short- and long-term. The steps include the accelerated depreciation of certain assets, including its combustion turbines, Blount Generating Station and Columbia Energy Center Unit 1. “By essentially paying off these older assets sooner, we have more flexibility to make new investments in cost-effective renewable energy and move us toward our Energy 2030 goals while mitigating impacts on rates,” explained Jeff Keebler, MGE president and CEO. “This collaborative settlement process has resulted in multiple benefits to customers through lower electric rates and the opportunity for increased investment in sustainable energy.” A new Wisconsin law allows MGE to work with intervening parties to file a settlement agreement to resolve a rate case. This settlement agreement between MGE and intervening parties seeks to resolve issues in MGE’s rate case. The other parties in the settlement agreement are: Citizens Utility Board, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Airgas USA LLC, RENEW Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, and Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.

Distributed solar saved California over $650 million from 2013-2015, study finds. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have come together to present a new report which puts numbers on these savings. A retrospective analysis of the market price response to distributed photovoltaic generation in California focuses on the wholesale electricity market in California governed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) that represents about 80% of the electricity usage in the state. The research found that distributed PV reduced the ‘hourly mean whole electricity price’ by up to 2.9-3.2¢/kWh, 8-9%, during the peak period of 12-1 PM. This extrapolated to mean that throughout the day, utilities spent between $650-730 million less procuring electricity to provide to their customers. The analysis looked at 15-minute solar electricity production estimates, as this is the interval that generators bid for in the day-ahead market.

Investors announce massive solar project outside Las Vegas as the BLM solicits public comment. A renewable energy developer announced plans Monday for a massive solar project near the Apex Industrial Park that could export power across the Southwest grid. The proposed solar array on up to 7,100 acres of land is the latest renewable project looking to capitalize on falling costs for solar and an abundance of desert land managed by the federal government. Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, an investment firm, told Bloomberg that it could spend $1 billion on the project and said in a statement that it could start construction on the Gemini Solar Project as early as the third quarter of 2019. First the project has to be reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its environmental impacts. The BLM, which controls 67 percent  of the land in the state, also manages the public land where the solar arrays would be sited. “Solar energy is on the rise in Nevada and is now being offered at historic low prices which is great news for retail consumers and local industry,” Jeff Hunter, Quinbrook’s senior managing partner said in a statement. “We share the state’s commitment to minimizing the impact on Nevada’s land, water, and wildlife as renewable energy facilities are incorporated.” On Friday, the BLM said that it would begin its environmental review of the project with meetings for public comment the week of July 30. Conservationists have pushed back on large-scale wind and solar projects because of the impacts they have on ecosystems and threatened species.

Prolific on Facebook, online rooftop solar program called misleading by Clark County, Nev. Sometimes, a seemingly great deal is too good to be true. That’s the case with Nevada Counties Solar Program, a “business” that has advertised heavily on Facebook over the past two months promising Clark County residents the opportunity to “Go Solar At No Cost!” According to a search of Facebook’s political ad archive, the group has run about 5,700 ads since May. Recent Facebook ads from the group warn that NV Energy has “just added another increase for this summer’s electricity use,” but one can avoid the hike by signing up with the program. The ads state that Clark County is the one launching the “no-cost” solar program. The problem? It’s not true at all. Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said the county has nothing to do with the company, and has contacted both the business and Facebook in a thus-far unsuccessful effort to get them taken down after it was contacted by residents wondering what kind of no-cost solar program the government would promote. “It’s misleading. The county doesn’t endorse this company,” he said. No business by the name of “Nevada Counties Solar Program” is registered with the Nevada secretary of state, and the page did not respond to a request for comment sent by The Nevada Independent. After this story was published, a Facebook representative confirmed to The Nevada Independent that the page violated the company’s prohibition on misleading or false content and said the company had disabled further ads.

Kanawha County, W.Va., fighting water and electricity hikes. Appalachian Power Company wants to use some of the money it saved as a result of President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan to pay for coal used to generate electricity. Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper and other municipal leaders in the county have doubled down on a vow to fight utility rate increases proposed by Appalachian Power and West Virginia American Water Co. “I am not interested in requesting that they reduce their (requested) rate increase,” Carper said Tuesday. “I am going to fight as hard as I can to reduce their rates substantially.” Carper said he has talked with Kanawha County municipal leaders, as well, and all plan to fight the requested rate increases. “We’ve signed up just about every city in the county,” he said. In June, Kanawha County officials released findings by the state Public Service Commission that Appalachian Power Company was to save $235 million after President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent. West Virginia American Water Company was expected to see $11 million in savings, the Public Service Commission found. But Carper and other municipal leaders were incensed when both utilities continued with plans to ask the Public Service Commission to approve rate increases.

Mayor signs nonbinding letter of intent to privatize Lafayette, La., utility; council left in dark. Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux has signed a nonbinding letter of intent to pursue a possible deal with an affiliate of Baton Rouge-based Bernhard Capital Partners to manage and operate the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System electric division. The letter contemplates a transaction worth an estimated $526 million, with more than half that amount being paid to Lafayette Consolidated Government in the form of a lump-sum payment.

Vermont PUC appoints four to System Planning Committee. The Vermont Public Utility Commission made appointments to four of the five public seats on the Vermont System Planning Committee. The VSPC was established in 2007 to improve coordination among Vermont’s utilities in the transmission planning process, and to consider both transmission and nontransmission alternatives to meet the state’s needs. In addition to the appointments made today, membership includes all 17 electric utilities, the state’s electric energy efficiency utilities, and VELCO.

It was once a N.J. Superfund site, now it’s a solar farm. Transformation of former landfill in South Brunswick, N.J., emblematic of governor’s plan to greatly increase renewable energy. But, can more developers be enticed to invest in solar? When Gov. Phil Murphy signed an ambitious law to ramp up the state’s reliance on renewable energy this spring, he chose to do so at a former Superfund site that is being converted to a solar farm. The 68-acre former South Brunswick Landfill project is now completed, the 34th commercial solar facility undertaken by NJR Clean Energy Ventures (CEV), an unregulated affiliate of New Jersey Resources.

Why Is Hawaii Upgrading Its Power Grid? When it comes to clean energy, Hawaii’s ambitions are unmatched: by 2045, the state wants 100 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources, including solar power. Already, Hawaii generates more residential solar energy per household than any other state, and nearly 80,000 of its homes have rooftop solar panels, a number that is only expected to grow. On some days, renewables account for almost 60 percent of the state’s power. Blessed with sunny skies and trade wins, Hawaii is perfectly positioned to produce clean electricity. But a decade ago, the state imported 90 percent of its energy, mostly in the form of oil, which cost about $5 billion annually. That expense, coupled with concerns about climate change and rising oceans, led Hawaii’s legislature to address the issue by adopting renewable energy targets that culminate in the nation’s first all-clean requirement. In the years since, the state’s movement away from imported fossil fuels and toward energy independence has been unexpectedly swift. For example, Hawaii’s long-term energy plan predicted in 2007 that 11.5 megawatts of rooftop solar capacity would be installed on Oahu by the end of 2015—but thanks in part to tax credits and incentive programs, the island ended up with 300 megawatts of capacity. Hawaii’s solar boom has created a challenge for the state’s electrical grid, though, which is straining to accommodate an influx of solar and other clean energy sources. In response, Hawaii’s utilities have begun a $205 million grid modernization project that not only incorporates new equipment and technology, but also an entirely different way of managing power use. Built in part with help from Verizon, the upgraded grid promises to better facilitate Hawaii’s energy transition.

Puerto Rico’s electric utility is in chaos, with customers still awaiting power. Leadership of Puerto Rico’s troubled electric utility collapsed after a mass resignation from its board of directors. At the same time, thousands of residents are still waiting for power 10 months after Hurricane Maria.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has extended his endorsement deal with NRG. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has extended his deal to serve as an ‘ambassador’ for electricity supplier NRG through the 2018-19 season. NRG, based in Philadelphia, in October 2016 became the first area company to sign an endorsement deal with Wentz. Financial terms of that deal, as well as the extended deal, are being kept confidential. “We’re thrilled to have Carson return as an NRG ambassador for another season,” said NRG General Manager and Vice President Mike Starck in a statement. “He has made the Philly area his home, and we look forward to working with him across the region.”

Electric utilities work with cannabis growers to save on power costs. Despite knowing for years that electricity is a major expense that can significantly affect everyone’s bottom line, marijuana businesses – especially growers – are still struggling to keep costs manageable. The good news is that a burgeoning number of utility companies are working with cannabis cultivators to better manage costs.

Hydro-Quebec can charge bitcoin miners twice the regular electricity price. Cryptocurrency mining is an attractive business model in Canada. Access to cheap electricity is abundant. Hydro-Quebec has now received permission to charge higher rates to cryptocurrency miners, which will put a crimp in the plans of miners seeking to set up shop in the region. Utility providers keep close tabs on the electricity usage by Bitcoin miners. Generating Bitcoin is a very energy-intensive industry. With more firms setting up shop in Canada, the electricity usage needs to be kept in check so that residential consumers are not unduly impacted. Hydro-Quebec now has the power to do exactly that. The utility provider can charge miners higher rates for precious electricity. This decision is made by the Regie de l’energie. A hefty document was issued on Friday which touches upon Hydro-Quebec’s requests for higher energy costs to cryptocurrency mining operations. The regulator agrees with most of the company’s demands. Charging cryptocurrency miners twice the amount of regular consumers is now allowed. This will not affect current companies relying on the firm’s electricity.

New Ontario Premier’s Hydro One moves will not reduce electricity rates in the province. Government says intent behind these moves is to “lower electricity bills.” Whether these actions will have any significant effect on electricity rates remains an open question. The new Ford government has set in motion a string of high profile moves on Ontario’s electricity system. These included the ouster of Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt and the subsequent resignation of the remainder of the utility’s board, along with the announcement of the cancellation of 758 renewable energy projects. The government also specifically targeted the 18.5-megawatt White Pines wind power project in Prince Edward County for termination in its July 12 Speech from the Throne. These moves come on top of the government’s repeated statements of its intention to terminate the province’s cap and trade system for greenhouse gases, end subsidies for electric vehicles, and cancel GreenON support for home energy efficiency retrofits. The government’s intent behind these moves, as stated in its Throne Speech, is to “lower electricity bills.” Whether the government’s actions will have any significant effect on electricity costs remains an open question at best.

Australia’s energy market operator warns coal must remain part of the mix for next 20 years. The nation’s energy operator has warned that coal must be part of Australia’s energy mix for the next two decades, to ensure people’s power bills do not skyrocket further. In its latest report, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says Australia’s power network will not be reliable if coal-fired power stations close before the end of their technical life. “This approach is also cost-effective, because while existing generators still operate, they can generate at lower costs than new investment,” the report said.

Australian electricity pricing inquiry a ‘disgrace’ that won’t cut power prices, says analyst. Power prices have become a key political battleground, with accusations routinely thrown around about who is to blame for surging electricity costs.