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Tri-State G&T facing defections as co-ops seek cheaper, greener energy supply; McIntyre, citing health, steps down as FERC chairman (10/25/18)

Today’s lede: Colorado co-op votes to buy out coal-heavy long-term contract to obtain cheaper green energy supply. Electric cooperative G&T provider Tri-State Generation & Transmission is facing multiple customer defections with co-ops increasingly looking to obtain less-expensive clean energy supplies as an alternative to Tri-State’s coal-heavy supply mix. The latest defection comes as Delta-Montrose Electric Association in Western Colorado voted to issue stock to raise enough money to buy out its Tri-State supply contract.

Bill Patterson, the co-op’s board president, said the decision boiled down to dollars and cents as renewables and natural gas offer a more cost-effective electricity supply than coal. “You can politicize it all you want, but in the end economics is really what drives it,” Patterson told High Country News.

The defection trend started in 2016 when Taos, N.M.-based Kit Carson Electric Cooperative paid $37 million to buy out its Tri-State contract and obtain a cheaper renewable energy supply from Guzman Energy.

Colorado’s La Plata Electric Association is another co-op champing at the bit to obtain a cheaper, greener energy supply than Tri-State’s. The co-op is reaching the 5 percent limit for alternative supply in its Tri-State contract, and is exploring its options to get around that limitation under a contract that does not expire until 2050.

Also in Colorado, the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association board of directors adopted a resolution last month calling for Tri-State to “work expeditiously in a transparent process to determine if significant cost savings are achievable by adjusting Tri-State’s fuel mix and provide the findings to Tri-State’s members by the end of calendar year 2018.”

Tri-State serves 43 rural co-ops in four states.

Chatterjee replaces McIntyre as FERC chairman. As expected, President Trump last night named Neil Chatterjee chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after Kevin McIntyre stepped aside for health reasons. It marks Chatterjee’s second stint as chairman. For the first two-thirds of 2017, the normally five-member FERC had just one commissioner, Democrat Cheryl LaFleur. Chatterjee was named interim chairman after he was confirmed by the Senate in August of last year. McIntyre became chairman when he joined FERC last December. McIntyre joined FERC after being treated for a brain tumor earlier in the year.

“After surgery and subsequent treatment, I was able to hit the ground running as Chairman and Commissioner upon taking office,” McIntyre said in an Oct. 22 letter to President Trump. “However, I very recently experienced a more serious health setback, leaving me currently unable to perform the duties of Chairman with the level of focus that the position demands and that FERC and the American people deserve. I therefore propose to step aside from the position of Chairman and its additional duties so that I can commit myself fully to my work as Commissioner, while undergoing the treatment necessary to address my health issues.”

Chatterjee and his two Democratic FERC colleagues issued statements wishing McIntyre well as he battles his unidentified health problems. “It is with a heavy heart that I step into this role while my friend and colleague, Kevin McIntyre, focuses on what’s most important: his recovery and his family,” Chatterjee said in his statement. “I am confident that the Commission will continue to benefit from his consummate knowledge of the law and of energy policy through his service as Commissioner.”

“I also look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Chatterjee in his new role,” LaFleur said in her statement. “This is a time for close cooperation among everyone at the Commission, and I will work as hard as I can to keep our work moving forward. We have experienced a lot of change and transition during my time at the Commission. I know that our wonderful employees will stay strongly focused on their important work and the mission of the organization during leadership changes, as they have in the past. We are very lucky to have such a strong team in place across the Commission.”

“I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Commission’s important responsibilities,” Glick said in his statement. “FERC rightly has a reputation and tradition of being a non-partisan decisionmaking body. In the coming weeks, let us reaffirm our commitment to consensus building and to maintaining the agency’s independence as we engage the nation’s energy business.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a Nov. 15 hearing to consider the nomination of DOE’s Bernard McNamee to fill the fifth commissioner slot at FERC, which has been vacant since former Pennsylvania utility regulatory Rob Powelson left in August to take a position in the private sector.


Other electric industry news items of interest:

Shelk to step down as EPSA chief effective mid-2019. Electric Power Supply Association President and CEO John Shelk announced he will retire in mid-2019 when his current contract ends. “On behalf of EPSA’s Board of Directors, I want to thank John for his many years of excellent service,” said EPSA Chair Mauricio Gutierrez, President and CEO of NRG Energy. “EPSA is fortunate to have a strong staff team working with its members to promote competitive power markets. EPSA members have reaffirmed their strong support for the organization, which continues to grow and effectively advocate for competitive market policies.” The EPSA board has retained the global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry to assist it in the search for EPSA’s next leader.

New Michigan law provides reduced electricity rates to certain industrial customers. Large industrial manufacturing companies that meet certain criteria can apply to receive a reduced electricity rate under legislation signed today by Gov. Rick Snyder. “The availability of this new long-term industrial load rate will allow companies with high energy costs to continue expanding in Michigan, providing opportunities for economic growth and more jobs for Michiganders,” Snyder said. House Bill 5902, now Public Act 348 of 2018, gives the Public Service Commission authority to allow customized electricity rates for companies meeting certain criteria. Current law requires electricity rates to be based on cost of service. This bill authorizes the commission to make an exception, providing that certain requirements are met.

SDG&E withdraws counterproposal to community choice aggregation in San Diego. With a decision pending on whether the city of San Diego should adopt a government-run power program, San Diego Gas & Electric has notified city officials it is withdrawing from putting together a counterproposal to what is called Community Choice Aggregation. For the past two years, SDG&E has worked with city officials to create a program that would contract for increasing amounts of renewable energy to reach the city’s Climate Action Plan goal of 100 percent renewable sources by 2035. But in a letter to the city Monday, SDG&E’s vice president of energy supply, Kendall Helm, said “there is no clear scenario” to develop an all-renewables plan that would leave the city free of financial or legal liabilities when it came to procuring energy contracts. The utility also doubted whether the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, would approve such a proposal if a scenario developed in which customers who did not take part in the program saw an increase in their costs. The CPUC would have concerns about approving a program in which one set of customers bore the costs attributed to another set of customers, SDG&E officials said. “I’m a little surprised that this is (SDG&E’s) response but not entirely shocked, given the ambitious goals of the Climate Action Plan,” said San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez. “In order to accomplish the (100 percent renewable goals), it’s going to take a lot of work … I can only assume their math led them to that decision.”

New Yorker reports on 50 percent RPS ballot initiative battle in Arizona. Billionaire Tom Steyer, whose year-long effort to pass Proposition 127, an amendment to Arizona’s constitution that would require power companies to generate fifty per cent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, has faced aggressive opposition from the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service. In Arizona, where a recent poll found that three-fourths of the electorate wanted more solar energy, APS has spent close to $22 million campaigning against Prop 127. “You’d think we were proposing something truly harmful and dangerous,” Steyer said.

SCANA releases latest financial report in wake of nuclear fiasco. SCANA, the struggling South Carolina power company staggered by last year’s failed nuclear construction project, announced a better financial picture Thursday than it has in recent months. The company said its earnings for the third quarter of this year were $67 million, or 47 cents per share, compared to earnings of $34 million, or 24 cents per share, for the third quarter of 2017. Last year, the company was dealing with an impairment loss of $132 million associated with the V.C. Summer nuclear project, SCANA said in a news release. But overall, the company continues to struggle. SCANA’s earnings for the first nine months of 2018 were $82 million less than in the first nine months of last year.

Bartlett, Texas, voters to decide proposal to privatize municipal utility. “We get nothing for our money but high bills, high electric,” said Paul Mathis. “Trees are literally up into the lines. The transformers are old and going out left and right. Some of these polls, if you just look around, the polls are at a 45-degree angle,” said City of Bartlett Mayor Landry Pack. For almost two years, the city has been working to sell the utility company, until Pack was elected mayor in May. “I just fought as hard as I could, you know tooth and nail, that to at least have the citizens say so,” said Pack. On November’s ballot, citizens can vote to keep or sell their city-owned utility company.

Louisiana rural electric cooperatives seek to keep executive compensation private. Angered by the lucrative and largely unknown perks, Louisiana utility regulators last month demanded rural electric cooperatives give them an accounting of pay, insurance and other benefits for board members and executives of the nonprofits. And cooperatives have supplied that data to the Louisiana Public Service Commission. But most of the co-ops did so under a seal that keeps the information out of the public. “That really makes me sick,” said PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell, adding that the whole point was transparency because so few consumers or regulators know what is going on in the small and little-noticed cooperatives. “I’ll address that,” Campbell said. “How come they don’t want to tell their members how much they pay their people? I don’t like the way that smells.”

Washington State regulators scrutinize Avista Corp. acquisition by Hydro One Ltd. The proposed sale of a Spokane-based utility to a Canadian company came under intense scrutiny from Washington regulators this week. The state Utilities and Transportation Commission held a lengthy hearing in Olympia on Tuesday, with members asking how they could protect Northwest customers from bad decisions by the Ontario government.

Solar developer faces NIMBY opposition in Vermont. The developers behind the Babcock Solar Project seek to limit the scope of what its neighbors can raise concerns about, meanwhile the state has laid out a schedule for future proceedings including the date of a site visit and public hearing. Babcock Solar Farm LLC, backed by Conti Solar, of Edison, New Jersey, seeks to build a 2.2-megawatt solar facility near the intersection of Park Street Extension and 21 Country Club Road. To do so, it needs a “certificate of public good” from the state Public Utility Commission. Since announcing the project, Babcock Solar has received a fair amount of backlash from the project’s neighbors, town officials and regional planners.

A closer look at Vermont gubernatorial candidate’s record as electric co-op CEO. In her telling, Christine Hallquist transformed an antiquated organization on the brink of bankruptcy into one of the most innovative utilities in the country. She empowered employees, modernized equipment and implemented cutting-edge programs. Hallquist, now the Democratic candidate for governor, cites her 12 years as chief executive officer at Vermont Electric Coop to make the case that she’s qualified to lead the state. The Hyde Park executive, who stepped down as CEO in February to run for office, is widely credited with bringing stability to VEC. Under her watch, the co-op strengthened its finances, professionalized workplace policies, embraced new technology, reduced outages and sourced more power from renewable energy sources. Nevertheless, the version of events Hallquist has told on the campaign trail has sometimes been exaggerated and inaccurate. Public documents, regulators, customers and employees tell a less dramatic and more nuanced story about her time at VEC.

Former Pittsburgh councilor decries Aqua America-Peoples Gas proposed merger. On Tuesday, the Bryn Mawr-based water utility, Aqua America, announced plans to acquire Pittsburgh-based Peoples Gas for $4.275 billion. The all-cash deal encompasses the gas utility’s subsidiaries – including Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC, Peoples Gas Company LLC, and Delta Natural Gas Company Inc. – and the assumption of approximately $1.3 billion of Peoples’ debt. Peoples is the state’s largest natural gas provider, and the deal took many by surprise. The announcement comes just months after Peoples made an unsolicited proposal to partner with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, the public utility that provides drinking water for Pittsburgh residents. That proposal outlined a private-public partnership that foresaw Peoples footing the bill for the city’s lead line replacement and building a brand new water treatment plant, among other things. Former Pittsburgh councilor and Food & Water Watch Western Pennsylvania Outreach Liaison, Doug Shields, believes the acquisition is an orchestrated move by Peoples and Aqua to privatize the PWSA. “I don’t think anybody should be approving this merger at all,” says Shields.

Australian electricity retailers warn that default price will threaten smaller players. Energy retailers are warning that the government’s move to set a “default” tariff for household electricity starting in mid-2019 will act as a cap on prices that could squeeze smaller suppliers out of the market and choke competition. Suppliers both big and small voiced concern on Tuesday that the “safety net”-style tariff represents a return to the regulation of power prices and will stifle innovation and deter needed investment in new plants.


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Illinois regulator touts new rules on sales and marketing by competitive suppliers; Retail suppliers weigh in at FCC in proceeding on robocalls (10/24/18)

Today’s lede: Illinois regulator touts enhanced rules governing competitive energy suppliers. An “influx” of consumer complaints led the Illinois Commerce Commission in October 2017, two decades after Illinois opened its electricity market to competition, to undertake a rulemaking proceeding examining sales and marketing practices of alternative retail energy suppliers, ICC Commissioner Sadzi Martha Oliva writes in a “viewpoint” column published by Utility Dive. It was co-authored by Oliva’s legal and policy advisers, Gerardo Delgado and Janel Haretoun.

“In recent months, the alternative retail electric supply industry has come under scrutiny in Illinois for misleading and deceptive practices,” Oliva and her co-authors note. “The Illinois Commerce Commission is applying new and stronger consumer protection rules, stakeholder engagement and consumer education tools to evaluate the deregulated electric supply market.”

The resulting new rules governing competitive retailers’ sales and marketing took effect May 1 “ensuring that adequate disclosure and transparency exist in transactions taking place between consumers and (alternative retail energy suppliers). With nearly 1.8 million Illinois residential customers receiving power from an ARES, the more stringent marketing rules better equip consumers with necessary tools to make informed choices when entering into contracts for electricity with a supplier other than their utility company,” Oliva and her advisers write. “In addition to placing a high value on improved business practices, some suppliers are shifting their business model to enhance the customer’s experience and understanding of the services provided by an ARES.”

The column placed a high value on consumer education efforts, quoting Ruby Haughton-Pitts, Director of Advocacy & Outreach for AARP Illinois: “AARP believes a well-educated consumer will have the best opportunity at getting the lowest rates possible in the electric market.” Oliva et al. noted that since finalizing the new rules, the ICC has begun a push for providing a price-to-compare on consumers’ bills. Commonwealth Edison has proposed to provide its default service price on bills in the coming weeks.

Competitive retail energy suppliers among commenters in FCC call-blocking proceeding. The Retail Energy Supply Association, a trade group representing retail electricity and natural gas suppliers operating in state-level competitive markets, was among those commenting in a Federal Communications Commission proceeding on call-blocking technology, attorneys with the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo report in Lexology.

The FCC is reviewing and evaluating initial comments received as of Sept. 24, as well as reply comments received under an Oct. 8 deadline, in a proceeding examining call-blocking technologies and other technological solutions for unwanted and illegal robocalls, a leading consumer complaint and concern.

“The Public Notice aimed to build upon the FCC’s earlier inquiry into provider-initiated call blocking, and asked several questions about methods to reliably identify and block illegal robocalls, the use of traceback efforts, and how to reduce false positives that result in the improper blocking of legitimate calls,” the Mintz lawyers write. “Many industry commenters argued that over the past two decades, the FCC’s (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) interpretations have strayed significantly from the statutory intent, and this Public Notice represents an opportunity for the FCC to realign its interpretations to strictly target unwanted telemarketing robocalls.” This has led to overblocking of calls, industry commenters said.

RESA’s comments focused on “false positives” and urged the FCC to initiate “near-term action to ensure that commercial calls are no longer blocked and mislabeled.” RESA said its members “depend on the public telephone network to reach current and prospective customers in order to expand the growth of competitive energy services. Unfortunately, the illegal blocking of RESA’s members’ marketing efforts threatens to impede the further growth of competitive energy suppliers, thereby significantly degrading competition in retail energy markets and ultimately harming consumers.”


Other electric industry news items of interest:

Opponents of N.J. nuclear subsidies say plants are in the black and don’t need support. New Jersey’s three remaining nuclear power plants are making money and need not be subsidized by utility customers to remain open, according to briefs submitted to a state agency this week. In the first formal comments in a proceeding to determine whether the nuclear units require up to $300 million in annual subsidies, critics of the subsidies argued it makes no economic sense to close the Salem and Hope Creek plants in South Jersey. Using publicly available data, the independent market monitor for PJM, the nation’s largest power grid, contended there is no evidence – as its operator, PSEG Power contends – the plants are in danger of being prematurely retired. “The PSEG units are economic and expected to be economic in the foreseeable future based on market data,” according to Joseph Bowring, president of Monitoring Analytics, LLC. A consultant for PJM Providers Group, a coalition of power suppliers, agreed in another brief. “New Jersey’s nuclear plants are making money – consumers should not be forced to make them more money,” added Paul Sotkiewicz, founder of E-Cubed Associates, LLC.

Southern Environmental Law Center launches website on utility fees for rooftop solar. The Southern Environmental Law Center launched the Rates of Solar website, an interactive site that provides simple, straight-forward information about how utilities across the Southeast are treating customers with rooftop solar on their homes. The website provides easy access to information on more than 400 utility solar policies across SELC’s six-state region. “With Rates of Solar, we aim to distill complicated rooftop solar policies for hundreds of utilities across the Southeast into simple, compelling stories that resonate with customers, advocates, utilities, and decision-makers,” said Jill Kysor, SELC staff attorney. “This website provides a road map for educating and engaging communities interested in how their local utility stacks up against others when it comes to rooftop solar issues across the region.” The website’s launch coincides with the release of the “2018 Solar Makers & Brakers” in the Southeast.

Washoe County Republican urges ‘no’ vote on Nevada’s electricity choice ballot question. State ballot propositions are almost always measures that their backers couldn’t get through the Legislature so instead of being decided by those whom we elect to examine all sides of an issue they are crammed onto an already overcrowded ballot. Their backers and opponents then buy air time and media space to convince voters that a simple “yes” or “no” vote will solve all of the state’s problems so don’t waste time reading them. Backers of Question 3 say it would lead to creation of a free market of multiple suppliers of electricity, driving rates down and giving consumers and businesses choices of plans best suited to their needs. Opponents say deregulation would eliminate the Public Utility Commission’s control of electricity prices and drive Nevadans back to kerosene lamps. My take: No on Question 3.

Arizona’s renewables mandate ballot measure gets little support in Navajo County. In Navajo County, where people have been feeling the economic losses from the decline of coal-fired power plants, few seem to be embracing Proposition 127 – the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative. The measure seeks public approval for a constitutional mandate to require Arizona utilities to provide 50 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2050. Currently Arizona’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) — the amount of renewable energy required by law — is 15 percent renewable energy by 2025. The state presently gets about 12 percent of its energy from renewable sources. The proposition has become the most expensive in state history, with over $40 million spent either for or against the measure.

Editorial: Reform PURPA now. It’s time to liberate the nation’s electric utilities from a 40-year-old federal law that is badly outdated and in need of reform to reflect the realities of the modern power generation market. U.S. power producers are being forced to buy power they don’t need at above-market prices, thanks to a law Congress passed in response to the 1970s oil crisis. The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978 is obsolete and should be repealed or amended.

Florida governor: All electricity providers have goal of restoration by early November. Gov. Rick Scott announced that electric utility providers in Northwest Florida, which still have customers experiencing power outages, have set a goal and will have nearly all power restored to customers who are able to receive it by early November. This includes those in the hardest hit areas of Mexico Beach and towns in Calhoun and Jackson counties where the electrical infrastructure required a complete rebuild. By setting and working toward this goal, electric utility providers are ensuring the massive power restoration effort following Hurricane Michael, a destructive Category 4 storm, would complete one of the most challenging restoration efforts ever.

Entergy’s Palisades nuclear plant shut down in Michigan ahead of refueling. The Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan is shut down for repairs ahead of a planned refueling outage. Officials say operators shut down the reactor Oct. 13 for work on a degrading control rod drive seal and during the maintenance an internal transformer fault occurred, resulting in the loss of power supply to several components. The plant says it remained in safe and stable condition. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said last week that radioactive water leaked through the seal, but it never reached outside the plant’s barriers and there’s no threat to the public. The plant is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., which plans to close it in 2022. The plant is in Van Buren County’s Covert Township, along Lake Michigan.

N.Y. news report cites Ginna refueling outage as economic engine. Monday morning, the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant shut down. It was a planned refueling outage and it happens every 18 months. Ginna shuts down the plant to work on maintenance activities and replace a third of the used fuel with clean fuel. Approximately 700 additional workers travel to Wayne County filing hotels, restaurants and shops for several weeks. “We notice as a rental unit, how fast we fill up, how many workers that actually have to come in so we generally sell out around this time as well,” said Mark Ehlers, operations manager at Avalon Suites. Lakeside Restaurant has also become a frequent stop for many workers. “A lot of them stay in Webster there’s not really hotels out this way, so on their way through they stop here and on their way home they stop again,” said Colleen Wells, manager. Over the years, both the workers and local businesses have come to look forward to the several weeks during the plant’s refueling.

Shell joins Global Wind Energy Council. In a move that was likely unthinkable only two decades ago, Royal Dutch Shell, better known as Shell, the British and Dutch oil and gas supermajor, has joined the Global Wind Energy Council. Shell is said to also be expanding its wind business as part of its Shell New Energies Strategy and will take part in the council’s recently announced Offshore Taskforce which will work to accelerate development of offshore wind technology in non-European markets such as Asia and North America. “We are pleased to join GWEC and their Offshore Taskforce to help accelerate the development of offshore wind, an important part of Shell’s growing New Energies portfolio,” said Dorine Bosman, VP Shell Wind Development. “We look forward to working with Ben and his team and the other GWEC members.”

U.S. corporate renewable energy procurement hits record levels. Corporate renewable energy procurement is currently on track to exceed 5 gigawatts (GW) in 2018, according to figures announced recently by the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, which is so far tracking a new record of at least 4.96 GW worth of new capacity already acquired this year. So far this year (as of October 19) there have been 59 deals signed by US corporates for a total of 4.96 GW — already a new record over the previous high of 3.22 GW set in 2015, and representing the most first-time buyers in a single year.

Walmart, SunPower announce 23-MW solar agreement in Illinois. Renewable energy agreement is projected to cover 21 sites in Illinois. Walmart announced that it has reached an agreement with SunPower to have the commercial energy provider install solar systems at 19 stores and two distribution centers in Illinois. As part of the project, a mix of rooftop and ground-mount solar systems are expected to account for 23 megawatts, with start of construction targeted for the first half of 2019. This commitment moves Walmart closer to its 2025 goal of supplying its global operations with 50 percent renewable energy.

Facebook boosts Los Lunas data center with another 100 MW of solar. Facebook’s $1 billion data center in Los Lunas in New Mexico will benefit from an additional 100 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity after approval was granted for the construction of two 50 MW solar farms, ensuring that the data center is served with 100% renewable electricity.

Dynamic Energy breaks ground on community solar project in New York. Dynamic Energy Solutions, LLC begins construction on the Capital Region Community Solar Garden – the largest community solar garden in New York State. The solar garden, located in Albany County, NY, offers National Grid Zone F customers an easy and cost-effective way to go solar. The 5,486 kW ground mounted, community solar project will generate over 7,300,000 kWh per year, the equivalent of powering over 800 New York homes. The Capital Region Community Solar Garden requires no up-front cost, no installation, and a discount based on past electricity rates for as long as a resident subscribes. Renters, homeowners, businesses, and many others who are not able to go solar on their own, now have access to clean, renewable solar energy.

Nestlé Waters North America signs renewable energy agreement with ENGIE Resources. Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), together with ENGIE Resources, today announced they have signed a renewable energy agreement through which ENGIE will supply over 50 percent of the energy needed for NWNA’s manufacturing and distribution facilities in Texas. With this agreement, NWNA operations in Travis, McLennan, Dallas, and Harris counties will be supplied by renewable wind energy from the Midway Wind Farm in San Patricio County, Texas, supporting Nestlé’s global goal to transition to 100 percent renewable energy use in its operations.

Commission approves €200 million in public support for renewable energy for self-suppliers of electricity in France. The European Commission has approved under EU state-aid rules a measure to support electricity production from renewable sources for self-consumption in France until 2020. The measure will further the EU’s energy and climate objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This scheme will stimulate competition between renewable energy sources for self-suppliers and will further increase the share of renewables in France’s energy mix. The technology-neutral tenders will contribute to France’s transition to low carbon and environmentally sustainable energy supply, in line with the EU environmental objectives and our state aid rules.”

EU negotiators agree on ‘dynamic pricing’ of electricity. Energy companies with more than 200,000 clients will be obliged to provide households with at least one offer comprising dynamic price contracts, under an EU-level agreement reached behind closed doors last week, has learned. European Union legislators made headway on a proposed overhaul of EU electricity market rules, striking an agreement on “aggregators” – or virtual power plants, which make money from storing electricity or managing the energy consumption of their clients. The deal on dynamic prices makes way for aggregators to enter the electricity market en masse and disrupt the sector in the same way that virtual network operators disrupted the telecoms market.


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S.C. judge reportedly about to declare unconstitutional state law allowing nuclear cost pass-through; ComEd to provide price-to-compare on consumers’ bills (10/23/18)

Today’s lede: S.C. lawmaker tells reporters state’s CWIP law about to be ruled unconstitutional. The regulatory jargon for it is a “construction work in progress,” or CWIP. That is the essence of a controversial state law that has allowed South Carolina Electric and Gas to pass on billions to captive ratepayers for a failed nuclear power plant development effort.

Citing a state senator and unnamed sources, Avery Wilks, reporter for South Carolina’s The State newspaper, writes that the state judge considering a challenge to the highly controversial 2007 Baseload Review Act, will by week’s end declare unconstitutional the law allowing consumers to be on the hook for the multibillion-dollar failed new nuclear build effort.

“The ruling could be disastrous for SCE&G, which has threatened to file for bankruptcy if its shareholders are forced to eat the nuclear project’s costs,” Wilks writes. What an understatement. The utility’s stock tanked immediately on the news that, not only is SCG&E’s pending collections under the CWIP law in doubt, but it could be on the hook for refunding billions it has already collected from consumers who will never see an electron from the abandoned project unless a security guard scuffs a shoe.

The judge has reportedly asked attorneys challenging the law to draft rulings he could issue declaring the state law unconstitutional. In additional to the financial earthquake, such a ruling likely would be a death knell for Dominion’s pending acquisition of the South Carolina investor-owned utility.

See also Andrew Brown’s bylined story on the stunning development in the Charleston Post and Courier.

Commonwealth Edison to include price to compare on bills. Exelon’s Commonwealth Edison will include its default price on bills providing a price-to-compare for customers purchasing from alternative competitive suppliers in the state’s electricity market, Steve Daniels reports in Crain’s Chicago Business.

“Guess we should have read the fine print. Because that’s where consumers will need to look on their bills to find ComEd’s price-to-compare if they start to suspect they’re paying too much to keep the lights on,” Daniels writes disparagingly. “How will this help the thousands of residential customers who have no clue they’re paying far too much for electricity after they’ve signed up with an alternative supplier? It’s not a stretch to say that it won’t.”

It’s curious to have a crusading consumer reporter at a business newspaper. Nevertheless, based on Daniels’ reporting, the newspaper recently editorialized in support of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s call for the state to end electricity competition in the residential market.

“So why is ComEd doing this, particularly after a second-straight annual [Illinois Commerce Commission] report showing households getting their power from non-utility suppliers collectively paying well over $100 million more than they would with ComEd?,” Daniels posits. “Might it have something to do with the fact that ComEd’s sister company, Constellation Energy, is the largest retail electric supplier in Illinois? The opposition of Chicago-based Exelon, parent of both ComEd and Constellation and arguably the most politically potent corporation in the state, has prevented meaningful reform in Springfield of an industry in desperate need of it,” he opines.

“Burying price-to-compare information on people’s electric bills does nothing to inform and protect consumers,” Daniels quotes a Madigan spokeswoman’s email. “We will continue to push for utilities to make this information clear and complete so customers can make informed decisions about their electricity and cancel service with expensive and predatory alternative suppliers.”


Other electric industry news items of interest:

Ameren announces agreement to build a Missouri wind farm. Ameren said Monday that, when completed, it will acquire power from a new 157-megawatt wind farm in Atchison County, in northwest Missouri. “Our transition to cleaner forms of generation is building momentum,” said Michael Moehn, Ameren Missouri’s president, in a release announcing the move. Monday’s announcement comes just five months after the company etched plans to build an even bigger Missouri wind farm. In May, Ameren took “its first major step” toward its new renewable energy goals when it announced that it would get power from a 400-megawatt wind farm in northeast Missouri — billed at the time as the largest in the state, once completed.

Arizona needs to use its solar capabilities. Why do we need to pass Proposition 127? Because it is good for the state, our economy and the planet. Last year, APS’s 15-year energy plan submitted to Arizona utility regulators included adding 5,500 megawatts of electricity from gas and only a minuscule 16 megawatts from utility-scale renewables, which will lock in fossil-fuel generation for decades. Arizona has one of the best solar resources in the U.S. and solar is now routinely purchased by utilities for less cost than gas, a new paradigm in energy generation. Additionally, combinations of solar with batteries are rivaling the cost of gas. It simply makes sense to generate power from solar, rather than gas, which contributes to climate change, which is more expensive and volatile in price.

Buyer, watchdog group at odds on timing of Vermont Yankee sale. The current and prospective owners of Vermont Yankee are pressing for a quick state decision on the Vernon plant’s future, but one watchdog group wants to put on the brakes. Entergy and NorthStar are asking the state Public Utility Commission to rule on the sale of Vermont Yankee by next week. With federal regulators having already approved the transfer of the plant’s nuclear license to NorthStar, an attorney for the two companies argues that there is “no need for any further filings or process” in the long-running state review. But the Conservation Law Foundation argues that state officials should take more time to consider the recent decision from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which imposed a few new requirements on the transaction. “This is a major proceeding and a very significant project for Vermont,” said Sandra Levine, a senior attorney with the law foundation. “It is important to make sure the (state) is able to carefully consider all the information available, including the new provisions from the NRC.”

DOE announces $53 million in new projects to advance solar technologies. Today, the Department of Energy announced selections for up to $53 million in new projects to advance early-stage solar technologies. Through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, DOE will fund 53 innovative research projects that will lower solar electricity costs and support a growing solar workforce. “Innovation is key to solar’s continued growth in our nation’s energy portfolio. It increases our energy diversity and reinforces our ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” said Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “Developing new skills through workforce training is critical to expanding job opportunities in the renewable sector, which is why we are following through on our program to reach out to military veterans with new projects that will target this committed workforce.”


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Advertising war intensifies as clock ticks down on Nevada electricity choice ballot measure; Chicago business newspaper editorializes in support of shutting down residential electricity choice in Illinois (10/22/18)

Today’s lede: Advertising war peaking as clock ticks down to vote on Nevada’s Question 3. KTNV television cites election reports indicating nearly $100 million in contributions related to Nevada’s ballot initiative to end monopoly utility regulation in the state and allow consumers to choose among competitive suppliers. The Coalition to Defeat Question 3, as the ballot measure is called, has amassed a $63 million war chest, with the vast majority of that coming from NV Energy, the Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility company serving Nevada. The group advocating passage has collected some $33 million, primarily from the Las Vegas Sands casino company and Switch, the data services company.

“That is $63 million in ratepayer money, the money that we paid in electric bills,” complained a spokesman for Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices, the group advocating passage of Question 3. NV Energy denied that any ratepayer funds were being used in support of the effort to defeat Question 3.

The initiative passed in 2016 with the support of more than 70 percent of those voting. It must pass a second time in order to effectively change the state constitution to mandate electricity competition. But NV Energy sat out that election without taking a position either way. It looks like the vote next month will have a different outcome now that NV Energy is battling passage. According to the KTNV report, polling last month by Suffolk University, sponsored by the Reno Gazette-Journal, found those opposing the ballot measure with a 19 point lead in the race, while 16 percent of respondents were undecided.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Independent has a brief feature on the latest ad opposing Question 3. And Thomas Mitchell, a columnist who columns are published in several Nevada newspapers, is writing in support of passage. “Free markets tend to reduce cost and encourage innovation,” Mitchell writes. “Let the free market system do what it does best, vote for Question 3.”

Finally, a media watchdog is highlighting the fact that the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by Question 3 supporter and Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, is editorializing in favor of Question 3. Media Matters for America is blasting the paper for kowtowing to its owner’s financial interests alledgedly without revealing its ties to the “GOP campaign donor.” It cited an Oct. 18 editorial officially endorsing passage of the ballot measure.

But it should hardly come as a surprise to any voter in Nevada that Adelson owns the newspaper and is putting his money behind passing the ballot question. And it’s not like the paper is trying to hide anything, as it clearly stated in a previous editorial published Sept. 29:

“For the record, the Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, who has provided financial support for Question 3. But this paper has a decadeslong history of supporting free choice and free markets. Competition has proven a boon to consumers in virtually every nook of the economy and has driven America’s long prosperity. Why prevent Nevada consumers from reaping the potential benefits when it comes to their energy provider?”

Chicago business newspaper editorializes in favor of ending residential choice in electricity. In the wake of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s headline-grabbing call for the state to end electricity choice for residential customers, Crain’s Chicago Business has published an editorial supporting closing down the residential market and questioning whether those campaigning to be the next attorney general will have the “appetite” for such an “audacious” agenda.

“Just over two decades after Illinois made national headlines by deregulating its electricity markets, it’s painfully clear that the experiment – at least on the residential side of the equation – has failed miserably,” the editorial board writes. “Legislation that would pull the plug on the residential market collapsed in Springfield this year, but the power marketers’ deceptive tactics have been so prolific – and the regulatory oversight so weak – that consumers can only hope some intrepid lawmaker will try again.”

The editorial was skeptical that the candidates vying to take Madigan’s job in next month’s election will carry the torch. “The open question now is whether the two candidates vying for Madigan’s seat – Democrat Kwame Raoul and Republican Erika Harold – have any appetite for this battle. It’s fair to have doubts, given that front-runner Raoul has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from utility interests. His power industry haul eclipses Harold’s, but utility players lately have been hedging their bets and throwing thousands her way as well.”


Other electric industry news items of interest:

DOE’s Perry defends subsidy plan for baseload coal, nuclear power plants. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, speaking to reporters in San Antonio, said his department is still committed to giving support to coal and nuclear subsidies. He said the department’s plan is with the Trump Administration. When asked about reports that the plan, is stalled in the White House, Perry said “You can find a report about anything in Washington.” He likened the subsidies to government spending on the military, calling the issue a matter of national security.

Trump administration foregoes coal and nuclear bailout in win for free market-loving Americans. It seems the possibility of the Trump administration bailing out coal and nuclear plants has been put to rest for now. This is good news for electricity customers, the integrity of competitive markets, limited government fans, states, and in the long term, the coal and nuclear industries as well.

Plans to finish Bellefonte Nuclear Plant may be collapsing. Plans to complete Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in northeast Alabama – expected to create a economic windfall for the rural area – are in jeopardy of falling through. Bill McCollum, CEO of the group in the process of purchasing the half-completed plant outside Scottsboro, said in a guest column published Friday in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that if Memphis Light, Gas & Water declines to agree to purchase electricity from the plant, it could scuttle the entire deal for the plant. Nuclear Development LLC has applied for more than $8 billion in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy to complete the plant. Without an updated “letter of intent” from Memphis Light to purchase the power – a non-binding version of which Memphis Light signed in January – McCollum wrote in the guest column that the company could walk away from Bellefonte.

Graham co-op CEO says no to Arizona’s Prop. 127. I am the CEO of Graham Electric Cooperative, the nonprofit electric cooperative that provides electricity to the families, schools, churches and small businesses of Graham County. I am voting no on Proposition 127 — the initiative that will mandate that utilities provide 50 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030 — I hope you will consider my reasons for doing so. In voting no on Proposition 127, my reasons are founded in keeping our county affordable for families of all incomes and in making sure our businesses remain successful for years to come.

Environmentalist sues to block smart meters at N.Y. utility. A local environmentalist is suing the New York Public Service Commission and Orange & Rockland to stop the rollout of smart electric meters and gas modules across Orange, Sullivan and Rockland counties. Deborah Kopald, of Highlands, recently filed suit in state Supreme Court in Albany County against the utility and the PSC, an Albany-based state utility regulator that approved Orange & Rockland’s smart meter rollout plan. Kopald argues the PSC didn’t adequately consider the forced obsolescence of working meters; exposure to potential cyber threats from hackers; health concerns; and privacy and up-charging worries from the mass collection of energy use data. O&R contends the meters will provide greater choice, control and convenience over energy use, support quicker service restoration after outages, and reduce meter reading and field services costs.

Pacific Power tells Oregon county officials they lacks authority over smart meters. On Thursday, the Josephine County Board of Commissioners met for their first reading of an ordinance intended to appease those who have resisted Pacific Power’s transition to smart meters. By Friday, the utility company had responded — indicating that no such thing was possible. “As a member of the local community, we always seek to earn our customers’ business and uphold their trust. That responsibility includes providing clear and helpful information around Josephine County’s proposed ordinance,” Pacific Power said in a statement. The utility company said that they had sent a letter directly to the County, laying out their response. Pacific Power also said that they had requested that the proposed ordinance be removed from consideration. “We were compelled to send this letter because the rates and regulations that govern our business are determined exclusively by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon. This ensures fairness for all of our Oregon customers. We are committed to addressing all stakeholders’ concerns within the framework established by the Oregon legislature and the Public Utility Commission of Oregon,” Pacific Power said.

North Dakota-based co-op expanding renewable energy resources. The business of generating electricity is changing, according Jeff Haase, leader of member technology and innovation for Great River Energy. Haase told the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce energy luncheon Tuesday that GRE generates much of its electricity in North Dakota, including the Spiritwood Station in Stutsman County, although its consumers are located in Minnesota and Wisconsin. GRE is an electric cooperative made up of member cooperatives that serve about 1.7 million homes farms and businesses. “Our forecast is for competitive and stable rates,” Haase said.

NorthWestern’s crusade against renewables in Montana. At issue this time is a 2005 Montana law aptly titled the “Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act.” The law requires monopoly utilities, such as NorthWestern, to get a certain amount of power from community renewable energy projects. By design, compliance with the law would necessitate multiple projects being built, thereby spreading jobs and tax revenue across rural areas of the state. NorthWestern has had 13 years to comply with the law, but it has never done so. Instead, per usual, the company has spent considerable time and effort before the Montana Legislature and Public Service Commission fighting the renewable energy law and making excuses for why it can’t support rural economic development. That’s 13 years of lost opportunity for new jobs, local government revenue, and environmental benefits for Montana communities.

McNally advocates for Montana utility customers. Much of the work of the Montana Legislature involves complex public policy issues. One of the most complex is utility regulation. Voters in Billings may not be aware of the work in this area of Sen. Mary McNally. Several years ago, McNally proposed that NorthWestern Energy use competitive solicitations to ensure it was receiving the lowest price for new electricity supply resources. Although the bill was not approved, Sen. McNally acted as a strong advocate for utility customers.

Sunrun tops list of solar companies in Navigant Research assessment. Navigant Research gives Sunrun top billing in an assessment of 10 rooftop solar providers’ “strategy and execution” in the residential market. “These players are rated on 12 criteria: vision; go-to market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; geographic reach; sales, marketing, and distribution; product performance; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; pricing; and staying power,” Navigant says. The rankings after Sunrun were, in order: “Tesla, Vivint Solar, E.ON, SunPower, Sunplug, Sunnova, Huawei, Soligent and ZEN Energy.

‘It’s a big scam’: Quebec company accused of fleecing customers buying solar panels. Hydro-Québec says savings promised by solar company are virtually impossible. A solar-panel company based in Longueuil is being accused of misleading customers with exaggerated claims about what they will save on their energy bill. Lanaudière resident André St-Pierre and Granby resident Francis Gareau both purchased solar panels after being visited by a representative from Rénovations et constructions Gauthier et Péloquin. Gareau said he was promised a 70 per cent reduction in his Hydro-Québec bill if he bought 15 solar panels and a heat pump. That cost him $36,000 through a 10-year financing plan. In both cases, the panels did not deliver the promised savings. According to Gareau, his savings amounted to about $5 per month. “It’s a big scam,” he said.

Greenpeace is selling ‘a lie about the dangers of nuclear power’, expert claims. The price of electricity in Australia is higher than almost anywhere else in the world. Families across the nation are struggling to pay their bills, and just last week new Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to make it the priority of his government to lower the cost of our expensive and unreliable electricity. But to do so, he says he may have to take provocative action, including overturning the current ban on nuclear power. It is a cheap and dependable power source, but opponents of the idea fear Australia will be the next victim of a catastrophic disaster such as Fukushima. But what if nuclear power isn’t as threatening as we have all been led to believe? Could it potentially be the answer to all of Australia’s power price woes?

Variable rate supply contract costs UK army. Defence chiefs are paying as much as £38 to boil a kettle during winter because of a scheme designed to save energy in winter. The Ministry of Defence has put up notices telling recruits to turn off lights, shut down computers and avoid using microwaves during peak hours. Military bosses have signed up to the scheme despite repeated warnings over UK military funding and fears of a £20 billion hole in funding for the armed forces. Under the pricing system, explained in the warning notices, the cost of boiling a kettle for two minutes rises from two pence to a staggering £38. Running a 900W microwave for three minutes can cost £14 instead of one penny while the price of using a games console for an hour would shoot up from two pence to £2.70.  A 60W lightbulb would cost 90 pence to run for an hour instead of the usual one penny, the signs say. Recruits are told to save energy when EDF, which supplies the MoD’s electricity, alerts it to likely spikes in demand.


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Mild winter forecast may offset price volatility risk from low natural gas storage inventories (10/19/18)

Today’s lede: Will mild winter tamp down price volatility risk from low natural gas storage inventories? There’s been quite a lot of buzz heading into the shoulder months about low natural gas storage inventories this winter heating season. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Winter 2018-1019 Energy Market Assessment points to the elephant in the living room, noting that storage inventories going into this winter are at their lowest levels since 2005.

“The Energy Information Administration projects natural gas storage inventories to start the withdrawal season with 3,308 Bcf. This would be the lowest inventory level since 2005 and a 12.7 percent decrease from last year’s level,” FERC staff said in a presentation during yesterday’s regular open meeting. Every region of the country currently has inventories below their five‐year averages, according to the assessment, which notes EIA’s forecast sees inventories building through the winter months to reach historic parity by February.

Given low levels of gas in storage, a cold weather snap – in recent years we’ve experienced the “polar vortex” and a “bomb cyclone” – would spike prices for both home heating and electricity this winter. Fortunately, weather forecasts point to mild winter this year.

“The current NOAA three‐month outlook predicts a higher than average probability for warmer temperatures” this winter, the FERC assessment notes. “NOAA also predicts an El Niño climate pattern this winter, which would result in warmer than average winter temperatures in the Northeast, Mid‐West, and Western states, while Southeastern states would see temperatures on par with historical levels”, the report continues, noting that a warmer than average winter would moderate fuel and electricity demand.  “However, as seen with last winter’s bomb cyclone, prolonged cold weather events would increase short‐term demand for natural gas and electricity.”

The American Gas Association’s winter outlook released yesterday forecasts lower prices this winter for consumers, based on the expectation of a milder winter. But it also warns of the potential for pipeline constraints should demand spike. The Natural Gas Supply Association, however, in its recent winter outlook predicted that record gas demand this winter will be met by record production.

The theme of record gas demand was echoed in the FERC outlook, which noted that natural gas consumption hit a record high this summer season, which set the stage for this season’s low storage levels despite gains in production. “The main contributors to the increase in natural gas demand were electric power generation and LNG exports,” FERC said, while Louisiana and Texas experienced “notable production growth.”

Electricity costs become a campaign issue in Kansas gubernatorial race. Politico reports that Kris Kobach, a Republican running for the Kansas governor’s office, Kansas, is broadcasting an ad accusing his opponent, Democrat Laura Kelly, of being “just like Obama” on energy policy by voting for energy regulations that increased Kansas electricity bills $600 annually. “Did you know that Kansas electricity bills are now 24 percent higher than in surrounding states? We don’t need more costly regulations. We need lower electricity bills, so Kansas families can make ends meet,” Kobach says in the ad.


Other electric industry news items of interest:

New England power line opposition brings together unusual alliance. Environmental groups and gas generators both oppose the project, which would carry Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts. The proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line is creating an unusual alliance of opponents in Maine that range from environmental groups to fossil fuel power generators. Groups that are more often on opposite sides of energy debates are making cases against the proposed $950 million, 1,200 megawatt transmission line, which would carry Canadian hydropower through northern and western Maine on its way to Massachusetts. Maine utility regulators will hold the first of five hearings in a final round of testimony Friday on the proposed 145-mile transmission line. The project is a joint venture of the provincially owned Hydro Quebec power generator and the Central Maine Power (CMP) distribution utility.

Utility to run controversial transmission line under Maine’s Kennebec Gorge. The utility under contract with Massachusetts to import Quebec hydro-electricity into New England said that it now plans to run the transmission lines under rather than over the Kennebec Gorge in Maine. The transmission line has stirred opposition in Maine for a variety of reasons, but the prospect of high-voltage transmission wires running 200 feet above a river known for its white water rafting has been a focal point of concern. “We are changing our proposal to address a key concern of state environmental regulators,” said a statement issued by Doug Herling, president and CEO of Central Maine Power. “This has always been under consideration. We believe this change may also encourage stronger support from those who appreciate the project’s benefits, but want to preserve the commercial and aesthetic value of the river as well.

U.S. Interior Department to hold Massachusetts offshore wind auction in Dec. 13. Nearly 400,000 acres of the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area will be up for grabs in December, as the Trump administration holds its next offshore wind auction, officials announced this week.  U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke revealed Wednesday that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will auction off 388,569 acres located on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Massachusetts on Dec. 13.  A total of 19 companies — including Deepwater Wind New England, LLC, Mayflower Wind Energy LLC, and Northeast Wind Energy, LLC, among others – have qualified to take part in the auction, according to the agency’s final sale notice.

N.J. lawmakers hear upbeat update on offshore wind. New Jersey is at the center of a developing offshore-wind industry along the East Coast, ideally situated to reap the economic benefits of a rapidly growing sector, legislators were told yesterday. With the nation’s most aggressive offshore-wind targets in the nation and some of its most abundant wind resources, New Jersey aims to be a national leader in developing the clean energy, according to officials and consultants. “Every dollar invested in clean energy today will provide us with tremendous returns on new economic activity,’’ Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso told the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. The committee, getting a briefing on the status of the state’s offshore-wind goals, heard a rundown on the spate of wind farms proposed for up and down the Eastern Seaboard, as well as the declining costs of building wind turbines off the coast. “The price for offshore wind is more economical than originally anticipated,’’ said Fiordaliso, when pressed on how much it would cost ratepayers.

Op-ed: What offshore wind could do for economy and jobs in New Jersey. On Sept. 13, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state is on course to reach its benchmark goal of 3,500 megawatts of offshore-wind energy capacity by 2030. The investment in offshore wind is strategic because of the expected capacity to match – and exceed – existing energy needs. “Wind Power to Spare,” a recent Environment New Jersey report, indicates there is enough wind off the Atlantic coast to generate four times the amount of electricity that the region currently consumes. New Jersey is well-positioned to harness abundant renewable energy from Atlantic Ocean wind currents, with our largest urban areas, Newark and Jersey City, proximate beneficiaries. If the state delivers on the governor’s plan, it would mean a lot for responsible environmental policy and economic development – and for union workers.

Christine Hallquist would like to talk about the power grid. The Vermont Democrat is the first transgender person to be nominated for governor. She’s facing a Republican incumbent whose popularity has tumbled recently. Christine Hallquist is the first transgender person to be nominated for governor by a major party, and she knows people are interested in hearing her life story. She is more than happy to tell it, but the thing she really wants to talk about is the electric grid. “The foundation of all humanity, way back to the beginning, has been energy,” she said, walking outside the Washington County Treatment Court, a drug-treatment program, on a brisk fall day. “The rise and fall of empires has been based on energy.” Ms. Hallquist, 62, a plain-spoken Democrat who spent more than a decade running an electric utility company, has been enthralled by science and engineering ever since she was young, when classmates mocked her for being feminine and the nuns at school beat her and recommended her parents treat her nonconformity with an exorcism.

Citizens Utility Board to discuss future of affordable, clean energy in Illinois. The Citizens Utility Board consumer watchdog group, Coles County Progressives, the Prairie River Network, and Faith in Place will host a discussion to gather opinions from Charleston and Mattoon residents on how Illinois can take advantage of opportunities to make clean energy affordable and accessible to everyone across the state. Participants will be asked to provide feedback on the needs of their communities as they relate to jobs, environmental justice and energy efficiency. CUB’s Environmental Outreach Coordinator Scott Allen, along with representatives from Prairie Rivers Network and Faith in Place, will facilitate this community conversation, titled “How Illinois Can Win a Clean, Equitable Energy Future.” Renewable energy experts from Eastern Illinois University and Lake Land College as well as solar energy installers will also participate in a panel discussion to answer audience questions.

Illinois class action suit accuses electricity retailer with ‘bait and switch’ pricing. A new proposed class action in Illinois federal court takes aim at Sperian Energy Corp., accusing the retail electric supplier of a classic “bait and switch” scheme that fleeced consumers.

Minnesota regulators hold hearing on natural gas plant. State regulators were in Duluth on Thursday weighing Minnesota Power’s proposed $700 million natural-gas plant in Superior. Supporters and opponents of the proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center packed into the Duluth City Council Chambers as the five-member Minnesota Public Utilities Commission questioned company and state officials about the project’s need and public interest — requirements the project must meet for the PUC to sign off on it. Duluth-based Minnesota Power wants to build the 550-megawatt plant with La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative on a plot of land between Enbridge Energy’s Superior terminal and the Nemadji River.

Florida PSC opens fresh hearings into sale of Vero Beach’s municipal utility to FPL. A citizens group challenging the takeover of Vero Beach’s electric utility by Florida Power & Light Co. questioned the accounting underlying the deal Thursday as hearings opened before the Public Service Commission. The commission has already preliminarily OK’d the transfer — that happened on July 2. Thursday’s hearing centered on the Civic Association of Indian River County’s challenge to an $116.2 million “acquisition adjustment” that FPL would levy against its ratepayers. “They’re saying that without these special favors that they want from the commission that they just can’t do the deal,” said Lynne Larkin, an estates and transactional attorney and former city commissioner representing the watchdog group in her first foray into utilities regulation. “Our position is that there hasn’t been enough negotiation, and enough putting your foot down and saying, ‘Yeah, you can make this better,’” she said. “This deal can go forward. But, for some reason, the will of our government has not been such to put their feet to the fire.” The PSC is expected to decide the matter next month.

$3 billion already spent to end longest blackout in US history. Could renewable energy help Puerto Rico? Visitors to Casa Pueblo, a community center in this mountain hamlet, can tour the solar-powered meeting rooms, listen in on the solar-powered radio station or catch a documentary at the solar-powered movie theater. Later, they could lunch at one of Puerto Rico’s first fully solar-powered restaurants just down the street. On an island gripped by energy anxiety, Casa Pueblo is a calming oasis. “This is the model we want for the rest of the [island],” said Alexis Massol-González, founding director of Casa Pueblo, a community center and renewables advocacy group. “It would be an energy revolution.”

Montana Democratic PSC candidate sees coal’s uncertainty as biggest challenge. Havre Democrat Doug Kaercher is running against Sun River Republican Randy Pinocci to serve the 19-county District 1 of the Montana Public Service Commission. The seat, which represents residents from Toole, Choteau and Cascade counties east to the North Dakota border, is currently held by Great Falls Republican Travis Kavulla, who is term limited and will join the Washington, D.C. think tank, R Street Institute.

FERC acts on cyber security risks with new supply chain-related reliability standards. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved new mandatory Reliability Standards to bolster supply chain risk management protections for the nation’s bulk electric system. The new standards will augment current Critical Infrastructure Protection standards to mitigate cyber security risks associated with the supply chain for grid-related cyber systems. Today’s final rule closely follows what FERC outlined in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in January 2018.

Ice-based thermal energy installations on the rise as market grows. Air cooling is also one of the easier electrical loads to shift to off-peak demand times. Thermal Energy Storage (TES) is an established technology that reduces grid stress by shifting cooling-energy use from high-peak periods, when demand and rates are highest, to off-peak periods, when rates are lower, and is becoming increasingly prevalent. TES systems involve temporarily holding thermal energy in a hot or cold phase and releasing that energy for later on-demand use. Several U.S. companies use ice-based TES systems installed on rooftops: The ice is made with air conditioning equipment, integrated into the TES system at night – when demand for electricity is low – and then released to cool buildings, skyscrapers and other retail installations such as grocery stores to keep produce cold.

Sharyland Utilities announces transaction with Sempra Energy. Sharyland Utilities announced that it has signed a definitive agreement with Sempra Energy to co-invest in Sharyland’s South Texas utility business as part of a broader set of transactions among InfraREIT Inc. and its subsidiary, Sharyland Distribution & Transmission Services, as well as Oncor Electric Delivery Co. Sempra Energy owns an indirect 80.25 percent interest in Oncor. “For the past 20 years, Sharyland has committed itself to finding value-added transmission solutions that benefit customers throughout Texas,” said Hunter Hunt, founder and Chairman of Sharyland Utilities. “The transaction announced today is an important next chapter in our history, as we believe that Sempra Energy will be a fabulous partner as we continue our development efforts going forward.” The proposed transaction will result in Oncor acquiring InfraREIT and its electric transmission utility business, which Hunt created and grew to $2 billion in assets over the past two decades, along with Sharyland’s Golden Spread Electric Cooperative interconnection and other development projects outside of South Texas. Upon closing, Oncor will own and operate all of Sharyland’s and SDTS’ existing electric transmission assets located in Central Texas, West Texas, and the Texas Panhandle and South Plains.

NRG Launches Renewable Select, Simplified Renewables without the PPA. NRG Energy announces the availability of Renewable Select, simplifying the renewables procurement process and making it easier for businesses to choose renewable energy. The plan transforms the lengthy and complex traditional energy procurement process into a cost competitive, easy to execute transaction. Today’s customers demand renewable energy at grid parity to meet their fiscal requirements while achieving their sustainability goals. Renewable Select is the future of clean energy – built and tailored for business. The plan breaks down and removes the barriers that typically impede the procurement of wind and solar energy, such as untenable contract sizes or lengths, difficult building logistics or complex financial transactions.


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FERC declines comment on rumors chairman will resign; Consumer counsel, large consumers ask Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider ruling denying refunds (10/18/18)

Today’s lede: FERC declines comment on scuttlebutt that McIntyre will resign soon. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s press office declined to comment in response to rumors that Kevin Mcintyre, the commission’s chairman, will soon resign, either as chairman or from the commission entirely. McIntyre, who was treated for a brain tumor last year prior to becoming FERC’s chairman, missed last month’s open meeting, and was a no show at today’s monthly open meeting as well. At last month’s meeting McIntyre voted in absentia, but at this morning’s meeting it was announced that the chairman would not be voting on agenda items.

Rich Heidorn writing in RTO Insider cites sources as reporting that McIntyre “is often absent from FERC headquarters and that meetings with him have been frequently rescheduled as a result.” Heidorn is a former FERC staffer with presumably reliable sources inside 888 First Street, NE..

The five-member commission is currently operating with just four commissioners, as former Pennsylvania regulator Rob Powelson resigned in August to take a job in the private sector, leaving the commission split between two Republican and two Democratic appointees.

Bernard McNamee, a DOE official and former industry lawyer, has been nominated to take Powelson’s seat. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a Nov. 15 confirmation hearing to consider McNamee’s nomination, but it remains to be seen whether he gets confirmed during the lame duck session of Congress.

“The exact timing of when McIntyre will relinquish the chairmanship remains fuzzy – and, should he resign, if he will wait until a successor is confirmed,” Kelsey Tamborrino writes in Politico’s Morning Energy. “Sources suspect that Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, a fellow Republican who briefly served as FERC chairman last year, will once again wield the gavel. Chatterjee is said to have made a trip to the White House on Tuesday but he wasn’t tipping his hand when pressed by reporters on Wednesday at a DOE event. He also appeared with a security detail, which is unusual for a commissioner.”

Consumer counsel, large end users ask Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider denying refunds. Not taking “no” for an answer, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and grocery retailer Kroger are asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider an opinion earlier this month denying refunds for millions collected by Dayton Power & Light through a fee that the court determined was illegal, Thomas Gnau reports for the Dayton Daily News (see stories here and here).

The court in a 4-3 vote Oct. 4 denied the parties’ request to order refunds in the proceeding, which involved the utility collecting $294 million of “stability” charges under an Electric Security Plan that was approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. But the court ruled that the charge, intended to assure the utility’s financial stability, was illegal. Collection of the fee was subsequently ended but no refunds were provided for the amount collected through an illegal fee.

“We cannot order effective relief and the appeal is moot,” the court’s majority determined. “Our task is not to set rates; it is only to [see] that the rates are not unlawful or unreasonable, and that the rate-making process itself is lawfully carried out.”

Justice Terrence O’Donnell dissented from the majority opinion, which he said sets a poor precedent. “It not only fails to enforce one of its lawful orders, but it also telegraphs to other utilities that if this court reverses a matter in connection with an application approved by the commission involving collection of unlawful charges, on remand, they can simply follow the procedure here, apply to withdraw the application, and thereby render review by this court wholly meaningless,” he wrote.

The opinion “leaves DP&L’s customers harmed but without recourse after having been subjected to a transition charge that this court deemed to be unlawful,” the parties said this week in asking for the court to reconsider the decision. “As the concurring opinion notes, the effect of the court’s ruling is unfair and results in a windfall to DP&L.”

Interior Secretary Zinke says he’s ‘bullish’ on wind. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he is “bullish” on wind energy as his agency prepares to conduct a lease auction for offshore wind energy sites Dec. 13, Axios reports. “My job is to make sure the government is a partner with you. And I’m bullish on wind,” Zinke said. The comment came as part of a discussion about making waters offshore of Massachusetts and California available for wind energy development.


Other electric industry news items of interest:

N.J. solar industry warns of collapse absent immediate action. With less than six months to act, the state needs to quickly transition to a new way of promoting solar energy or risk a collapse in one of its fastest growing sectors, industry officials warned yesterday. In what is shaping up as one of the most difficult tasks the state faces in achieving the clean-energy goals of the Murphy administration, policymakers must agree on an interim system for incentivizing solar development, probably as soon as next March. Unless there is a seamless transition, the industry could shut down, solar executives told state regulatory officials at a stakeholder meeting in Newark yesterday. If that happens, it could cause massive layoffs in a sector that now employs more than 7,000 and has invested in excess of $10 billion in New Jersey.

Florida towns face dark weeks without power: ‘This isn’t a restore. This is a rebuild’. A week after Hurricane Michael’s rampage, large swaths of the Florida Panhandle and tens of thousands of residents face a dark, powerless future. Major utilities say it will still take weeks to repair downed lines and poles and reconnect customers — and that’s only for the homes and businesses in good enough shape to “take electrical service.” The reality is that mass damage left by Michael — which left a monster 80-mile wide path of ruin — means it may take even more time to turn the lights back on in damaged structures. Leaders in some counties are warning it could take up to a month to fully restore power to what is still standing and far longer for homes that were leveled and need to be rebuilt. The utilities also face a daunting challenge reassembling the shattered grid. Gulf Power spokesman Rick DelaHaya said there’s a lot that can’t be salvaged: “This isn’t a restore… this is a rebuild.”

Residents urged to opt out of Illinois village’s electricity aggregation program for cheaper rates from ComEd. North Aurora made the unique move last week to urge its residents to switch out of the Illinois village’s electricity aggregation program because ComEd’s rates were unexpectedly lowered. The village recently renewed its electricity aggregation program through a negotiated contract with Dynegy. On Friday, the village posted a message on its website explaining the new ComEd rates and urging residents to call Dynegy to opt out of the higher, negotiated rate. “It’s unusual in the sense that there was an unusual circumstance,” Village Administrator Steve Bosco said, referencing a recent federal ruling that made ComEd’s rates for the next eight months more attractive for customers than what the village had offered through its program. “Residents are encouraged to return to the lower ComEd rate of 7.29¢, with no early termination fee,” the village said on its website.

Inside the ‘Chaos’ enveloping Illinois’ distributed solar market. At work on a fix, the state faces threats of “not only market confusion, but potentially market failure.” Looking back on the evolution of state solar markets, Will Kenworthy — now Vote Solar’s Midwest regulatory director — remembers companies camping out overnight to turn in applications for incentives in New Jersey. He recalls Xcel Energy representatives in a 2014 meeting hoping for 25 megawatts of applications in the first part of the utility’s community solar program. And he also remembers Xcel raking in applications for more than 400 megawatts in the program’s first week. That cycle of state solar markets opening and quickly being flooded with interest are “just sort of the history of the industry,” according to Kenworthy.

Minnesota PUC delays natural gas power plant vote. Regulators will no longer decide the fate of Minnesota Power’s proposed $700 million natural-gas plant in Superior Thursday after a last-minute petition called for an environmental review of the project. Although the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will still hold hearings on the proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Duluth City Council chambers, the five-member PUC will no longer vote on whether the plant is needed or in the public interest. The move comes after Honor the Earth, a Native American-led environmental group, submitted a petition to the MInnesota Environmental Quality Board on Oct. 8 requesting an environmental assessment worksheet.

Duke Energy announces plans for new renewable energy program in South Carolina. Duke Energy Corp. is looking to expand renewable energy options for its commercial and industrial customers in South Carolina. The Charlotte-based utility recently proposed a program to the South Carolina Public Service Commission that would allow its large business customers in the Palmetto State to receive “bill credits” for electricity generated by a solar site not located on their premises, according to a news release. If approved by the Public Service Commission, the Green Source Advantage program would also enable participating customers to retain renewable energy certificates produced by their facility, the release said. “We’ve received significant interest from our large commercial and industrial customers in offering programs that help them meet their sustainability goals,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina president, in the release. “The Green Source Advantage program will leverage renewable energy options to do just that.”

Vermont attorney general warns scammers targeting utility customers. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan is warning Vermonters about a spike in scams by fraudsters pretending to be utilities. The Attorney General issued a “Scam Alert” and joins Vermont power companies in warning Vermonters about the scam. These scammers call residents and businesses demanding immediate payment for electricity with a credit card, pre-paid card, or money order. Utilities reported a sharp increase in complaints from consumers this week. In response, the Attorney General issued a “Scam Alert” to over 4,000 Vermonters to warn them of this fraudulent activity. “Our team is working with local utilities to raise awareness and stop these scams,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “If any Vermonter is not sure about who is on the other end of the phone, you should not make a payment. Hang up and call the AG’s office or your local utility.”

Swiss government proposes broad electricity market deregulation. The Swiss government proposed on Wednesday complete liberalisation of the electricity market as it moves to decentralise production and promote renewable energy. Opening a period of public comment that runs through January, the cabinet said that while five-sixths of power purchases took place on open markets, more than 99 percent of retail and business consumers remain bound to regulated suppliers. These consumers should in future be allowed to choose where to buy their electricity, the government said in a statement.


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Public power groups weigh in against FERC asserting jurisdiction in Jacksonville muni’s dispute over mounting nuclear power project costs; Massachusetts AG files suit against competitive supplier alleging deceptive marketing (10/17/18)

Today’s lede: Public power associations gang up against Jacksonville muni in FERC proceeding on Vogtle nuclear plant costs. The leading associations representing public power utilities have weighed in at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in opposition to relief sought by JEA, the Jacksonville, Fla., municipal utility, which is seeking to get out from under millions in financial obligations to a Georgia nuclear power plant expansion project that is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

JEA is locked into paying mounting costs for the Vogtle nuclear power plant expansion project spearheaded by the Southern Co. under a decade-old contract with MEAG, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. In addition to lawsuits and counter suits, the contractual dispute is now before FERC after JEA petitioned for the regulatory agency to assert jurisdiction over the agreement and declare its terms unjust and unreasonable per the Federal Power Act (Docket No. EL18-200).

“It is with regret that the Public Power Associations are compelled to intervene in this matter and protest the petition filed by JEA, a public power utility serving the City of Jacksonville, Florida and surrounding area,” the associations say in their joint protest. The joint protest was filed by the American Public Power Association, the Large Public Power Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Transmission Access Policy Group. JEA is a public power utility and belongs to both APPA and the LPPC.

The associations don’t take a stance on the contractual dispute between JEA and MEAG, also a public power entity, but protest JEA’s assertion that the Federal Power Act provides FERC jurisdiction over the matter. For FERC to assert jurisdiction would be contrary to the plain language of the Federal Power Act, court precedent and long-standing FERC precedent, they say in the joint filing.

“The exclusion of public power utilities from the Commission’s jurisdiction over wholesale sales, moreover, does not leave a ‘regulatory gap,’ as JEA contends,” the public power groups write. “Because the plain language of FPA sections 201(f) and 205 bars the relief JEA seeks, there is no gap to fill.”

“I’m not aware of anybody who believes JEA has a strong argument for jurisdiction over this,” Barry Moline, executive director of the California Municipal Utilities Association and the former head of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, told the Florida Times-Union.

“While we respect their position, JEA is confident that if in the same position the intervening agencies would agree with the petition JEA filed last month,” interim CEO Aaron Zahn said in a statement provided the Times-Union.

Massachusetts attorney general brings suit against competitive retail supplier. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed suit in state court alleging Starion Energy overcharged residential electricity customers by $30 million. The suit alleges the competitive electricity supplier used unfair and deceptive marketing tactics to “lure” some 130,000 electricity customers into contracts at rates higher than if they’d received default electricity service from their utility company. The high-profile lawsuit comes after Healey earlier this year called for ending competitive electricity choice in the state’s residential market.

“We allege Starion Energy extorted millions of dollars from Massachusetts customers by falsely promising them big savings on their electricity bills, while overcharging them month after month,” Healey said in a press release. “This case is another example of why my office is seeking to stop these companies from continuing to cheat residential customers in Massachusetts.”

The legal action names Starion and two of the company’s principals, Ruzhdi Dauti and Dashmir Murtishi, as well as various telemarketing firms used by the company (Telelink LLC, Telestars LLC, FEZ LLC and StartelDM LLC) as engaging in telemarketing and robocalls in violation of do-not-call restrictions to allegedly deceived consumers by promising them lower electricity costs, when they ended up collectively paying millions more than if they’d simply taken default supply form their utility. In addition to restitution, the suit seeks civil penalties.

Healey’s press release quotes National Consumer Law Center Attorney Jenifer Bosco commending Healey “for bringing this lawsuit against a bad actor. Ultimately, ending residential sales of competitive electric supply may be the only way to stop these deceptive practices.”

A spokeswoman for Starion told the Boston Globe the company does not publicly comment on pending litigation.

“The legal action is a twist in Healey’s campaign to police the so-called competitive energy market in which alternative electricity suppliers offer to undercut local utilities’ basic service. Healey had previously settled with two other competitive suppliers, but this is the first time her office has taken one to court without a settlement in place,” the Globe’s Jon Chesto writes in his report on the lawsuit.

“The state’s 1997 deregulation law was designed to separate the power-generation business from the delivery side; utilities sold off their electric plants, and instead bought electricity from third-party suppliers on behalf of their customers,” Chesto writes. “In theory, this would encourage competition for electric suppliers. In practice, though, the financial benefits of that competition generally only materialized for large consumers, such as industrial and commercial companies.”

In March, Healey’s office released a report showing that electricity customers who switched to a competitive supplier collectively paid nearly $180 million more than if they had remained with their utility, during a two-year period between July 2015 and July 2017.


More electric industry news items of interest:

N.H. Democrats unveil renewable energy strategy. In response to Gov. Chris Sununu’s 10-year energy plan, Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups have released a plan of their own, calling for the state to generate all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040. Sununu’s plan, the first update to the state’s 10-year energy strategy since 2014, was released in April with a focus on lowering electricity rates and less emphasis on subsidizing renewable energy or mass transit. The authors of “A 100 percent Renewable Energy Strategy for New Hampshire’s Future” accused Sununu of “greatly understating the importance of the Granite State’s in-state renewable and clean energy resources, the national and international trends favoring the rapid deployment of new emerging energy technologies and the power of energy efficiency measures.” The 55-page white paper outlines various pathways the authors claim will get the state to 100 percent renewable energy over the next three decades, for both electricity and heating, including offshore wind in partnership with Maine.

Marin-based energy aggregator decries state-approved fee hike. An MCE official calls the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision last week to require customers to pay more in exit fees to investor-owned Pacific Gas & Electric Co. a flawed approach that unfairly shifts costs to customers. But CEO Dawn Weisz said it won’t deter the community-choice aggregator from its core mission of “providing cleaner power at stable rates, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in local programs.” Formerly known as Marin Clean Energy, MCE has seen sharper increases in the exit fee in past years, Weisz said. In January 2016, the PUC approved nearly a doubling of the fee. “We’ve always maintained competitive rates with a lot of stability,” Weisz said, “and we’ll continue to do that.”

Gloucester, Mass., enters into electricity aggregation agreement. Consumers must opt out to stay with National Grid. Lanesville resident Bill Thoms says he’s all for increasing renewable energy. “I think it’s like motherhood and apple pie, isn’t it?” he said. Yet he and other residents have a number of questions about a new city of Gloucester energy program that promises to offer more rate stability, an alternative energy provider to local National Grid customers and extends the carrot of lowering rates. “If it stabilizes rates, if it provides renewable energy, I applaud that,” said Thoms, who, like most National Grid customers in Gloucester, received notification by mail of the program. “But I’m not convinced this is going to save us a dime, and I wish people would be more open about telling us that.”

Power sellers overcharged Maine customers by $16 million last year. Maine home power customers could collectively have saved $16 million on electricity last year by going with the standard power rate instead of buying electricity from private suppliers who aggressively market their plans in ways regulators have on multiple occasions found misleading. The latest figures add to a growing premium that Maine customers have paid to retail electricity suppliers that have most often provided identical mixtures of power generation as the state-regulated standard offer.

Should Maine be the conduit for Massachusetts green power? Central Maine Power Co. has proposed to build a new 145-mile transmission line across western Maine to bring hydro power from Quebec to the New England electrical grid, to fulfill Massachusetts’ goals of using more renewable energy. To build it, the company needs a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Maine Public Utilities Commission, among other state and federal permits. This sets up the central question for the utilities commission: Is this project a necessity for Maine? To determine this, the commission must weigh the benefits to Maine and the state’s utility customers against the project’s negative impacts. This project would impact Maine utility customers and taxpayers, as well as the state’s economy, for decades to come. Making sure it is a necessity and is beneficial to Maine is a high hurdle to cross. It is also the right one.

Hydro line project doesn’t go far enough to mitigate conservation concerns. Over the past several months, The Nature Conservancy and Maine Audubon have met frequently with CMP and its parent company, Avangrid, to learn about the proposal, share our concerns and provide recommendations for avoiding, minimizing and compensating for its projected impacts. We have examined it thoroughly, applying our scientific perspective and on-the-ground knowledge of Maine. Our hope throughout has been that, if the project proceeded, CMP could find ways to minimize and offset its environmental impact. Unfortunately, our conclusion is that, as the proposal stands, CMP has not done nearly enough to address impacts to wildlife habitat.

Keep an open mind about CMP power line project. As Maine begins to debate moving Quebecois electricity through our state to Massachusetts, we should keep an open mind. It will be up to our leaders, be they on the Public Utilities Commission, in the Blaine House, or under the capitol dome, to find ways to obtain fair access to the low-cost energy. It is critical for economic development, particularly for environmentally friendly industries like engineered lumber. As I’ve written before, Maine-made “plyscrapers” can be an example — economically and environmentally — to the world. No energy is really green, evah. But we aren’t going to stop using it, so let’s find the best way forward we can. Ok, bub?

Central Maine Power asks regulators to keep prices stable by tapping federal savings. Central Maine Power, which has been trying to repair its reputation after criticism for unusually high electricity bills following the October 2017 wind storm, said Monday it has filed with the state regulators to use savings from federal tax law changes to keep certain prices stable and improve its electric system. The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017 cut the corporate tax rate to a flat 21 percent. Some businesses passed along the tax savings in the form of bonuses to employees, while others applied the money to operating expenses. CMP said it proposed in a Maine Public Utilities Commission filing that it use the tax savings to keep its distribution prices stable. It also wants to make its electric system more resilient.

Microsoft has figured out a way to reduce risks associated with PPAs. Corporate power purchase agreements have helped bring at least 13 gigawatts of software and wind power to the U.S. grid over the past decade — and more than 4.5 GWs during 2018 alone, thanks to a new deal revealed Monday. But the underlying risks associated with these contracts aren’t for the faint of heart. That is, of course, if you’re an insurance company. Microsoft has figured out a way to use this to its advantage. The software giant has co-developed a new sort of contract with insurance and risk specialists, called a volume firming agreement (VFA), that it is encouraging companies to purchase in conjunction with specially structured PPAs. Microsoft is using VFAs itself to help insulate its company from the complicated task of managing renewable electricity pricing fluctuations and operational risks related to weather-related hiccups and the intermittent nature of solar and wind power production. “VFAs effectively remove the risk related to how future weather conditions will impact the financial value of a PPA from buyers and reallocates it to people that want that risk,” writes Brian Janous, general manager of energy and sustainability for the software, in a Microsoft blog post published Tuesday.

Judge approves Elon Musk’s settlement with SEC. A judge approved Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that Musk committed fraud when he said he had secured the funding needed to take Tesla private. Tesla shares jumped nearly 5 percent on the news, which was first reported by Bloomberg. The deal is a positive development for Musk and Tesla, which is in the midst of ramping up production and deliveries of its Model 3 sedan and trying to assure investors the company can become sustainably profitable.

Saudi Arabia could introduce competition in the power sector, report says. Saudi Arabia could adopt a “multiple-buyer approach” to reforming its power sector as it considers breaking up its state-owned utilities firm and mulls privatisation, according to a report by the Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation. Saudi Arabia, the biggest regional consumer of electricity, has recently pivoted towards more gas-fired plants over burning oil and has also announced plans to invite foreign investment into its utilities sector. As part of larger, macro-reforms, the kingdom had proposed splitting the Saudi Electricity Company into four entities that could be listed on the Tadawul stock exchange or sold to partners. The government’s involvement in the plan remains unclear, with no clarity on the timeline either. “[However], reform could also come in the form of a multiple buyer approach – where wholesale buyers compete amongst themselves to purchase power from generators,” said the report.


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Effort to subsidize baseload coal and nuclear plants reportedly hit a roadblock at the White House; Illinois AG echoes Massachusetts counterpart in calling for ban on competitive electricity sales to residential customers (10/16/18)

Today’s lede: Inside sources tell Politico administration’s baseload coal and nuclear subsidy plan on indefinite hold. The inability to find a “legally justifiable methodology” to order financial assistance to uneconomic baseload coal and nuclear power plants has left the Trump administration’s unprecedented competitive power market intervention plan adrift at the White House, Politico’s Eric Wolff and Darius Dixon report.

After a draft memo outlining use of emergency authority under the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act to prop up coal and nuclear plants faltering in the competitive power markets was leaked to Bloomberg this spring, President Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take “immediate steps” to implement a financial rescue. But the plan ran into resistance among economic and national security advisers in the White House and the proposal has been “shelved,” Politico reports, citing four unnamed sources with knowledge of the discussions.

“One of Perry’s biggest problems in formulating a bailout is figuring out who would pay the billions of dollars needed to keep money-losing power plants operating – raising the specter that electric customers would have to cover the cost in their monthly utility bills,” Wolff and Dixon write. “It is unclear whether Trump himself has decided against following Perry’s proposal. Even if he has, the sources warned that Trump frequently changes his mind, and the idea could re-emerge in advance of the president’s reelection campaign.”

A leading congressional supporter expressed frustration with the lack of progress in implementing the bailout plan. “I’m trying to find the darn plan because I understand it’s gone from the Department of Energy over to the White House, and I don’t know who in the White House would be sitting on it for whatever reason,” Politico quoted Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., telling reporters last week.

A key Trump political supporter, coal magnate Robert Murray, has been a driving force for a bailout of coal-fired power plants. “President Trump has repeatedly directed members of his administration to enact measures that will ensure the reliability, resiliency, and fuel security of our nation’s electric power grids,” Murray Energy spokesman Cody Nett said in an email to Politico, which alleged  “that there are those within his administration that are working against the President’s wishes.”

Illinois attorney general calls for ending residential electricity choice. In announcing a $2.65 million settlement with a competitive retail energy supplier charged with deceptive marketing practices, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called for state lawmakers to ban competitive electricity sales in the residential market.

“My settlement with Sperian Energy refunds all Illinois customers deceived by the company’s fraudulent marketing,” Madigan said in a press release. “Alternative retail electric suppliers have a terrible track record of deceptive marketing tactics and selling overpriced electricity. This settlement is another step in reforming the ARES industry that the legislature should ban in the residential market.”

Madigan’s bid to deny residential consumers in Illinois competitive choice follows on the heels of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s demand for ending competitive electricity sales in her state. In New York, the Public Service Commission successfully enacted a ban on energy service company sales to low-income residential customers as it continues efforts to enact on ban on all residential sales by competitive suppliers.

“Currently, there are at least 103 alternative retail electric suppliers, or ARES, authorized to sell electricity in Illinois. Data shows that nearly 90 percent of the time, ARES’ customers are paying higher prices for electricity than customers pay with traditional utilities,” the Illinois attorney general’s press release said.

“Madigan has been highly critical of an industry that uses questionable marketing tactics to convince households to contract for power at prices that almost always are more than they would pay if they stuck with utilities like Commonwealth Edison. But this appears to be the first time she’s explicitly called for the elimination of residential power sales altogether,” Steve Daniels writes in Crain’s Chicago Business.

The president of the Illinois Competitive Energy Association, in an email to Daniels, noted that state lawmakers rebuffed Madigan’s legislative efforts earlier this year for a ban on competitive electricity sales in the residential market. “In the Sperian case, the attorney general has proven that vigorous enforcement of current law and rules against unscrupulous suppliers works,” the association’s Kevin Wright told the Crain’s reporter. “The Illinois Competitive Energy Association supports strong enforcement action by the Illinois Commerce Commission and the attorney general to root out from the retail market suppliers who engage in misleading or abusive marketing practices.”

Under the settlement, Sperian will provide $2.65 million in refunds to more than 60,000 Illinois customers based on their electricity usage. Further, Sperian will be banned from marketing to Illinois consumers for two years. “This is the first time an ARES has faced an extended marketing ban, setting a new standard for ensuring deceptive companies reform their practices,” the attorney general’s press release said.

Massachusetts AG office’s energy chief reiterates call to end residential market. Speaking at the Raab Associates’ New England Electricity Restructuring Roundtable last week, Rebecca Tepper, who heads the Massachusetts attorney general’s Energy and Telecommunications Division, reiterated Attorney General Maura Healey’s demand for an end to competitive electricity sales to the state’s residential customers, Rich Heidorn reports in RTO Insider.

Tepper dismissed suggestions that the AG’s office was overreacting to the actions of just a “few bad apples,” asserting that 10 retailers, representing 63 percent of residential customers served competitively, were responsible for 75 percent of the “overcharges” identified by the attorney general office report earlier this year. It concluded that residential customers paid $253 million more for service from a competitive supplier that if they’d taken default utility service over a three-year period.


Other electric industry news of interest:

Michigan PURPA rulings a ‘mixed bag’ for independent power producers. Independent power producers say recent rulings by Michigan regulators provide short-term development opportunities but also more uncertainty in the coming years as they negotiate contracts with a major utility. On Oct. 5, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued multiple orders related to the prices Consumers Energy pays to independent producers under federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act contracts. One ruling allows for up to 150 megawatts worth of projects to qualify for PURPA contracts at rates that advocates say are more favorable for developers. The rates had been on hold for months as regulators settled questions around avoided costs and contract terms. Avoided costs are the rates paid by law to independent producers based on the price of the utility building the generation itself. However, it’s unclear how long those terms will stay in place or how much opportunity there will be in the future. In the coming months, the MPSC may allow Consumers to restructure those rates and contract terms in ways that developers say would stifle PURPA contracts.

N.J. lawmakers consider EV infrastructure initiative. After years of inaction, the state has come up with a comprehensive plan to promote the use of plug-in electric vehicles in New Jersey, a step viewed as critical to dealing with climate change. The program, approved by a state Senate committee yesterday, lays out a detailed plan to create hundreds of charging stations across New Jersey and a $300 million rebate program for those who buy electric cars over the next decade. It comes with one largely unsettled and divisive question: figuring out how to pay for it. The bill (SCS-2252) voted out by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee calls for some of the money ($20 million a year) to be diverted from revenue the state is expected to receive once it rejoins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It also suggests, but does not yet mandate, the state increase what some view as a hefty surcharge on utility bills to reflect the other costs of the rebate program. The fee, dubbed the societal benefit charge, now raises about $500 million annually.

Xcel proposal would support 70 new public charging stations for electric vehicles. Xcel Energy is taking a deeper dive into electric vehicles, providing charging infrastructure for fleet cars and participating in the creation of 70 public charging stations. Minneapolis-based Xcel, the state’s largest electric utility, unveiled the plan Monday. “This is definitely the biggest step we have taken into the electric vehicle space,” said Aakash Chandarana, Xcel’s regional vice president for rates and regulatory affairs. Xcel’s $25 million effort must be approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Its costs would ultimately be borne by ratepayers, but it entails a small overall capital investment with a “negligible” effect on rates, Chandarana said.

Opponents speak out against Minnesota natural gas-fired power plant. Regulators could decide this week whether Minnesota Power can go ahead with its plans to build a $700 million natural-gas plant in Superior. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to decide whether the proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center is needed or in the public interest during a public meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Duluth City Council chambers. Minnesota Power wants to build the 550-megawatt plant with Dairyland Power Cooperative on a plot of land between Enbridge Energy’s Superior terminal and the Nemadji River. The Duluth-based utility argues the project would support its expanding solar and wind energy production because it would provide a reliable backup source “when the wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining.” Opponents disagree, and on Monday they gathered in a conference room in downtown Duluth’s Ordean Building to make their case to local media that natural gas isn’t a clean or renewable energy source, and the plant’s construction would raise Minnesota Power customers’ rates.

SCE&G customers tell regulators: ‘This was a miserable decision’. Dozens of SCE&G’s ratepayers spent an evening in a government building in North Charleston, S.C., standing one by one at a podium to unleash a year of pent-up frustration since South Carolina Electric & Gas walked away from a $9 billion nuclear plant it co-owned with Santee Cooper, leaving customers paying for a power plant that would never generate power. “It’s neither sensible nor honorable,” said Don Thompson, an electricity user from Goat Island. “This was a miserable decision,” said Arthur Gundersen, a nuclear consultant who lives on James Island. “They need to go to jail,” said Susan Hartry, who came from Charleston, referring to SCE&G’s executives. Across the room, Jimmy Addison, the CEO of SCE&G’s parent company, listened on. Altogether, they represented the last voices that regulators on the state Public Service Commission will hear before one of the most consequential utility cases in state history. Depending on how they decide, SCE&G customers could either pay a few thousand dollars apiece for the nuclear project over the next couple of decades, or they could pay nothing.

Blackouts criticized as utilities’ self-protection when California fire risk is high. Power for tens of thousands of Northern Californians was cut Sunday as high winds prompted fire alerts in a region hit hard by fires a year ago — including parts of Napa and Sonoma Counties, the state’s leading wine area. The action was taken by Pacific Gas and Electric, whose territory covers most of central and Northern California. PG&E and Southern California Edison warned tens of thousands of others that they, too, could face imminent blackouts. Officials said they were acting purely for safety reasons. “We’ve always had this as a tool,” said Phil Herrington, senior vice president for transmission and distribution at Southern California Edison. “Based on our experience, based on our view, the wildfire threat is increasing.” But liability for wildfires has been an increasing concern for the companies and their investors — and consumer groups questioned whether the blackouts were an overstep meant to insulate the utilities.

Maine utility regulators to hold third public hearing on controversial Canadian hydropower power line project. Regulators are giving Mainers another chance to weigh in on a proposed transmission line project to bring cheap Canadian hydropower to the New England market. Maine’s Public Utilities Commission will hold a third public hearing Wednesday in Hallowell. The commission’s examiners’ report on the project is set for release Dec. 7. The New England Clean Energy Connect aims to bring vast amounts of hydropower from Quebec to meet the needs of Massachusetts energy users. Supporters say the project will save Massachusetts and Maine ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Critics question its economic benefit and environmental impact.

Idaho regulators set comments deadline for Avista performance standards. State regulators are accepting comments on an Avista Utilities proposal to develop performance standards for its Idaho customers. Customer service and electric system reliability would be the focus of the Idaho Service Quality Program. Rates would not be affected by the creation of the program, which dates to a 2017 decision by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in a general rate case. That decision called for the utility to work with interested parties to develop performance standards and customer guarantees similar to those in place for Avista’s customers in Washington.

GM switching to renewable energy for Texas SUV factory. Wind power in Texas continues to crush the competition. Its latest victory is the big General Motors manufacturing facility in Arlington, Texas. That plant will now be getting 100 percent of its electricity from the new Cactus Flats Wind Farm in Eden, Texas, which is located about four hours southwest of Dallas. Electricity from that wind farm will not only power the Arlington factory but will also help supply all of GM’s offices and other facilities in the Lone Star state. “Renewable energy is an important part of GM’s vision for a zero emissions future,” Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy at GM, said in a press statement announcing the switch over to wind power. “The EPA’s support and recognition sends a strong message that transitioning to renewables is good for business and the environment, and helps make a greener grid and cleaner energy more accessible for everyone.”

Patriot Energy launches two new energy buying strategies. Patriot Energy Group has launched two new hybrid energy strategies for businesses looking to take advantage of seasonal price fluctuations to better manage energy costs. Clients using these plans will harness the power of aggregate purchasing to get advantageous pricing from suppliers. “Clients locked into long-term fixed rates lose the opportunity for the ability to take advantage of pricing at times when rates dip during the ‘shoulder months’ of fall and spring,” said Craig Wall, Patriot Energy Group Director of Supplier and Product Management. “Because rates are typically lower in the fall and spring, many clients locked into year-round fixed rate plans lose the ability to take advantage of these market conditions. In addition, these new plans help minimize the exposure to price spikes during the most volatile periods during the winter and summer.”

Ontario faces an electricity shortfall within five years, report says. Ontario faces an electricity shortfall within five years and will need a combination of greater conservation efforts and new sources of power to meet customers’ needs, the Independent Electricity System Operator says. The system operator recently released an undated forecast that takes into account the Progressive Conservative government’s cancellation of renewable energy projects. It shows a capacity gap during summer peak-demand months starting in 2023 as a result of closing Ontario Power Generation’s Pickering nuclear plant. The IESO forecast comes as the government of Premier Doug Ford seeks to keep a campaign promise to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent. In the name of cost cutting, the PCs cancelled 758 renewable projects this summer that would have added 450-megawatts of variable capacity to the grid.


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Consultant complains after DOE sits on study countering rationale for power plant subsidies; McNamee’s FERC nomination hearing postponed until after the election (10/15/18)

Today’s lede: Consultant complains that DOE kept under wraps study disputing rationale for power plant subsidies. A Texas-based consultant who prepared a study for the Department of Energy on power grid “resiliency” took to Twitter to complain the agency has not made his study’s results public. The study by Michael Webber of Webber Energy Group was completed six months ago and finds that wires-related issues are more of a resiliency concern than having fuel on hand at baseload generating stations.

“The report hasn’t seen the light of day,” Webber tweeted on Friday. “The three points the report makes are useful and counter to the narrative – and squashed,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg news. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, which commissioned the report, didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment, Bloomberg’s Ari Natter and Jennifer Dlouhy report.

It was Bloomberg that broke the news earlier this year that the Trump administration is mulling using the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to impose consumer subsidies for baseload coal and nuclear plants that find themselves uneconomic power producers in competitive regional electricity markets. DOE and other administration officials have argued that national security interests require a reserve of power production from these uneconomic facilities at risk of shutting down to ensure power grid “resilience.” But Webber’s analysis supported the arguments of many in the industry opposed to the putative plan who argue that financially propping up uneconomic baseload power plants will do little to ensure the power grid is resilient.

According to the report by Natter and Dlouhy, Webber’s report found having fuel stored at the generation site is just one factor in ensuring resilience. While DOE asked Webber to focus on power plants, his report found issues with transmission and distribution systems offered larger risks to maintaining system resilience. “Power plants aren’t the big problem,” Webber told Bloomberg. “There is no one answer. You have to have a suite of options.”

Hurricanes demonstrate superiority of renewables over fossil fuel sources, consultant maintains. Recent hurricanes that devastated electricity systems underscored the superiority of renewable energy systems over those that rely on burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, Adam Freed, a principal at the non-profit consulting firm Bloomberg Associates, writes in a column published by USA Today.

“As hurricanes tore apart Caribbean islands and crippled their energy infrastructure, renewables consistently outperformed fossil fuels. All eyes are now on the trail of destruction left by Hurricane Michael. This new devastation sadly comes only weeks after Hurricane Florence killed dozens of people and submerged vast swathes of countryside and left hundreds of thousands without power,” Freed maintains.“Climate change has created a terrifying new normal of severe weather patterns in many regions, and it seems we are now facing once-in-a-lifetime storms on a regular basis. To face this growing threat, we can no longer rely on old energy systems — we must develop infrastructure that can withstand increasingly frequent climate hazards. This gives us an opportunity to build in a smarter, more sustainable way.”

Hearing on McNamee nomination to FERC postponed until after the election. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had scheduled a hearing for tomorrow to consider the Trump administration’s nomination of Bernard McNamee to fill a vacancy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But the Senate adjourned and the committee postponed the hearing until after the election.

The unusually quick hearing schedule had prompted an outcry from opponents of McNamee, who complain that the nomination of the former industry lawyer and administration architect of market intervention to subsidize uneconomic coal and nuclear plants will politicize the normally nonpartisan FERC.

“Senate Republicans are being criticized for rushing the confirmation process for Bernard McNamee, whose hearing is scheduled for October 16, less than two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated him to serve as a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.” Mark Hand writes in

“Bernard McNamee is clearly a political plant by the Trump administration who will rubber stamp dangerous fracked gas pipelines and push coal bailout schemes that will force taxpayers to pay tens of billions of dollars to prop up uneconomic coal plants,” Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign said in a statement.

Sam Gomberg writes in a blog for the Union of Concerned Scientists that McNamee’s nomination represents a move by the Trump administration “to pollute an independent regulatory body with political operatives intent on carrying out his crony capitalism. A hearing to consider McNamee’s nomination is already set for Tuesday, October 16th – a clear sign that Trump’s political allies are trying to ram through his appointment without thoughtful consideration.”


Other electric industry news items of interest:

Thousands in Florida may not get electricity back for weeks. Gulf Power, the main utility in the area, estimated on Sunday that electricity would be restored in Lynn Haven, downtown Panama City and neighboring communities by Oct. 24, two weeks after the hurricane made landfall. But Duke Energy, which serves another hard-hit swath of the Florida Panhandle, including Bay County and some parts of Gulf County, said it could not yet estimate how long it might take to get the lights back on in those areas. “I just want to be realistic and warn people that for a while, it’s going to be pretty primitive living,” Lynn Haven, Fla., Mayor Margo Anderson said.

PG&E cuts power to 17,000 customers due to dangerous weather conditions. Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to more than 17,000 customers in California’s Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties Sunday night as part of a new effort from the utility company to help prevent wildfires from starting during periods of particularly dangerous weather. The outages were a historic step for PG&E, which has never proactively cut power before but since last year’s Northern California wildfires has now embraced the strategy when high winds, low humidity and warm temperatures combine to create conditions ripe for large and destructive fires.

Southern California Edison warns it may shut down power in high fire-risk areas during Santa Ana windstorms. Southern California Edison officials said electric circuits in some high fire-risk areas might be shut off Sunday night or Monday, as the first big Santa Ana windstorm of the fall will bring wind gusts of up to 75 miles per hour to the area. A spokesman for SCE said neighborhoods in foothill communities from Santa Clarita to Pasadena and in San Bernardino County could get their electricity shut off, under a new state policy that allows protective blackouts. Santiago Canyon and nearby foothill areas in Orange County might also see pre-emptive blackouts, but not Malibu or the Santa Monica Mountains, where winds were not expected to exceed SCE’s danger thresholds.

California mayors slam increased fee to abandon utilities as corporate ‘giveaway’. Mayors condemned the California Public Utilities Commission’s unanimous decision this week to increase the exit fees customers are charged for switching from investor-owned utilities to government-run alternatives. The commissioners voted 5-0 to raise the fee, which is just charged to those consumers who make the switch. The adjustment, included in ratepayers’ monthly bills, is intended to offset the costs of investments legacy utilities have made in energy infrastructure like power plants and deals with independent producers. But San Francisco, San José and Oakland criticized the fee increase as a corporate “giveaway” and “severe blow” to adoption of their new community choice aggregation, or CCA, programs, which provide electricity from renewable sources.  Under these programs, utilities maintain infrastructure and billing but local officials choose the renewable energy sources purchased.

Ventura, Calif., city leaders to set green energy rate for 2019. On Monday night, Ventura’s policymakers will help decide what city residents will be paying next year for energy. Why city leaders are making that determination, instead of Southern California Edison, stems from the emergence of alternative energy providers, which are shaking up an industry that’s long lacked competition. The Ventura City Council in February voted to join the Clean Power Alliance (formerly Los Angeles Community Choice Energy). The alliance offers community choice aggregation, which works by letting cities and counties work together to buy and invest in renewable energy.

Why SDG&E’s rates are higher than other California utilities. A year-over-year review by the Union-Tribune of electricity rate charges by the three investor-owned utilities shows SDG&E’s rates are not only higher than their cohorts but they have also been rising faster. Residential baseline rates during the summer months from June 1 through Oct. 1 have gone up 80.7 percent since January 2014. And contrary to goals set by policymakers and regulators to bend upper-tier rates downward, SDG&E’s upper-tier has actually increased since 2014. By contrast, the upper-tier rates of the two other investor-owned utilities in California — Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric — have gone down. SDG&E officials don’t dispute the numbers. “We certainly acknowledge that our rates have become higher,” said Scott Crider, SDG&E’s vice president of customer services. “We’re listening to customer concerns and we’re taking them very seriously.”

S.C. utility decided not to disclose critical review of nuclear project problems. SCANA Corp. intentionally chose to shield a crucial review of its nuclear project from Wall Street investors and opted instead to pressure its utility partner to bury news of the analysis that eventually revealed engineering snafus, shoddy oversight and an unrealistic construction schedule.  Newly released emails show how some of SCANA’s top executives grappled with the possibility of a damning audit by the construction and engineering giant Bechtel Corp. coming to light. They deliberated over the issue nearly two years before the project was abandoned and the information was grudgingly exposed. The documents, for the first time, offer a glimpse inside SCANA’s decision not to alert its investors about that analysis — a choice that now poses a serious legal threat to both the company and its top executives. Their release comes as the FBI, Wall Street regulators and high-powered law firms probe whether SCANA illegally withheld information about the decade-long project.

Opt for green energy for an added fee. Wisconsin’s Madison Gas and Electric can help you operate an electric car with renewable electricity. Customers can enroll in an MGE program called Green Power Tomorrow. By paying an extra 23 percent premium, customers can receive all, or a selected portion of, their electricity from renewable sources. Sadly, the premium price is the exact opposite of carbon emissions pricing. Nevertheless, the Green Power Tomorrow program is available to generous persons and businesses willing to mitigate climate change.

Companies push for vehicle charging stations in Maryland. Electric vehicle charging station companies participated with officials from General Motors and Tesla during a recent hearing by the Maryland Public Service Commission. The MPSC is currently considering a $104.7 million proposal to install 24,000 electric vehicle charging stations across Maryland. The proposal was made by state utility companies such as Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Delmarva Power and Light Co., Potomac Electric Power Co., and Potomac Edison Co. If enacted, the initiative would make Maryland home to the second largest electric vehicle charging network in the nation. Advocates of the proposal say the program would enable Maryland to reach its goal to have at least 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. Yet the proposal is also controversial because the utility companies involved have proposed to fund the program with rate increases, which are never a popular solution among the public at large. “Lower income ratepayers will subsidize middle and high-income ratepayers since they cannot afford [electric vehicles] in today’s [economic] climate,” said Paul Verchinski, a Columbia resident.

Consultant for N.J. rate advocate urges BPU to reject Nautilus offshore wind proposal. The state should once again reject a pilot offshore wind project about three miles from Atlantic City, according to a consultant for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. In testimony submitted to the state Board of Public Utilities, the consultant argued the 25-megawatt Nautilus Offshore Wind LLC project is too expensive for ratepayers and fails to provide a net economic benefit to New Jersey. The conclusion is significant because the Rate Counsel had backed a previous iteration of the project, which was previously twice rejected by the BPU. The project, by EDF Renewable Energy, is now back before the regulatory agency after the Legislature pushed a bill requiring the BPU to review it anew. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation without comment.

5 reasons Utah residents are moving to solar. The percentage of people choosing solar energy for their homes continues to grow and it appears everyone is reaping the benefits. A recent study from the Berkley Lab Electricity Markets & Policy Group (EMP Group) reports there would be enduring environmental and health benefits from a future U.S. electricity system in which solar plays a major role — 14 percent of demand in 2030, and 27 percent in 2050. Here are some common reasons more Utah residents are opting for solar.

Commercial electric stats in W.Va. better than residential and industrial in 2017. According to statistics recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average monthly West Virginia residential electric bill was $7.63 higher than the national average at $119.30 per month. While the total was higher than the national average, that figure was largely due to consumption with West Virginian residents consuming the 36th highest average amount of electricity in the nation, some 1,026 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. The national average for residential electricity consumed per month was 867 kWh. That over-consumption wiped away the fact that on average, residential electricity in the Mountain State was more than one cent cheaper than the national average. On average, West Virginians paid 11.63 cents per kWh in 2017, compared to 12.89 cents per kWh nationally.

Editorial: Gainesville, Fla., voters should reject utilities referendum. Members of the public should push for continued improvements in the way that Gainesville Regional Utilities is governed. But a new GRU board that would be created under a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot is badly designed and risks causing more problems than it solves. Sometimes that involvement is a good thing, such as when the commission caused GRU to drop plans for a massive new coal-fired power plant in 2006. But the biomass power plant that was chosen as an alternative showed how bad things can turn out. Unlike investor-owned utilities, Gainesville residents have a say in utility governance through elected city commissioners that act as GRU’s board of directors. This helps ensure GRU reflects the community’s values, but also allows political involvement in its operations by people who lack experience running such a complex organization. A report by Navigant Consulting found GRU management made major mistakes in negotiating a 30-year-contract to buy power from the plant, but also identified problems with the commission’s oversight, communication with the utility and influence on the process. The contract was so onerous that the commission voted last year to spend $750 million to escape the deal by buying the plant.

NRC okays transfer of Vermont Yankee nuke license to private decommissioning firm. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday announced it had approved the transfer of Vermont Yankee’s operating license to Northstar Group Services, a private demolition and decommissioning firm based in New York. The 600-megawatt nuclear power plant, located on the Connecticut River just north of the Massachusetts border, ceased operations in late 2014, and is currently owned by Entergy Corp. of Louisiana. Entergy wants to sell the shuttered plant to Northstar, which plans an expedited cleanup.

Cogent Reports: Texans prefer large retail electric providers. New research shows that two out of three (62%) Texans prefer large, trusted and financially stable retail electric providers (REPs) over smaller REPs that typically rely on low rates to attract customers. Additionally, most customers don’t use online electric-rate shopping tools. This means well-known large REPs have a significant competitive advantage over small- and mid-sized REPs with weak brands. These results are from the annual Cogent Reports Texas Retail Electric Provider Brand Trust Study by Market Strategies International-Morpace. “The days of ‘set a rate and wait’ are over for the REP market. Texans are experienced shoppers who already know what brands they can trust to offer great products and service,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president of Energy Research at Market Strategies-Morpace. “There are over 50 REPs in the Texas market, so smaller REPs need to break through as trusted brands to become part of customers’ considered set of providers.” Online shopping tools, once thought to be used by all consumers, are a smaller part of electric shopping than expected. Texans use Power to Choose most, but only 26% use it and fewer use any other available online shopping tool. And customers who use online shopping sites tend to be less loyal to their REPs, with half as many saying they are likely to remain with their REP after their contract is up compared to those who do not use shopping sites.

Direct Energy Business to acquire retail business of Source Power & Gas. Direct Energy Business, a subsidiary of Centrica plc, announced today an agreement to purchase the retail electricity business of Source Power & Gas LLC, a wholly owned indirect U.S. subsidiary of Australian power company ERM Power Limited. Source Power & Gas is a Sugar Land, Texas-based retail energy provider serving commercial and industrial customers in the ERCOT and PJM ISO markets. With an approximate annual load of 6.5 TWh, Source Power & Gas currently serves 4,000 customers across 16,000 service locations in Texas, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. “The purchase of Source Power & Gas, LLC’s retail business is in line with our continued growth strategy in North America,” said John Schultz, President Centrica North America and Direct Energy Business. “This transaction will mark a significant step in continuing to expand our operations and customer footprint in existing markets.”

Shell set to ‘turbocharge’ its clean energy drive in the 2020s. It is a year since Shell announced a plan to cut half of its carbon emissions by 2050, and 20 percent by 2035. Royal Dutch Shell is preparing to “turbocharge” its bid to become a global leader in clean energy in the coming years as it seeks to overcome the “existential” challenge posed by climate change, boss Ben van Beurden has told The Sunday Telegraph. Van Beurden said that the FTSE 100 giant should be able to gauge by the early 2020s whether its recent moves into the clean electricity market will be stepped up. The energy giant has so far pledged to spend between $1 billion and $2 billion of its $25bn (£19 billion) a year spending budget on technologies including electric car charging and ­renewable energy. “It is a highly charismatic part of our business, but it’s also very small,” Van Beurden said. “I wouldn’t say that we have a deadline, because much of it will depend on how society wants to change, but I would imagine that the way things are going by the early 2020s we will know whether the hypothesis holds, and whether we therefore want to turbocharge this business. “The biggest calling card we have is scale. We can scale much faster than anyone else,” he added.

Jaguar execs reportedly pondering transition to fully-electric fleet in 10 years. JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) executives are reportedly considering the idea of transitioning Jaguar into an all-electric brand within the next 10 years. The bold transition reportedly involves a phase-out scheme of some of the company’s current offerings over the next five to seven years, which will be followed by the introduction of more electric vehicles. With this strategy in mind, Jaguar is reportedly preparing to replace its XJ saloon with an all-electric sedan within the next two years. Details of the vehicle remain under wraps, though speculations are high that the XJ replacement will be marketed as a direct competitor to the upcoming Porsche Taycan and the best-selling Tesla Model S.

Tesla deploys new Powerpack project that could save Colorado ratepayers $1 million annually. Tesla’s energy division is deploying a new Powerpack project in Weld County, Colorado, where it could save ratepayers and the local utility as much as $1 million per year. We are just starting to understand the value of large-scale energy storage system deployed on the electric grid. The best example we have so far is Tesla’s massive Powerpack battery in Australia, which we recently learned cost $66 million and already made up to ~$17 million. But that’s in a very expensive electric market, how about in other markets?

SunPower completes 1.7 MW solar installation at Bose Corp.’s HQ. SunPower has completed a 1.7 megawatt solar installation at the global headquarters of Bose Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts. The system is comprised of almost 4,000 SunPower solar panels that will generate 2.4 million kWh every year, supplying a ‘substantial portion’ of the power needed by the Bose campus over the full term of the 20-year power purchase agreement. “Corporate renewable energy programs are growing, especially in Massachusetts where Bose is headquartered,” said Nam Nguyen, SunPower executive vice president, commercial solar. “We’re proud to be working with Bose to further advance solar development in the Commonwealth, and to support the company’s commitment to long-term sustainability as a leading global brand.” SunPower provided turnkey service for the installation, including financing, Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) as well as the long tail of operate and maintain (O&M) support for the system. The ground mount system utilizes a fixed-tilt installation along the sloping hillside along the southern border of Bose’s campus.


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Google unveils ambitious 24/7 carbon-free energy goal; Utility-supported group makes push for nuclear subsidies in Ohio; Senate bill would end tax incentives for EVs (10/12/18)

Today’s lede: Google develops roadmap for 24/7 carbon-free electricity goal. Google is proud to be the world’s largest purchaser of renewable energy and the first company of its size to completely offset its electricity consumption through the direct purchase of renewable energy. “In 2017 alone, we purchased more than 7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (roughly as much as is used yearly by the state of Rhode Island) from solar and wind farms that were built specifically for Google,” Google says in a new report outlining an even more ambitious goal to completely wean the company from fossil fuels by sourcing carbon-free energy for its operations on a 24 hours a day, seven days a week basis.

“Meeting this challenge requires sourcing enough carbon-free energy to match our electricity consumption in all places, at all times. Such an approach looks markedly different from the status quo, which, despite our large-scale procurement of renewables, still involves carbon-based power. Each Google facility is connected to its regional power grid just like any other electricity consumer; the power mix in each region usually includes some carbon-free resources (e.g. wind, solar, hydro, nuclear), but also carbon-based resources like coal, natural gas, and oil. Accordingly, we rely on those carbon-based resources — particularly when wind speeds or sunlight fade, and also in places where there is limited access to carbon-free energy,” the report says.

“Google has multiple compelling reasons to pursue a shift to carbon-free energy sources: we strive to lead on climate change as a business imperative,” the report says. “Pursuing this long-term objective is important for elevating carbon-free energy from being an important but limited element of the global electricity supply portfolio today, to a resource that fully powers our operations and ultimately the entire electric grid.”

Ohio advocates of nuclear power subsidies call for state to follow lead of Illinois, New Jersey and New York. Time is running short and Ohio must act within the next nine months to financially buttress the state’s uneconomic nuclear power plants, the FirstEnergy-supported Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance maintains. The group called for Ohio policy makers to follow the lead of Illinois, New Jersey and New York in adopting subsidies for FirstEnergy’s nuclear power plants, John Seewer reports for the Associated Press. FirstEnergy has said it will close its Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants by 2021 because PJM’s competitive power market does provide high enough returns.

“Closing the two plants, which produce 14 percent of the state’s electricity, would make Ohio too dependent on natural gas and take away a reliable source of energy, putting the state at risk of blackouts if the supply is interrupted, backers say. It also would mean the loss of at least 1,500 jobs and millions in tax money for schools and local governments, they say,” Seewer writes. “But opponents argue that a financial rescue for the plants could increase electricity rates across the state.”

While Ohio lawmakers up to now have spurned proposals to subsidize FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants, the newly formed Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance maintains that Illinois, New Jersey and New York offer Ohio a blueprint for rescuing the plants.

“They have shown the way forward,” maintains Guy Parmigian, a school district superintendent who will need to replace millions if the school district loses tax base from the Davis-Besse nuclear plant.

Adelson newspaper editorials on Question 3, the energy choice ballot initiative. With a crucial decision by Nevada voters on Question 3, the energy choice ballot measure, now less than a month away, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by the family of “yes” advocate Sheldon Adelson, has been running a spate of opinion pieces on the ballot question that would make Nevada the first state in the nation to restructure its electricity market by voter fiat.

In a recent editorial, the newspaper warned that failure to pass the electricity competition measure will cost the state’s schools millions of dollars. The editorial responded to “the latest progressive attack” on Questions 3, a television commercial featuring a local teacher warning that passing the ballot measure would require schools to divert money from educating children to pay for higher electricity bills.

“The spot follows the tired talking points repeated by the various green and union interests that have aligned with NV Energy in an attempt to block Nevadans from having the freedom to choose their own energy provider,” the editorial says. Calling that a false assumption and noting that many large electricity customers are apying millions to leave the NV Energy monopoly umbrella and purchase electricity in the competition markets, the paper questions why these interests would ignore the potential “windfall” that electricity choice represents.

“The answer is that, on many levels, union and green opposition to Question 3 is about a fealty to progressive politics, a deep mistrust of free markets and a fear that consumer choice will disrupt efforts to impose costly bureaucratic directives on electricity providers in the name of advancing fashionable green energy initiatives,” the editorial says. “Consider that as the NSEA is warning consumers that choice is a ‘risky’ scheme that will raise electricity rates, the union has also come out in favor of Question 6, which would force the state’s utilities to purchase 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This makes no sense if prices are a concern. While the cost of renewables has indeed come down as technologies have matured, such mandates by definition will artificially distort the cost of electricity and keep consumer prices higher than they would be otherwise.”

The same edition of the newspaper featured commentary by Young Kim, a principal with the Energy Research Consulting Group, countering NV Energy “scare tactics or unsubstantiated claims featuring estimates or numbers made out of thin air to try to convince Nevadans that the proposal is ‘risky and costly.’”

Neither risky nor costly characterizes the electricity customer choice programs in other states, Kim writes. Actual results in more than a dozen states with electricity competition demonstrate that commercial and residential customers save money, he contends.

“After analyzing the numbers for the 14 most significant retail choice states, we have calculated that shopping customers have saved $25 billion over the past six years — or an average of $4.1 billion per year,” Kim writes. “Regulated utilities do not pay a penalty for their poor decisions because, at the end of the day, the utility regulator always makes them whole. Customers are always footing the bill for utilities’ mistakes. The only way to hold the regulated utility responsible is to break up the monopoly and introduce competitive choice. In the long run, we know from the data that customers will save money.”

The editorial and commentary, however, will have a difficult time rising above the noise of millions of dollars in television and other advertising from both sides of the issue seeking to persuade voters.

“It would be shocking if the money spent promoting or attacking Question 3 doesn’t make it the most expensive ballot question in Nevada history,” writes Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks. “Despite a barrage of ads from both sides, many voters remain unsure of the answer to the most important question. Will passing energy choice lower or increase electric bills? If voters believe Question 3 will save them money, it’ll surge to victory. If voters think it’ll raise electricity rates, efforts to pass the ballot question will short-circuit.”

Wyoming Republican sponsors legislation to end tax incentives for electric vehicles. “When Congress first mandated a taxpayer subsidy for electric car buyers back in 1992, the market for these new vehicles was tiny and the choices were very limited,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., writes in Investor’s Business Daily. Since then nearly every major carmaker in the world is building or planning to roll out an electric vehicle and more than a million electric vehicles are on the road. “Time’s up on the electric car subsidy. The foundation for automakers to create a sustainable electric-vehicle market exists. Taxpayers should be off the hook.”

Barrasso has introduced S.3559, which would terminate the tax credit for plug-in EVs and impose a fee on the vehicles to help fund the federal Highway Trust Fund, which is otherwise insufficiently funded by a tax on motor fuels.

“Drivers of electric cars pay nearly nothing for the wear and tear on our nation’s roads. Yet a Tesla causes just as much strain on America’s highways as traditional fuel-powered vehicles. Instead of paying into the Highway Trust Fund, buyers of electric vehicles get a check from Washington,” Barrasso writes. “My plan bolsters the Highway Trust Fund by making sure all drivers pay to improve America’s roads.”


Other electric industry news items of interest:

D.C. clean energy mandate could burden low-income consumers. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh is proposing one of nation’s most far-reaching and aggressive clean energy bills that she says will benefit the District of Columbia and provide a role model for other jurisdictions. “We want to be a model and a leader.” She also says that the District’s efforts—like those in California and other states—can be a rebuff to President Trump and his decision to drop out of the Paris Agreement on climate change and other international accords. Cheh’s “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018” would have the District reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2032 and 100 percent by 2050. To do so, it would impose new sustainable energy fees on electricity and natural gas to create a “Green Bank” that would fund millions of dollars for retrofitting private and D.C. government office buildings. It all sounds very green and good, but the ambitious timing and action plan is still on the legislative drawing table. About 80 witnesses signed up to testify, mostly in favor, at an Oct. 9 hearing on Cheh’s bill, one crafted, Cheh says, after months of conversations with business and environmental groups. Even so, there were warnings that low-income consumers already pay an exceptionally high “home energy burden.”

SCANA paid former CEO $1.8 million as a nuclear consultant, didn’t ask for timecards, progress reports, documents show. SCANA’s former chief executive was paid $1.8 million to consult on the utility’s failed nuclear construction project without ever filing progress reports or time cards showing his hours worked, according to documents that The State obtained through an open-records request. The State first reported on William Timmerman’s consulting contract earlier this month, noting the Cayce-based utility had not produced any records showing what Timmerman did to earn the money. SCANA says it never asked Timmerman for evidence of his work during his five-year stint as a consultant on the nuclear project, according to correspondence between the Office of Regulatory Staff — the state’s utility watchdog — and SCANA, obtained by The State via the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Regulatory Staff is trying to stop SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, from charging its electric customers for Timmerman’s fees, now that the $9 billion V.C. Summer expansion project in Fairfield County has gone belly up. “According to SCE&G, they requested no documents of Timmerman, which could lead one to conclude that no work was expected,” Regulatory Staff spokesman Ron Aiken told The State.

Editorial: Memphis municipal utility urged to ditch TVA for Bellefonte plant nuclear power. As TVA’s rates continue to rise, that gives MLGW leverage. That’s why Memphis and Memphis Light, Gas and Water officials should explore the proposed purchase of electrical power to be generated at an abandoned Alabama nuclear power plant that may be coming back to life. TVA began construction of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala., in 1975 but halted work on the project in 1988. The plant was sold at auction in 2016 to Chattanooga developer Franklin Haney’s Nuclear Development, LLC. Haney’s bid for business with MLGW is being promoted by former TVA official Bill McCollum, who told City Council this week that MLGW could save an eye-popping $487 million a year for 30 years with an agreement to begin purchasing power at the rate of $39 per megawatt hour when the plant starts in 2022. That’s compared to the utility’s current cost of about $75. With TVA’s gas and electricity rates steadily rising, the potential savings from a Bellefonte deal – to MLGW and its customers – are too potent to dismiss this project as unworkable or too risky for further study. In fact, MLGW should be exploring all alternatives to TVA.

California regulators boost fees charged when customers leave traditional utilities. The California Public Utilities Commission approved an increase in exit fees charged to customers who buy electricity from government-run community choice programs rather than traditional utilities such as Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. After reviewing two competing exit fee proposals, all five commissioners voted Thursday in favor of an adjustment that many advocates predicted could hamper the growth of the community choice movement, which has begun to gain traction with 19 community choice aggregators operating in California. “I support the creation of alternative electric providers to expand customer choice, and our legal obligation is to make sure this happens without increased costs to customers who do not, or cannot, join a CCA,” said Commissioner Carla Peterman, who authored the proposal that passed. “Today’s proposal ensures a more level playing field between customers.”

California is raising costs for defectors from power utilities. “This is not about utility profit versus customer choice,” Peterman said. “Nothing changes to the utility’s profit based on our decision here. What changes is which customers are paying for what.”

California just made it more expensive to leave Southern California Edison, PG&E and SDG&E. The vast majority of public commenters at Thursday’s meeting urged the commission to oppose Peterman’s proposal, which was backed by the investor-owned utilities. Those commenters included city council members and CCA customers. They said Peterman’s plan would make it harder for new CCAs to get started and would limit the ability of existing CCAs to fund clean energy programs that support rooftop solar or electric cars.

State energy board adds new fee to customers of services like CleanPowerSF. For the average residential CleanPowerSF customer, the adjustment will increase their monthly bills by roughly 8 percent — or $5.08. The program’s 108,000 participants, including business customers, will together pay $40 million more per year following the state PUC’s decision, about 25 percent of CleanPowerSF’s annual revenues. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission plans to take steps to reduce what customers actually pay.

Peninsula Clean Energy starts construction of 200-megawatt solar facility. California’s largest solar installation built exclusively for a Community Choice Aggregation agency broke ground today in California’s Central Valley. Peninsula Clean Energy, the electricity provider for 290,000 San Mateo County customers, expects the 200-megawatt utility-scale Wright Solar project to come online in late 2019. “This is a huge step for Peninsula Clean Energy and our customers,” said CEO Jan Pepper. “The Wright Solar project moves us toward our goal of providing all customers with 100% renewable power by 2025. This long-term contract locks in the price we pay for electricity, which helps ensure that our rates will remain low.” Peninsula Clean Energy has an exclusive 25-year power purchase agreement with Wright Solar Park LLC to buy the solar facility’s electricity. The project is owned by Centaurus Renewable Energy and the construction and operations are managed by Clēnera, LLC. The solar facility is being constructed by Swinerton Renewable Energy with union labor hired from the surrounding areas.

You’ll pay more with or without Arizona’s Prop. 127. So, where do you want your money going? The choice over Arizona’s Prop. 127 is simple: You can either let your money go to APS, or you can invest it in renewable energy that would create jobs and save the planet.

As market takes shape, Connecticut makes its first moves on offshore wind. After years of sitting idle as Atlantic Coast neighbors began to set targets and pursue projects, Connecticut took its first major step forward on offshore wind in June, when it ordered a 200 MW project due to come online in 2023. The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) put out another call for clean energy projects last month and has received several bids for more projects from offshore wind developers. “We’re not upset we weren’t the very first movers,” said DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee. The decision to wait was strategic, he said. The technology has matured and prices have come down as the state waited for the right time. “We’re frugal,” Klee said. “We want to make sure we’re not paying more than we have to.”

Maryland PSC to hold public hearing on Union Bridge solar project. A proposed solar facility that would be built within town limits of Union Bridge and in the surrounding unincorporated county land will go before the Maryland Public Service Commission for public comment.  Citizens UB Solar LLC first brought the proposal to a Union bridge Town hearing in May 2018. The proposed the facility off Green Valley Road would be just under 50 acres and produce 9.9 megawatts of power.

Oregon claws back $13 million for inflated solar tax credits. The state of Oregon has clawed back $13 million from SolarCity and its accountant after investigators determined the cost of 14 commercial-scale solar projects had been inflated more than 100 percent to qualify for higher state tax credits. The settlement announced Thursday caps a long-running investigation that has already resulted in the conviction of an energy consultant and a state employee involved in the university projects. It also provides a coda on the now-defunct Business Energy Tax Credit, a $1 billion program that was mismanaged by Energy Department staffers, whose due diligence and controls on tax credit applications worth millions of dollars apiece were often nonexistent. The tax credit program “was meant to channel public funds to help local businesses, create clean energy jobs, and stimulate the economy during a period of economic uncertainty. Unfortunately, some companies abused the program,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “In this case, we have been able to claw millions of tax dollars back from those who sought to cheat the system.”