Friday, February 24, 2017

Company Briefs

Entergy Asks for Time to Evaluate Need for $216M Plant

Entergy New Orleans is asking the City Council to delay consideration of its proposal to build a $216 million power plant by at least two weeks so that it can evaluate the necessity of the plant in light of new projections for power usage.

Power usage is projected to decrease by about 3.5% over the next 20 years. Entergy has spent months defending its proposal to build the 226-MW combustion turbine plant as well as the previous projections for power usage upon which its proposal was based.

More: The New Orleans Advocate

SolarCity Shifting Business Model to Upfront Payment

SolarCity is shifting its business model to one in which customers pay for their rooftop solar systems upfront, parent company Tesla announced Wednesday.

The company’s original business model was to lease rooftop solar systems to customers with no upfront costs in exchange for payments over 20 years.

The original model forced the company to constantly raise hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to cover the costs of the systems it was installing.

More: The Buffalo News

Indiana Michigan Power to Build 2 New Substations

Indiana Michigan Power will construct two new electrical substations and retire two others as part of a $170 million improvement program.

The Central South Bend Reliability Project also includes 2 miles of underground transmission line. It is part of a program that is meant to improve reliability and support economic development in the South Bend, Ind., area.

Work on this portion of the project is expected to begin in early 2018 and finish in 2019.

More: South Bend Tribune

Robert Powers to Retire as AEP Vice Chairman

Powers | AEP

American Electric Power announced Tuesday that Robert Powers, vice chairman, will retire from the company Aug. 4. There are no plans to fill his position.

Prior to his current position, Powers was executive vice president and chief operating officer at AEP for six years. He has also served as president of AEP Utilities, executive vice president of AEP Utilities East, executive vice president of generation and vice president of nuclear and technical services during his 19 years with the company.

He joined AEP in 1998 as senior vice president of nuclear generation.

More: American Electric Power

NTEC in Talks with APS for Stake in Four Corners Plant

Trucks haul coal from the Navajo Mine

Navajo Transitional Energy Co. is in negotiations with Arizona Public Service to acquire a 7% interest in the Four Corners Power Plant.

APS is the majority utility owner of the plant. NTEC owns the Navajo Mine, which is the plant’s sole coal supplier.

NTEC is executing an option to acquire the 7% interest in accordance with a provision in the coal agreement, Annie DeGraw, communications consultant with APS, said in an email. She said that under the agreement, NTEC has until July 2017 to complete the acquisition.

More: Daily Times

New Tech Complicates Plans for Duke Plants

New technology has thrown a monkey wrench into Duke Energy’s $1 billion quest to build two nuclear power plants in Florida and South Carolina for which it was awarded federal operating licenses in October and November 2016.

The AP1000 design from Westinghouse was supposed to make the nuclear power industry a cost-effective competitor to natural gas, coal, oil and alternative energy resources. But the design likely met its demise when Toshiba announced it would book a $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. Westinghouse unit.

Next-generation designs for small modular reactors may also be making the AP1000 look outdated.

More: Tampa Bay Times

SCE Installing EV Charging Stations in Low-Income Areas

Southern California Edison has started installing electric vehicle public charging stations in low-income communities, a move that counters a trend of more EVs and charging stations located in upper middle class areas of Southern California.

Last year, the utility received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to spend $22 million to offset the cost of installing 1,500 public charging stations at workplaces and multiunit residential complexes within its 50,000-square-mile service area.

If the Charge-Ready program is successful, the number of charging station in the state will increase from 9,614 to 11,114.

More: Press-Telegram

PG&E Won’t Appeal Felony Convictions for San Bruno Explosion


Pacific Gas and Electric has announced it will not appeal its August felony convictions for violating safety laws and interfering with a federal investigation relating to the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.

The decision was made after U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson excluded evidence prosecutors needed to support a potential $562 million penalty.

Instead, on Jan. 26, PG&E was fined $3 million. The sentence also included an independent monitor of its safety practices; 10,000 hours of community service by employees, including at least 2,000 by high-level officials; and advertisements in which PG&E must acknowledge its guilt and describe its plans to avoid future wrongdoing.

More: San Francisco Chronicle

Activists Doubt Quake, Tsunami Research for SCE’s San Onofre Plant

Activists aren’t buying research done at the behest of Southern California Edison downplaying the risks earthquakes and tsunamis pose near the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant, where millions of pounds of radioactive waste are expected to sit for decades.

A dry-cask storage system is under construction, where all waste now cooling in spent fuel pools will go in 2019 and then be placed inside a concrete bunker.

But skeptics say a potentially devastating earthquake or tsunami is always possible. “The area has seen minimal seismic activity in the last 170 years, making it pregnant with the probability of earthquakes to come,” geologist Robert Pope and Charles Langley, both of Public Watchdogs in San Diego County, said in a written counterpoint.

More: The Orange County Register

Enbridge, Spectra Merger Expected to Close in March

Enbridge’s $28 billion acquisition of Spectra Energy is awaiting clearance under the Canadian Competition Act and is on track to close in March.

Under the merger, Enbridge’s oil pipeline, rail and electric transmission holdings will be combined with Spectra’s 90,000-mile network of gas pipelines. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has already approved the deal.

More: Fuel Fix

PJM CIO O’Brien Adds ‘Senior’ to VP Title

PJM’s Board of Managers last week promoted Thomas O’Brien to senior vice president and chief information officer. O’Brien, previously a vice president, has been serving as the CIO since June 2015, when CEO Andy Ott gave him the title after succeeding Terry Boston. (See Boston Retirement Prompts Additional Promotions at PJM.)

“Now more than ever our industry needs visionary leadership around information technology,” Ott said in a statement. “Tom’s knowledge and leadership of PJM’s information technology, security and resilience vision and strategy has been a real asset.”

O’Brien is responsible for PJM’s IT services activities, including business solutions, application development services, and infrastructure and operations. Prior to joining PJM in 2002, he was employed by GPU Energy and FirstEnergy.

More: PJM

Tres Amigas Scales Back NM Grid Connection Project

Tres Amigas announced last week it has scaled back a $1.5 billion project in New Mexico that would connect the three continental U.S. interconnections to one that would cost about $200 million.

The announcement came after state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said in a statement the company failed to meet certain benchmarks and abandoned its plan.

Russell Stidolph, Tres Amigas’ CFO, said technological advances and changes in the project’s business model reduced the amount of money and land required, but the project has not been abandoned. The company and the State Land Office both indicated they are open to negotiating a new lease.

More: The Associated Press

Renjel Named Duke’s New VP of Fed Affairs, Strategic Policy

Duke Energy announced last week that it has appointed Louis Renjel as its new vice president of federal government affairs and strategic policy effective March 20, 2017.

Renjel will oversee federal affairs; FERC and gas policy; and environmental and energy policy. He joins Duke from CSX Corp., where he has served as vice president of strategic infrastructure since 2009.

He will replace Cari Boyce, vice president of policy, sustainability and stakeholder strategy, who has led the federal affairs team on an interim basis since August 2016 and will move into a new role at the company.

More: Duke Energy

Smitherman Named to NRG Board in Investor Shakeup

Smitherman | Ballotpedia

NRG Energy ousted the chairman of its board of directors and added two new members in a deal struck with a pair of hedge funds who collectively own 9.4% of the company’s stock.

One of the new additions is former Texas Public Utility Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman, who is reportedly under consideration by the Trump administration to be the next chairman of FERC.

The hedge funds — Bluescape Energy Partners and Elliott Associates — were able to force the resignation of Chairman Howard Cosgrove and Director Edward Muller and, along with Smitherman, add former TXU CEO John Wilder, who chairs Bluescape. The investors are seeking to push NRG into lowering its operating costs by offloading unprofitable assets, such as coal-fired power plants.

More: Houston Chronicle

El Paso Electric Files Rate Hike Request with PUCT

El Paso Electric filed a request with the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a $42.5 million increase in revenues, an increase of 8.7%.

According to the company, the average West Texas residential bill would see an increase of $8.25/month. The company says the additional revenue is needed cover the expenses of a new power plant in El Paso.

The company received a $37 million rate increase last year.

More: El Paso Times

DTE’s St. Clair Plant to Be Fully Restored by July


DTE Energy’s St. Clair Power Plant, which was damaged by a fire in August, should be fully restored by July 2017, according to DTE Electric President Trevor Lauer.

Speaking in Michigan at the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County’s semi-annual luncheon on Tuesday, Lauer said that DTE still plans to close the plant between 2020 and 2023 along with eight other plants.

The company will soon begin the approval process for a new $1 billion plant in East China that will begin operations by 2022.

More: The Times Herald

42 Railroad Ave Buys Maine Power Plant Fueled by Wood Chips

Alabama-based company 42 Railroad Ave has purchased a shuttered 24-MW power plant fueled by wood chips in Penobscot County, Maine, and plans to bring it online by the end of June.

The company, which develops heavy industrial and small town revitalization projects, is purchasing the plant from Niagara Worldwide for an unspecified amount after four years of negotiations and has already begun the re-permitting process, CEO Steven Johnson said.

The plant’s projected revenue is $34 million per year, Johnson said.

More: Portland Press Herald

Toshiba Chairman Resigns as Nuclear Business Takes $6B Hit

Toshiba, which has struggled to make money in nuclear power since purchasing Westinghouse Electric in 2006, said Tuesday it plans to write off more than $6 billion and stop building new nuclear plants. Toshiba also announced its chairman, Shigenori Shiga, would resign.

Westinghouse, which Toshiba purchased for $5.4 billion, is facing spiraling cost overruns at its U.S. nuclear plant projects, and Toshiba said Tuesday it wants to sell all or part of its controlling stake in the company. However, previous efforts to sell a portion of its shares were unsuccessful.

In 2015, Westinghouse purchased American construction company CB&I Stone & Webster.Toshiba’s auditors later determined Westinghouse overpaid and the construction company was saddled with liabilities for which Westinghouse failed to account.

More: The New York Times

Annette Elg Appointed to Boards of Directors of IDACORP, Idaho Power

IDACORP announced Feb. 8 that Annette Elg has been appointed to serve on the boards of directors of both IDACORP and Idaho Power.

Elg previously served as senior vice president and CFO for J.R. Simplot from August 2002 until her retirement in December 2016. She joined Simplot in 1989 and held multiple positions during her 27-year career there, including corporate controller and controller for the Food Group.

Prior to joining Simplot, Elg spent 10 years with the Boise office of Arthur Andersen.

More: Idaho Power

Rob Gramlich Launches Grid Strategies Firm

Gramlich | © RTO Insider

Rob Gramlich left his position Friday as senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association to launch Grid Strategies, a firm that will focus on power grid issues.

Grid Strategies will provide advice and advocacy services relating to integrating clean energy into the grid; transmission infrastructure policy; and helping renewable energy, storage and transmission interests with grid challenges at FERC, the Energy Department and grid operators. AWEA and the Energy Storage Association will be among the firm’s first clients.

Prior to joining AWEA, Gramlich was previously at FERC, where he worked on setting up RTOs and developing transmission infrastructure policies for Chairman Pat Wood III.

More: American Wind Energy Association

Cleco CEO Darren Olagues Resigns

Darren Olagues, president and CEO of both Cleco Corporate Holdings and Cleco Power, the company’s regulated electric utility, resigned last week.

Effective immediately, Peggy Scott, Cleco board chair, will serve as interim CEO of Cleco Corporate Holdings, and William “Bill” Fontenot will serve as interim CEO of Cleco Power.

A search by the Cleco board for Olagues’ successor is expected to take up to 12 months.

More: The Town Talk

Regulators Expect to Rule on $12B Westar Acquisition in April

The Kansas Corporation Commission is expected to decide on April 24 whether a proposed $12.2 billion acquisition of Westar Energy by Great Plains Energy will go forward after concluding six days of hearings last week.

Bob Glass, a chief economist for the commission, recommended it reject the deal. He testified the acquisition would likely cause plants to close, thus creating job losses that would mitigate the deal’s positive effects.

Cath Dinges, an attorney for Westar, questioned Glass’ findings on a wide range of issues relating to how the deal would impact the state’s economy.

More: The Topeka-Capital Journal



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