Google Gives $1 Million to Coal Community Nonprofit
The Just Transition Fund said April 24 it has received a $1 million grant from Google.org to help it create a resource guide for communities and workforces affected by the coal industry’s decline.
The grant was one of several announced by the philanthropic arm of Google as part of Google’s $50 million initiative on the future of work. It supports the Just Transition Fund’s technical assistance to and fieldwork with communities that are grappling with economic problems due to the shuttering of the coal mines or coal-fired generation plants that provided much of their employment base and tax revenue.
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PSO Files New Wind Catcher Agreement in Oklahoma
Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) said April 24 that it, Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers (OIEC) and Walmart have reached a settlement agreement on the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project and are asking the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) to approve the project under the agreement’s terms.
PSO said the agreement, which was filed with the OCC, replaces an agreement that it and Walmart reached and filed with the OCC in March. OIEC, a membership organization that includes some of PSO’s largest power users, wasn’t a party to the previous agreement.
The Wind Catcher project, which will cost $4.5 billion, consists largely of a 2,000-MW wind farm being built in the Oklahoma Panhandle and a dedicated line to transmit power from the wind farm to the Tulsa area. The project is a partnership between PSO and Southwestern Electric Power Co., both of which are American Electric Power subsidiaries.
AEP ROE Reduced to 9.85% in Settlement
FERC has approved a settlement reducing the base return on equity for American Electric Power’s (AEP) PJM transmission companies to 9.85%, from 10.99%, effective Jan. 1, 2018 (ER17-405, ER17-406).
In addition, the equity component in the AEP companies’ capital structures will be the lesser of each company’s actual equity capital component or 55%. Affected are AEP subsidiaries Appalachian Power, Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Kingsport Power, Ohio Power, Wheeling Power, AEP Appalachian Transmission, AEP Indiana Michigan Transmission, AEP Kentucky Transmission, AEP Ohio Transmission and AEP West Virginia Transmission.
The settlement resulted from a 2016 challenge by American Municipal Power, Blue Ridge Power Agency, Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative, Indiana Michigan Municipal Distributors Association, Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Wabash Valley Power Association. FERC approved the settlement April 24.
AEP Plans $17.7B in Capital Investments Over Next Three Years
American Electric Power plans to invest $17.7 billion in capital over the next three years — including $12.8 billion in its transmission and distribution systems and $1.7 billion in renewable energy — Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Akins told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting April 24.
Akins said the investments will continue to support AEP’s operating earnings growth rate of 5% to 7%.
The renewable energy figure doesn’t include the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project, which AEP plans to invest $4.5 billion in.
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Duke Overcharged Fayetteville, N.C., FERC Rules
FERC ruled Monday that Duke Energy Progress has overcharged Fayetteville, N.C., for energy and capacity since 2014 because of an improper accounting change. The commission ordered Duke to refund the overpayments and resubmit its FERC Form 1 filings for 2014, 2015 and 2016 (ER17-1553-001).
The commission granted Fayetteville’s challenge to Duke’s 2015 formula rate true-up, which alleged its electric costs increased $1.4 million (2%) after the company moved $395 million in materials and supplies (M&S) inventory from a construction account — which is not part of its formula rate base — into an operations and maintenance (O&M) account, which is included in the formula rates. Duke provides all the electric capacity and energy requirements of Fayetteville’s retail customers, other than those met by the city’s other generation resources.
FERC agreed with Fayetteville that the change was improper. “The purpose of designating M&S inventory as construction or O&M is to provide the commission with information about how the M&S inventory ultimately will be used, which has significant ratemaking implications,” the commission said. “ … Because DEP does not designate any portion of its M&S inventory as construction-related, DEP fails to provide the commission with needed information about its anticipated future use of the M&S inventory.”
FERC OKs Settlement on ODEC Gas Plant Rates
FERC on Monday approved an uncontested settlement reducing the reactive power revenue requirement for Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s new Wildcat Point Generating Facility by more than 20%. ODEC, which had proposed a $2.7 million annual revenue requirement for reactive power and voltage control, will be paid $2.1 million instead (ER17-2290-001). The 950-MW combined cycle plant went into commercial service earlier this month.
GE’s Power, Renewable Segments Going in Opposite Directions
General Electric’s Power and Renewable Energy segments continued moving in opposite directions in the first quarter, with Power seeing declines in orders, revenue, profit and profit margin while Renewable Energy saw all those metrics except revenue grow.
GE said April 20 that its Power segment saw orders fall 29% to $5.6 billion, revenue drop 9% to $7.2 billion, profit decrease 38% to $273 million and profit margin fall to 3.8% from 5.5%. The company said the segment is making progress on cost cutting and operational and services execution, but the industry remains challenging and is trending softer than its forecast.
GE said its Renewable Energy segment saw orders grow 15% to $2.4 billion, profit grow 10% to $77 million and profit margin grow to 4.7% from 4%. The company said the segment’s revenue fell 7% to $1.6 billion because of lower sales of onshore wind equipment as a result of timing of shipments compared to a year ago. The segment’s backlog grew 8% from the fourth quarter, mainly because of strength in onshore wind orders.
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BLM Approves Last Segments of Gateway West Tx Project
The Department of the Interior said April 18 it has authorized the Bureau of Land Management to offer rights of way on public lands for segments 8 and 9 of the Gateway West transmission line project to Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power.
The companies initially proposed the 500-kV, 10-segment project in 2007. It will originate near Glenrock, Wyo., and terminate at the Hemingway substation, 20 miles southwest of Boise, Idaho.
The BLM authorized rights of way for segments 1 through 7 and 10 in 2013 but delayed deciding on segments 8 and 9 to examine additional routing options.
AEP Files Settlement with FERC Cutting Tx ROE
American Electric Power said April 19 that it filed with FERC last month a settlement agreement concerning the return on equity it can earn on transmission investments in its eastern operating and transmission companies.
The agreement, which must be approved by FERC, reduces AEP’s base ROE to 9.85% from 10.99%, effective from the start of this year. That would give AEP a total ROE of 10.35% because of an adder it receives as an RTO member.
The agreement also places the cap on equity for AEP’s eastern transmission projects at 55%. Additionally, it requires AEP to make a one-time refund of $50 million to transmission customers for periods prior to 2018 that will be credited to them in this quarter.
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FERC Approves PacifiCorp Ancillary Service Rates
FERC last week approved an uncontested settlement agreement regarding PacifiCorp’s rates for regulation and frequency control service (ER17-219). The company filed the agreement on Jan. 31, which also set rates for generator spinning reserve service.
Parties to the settlement included Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, Deseret Generation and Transmission Cooperative, Utah Municipal Power Agency, Bonneville Power Administration, Avangrid Renewables and NextEra Energy Resources. It establishes the framework for self-supply or third-party supply of the ancillary services over two periods: July 13, 2017-Dec. 31, 2017, and a separate period beginning Jan. 1, 2018.
The March 5 certification of the agreement by settlement Judge Steven Glazer lists the rates for the services. Commission staff submitted comments in support of the agreement, saying it implements significantly reduced rates.
Evans Replacing Beattie as Southern CFO
Southern Co. said April 17 that Andrew Evans will replace the retiring Art Beattie as executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Kimberly Greene was picked to succeed Evans as chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company Gas, and Stan Connally Jr. will assume Greene’s responsibilities as executive vice president of operations for Southern Co. while continuing to serve as chairman, president and CEO of Gulf Power.
Cross Texas Transmission Places New Line in Service
Cross Texas Transmission said April 19 it placed the Limestone to Gibbons Creek transmission line into service earlier in the week.
The 68-mile, double-circuit 345-kV transmission line, which is the northern portion of the Houston Import Project, runs from the Limestone Substation in Limestone County to the Gibbons Creek Substation in Grimes County.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas issued a final order approving the transmission line in January 2016 after ERCOT said it was needed by June 2018 to ensure reliability and reduce congestion.
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Xcel Gets First-of-Kind Permission to Use Drones
Xcel Energy said April 18 that the Federal Aviation Administration last week gave it permission to be the first utility to fly unmanned aircraft beyond their operators’ line of sight.
The company said that, starting this summer, it will routinely operate drones beyond their operators’ line of sight to inspect transmission lines within a designated area roughly 20 miles north of Denver International Airport.
The operators, who are licensed pilots, will remotely operate an unmanned helicopter that weighs less than 55 pounds and use command-and-control technology to ensure it operates safely.
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SunPower Agrees to Buy SolarWorld
SunPower has agreed to buy SolarWorld Americas for an undisclosed sum, the two solar equipment manufacturers said April 18.
The deal would add 430 MW of cell capacity and 550 MW of module capacity to SunPower’s operations, putting the company in position to rival First Solar as the largest U.S. maker of solar modules.
In addition to U.S. regulators, the deal must be approved by those in Germany. That’s because SolarWorld Americas is a subsidiary of German SolarWorld AG, even though it’s one of the two U.S. companies that sought the tariffs against imported solar products that the Trump administration imposed in February.
In comments it filed on the tariffs on April 16, SolarWorld supported SunPower’s request to be excluded from the tariffs. SunPower is based in San Jose, Calif., but most of its manufacturing is in the Philippines and Mexico and French oil giant Total has a majority stake in it.
OVEC Requests Delay in PJM Integration
The Ohio Valley Electric Corp. has requested a delay in its integration into PJM’s system that was planned for June 1. The request was announced April 17 through PJM’s stakeholder communications and noted that the RTO and OVEC filed the previous day with FERC to delay the integration “to an unspecified date.”
PJM officials alluded to the potential for a delay at the April Market Implementation Committee meeting during a discussion of FirstEnergy Solutions’ recent bankruptcy announcement. PJM CFO Suzanne Daugherty told attendees that the RTO was prepared to integrate OVEC on June 1 but would also accommodate any delay requests. (See “FES Bankruptcy,” PJM Market Implementation Committee Briefs: April 4, 2018.)
Despite stakeholder concerns, PJM determined in November that OVEC meets the membership requirements outlined in the Operating Agreement and that its integration will not cause any reliability challenges. FERC approved the integration without comment on Feb. 13. OVEC’s system includes 705 miles of 345-kV transmission lines and 2,200 MW of capacity from two coal-fired generation plants.
FERC Grants Marketers Delay on Show Cause Order
FERC on Tuesday granted the North American Energy Markets Association (NAEMA) a 120-day extension to respond to the commission’s March order threatening to revoke the group’s capacity and energy tariff (ER18-676).
NAEMA, which claims about 150 members with 500,000 MW of generating capacity, developed the power and gas tariff with the International Energy Credit Association.
The group said the tariff, filed in January, was like the 2003 tariff but was updated to reflect current industry preferences for contract language and products. It intended to leave the existing tariff in place with the new one available for companies that choose to use it. But the commission said March 19 that the tariffs should not be on file with it because NAEMA is not a jurisdictional public utility. (See Second Thoughts: FERC May Revoke Marketers’ Tariff.)
The commission said NAEMA’s response to the show cause order is due on Aug. 16. It denied the group’s request for appointment of a non-decisional commission staff member that it could consult with, saying, “We are not persuaded that such an appointment would be beneficial.”
NH Site Committee Schedules Northern Pass Hearing
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee has scheduled a hearing for May 24 on Eversource’s bid to have it reconsider its decision denying the utility and Hydro-Quebec permission to build the Northern Pass transmission project.
The project, which would bring hydropower from Canada to the New England grid, had been selected by Massachusetts as the winner of the state’s clean power solicitation in January, but the state revoked that decision last month after the Site Evaluation Committee’s decision. (See Massachusetts Bids Adieu to Northern Pass.)
Ave Bie Replaces Michael Bemis as NYISO Board Chair
NYISO’s Board of Directors said April 17 that Ave M. Bie has been named chair, replacing Michael Bemis, whose term as chair ended April 17.
Robert Hiney will replace Bie as vice chair. Bemis will continue to serve as a member of the board.
Bie joined the board in April 2009. She chaired the Governance Committee from 2011 through 2016 and has been chair of the Commerce and Compensation Committee since 2016. She became the board’s vice chair last year.
PSEG Starts Refueling Outage at Hope Creek Nuclear Plant
Public Service Enterprise Group on April 13 started a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage at its Hope Creek nuclear power plant in Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J.
The outage ended the longest continuous run in the plant’s history, 517 days. During the outage, PSEG employees will replace a quarter of the reactor’s fuel and perform nearly 14,000 inspections, tests, and maintenance activities. PSEG will bring in approximately 1,000 contractors and craftspeople to help them.
PSEG will spend $41 million on capital equipment upgrades during the outage.
SWEPCO Announces Wind Catcher Settlement in Louisiana
Southwestern Electric Power Co. said April 13 it has reached a settlement agreement in the Louisiana Public Service Commission’s review of its request for approval of the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection.
SWEPCO said the other parties to the agreement include LPSC staff, Walmart Stores and Sam’s West. The company said it and the other parties shortly will file a joint motion asking the commission to approve the project under the terms of the agreement.
The company would own 70% of the project, and its sister utility, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, would own the remaining 30%. SWEPCO must get approval for the project in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, and PSO must get it approved in Oklahoma. Both companies are subsidiaries of American Electric Power.
EPRI Board Members Elected, External Directors Names
The Electric Power Research Institute said April 12 that four people have been elected to its board of directors, and the board has appointed two external directors.
Paula Gold-Williams, CEO of CPS Energy, and John McAvoy, chairman and CEO of Consolidated Edison and its principal subsidiary, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, were elected to four-year terms, as were interim board members Stanley W. Connally Jr., the chairman, president and CEO of Gulf Power, and Douglas F. Esamann, the vice president of energy solutions for Duke Energy.
The two external directors appointed to four-year terms are Colette Honorable, a partner with Reed Smith and a former FERC commissioner, and Dennis McGinn, former assistant secretary of the Navy and retired vice admiral. Both have served on EPRI’s Advisory Council, an independent stakeholder group that advises EPRI and the board.
Mountain Valley Pipeline Announces Extension Project
Mountain Valley Pipeline on April 11 announced the MVP Southgate project, a proposed 70-mile-long natural gas pipeline that would run from main pipeline in Pittsylvania County, Va., south to new delivery points in Rockingham and Alamance counties, N.C.
The company said it has a firm capacity commitment from SCANA’s PSNC Energy subsidiary for MVP Southgate and is commencing a binding open season for the pipeline to get other commitments for it.
EQT Midstream Partners will operate MVP Southgate, which Mountain Valley said it is shooting to have in service in the fourth quarter of 2020.
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Wyo. PSC Approves 3 PacifiCorp Wind Farms, Tx Line
PacifiCorp said April 13 that the Wyoming Public Service Commission has approved a settlement agreement covering the new wind and transmission projects that are part of its Energy Vision 2020 initiative. The PSC also approved the certificates of public convenience and necessity for the projects, the company said.
The approvals clear the way for PacifiCorp to build three wind farms with 1,150 MW of capacity, which represents a 60% expansion of its wind fleet, as well as a 140-mile transmission line to connect more wind energy to its system. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to not build a previously announced 161-MW wind project in Uinta County. It also agreed to additional customer protections in the event of cost overruns.