NIPSCO Settles for Lower Dollar Amount in Fixed Rate Hike Agreement
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. and the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor reached a settlement on a 5.4% rate increase, less than half the 11% boost that the utility sought in its initial filing.
The settlement would set the monthly fixed rate charge at $14, up from the current $11. NIPSCO initially sought a $20 monthly residential charge.
The rate increase, which requires approval of the Utility Regulatory Commission, would go into effect in the middle of the year.
More: Inside Indiana Business
Governor Vows to Continue Clean Power Plan Inaction
Gov. Mike Pence said the state will not devise an emissions-reduction strategy to comply with the Clean Power Plan, even if the federal carbon emissions regulations survive a legal challenge.
“For me, it won’t be a ‘pencil’s down’ order. We’ve never picked a pencil up,” Pence said. The governor has referred to the federal rule as the “Costly Power Plan” and said that compliance will increase rates for customers.
If the Clean Power Plan remains intact after court review and the state does not create a compliance plan, it would be forced to default to a federally imposed plan. “I think a wise leader of the state of Indiana would start to work on that transition and not play politics with it,” said Jodi Perras of the Sierra Club.
More: Indy Star
State Cancels $20M Contract for Capitol Energy Center
Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration canceled a $16 million contract to build a utility center to replace the power plant in the marked-for-demolition Docking State Office Building after coming under intense bipartisan objections from lawmakers, who said the project was designed to skirt the Legislature’s oversight.
The energy center was to cost about $16 million, and financing would have pushed the total to $20 million. The state government may be responsible for penalties for severing the contract with McCarthy Building Companies.
Chamber of Commerce Endorses Lawsuit Against CPP
The state Chamber of Commerce has filed an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan.
“We’re very concerned with protecting our low-cost energy advantage in Kentucky, being able to continue to run our power plants and utilize our natural resources such as coal to generate power,” said Chamber of Commerce public affairs director Kate Shanks. She said that the state’s economy is “electricity intensive” and depends upon low-cost electricity.
The chamber is joining more than 160 business organizations that are supporting the lawsuit by 29 states challenging EPA’s plan to reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked implementation of the EPA rule on Feb. 9.
Regulators Reject Cleco’s $5B Sale to Investors
By a 3-2 vote, state regulators rejected a $4.9 billion bid by international investors to buy Cleco, effectively killing the utility’s sale.
The Public Service Commission majority said the sale to a consortium of investors led by Australian company Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets would have increased costs for Cleco’s 286,000 customers.
The buyers can appeal the decision to state court.
More: The Advocate
Hearings Set for $200M in BGE Rate Increases
The Public Service Commission has scheduled five public hearings in March to hear testimony on Baltimore Gas and Electric’s request for increases of $120.9 million in electric distribution rates and $79.5 million in gas distribution charges.
BGE filed the request in November, which would raise rates about $15 a month for customers who use both services. The new revenue would recover the cost of installing more than 1 million smart meters.
Hearings are scheduled for Annapolis, Towson, Ellicott City, Bel Air and Baltimore. The public also can file comments electronically.
PSC Accepting Proposals for Offshore Wind Projects
The Public Service Commission has opened a 180-day application period for offshore wind projects after receiving an initial application.
Under the state’s Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, a project must be sited on the outer continental shelf, 10 to 30 miles off the coast in a designated leasing area.
Consumers Energy Pledges to Increase Actual Meter Read Rates
Consumers Energy, under fire for estimating too many of its customers’ bills, said it will make an effort to improve meter reading operations. The assurance was included in a report to the Public Service Commission.
The utility said it only had 85.5% actual readings in 2015, down from a record 93.7% in 2011. It blamed the decline on cold temperatures, unleashed dogs and the departure of more than half the company’s 310 meter readers in 2015. “This performance is not what our customers expect and deserve, and we will make it right,” the company stated. It promised to immediately obtain actual readings from customers with more than 11 months of estimated bills.
The PSC opened its investigation last month after it received more than 300 complaints from Consumers ratepayers who objected to paying inaccurately estimated bills.
Chippewa Tribe to go 100% Solar in 5 Years
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians signed an agreement with Winkelman Building Corp. and Innovative Power Systems for a 15-MW solar system that it says will generate enough electricity to power all of the tribe’s government buildings, its three tribal casinos and the tribal college.
The tribe’s ultimate goal is to generate enough solar power in five years to supply every home on Red Lake, said Chairman Darrell G. Seki Sr. “We’ll provide our own energy for our people, not from the power plants that pollute our lakes,” he said.
The Red Lake Indian Reservation covers about 1,259 square miles and has about 5,160 residents.
More: Indian Country Today
Group Halts Talks with Clean Line Energy
Talks between Clean Line Energy and the Hannibal Board of Public Works to provide the Mississippi River city with cheap electricity in exchange for supporting the company’s high-voltage power line are being put on hold.
During its Feb. 16 board meeting, board General Manager Bob Stevenson announced that discussions were being tabled with Clean Line, which has proposed a high-voltage DC transmission line to deliver wind energy from western Kansas into Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Clean Line has been trying to win the city of Hannibal’s support with promises of electricity for as little as 2 cents/kWh.
Ralls County Presiding Commissioner Wiley Hibbard, who said that most of his constituents strongly oppose the project, applauded the board for putting on the brakes on talks.
More: Hannibal Courier-Post
Colstrip Shutdown Would Cost $14M in Annual State Taxes
The Department of Revenue says the state would lose $14 million a year in tax receipts if two of the Colstrip Generating Station’s four units close down.
The shuttering of Colstrip’s two oldest units seems more likely as the units’ out-of-state owners are facing increasing pressure to reduce their reliance on coal-powered generation.
The Colstrip complex produces 2,094 MW and emits 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to EPA. It also pays 80% of the taxes in Rosebud County, population 9,329.
More: Billings Gazette
Battery Company Gets $2M Loan from Green Fund
The Board of Public Utilities and the Economic Development Authority have approved a low-interest $2 million loan for Eos Energy Storage, which specializes in making low-cost DC battery systems for electric utilities.
The loan was provided through the Edison Innovation Green Growth Fund, which aims to help companies advance energy-efficient technologies that can compete with traditional electricity generation.
BPU Denies Tx Company Public Utility Status
The Board of Public Utilities last week denied a request by Jersey Central Power & Light and Mid-Atlantic Interstate Transmission for the transmission company to be considered a public utility.
The request is part of an effort by FirstEnergy to spin off its utility-owned transmission assets into a new subsidiary. (See FERC OKs FirstEnergy’s Tx Spin-off; NJ, Pa. Approval Still Needed.) Six other actions requested by the petitioners are pending before the board.
The board ruled that utility status requires an “electricity distribution system, plant or equipment.”
Brooklyn Possible Staging Area for Offshore Wind
Deepwater Wind is considering a Brooklyn waterfront site as a staging ground for a potential offshore wind project off Long Island.
New York City issued a request for proposals to use the mostly vacant 72-acre South Brooklyn Marine Terminal site as an industrial maritime facility. Bids are due March 4.
Deepwater has approached two local companies to explore possible partnerships in connection to the project. The company began construction in July on a 30-MW wind farm in Rhode Island waters, the first in the country. It has also announced plans for projects near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and along the New Jersey shore.
State Wants $100K for Review of Dakota Access
The state Emergency Commission voted to bill Energy Transfer Partners $100,000 to pay for an independent review of the company’s proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline. The $3.8-billion, 1,130-mile pipeline would carry crude oil from the state to Illinois.
The Public Service Commission approved the construction permit for the pipeline last month but said it now needs the company to pay for the review, the most expensive independent review the PSC has commissioned since reviews began in 2008. PSC Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak said the requirement was to “hold the company responsible for high standards.”
Regulators in South Dakota and Illinois have approved the project, which still needs approval by Iowa regulators and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
More: The Associated Press
Bill to Define Avoided Costs to Clarify Return on Solar
Although the state has no net-metering law in place, a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would help set definitions of “avoided cost,” or the amount a utility would have to pay a solar owner for power generated and fed back into the grid.
“South Dakota is one of the few states that has gone with just the avoided cost, the bare minimum as far as reimbursing generating customers,” according to Don Kelley, chairman of the board of directors of Dakota Rural Action, which is advocating for a uniform avoided-cost rate.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Paula Hawks, said she wants to set a consistent rate and policy “so people know they’re getting the same rate whether they’re in the Black Hills or in eastern South Dakota.”
More: Midwest Energy News
Regulators OK Southern Co.’s Acquisition of AGL Resources
The State Corporation Commission unanimously voted to approve Southern Co.’s $12 billion acquisition of gas utility AGL Resources, which would create the second-largest utility in the U.S. with 9 million customers.
Southern would also acquire AGL’s share of the proposed $5 billion, 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. AGL was one of the owners — along with Duke Energy, Dominion Resources and Piedmont Natural Gas. Since the project was revealed, Duke Energy announced plans to acquire Piedmont for $4.9 billion.
Southern says it expects to complete the acquisition by the middle of this year. When completed, Southern will have 11 regulated electric and natural gas companies with 200,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines, more than 80,000 miles of natural gas pipelines and 46,000 MW of generation.
More: Southern Co.
Bill Would Allow Gas Surveyors on Private Land Without Permission
The state Senate will consider a bill allowing surveyors for natural gas pipelines to enter private land without the permission of landowners. Under the new provision, surveyors would be able to go on private property if they first send a letter to property owners notifying them of their plans.
The bill is a response to a Monroe County judge’s ruling denying Mountain Valley Pipeline’s request to survey the properties of three uncooperative families. Pipeline issues currently are atop the state’s agenda, with seven pipeline projects underway. The state has experienced intense gas development of the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.
This is the latest of several bills aimed at supporting pipeline development. One makes it harder for landowners to sue because of pollution; another allows pad construction before permits are granted; and a third allows companies to drill on co-owned land without permission from all owners.
More: Charleston Gazette-Mail
Challenge to PSC Ruling on Tx Line Allowed to Go Forward
A LaCrosse County Circuit Court judge is allowing a town’s challenge of a transmission line to move forward. Holland is challenging the Public Service Commission’s approval of the Badger-Coulee line, proposed by Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co.
The 345-kV line is part of a larger project, the CapX2020, which would run across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Xcel and ATC say that the line is necessary for system reliability. The town says there is no clear need for the line and objects to the route.
More: LaCrosse Tribune