Friday, February 24, 2017

State Briefs


Utilities Agree to Close Navajo Generating Station

The utilities that own the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station decided Monday to close it when their lease expires at the end of 2019.  Their stated reason is they are overpaying for power.

To run until 2019, the utility owners — which include Salt River Project, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power and NV Energy — need to reach an agreement with the Navajo Nation, which owns the land, to decommission the three-unit, 2,250-MW plant after the lease expires. If an agreement is not reached, they will need to close at the end of this year to have time to tear down the plant’s three generators by 2020.

The Central Arizona Project, which uses some of the Bureau of Reclamation’s share of the power, provided a presentation Monday concluding it would have saved $38.5 million in 2016 if it had purchased power on the open market rather than from the Navajo plant.

More: The Arizona Republic


Bills Aims to Rid Grid of Fossil Fuels by 2045

Sen. Kevin de Leon

State Sen. Kevin de Leon introduced legislation last week that would require the state to get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. The bill also would move ahead by five years, to 2025, the state’s existing target to get 50% of electricity from renewable energy.

Last year, the state drew about 27% of its electricity from renewables, according to the Energy Commission. By law it was required to draw 25%.

If passed, the bill would make the state the second to commit to a carbon-free grid, the first being Hawaii, which set a deadline of 2045.

More: InsideClimate News

Feds, State Officials Warned About Oroville Dam in 2005

Three environmental groups warned state and federal officials about perceived problems with the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway during the dam’s relicensing process. The groups noted that the emergency spillway, which has since come close to failure during emergency water release operations this week, needed to be “armored” with concrete to prevent erosion in the event it was needed.

The groups’ concern was that the 1,700-foot spillway empties into a dirt hillside and risks catastrophic erosion and failure in the event it was used. Their fears nearly came to pass on Sunday. During the 2005 relicensing process, FERC deemed the spillway adequate.

More: The Washington Post

PG&E in Talks with IRS to Try to Write off Fine


Pacific Gas and Electric is preparing to send a letter to the IRS in an apparent attempt to get permission to write off some of the $1.6 billion fine levied for the deadly San Bruno explosion. According to State Sen. Jerry Hill, the company is seeking clarification on whether it can pass on $850 million of the fine, to be spent on improving its natural gas system, to ratepayers.

“This was supposed to cost them money. This was supposed to be a penalty for them for their egregious illegal actions and the death of eight individuals in the City of San Bruno,” Hill said. “That’s what this is a payment for. That’s what this is a penalty for. And they’re trying to get out of it is frankly what they are doing.”

The company hasn’t sent the letter yet, according to Hill, but provided a copy to the Public Utilities Commission as required.

More: KNTV

Bill to Block Aliso Canyon Reopening Clears Senate Committee

A bill to block the reopening of Aliso Canyon until the cause of its 112-day methane leak is known cleared the State Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Thursday with a 7-2 vote and will next go to the Energy Committee.

SB-57, sponsored by Sen. Henry Stern, would prevent energy regulators from ruling the Southern California Gas facility is safe to use without a definitive analysis as to what caused the well failure. Texas-based Blade Energy Partners is conducting such an analysis, which is expected to be finished later this year.

“Our community has paid its dues 10 times over,” said Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council President Issam Najm in a statement. “No one should have the audacity to ask this canary to go back into that mine before they at least know what almost killed it the first time around.”

More: Los Angeles Daily News


Regulators OK Plan to Share Anonymous Energy Usage Data

State regulators last week approved a plan by Commonwealth Edison to release anonymized energy usage data to third-party companies and researchers.

“One of the great benefits of smart meter technology is the availability of data that will enable a growing sector of energy tech companies to design new products and pricing programs that will help customers save money and meet the growing interest for more choice and personalized services,” Val Jensen, ComEd’s senior vice president of customer operations, said in a press release announcing the program’s approval.

The data will come in 30-minute intervals for all zip codes where smart meters have been deployed and will adhere to the 15/15 rule.

More: Midwest Energy News


Solar Advocates Criticize Net Metering Bill

Hershman | Indiana Senate Republicans

The Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance has issued a letter to the chair of the Senate Committee on Utilities claiming statements made by the sponsor of a bill that would end net metering are “simply not true” and may have “unfairly influenced” the committee’s vote.

Senate Bill 309, sponsored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, allows utilities to stop providing net metering incentives as soon as they equal 1% of a utility’s peak summer load. The committee voted last week 8-2 to pass the bill along to the full Senate, which is expected to vote on it Thursday at earliest. The letter, signed by IDEA’s president, Laura Ann Arnold, asks the committee not to move forward on its report until the alleged misstatements can be rectified.

According to the letter, one of the misstatements is that net metering goes away when utilities hit 1% of their baseload generation under current Utility Regulatory Commission rules.

More: pv magazine


Proposed Legislation Seeks to Reduce Rate Increases

Two measures with bipartisan support have been introduced in the House of Representatives with the goal of reducing rate increases that Kentucky Power customers in the eastern portion of the state are facing.

House Resolution 109 seeks reconsideration from the Public Service Commission in regards to the approval of rate increases. House Bill 455 would increase the commission’s ability to protect the public interest with respect to utility services and allow the commission to review cases where an out-of-state utility provider acts in a manner that might be contradictory to what the commission allows for state-based utility providers.

More: The Hazard Herald


Manitoba Hydro to Start $92M Tx Line Project in 2018

Manitoba Hydro will begin construction in 2018 on a pair of 230-kV transmission lines covering about 150 km total after receiving approval from the province on Jan. 30, the company said last week.

The $92 million St. Vital Transmission Complex will stretch south from Winnipeg’s St. Vital Station. One line will serve Winnipeg-area customers, and the other will reinforce supply elsewhere.

The project is expected to be completed in 2020.

More: CBC News


Solar Job Creation Soars by 27% in 2016

The state added 1,160 new solar jobs in 2016, a 27% increase over the previous year, brining the industry’s employment to more than 5,400, according to an annual solar jobs census by the Solar Foundation.

Last year’s boon came while the U.S. solar market nearly doubled, with production capacity growing 95% to 14,626 MW, according to a preview of the upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

In a move that accelerated a previous renewable energy goal, state lawmakers earlier this month voted to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a requirement that a quarter of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.

More: The Baltimore Sun

Regulators Grant $38M Rate Increase to Delmarva

In a ruling that modified a proposed order by the chief public utility law judge, the Public Service Commission denied a significant amount of Delmarva Power & Light’s request for a $66 million increase in its electric distribution rate, instead granting a revenue increase of $38.3 million.

Delmarva’s request, 65% of which included recovery of costs related to reliability expenditures and capital investments in smart meters, would have resulted in a $21.42 increase to the average residential monthly bill. The commission’s decision is expected to result in a monthly increase of $10.84. The decision also authorizes Delmarva to increase its fixed residential customer charge from $7.94 to $8.17.

The utility also sought approval to extend and expand its Grid Resiliency Program by more than $9 million over two years, which was denied by the chief judge and not appealed.

More: Maryland Public Service Commission


Rules to Reduce Carbon Emissions May Increase Them Across New England

Proposed rules designed to comply with a landmark 2016 Supreme Judicial Court decision requiring specific limits on sources of greenhouse gases could have the unintended consequence of increasing carbon emissions across the rest of New England, according to some environmental advocates and representatives of the energy industry.

The rules would require state power plants to reduce emissions 2.5% each year, beginning in 2018. When a plant reaches its annual pollution limits, it would be required to shut down.

Critics say plants in other states that are less efficient would have to run more to meet the demand for electricity.

More: The Boston Globe


Legislature Approves Xcel Energy Natural Gas Plant

Dayton | Minnesota

In an end run around utility regulators, both chambers of the Legislature have approved a new Xcel Energy natural gas-fired power plant that will be located in Becker. The plant is intended offset losses that will occur when two coal-fired generators close in 2023 and 2026.

The Public Utilities Commission sidelined Xcel’s proposal in October and requested research on renewable energy options. Gov. Mark Dayton said he will sign the Senate version of the bill.

More: The Associated Press


Lawmakers Seek to Revive Solar Industry

Lawmakers are seeking to bring the state’s solar industry back to life after new rates for net metering in 2016 caused a 32% decline in the installation sector.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have created special subcommittees to focus on ways to make rooftop solar financially attractive to homeowners, but specific proposals are not anticipated until later in the session. Legislation that would require 80% of the state’s power to come from renewable energy sources by 2040 also has been introduced.

The decline began after the Public Utilities Commission set new rates, effective Jan. 1, 2016, that eliminated financial incentives for net metering and sought to address any unreasonable subsidies provided by nonsolar customers to rooftop solar homeowners.

More: Las Vegas Review-Journal


Study Finds Major Cities Will Pay $220M to Bail out 3 Nuclear Plants

entergy exelon fitzpatrick public citizen nuclear powerA plan to offer a $7.6 billion subsidy to bail out three upstate nuclear power plants will cost the state’s six largest municipalities about $220 million, according to a study by The Alliance for a Green Economy, which has been a vocal critic.

The Clean Energy Standard, which the Public Service Commission approved in August, would bail out Exelon’s R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point plants, as well as the James A. FitzPatrick plant, which Exelon has an agreement to purchase. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has defended the plan as a means to provide clean, carbon-free energy as the state transitions toward a greater reliance on wind and solar power. The plants are struggling because of aging facilities and rising operational costs.

The analysis was based upon six cities for which utility bills are publicly available. New York City’s portion of the bill will likely be $208 million; Buffalo’s share is expected to be $3.35 million; Yonkers will likely pay $3 million; Rochester comes in at $2.66 million; Syracuse at $1.46 million; and Albany at $1.03 million.

More: The Journal News; The Buffalo News


Bill Removes Legal Obstacle for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

McGrady | NCGA

House lawmakers have approved a bill that would give the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline clear authority to force resistant property owners to allow surveys on their land, lawyers say.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady, strikes the phrase “originating in North Carolina” from the state’s eminent domain law. Removal of the phrase would give the pipeline company eminent domain powers it arguably doesn’t have presently because the project does not originate in the state. The revision is part of a broader bill to limit private developers’ use of eminent domain that McGrady previously sponsored on three occasions.

The pipeline company filed 21 lawsuits against property owners seeking pre-condemnation entry for the project to conduct surveys to help inform its permit application to federal regulators.

More: Southeast Energy News


Senate to Consider Bill Imposing Wind Farm Moratorium

The Senate will consider a bill this week that prevents the Public Service Commission from approving an application for a wind farm that’s submitted in the two years after Aug. 1. The bill also asks for a study of the state’s long-term energy plan.

Republican Sen. Dwight Cook said the bill is intended to guarantee the state has a “reliable and affordable source of electricity in the future” and to “save coal.” PSC Chairman Randy Christmann said the state will add about 1,000 MW of wind power in the 10-month period from May 2016 through March of this year.

Democratic Sen. Erin Oban, who voted against an amendment to the bill that imposed the two-year moratorium, said if somebody had proposed a moratorium on coal, oil or gas development, they would have been “shunned out of the room.” She said lawmakers shouldn’t protect one industry over another.

More: The Bismarck Tribune


Investigation Underway into Cause of Pipeline Explosion

An investigation is underway into the cause of a natural gas pipeline explosion near Refugio on Wednesday at about 12:30 a.m.

Kinder Morgan, which owns the pipeline, issued a statement saying it shut down the impacted pipeline segment and the fire has been extinguished. There were no injuries, the statement said.

More: Fuel Fix; KHOU


Vermont Yankee Retirement Increased CO2 Emissions

The retirement of the Vermont Yankee nuclear station in December 2014 led to higher carbon dioxide emission rates across New England after a decade of decline, according to a recent ISO-NE Electric Generator Air Emissions Report.

The plant’s closure removed 604 MW of zero-emission capacity from New England’s electric grid. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the regional power sector increased 2.5% in 2015, from 39,317 to 40,312 kilotons.

Vermont Yankee produced about 4% of New England’s power. When it retired, most of its capacity was replaced with natural gas generation.

More: The Republican


Environmentalists Upset by Language Dropped from Coal Ash Bill

A bill passed by the House of Delegates last week would require Dominion Virginia Power to study whether its coal ash ponds might pollute the water, but environmentalists are upset that the bill drops stronger language that was included in the version of the bill that the Senate passed on Feb. 7.

As passed by the Senate, SB 1398 requires the director of the Department of Environmental Quality to consider the environmental studies when granting permits to close coal ash ponds. But the House version provides that the DEQ director “shall not suspend, delay or defer the issuance of any permit” pending the completion of the environmental assessment. “In deciding whether to issue any such permit, the director need not include or rely upon his review of any such assessment,” the House version also says.

“You might say that the only thing that remains are some of the ashes of the first bill,” Del. Mark Keane said when introducing the bill on the floor.

More: Capital News Service



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