Pinnacle Gave $6.4M to PAC Fighting Renewable Power Initiative
Arizona Public Service’s corporate parent, Pinnacle West Capital, gave nearly $6.4 million last quarter to a political action committee called Arizonans for Affordable Electricity to fight a ballot proposal that would require the state’s utilities to get 50% of their power from renewable sources by 2030.
Since last fall, Pinnacle has contributed $10.7 million to two PACs — the other is Arizonans for Sustainable Energy Policy — to fight the ballot initiative, according to campaign finance documents.
Corporation Commission Executive Director Resigns
Corporation Commission Executive Director Ted Vogt resigned July 5 after four elected commissioners raised questions about his wife’s work with Arizona Public Service.
Vogt’s wife Annie works for Veridus, a lobbying firm hired by APS’ parent company, Pinnacle West Capital, to fight a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, would require APS and other regulated electric utilities to get half their power from renewable sources by 2030.
Vogt was hired in January 2017. He disclosed his wife’s role with Veridus on July 2 and Commission Chairman Tom Forese sent him a letter the next day asking him to resign.
RPS Ballot Initiative Supporters File 480k+ Signatures
Supporters of an initiative that would require electric utilities to get at least half their power from renewable sources by 2030 filed more than 480,000 signatures with the secretary of state’s office on July 5 to get the initiative on the November ballot.
The supporters only need 225,963 of the signatures to be valid to get the initiative on the ballot.
A spokesman for a group called Arizonans for Affordable Energy, which is financed largely by Arizona Public Service’s parent, Pinnacle West Capital, has claimed that many of the people gathering signatures are convicted felons who, unless their civil rights were restored, are ineligible to do that.
More: Arizona Daily Star
PSC Increases IOUs’ Energy Efficiency Goal to 1.2% of Sales
The Public Service Commission on July 13 issued an order increasing the energy-efficiency goal for investor-owned utilities to 1.2% of baseline energy sales from 2020 through 2022. The utilities had been required to save a maximum of 1% of baseline sales through their efficiency programs.
The new goals should “establish Arkansas as a leader in energy efficiency savings in the South,” Sierra Club said. It joined Audubon Arkansas and the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association in recommending the new targets, which the groups project will save 445 million kWh of power per year.
More: Arkansas Business
Distributed Solar Saved Utilities $650M to $730M
Distributed solar generation enabled utilities in CAISO to spend $650 million to $730 million less on power for their customers from 2013 through 2015, according to a report by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“A retrospective analysis of the market price response to distributed photovoltaic generation in California,” which is slated to be published in Energy Policy in October, found that distributed solar reduced the hourly mean whole electricity price by up to 3.2 cents/kWh during the peak period of 12 to 1 p.m.
The researchers used 15-minute solar electricity production estimates in the study, as that is the interval generators bid for in the day-ahead market.
More: pv magazine
Report: Expanding CAISO Would Cut Costs, Create Jobs
Expanding CAISO would lower energy costs, increase renewable energy use and create 10,000 to 20,000 jobs a year in the state by 2030, think tank Next10 said in a report released July 17.
“A Regional Power Market for the West: Risks and Benefit” includes two RTO scenarios. Under one, the state would continue buying most of its power in-state or from nearby sources. By 2030, the report says, that would create an additional 20,000 jobs a year through lower energy costs and the construction of wind, solar and geothermal projects.
The second scenario, in which the state would buy its energy from anywhere, would create an extra 10,000 jobs a year by 2030, according to the report.
Pro-PG&E Wildfire Bill Sponsor’s Son a Utility Employee
State Assemblyman Bill Quirk, who wrote a bill that would make Pacific Gas and Electric customers cover the costs of settling lawsuits from last year’s wildfires, has a son who works for the utility.
Ian Quirk’s LinkedIn page says he is an “expert portfolio management analyst” who has been employed by PG&E since July 2009 and did a four-month internship with the company in 2008.
“The member’s decision to introduce AB33 has nothing to do with his son working at PG&E,” said Tomasa Duenas, Quirk’s chief of staff. “It has everything to do with fire victims and protecting ratepayers.”
More: San Francisco Chronicle
Emails Reveal Private Meetings Between Regulators, CAISO
Officials from the Public Utilities Commission, CAISO, the Energy Commission, the Air Resources Board and the Water Resources Control Board met privately as a group called the Energy Principals to discuss issues of mutual concern, including cases before their organizations, according to emails recently released by the PUC under a court order.
Members of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, energy producers and other industry stakeholders also attended the meetings, which were held through most of 2014, the emails show.
PUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the meetings were held periodically so public officials could discuss cross-cutting issues of importance to the state and that there was never a quorum of commissioners at the meetings. She declined to say if the meetings are still happening.
PUC Rules Utilities Must Notify Customers When De-energizing Lines
The Public Utilities Commission ruled July 12 that utilities must notify customers and follow other set procedures when they de-energize power lines in extreme weather to reduce fire risk.
San Diego Gas & Electric already has the requirements placed on it because it was the first utility in the state to de-energize its lines when it felt they were at risk of sparking fires.
Pacific Gas and Electric began de-energizing lines in high fire-risk conditions after the Wine Country fires last fall.
More: The Press Democrat
GHG Emissions Reach 2020-Mandated Level Four Years Early
The Air Resources Board said July 11 that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions fell below 1990 levels in 2016, putting the state four years ahead of its mandated goal of having them equal 1990 levels in 2020.
The state’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 2.7% in 2016 — the latest year for which figures are available — to about 430 million metric tons, just below the 431 million metric tons produced in 1990. That’s 13% below their 2004 peak, even though the state’s economy has grown 26% since then.
State law requires them to be 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
More: The Associated Press
PUC Authorizes SCE to Recover Cost of Clean Energy Contracts
The Public Utilities Commission on July 12 authorized Southern California Edison to recover from its customers the cost of 19 contracts for 125 MW of clean energy resources to offset the need for new natural gas generation.
SCE issued the contracts under its Preferred Resources Pilot, which is meant to determine the extent to which deployment of energy storage and other distributed energy resources can operate as reliably as a traditional gas-fired power plant.
The authorization reverses a proposed March decision by the PUC that wouldn’t have allowed SCE to recover the cost of the contracts.
LA Restores Outages, Sets Demand Records After ‘Heat Storm’
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that as of 9 a.m. PT on July 9, it had restored electrical service to 76,000 customers that lost power due to what it called a “heat storm” that began July 6. The city-owned utility said 7,000 customers were without power at that time.
The power outages “were due to sudden, extreme heat coupled with record electricity demand at the neighborhood level in parts of the city that do not typically get as hot as it did on Friday and Saturday,” utility spokesman Joe Ramallo said.
The utility had a peak demand of 6,256 MW on July 6, a record for a July day. Its peak demand July 7 topped 5,700 MW, its second highest weekend demand.
State Officials Discussing Financial Responsibility for Wildfires
Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators said July 2 they were forming a special committee to discuss financial responsibility for wildfires, fire prevention and requiring utilities to develop more expansive wildfire preparation plans.
The announcement of the committee suggests the governor and the lawmakers are considering scaling back the principle of inverse condemnation, which requires utilities to pay for damage their equipment causes even if there’s no finding they were negligent in maintaining and operating it.
Any changes to the law resulting from the committee would apply only to future fires. But the committee’s formation comes as Pacific Gas and Electric faces potentially billions of dollars in costs from the fires that swept across the state’s wine country last year.
More: The Associated Press
Assembly Committee Passes 100% Zero Carbon Bill
The State Assembly and Utilities Committee on July 3 approved by a 10-5 vote legislation carried over from last year requiring retail energy sellers to provide 100% zero-emission power by the end of 2045.
Politically popular SB100, introduced by State Sen. Kevin De Leon, accelerates the timetable for no-emission power, requiring retail energy sellers to procure 50 to 60% zero-carbon electricity by 2030 before meeting the 2045 requirement.
Amendments passed June 27 allow publicly owned utilities with more than 50% hydropower to establish a “soft” renewable portfolio target in consultation with the Energy Commission. The bill will now move to floor votes in both chambers of the State Legislature.
PG&E Seeks Approval of Storage Projects
Pacific Gas and Electric on June 29 asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve four lithium-ion battery energy storage projects totaling 567 MW, including a 300-MW project that its developer, Vistra Energy, said would be the largest of its kind in the world.
PG&E would own one of the projects, a 182.5-MW battery that Tesla would build in the utility’s Moss Landing substation. PG&E said the system would address local capacity requirements and provide energy and ancillary services in CAISO’s markets. The developers of the other three projects would own them.
Vistra’s battery would be located at PG&E’s Moss Landing Power Plant. The other two projects would be a 10-MW aggregation of behind-the-meter batteries located at customer sites and interconnected to local substations, and a standalone, 75-MW transmission-connected battery near Morgan Hill.
PSC Staff, Public Advocate Reach Settlement to Cut Delmarva’s Rates
Public Service Commission staff and the Division of the Public Advocate on June 27 executed a settlement that, if approved by the commission, would reduce Delmarva Power’s rates by $6.85 million a year.
Delmarva initially had sought to pass $31 million in distribution costs on to its customers. But earlier this year, the PSC approved a petition from the Public Advocate requesting a rate reduction for the utility for savings it realized from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
If approved, the settlement would decrease the amount typical Delmarva customers annually pay for electricity by more than $15, or 1.4%. The increase initially sought by Delmarva would have boosted the amount typical Delmarva customers annually pay for electricity by $65, or 4.7%.
Avista Proposes Lower Rates with PUC
Avista said July 2 it has made its annual fixed cost adjustment filing with the Public Utilities Commission, which, if approved, would decrease its electric revenues by $7.4 million, or 2.9%, effective Oct. 1.
The company said the adjustment was driven primarily by a higher level of customer usage last year in part because of a colder-than-normal winter. The average residential customer’s rates would decrease by $4.16/month, or about 4.7%.
Duke Files Settlement Detailing Tax Cut Pass Through
Duke Energy said June 28 that it, the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the Indiana Industrial Group and Nucor Steel have submitted a settlement to the Utility Regulatory Commission under which Duke would pass the $142 million it saves from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on to customers.
Duke said it began reflecting the lower federal tax rate in customer bills earlier this year when it filed new electric bill riders with the Utility Regulatory Commission. In addition to the riders, the settlement proposes reducing base rates in September to reflect Duke’s federal tax rate being cut from 35% to 21%, the company said.
More: Duke Energy
Utilities File Five-Year Energy Efficiency Plans Under New Law
Utilities on July 9 filed five-year energy efficiency plans with the Utilities Board for its approval. The filings were required by legislation signed in May that caps the amount electric utilities can spend on energy-efficiency programs at 2% of their retail sales, down from the 7% to 8% they were spending. The funds for the programs come from fees assessed on customers’ bills that the legislation required utilities to disclose.
The Iowa Environmental Council said the plans contained significant cuts to energy efficiency programs that would lead to job losses at small businesses across the state.
MidAmerican Energy President and CEO Adam Wright said his company’s plan “will put money back into our customers’ pockets and still provide a wide range of programs to encourage taking action to save energy.”
IPL Replacing Beyond Solar Proposal with Community Solar Project
Interstate Power and Light dropped its June 2017 request for a premium-pricing option called Beyond Solar in a filing with the Utilities Board on June 28.
Under Beyond Solar, IPL would have provided customers with renewable power from an existing solar array in Dubuque and through a power purchase agreement it already has with a wind farm in the state. Instead, the Alliant Energy subsidiary plans to develop a community solar project, for which it recently issued a request for proposals.
“They are looking at a potentially new solar resource based on customers subscribing, where there is actual economic benefit to the customers,” said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Des Moines, who was critical of Beyond Solar.
More: Midwest Energy News
Westar Gets Approval for Renewable Program for Businesses
Westar Energy said July 11 it has received approval from the Corporation Commission for a renewable energy program that will allow companies to buy power from a 300-MW wind farm that will be built northeast of Manhattan.
The company said it has reached a 20-year agreement with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources to purchase power from the wind farm. That will allow businesses that take part in Westar’s program to use part of the energy generated by the wind farm and lock in part of their electricity rates for 20 years.
Westar expects the wind farm will be online in the fourth quarter of 2019.
More: Wichita Business Journal
PUC Expands CMP Audit to Include Handling of Complaints
The Public Utilities Commission on July 10 authorized Liberty Consulting Group, which it hired to investigate complaints about significant increases in Central Maine Power customers’ bills last winter, to expand its audit to include how CMP handled the complaints.
The PUC is conducting its own investigation of CMP’s metering, billing and customer service in tandem with Liberty’s audit.
The expansion of Liberty’s audit will increase the cost of its contract with the PUC by $31,220 to $401,040, some of which may be borne by CMP after lawmakers voted July 9 to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would allow the PUC to allocate the cost of an audit of a public utility between its customers and shareholders if the audit finds fault on the part of the utility.
More: Portland Press Herald
Deadline for Vineyard Wind Negotiations Pushed Back
The three electric distribution companies seeking to reach an agreement with Vineyard Wind on buying power from its proposed 800-MW wind farm have extended the deadline for reaching the agreement to July 31, according to a filing they made with the Department of Public Utilities on July 2.
“At this time, the distribution companies are in the final state of negotiations with Vineyard Wind based on the prices, terms and conditions contained in its selected bid,” according to the filing by attorneys for the utilities.
More: Cape Cod Times
Court: PSC Can’t Require Alternative Suppliers to Use In-state Power
The Court of Appeals ruled July 12 that the Public Service Commission can’t require alternative electric suppliers to use only energy produced in the state to satisfy the requirement that they demonstrate sufficient capacity three years in advance.
A 2016 law that empowers the commission to require alternative electric suppliers to demonstrate sufficient capacity “does not specifically authorize the MPSC to impose local clearing requirements upon alternative electric suppliers individually,” the court said in its order.
A PSC spokesman said July 13 that the commission would review the ruling before determining how it would respond to the order.
More: The Detroit News
PSC Approves Part of Empire District’s 600-MW Wind Plan
The Public Service Commission on July 11 issued an order approving part of Empire District Electric’s proposal to build 600 MW of wind generation assets.
The PSC gave Empire permission to record the costs of building turbines and include them in its next rate case if it completes the project it is proposing. It also gave the company the authority to establish a framework to account for the depreciation of the wind turbines’ value.
“Empire’s proposed acquisition of 600 [MW] of additional wind-generation assets is clearly aligned with the public policy of the commission and this state,” the commission said. “However, it is premature for this commission to make a legal conclusion that Empire’s decision to acquire wind generation using a tax equity partner is reasonable.”
More: The Joplin Globe
PSC Reduces Ameren’s Revenue 6% to Reflect Lower Tax Rate
The Public Service Commission on June 5 approved an agreement reducing Ameren Missouri’s annual revenue by $166.5 million (6%), effective Aug. 1.
The agreement is in a case that the PSC opened on June 6 under a state law that gives the commission one-time authority to order an adjustment to the rates of certain electric utilities in light of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Referendum on Boosting RPS Makes November Ballot
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said July 12 supporters of a referendum on whether Nevada should increase its renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2050 have received enough signatures from registered voters to get it on the November ballot.
Nevadans for Clean Energy Future had to get more than 112,544 signatures to get the Renewable Energy Promotion Initiative on the ballot. The group is backed by billionaire Tom Steyer, who is funding groups behind similar efforts in Michigan and Arizona.
More: News 4 & Fox 11
3rd Biomass Power Company Halts Operations After Veto
A third biomass power company is temporarily winding down its operations in response to a governor’s veto of a bill requiring utilities to buy electricity from biomass power plants at 80% of the market rate, an official with the company said July 3.
Bridgewater Power Plant joins Pinetree Bethlehem and Pinetree Tamworth in halting its purchase of wood chips from local suppliers and intending to burn through its stockpiled wood chips in the coming weeks, according to Michael O’Leary, the plant’s asset manager.
O’Leary said he’s confident the plant could remain running year-round if the legislature were to override the governor’s veto.
More: Concord Monitor
JCP&L Files $387M Reliability Improvement Plan with BPU
Jersey Central Power & Light on July 12 filed a four-year plan with the Board of Public Utilities under which it would spend $387 million to improve the reliability of its distribution network.
JCP&L said the proposal includes nearly 4,000 upgrades to help the reliability and resilience of its overhead and underground power lines, as well as new equipment to reduce the frequency and duration of outages. It also calls for the utility to boost its vegetation management program to reduce outages caused by falling trees.
The utility said it hopes the BPU will rule on the program by the end of the year.
More: Asbury Park Press
Shifting Land Caused Pipeline Explosion, Feds Say
Shifting land causing stress on a weld likely caused the June 7 explosion on TransCanada’s Leach Xpress pipeline near Moundsville, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said.
The agency announced the determination July 9, saying TransCanada should conduct extra surveillance and analysis on a 50-mile section of the pipeline that is buried in terrain that is geologically similar to the terrain where the explosion occurred.
TransCanada said in its own incident report that the pipeline failed as a result of a landslide, but not one caused by heavy rain.
DEP Approves Highland Rules Exemption for Proposed Gas Plant
The Department of Environmental Protection has approved an exemption from the rules governing the Highlands Preservation Area for Abatis Advisors, which wants to build a 663-MW natural gas-fired power plant on the site of a former paper mill on the Musconetcong River in Holland Township.
The DEP ruled that the Phoenix Energy Center qualified for an exemption under the Highlands regulations governing the redevelopment of sites where building already has occurred.
At the same time, however, the DEP found that the plan for the plant inconsistent with the Upper Delaware Water Quality Management Plan. That decision prohibits the agency from issuing any permits for the power plant until Abatis brings its plan for the facility in line with the water quality management plan.
Environmentalists Criticize DEP for Issuing Permits to Proposed Power Plant
Environmentalists on July 9 criticized the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy for issuing six permits to Diamond Generating Corp., a Mitsubishi subsidiary, for a $1.5 billion natural gas-fired power plant it wants to build in North Bergen.
The permits were issued by the Department of Environmental Protection for the North Bergen Liberty Generating Station, which would ship all its power via underground cable to a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan.
“This is the opposite of everything the Meadowlands needs right now,” said Bill Sheehan, director of the Hackensack Riverkeeper advocacy group. “I’m really shocked that they actually issued these.”
FERC Rejects Rehearing on Constitution Pipeline
FERC on Thursday rejected Constitution Pipeline’s request for rehearing of the commission’s January ruling that the Department of Environmental Conservation acted within its authority in denying the project a water quality certification.
The project, which received a FERC certificate in December 2014, has been stalled since the state denied it the water permit on April 22, 2016. The commission’s January order rejected Constitution’s request for a declaratory order that the state had waived its rights under the Clean Water Act by taking too long to rule. (See FERC Upholds New York Denial of Constitution Pipeline.)
The commission’s order Thursday reaffirmed its previous ruling that the state acted within a one-year deadline, saying the clock started on April 27, 2015, when Constitution filed its third application for the project after withdrawing two earlier attempts.
County Installs 11 EV Chargers as Part of NYSERDA Program
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said July 9 that Tompkins County has installed 11 electric vehicle charging stations to support its goal of becoming the state’s first Electric Vehicle Model County.
The installation is part of the state’s Electric Vehicle Accelerator initiative, a pilot program to help municipalities become models for electric vehicle use that supports its goal of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030.
Tompkins is the second municipality to take part in the program. The first was Rochester, which launched its pilot last year. Both are partnering with local organizations and businesses as part of the program.
PSC Approves First Wind Farm Decommissioning Plans Under New Rules
The Public Service Commission said July 3 that it has approved the first set of wind farm decommissioning plans since it changed the rules governing wind farm decommissioning last year.
The PSC approved decommissioning plans for 14 wind farms. The new rules require wind farm developers to file decommissioning plans, including cost estimates, and have them approved by the commission before they open the facilities. They also require owners of existing wind farms to have submitted decommissioning plans by July 1. Additionally, the rules require the plans to include financial assurance for decommissioning.
Retail Power Seller Think Energy Agrees to Fine, Compliance Program
The Public Utilities Commission on July 11 adopted an agreement between its staff and Think Energy under which the company has agreed to pay a $110,000 fine and implement a compliance program to resolve alleged violations of the competitive retail electric service provider minimum standards and service requirements.
The agreement requires Think Energy to provide the commission with a plan to address staff training, sales contracts, sales scripts and practices and enrollment documentation before it can resume door-to-door sales.
PSB Staff Recommend Wind Farm Approval
Power Siting Board staff recommended July 3 that Lake Erie Energy Development Co. (LEEDCo) be allowed to build the first freshwater wind farm in the U.S. on Lake Erie, if the company develops a plan for monitoring birds and bats so the facility can operate at night.
Beth Nagursky, LEEDCo’s director of sustainable development, said she is confident the company can develop a monitoring plan for the $126 million Icebreaker wind farm that meets the staff’s demands.
A public hearing on the project is scheduled for July 19.
More: The Plain Dealer
ALJ Recommends PSO Return $428 Million in Tax Savings to Customers
Corporation Commission Administrative Law Judge Mary Candler on June 27 recommended that Public Service Company of Oklahoma return to its customers $428 million in income that it accumulated thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.
Attorney General Mike Hunter, who in December initiated cases to get regulated utilities to pass their savings from the act back to their customers, praised Candler’s recommendation.
Hunter’s staff estimate that the recommendation, if approved, would return approximately $23.85 to an average residential PSO customer over the rest of 2018.
Sierra Club Requests PacifiCorp Coal Plant Study Be Made Public
Sierra Club on July 9 asked the Public Utility Commission to order PacifiCorp to make public the results of its analysis of the economics of its coal-fired power plants.
The environmental group wants PacifiCorp to retire the power plants earlier than the company plans to and thinks the analysis contains information supporting its position.
A commission order allows PacifiCorp to keep private “commercially sensitive and confidential business information related to [its] long-term resource planning,” but Sierra Club says the company hasn’t shown how releasing the analysis would hurt it.
Clean Energy Fund Backers Claim Enough Signatures for Ballot
Backers of an initiative to fund clean energy programs in Portland with a new business tax said July 5 they have gathered more than 60,000 signatures from people who want the initiative on the November ballot, well above the 35,000 needed.
The Portland Clean Energy Fund would pay for programs such as home weatherization, energy efficiency upgrades, and job training in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields. Many of the programs would be earmarked for people with low incomes and communities of color.
Supporters of the initiative say it would raise an estimated $30 million a year from a 1% tax on businesses with half a million dollars or more of sales in Portland, excluding sales of groceries or medicine. A political action committee called Keep Portland Affordable is representing business interests that are against the initiative.
PUC Files Complaint Alleging Nonprofit Misused PECO Customer Funds
The Public Utility Commission on July 16 filed a complaint in Commonwealth Court against a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that it alleges has failed to properly use money collected from PECO Energy customers for economic development.
The complaint seeks a return of unspent funds, plus interest, from the Delaware Valley Regional Economic Development Fund, which received about $21 million from PECO customers for economic development loans and grants under the state’s 1998 electric utility restructuring plan.
The PUC alleges that the nonprofit’s activity has remained at an “unacceptable low level,” with no known outreach programs to identify credible projects; no means of evaluating the few programs it has funded; and no known efforts to make the Philadelphia community aware of the availability of its economic development funds.
PUC Gives Xcel Permit for 300-MW Dakota Range Wind Farm
The Public Utilities Commission on July 10 approved, with conditions, a permit for Xcel Energy to construct the $380 million, 300-MW Dakota Range wind farm in the northeast part of the state.
The conditions require the wind farm to monitor bird mortality and have aircraft warning lights that only go on when aircraft are near.
Xcel expects to complete the wind farm in 2021.
More: Star Tribune
PUC Approves Xcel Refund from Tax Cut
The Public Utilities Commission on July 10 approved a proposal by Xcel Energy to pass through its savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to its customers via a refund in August and a rate freeze for the next two years.
Refund amounts will be based on customers’ electrical usage last year, with the average at $55.73. Xcel is projected to save $10.87 million this year as a result of the bill.
More: Argus Leader
Xcel Files Settlement Keeping Rates Unchanged
Xcel Energy said July 2 it has filed a settlement agreement with the Public Utility Commission that, if approved, would keep its base rates unchanged this year.
“When we filed for new rates in 2017, we anticipated the need for $55 million in additional revenue to recover the costs of new power grid investments,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy-Texas. “The significant reduction in federal corporate tax expense, coupled with lower costs on our long-term debt, will enable us to absorb the cost of new infrastructure without raising base electric rates.”
PUC Considering Efforts to Boost EV Ownership
The Public Utility Commission said July 10 it has begun a formal process to consider how the state and electric utilities can promote electric vehicle ownership without hurting electric customers who don’t own EVs.
The investigation was launched under a general transportation bill that became law in May. It will culminate in a report to the legislature next July that will include recommendations for laws to address barriers to EV usage.
Although Vermont has the highest EV market share of any East Coast state, less than 5% of the new cars sold in the state are EVs.
PUC Postpones Ruling on Vermont Yankee Sale Until NRC Acts
The Public Utility Commission said July 6 it will put off ruling on a proposed sale of the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules on the license transfer that the sale would require.
“The NRC ruling on the license transfer may have relevance to some of the issues raised by this case,” the PUC said.
The plant’s owner, Entergy, has agreed to sell it to NorthStar Group Services, which plans to decommission it and remediate its site for redevelopment.
DEQ Issues Notice of Violation to Mountain Valley Pipeline
The Department of Environmental Quality on July 10 issued a Notice of Violation to Mountain Valley Pipeline for allegedly breaking laws governing stormwater management, erosion and water quality, and a water protection program.
The department said the alleged violations include failure to take corrective actions within required amounts of time, failure to install best management practices in accordance with approved erosion and sediment control plans, releasing sediment off the pipeline’s right of way, and depositing sediment in surface waters.
The notice requires Mountain Valley Pipeline to contact the department within 10 days to discuss remedies and how to prevent future violations.
Court Upholds Law Allowing Pipeline Surveying Without Permission
The state Supreme Court by a 6-1 vote on July 5 upheld for the third time a controversial law that allows natural gas companies to enter private property without permission to survey possible routes for new pipelines.
The majority opinion written by Justice Cleo E. Powell said the General Assembly clearly intended “to grant natural gas companies access to private property for the purpose of conducting certain activities related to the possible construction of a natural gas pipeline.”
In a 23-page dissent, Justice Arthur Kelsey said the law “subordinates the ancient common-law rights of private property owners to the commercial interests of a pipeline company that is under no legal requirement to enter onto another’s land.”
More: Richmond Times-Dispatch
Mountain Valley Pipeline Suspends Work in SWVA
Mountain Valley Pipeline said June 29 that it is suspending work on its natural gas pipeline in southwest Virginia.
The company made the announcement after consulting with the Department of Environmental Quality, which has received dozens of complaints about erosion and sediment-laden water flowing from the pipeline construction sites because of heavy rain.
“There is no specific timeline for the suspension; however, as soon as upgrades are completed and approved by DEQ, construction can resume,” DEQ spokesman Greg Bilyeu wrote in an emailed response to questions.
More: The Roanoke Times
Regulators to Recommend Approval of Controversial Solar Farm
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council on July 17 voted 5-1 to approve a controversial 25-MW solar project that would spread across five sites in Kittitas County.
The council will submit its recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will have 60 days to decide whether to give the Columbia Solar Project the go-ahead.
Seattle-based Tuusso Energy is proposing to build the project, which would be one of the first solar farms in the state.
More: Seattle Times
Council Approves Seattle City Light Plan Calling for Rate Hikes
The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 on July 9 to approve the city power utility’s six-year strategic plan, which calls for rate hikes averaging 4.5% per year.
Under the plan, the monthly bill of a typical Seattle City Light residential customer would go from $65 this year to nearly $85 in 2024.
The increases would have been higher, but Mayor Jenny Durkan recently directed the utility to cut its projected costs by $350 million over the life of the plan.
More: Seattle Times
Proposed Solar Farm Exposes Political Divide Between Seattle, Rural Regions
A 250-acre solar farm proposed for the central part of the state has spurred a battle between residents who would profit by leasing their land to the project’s developer against others in the mostly conservative region who complain they’re being forced to accommodate the environmental aims of the liberal Seattle area.
The project in rural Kittitas County on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains would be one of the biggest solar farms ever in the state.
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is considering the application for the project. It will send its recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say on the project and could make a decision as early as next month.
More: The New York Times
Carbon Fee Referendum Gets Enough Signatures for Ballot
Supporters of a carbon fee referendum delivered 375,000 signatures from people who want the referendum on the November ballot to the secretary of state’s office on July 2.
The coalition of tribes, community, labor and environmental groups only needed 260,000 valid voters’ signatures to get the referendum on the ballot. Voters rejected a carbon tax two years ago.
More: The Associated Press
MG&E Files Proposal to Lower Electric Rates Nearly 2%
Madison Gas and Electric on July 17 filed a settlement agreement with the Public Service Commission that would lower its electric rates 1.94%.
The rate decrease reflects the company’s savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the lower cost of renewable generation. MG&E said it would lower the typical residential electric bill by $15.97 a year, or $1.33 a month. If approved by the PSC, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.