Report: 37 States, DC Took Grid Modernization Actions in Q1
Thirty-seven states and D.C. took actions related to grid modernization during the first quarter, according to a report issued May 3 by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
The first-quarter edition of “The 50 States of Grid Modernization” said 259 grid modernization actions were taken, up from 196 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and 148 in the first quarter of 2017. New York, California and Massachusetts took the greatest number of actions during the quarter, followed by Hawaii, New Jersey and Minnesota.
The report said the greatest number of actions related to advanced metering infrastructure rules, energy storage deployment, grid modernization investigations and utility business model reforms.
PG&E Doubling Energy Efficiency Incentives for Wildfire Victims
Pacific Gas and Electric Company said May 17 it will double its new construction energy efficiency incentives for residential and business customers who lost their homes or businesses in the Northern California wildfires last October.
In Sonoma and Mendocino counties, PG&E said, it is partnering with Sonoma Clean Power and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to offer a “one stop shop” for residential green building incentives.
CAISO Gives 50% Chance of Stage 2 Emergency This Summer
CAISO said May 9 in its annual summer forecast that there’s a 50% chance it will have to declare a “Stage 2” emergency for the first time since 2007, in part becausee of a dry winter that has reduced hydropower output.
Under a Stage 2 emergency, customers that have signed up for incentive rates could be required to use less power during peak demand times, which typically are in late afternoon and early evening.
CAISO said there’s “an extremely low probability” that it will have to order rolling blackouts.
Xcel Gets More Time to File Generation Report
The Public Utilities Commission on May 9 gave Xcel Energy Colorado until June 6 to file a report detailing the generation sources it will use to meet future demand.
Xcel originally was supposed to file the report April 10, but the commission gave it until May 6. In granting Xcel permission not to file the report until June 6, the commission warned the company that it would not move the deadline back again.
Xcel said it needs more time to prepare the report because it is having trouble modeling how some of the renewable generation projects with the cheapest cost of producing power would fit onto its transmission grid.
More: The Denver Post
State Sued for Using Energy Funds for Other Purposes
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment and 11 other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on May 15 to block the state from taking $165 million from energy funds and using it for other purposes.
The plaintiffs argue that using the money for anything other than the purpose for which it was originally intended violates the U.S. Constitution’s Contract Clause. They say that because much of the money is raised from a small surcharge on electric bills and some electric customers are nonprofits, using it for other purposes makes the surcharge an illegal tax on tax-exempt organization.
Legislators wrote the transfer into the two-year budget passed last year, removing $28 million from the Green Bank, $127 million from the Energy Efficiency Fund and $20 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They voted last week to restore $10 million of the Conservation and Load Management fund, but the lawsuit’s plaintiffs contend that was insufficient.
More: Connecticut Post
PUC Creates 2 Classes of Onsite Generation Customers
The Public Utilities Commission on May 9 ordered the closure of Idaho Power’s existing net-metering classification and the creation of two classes of customers with onsite generation — residential and small general service.
The order was in response to a proposal Idaho Power filed last year to create a new customer class for new net metering customers and to transfer existing net metering customers into that class over time.
The commission also directed Idaho Power to launch a comprehensive study of the costs and benefits of net metering on its system.
No Reliability Problem from Coal Plant Closings, Study Says
Dynegy-Vistra could close its eight coal-fired downstate power plants without causing reliability or resource adequacy problems in MISO Zone 4, according to a study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club that was released May 16.
The study looked at two predicted scenarios for conditions from 2018 to 2030, analyzing the most efficient, low-cost ways that power demand could be met in each. In both scenarios, it found that all eight of Dynegy-Vistra’s coal plants in MISO Zone 4 would close by 2025 for financial reasons and all the coal plants in the zone would be retired by 2030.
Dynegy, which was bought by Vistra in a deal that closed last month, has sought to have emissions standards eased on its coal plants in the state. (See Environmentalists Push Back on Dynegy-backed Air Standard.)
More: Midwest Energy News
Commerce Commission Approves Ameren’s Voltage Optimization Plan
The Commerce Commission on May 7 approved Ameren Illinois’ voltage optimization plan, under which the utility will use sensors and controls to maintain lower voltages on its power lines.
The Environmental Defense Fund, which worked with other stakeholders, Ameren and Commerce Commission staff on the plan, said it will reduce energy consumption and system losses, save customers money and help Ameren meet its energy efficiency goals.
The plan exceeds the voltage optimization requirements established by the Future Energy Jobs Act, which Illinois passed in 2016, and includes agreed-upon methods and an updated timeline for measuring results.
Gov. Signs Bill Reducing Utilities’ Energy Efficiency Requirements
Gov. Kim Reynolds on May 4 signed a bill reducing the amount that investor-owned electric utilities are required to spend on energy efficiency programs.
The bill also relieves certain customers from having to pay the charges on their electric bills that support the programs and frees the rural cooperatives and municipal utilities from having to offer the programs at all.
Kerri Johannsen, who lobbied against the bill on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council, wrote in a statement that “utilities will sell more power and Iowans will pay more out of their paycheck for energy. Utilities are the only winner here — businesses and citizens across Iowa will pay the price of this action.”
More: Midwest Energy News
Bill Reducing Energy Efficiency Funding Sent to Governor
The Senate on April 30 passed a bill that would reduce the amount that utilities charge their customers for energy-efficiency projects by $100 million.
The bill, which also requires utilities to pass their tax savings from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on to their customers, had previously passed the House of Representatives and now goes to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The Senate approved the bill on a party-line vote. Republicans contend it will save residents money. Democrats say it will lead to higher energy costs and threaten the jobs of 20,000 residents who work on energy-efficiency projects.
More: Des Moines Register
Entergy Proposes Plan to Pass Tax Savings on to Customers
Entergy New Orleans on May 21 proposed a preliminary plan to the New Orleans City Council that would reduce the average power costs for residents by $11/month to reflect its savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
If the council approves the proposal, Entergy customers might see the reduction during the first billing cycle of July.
More: The New Orleans Advocate
City Council Launches Investigation into Use of Actors
The New Orleans City Council on May 18 committed to launching a third-party investigation into the use of paid actors to support a power plant it voted earlier this year to let Entergy New Orleans build.
At-large Councilman Jason Williams said all records uncovered during the investigation would be made available to the public. The council will decide whether to hold another vote on the plant, which is planned for the Michoud section of New Orleans East, after the investigation is complete, Williams said.
On May 16, the council ordered Entergy New Orleans to preserve all documents related to the use of the actors, who appeared at hearings to support the plant. An internal investigation by Entergy New Orleans found one of its contractors, Hawthorn Group, hired a company called Crowds on Demand, which admitted to paying the actors.
Governor Seeking Input on Integrating State, Canadian Grids
The office of Gov. Paul Le Page (R) said May 22 that the governor is seeking input from experts on how the state can benefit from integrating its grid with Canada’s.
LePage has directed his Energy Office to work with the Public Utilities Commission and the Public Advocate to report on the issues the state should consider. He also asked Maine’s electric utilities, gas utilities and consumer groups to identify issues and invited contributions from regional, state and international organizations with responsibility for electricity and energy supply and reliability, such as ISO-NE, Northern Maine Transmission Corp. and NERC.
The governor’s office is accepting “high-level papers” identifying opportunities and noting benefits, risks and possible concerns through June 30.
CMP Customers Group Asks State for More Thorough Investigation Into Bills
A group that says it represents about 3,500 Central Maine Power customers has given state officials a letter asking for a more thorough investigation into complaints about high CMP bills than the one being conducted by the Public Utilities Commission.
CMP Ratepayers Unite said it took the action because of concerns that the PUC’s investigation has raised more questions than it has answered. The group also said state officials should provide “immediate relief” to CMP customers who believe the utility overcharged them.
The PUC said in a statement May 17 that its investigation will be comprehensive and that it already has acted to provide CMP customers with relief and protection. CMP has asked the PUC to deny a request from the Office of the Public Advocate to publicly release confidential documents related to the high bills that are the focus of the investigation, saying redacting all the sensitive information from them would be too burdensome.
NV Energy CEO Criticizes Retail Choice Ballot Measure
NV Energy President and CEO Paul Caudill told the May 23 Northern Nevada Development Authority luncheon that if voters approve the Energy Choice Initiative on the November ballot, it will give large power customers a chance to save money, but “the jury is out on whether residential customers as a group will benefit.”
“Our company thinks this is a really bad idea, not so much for us and our employees, but for the state of Nevada,” Caudill said.
Caudill said the Public Utilities Commission report on the Energy Choice Initiative says transitioning to an open market would cost $3.5 billion to $4 billion, which would boost the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $20 to $27 for 10 years.
More: Nevada Appeal
PUC Directs NV Energy to Set Aside $15 Million for EV Chargers
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in a May 9 order directed NV Energy to set aside $15 million in existing incentive funds to help build out the state’s charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Much of the funding likely would go toward completing the “Nevada Electric Highway,” an initiative promoted by Gov. Brian Sandoval to install charging stations across the rural parts of the state. Some also would be used to support other companies wanting to build charging stations and to convert bus fleets from diesel to electric. The funding comes from a line item on customer bills that largely has been used to incentivize rooftop solar.
Clean-energy advocates applauded the order, but the state’s consumer advocate criticized it, arguing it expanded NV Energy’s mandate at a potentially high cost to the company’s ratepayers.
More: The Nevada Independent
Valley Electric Association CEO Husted Resigns
Valley Electric Association said May 11 that CEO Thomas Husted has resigned “to pursue other interests.”
The Nevada electric cooperative said its board of directors has appointed Angela Evans interim CEO. Evans joined Valley Electric as executive vice president of operations in 2017 and previously has served as its acting COO.
More: Pahrump Valley Times
SEC Rejects Motion to Reconsider Northern Pass Permit Denial
The Site Evaluation Committee on May 24 rejected Northern Pass’ motion asking it to reconsider its denial of a siting permit for the transmission project, a partnership between Eversource Energy and Hydro-Quebec that would bring Canadian hydropower to New England.
“We intend to pursue all options for making this critical clean energy project a reality,” Eversource New Hampshire President Bill Quinlan said in a statement.
One option would be an appeal to the Supreme Court, which on May 22 overruled a 2016 decision by the Public Utilities Commission barring Eversource from purchasing capacity on a proposed natural gas pipeline as a way of getting the pipeline built so it could supply natural gas to New England power plants.
Court Rules Electric Utilities Can Recover Pipeline Costs from Customers
The state Supreme Court on May 22 issued a ruling that would allow the state’s electric utilities to recover from their customers the cost of purchasing capacity on proposed natural gas pipelines intended to serve electricity generators to finance their construction.
The court overturned an October 2016 ruling by the Public Utilities Commission that Eversource Energy couldn’t recover the costs of purchasing capacity on a proposed pipeline to finance its construction cost because the natural gas would be used to generate power and the state’s electric restructuring law prohibits utilities from being involved in the generation business.
The court’s decision was the opposite of the one reached by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which in August 2016 ruled that buying long-term natural gas contracts to finance pipeline construction would effectively push electric utilities into the power generation business, which they were barred from under that state’s restructuring law.
Site Evaluation Committee’s Wind Farm Approval Upheld
The Supreme Court on May 11 upheld the Site Evaluation Committee’s December 2016 decision to approve a 28.8-MW wind project in Antrim.
The wind farm would consist of nine wind turbines and supporting infrastructure on a ridgeline extending from Tuttle Hill southwest to Willard Mountain. Its developer, Antrim Wind Energy, is owned by New York City-based Walden Green Energy, although TransAlta, which is based in Canada, has agreed to purchase the wind farm once it’s completed.
Opponents of the wind farm have asked the Site Evaluation Committee to block it until its backers show they are meeting financing requirements and address the possible sale.
More: The Keene Sentinel
BPU Votes to Start Economic Analysis of State Rejoining RGGI
Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order earlier this year, the Board of Public Utilities voted May 22 to begin an economic analysis to evaluate the costs and benefits of the state rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The economic analysis is meant to ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection’s rulemaking process is informed by the potential economic impact that rejoining RGGI could have on ratepayers.
AG Takes FERC to Court Over Pipeline Approval
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal filed a petition on May 21 with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to hear the state’s arguments that FERC erred when it issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the PennEast natural gas pipeline.
In February, Grewal asked FERC to stay the certificate and rehear the case. FERC responded with a tolling order, which ostensibly gave it more time to consider Grewal’s request, but which critics say means the commission will do nothing for six months and then dismiss the request.
Three New Jersey municipalities, three New Jersey state lawmakers, a Pennsylvania township and activist groups in Pennsylvania and New Jersey also are seeking a rehearing.
PRC Sends Solar Farm Application to Hearing Examiner
The Public Regulation Commission on May 9 voted 4-0 to send an application by El Paso Electric to build a 2-MW solar farm to a hearing examiner for further scrutiny after learning that the facility would be built by Affordable Solar, which has contributed to the re-election campaigns of commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy.
Jones and Lovejoy last November cast two of the three votes needed to approve Public Service Company of New Mexico’s purchase of five solar farms to be built by Affordable Solar for nearly $73 million. A hearing examiner had recommended against approving the purchase.
El Paso Electric’s solar farm would cost $4.52 million to build and require the company to spend another $2.6 million on operations and maintenance, including outreach to potential buyers of power from the facility.
More: Santa Fe New Mexican
PNM Says Investigation into Coal Silo Collapse Unnecessary
The Public Regulation Commission doesn’t need to open a formal investigation into the March 17 collapse of a coal silo at the San Juan Generating Station, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) said in a May 8 filing.
PNM said a formal investigation would delay repairs to the plant and possibly require it to purchase more expensive power from other sources, hiking its customers’ bills.
Nine advocacy groups asked the commission to open an investigation, with one saying PNM otherwise could use the collapse to make improvements to the plant that it would later ask the commission to have its customers pay for.
More: Santa Fe New Mexican
Solar Developer Funding Campaigns of Regulators After Favorable Vote
Two of the three Public Regulation Commissioners who ignored a hearing examiner’s recommendation and voted to allow Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to purchase five solar farms to be built for it by Affordable Solar are largely having their re-election campaigns funded by the solar developer, according to campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.
PRC Chairman Sandy Jones and Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy voted in favor of the purchase even though the hearing examiner, Carolyn Glick, said PNM had failed to show the deal was the most cost-effective way for the company to procure solar power. Other PRC staff also opposed approving the purchase.
New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi said the votes by Lovejoy and Jones — and the campaign donations they have received from Affordable Solar and related parties — have created an appearance of impropriety. New Energy Economy is appealing the PRC’s approval of the deal to the Supreme Court.
More: Santa Fe New Mexican
NYSERDA to Provide up to $10 Million to Launch Cleantech Accelerator
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) said May 16 it is seeking proposals from organizations interested in receiving up to $10 million to launch and run a statewide cleantech accelerator.
NYSERDA said the accelerator will make early-stage investments and provide supporting services for developing and validating promising clean-energy technologies that could become platforms for startups. The accelerator will bring together researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts to provide participants with a full spectrum of programs and opportunities, such as mentoring them through various stages of product development.
Cuomo Blasts Trash-to-Energy Plant Proposed for Finger Lakes
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 16 issued a statement saying that a $365 million trash-to-energy facility that Circular enerG wants to build in Romulus “is not consistent with my administration’s goals for protecting our public health, our environment and our thriving agriculture-based economy in the Finger Lakes.”
Cuomo issued the statement 45 minutes before advocates, business owners and lawmakers from the Finger Lakes region gathered near the state capitol to call on him to speak out against the plant. Cynthia Nixon, his opponent in the primary election, had also called on him to denounce the project.
Circular enerG is asking the Public Service Commission, rather than local planning boards, to approve the plant because of local opposition to it.
NYSERDA to Provide $10 Million for Clean Energy Projects
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said May 9 it is launching a pilot program called the Commercial and Industrial Carbon Challenge through which it will provide $10 million for clean energy projects that reduce the carbon emissions caused by commercial and industrial buildings.
The program is meant to see if providing flexible uses of funding for clean energy projects is a more effective method of reducing carbon emissions than traditional state-supported programs, the agency said.
Task Force: Entergy Should Sell Indian Point Property After Closure
The Indian Point Closure Task Force recommended May 9 that Entergy sell parts of the 240-acre property on which the Indian Point nuclear power plant is located to a developer soon after it closes the plant in 2021 so neighboring communities can begin recouping lost tax revenue.
The task force also recommended that the Hudson Valley Regional Economic Development Council set aside funds for attracting development to the communities around the plant and that Entergy use employees who will lose their jobs when it closes the plant to help dismantle the facility.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the task force about a year ago after Entergy said it planned to close the plant. The recommendations were contained in its annual report.
More: The Journal News
State to Install EV Charging Stations Along Thruway
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 9 announced a $4.2 million plan to install more high-speed electric vehicle charging stations along the New York State Thruway.
Under the plan, the Thruway Authority will partner with the New York Power Authority to install fast-charging stations at Thruway service areas and Thruway-owned commuter parking lots over the next two years.
When completed, the installation will allow EV owners to drive the length of the state without having to exit to recharge, Cuomo said.
More: Gov. Andrew Cuomo
NYSERDA Makes $15 Million Available for Fuel Cell Systems
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said May 3 that it will make available $15 million to install and run fuel-cell systems to support critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, police and fire stations and supermarkets.
NYSERDA said the amount of funding it will give to a system depends on how it will be used, but no system will receive more than $1 million. Each fuel cell module must be greater than 25 kW, it added.
Funds for the systems will be available through Dec. 31, 2019.
Supreme Court Upholds Order Saying Nonprofit Acted as Utility
The Supreme Court on May 11 affirmed a Court of Appeals decision last year upholding a 2016 Utilities Commission order that clean energy advocacy group NC WARN broke the law by installing solar panels on a Greensboro church and selling electricity to it at rates below the rates of Duke Energy subsidiaries.
In its order, the Utilities Commission concluded that NC WARN was acting as a public utility subject to its regulation and infringing on Duke’s government-sanctioned monopolies.
NC WARN had sought a Utilities Commission ruling as a test case involving third-party electricity sales. Its lawyers argued that it wasn’t a public utility because it was only helping nonprofits save money with clean energy, not selling power to the public at large.
More: The Associated Press
AG Blasts Utilities’ Plans for Passing Tax Cuts Savings to Customers
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office on May 21 wrote a letter to the Department of Public Utilities saying that the state’s electric, natural gas and water companies had inadequately shown how they plan to pass their savings from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on to their customers.
The DPU in February ordered the state’s utilities to revise their cost of service calculations by July 1 to reflect their savings from the act, which reduced corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%.
Healey’s office said that it is hiring a private consultant to review the utilities’ plans.
More: The Salem News
DPU Authorizes $220M Investment in Grid Modernization
The Department of Public Utilities on May 10 issued an order authorizing the state’s utility companies to invest $220 million in grid modernization technologies over the next three years.
The DPU said the investments will allow renewable generation and energy storage units to be integrated into the grid more easily; provide improved visibility into the grid and automated command and control of grid components; and create a self-healing grid.
The order also will facilitate stakeholder outreach and an investigation into potential investments in advanced metering infrastructure, or smart meters, the DPU said.
DTE, Consumers Energy Agree to Boost Renewable Goals
Environmental group Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan dropped its effort to get a referendum on boosting the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 30% by 2030 placed on the November ballot after DTE Energy and Consumers Energy agreed to “target a goal of at least 50% clean energy” by then, the organization and companies said May 18.
DTE and Consumers will try to achieve the goal by making investments to ensure that at least 25% of the energy they sell comes from renewable sources by 2030 and through energy efficiency programs.
Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan said it would not submit the more than 350,000 signatures it had received to support putting its referendum on the ballot. The organization was one of three backed by billionaire Tom Steyer seeking to get renewable-energy referendums on state ballots in November.
More: The Detroit News
State Rep Files FOIA Request over DTE Gas Plant Approval
State Rep. Gary Glenn (R) said May 11 he has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Public Service Commission for details on its decision to approve DTE Electric’s plan to build a $1 billion, 1.1-GW natural gas plant in St. Clair County near the Canadian border. (See DTE Highlights Renewable Efforts, Wins Gas Plant Approval.)
Glenn, who chairs the House Energy Policy Committee, said he questions the need for the plant and filed the request, which is for specific emails and text messages, among other information, to provide more transparency into the PSC’s decision-making process.
More: Rep. Gary Glenn
Xcel-Backed Nuclear Expenditure Legislation Dies in House
Legislation that would have enabled Xcel Energy to get expenditures at its nuclear power plants approved by utility regulators before, rather than after, it makes them was never brought to a vote in the House after being passed in the Senate by a vote of 37 to 29.
Xcel said the bill would have given it more certainty that it could recover the maintenance costs of at least $1.7 billion it thinks it will incur over the next 17 years at its nuclear plants near Monticello and Red Wing.
Critics said the bill would have given Xcel an incentive to submit high expenditure estimates so it could get reimbursed for cost overruns.
Wind Farm Must Show Noise Standard Compliance, ALJ Rules
Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter ruled May 14 that the Freeborn Wind Farm has failed to demonstrate that its planned operation would meet state noise standards.
Schlatter issued the ruling in a 171-page report that will serve as a recommendation to the PUC, which will decide whether to issue a permit for the proposed 200-MW wind farm.
Invenergy is seeking to do the preconstruction work on the wind farm and sell it to Xcel Energy, which will build, own and run it.
More: Albert Lea Tribune
PUC Orders 17 Utilities to Credit Customers with Tax Savings
The Public Utility Commission on May 17 ordered 17 major electric, natural gas, and water and wastewater utilities to provide monthly credits on their customers’ bills totaling more than $320 million as a means of passing their savings under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act through to their customers.
The PUC also said it will consider the effects of the act on seven other public utilities in its investigations for rate cases that already have been filed or are expected to be filed by Aug. 1. In those cases, the PUC said it has directed the parties involved to address the impact of any TCJA tax savings realized by the utilities as part of their overall rates.
Judge Rules Transource Can Enter Properties to Survey for Tx Lines
A Franklin County court ruled May 8 that Transource Energy land agents can immediately enter county landowners’ properties to perform surveying and testing for the Independence Energy Connection.
The ruling came after two days of hearings on the project, which would consist of two high-voltage transmission lines, one running 29 miles through Franklin County and the other running 16 miles through southern York County.
Residents of both counties have organized to fight the project. Transource sued 24 landowners in Franklin County and 36 landowners in York County to gain access to their properties.
More: Public Opinion
PUC Invites Utilities to Suggest Alternative Ratemaking Methods
The Public Utility Commission said May 4 it has issued a proposed policy statement inviting utilities to explore alternative ratemaking methodologies that promote federal and state policy objectives and provide incentives to improve system efficiency while ensuring that they receive adequate revenue to maintain safe and reliable service.
The action is the result of a 5-0 commission vote to adopt a motion by Vice Chairman Andrew Place that presents utilities with a broad range of considerations in developing future rate designs, including performance-based incentives; various levels of decoupling; and variations of demand-based and time-of-use pricing options, such as critical peak pricing.
Interested parties have 60 days from the date of publication of the proposed policy statement in the Pennsylvania Bulletin to file written comments referencing Docket No. M-2015-2518883.
PUC Allows Sunoco to Resume Operating Mariner East
The Public Utility Commission on May 3 issued an order allowing Sunoco Pipeline to reinstate operations of the Mariner East 1 Pipeline, which were suspended after an emergency order it issued March 7.
The commission said the order follows an extensive investigation into safety concerns raised by its independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement and comes in response to a petition filed by Sunoco.
The PUC ordered the pipeline shut down after sinkholes opened up near it in the Philadelphia suburb of West Whiteland Township. Sunoco is building two other pipelines along Mariner East 1’s route, and the sinkholes were near a construction site for them. The three Mariner pipelines are meant to carry natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale to a port south of Philadelphia on the Delaware River.
Price Gap Between Competitive, Noncompetitive Areas Closing
Residents who live in retail-choice areas still pay more on average than their counterparts in areas that don’t, but by the smallest margin yet, according to a report released May 17.
The analysis, conducted by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, found that residential prices in areas where people can choose their suppliers dropped 19.6% from 2007 to 2016, while prices in other areas grew 6.1%.
More: Dallas News
PUC Approves Changes Meant to Boost Smart Meter Portal Usage
The Public Utility Commission on May 10 approved a settlement agreement containing changes to the Smart Meter Texas portal that are designed to make it easier for electric customers to share the data about their power consumption that they can get from the site with companies that can help them interpret it and suggest actions that will enable them to save money.
The changes will make the portal more in line with national standards such as Green Button, which will make creating applications that use data from it easier for software developers.
The portal has been difficult for electric customers to use, which has led to only a small number taking advantage of the data they can get from it to manage their power consumption.
More: Solar Builder
DMME Issues RFP for Plan to Make State Offshore Wind Development Hub
The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has issued a request for proposals for qualified contractors to develop a plan to position the state as the East Coast location of choice for companies that supply and service offshore wind farm developers and operators.
The selected contractor will develop a report that analyzes the state’s maritime infrastructure and assets, identifies how to leverage them and provides advice on overcoming the barriers to the state’s goal of becoming a wind farm development and maintenance hub.
The department wants the report to connect wind farm industry members with the maritime industry in Hampton Roads.
DEQ Orders Construction on MVP Halted for Erosion
The Department of Environmental Quality ordered construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline stopped in Franklin County until proper erosion control measures are put in place.
The agency made the move after heavy rains on May 17 and May 18 swept away much of the soil that had been unearthed by heavy equipment that was being used to cut trees and clear land along the natural gas pipeline’s right-of-way, covering nearby Cahas Mountain Road in up to eight inches of mud.
“It’s clearly unacceptable,” Ann Regn, a spokeswoman for the DEQ, said May 20.
More: The Roanoke Times
Regulators Nix Dominion’s Renewables Plan for Big Customers
The Corporation Commission on May 7 rejected Dominion Energy’s proposal for offering 100% renewable energy plans to its big customers, saying the proposal would give Dominion “extraordinary discretion” in setting prices.
The ruling is a victory for third-party energy providers hoping to grow their share of the Virginia market. Under state law, electric customers can choose a renewable power provider as long as their own utility doesn’t offer an approved 100% renewable plan.
More: Associated Press
Avista to Spend $165 Million on Smart Meter Rollout
Avista said May 21 it plans to spend $165 million giving smart meters to its 450,000 electric and gas customers over the next two years.
The company said it plans to install the meters and then have the Utility Commission determine how it will recover the cost of the installation.
Itron will supply new meters for Avista’s electric customers and a smart-meter module that hooks onto existing meters for its gas customers.
Columbia Nuclear Plant Went Offline After Transformers Disconnected
Columbia Generating Station went offline at approximately 7 a.m. PT May 18 after its main power transformers automatically disconnected from the grid, Energy Northwest said.
The reactor was safely shut down and the cause of the disconnect is under investigation, according to the consortium of 27 public utility districts and municipalities that operates the 1,207-MW nuclear plant.
“We are working now to thoroughly understand the issues involved and look forward to returning to full-power,” said Dave Brown, plant general manager.
More: Energy Northwest
Gov. Inslee Supports Carbon Tax Ballot Initiative
Gov. Jay Inslee said May 15 that he backs a proposed ballot initiative to tax carbon emissions.
A coalition of tribes and environmental, labor and other groups are gathering signatures to get Initiative 1631 on the November ballot.
The initiative would impose a tax of $15/ton of carbon emissions starting in 2020. The tax would increase $2 each year until the state meets its carbon reduction goal.
More: The Associated Press
UTC Acknowledges Resource Plans, Calls for Fossil Fuel Scrutiny
The Utilities and Transportation Commission on May 7 formally acknowledged the updated 20-year energy resource plans for the state’s three investor-owned electric utilities but called for greater scrutiny of the companies’ plans for future investments in fossil fuel generation.
The commission directed Avista, Pacific Power and Puget Sound Energy to reconsider their reliance on coal-fired power plants and directed them to use a more robust cost-of-carbon estimate in future resource plans.
“It is imperative that utility planners recognize the risks and uncertainties associated with greenhouse gas emissions and identify a reasonable, cost-effective approach to addressing them,” the commission said.
Appalachian, Wheeling Power Seek Rate 7.85% Increase
Appalachian Power said May 9 that it and Wheeling Power on May 9 filed a request with the Public Service Commission for a $114.6 million revenue increase that would raise rates by 7.85%.
The company attributed half the requested increase to a significant decrease in the amount of power used by the two American Electric Power subsidiaries’ customers.
It also said the increase is needed to cover the cost of infrastructure investments that the companies have made in generation facilities, their transmission systems and their distribution systems, including the underground distribution networks in Huntington, Charleston and Wheeling.
More: Appalachian Power