Monday, October 23, 2017

State Briefs

ARIZONA

Governor Appoints Justin Olson to ACC

Gov. Doug Ducey appointed tax analysist and former state Rep. Justin Olson (R) to serve on the Corporation Commission last week, replacing Doug Little.

Olson served in the Legislature from 2011 to 2017 and later lost a primary election to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently works for the for-profit University of Phoenix. He will serve the remainder of Little’s term, which ends in 2018, and stated he would run for a full term.

Little left the commission earlier this month to serve in the U.S. Energy Department.

More: The Republic

CALIFORNIA

Homeowners Sue PG&E over Wild Fire

A Santa Rosa couple filed suit against Pacific Gas and Electric on Tuesday, claiming its failure to maintain and repair high-voltage power lines resulted in the wild fire that destroyed their home and thousands of others in Sonoma County.

Wayne and Jennifer Harvell allege in the suit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court that the fire started when the lines came in contact with drought-dry vegetation.

Todd Derum, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection division chief for Sonoma County, said it is too early to know what sparked several fires that started on Oct. 8.

More: The Press Democrat

ILLINOIS

ComEd Asks ICC to Charge Customers for $25M Microgrid

In a filing before the Commerce Commission, Commonwealth Edison is asking for permission to charge its 3.8 million customers for the cost of building a $25 million microgrid in Chicago that would serve 1,060 customers and institutions, including a police headquarters and nursing homes.

The filing comes less than a year after the legislature rejected funding for microgrids.

ComEd says the microgrid would provide resiliency against outages caused by extreme weather or cyberattacks. Critics, including the attorney general and clean energy groups, say ComEd is exaggerating the benefits.

More: Midwest Energy News

Ameren Files Amendment to Energy Efficiency Plan

Ameren Illinois said it has filed an amendment to its energy efficiency plan under the Future Energy Jobs Act.

With the revised plan, the company has committed to achieve an additional average annual savings of 12,043 MWh over four years while continuing its efforts to expand efficiency programs to more moderate- and low-income customers and create local jobs.

More: Ameren

Wind Farm Expected to Start Operations by January

The 139-turbine Radford’s Run Wind Farm in northwestern Macon County is expected to begin operations by January after installation of the turbines was completed late last month ahead of schedule.

A lawsuit filed last year by neighboring landowners in an attempt to stop the project, which is expected to generate 300 MWh when running under normal wind conditions, is pending in Macon County Circuit Court.

More: Herald & Review

ICC Adopts Rules on Marketing by Alternative Retailers

The Commerce Commission adopted rules on Thursday that significantly strengthen consumer-protection requirements governing sales and marketing by alternative retail electricity suppliers.

The ICC said the rules will ensure that consumers have information about power supplier options that enable them to compare offers and utility plans, and make better-informed decisions. The new marketing guidelines also will provide regulators with improved enforcement mechanisms, and require suppliers to take improved verification and quality control measures.

The commission acted following a spike in electricity prices during the winter of 2013-2014, which led to its Consumer Services Division receiving a sharp increase in public complaints about the marketing practices of certain retail electric suppliers.

More: Illinois Commerce Commission

MARYLAND

PSC Grants PEPCO Partial Rate Increase

For the second straight year, the Public Service Commission has granted PEPCO a rate increase less than the one it requested.

The commission agreed to allow PEPCO to increase its electric distribution rates by $33.9 million — about half the $68.6 million increase the utility sought.

The PSC said the increase, which went into effect immediately on Friday, was approved to help the utility pay off its spending on reliability improvements.

More: Bethesda Magazine

MASSACHUSETTS

State Awards $661K in Clean-Energy Grants

The state has awarded grants totaling $661,000 to 56 cities and towns to research, develop and implement clean energy projects.

The Municipal Energy Technical Assistance grants are a function of the Department of Energy Resources’ Green Communities Division and support clean energy decision-making through localized studies and data analysis in designated “Green Communities.” The proceeds come from alternative compliance payments under the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

Funding will go to projects and studies including solar photovoltaic site evaluation, heating system replacements, ASHRAE Level II audits, technical analysis of energy use at drinking water and wastewater facilities, and technical assistance with Green Community reporting and application.

More: The National Law Review

Renewable Energy Advocates Increase Lobbying Spend

Renewable energy advocates have upped their spending for lobbying state lawmakers.

A review of state lobbying records by the Associated Press found that in 2016, energy interests reported spending a combined $6.7 million to lobby state lawmakers. Of those funds, about $4.1 million came from groups pushing renewable energy initiatives or fighting against fossil fuel-related projects.

In 2015, combined energy lobbying topped $4.6 million, with about 40% coming from renewable energy interests.

More: The Associated Press

Tidal Turbine Test Site Approved for Cape Cod Canal

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative received approval Wednesday to install a first-of-its-kind tidal turbine test site on the Cape Cod Canal.

The site, which was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will have a platform that can be raised and lowered from the canal, which will enable hydrokinetic turbine developers to test their equipment before going into full production. Within a day of the approval, two companies already contacted the collaborative about the site, Executive Director John Miller said.

It must be removed by Sept. 29, 2018, unless the collaborative contacts the Army Corps four months in advance regarding keeping it in place.

More: Cape Cod Times

Pittsfield Solar Array Will Power Public Schools

The Pittsfield Zoning Board of Appeals has approved a 1.9-MW solar array that will be used to power public schools at a reduced rate.

BVD Solar plans to build the facility on 20 acres of a 73-acre parcel. The project will require the clearing of more than 11 acres of vegetation.

More: WAMC

Boston City Council Votes in Favor of Community Choice Energy

The Boston City Council voted unanimously Tuesday in support of a resolution to authorize the adoption of a Community Choice Energy program in the city.

Although the municipal aggregation program should not raise costs to residents or small businesses, they would be able to opt out at any time and return to their original Eversource rate.

Cities and towns including Melrose, Dedham and Brookline have already implemented municipal aggregation.

More: Sierra Club

High School’s Energy Storage Project is ‘Authentic STEM Experience’

A Worcester high school on Thursday unveiled a $12.5 million project that will store power generated by a 600-kW wind turbine installed in 2008, allowing it to collect data on wind production and battery storage.

Holy Name High School’s 500-kW energy storage system is a partnership among National Grid, Vionx and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with $6 million in support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“It’s the world’s biggest science experiment,” Headmaster Ed Reynolds said. “It’s an authentic STEM experience and one that no other school can offer. It’s a real-world analytical study of an emerging technology.”

More: Telegram & Gazette

MICHIGAN

Ann Arbor Extends Moratorium on Ground-Mounted Solar Arrays

The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Monday to extend a moratorium on ground-mounted solar arrays in front yards and parking areas for up to 180 days.

The council enacted the original moratorium in April, and it was set to expire on Oct. 14, before the council could consider staff-recommended regulations for ground-mounted solar arrays.

On Aug. 15, the city’s Planning Commission voted to recommend the council approve zoning changes expressly permitting ground-mounted arrays on residential properties as long as they meet new height, setback and screening standards.

More: MLive

MINNESOTA

Conservative Group: Wind not Living up to What Was Promised

Wind power in the state is not living up to what its backers promised, a local conservative think tank said Tuesday.

A report written for Center of the American Experiment concluded prices have risen, carbon dioxide emissions haven’t dropped and more than $10 billion has been spent on wind farms that do not save money or reduce pollution.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Clean Energy Economy Minnesota Executive Director Gregg Mast disputed the findings, saying wind is the cheapest form of power.

More: Grand Forks Herald

Report Finds 2.6 GW of ‘Uneconomic’ Coal Capacity in Midwest

Some 2.6 GW of coal capacity across six Midwestern states is uneconomic compared with cleaner alternatives, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report identifies as uneconomic two coal units at DTE Energy’s Belle River plant in eastern Michigan, three in Indiana and one in Illinois, collectively representing 2.6 GW of capacity. Overall, coal-fired generation declined across the Midwest from 2008 to 2016, ranging from a 19% decline in Wisconsin to a 47% decline in Ohio.

Nationwide, 21% of coal-fired generation capacity in 2016 is currently considered uneconomic, and an additional 18% of national coal-fired capacity is covered by announcements of closure or conversion to natural gas.

More: Midwest Energy News

MONTANA

Wind Power Developer Sues PSC, Utility for Price Discrimination

A wind power developer is suing state regulators and the state’s largest electric company, saying they are illegally setting lower contract prices that will kill any new independent renewable power projects in the state.

In a suit filed last week, Marty Wilde and his companies said the Public Service Commission collaborated with NorthWestern Energy to adopt rates for the utility that are triple compared to what renewable resources receive for the same product.

PSC spokesman Chris Puyear said the commission has been setting lower rates and stricter contract terms for what NorthWestern pays the independent producers, but that the rates reflect the regional market, which has an oversupply of electricity. He also said NorthWestern’s price is based on the costs of the company’s past investments, while the recent prices set for producers are based on the current market.

More: KTVH

PSC Grants New Contract Terms for Proposed Solar Farm

State regulators on Thursday approved more favorable contract terms for what would be the state’s largest solar farm, walking back contract restrictions approved in July that developers said would have made the project nearly impossible.

The Public Service Commission approved a 15-year contract for MTSUN, a 480-acre solar farm slated for Billings. In July, the commission approved a 10-year contract, which combined with the power price of $20/MWh, made the $110 million solar project unworkable, developer Mark Klein said.

Klein said the new contract length is still challenging. MTSUN, NorthWestern Energy and commission staff all recommended a contract of 20 years or more.

More: Billings Gazette

NEBRASKA

EPA: Big Ox Plant Contributed to Toxic Odors

Big Ox Energy’s renewable energy plant contributed to toxic odors that started last October, endangering the public and violating the federal Clean Air Act, EPA said in a report earlier this month.

In an Oct. 4 “letter of warning” to Big Ox, EPA Region 7 in Kansas City said that during a Jan. 10-12 inspection, investigators found that discharges of pollutants from the plant, alone or in conjunction with other sources, created toxic gases, vapors and fumes in quantities that could cause worker health and safety problems. EPA is forwarding its findings to the state Department of Environmental Quality to consider penalties.

More than two dozen South Sioux City families were forced to leave their homes last year due to putrid odors caused by sewer gas in a sewer line shared with the plant.

More: Sioux City Journal

Report: Unused Pipeline Capacity Cost New Englanders $3B

New England electricity customers paid $3.6 billion more for electricity than they had to over a three-year period, according to a report issued by the Environmental Defense Fund.

“Vertical Market Power in Interconnected Natural Gas and Electricity Markets” finds that on hundreds of occasions, Avangrid and Eversource Energy drove up prices by reserving natural gas pipeline capacity that they didn’t use.

A spokeswoman for Eversource said the report was a “fabrication” and that the analysists didn’t understand gas and electricity markets. An Avangrid spokesman said the company is following all rules and regulations.

More: New Hampshire Public Radio

NEW HAMPSIRE

Eversource Inks Deal to Sell Power Plants

Eversource New Hampshire on Thursday announced a deal to sell about a dozen power generation facilities, completing electric deregulation in the state.

If approved by the Public Utilities Commission, Eversource's three large fossil generation facilities and two remote combustion turbines will be purchased by Granite Shore Power, a newly formed 50-50 partnership between Atlas Holdings and Castleton Commodities International, for $175 million. Eversource’s nine hydroelectric facilities will be acquired by Hull Street Energy, an electric industry-focused private equity firm, for $83 million.

Under the proposed purchase agreements, the new owners must keep the plants in service for at least 18 months.

More: New Hampshire Union Leader

NEW JERSEY

Oyster Creek Plant may Shut down Ahead of Schedule

The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Ocean County may shut down ahead of schedule, Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday.

The plant, which is the oldest operating nuclear plant in the nation, was scheduled to close at the end of 2019. Christie described the plans for shutdown as “not only on track and on time, but a little bit ahead of schedule.”

Oyster Creek provides about 9% of the state’s electricity. The state’s master plan for energy has sought to increase the number of natural gas plants, Christie said.

More: Philadelphia Business Journal

OHIO

Attempt to Subsidize Nuclear Plants is Revived

After a previous attempt to help subsidize the state’s two nuclear power plants stalled in the legislature, a new bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives. 

The newly introduced House Bill 381 shortens the time frame of the subsidies from 16 years to 12, and lessens the costs to customers.

FirstEnergy has been lobbying for a Zero Emission Nuclear Resource Program for its nuclear power plants in the state, which are struggling to compete with cheaper natural gas.

More: The News-Herald

Regulators OK Plans for 2 New Natural Gas Plants

State regulators on Thursday approved plans for construction of two new natural gas plants that are targeted to begin operations in 2020.

The Power Siting Board approved plans for the plants, which will be in Guernsey and Trumbull counties. The Guernsey plant will produce 1,100 MW, and the Trumbull plant will produce 940 MW.

More: The Associated Press

PENNSYLVANIA

Judge Rules Seneca Can Inject Fracking Wastewater

A state judge has sided with natural gas company Seneca Resources, ruling it can inject fracking wastewater back into the ground.

The judge’s ruling effectively invalidates a home rule charter passed by residents of Highland Township last year in which they banned the wastewater operation. The ruling also prohibits intervention from the municipal water authority and environmental advocacy groups.

More: The Associated Press

Western Governors Agree to Create Regional EV Plan

The governors of five Western states agreed Wednesday to create a network of recharging stations that will allow electric vehicles to travel along 5,000 miles of freeways in their region.

The governors of Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming signed a memorandum of understanding at the Energy Innovation Summit hosted by the National Governors Association.

The steps they agreed to take include reducing “range anxiety,” creating voluntary minimum standards for charging stations, identifying and developing opportunities to incorporate charging stations into planning and development processes, and encouraging electric vehicle manufacturers to stock and market a wide variety of the cars within their states.

More: The Salt Lake Tribune

TEXAS

Report: Consumer Complaints Drop to Post-Deregulation Low

The number of electricity-related complaints filed by consumers with state regulators dropped to a post-deregulation low, according to a new report from the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.

Consumers filed 4,175 electricity-related complaints or inquiries with the Public Utility Commission for fiscal year 2017, compared with 4,835 for fiscal year 2016. That marks the lowest number since the state transitioned to its deregulated retail electricity market in 2002 and continues a generally downward trend of nearly a decade.

The decline in complaints parallels a trend of improving residential electric prices, which the coalition has documented in a separate report. But the coalition also has documented some comparatively better electric consumer outcomes in the years preceding the retail electric deregulation law.

More: Texas Coalition for Affordable Power

UTAH

University Plans to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 25%

The University of Utah announced last week that it plans to reduce its total carbon emissions by 25% by sourcing 50% of its electricity from solar and geothermal energy sources.

The university signed an agreement with Cyrq Energy and Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables to provide 20 MW of geothermal energy and 10 MW of solar energy for 25 years. Rocky Mountain Power will facilitate the purchase and delivery through green tariffs.

The agreement is the largest long-term green power contract of any U.S. university, according to EPA’s Green Power Partnership rankings.

More: Clean Technica

VIRGINIA

Regulators Shut Down Hydroelectric Plant That Was Draining Creek

The Department of Environmental Quality shut down a small hydroelectric plant in Alleghany County that was draining parts of Falling Spring Creek dry, killing aquatic life.

During an unannounced inspection in May, regulators found Hydro-FS was exceeding state guidelines by temporarily withdrawing 5 million gallons of water a day from the creek. After another inspection in July, Hydro-FS agreed to stop taking water from the creek and will shut down the plant as part of an agreement reached with the state.

Company Chairman Armand Thieblot said he will likely attempt to sell the operation.

More: The Roanoke Times

State Seeks Proposals for EV Charging Network

The state last week issued a request for proposals for a statewide charging network for electric vehicles.

The $14 million in funding for the project is coming from the state’s portion of the Volkswagen settlement over the automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Responses are due by Nov. 6.

More: The Associated Press

WEST VIRGINIA

Delegation Supports DOE Resiliency NOPR

The state Congressional delegation wrote to FERC on Friday expressing its support for Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on grid resiliency pricing.

The letter pointed to the 2014 polar vortex as an example of a potentially catastrophic blackout that was avoided because coal units that were scheduled to retire remained available to be brought back online to meet demand.

“Short-term marginal fuel price, regulatory overburden, subsidy and policy mandate advantages for intermittent sources have rendered many baseload units uneconomical,” the letter says.

More: RM18-1

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