BC Hydro: Drought on Island Raises Water Supply Concerns
Vancouver Island is in a winter drought after two months of unusually dry and cold weather, BC Hydro said last week.
A utility spokesperson said winter started wet and mild, but frigid conditions at the end of January “locked up” available moisture in snow and ice. That has created drought-like conditions in watersheds serving the Sooke, Port Alberni, Comox Valley and Campbell River regions.
The Puntledge River system in the Comox Valley is already in conservation mode in order to provide enough water for downstream fish habitats, the utility said. Hydrologists say the water supply forecast for this time of year has reached a record-breaking 50-year low.
More: The Canadian Press
Ventura County: SCE Lines Caused Thomas Fire
Power lines owned by Southern California Edison sparked the Thomas Fire, according to a report released last week by the Ventura County Fire Department.
Based on witnesses’ statements, video evidence and SCE equipment retrieved from the Anlauf Canyon Road origin area, investigators determined power lines owned by the utility arced and made contact with each other in high winds. This caused “molten aluminum particles” to fall to the ground, where dry vegetation caught fire, according to the report. Those flames went on to merge with a separate fire reported an hour later in the area of Koenigstein Road and Highway 150, the report states.
SCE said it has fully cooperated with fire officials throughout the investigation but that its own findings about the Anlauf Canyon Road fire suggest there could be another cause. The utility, however, has said it believes its equipment was associated with the ignition point on Koenigstein Road.
More: Ventura County Star
PUC Approves Decrease to RMP Efficiency Surcharge
The Public Utilities Commission approved a decrease in a surcharge that funds Rocky Mountain Power’s efficiency and conservation programs, from 2.7% of a customer’s total monthly bill to 2.25%.
That equates to a decrease of about $5 annually for the average residential customer. The utility requested approval to decrease the rider after its demand-side management-related expenses came in lower than projected in 2016 and 2017.
In its order approving the change, the commission said it will help align revenues and expenditures, and “represents a reasoned and gradual approach that continues to encourage cost-effective DSM programs while reducing customer bills.”
More: The Jefferson Star
Alternative Rate Plan Bill Advances, Despite PSC, OPC Opposition
The House Economic Matters Committee last week unanimously passed a bill that would allow utilities to include different factors affecting ratepayer costs in their rate filings, including the strength of energy markets, the utilities’ financial stability, and weather and climate.
The bill is being heavily lobbied for by the state’s utilities, including Baltimore Gas and Electric, PEPCO and Delmarva Power. Late last month, all five members of the Public Service Commission, along with the Office of People’s Counsel, testified against the bill to the Senate Finance Committee.
The sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian Feldman (D), said the legislation merely modernizes the rate-setting structure and aligns the state with 38 others that have already adopted some form of this regulatory system. BG&E said the legislation provides consumers “with more transparency and predictability on their energy costs.”
More: Maryland Matters
Bill to Up RPS to 50% by 2030 Survives After Surprise Vote
Del. Rick Impallaria (R) surprised his colleagues in the House Economic Matters Committee when last week he voted against a resolution that would have killed a bill increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2030.
As a result of his vote, and the absence of Del. Ned Carey (D), the resolution failed on Wednesday. The next day, the Senate Finance Committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act on an 8-3 vote. Impallaria was the only Republican on the House committee to vote against the resolution (in other words, for the bill). All other Republicans on the House committee, along with a few Democrats, voted for it.
Top-echelon House leaders feel the legislation needs another year to marinate before the General Assembly will be comfortable enough to pass a more robust RPS, which could result in slightly higher utility bills in the short term. Some lawmakers are suggesting that they should wait for the completion of a study on the history and potential of the state’s RPS before acting on new clean energy legislation.
Utilities Push Back Against 100% Clean Energy Proposal
Several of the state’s electric utilities last week pushed back against Gov. Tim Walz’s proposal to require 100% carbon-free electricity in the state by 2050.
Minnesota Power, Great River Energy, Minnkota Power Cooperative and Dairyland Power Cooperative all said they oppose the governor’s plan, introduced as a bill by Rep. Jamie Long (D), in its current form. The legislation has an uphill battle, as it would need support in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Besides the energy mandate, the bill also would make clean energy a priority as utilities plan for the future and would expand the state’s energy conservation efforts. The utilities said the target is infeasible without significant advances in technology.
More: Minnesota Public Radio
GOP Lawmakers Again Try to Save Colstrip with Revised Bill
Republican legislators are taking another run at bailing out Colstrip Power Plant, capping some costs but still obligating NorthWestern Energy customers to a 30-year repayment plan of the utility’s $407 million investment in the plant.
The new legislation, SB 331, introduced last week, comes after Sen. Tom Richmond announced that he would abandon his previous attempt to save at least a portion of the four-unit coal-fired power plant. The earlier proposal allowed NorthWestern to buy a larger share of Colstrip and then pass all future costs onto its customers.
SB 331 does the same but would prevent NorthWestern from billing its customers for more than $40 million in operating costs accumulated over five consecutive years. It still binds customers to a 30-year payment plan in order to guarantee NorthWestern a full return of the $407 million it’s already paid for 30% ownership of Unit 4. Those payments would continue even after Colstrip shuts down before the end of its useful life, which the bill recognizes as inevitable.
More: Billings Gazette
State to Join US Climate Alliance
Gov. Steve Sisolak last week announced that the state would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states pledged to uphold the U.S.’ commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
A bill in the state Senate, dubbed the Carbon Reduction Plan, would hold the state to the targets set by the international agreement, which President Trump said he intends to pull the U.S. out of next year. Among the requirements in the bill are that the state reduce its emissions from 2005 levels by 28% by 2024 and by 45% by 2029, and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
“Climate change is an immediate threat to our environment and to our families, and while the federal government fails to act, states are leading the charge in curbing our carbon footprint,” Nevada Conservation League Executive Director Andy Maggi said. “Taking action now will not only show the nation that climate action is possible but also grow Nevada’s clean energy economy and improve our public health.”
Bill Would Allow EV Charging Stations to Resell Electricity
A bill introduced in the General Assembly last week would allow electric vehicle charging stations to resell electricity originally purchased from a utility, instead of charging customers by time of use.
“Every electric vehicle model consumes electricity at a different rate,” said Stan Cross, CEO and co-founder of Asheville-based Brightfield Transportation Solutions. “So, when a Tesla and a [Nissan] Leaf pull up to a charging station, and both plug in with a time-based pricing model, the Tesla driver will pay less and the Leaf driver more for the same amount of electricity delivered.”
The bill is sponsored by Rep. John Szoka (R), who said he was “eager to get the bill passed and signed” before the state starts using its share of funds received from Volkswagen as part of a settlement in which the company agreed to pay billions for cheating on tailpipe pollution tests. Szoka said he’s wary of devoting public dollars to services he believes the free market could provide.
More: Energy News Network
Northam Vetoes Bill Barring State from Joining RGGI
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last week vetoed a pair of bills that would have prohibited the state from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and a similar coalition designed to slice emissions from vehicles and other transportation sources.
Both bills, introduced by Del. Charles Poindexter (R), would have required two-thirds majority votes from the General Assembly to allow the state to join the compacts. They both passed by extremely narrow margins on nearly party-line votes. Republicans have a 51-49 edge in the House of Delegates and a 21-19 advantage in the Senate.
The state is in the process of joining RGGI.
More: Energy News Network