The Hill: The credible case for Texas and its clean energy solutions

Drew Nelson at the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation in Houston recently wrote in The Hill that Texas continues to be a leader in clean energy development and reducing greenhouse gases using market the power of the free market. What’s needed, Nelson argues, is not federal regulations but further liberalization of the market to remove barriers for competition.

As Nelson write: “Removing barriers to individuals and companies investing in DERs and opening opportunities to better participate in the market will spawn a revolution in battery storage, self-generation, demand response, and even electric vehicles while increasing resiliency. Policymakers should ensure these technologies achieve their promise by removing current barriers that discourage investments in DERs such as restrictive municipal ordinances, onerous processes for interconnection, and discriminatory retail rates.” Read the full commentary in The Hill.

Global Awareness of Renewable Energy Increases as ‘Consumer Revolution’ Grows

A new report from Morgan Stanley titled, “Consumer Revolution: Shining a Light on How the Utilities World is Changing,” indicates that the global community is more interested in renewable energy than it’s ever been.

The company’s AlphaWise research arm gathered a wealth of data reflecting consumers’ attitudes toward renewable energy, as well as various customer-service aspects of utilities.

According to the data, about one in two people are aware of new energy technology, which includes rooftop solar, battery storage and smart meters. This data corroborates a growing awareness of solar in the United States. Solar power generation and storage possibilities continue to surface in states across the country, the report says. Read more at Energy Pages.

The Biggest Rate Cases From the Past Year

Electric utilities across the U.S. are requesting ever-larger rate increases, according to an analysis of recent rate case filings being tracked by EQ Research in its Policy Vista™ service. These rate increase proposals could have a big impact both on how, and how much, families and businesses pay for their electricity.

Between July 6, 2018, and July 6, 2019, 54 electric utilities serving roughly 37 million customers (roughly 90 million Americans, or 28% of the population) filed rate cases with state regulators seeking approximately $6.1 billion in annual retail revenue increases. Of those utilities, only four requested decreases in their revenue requirement, and two others requested no change.

The proposed rate increases would likely have been higher had utilities not been refunding hundreds of millions of dollars to customers due to the impacts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Among other provisions, the tax cut bill signed into law by President Trump in December 2017 reduced the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, thereby reducing the amount of money utilities need to collect from customers through their rates to pay their taxes. Since existing rates were based on the higher corporate tax rate, utilities over-collected revenues until their rates were adjusted accordingly.

Read more at Energy Pages.

Energy Choice States Surge Ahead of Monopoly States in Customer Savings

The competitive jurisdictions, overwhelmingly, show prices have gone down, compared to monopoly states. He pointed out that while industrial and commercial customers are indeed benefiting more than residential customers, residential customers in competitive jurisdictions are still benefiting significantly from lower prices compared to their counterparts in the monopoly states. In a competitive market it’s not a zero-sum game, because in a competitive market everybody wins. Read more at Energy Pages.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio Gov. DeWine signs bill to bail out nuclear plants, slash renewable energy

Ohio has become the next state to bail out its nuclear plants with fees on ratepayers' electric bills. On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed the controversial House Bill 6, which will add new fees to Ohioans' electric bills for two nuclear plants owned by the bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions in northern Ohio.

Ohio lawmakers pitched the legislation as a cost-saver for ratepayers, saying they offset the new fee with cuts to incentives for renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and the elimination of fees used to push companies becoming more energy efficient in making and delivering energy by 2020.  

Lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives sent the bill to DeWine Tuesday afternoon with a narrow, 51-38 vote. The governor signed it shortly after.

“Our goal all along has been to save the nuclear plants, save the jobs but also to keep the cost of energy down for the ratepayer," DeWine told reporters Thursday. “I think House Bill 6 does that.”

Read more in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

E&E News: Power producers fight FERC storage order in D.C. Circuit

From E&E News: “A coalition of power industry groups yesterday launched a legal fight over a federal regulation opening wholesale electricity markets to energy storage technologies like batteries.

“In their petition for review, attorneys for the American Public Power Association and other groups told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that they would soon sue but did not lay out the details of their challenge.

“The lawsuit will likely focus on an element of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order No. 841 that requires regional transmission organizations (RTOs) to allow full participation from energy storage resources, said Ari Peskoe, director of Harvard Law School's Electricity Law Initiative. FERC commissioners approved Order No. 841 last year to allow energy storage to compete with other electricity sources like natural gas and coal in regional wholesale power markets overseen by RTOs or independent system operators.

"‘Without the option of selling through an RTO or ISO, [distributed energy resource] owners are captive to local utility programs,’ Peskoe said.”


E&E News: Battles erupt over Ohio's new nuclear 'bailout' plan

From E&E News: “With just days before the Ohio Legislature adjourns for the summer, the state Senate introduced the latest revisions to a divisive bill to subsidize the state's two nuclear plants along Lake Erie and a pair of Cold War-era coal plants.

“The latest version of H.B. 6 still includes the $150 million in aid that FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. said is necessary to keep the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants running and would guarantee that millions of dollars continue flowing to coal plants owned by Ohio utilities.

“The new draft adds up to $20 million specifically set aside for utility-scale solar projects. But like the previous version of the bill, it would significantly water down the state's modest clean energy standards.”


Washington Post: A coalition in Virginia is transcending polarization to take on entrenched special interests

Check out the editorial on electricity market reforms in Virginia in the Washington Post this weekend by Tom Cormons, executive director of Appalachian Voices, and Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks.

“If Americans’ appetite for taking on the status quo is a defining feature of our time, political polarization is another. We celebrate the first as essential to democracy and progress — having spurred reforms from the American Revolution to the civil rights movement — while the second pits us against each other and often paralyzes our system with gridlock. Paradoxically, today we see them rising together.

“A vigorous drive to stand up to our most powerful institutions animates progressives, conservatives and independents alike and cuts across the geographic, racial and cultural lines that often divide us. The political establishment has learned the hard way that this grass-roots discontent cannot be belittled or ignored.

“Polarization, however, can prevent people from seeking redress of their grievances in a powerful, united way. When Americans are too paralyzed by animosity to work together, the privileged special interests that are the biggest reason for our ire remain unscathed by reform.”

Read the full commentary at the Washington Post.

Miami Herald: FPL wanted to punish disloyal customers by withholding solar. Then that changed.

Kudos to Florida Power and Light for showing that the true intention of its “SolarTogether” program is to block competition and punish customers who seek the freedom to choose their own energy service provider. And instead of saving customers money, FPL’s program would charge end users a monthly premium for the privilege of participating.

From the Miami Herald: FPL’s “SolarTogether” program invites customers to participate in a groundbreaking solar program aimed at lowering costs and investing in highly sought clean energy. Customers would be able to voluntarily participate by paying a premium each month and later receiving credits for savings produced by the program.

But there was a catch.

The original proposal, filed March 13, included an exclusionary penalty for customers who do not support the “continuity of the program,” specifically those who support deregulation efforts like the Citizens for Energy Choices ballot initiative, according to Public Service Commission documents and video recordings of a public meeting obtained by the Miami Herald.

Under the proposal’s “limitation of service,” “any customer taking service under a metered rate schedule [...] and who supports continuity of the program is eligible to participate.” After questioning from PSC staff and inquiries by the Miami Herald on how this exclusionary rule would be enforced and who would be excluded, FPL deleted the clause from its proposal.

“After carefully considering all of the information we received, we let [PSC] staff know we are removing this particular provision from the program,” FPL spokesman Chris McGrath wrote in an email Tuesday night.

Read the full story at the Miami Herald. And then go sign the petition for energy freedom.