E&E: FERC proposes changes to Carter-era law promoting renewables

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From Greenwire: An energy law passed during the Carter administration to promote the expansion of renewable energy was opened for reinterpretation today by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), with Chairman Neil Chatterjee saying the law is prime for an update to better reflect the realities of modern energy markets.

"We have seen tremendous technological advancements in renewables, increasing sophistication in competitive electric power markets and abundant supplies of domestic natural gas," Chatterjee said. "It's time to modernize the commission's implementation of PURPA to reflect those significant developments."

Among potential changes to the 1978 law, the commission will consider giving states more flexibility in how they set power rates from qualifying renewable energy facilities, allowing a 95% reduction in the size of qualifying facilities and setting up a tiered approach to the distance between them.

Read the full story in E&E Greenwire.

Competitive retail markets are delivering lower power prices

We’re proud to be considered among the “certain factions” seeking to implement or expand retail competition. Source: S&P Global.

We’re proud to be considered among the “certain factions” seeking to implement or expand retail competition. Source: S&P Global.

A new report from S&P Global finds that residential prices have risen by less than the national average increase of 53.6% in the 14 states where electricity prices are competitively determined for all retail customers. The study compares prices from 2010 to 2018 in states with restructured markets with states with partially restructured and regulated electricity markets.

The number of jurisdictions with residential electric prices below the national average was unchanged for partially restructured markets and was little changed for regulated markets when comparing 2018, 2010 and 2000, according to S&P Global. In Tier 1 states - those with competitive retail pricing - there were six jurisdictions with lower than average prices in 2018 compared to three in 2010 and four in 2000.

Read the full report at S&PGlobal.com.

ICYMI: What’s Behind the World’s Biggest Climate Victory? Capitalism

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Worth your time. The Bloomberg team did a deep dive on Sunday on what’s driving growth in the renewable energy sector.

“The market triumph of renewable energy marks the biggest victory yet in the fight against global warming. Solar and wind are proliferating not because of moral do-gooders but because they’re now the most profitable part of the power business in most of the world. An industry that once relied on heavy subsidies and was propped up by government mandates is now increasingly standing on its own.

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“Solar, wind and hydropower resources combined generate more than a quarter of the world’s electricity. As a recent United Nations report put it: The renewable energy sector is “looking all grown up.

“Last year alone, global investments in renewable energy hit almost $273 billion, according to a report by BNEF, UN Environment and the Frankfurt School. That’s three times the estimated spending on coal- and gas-powered generation. Electricity prices, meanwhile, plunge below zero at times in solar-rich Germany and California and wind-rich Texas, sending a signal to generators that they need to back off so they don’t stress the grid.

“Low costs sparked a clean-power frenzy that has quadrupled global renewable energy capacity to 1,650 gigawatts within the past nine years—more than every power plant in the U.S. combined. From Western Europe to China, solar and wind are beating out fossil-fuel plants without subsidies.”

Check out the full story and some excellent graphics at Bloomberg.com.

Storage holds the key to unlocking more renewable energy

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Energy Central looks at the opportunities for expanding renewable energy deployment through the growth of battery technology. The combination of more efficient storage and solar energy is changing the game for both utility scale, retail and home generation projects. Battery technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Batteries are getting smaller, more efficient, and more affordable, giving solar generators the ability to capture the sun’s energy for later use. Energy Central pulled some interesting data together on battery deployment rates and falling solar costs. Check it out at EnergyCentral.com.

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And for more information about the growth of storage, check out the Energy Information Administration’s outlook for utility scale storage capacity through 2023.

“As of March 2019, the total utility-scale battery storage power capacity planned to come online through 2023 is 1,623 MW. If these planned facilities come online as scheduled, total U.S. utility-scale battery storage power capacity would nearly triple by the end of 2023” - EIA.

Read more at EIA’s Today in Energy.

Buffalo News: New York electricity consumers need more choices

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Check out our letter to The Buffalo News in support of competition in New York state’s residential electricity market and concerns about the effect of the Public Service Commission’s reset:

“The New York State Public Service Commission’s new rules on retail energy markets – despite declining complaint rates – threaten to limit the energy options available to residential and commercial customers.

“In February, new requirements took effect on third-party service providers selling electricity and gas to residential customers, requiring them to guarantee their prices will remain lower than the incumbent utility.

“The commission deserves credit for putting consumers first. Unfortunately, instead of protecting customers from deceptive marketing, the price guarantee threatens to undercut the benefits of the competitive market by making it harder for smaller providers to participate.

“Independent service providers have been crucial to advancing New York’s transition to lower-carbon power, encouraging customers to improve their energy savings and bringing more renewable energy to the market.”

Read the full op-ed at BuffaloNews.com.

Meet nine state regulators who are 'shaking things up'

“Significant players behind the flurry of state regulatory activity are customers — ranging from large old-line industrial and manufacturing concerns to retailers such as Walmart, technology companies like Google and Apple, governmental units, and homeowners.

Those customers want to save money where they can on electric power and are demanding new technology offerings, but they're also motivated by concerns about their carbon footprints and in the case of corporations that is driven in large part by Wall Street investors.”

Read full story at E&E News.

Cleveland.com: Is Ohio’s HB 6 bailing out nuclear and coal plants a tax - or a win for FirstEnergy Solution bondholders?

A political group opposing the repeal of House Bill 6 is running ads claiming the referendum would cede control over Ohio’s energy sector to China.

A political group opposing the repeal of House Bill 6 is running ads claiming the referendum would cede control over Ohio’s energy sector to China.

Voters may be surprised to know that Ohio’s anti-tax, Republican-run legislature imposed a new tax on Ohio’s electricity customers in July – House Bill 6, the FirstEnergy Solutions bailout bill.

That’s what Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions, HB 6’s chief beneficiary, claims in a lawsuit filed this week in the Ohio Supreme Court. And if the high court agrees with FirstEnergy Solutions, that would deny Ohio voters any chance to vote HB 6 up or down at the ballot box, because the state constitution forbids a statewide referendum on tax legislation.

The Ohio House vote to approve the HB 6 bailout was 51-38 – just one more than the 50 required; the Senate vote was 19-12, two votes more than required. And the bill’s supporters denied that it was a tax measure – then. Instead, the bill’s backers said it will let two non-air-polluting nuclear power plants, Perry and Davis-Besse on Lake Erie, keep generating. Without subsidies, the plants’ comparatively costly electricity can’t compete with electricity generated by natural gas.

Read the full editorial at Cleveland.com.


Denver Post: Four Colorado utilities join forces to explore joining regional trading market

Four Colorado utilities, including Xcel Energy, the state’s largest provider of electricity, are exploring whether to join a regional trading market to acquire real-time power at the lowest possible cost.

Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Platte River Power Authority, an electric cooperative, have teamed up to hire an independent consultant, who will evaluate the benefits and costs of joining what’s called an energy imbalance market. The consultant will look at markets organized by the Southwest Power Pool and the California Independent System Operator.

The results of the study are expected by the end of September and a decision is expected by the end of the year.

Read more in the Denver Post.

South Carolina Post & Courier: New elections of SC utility regulators could shake up commission

State lawmakers are seeking candidates for the S.C. Public Service Commission, setting the stage for a possible sea change on the board that decides how much utilities can charge for water, gas and electricity. 

The state House and Senate will accept applications for four of the seven seats on the utility commission from Sept. 16 to Oct. 11.

They’re looking for candidates with a bachelor’s degree and a background in law, energy, economics, accounting, engineering, water systems or consumer advocacy. 

The search for the next class of utility regulators comes at a critical juncture for the Public Service Commission.

The utility board is set to determine new rules for the state’s growing solar industry. It is facing criticism from Duke Energy over its handling of a recent rate hike request.

And it is likely to be tasked next year with another proposal from Dominion Energy to raise power bills in order to pay for several years of storm damage, infrastructure improvements and other operating costs. 

Read the full story in the Post & Courier.

Arizona Republic: Choose your own electric company in Arizona? 7 things to know about deregulation

The Arizona Republic recently published a pretty through story on the growing push to open the state’s utility market to competition. We’d just note that full competition for all customers - commercial and residential - is the best option.

“Someday soon in Arizona, you might get to pick your energy company rather than have no choice but to use the one that serves your neighborhood.

“Arizona Corporation Commissioners recently spent two days discussing energy deregulation, alternately referred to as "re-regulation" or retail competition.

“The state regulators are crafting rules that would allow independent power producers to compete for customers with the big electric companies like Arizona Public Service Co.

“Proponents of the concept say that having electric companies compete for customers would drive down prices and improve customer service and reliability. They contend that electric companies have little reason to improve their operations because they have no threat of losing unhappy customers, unlike other businesses.

“The discussion is just getting started, but it promises to be contentious.”

Read the full story at AZCentral.com.