(Photo by Damian Gadal via Creative Commons)
In deregulated Midwestern states, many residential customers and whole towns and cities – through municipal aggregation – are now able to choose an electricity supplier other than their utility.
Shopping around for an alternative natural gas supplier, however, is much less common, and many customers likely don’t know they have the option to switch gas suppliers even years after deregulation laws made it possible.
Alternative gas suppliers and energy marketplace companies – like ChooseEnergy, which launched its residential natural gas switching services in Illinois and Ohio recently – say that consumers can save money by shopping around for a gas plan.
Some consumer advocates and energy experts, meanwhile, say that differences between the gas and electricity sectors mean that customers have much less to gain by switching to an alternative gas supplier. In fact an analysis by the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) in Illinois shows that a great majority – 88 percent – of customers have actually lost money by switching natural gas plans.
(Photo by Melissa via Creative Commons)
Minnesota utility regulators on Thursday answered most but not all questions about the shape of a new community solar gardens program.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission indicated that it would reject a proposal by the state’s largest electric utility to limit the number of community solar gardens that can be installed per quarter.
The board also voted to set a higher rate for electricity purchased from the shared solar projects than the one originally sought by Xcel Energy, and it said the company must pay for renewable energy credits associated with the solar gardens.
After a full day of deliberations, the board adjourned until next week.
“What the commission has determined now is better than what Xcel proposed, but there’s still some concern about the level of uncertainty,” said Ken Bradley, CEO of MN Community Solar, one of the state’s first solar garden developers.
Peabody Energy’s headquarters in St. Louis. (Photo by tolkien1914 via Creative Commons)
A debate in Minnesota about the social and environmental costs of power plant pollution has caught the attention of the world’s largest private-sector coal company.
Peabody Energy wants a seat at the table as Minnesota prepares to update a two-decade-old figure that’s meant to help inform planning decisions about electricity generation in the state.
The coal giant said Tuesday in a petition to Minnesota utility regulators that the outcome of the case will affect its business, and that no one involved in the process is currently representing its interests.
(Photo by Tau Zero via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Clean energy advocates are pointing to recent reports on electricity use in the Midwest as clear evidence that state efficiency programs and technological advances are paying dividends in the region and fundamentally altering the landscape for utilities, regulators and consumers.
One example is a recent projection from the Midwest’s grid operator that showed electricity demand in the region is expected to decline almost 1 percent annually through 2016.
The forecast of a 0.75-percent reduction in annual electricity demand within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.’s North and Central regions represents a shift from the 0.8 percent growth rate in the organization’s previous long-term reliability assessment.
(Photo by Michael Krigsman via Creative Commons)
After a three-year pilot program that won praise from state officials and environmental groups, Minnesota’s largest natural gas utility is proposing to walk away from a concept known as revenue decoupling.
CenterPoint Energy, which is in the midst of a contested rate case, said in a Jan. 31 regulatory filing that it will no longer seek approval for a permanent decoupling mechanism it proposed last summer.
That proposal faced opposition from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which argued that it would confuse customers and shift too many costs and risks onto residential and small business ratepayers.
Thomas Frank, Judy Hicks, Kim Rodriguez and Darryl Harris are not happy with their neighbor – the BP Whiting refinery. (Photo by Kari Lydersen / Midwest Energy News)
In Chicago, anger about petroleum coke storage along the Calumet River has been aimed largely at KCBX, the subsidiary of Koch Industries that operates the facilities.
Meanwhile, the BP oil refinery that creates the petcoke across the border in Whiting, Indiana has maintained a relatively low profile.
On Wednesday, during a quarterly community meeting at the Whiting public library, BP had planned to roll out its new air emissions monitoring system. But the meeting also turned into a forum for neighbors to air issues ranging from petcoke to BP’s plans to demolish homes in the area.
(Photo by Satoshi Kaya via Creative Commons)
Utilities are often at odds with environmental advocates over how to advance clean energy and efficiency goals without falling into a “death spiral” of declining demand and shrinking revenue.
However, a new agreement between a major environmental group and an organization representing investor-owned utilities shows there is also a lot of common ground.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Edison Electric Institute on Wednesday released a document, simply titled “EEI/NRDC Joint Statement to State Utility Regulators,” in support of policies to help guide a rapidly changing electrical grid.
While the organizations have issued joint statements in the past, the latest version is noteworthy because it wades into the thorny issue of distributed generation, which many see as posing an existential threat to traditional utility business models.
The agreement recognizes the continuing trend of customers installing their own generation, while calling for policies to ensure utilities are fairly compensated for maintaining those customers’ access to the grid.
“This agreement helps chart a path to success,” said David Owens, an EEI executive vice president, in a news release.
(click to enlarge)
Solar installers, manufacturers, and suppliers added employees in the Midwest last year at a rate more than double the national average.
The solar industry now directly employs an estimated 17,044 people in the Midwest, according to the latest State Solar Jobs Census, released Tuesday by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research group. That’s a 51 percent increase from the 11,300 jobs it counted in the region in 2012.
Nationally, the number of solar jobs grew by almost 20 percent to an estimated 142,698, nearly half of which are located in Arizona, California, Massachusetts or New Jersey.
The foundation also took a more in-depth look at Minnesota’s solar industry so that it will have a baseline for evaluating the impact of that state’s recently passed solar policy, including a 1.5 percent solar mandate.
Ameren is currently meeting most of its share of Missouri’s renewable energy standard with electricity from this century-old dam in Iowa. (Photo by Ian Petchenik via Creative Commons)
More than five years after Missouri residents approved a renewable-energy standard, very little has changed about the state’s power supply.
The 2008 law, known as Proposition C, requires the state’s three large investor-owned utilities to gradually phase in renewable power, starting with 2 percent of the electricity sold in 2011 to 2013, and gradually ramping up that proportion to 15 percent by 2021. The law also requires that 2 percent of that total be derived from solar.
However, not long after voters approved the law by a two-to-one margin, state officials removed language requiring that energy to be generated in Missouri.
As a result, “the utilities are not building renewables,” said P.J. Wilson, director of Renew Missouri, a non-profit that advocated for Proposition C. “They have found ways around it. We’ve been challenging that.”