Atlanta Tea Party activist Debbie Dooley is president of Conservatives for Energy Freedom.
By Debbie Dooley
The college Republicans and Democrats at the College of Saint Mary and Saint John’s University were kind enough to bring me to Minnesota earlier this year for a talk about innovation and how to best secure our energy future. Yes, this Georgia gal has a soft spot for the frozen north.
The trip gave me the opportunity to look into Minnesota’s energy politics. For example, at the legislature this year, the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association and Minnesota Rural Electric Association are working to pass something they call “net metering reform.”
Minnesota is a national leader on net metering — a requirement that the utility pay you a fair rate for the electricity you generate. After all, you’re not just providing the utility with electricity when it’s most valuable, you’re also reducing the need to build and maintain another expensive power plant.
Nationwide, 44 states have adopted net metering laws, and Minnesota led the way back in 1981. Times have changed since then and Minnesota’s net metering law was reformed just two years ago to keep pace with breakthroughs such as the rapidly falling price of solar panels. →
If anything, FirstEnergy’s problems have only gotten worse since we issued our report:
FirstEnergy’s net income (revenues less expenses) continues to decline. Here’s the spiral: From $869 million in 2011 to $392 million in 2013 to $299 million in 2014.
Its earnings per share fell to its lowest point in a decade. Earnings per share in 2014 were $0.51, down from $0.90 in 2013.
Its long-term debt, already among the highest in the utility industry, increased from $15.8 billion in 2013 to $19.2 billion in 2014, and on its fourth-quarter earnings call, the company’s chief financial officer conceded that the parent holding company is carrying more debt than “we are comfortable with.”
Bob inglis is a former U.S. Representative from South Carolina.
By Bob Inglis
There’s still a long way to go, but conservatives may have begun to move on climate change.
Fifteen Republican U.S. Senators voted on January 21st for a Republican-offered amendment that said “human activity contributes to climate change.” Five Republican U.S. Senators were willing to go further that day, voting for an amendment that says “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was a leader among the fifteen and the five.
Perhaps it’s the dawn of the 2016 presidential cycle and the facing of an expanded electorate. Perhaps it’s the 2016 Senate reelection map that’s home to large swaths of that expanded electorate, some of it in places like Chicago. Or maybe it’s that we’re beginning to see the back of the Great Recession, and the great and immediate fears of that dark time are receding. →
Michael Vickerman is program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
By Michael Vickerman
Undeterred by the surfeit of generating capacity available to serve Wisconsin electricity customers, Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) is now seeking permission to build a mid-sized natural gas-fired power station, called Fox 3, and place it in service in 2019. But, if approved, how much generation would that plant actually provide?
If recent history is any guide, the answer is not much, or, more precisely, significantly less than what the utility projects in its application, which was filed in January 2015. This is especially true for power stations with higher fuel costs, such as Madison Gas & Electric’s 150-megawatt (MW) West Campus facility in Madison or We Energies’ 50 MW Rothschild biomass generator near Wausau. Both plants are of recent vintage, and each produces electricity and steam. But, as this month’s fuel reports show, 2014 was a better year for their steam hosts than it was for the electricity customers paying off the construction costs of these generators.
A $269 million station placed in service in late 2013, Rothschild generated sporadically in the first eight months of 2014 and hardly at all after Labor Day. Over the course of the year, electrical output from Rothschild totaled 15 percent of its rated capacity, considerably less than 70 percent projected by the utility in its 2010 application. Certainly, not an auspicious beginning for a baseload power plant’s operating life. →
Get consumer-brand companies, investors and state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle together in a room to talk about clean energy, and watch what happens.
Common sense prevails, and clean energy investments and policies come out on top.
At the recent NASEO Energy Outlook Conference in Washington D.C., Ceres and NASEO (the National Association of State Energy Officials) offered state energy officials a rare opportunity to connect with consumer brands and investors to discuss renewable energy and energy efficiency and the implications for state energy policies.
The response was overwhelming. Over two dozen representatives from 18 states, including Oklahoma, Utah, Minnesota, Michigan, and Missouri, packed the room. Unlike our national representatives in Washington, these state officials—representing red, blue, and purple states alike—managed to reach some key areas of agreement. →
Bowling Green, Ohio. (Photo by Pierre Metivier via Creative Commons)
By Neocles Leontis
All across the Midwest, communities manacled to Prairie State Energy Campus are seeing their electricity rates go through the roof.
These small towns and cities, which include Paducah, Ky., Batavia, Ill., Galion, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Ohio—where I live—invested heavily in Prairie State Energy Campus after being sold a promise in 2007 of 50 years of cheap, clean, and reliable coal-fired electric power.
That promise was engineered by Peabody Energy and its utility-industry and Wall Street allies. The Prairie State Energy Campus web that ultimately ensnared so many communities came about mostly because Peabody had a mine full of dirty, low-grade coal to unload. The dream, as it was pitched, boiled down to this: Prairie State would operate off cheap coal from a Peabody mine just across the street, and the plant—in part because of its “mine-mouth” location—would be a low-cost generator providing customer communities with affordable electricity that would cost in the ballpark of $48 per megawatt hour. →
Skip Pruss is a principal and co-founder of 5 Lakes Energy LLC in Lansing.
By Skip Pruss
2015 will be a watershed year for energy policy in Michigan – and few states will be watched as carefully by energy policy experts and interested observers.
The expiration of Michigan’s “10 x 2015” renewable energy mandate is framed by accelerating changes in energy markets, new federal regulatory requirements, the proliferation of disruptive new technologies and energy services, and antiquated regulatory paradigms.
Michigan is poised to do something “big” on energy, with diverse stakeholder interests having dramatically different ideas, goals and expectations for Michigan’s energy policy. →
Milwaukee author Eric Hansen is an award-winning conservation essayist and public radio commentator.
By Eric Hansen
While the national media spotlight has been on the Keystone XL pipeline, another large tar sands crude oil pipeline scheme has significant implications for Wisconsin.
Alert citizens connected the dots and are cautioning us that extensive plans by the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge would lock Wisconsin, and the broader Upper Great Lakes region, into a future as a tar sands crude oil transportation corridor.
Threatened: Lake Superior, the St. Croix, Namekagon, Chippewa, Wisconsin, Fox and Rock Rivers, and decades of clean water efforts.
Also at risk: fundamental clean government procedure that protects both our water and community health; a citizen’s right to know.
Incredibly, a behind-closed-doors decision by the U.S. State Department approved an Enbridge plan to nearly double the amount (to 880,000 barrels per day) of tar sands crude oil it is pumping across the national border — and on to Wisconsin. →
North Dakota spill cleanup will take another two years • Landowners along North Dakota pipeline route join together to negotiate • Minnesota legislative auditor will investigate solar incentives • Minnesota governor vetoes bill with energy provisions