Cathy Kunkel is an IEEFA fellow.
Cross posted from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
By Cathy Kunkel
FirstEnergy’s most recent quarterly numbers and its outlook for 2015 are both dismal and in line with a report we published last fall, “FirstEnergy Seeks a Subsidized Turnaround.”
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.
Alli Gold Roberts is a Policy Associate at Ceres.
By Alli Gold Roberts
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.
Residents of Van Wert, Ohio discuss how a wind project turned their town’s economic prospects around.
(Editor’s note – the Ohio Environmental Council is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News)
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.
NIck Hylla is the executive director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
By Nick Hylla
As the year draws to a close, it is becoming more and more apparent that 2014 will be remembered as a landmark year for renewable energy in the United States.
The current narrative is quite captivating… the rise of community solar, the utility death spiral, the Tesla Gigafactory, renewable energy “fairness,” the value of solar, the Clean Power Plan, the shale revolution, the US-China climate agreement, the end of cheap coal, fossil fuel divestment, and more.
Interestingly, the Midwest will surely be of significant note. The Minnesota Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Iowa Supreme Court ruling on third party ownership, and the Wisconsin utility rate cases have all set precedents with trajectories that will define whether our energy markets become more opaque, centralized, and monopolized or more open, distributed, and shared.
Atlanta Tea Party activist Debbie Dooley is a founder of the Green Tea Coalition.
By Debbie Dooley
I was recently invited to visit Wisconsin by the state’s local chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association. I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve always had a close affinity with Wisconsin, due to the grand tradition of football stars from the University of Alabama—my alma mater—playing for the Green Bay Packers. (Namely Eddie Lacy, one of the team’s star running backs.)
The other connection I have with Wisconsin? Gale Klappa, chairman and CEO of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Energy Corporation and chairman, president, and chief executive of Wisconsin Energy’s principal utility, We Energies. Prior to these posts, Klappa was Vice-President of Atlanta-based Southern Company, the parent company of Georgia Power – Georgia’s largest electric utility.
Enjoying two beautiful fall days, I spent most of my time in the Waukesha area, but also made a trip north to visit a renewable energy company in Chilton, Wisconsin, which is just south of Green Bay. Here’s what I saw on my trip.