A rural Minnesota co-op is offering customers who participate in a demand-response program a hard-to-beat deal on community solar.
Customers of Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric (SWCE) who want to own a photovoltaic panel in a community solar garden and add a new electric water heater to their homes can have both for just $170.
Less than three years after it began offering substantial rebates to customers for investing in certain energy-efficiency improvements, a Missouri utility is proposing to throttle back on its efforts.
In late December, Ameren Missouri filed with state’s Public Service Commission (docket #EO-2015-0055) a proposed three-year efficiency plan to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Compared to the 2013-2015 efficiency plan, the budget would be about 8 percent lower, and the energy-savings goal would be just 54 percent of the current goal.
“Ameren has left substantial amounts of savings on the table and is not close to performing at the level of leading utilities,” said John Hickey, director of the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club. “Ameren can, and should, make energy efficiency a larger part of its resource portfolio.”
The Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis. (Photo by MarkStuff via Creative Commons)
©2015 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Indiana’s legislative session is scarcely a week old, but a pair of bills has already re-established a wedge between utilities and clean energy advocates.
One of the measures would allow utilities to propose their own energy efficiency goals and programs. The other would alter terms and impose demand charges for utility customers who choose to generate a share of their electricity with solar energy systems.
The bills dive into two of the thorniest energy policy issues facing states today — how to encourage reductions in energy use and give consumers the ability to generate energy with rooftop solar arrays while keeping utilities financially strong and able to reinvest in the grid.
Peter Lindstrom, mayor of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, is promoting a new state efficiency program.
For two years, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has been showcasing a new approach to financing state and municipal sustainability projects around the state.
Called the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), the concept offers organizations a way to reduce energy costs and use the savings to help pay for projects. The state created documents to help agencies and municipalities manage the program, which involves an “Energy Services Company” that develops, installs, and provides financial assistance for the projects.
It’s not an easy concept to explain even to large agencies, much less city officials. Helping to attract municipalities to the program is now the job of Peter Lindstrom, 43, former assistant director of Science Technology and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Lindstrom in November joined the Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTs) as the GESP outreach coordinator to counties, cities and schools. He is also the mayor of Falcon Heights (pop. 5,300), where since taking office in 2007 he made the small community just outside St. Paul into one of the most sustainable in the state.
Power lines in Kansas City. (Photo by Chris Murphy via Creative Commons)
Utilities across the Midwest and the nation in recent years have sought to hike the fixed portion of their customers’ bills, in what some observers interpret as an attempt to compensate for stagnant or flagging electricity sales and head off competition from solar.
Two such proposals are now pending before the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), one of the major utilities serving the state, is seeking to boost the fixed portion of customers’ monthly bills from $9 to $25, which would make it one of the higher fixed rates among 28 investor-owned utilities in the Midwest, according to a survey of rates done by the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
KCP&L’s proposal is included in a rate case filed with Missouri’s Public Service Commission on Oct. 30, 2014.
An infrared image from an energy audit. (Photo by prc1333 via Creative Commons)
There’s at least one bipartisan piece of legislation moving through Michigan’s lame-duck session: A streamlined loan program for residential customers looking to install renewable energy or efficiency systems on their property.
The Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act is modeled after the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy financing law of 2010, bringing to homeowners a similar loan program that until now has only been available to commercial and industrial property owners.
However, the law would apply only to residential customers of municipal utilities — about 260,000 households, according to the Michigan Municipal Utility Association. The law would apply to residents in cities such as Lansing and Traverse City after local governing board approval.
“It gets down to the fact that energy efficiency is common sense: It reduces energy waste and saves money,” said Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “This legislation allows for and promotes greater opportunities for energy efficiency throughout Michigan.”
Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visits the statehouse on Dec. 2. (AP Photo / Seth Perlman)
Following recent GOP election gains, efficiency advocates are taking a glass-half-full approach, emphasizing bipartisan support for efficiency mandates and missions, including among Republicans like Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner.
That was the message of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance in a teleconference on Wednesday analyzing the effect of the November elections for governor and state legislature in 13 states where Republicans were generally victorious.
But there is also uncertainty ahead in the energy efficiency landscape, namely in three states – all with Republican governors and legislative majorities – where rollbacks of energy efficiency mandates have occurred.
Gov. John Kasich was re-elected in Ohio, and Gov. Mike Pence is still in office in Indiana, up for re-election in 2016. In those states, majority Republican legislatures this year passed bills freezing and ending, respectively, the states’ mandates for increased energy efficiency.
A new combined heat and power facility (lower left) is under construction at the University of Minnesota. (Courtesy photo)
Two dangerous warning signs occurred separately a few years ago to remind staff at the University of Minnesota that the sprawling campus needed a new source of heating and electricity.
The University’s main campus, along the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, is largely heated by the Southeast Steam Plant, a 1903 facility located upriver from the campus. Jerome Malmquist, the university’s director of energy management, says a major crisis was narrowly averted when a freeway bridge between the steam plant and the main campus suddenly collapsed in 2007.
Fortunately, underground steam tunnel beneath the freeway bridge was undamaged. But around the same time, two boilers went offline on a particularly cold day, an episode that sent shivers up the spine of Malmquist and his staff that had nothing to do with the weather.
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.
The Michigan Public Service Commission announced this week that it will be the first state energy agency in the country to use Property Assessed Clean Energy financing for efficiency projects at its new headquarters.
The agency will lease the building from a private owner, who has agreed to finance just under $500,000 for LED lighting, a 20 kW solar array and variable speed motors for heating and cooling.
The property owner, Saginaw Plaza Ltd., will receive a 20-year fixed-rate loan that will be paid for through the MPSC’s energy savings. It’s anticipated that the building will save more in reduced energy consumption than the cost of the loan.
“The commission thought it would be a good idea to set an example when it comes to energy efficiency,” MPSC spokeswoman Judy Palnau said.