Mendota Hills Wind Farm, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Zack via Creative Commons)
Support in the Illinois legislature is slowly growing for a proposal that backers say will save ratepayers millions while freeing up state renewable energy funds currently sitting unspent.
But the proposed bill faces an uphill political battle because of opposition from ComEd’s parent company Exelon, whose nuclear fleet could face competition and depressed power prices with more wind power on the market.
Illinois energy experts have for months been calling for reforms to the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The massive shift away from utilities to community aggregation and alternative electricity suppliers has exacerbated a quirk in the law that now means customers are paying millions of dollars into a fund for renewable energy that is languishing untapped.
Meanwhile, the state risks failing to meet mandatory benchmarks in the RPS; and even the renewable power that is being bought for Illinois customers is largely through short-term contracts for renewable energy credits that could come from wind farms in Texas or other states.
(Photo by missrivs via Creative Commons)
FirstEnergy’s Ohio utilities face challenges that they overpaid for renewable energy credits and passed the excess costs on to consumers, but confidentiality claims make it hard to know how much money is at stake.
Environmental groups and the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel say the utilities’ “unreasonable” and “imprudent” management decisions distort the cost of renewable energy in the state.
The confidentiality claims are especially contentious because some of the alleged overpayments went to the utilities’ unregulated affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions. The utilities say the information should stay confidential for competitive reasons.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will review appeals from confidentiality orders in the case as it decides the merits of the challenges. Meanwhile, bidders’ names, numbers of credits, and purchase prices are all blacked out in public versions of briefs. Case testimony contains numerous redactions too.
Fog enshrouds the Oak Creek Power Plant in Wisconsin in this 2010 photo. (Photo by jonnyfixedgear via Creative Commons)
A new report warns that Wisconsin’s economic competitiveness could be at risk if the state doesn’t diversify its electricity sources.
The Badger State is already burdened by the second highest electricity prices in the Midwest, with only Michigan customers paying more on average.
Those rates are likely to climb faster than inflation and prices in surrounding states in the next decade due to Wisconsin’s dependance on coal-burning power plants, according to Gary Radloff, director of Midwest policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Energy Institute.
His recent paper, “How to Keep Wisconsin and the U.S. Competitive in a Changing Energy World,” says better planning and more investment are needed to shield the state’s economy from fossil fuels’ risk and volatility.
A billboard opposing the Goodhue Wind project in Minnesota. (Photo via Minnesota Watchdog)
Cross-posted from Minnesota Watchdog
By Tom Steward
A letter from the owner of a proposed southeast Minnesota wind farm to regulators shows his frustration in the permitting process and a willingness to sell off assets of his investment.
“New Era has no confidence that due process for this project will ever end, nor that an ABPP (Avian and Bat Protection Plan) will ever be approved, however comprehensively and carefully drafted,” said Peter Mastic, owner of New Era Wind Farm, in an April 17 letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
“A lot of the people that have been fighting this think it’s too good to be true,” said Kristi Rosenquist of the Coalition for Sensible Siting. “They want to see the official death certificate from the Public Utilities Commission before they’ll believe it’s really dead. People have called this the Lazarus Project because every time we thought it was dead in the past, it came back to life.”
(Photo by archerwl via Creative Commons)
After 18 months of courtship and competition, Iowa officials announced Tuesday that Facebook has selected a Des Moines suburb as the site for its next data center.
The social media giant plans to break ground this summer in Altoona, Iowa, on a $300 million data center that could be the first of three facilities there.
Much of the news coverage has focused on the $18 million in tax credits awarded by the state, but Facebook had another reason to “like” Iowa: wind power.
The tepid economic recovery means at least one Michigan utility is seeing slow growth in summer peak demand, according to a recent filing with state regulators.
The flat demand for power for Detroit Edison was reflected in summer assessments filed recently with the state’s Public Service Commission by Michigan electric power providers as well as Wisconsin utilities serving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Detroit Edison predicted peak summer peak demand which was lower than 2008, while American Electric Power said its reserve margin — a measurement of available capacity relative to projected demand — was a flush 29 percent for its 5 state east region. Historically, reserve margin targets have been around 15 percent.
A wind farm near Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. (Photo by digidave via Creative Commons)
More than two years after Wisconsin completed a bipartisan process to establish statewide standards for siting wind turbines, development remains sluggish amid continuing political pushback.
In 2012, a year that saw a nationwide surge in wind farm installations as developers rushed to beat expiring tax credits, Wisconsin added only 18 megawatts of capacity.
By comparison, Michigan and Ohio, with much lower wind potential, had already installed 138 MW and 308 MW in just the first three quarters.
Compared to other Midwestern states, Wisconsin ranks at the bottom in both wind projects under construction and in queue, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Challenges to wind energy have come from nearly every level of government.
Shortly after taking office in 2011, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a plan supported by the state’s Realtors Association that would upend the new standards. That effort, and other bills to weaken or repeal the new rules, have failed to gain broader support in the state legislature.
New on the state’s legislative docket this spring are a bill that would allow local governments to adopt more stringent restrictions on wind farms than current state law allows, and another that would clear the way for legal action against wind facilities.
(Photo by David Ingram via Creative Commons)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Nick Juliano
A proposal to allow renewable energy developers to take advantage of a tax structure that has long been popular among fossil fuel companies is gaining traction among lawmakers tasked with overhauling the tax code.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who is leading a working group examining energy tax provisions, praised the idea of opening master limited partnerships (MLPs) to renewable energy companies. The structures have been popular among oil and gas, pipeline and coal companies as a way to attract investors, but current law does not allow renewable companies like wind and solar developers to use them.
Legislation allowing wind, solar and other renewable energy companies to establish MLPs will be reintroduced in the House and Senate later this month, and the idea has emerged as a key focus of the renewable energy industry and policy watchers as Congress pursues its overhaul of the tax code.
(Photo by Michael Sarver via Creative Commons)
A bill that would would allow Indiana utilities to pass along the costs of new transmission, distribution, and storage infrastructure investments directly to ratepayers – without filing a rate case before state regulators – is advancing through the state legislature.
The omnibus regulatory reform bill (SB 560) is supported by the Indiana Energy Association, a trade group that represents the state’s investor-owned utilities. It passed the state House in March and was sent back to the Senate with amendments.
Among other things, the legislation would facilitate a new utility cost recovery “trackers” for infrastructure including distribution, transmission, and storage facilities. Currently, such costs are allowed for recovery only via rate case filings, which can take a year or more to process.
Craig Lewis is the executive director of the Clean Coalition, which advocates for clean local energy.
By Craig Lewis
Iowa is no stranger to wind power. In 2012, the state generated nearly a quarter of its total electricity from wind, and Iowa ranks third nationally — trailing only Texas and California — in installed wind capacity.
With such significant renewable power generation already online in Iowa, forward-thinking state legislators have turned their attention to maximizing the local economic benefits of Iowa’s enviable renewable resources. The result is SF 372 — a bill, currently navigating the Iowa Senate, to transform the state’s energy economy by empowering Iowans to build and own community-scale wind projects.
Virtually all of Iowa’s existing renewable power capacity comes from massive and remote wind projects that are owned by multinational utility corporations. While some farmers have been able to earn a bit of revenue by allowing the development of big wind farms on their land, most have had no pathway to participate in Iowa’s burgeoning renewable energy economy.
SF 372 is the first step to change this unfortunate situation by shifting wind energy production – and the associated economic benefits – to Iowa’s farmers through the adoption of a statewide Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (CLEAN) Program.