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http://www.newsdata.com/cem/thisweek.html - May 18, 2013 3:14:42 PM - Aug 14, 2012 11:53:01 AM
[CEM 1231 / May 10, 2013]
Total San Bruno Penalty Could Reach $2.25 Billion
Pacific Gas & Electric could face a $2.25 billion total penalty related to the deadly San Bruno gas-pipeline explosion under recommendations this week from the CPUC's Safety and Enforcement Division, ratepayer groups and cities. Parties differ, however, on amounts that should flow to pipeline-safety work or to the state's general fund. PG&E has already funded about $1.4 billion in pipeline improvements and urged a balanced approach.
California Asks for More Than $1B to Close Out Old Energy-Crisis Case
The CPUC and the California Attorney General asked FERC to end an energy-crisis case that has dragged on for more than a decade and to order refunds of more than $1 billion, or $1.6 billion including interest. Respondents, which include the Bonneville Power Administration, argue that FERC needs a full evidentiary hearing to determine if any specific sellers committed wrongdoing. Respondents also disputed the use of a market clearing price method to determine refunds.
Four Companies Make Short List for Sonoma CCA
Four companies have been short-listed to provide energy procurement and demand-side services for Sonoma County's planned community-choice aggregation program, Sonoma Clean Power. The firms-Direct Energy, NRG Energy, Constellation Energy Commodities Group and ConEdison Solutions-are competing to procure power on behalf of Sonoma county residents and businesses. Sonoma's solicitation specified the need for a suite of energy services-energy efficiency, demand response, net-energy metering, feed-in tariff and data management.
Marin CCA Takes Steps to Develop Local Renewables
The Marin Energy Authority has approved a plan to direct a portion of the revenues from its community-choice aggregation program, Marin Clean Energy, toward renewable-energy project development. Building CCA-owned renewable-energy facilities is viewed as a means of achieving cost stability, while reducing reliance on power contracts and market purchases. It may also serve to silence some critics who have charged MEA is not doing enough to develop local sources of power, considered a central goal of CCA.
- CEC Workshop Looks at Transmission Issues
- Sempra Utilities Get Revenue Boost
- Arizona Plans to Study Retail Competition
- Senate Panel Waves Through Hydro-Permitting Bills
[CEM 1230 / May 3, 2013]
Future of SONGS Uncertain in Absence of NRC Action
Southern California Edison could retire the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station if federal officials fail to make a decision by the end of the year on restarting Unit No. 2. Edison officials said there is a limit to the amount of SONGS costs its shareholders can absorb without rate recovery, and a restart plan at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission might be delayed. Edison nonetheless saw earnings climb in the first quarter of 2013.
San Onofre Outage, Congestion Led to Higher Power Costs Last Year in Cal-ISO Market
Total wholesale electric costs in Cal-ISO's market, after accounting for lower natural gas prices, jumped from $33/MWh in 2011 to more than $42/MWh in 2012-an increase of 28 percent. Cal-ISO attributed the rise to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station outage, higher congestion costs, lower hydroelectric supply and higher loads. Looking forward, Cal-ISO is worried about the retirement of gas-fired generation as more flexible capacity will be needed in future years to back up renewables, and existing power plants can't survive on energy-market revenues alone.
Pac-ISO Energy Imbalance Market Could Affect Other Efforts in West
Cal-ISO and PacifiCorp signed an implementation agreement to expand the ISO's real-time market into an energy imbalance market. The move appears to solidify the likelihood that PacifiCorp will not participate in the imbalance market being considered by a Northwest Power Pool committee that PacifiCorp co-chairs. Meanwhile, the Western PUC EIM group asked the Power Pool committee to consider the impact of joining the Pac-ISO imbalance market, but the Northwest group appears unlikely to do so.
Bills Directing Distribution of Prop. 39 Funds Clear Legislative Committees
Assembly and Senate committees both approved bills to create a framework for distributing $2.5 billion over five years in Proposition 39 funds to school districts for energy-efficiency and clean-energy upgrades. The Senate bill would direct the Office of Public School Construction to administer the funding, while the Assembly bill would designate the CEC as administrator. SB 39 directs that the funds, from increased corporate taxes, be awarded through a competitive process that prioritizes projects in low-income communities. AB 39 would set up an allocation formula for most of the funds.
- Debates Rules for Long-Term Procurement
- CEC Adopts Revised Renewables Guidelines
- PG&E Earnings Up, but San Bruno Costs High
- Navajos Suggest Amendments to NGS Lease Extension
[CEM 1229 / April 26, 2013]
Sonoma County Moves Forward With Community-Choice Aggregation Plan
Sonoma County is pushing forward with plans to launch a community-choice aggregation program, Sonoma Clean Power, which will compete on power buying with incumbent utility Pacific Gas & Electric. The county has identified a local bank willing to pony up $10 million in low-interest startup funding and is also in the process of developing a shortlist of potential energy service providers for the CCA program. Skeptics, however, are demanding evidence that the energy mix offered by Sonoma Clean Power will lead to construction of new local renewable-energy facilities and legitimate reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.
Victorville Still Looking for Investors, Power Contract for Gas-Fired Plant
The City of Victorville has requested a five-year extension of its CEC deadline to start construction on the Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project, a 563 MW power-plant project proposed in the city. The project was initially approved by the CEC in July 2008, but Victorville had trouble finding investors for the plant following the recession and hasn't yet found a utility willing to sign a power-purchase agreement.
San Francisco Looks to Heavier Reliance on RECs
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission may alter the energy mix for its planned community-choice aggregation program, CleanPowerSF, in order to either lower the program's rates or generate more funding for local renewable-energy projects. Under various scenarios that are under consideration by the SFPUC, renewable-energy credits would make up 85 percent of the aggregator's 100 percent green-energy supply, rather than just 5 percent under the current plan.
Bill to Count Large Hydro in RPS Sparks Criticism
By a slim margin, a bill that would allow large hydroelectric facilities to count for the renewables portfolio standard failed to pass an Assembly committee, though the measure could be reconsidered. Opponents say the bill would effectively halt any further renewables procurement, considering the amount of large hydro already in utility portfolios.
- California Set to Link With Quebec on Cap an Trade
- PUCN Says Clean-Energy Plan Undermines Its Authority
- Small-Hydro Permit Reform Draws Support
- Postpones Gas Safety Symposium
[CEM 1228 / April 19, 2013]
PG&E's New 'Green Option' Tariff Now Offers Bundled Renewables
Under an updated "green option" tariff, customers of Pacific Gas & Electric could opt to pay a premium each month for a greener energy supply, one that relies on bundled renewable energy from existing or new facilities in the utility's service territory. PG&E previously proposed using renewable-energy credits to supply the program. The new proposal, submitted to the CPUC, has the blessing of several key consumer, environmental and business groups, but is eliciting concern from community-choice aggregators that see the move as anti-competitive. Costs of the PG&E program are estimated to start at 3.5 cents/kWh.
Legislature Moves Bills on Rate Increases, Merced Hydro Exemption for RPS
With policy committee hearings in full swing, the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee passed a number of measures this week, including a bill that would repeal rate-increase restrictions, giving the CPUC discretion to raise rates as necessary. The Legislature also moved forward a bill that would give customers who opt into a community renewables program a bill credit.
LADWP Moves Forward With 'Bundled' FIT Program
Under a plan approved by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power Board of Commissioners this week, developers awarded contracts to build and sell power from portions of the 200 MW Beacon Solar Project in the Mojave Desert will also be obligated to build a FIT solar project within the Los Angeles Basin. LADWP officials believe bringing large developers to local projects will lower costs, but some FIT proponents say the approach is ill-conceived.
BPA Issues Proposal on Allocating Oversupply Costs
The Bonneville Power Administration received nine proposals from customers on how to comply with FERC's directive for a more equitable allocation of oversupply costs, but rejected them all. Instead, it proposed transmission users pay proportionally to their system use during oversupply events, when all non-hydro generators, including wind and thermal, receive payments to curtail production.
- CPUC Boosts Demand Response Programs
- Bright Ideas: Storage Startup Rides the Rails
- Navajo Council Tables Action on NGS Lease Proposal
- House Passes Cyber Bill, Defying Veto Threat
[CEM 1227 / April 12, 2013]
State Regulator Permits Solar Mosaic to Issue $100 Million in Securities
Solar Mosaic has received a permit from the California Department of Corporations that allows the company to issue up to $100 million in securities to investors in the state. The Oakland-based startup, which operates an online investment platform that connects investors with solar projects, this week completed a $150,000 offering under the new permit-earmarked for a 114 kW solar project on the roof of the Ronald McDonald House in San Diego. Money raised from Mosaic investors is directed to a specific solar project in the form of a refinancing loan to the project owner, with investors earning an expected rate of return on the loan.
Builders Can Now Claim Solar Incentives
The CEC this week revised the New Solar Homes Partnership guidebook to allow homebuilders to claim solar incentives before they sell a new home. The commission also extended by two years and added $9 million to a contract for work on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.
Court Ruling Deals Blow to Fracking Plans on BLM Leases in California; State Seeks to Regulate Practice
A federal court ruling has indicated that the Bureau of Land Management will have to conduct a more rigorous environmental review of plans to frack oil on BLM leases in California. The ruling could affect oil-company plans to tap the extensive Monterey Shale formation as well as BLM leases nationwide. Meanwhile, California legislators pushed forward a bill to regulate fracking.
PG&E Expects to Create Division to Lobby Against CCAs in the Future
Pacific Gas & Electric informed the CPUC that it expects to form an independent marketing division to market and lobby against community-choice aggregation programs in the future. The Marin Energy Authority, which administers the state's only CCA, Marin Clean Energy, has taken issue with PG&E's declaration.
- CEC Could Modify EPS Rules for Public Utilities
- McCarthy Hints at Different CO2 Rules for Gas, Coal
- NRC: Restarting SONGS Unit 2 Appears Safe
- CleanPowerSF's New Director Is Kim Malcolm
[CEM 1226 / April 5, 2013]
Lancaster Makes Solar Mandatory on New Homes
Solar power has become mandatory in Lancaster, a sun-drenched desert community in Southern California. Lancaster's newly minted solar ordinance, which goes into effect next year, requires new single-family homes to provide a minimum average of 1 kW of solar-generated electricity. Lancaster's Republican mayor, with the support of city staff and elected officials, pushed for the solar ordinance as part of a quest to become the "alternative energy capital of the world." Opposition came from area builders, who say requiring solar on new homes could be "cost prohibitive" and slow economic recovery.
FERC Rulings Could Leave BPA With $2 Billion Bill for Energy-Crisis Transactions
A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge issued rulings April 2 that expand the Bonneville Power Administration's liability for overcharges during the Western energy crisis. The CPUC says BPA and the Western Area Power Administration may now owe as much as $2 billion. The commission is also celebrating a separate FERC ruling on energy-crisis claims that could be worth another billion for California.
SONGS Cost Recovery Prompts Questions
Consumer and business groups have delved into more questions about risks, restart possibilities, licensing reviews and cost recovery related to the disabled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. SONGS had a revenue requirement of more than $600 million last year and replacement power costs have exceeded $300 million, but parties argued at the CPUC that Southern California Edison, the plant's majority owner, should not recover some or all of the costs from ratepayers since the plant didn't operate most of the year. Meanwhile, Edison is seeking a license amendment to restart SONGS Unit 2.
Silicon Valley Power Offers Free Public Wi-Fi Through Smart-Meter Program
Santa Clara's municipal utility, Silicon Valley Power, is providing the public with free wireless Internet access as part of its smart-meter program. The outdoor Wi-Fi service uses the same wireless equipment SVP installed throughout the city to transmit data from smart meters, albeit on a separate, non-encrypted channel. While utilities in California and across the U.S. have made hefty investments in smart-meter infrastructure, SVP's metering network is said to be the first in the nation to support free citywide Wi-Fi access.
- BrightSource Shelves Hidden Hills Project
- Parties Urge CEC to Include DG in Cost Report
- Senate Seeks Fix for Low-Income Rates
- NV Energy Proposes to End Reliance on Coal
[CEM 1224 / March 22, 2013]
CPUC Nixes SDG&E Contracts for Peakers
Meeting on San Diego Gas & Electric's home turf, the CPUC on Thursday decided the fate of three of SDG&E's resource-adequacy contracts. Two of the contracts-for Pio Pico Energy Center and Quail Brush Power-were nixed by commissioners, who remain unconvinced that they are needed so soon or that they represent a good deal for ratepayers. Another contract, with the 45 MW Escondido Energy Center, received the CPUC's blessing. Meanwhile, commissioners have been accused in a lawsuit of breaching the state's open-meeting rule when they met with stakeholders in closed-door meetings the day before voting on the peaker contracts.
Cal-ISO Approves 2012-2013 Transmission Plan
Cal-ISO's recently approved transmission plan includes 42 projects costing $1.8 billion and opens two projects to competitive solicitation. Some independent developers are pleased, though others are still lobbying Cal-ISO to approve their projects. Cal-ISO is also studying a number of transmission connections with other states to inform future transmission planning, and approved an energy-imbalance market proposal with PacifiCorp.
Marin Cries Foul Over Plan for GHG Cost Recovery
The Marin Energy Authority is urging the CPUC to revisit its decision to allow investor-owned utilities to defer recovery of greenhouse-gas emissions costs from ratepayers. MEA asserts that delaying cost recovery will give Pacific Gas & Electric an unfair advantage over Marin Clean Energy, a community-choice aggregation program operated by the authority, because it will provide PG&E with "artificially low" generation rates at a critical time: just as CCA service is extended for the first time to customers in Richmond.
CEC Approves PIER Report, Funding for Energy Research and Clean Transportation
The CEC awarded more than $7 million in funding to energy research and clean-transportation projects, including projects to advance solar and energy storage and to produce biofuels in California. The commission also approved the annual report for its Public Interest Energy Research program, a document that highlights program accomplishments over the past year.
- Paiutes Threaten Suit Over Reid Gardner Dust Data
- NRC Defers Filtered-Vent Regulation
- U.S. Solar Burns Through Old Growth Records
- Edison, SDG&E Apply to Recoup SONGS Costs
[CEM 1223 / March 15, 2013]
CARB Mulls First Batch of 'Early Action' Offset Projects
Offset credits from facilities in Arkansas that destroy ozone-depleting substances and from anaerobic-digester projects at dairies in New York are among 25 carbon-offset projects being reviewed by the California Air Resources Board for possible inclusion in the state's cap-and-trade program. All but one of the projects, a forestry project in Mendocino County, are located outside the western U.S. The projects under consideration would provide as many as three million offset credits that could be used for cap-and-trade compliance, but concerns remain that a dearth of offset protocols will lead to a shortage of offsets in the marketplace.
Edison Knew of Steam Generator Issues
Before replacement steam generators were installed in 2010 and 2011 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Southern California Edison knew the design showed higher steam quality, a factor that later contributed to the plant's shutdown, according to a newly released report. But Edison said it was told the steam quality was acceptable and that the steam generators would perform as warranted. The report could affect how much Edison can recover from California ratepayers for SONGS, which has been shut down for over a year.
CEC to Consider RPS Regulations for Public Utilities
The CEC is getting ready to adopt renewables portfolio standard rules for publicly owned utilities. The proposed rules for POUs would nearly mirror those in place for investor-owned utilities, though the CEC is considering different annual procurement targets and mandating that POUs specify actions they would take if cost limits for renewables are exceeded.
Edison Bows Out of Echanis Wind Project in Oregon
Southern California Edison canceled a power-purchase agreement for 104 MW of wind from a project in Harney County, Ore. The project's developer, Columbia Energy Partners, has also withdrawn its application to the Bonneville Power Administration for a large-generator interconnection agreement. Environmental advocates are now asking the Bureau of Land Management to revoke a right of way for a transmission-line segment associated with the project.
- BLM Concerned Over Water Use at Hidden Hills
- ACC Drops Plan to Alter Renewables Standard
- Budget Panels Report Out Dueling Energy Plans
- New Efficiency Fund Targets Small, Medium Buildings
[CEM 1222 / March 8, 2013]
Repowering Projects May Face Higher Pollution Price
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has proposed a controversial rule that would charge steam-boiler replacement projects fees for the use of local pollutant offsets, which are now provided free of charge. Cal-ISO says the rule could discourage plant owners from repowering plants that are required to comply with the state's once-through-cooling regulation-those include AES' Huntington Beach and Redondo Beach power plants, and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power's Scattergood facility.
How Much Can PG&E Afford for San Bruno?
Ongoing CPUC investigations related to the deadly 2010 explosion of a Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline in San Bruno have focused on the company's financial ability to pay penalties. Dueling consultant reports have argued over whether PG&E could raise $2.25 billion in equity to fund a penalty. Meanwhile, a coalition of consumer and city groups in hearings this week quizzed PG&E's consultant on why financial firms have estimated a $500 million fine and whether the company could survive a $2.25 billion hit.
Research Shows Falling Costs of Going Green
New research conducted for the CEC shows installed costs to build new solar generation declining across the board over the next decade, with costs for ground-mounted solar photovoltaic, thin-film PV and solar-thermal technologies with storage dropping sharply. By the end of the decade, solar thermal with extended storage could be cost-efficient.
Assembly Looks at Enormous Efficiency Spending
Over the past 10 to 15 years, California has spent about $15 billion on more than a dozen programs to support the development of energy efficiency and alternative energy, with ratepayers funding the vast majority of spending. Stakeholders at an Assembly hearing this week urged better data collection, more oversight of efficiency programs, and the development of a better-coordinated statewide efficiency strategy and more specific goals.
- LADWP Board Green-Lights Geothermal Contract
- Synchrophasor Projects Hold Reliability Promise
- NMPRC Rewinds Case for Renewables Cost Limits
- Sen. Wyden: Northwest Needs Flexibility on FERC Order