Melink 3.2 MW Rooftop Solar PV Ribbon Cutting Ribbon 9/5/14; Made possible by IPL voluntary feed-in tariff (VFIT)

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   September 01, 2014  /   Posted in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), IPL Rate REP, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Project Detail

New to Indianapolis–3.2 MW, 12,264 solar PV modules!

Project Partners: Melink Corporation, Equity Industrial Partners, Indianapolis Power & Light, Union Bank & Trust Company, U.S. Bancorp, TMI Electric, REC Americas, Ecolibrium Solar, and Solectria Renewables

This is another solar PV installation made possible by the Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) Rate REP voluntary feed-in tariff (VFIT).

Please let IndianaDG know if you are planning a similar ribbon cutting event for solar, renewable energy and distributed generation projects!

 

IndianaDG to testify 9-2-14 to Indiana state legislators on electric service territories and 3rd party solar PPAs

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 31, 2014  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE ON UTILITIES, ENERGY & TELECOMMUNICATIONS 

MEETING AGENDA 

Date: September 02, 2014

Time: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT

Place: State House, 200 W. Washington St., Senate Chamber

City: Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Meeting Number: 1

 WATCH ON-LINE >  http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/meeting/watchlive/188fd824-9f88-4d6e-86fe-2253e440a94d/

(1) INDIANA’S WATER RESOURCES (SEA 271-2014)

(A) The role of water in Indiana

• 9:00-9:15 a.m.: Water in Northern Indiana (Kay Nelson, Environmental Affairs Director, Northwest Indiana Forum)

• 9:15-9:30 a.m.: Water in Central Indiana (The Honorable Huck Lewis, Mayor, City of Lebanon)

• 9:30-9:45 a.m.: Water in Southern Indiana (David Dahl, Director of Engineering, Midwestern Engineers, Inc.)

• 9:45-10:00 a.m.: Role of water in recruiting businesses and growing the economy (Larry Gigerich, Managing Director, Ginovus)

• 10:00-10:15 a.m.: Environmental issues (Barbara Simpson, Executive Director, Indiana Wildlife Federation)

(B) Current status of Indiana’s Water Resources

• 10:15-10:30 a.m.: Water Resource Management Act; Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Mark Basch, Section Head,

Water Rights/Use, Division of Water, Indiana Department of Natural Resources)

• 10:30-10:45 a.m.: Role of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) (Thomas Easterly, Commissioner, IDEM)

• 10:45-11:00 a.m.: Water-related Indiana statutes and administrative rules (Craig Mortell, Senior Staff Attorney, Legislative Services Agency)

(C) Future of Indiana’s Water Resources

• 11:00-11:20 a.m.: Utilities’ perspectives; short and long term needs; conservation; loss detection; infrastructure (Jeff Willman, Executive Director of Water Operations, and Joe Sutherland, Director, Government and External Affairs, Citizens Energy Group)

• 11:20 a.m.-11:40 a.m.: Rural utilities’ perspectives (Connie Stevens, Executive Director, Alliance of Indiana Rural Water)

• 11:40-12:00 p.m.: Indiana Chamber of Commerce study (Jack Wittman, Ph.D., Principal Geoscientist, INTERA)

LUNCH BREAK (12:00-1:00 p.m.)

(2) UNDERGROUND UTILITY FACILITIES (SEA 405-2014)

• 1:00-1:25 p.m.: Pipeline safety information from IURC’s annual natural gas industry report (Carol A. Stephan, Chair, IURC)

• 1:25-1:50 p.m.: Peter Lidiak, Pipeline Director, American Petroleum Institute

• 1:50-2:15 p.m.: Paul Fallon, President, HRP Construction, Inc.; Kurt Youngs, President, National Utility Contractors Association of Indiana

• 2:15-2:40 p.m.: Mark Maassel, Vice President, Indiana Energy Association; Chris Braun, Vice President, Energy Operations, Citizens Energy Group; John Koppin, President, Indiana Telecommunications Association; Robert Stewart, State Director-Government and External Affairs, Frontier Communications; Mark Drew, President, Vivax Corporation; Guy McIntosh III, Vice President, USIC Locating Services, Inc.

• 2:40-3:00 p.m.: Chuck Muller, Member Services/Public Relations Director, Indiana 811

(3) SERVICE AREAS OF ELECTRIC UTILITIES (SR 52-2014)

• 3:00-3:20 p.m.: Brian Christenberry, Manager of State Government Relations, Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives

• 3:20-4:00 p.m.: Carolyn Wright, Vice President of Government Relations, Indiana Municipal Power Agency; Michael B. Cracraft, Hackman Hulett & Cracraft; Steven Waltz, M.D., Rockville Town Council; The Honorable Chuck Fewell, Mayor, City of Greenfield; The Honorable Terry R. Seitz, Mayor, City of Jasper

•  4:00-4:20 p.m.: Laura Arnold, President, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance

• 4:20-4:40 p.m.: Jennifer Terry, Lewis & Kappes, on behalf of Indiana Industrial Energy Consumers, Inc.

[See http://www.indiec.com/Position%20Statements/SAAAPosition%20Paper%20FINAL-Dated%208-29-14.pdf]

• 4:40-5:00 p.m.: Mark Maassel, Vice President, Indiana Energy Association

 ** All times listed above include time for questions and comments by the Committee**

** Times allotted are subject to change at the discretion of the Chairman**

INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

Rep. Eric Allan Koch, Chairperson

Rep. Christina Hale

Rep. Jack Lutz

Rep. Matt Pierce

Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh

Rep. Heath VanNatter

Sen. Ed Charbonneau, Vice Chairperson

Sen. Jean Breaux

Sen. John Broden

Sen. Michael Crider

Rep. Alan Morrison

Sen. James Merritt

Sen. Lonnie Randolph

Sen. James Tomes

 

Will stagnant electricity sales get a boost from electric vehicle (EV) charging stations? CAC opposes IPL EV plan.

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 30, 2014  /   Posted in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized  /   No Comments

U.S. Utilities Push the Electric Car

Power Companies Desperate to Sell More Kilowatts Want Americans to Adopt Electric Cars

By CASSANDRA SWEET CONNECT
Aug. 29, 2014 2:14 p.m. ET

The Nissan Leaf can draw electric power from high-speed and slower chargers because it has two connections on the front of the car. The Dallas Morning News/Associated Press

As utilities across the U.S. grapple with stagnant electricity sales, many see opportunity in the fledgling need for electric-car charging stations. But some companies’ tactics are spurring complaints from consumer advocates.

Electricity companies across the country are asking permission to let them tack on fees to customer bills to fund pilot projects for building networks of charging stations. Critics say the requests are unfair because they would make all customers pay the high cost of experimental equipment even though it would benefit only a few—often affluent—people.

In San Diego, Sempra Energy‘s SRE +1.04% power utility wants to install 5,500 electric-car chargers at hundreds of office parks, apartment buildings and condominium complexes at a cost of $100 million. The company says convenient, easy-to-use charging stations will encourage more Californians to adopt electric cars, improving air quality for everyone. The utility wants to add a surcharge to all San Diego customers’ bills.

 

The Utility Reform Network, a nongovernmental organization that fights rate increases, has asked state regulators to reject the new fee, about 40 cents a month for an average customer.

It is inappropriate to ask consumers to pay for risky business ventures, says Marcel Hawiger, a lawyer for the group. The equipment might not prove profitable in the long term or quickly could become outdated, he says. “Shareholders should fund business opportunities for the company.”

As products from light bulbs to refrigerators become more energy efficient, U.S. electricity usage has gone flat, threatening the future of utilities. The prospect of more electric cars on the road—and plugged into power sockets when they aren’t—could revive demand for power. But consumers have been reluctant to buy electric cars, partly because of their limited range. Nissan Motor Co. 7201.TO -0.99% ’s plug-in Leaf can travel around 80 miles on a single charge.

The Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group, last month encouraged U.S. utilities to use electric vehicles to entice more consumers to embrace the cars. There are only 200,000 electric cars in the U.S., according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

Sales of individual electric cars are beginning to rise. Americans registered more than 46,000 new plug-in cars last year, according to research firm IHSIHS +1.00% That was triple the number of 2012 but still less than half a percent of all U.S. car registrations.

Fueling an electric car costs about a third as much as filling up a comparable gasoline-powered car, according to the Energy Department. Charging an electric car costs the equivalent of $1.27 a gallon, compared with $3.52 a gallon for gasoline, based on nationwide average prices. The comparison calculates the distance an electric car can travel using the same amount of energy contained in a gallon of gasoline.

But it is generally more expensive to buy an electric car than a similar conventionally powered vehicle. Ford Motor Co. F -0.06% prices the Focus Electric around $35,000, roughly $11,000 more than the most-expensive gas-powered Focus. Electric cars also have limited range; most can travel less than 100 miles on a single charge, which can take eight hours.

“There’s a place for electric vehicles, but it’ll be a long time before they come anywhere close to being a universal replacement to an internal-combustion vehicle,” says IHS analyst Phil Gott.

Another factor likely to constrain adoption of electric cars is that fuel costs for conventional vehicles are expected to fall because of federally mandated fuel-efficiency improvements. The average gasoline-fueled car is expected to run 53 miles on a gallon of gasoline by 2025, compared with 35 miles today, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Many utilities are rolling out public charging stations in convenient locations. NRG EnergyInc. NRG +0.98% ’s Evgo unit operates car-charging stations at drugstores and grocery stores in California, Texas and the Washington, D.C., area. Austin Energy runs 200 public charging stations in central Texas and offers its power customers a 50% rebate when they install a home car charger.

In New Jersey, a utility owned by Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. PEG +1.00%recently began offering electric-car chargers to any employer in the state with at least five workers who could use it. The company is paying the program’s $400,000 cost so it can study usage and better gauge what PSEG’s role should be in customers’ charging needs, says Jess Melanson, the utility’s director of energy services.

But Indianapolis Power & Light, a unit of AES Corp. AES +0.53% , wants its customers to pay the $16 million cost of installing 200 electric-car charging stations around town. The chargers would form the backbone for an electric-car sharing service proposed by France’s Bolloré SA, BOL.FR -0.41% which operates a similar car-sharing service in Paris. The cost would be 28 cents a month for the typical power customer for 10 years, the utility says.

The Citizens Action Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for utility consumers, says shareholders—not utility customers—should pay for the investment. “This is corporate welfare at its worst,” says Executive Director Kerwin Olson.

More people would be willing to buy an electric car if charging stations were more plentiful, says Dave McCreadie, head of electric-vehicle infrastructure at Ford. “It helps allay people’s fears that, ‘If I get an electric car I’m going to get stranded.’ ” If employers added workplace chargers, it would help fill the gap, he says.

Ford is working with seven other auto makers and 15 utilities, including Honda Motor Co.7267.TO -0.52% , Daimler AG DAI.XE +0.13% ’s Mercedes-Benz unit, Consolidated Edison Inc. ED +0.28% and Southern Co. SO +0.38% to create a nationwide program to encourage the use of electric cars.

Write to Cassandra Sweet at cassandra.sweet@wsj.com

IMPA 1 MW Solar Farm on RP&L grounds starts producing electricity in Richmond, IN

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 28, 2014  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

New solar farm in Richmond begins generating power

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — A utility says its latest solar farm in eastern Indiana has started generating electricity.

Indiana Municipal Power Agency says the eight-acre solar farm on the grounds of Richmond Power and Light contains about 4,000 solar panels. They will generate one megawatt of electricity at peak capacity, or enough electricity to power about 200 homes.

Indiana Municipal says the Richmond solar farm utilizes a horizontal tracking system for the panels that enables them to move, tracking the sun throughout the day. It says construction began earlier this year and was completed this month. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday.

Indiana Municipal also operates solar farms in Rensselaer (ren-suh-LEER’) and Frankton. The not-for-profit wholesale power provider serves 59 Indiana communities.

Eagle Point Solar Attorney Summarizes Iowa Supreme Court decision on solar PPAs

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 22, 2014  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Iowa Supreme Court Rules on Solar Power Purchase Agreement

Posted by Jonathan Gallagher James Pray Philip Stoffregen on Sunday, August 03, 2014

On July 11, 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling on the legality of a power purchase agreement (“PPA”) between Eagle Point Solar and its customer, City of Dubuque, for the sale of electricity from solar panels. The case was handled by Phil Stoffregen, who argued the case at all levels, and James Pray and Jonathan Gallagher, who also worked on the District Court and Iowa Supreme Court briefs. Leanna Whipple assisted with the brief filed with the Iowa Utilities Board (“IUB”).

In summary, the Court held that the “behind the meter” direct sale of electricity generated from solar power (photo voltaic) arrays and using a power purchase agreement that sold the electricity on a cents-per-kWh basis did not automatically render the seller a “public utility.” SZ Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Eagle Point Solar v. Iowa Utilities Board, ___ N.W.2d. ____ (July 11, 2014). The Court issued its ruling in a 4-2 decision and affirmed a district court decision by the Polk County District Court that had overruled an earlier decision by the IUB.

The immediate and most narrow impact of the decision is that companies offering solar power installations can use this decision to help fashion their contracts to sell the power from those solar power installations directly to a customer “behind the meter” as a way to finance the array. Prior to this decision, buyers had to either buy the systems outright or enter into long term leases. In either case, the efficiency of system was not certain, and this caused problems for buyers that were unsure if the cost of the system might outweigh the value of the electricity that would be generated. This was especially true for buyers who could not offset the cost with tax credits, such as non-profits.

By structuring the transaction as a sale of electricity, a buyer can rest assured that the cost will not exceed what has already been budgeted for the purchase of power — unless of course the buyer agrees to pay more per kWh than the existing utility charges.

In the Eagle Point Solar decision, Eagle Point Solar was in the business of providing design, installation, maintenance, monitoring, operational, and financing services with respect to solar electric generation systems in Iowa. The City of Dubuque was interested in pursuing the development of a renewable energy resource in the form of an on-site solar power system to satisfy a portion of the electric power needs of a single city building. Dubuque sought to enter into a long-term financing agreement with Eagle Point Solar to accomplish that goal. Eagle Point Solar proposed to finance, install, own, operate, and maintain the solar system and to charge the City on a cents-per-kWh basis for the electrical output. Under the proposed PPA, Eagle Point Solar would be entitled to the incentives associated with the solar power system, including tax credits and accelerated depreciation, and would credit Dubuque with one-third of any revenues received from the sale of the credits. The city-owned building is located within the exclusive electric service territory of Interstate Power and Light Company (“IPL”). The building would continue to remain connected to the electric grid, and Dubuque would continue to purchase electricity from IPL to satisfy some of the electric energy needs of the building.

Eagle Point Solar petitioned the IUB for a declaratory order determining that under Iowa law Eagle Point Solar was neither a “public utility” subject to regulation by the IUB under Iowa law nor an “electric utility” subject to the exclusive service territory provisions of Iowa law. On April 12, 2012, the IUB issued an order finding that Eagle Point Solar would be a “public utility” subject to regulation by the IUB and an “electric utility” subject to the exclusive service territory provisions of Iowa law. This decision was based on a “bright line test” developed by the IUB that prohibited all sales of electricity from any entity other than regulated utilities. The IUB ignored Eagle Point Solar’s argument that the IUB was bound by prior Iowa case law in Northern Natural.  Based on these findings, the IUB order declared that Eagle Point Solar would be prohibited by Iowa law from offering the services described in its petition because it had no right to sell power to customers in IPL’s exclusive service territory.

On judicial review of the IUB’s decision, the Polk County District Court agreed with Eagle Point Solar and held that the IUB erred by applying an incorrect legal standard in determining whether Eagle Point Solar would be a “public utility” under Iowa law. In lieu of the “bright line test” that prohibited all sales of electricity from any entity other than regulated utilities, the district court held that the proper standard was whether the transaction was “clothed with a public interest” under the statutory definition of a public utility. To determine whether the public interest was involved, the court looked to the eight-factor test from Natural Gas Service Co. v. Serv-Yu Cooperative, Inc., 219 P.2d 324, 325–26 (Ariz. 1950) that had been approved by the Iowa Supreme Court in Iowa State Commerce Commission v. Northern Natural Gas Co., 161 N.W.2d 111, 115 (Iowa 1968).

The IUB and IPL appealed the district court decision to the Iowa Supreme Court. They were joined in their appeal by MidAmerican Energy Company and a consortium of other utilities. On appeal, the IUB argued that any sale of electricity on a cents-per-kWh basis, even if it was not on the utility “grid,” automatically qualified the seller as a regulated utility. Because any such utility would not have an approved sales territory, the sale would therefore be illegal. The utilities trotted out a parade of horribles should Eagle Point Solar be allowed to sell electricity directly to the City of Dubuque, even if the transaction was wholly “behind the meter.” Eagle Point Solar argued that the statute defined a “public utility” and that Eagle Point Solar did not meet that definition. Eagle Point Solar also argued that the District Court was correct in applying well-established Iowa law and that before a company can be deemed to be a “public utility,” its actions must be “clothed in the public interest.”

The Iowa Supreme Court agreed with Eagle Point Solar and the district court. First, it held that the IUB was entitled to no deference in defining the term “public utility” as that the definition was already set out in Iowa law. This holding struck down the IUB’s own bright line test. This test ignored prior Iowa Supreme Court precedent that dealt with the clear statutory definition of a public utility.

Indeed, under the IUB approach, a behind-the-meter solar generating project built by an engineering class at Iowa State University that furnished electricity on a per kWh basis to a nearby farm would be considered a public utility subject to a wide gamut of regulatory requirements. Even if the students obtained a waiver of the territorial exclusivity of the local electric utility, students would be required to stay after class to handle the paperwork associated with filing tariffs with the IUB.

By eliminating the IUB’s bright line test, the Supreme Court opened the door to the more nuanced analysis based on the Serv-Yu eight-factor test that had been urged by Eagle Point Solar and adopted by the district court and used in previous Iowa Supreme Court cases.

The first factor requires an assessment of “what the corporation actually does,” or, as the Court put it, “what is actually happening in the transaction.” The Court noted that the transaction was an arms-length transaction between a willing buyer and seller. The Court also found that the IUB would not try to argue that behind the meter installations owned by a host or subject to a lease would not by itself be regulated. It was, therefore, the method of financing that was at issue, and utilities are not in the business of financing renewable energy. Accordingly, it held: “From a consumer protection standpoint, there is no reason to impose regulation on this type of individualized and negotiated transaction.”

With respect to the second factor the Court agreed with the district court that it cannot be said that the solar panels on the city’s rooftop involves a “dedication to public use.” “The installation is no more dedicated to public use than the thermal windows or extra layers of insulation in the building itself. The behind-the-meter solar generating facility represents a private transaction between Eagle Point Solar and the city.”

The Court, like the district court below, ignored the third factor as inconclusive. The fourth factor is whether the activity is “[d]ealing with the service of a commodity in which the public has been generally held to have an interest.” Here, the Court found that it “seems clear that the provisions of on-site solar energy are not an indispensable service that ordinarily cries out for public regulation and behind-the-meter solar equipment is not an essential commodity required by all members of the public.”

The fifth factor is whether the transaction is “[m]onopolizing or intending to monopolize the territory with a public service commodity.” The Court held that this factor “clearly cuts against a finding that Eagle Point Solar is a public utility.” “There is simply nothing in the record to suggest that Eagle Point Solar is a six hundred pound economic gorilla that has cornered defenseless city leaders in Dubuque.” The Court held that the nature of the third-party PPA suggests the opposite, “as the city has entered into what amounts to be a low risk transaction—it owes nothing unless the contraption on its rooftop actually produces valuable electricity.”

The Court treated the sixth and seventh factors together. The sixth factor is an “[a]cceptance of substantially all requests for service” and the seventh is that “[s]ervice under contracts and reserving the right to discriminate is not always controlling.” The Court found that both factors relate to the ability to accept all requests for service and, conversely, the ability to discriminate among members of the public. The Court held that these twin factors cut in favor of finding that Eagle Point Solar is not a public utility. The Court noted that Eagle Point Solar was “not producing a fungible commodity that everyone needs” and that it is “not producing a substance like water that everyone old or young will drink, or natural gas necessary to run the farms throughout the county.”

The eighth Serv-Yu factor, “[a]ctual or potential competition with other corporations whose business is clothed with public interest” was found to be “perhaps the most interesting” by the Court. However, the Court found that: “There is nothing in the record of this administrative proceeding, however, to gauge the likelihood or degree of material impact, and there was no suggestion that the integrity of the grid or economic health of regulated providers has been adversely affected in states such as California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, where third-party PPAs are not considered public utilities for purposes of regulation.” The Court added that Eagle Point Solar “does not seek to replace the traditional electric supplier but only to reduce demand.”

The Court added that behind-the-meter solar facilities offered positive impacts in keeping with Iowa’s mandate that utilities support customer programs to use renewable energy sources:

Behind-the-meter solar facilities tend to generate electricity during peak hours when the grid is under the greatest pressure. Further, Iowa Code section 476.8 requires regulated electric utilities to provide reasonably adequate service, and such service must “include programs for customers to encourage the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.” Thus, third-party PPAs like the one proposed by Eagle Point actually further one of the goals of regulated electric companies, namely, the use of energy efficient and renewable energy sources.

The Court concluded by holding:

In the end, whether an activity is sufficient to draw an entity within the scope of utilities regulation is a matter of assessing the strength of the Serv-Yu factors on a case-by-case basis. The weighing of Serv-Yu factors is not a mathematical exercise but instead poses a question of practical judgment. See Northern Natural Gas II, 679 N.W.2d at 633. In our view, in this case, the balance of factors point away from a finding that the third-party PPA for a behind-the-meter solar generation facility is sufficiently “clothed with the public interest” to trigger regulation.

The decision by the Iowa Supreme Court will provide buyers of electricity new options when weighing whether to try renewable power. In addition to lease or outright purchase arrangements, they may be able to consider buying renewable power by the kilowatt.  Again, the details of the deal will matter. Regardless, the broad holding of this decision will allow new buyers more options to better budget electrical costs and to support renewable energy at the same time. By buying power by the kilowatt, the risk actually shifts to the seller, because if the array does not work as advertised, then the buyer will pay less.

From a more practical standpoint, the decision is a rebuke to the IUB and its regulated utilities and signals that the Iowa Supreme Court will not be swayed by unsupported arguments based on the fears of monopolies worried about losing their iron grip on their service territories. Also, the decision did not open the door completely to all forms of power. The Iowa Supreme Court applied the Serv-Yu factors to this specific set of facts. The Iowa Supreme Court looked to the proposed agreement in particular when making its decision. Not every new power source will necessarily qualify under the Serv-Yu factors analysis.

For more information, please contact BrownWinick, whose attorney Philip Stoffregen argued the case before the Iowa Supreme Court on behalf of Eagle Point Solar. James Pray and Jonathan Gallagher were on the briefs as co-counsel.

Contact information:

Phil Stoffregen
515-242-2415 direct
stoffregen@brownwinick.com

James L. Pray
515-242-2404 direct
pray@brownwinick.com

Jonathan Gallagher
515-242-2422 direct
gallagher@brownwinick.com

A copy of the case can be found here:http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Supreme_Court_Opinions/Recent_Opinions/20140711/13-0642.pdf

 

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