Watch IURC Technical Conference on SEA 309 On-line

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 20, 2017  /   Posted in 2017 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), solar  /   No Comments

Seal of the State of Indiana

2017 TECHNICAL CONFERENCE ADDRESSING QUESTIONS RE: IMPLEMENTATION OF NET METERING LEGISLATION (SEA 309)

After learning of questions from those involved in the installation of solar panels and other net metering equipment, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is hosting a Technical Conference as a forum to address questions and concerns regarding the implementation of the newly-enacted Indiana Code chapter 8-1-40 (Senate Enrolled Act 309) on net metering and distributed generation, particularly the Dec. 31, 2017 deadline for the 30-year grandfather provision. The Technical Conference will take place on July 20, 2017, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. in its judicial courtroom 222, on the mezzanine level of the PNC Center, 101 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204.

We invite your input and ask that you send us your questions, concerns, and examples regarding the topic(s) for which you would like clarification. The Technical Conference will be only on the short-term implementation of Indiana Code chapter 8-1-40, and not the policy decision made by the Indiana General Assembly to enact this statute. Please send your questions, concerns, and examples to us in writing by June 28, 2017. If possible, please send your written input via email to URCComments@urc.in.gov. Your input may also be sent to us via U.S. mail using the address below. All written input will be posted on the Commission’s website. With the information we receive on or before June 28, we will build an agenda for the Technical Conference, which we plan on distributing on July 6, 2017. Additional questions may be asked at the Technical Conference.

The Technical Conference will be streamed online here. As there will be limited seating at the Technical Conference, we ask that, in addition to sending us questions and concerns in advance, each organization send only one or two representatives to participate in the Technical Conference.

Following the discussion at the Technical Conference, the Commission may take additional action, such as issuing an Emergency Clarification Order and temporarily adjusting the time deadlines or other requirements of the Commission’s current interconnection rule (170 Indiana Administrative Code 4-4.3).  To provide the evidentiary support for any possible action, the Commission’s court reporters will be recording and transcribing the Technical Conference.

Again, the Commission welcomes and invites your participation. Please note that the discussion at the Technical Conference will be only on the short-term implementation of Indiana Code chapter 8-1-40, and not the policy decision made by the Indiana General Assembly to enact this statute.

If you have any questions prior to the Technical Conference, or if you want to send your input via regular mail, please contact the Commission’s General Counsel at:

Beth Heline, General Counsel
Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission
101 W. Washington Street, Suite 1500 E
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 232-2092
BHeline@urc.IN.gov

Documents

Public Notice

Technical Conference Agenda

Handout - Statute, Rules and Comments

Comments

Bose McKinney & Evans, LLP | PDF

Joint Commenters: CGI, CAC, HEC, Indiana DG, Sierra Club - Hoosier Chapter | PDF

Indiana Energy Association | PDF

Johnson-Melloh Companies | PDF

Rectify Solar - Phil Teague | PDF

Energy bill could see North Carolina join national fight over net metering

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 17, 2017  /   Posted in Duke Energy, Net Metering, solar  /   No Comments

Energy bill could see North Carolina join national fight over net metering

Highlighting a set of rules that promote rooftop solar, last week the activist group NC WARN became one of the few in North Carolina to urge a veto of a controversial energy bill that cleared the state legislature minutes before a month-long adjournment.

In a letter to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, the nonprofit condemned the finely-tuned compromise between Duke Energy and the renewables industry, which would more than double the state’s solar capacity, but – after a last-minute amendment by state senators – block new wind farms for 18 months.

NC WARN’s sharpest criticism wasn’t directed at the wind provision, however. The outspoken Duke foe honed on twelve lines about net metering – part of the bill since its unveiling.

“The bill would allow Duke Energy to attack rooftop solar by adding more fees on customers and lowering net metering payments,” wrote the group’s director, Jim Warren.

The little-discussed section directs Duke, which has advocated lower payments to solar panel owners in the past, to recommend new net metering rates for approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

The clause sets the stage for a battle between the state’s investor-owned utility and rooftop solar – one already raging in dozens of states across the country.

Among the state’s clean energy leaders, Warren is unique in his thorough disapproval of House Bill 589, which, before the wind amendment, was the product of months of negotiations and enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

But even advocates who championed the original compromise share Warren’s concern over the net metering clause.

“Even with some of the other benefits to the rooftop solar industry in this bill,” said Peter Ledford of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, “that one small piece about net metering could be hugely problematic.”

‘A concerted effort to undermine net metering’

Net metering is the system by which solar owners are compensated for excess electricity they send to the grid, typically at the retail rate.

To encourage rooftop solar, in the last three decades more than 40 states have adopted some form of net metering. As solar costs have plummeted, residential solar nearly quadrupled from 2012 to last year.

That has provoked concerns for utilities. A 2013 paper commissioned by the Edison Electric Institute, the national lobbying group for investor-owned utilities, warned that distributed generation would cause “declining utility revenues, increasing costs, and lower profitability potential” — threatening the traditional utility business model.

“That hit the utilities like a ton of bricks,” said Steve Kalland, director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.

The Edison paper exhorted utilities to raise rates and introduce new fees for rooftop panel owners, among other steps, to make up for lost electricity sales. After that, said Kalland, “we started to see a concerted effort from utilities to undermine net metering.”

Much of the utilities’ efforts have been aimed at western states with flourishing rooftop markets: Arizona, California, and Nevada. But increasingly, they’re seeking changes to net metering rules where rooftop panels are still scarce, including North Carolina.

‘A shot in the arm’

Current North Carolina rules allow projects of one megawatt or less, about the size of the Charlotte IKEA’s rooftop array, to connect to the grid via net metering.

Most customers get credit on their monthly utility bills at the retail rate – about 11 cents a kilowatt hour – for any net electricity they contribute to the grid, and small residential and commercial solar systems pay the utility no extra charges.

“The net metering rules are quite favorable to rooftop solar right now,” said Autumn Proudlove, a research director with Kalland’s group. “But there are other issues that have prevented rooftop solar from really booming in the state.”

Those include the state’s relatively low retail electricity rates, and the lack of a clear legal path for customers to lease panels from a third-party solar company. Rooftop solar makes up well under one percent of the state’s 3,000 megawatts of capacity, according to data from Duke.

House Bill 589 attempts to shift the balance, in part by clarifying the law to allow third-party leasing of solar panels, up to a cap of 250 megawatts.

NC WARN, now engaged in a protracted legal battle with Duke over a form of third-party leasing the bill explicitly prohibits, is skeptical of the provision.

But major retailers and brewers eager to meet sustainability goals count the leasing section as a win, and many advocates and lawmakers call it a good, though modest, first step.

House Bill 589 also directs Duke to develop a solar rebate program for homes and other small customers, totaling up to 100 megawatts by 2022.

“I’m fairly positive about that,” said Stew Miller, the president of Yes Solar Solutions, whose customers include homes, small businesses, and nonprofits. Miller is “lukewarm” on the bill overall, but said of the rebate, “this will help us. This will give us a shot in the arm.”

‘Fox guarding the hen house?’

But these inducements for rooftop panels will only work if the state’s net metering rules stay favorable to solar owners, Miller and other experts say.

“If net metering goes south,” said Kalland of the Clean Energy Technology Center, “the third-party leasing and the rebate program is meaningless.”

In 2014, Duke said it would propose lowered net metering rates, but never filed a formal request with regulators.

Now, House Bill 589 mandates that Duke propose new terms, revisions advocates say could damage rooftop solar. A section that grandfathers existing rates for ten years causes particular worry.

“Homeowners make this investment in rooftop solar assuming a useful life of 20 to 30 years,” said Ledford, with the Sustainable Energy Association. “So, there’s the possibility of them making an economic decision now and having the calculus change during their payback period.”

In defending the provision, Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless seemed to accept the premise that payments to solar owners could decrease. But, he said, “a 10-year guarantee that net metering continues as-is is still a pretty good deal.”

Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), who with Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union), chaired the months of negotiations that led to the bill, said higher net metering prices aren’t inevitable, thanks in part to how the legislation is written.

New rates would only be set after an examination of distributed generation’s costs as well as benefits – a point favoring rooftop solar, said Szoka. On the other hand, he said, reading from the bill, “such rates may include fixed monthly energy and demand charges” – language that benefits the utility.

“You can see how every line of this bill was balanced on the edge of a knife,” Szoka said. “I think there will be a robust debate before the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and there should be. We need to have these things settled on the basis of the facts.”

Who gets to establish those facts, however, is already a source of controversy.

Ever since the 2013 Edison study, utilities have argued solar panels strain the electric grid more than they benefit it, shifting costs from solar customers to non-solar customers. Utility-driven analyses tend to peg the value of solar below the retail rate.

Investigations by third parties or utilities commissions, however, show the opposite. Twelve such recent studies concluded that distributed generation’s benefits, such as avoided fuel costs and stable electricity prices, were worth more than the local retail electricity rate.

Many clean energy advocates say House Bill 589 allows the utility to conduct the study – as does Duke.

“Assuming this bill goes into law,” said Wheeless, “we would bring forth a net metering tariff that would take into consideration the costs and benefits.”

But Szoka is adamant the Commission will conduct the cost-benefit study.

“It’s not up to the utility to determine whether net metering is good or bad,” he said. “We know what that answer will be. We’re not putting the fox in charge of the hen house here. That is not the intent.”

No matter what, fights over net metering ahead

Gov. Cooper is heavily weighing veto requests from groups like NCWARN, and says the state Senate has complicated his decision with the wind provision. “They are essentially trying to pit renewables against each other,” he said last week, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

In any case, clean energy advocates are girding for battle before regulators on net metering.

And while solar installer Miller sees the importance of the fight before the Utilities Commission, most of his hopes lie elsewhere.

“There’s so many advances being made every day. There’s so many smart people that support this. There’s money out there to invest in and fund new technologies,” Miller said. “I think we can overcome anything the utilities – or the politicians – dream up to try and slow down the implementation of clean energy.”

Wind farm going up in Jay, Randolph counties

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 16, 2017  /   Posted in wind  /   No Comments
Wind turbines are popping up in southern Randolph COunty for the Headwaters Wind Farm, changing the skyline. Staff photo by Seth Slabaugh
Wind turbines are popping up in southern Randolph County for the Headwaters Wind Farm, changing the skyline. Staff photo by Seth Slabaugh
By the numbers
The top states in installed wind capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association, are:

  • Texas, 21,044 MW.
  • Iowa, 6,952 MW.
  • Oklahoma, 6,645 MW.
  • California, 5,656 MW.
  • Kansas, 4,931 MW.
  • Illinois, 4,026 MW.
  • Minnesota, 3,499 MW.
  • Oregon, 3,213 MW.
  • Washington, 3,075 MW.
  • Colorado,, 3,026 MW.
  • North Dakota, 2,846 MW.
  • Indiana, 1,897 MW.
  • New York, 1,829 MW.
  • Michigan, 1,760 MW.
  • Wyoming, 1,489 MW.

Wind farm going up in Jay, Randolph counties

Seth Slabaugh, Star Press, 7/16/2017

PORTLAND — Erection of turbines for the Bluff Point wind farm spread across 18,000 acres is expected to start later this month.

The $200 million project will help to increase Indiana's installed wind power capacity to more than 2,000 megawatts.

That will keep the state 12th in the country in wind power capacity, ahead of New York but behind North Dakota.

Wind energy currently provides nearly 5 percent of all in-state electricity production in Indiana.

The new project in Jay and Randolph counties, named after the unincorporated community of Bluff Point, will generate electricity using wind turbines mounted on steel towers.

The turbines work the opposite of a fan, according to the U.S Department of Energy. Instead of using electricity to make wind, like a fan, wind turbines use wind to make electricity.

 

Duke Energy will build three utility owned and operated solar projects in Kentucky

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 15, 2017  /   Posted in Duke Energy, solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Duke Energy will build three utility owned and operated solar projects in Kentucky

Duke Energy will build three utility owned and operated solar projects in Kentucky. Construction will start by the end of the summer and the projects are likely to be on line by early 2018, Duke says.

This will be the fourth state in which a Duke regulated utility owns its own solar farms. Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress own more than half a dozen projects in North Carolina. Duke Energy Florida and Duke Energy Indiana each have a few solar farms.

The Duke utilities in Ohio and South Carolina do not own any of their own solar projects, says spokesman Randy Wheeless. But Duke has plans to build project in its South Carolina utilities.

'Timed right'

The Kentucky Public Service Commission says the three projects are expected to coast a combined $14.8 million.

Jim Henning, president of Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky, says the timing is right for utility-owned solar in Kentucky.

“The cost of building solar projects has come down significantly in recent years, making it more cost-competitive with other sources of power generation,” he says. “And solar gives us the ability to add power capacity in (smaller) incremental steps – allowing us to match the growing demand for electricity in the region.”

Duke Kentucky, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., will build two projects in Kenton County. The Walton Solar Power Plant 1 and Walton Solar Power Plant will comprise 19,000 panels on a combined 60 acres. Together they will have the capacity to produce more than 4 megawatts of electricity.

Commercial solar

The third project, the Crittenden Solar Power Plant, is the largest. It will have 12,500 panels on 110 acres in Grant County. It will produce more than 2.7 megawatts of power.

“Our customers want solar, and solar is something we’ve thoroughly studied and prioritized in our long-term planning, Henning says.

Duke Energy Renewables, a commercial arm of the parent company, operates about 600 megawatts of solar in seven states outside its regulated utilities.

Indiana Legislative committee to study wind

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 14, 2017  /   Posted in 2017 Indiana General Assembly, wind  /   No Comments

Left to right:  Rep. Tom Saunders of District 54, and Rep. Dick Hamm of District 56

Legislative committee to study wind

Wind farms have been, for the past few years, a source of discussion amongst many of the residents of Fayette, Rush, Henry and Wayne counties, given the several proposed wind projects in the works which would include those counties.

Now, it appears, the topic will be discussed among members of the Indiana Legislature, as well.

 The Legislature’s Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunication has quite a few topics on its agenda for its summer study session, and among those will be wind energy in Indiana.

A meeting has yet to be scheduled for the committee this summer, but when they do meet, they are charged with specifically studying the construction of wind power devices in Indiana, along with the health effects, public safety implications, issues of property valuation, policies defining conflicts of interest and issues concerning economic development.

The discussion comes on the heels of a 2017 Indiana Legislative session where Rep. Tom Saunders of District 54, and Rep. Dick Hamm of District 56, authored House Bill 1597 in January – which sought minimum setback distances for wind power devices – with the bill later referred to the Committee on Utilities, Energy and Telecommunication.

Wind energy is among four topics the summer study committee will discuss, along with self-generation of electricity by school corporations, rental rates and other fees for the attachment of communications service facilities on utility poles that are owned or controlled by electricity suppliers and rural broadband internet service throughout the state.

Participating in the summer committee are:

Indiana State Senators

James Merritt of District 31; Chair

Mike Bohacek of District 8:

Erin Houchin of District 47;

Eric Koch of District 44;

Democratic and Minority Floor Leader Timothy Lanane of District 25;

Lonnie Randolph of District 2;

Mark Stoops of District 40;

Indiana State Representatives

Ryan Hatfield of District 77;

Karlee Macer of District 92;

Alan Morrison of District 42;

David Ober of District 82; Vice Chair

Matt Piece of District 61;

Mike Speedy of District 90; and

Heath VanNatter of District 38.

 

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