Author Archives Laura Arnold

High-Stakes Fight Over Rooftop Solar Spreads to Michigan

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   October 17, 2018  /   Posted in Net Metering  /   No Comments

A solar installer on a rooftop. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Michigan's largest utility is echoing an argument promoted by ALEC, a national group that advances corporate interests in state governments, in its bid to reduce payments to solar owners who sell power to the grid. It also wants to charge them for energy they produce. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

High-Stakes Fight Over Rooftop Solar Spreads to Michigan

Clean energy advocates say it is the most worrying attempt to undermine net-metering policies since a 2015 move by Nevada nearly killed the solar market there.

Walmart Procures 233-MW Wind-Energy PPA from EDP Renewables

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   October 17, 2018  /   Posted in wind  /   No Comments

Walmart Procures 233-MW Wind-Energy PPA from EDP Renewables

Walmart wind turbine 300

Retail giant Walmart signed a deal for 233 MW of utility-scale wind power

from EDP Renewables, the companies announced Tuesday.The deal with Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart includes three wind farms—all developed, owned and operated by EDP Renewables—in the states of Illinois and Indiana. The PPA details are as follows:

  • 123 MW from the Bright Stalk Wind Farm (a 205 MW project in McLean County, Illinois, with start of operations expected in 2019;
  • 60 MW from the Headwaters II Wind Farm (a 200 MW project in Randolph County, Indiana, with start of operations expected in 2020;
  • 50 MW from the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm, formerly Broadlands Wind Farm (a 200 MW project in Douglas County, Illinois, with start of operations expected in 2019.

“Walmart has a goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy and sourcing energy from wind farms developed by partners like EDP Renewables is a core component in the mix,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart.  “Wind energy is an important part of our energy portfolio, and Walmart plans to continue our efforts to pursue renewable energy projects that are right for our customers, our business, and the environment.”

“The declining cost of renewable power has led to an increase in clean energy procurement from companies like Walmart in recent years.  The continued commitment from corporate entities in procuring renewable energy speaks volumes about the importance and value of securing fixed, competitive pricing over the long-term,” said Miguel Prado, EDP Renewables North America CEO.  “EDP Renewables appreciates its partnership with Walmart and commends the company in its efforts to source all of its energy from renewable sources.”

EDP Renewables operates 797 MW of wind energy projects in Illinois and with the addition of the Bright Stalk Wind Farm and the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm, EDPR will further increase its footprint in Illinois, surpassing 1,200 MW of operational capacity by the end of next year.

EDPR also operates 801 MW of wind energy projects in Indiana.  With the completion of the construction of the 200 MW Meadow Lake VI Wind Farm, EDPR will exceed 1,000 MW— or 1 GW—of operational capacity by the end of 2018.

recent report by the Wind-Solar Alliance indicated that large companies procured nearly four GW of utility-scale wind and solar in the U.S. through August of this year, breaking the previous high mark by 750 MW.

(Rod Walton is content manager for Power Engineering and the POWER-GEN International conference happening December 4-6 in Orlando. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and rod.walton@clarionevents.com).

Indiana Interim Study Committee on Energy today (10/16/18)

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   October 16, 2018  /   Posted in 2018 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized  /   No Comments

 Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications

 

See link for agenda and to watch committee hearing live today starting at 1:30 pm EST.

http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2018/committees/i_energy_utilities_and_telecommunications_interim_study_committee_on

MEETING AGENDA

 

Date:                           October 16, 2018

Time:                           1:30 PM

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

City:                            Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Meeting Number:       2

 

Exhibits & Description of Reports

  1. IURC PresentationPDF icon
  2. IURC 2018 Annual ReportPDF icon
  3. IURC BMSP Rates ReportPDF icon
  4. IURC Electric Resource Needs ReportPDF icon
  5. IURC USF & Broadband ReportPDF icon
  6. OUCC PresentationPDF icon
  7. SUFG PresentationPDF icon
  8. SUFG 2018 Renewables ReportPDF icon
  9. SUFG 2018 Electricity Forecast UpdatePDF icon

IL AG: Scrap retail electricity sales to Illinois households

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   October 16, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Illinois’ attorney general is calling for an end to the retail power-supply business in Illinois as she unveils a $2.65 million settlement with Sperian Energy for deceptive marketing and overcharging.

 

Michigan PURPA rulings a ‘mixed bag’ for independent power producers

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   October 15, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Consumers Energy's community solar array at Grand Valley State University.

Michigan PURPA rulings a ‘mixed bag’ for independent power producers

Independent power producers say recent rulings by Michigan regulators provide short-term development opportunities but also more uncertainty in the coming years as they negotiate contracts with a major utility.

On October 5, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued multiple orders related to the prices Consumers Energy pays to independent producers under federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts.

One ruling allows for up to 150 megawatts worth of projects to qualify for PURPA contracts at rates that advocates say are more favorable for developers. The rates had been on hold for months as regulators settled questions around avoided costs and contract terms. Avoided costs are the rates paid by law to independent producers based on the price of the utility building the generation itself.

However, it’s unclear how long those terms will stay in place or how much opportunity there will be in the future. In the coming months, the MPSC may allow Consumers to restructure those rates and contract terms in ways that developers say would stifle PURPA contracts. While the most recent rulings apply to Consumers, DTE Energy’s avoided costs are also under consideration.

Clean energy advocates and independent power producers have been closely following the cases for more than two years as PURPA rules could determine the level of third-party solar development in the state. The debate over PURPA and solar development has played out in multiple states in recent years.

Last month, Consumers said not being able to revisit the current avoided cost rates would jeopardize the company’s Integrated Resource Plan, which calls for 5,000 megawatts of solar by 2040. The MPSC disagreed with a judge’s recommendation to exclude Consumers’ PURPA contract requests from its IRP, meaning the avoided-cost rate will be revisited in the utility’s long-term plan.

Consumers is requesting smaller project caps, shorter contract lengths and a shorter capacity planning horizon that some solar developers say would be uneconomic.

Christian Dick, senior director of project development for TerraNavigator, said his company does not have projects within the 150 MW cap that qualify for full avoided costs. He called the rulings a “positive development,” though several questions remain.

“The looming question is, by it being pushing to the IRP, we can’t tell how that’s going to functionally work,” he said, adding that there are ongoing questions about Consumers’ capacity need in the next decade. The IRP will now determine yearly capacity needs. By not showing a need, Consumers would not be obligated to pay full avoided costs.

“If that’s the case, there’s no market,” Dick said. “At the same time, Consumers’ IRP says PURPA (contracts) will have to go through a competitive (bidding) mechanism. That’s literally all we have.”

The closing of aging coal plants and the declining cost of solar has created interest in Michigan for solar developers. Consumers’ long-term IRP, which was widely praised by clean energy groups, shows at least one major utility here is showing a significant interest in renewables.

“It’s very forward-thinking of the utility to recognize that’s the best solution to customers,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs with the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We have some bones to pick about how they get there.”

Short-term solar win

While Gallagher called the MPSC rulings a “mixed bag,” regulators put into effect more favorable avoided cost rates that had been on hold for months.

“There are developers who stand ready to go and provide solar power to Michigan customers that costs less than or equal to what they can on the market,” Gallagher said.

Ongoing questions about when projects technically qualify for a standard PURPA contract — known as a “legally enforceable obligation” — will be decided in future cases.

“It’s our view that we can move forward and develop projects for Consumers. At least for future projects we’re not opposed to looking at other ways to calculate avoided costs,” Gallagher said.

Consumers spokesperson Katelyn Carey said avoided costs and PURPA contracts need to be adjusted “to best meet the demands of today’s customers. … Consumers Energy looks forward to working with all interested stakeholders to reach a solution that is best for Michigan. We remain committed to developing cost-effective solar and other renewable energy projects, enabling us to continue to provide safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy to our customers.”

Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which intervened in Consumers’ rate cases, said the rulings effectively delay certainty over PURPA contracts by pushing them into Consumers’ IRP, which won’t be finalized for another six months.

“That undercurrent is a troubling,” Kearney said. “Do we really want a commission that isn’t making timely decisions and bouncing issues from one contested case to another?”

If the MPSC doesn’t agree with Consumers’ proposed avoided costs and contract terms, the company still has the ability to withdraw its IRP, while granting the utility’s request could harm developers, Kearney said.

“They’ve suggested that if any part of their plan is not approved, they could pull the whole thing,” Kearney said. “The change in the contract terms would strike a huge blow to independent power producers.”

Laura Chappelle, an attorney representing the Independent Power Producers Coalition of Michigan that includes hydroelectric, biomass and waste-to-energy companies, echoed the cautious optimism of others.

“We certainly have mixed reactions to the Commission’s orders on PURPA,” Chappelle said, adding that the group’s members have been “operating under either expired or expiring contracts for some time now, resulting in significant operational and financial uncertainty. Hopefully the order will result in renewed contracts for these existing (Qualifying Facilities) at fair and nondiscriminatory rates.”

‘Unprecedented’ proposal

Consumers’ case is being closely followed by solar developers in part because the utility is not calling for new natural gas plants, but rather thousands of megawatts of solar at a time when costs are steadily declining. Multiple companies have shown interest in developing hundreds of megawatts of solar in Consumers’ territory.

In one of its rulings, the MPSC cites the recent decline in renewable energy prices and Consumers’ “unprecedented” plan as key reasons to further study PURPA contracts. When the MPSC began studying avoided costs in 2016, comprehensive energy laws were still being developed, leaving some of the “primary evidence to the avoided cost of power … woefully out of date,” the October 5 order says.

“Now, two-and-a-half years later, the Commission is confronted for the first time with a proposal by a large utility to procure all of its capacity needs until 2040 through competitive bidding, with a focus on solar. This is unprecedented,” the MPSC wrote. “In today’s evolving energy environment, prolonged proceedings are in danger of becoming outdated before they are final.”

With DTE’s IRP due in March, it’s still unclear how PURPA contracts will fill utilities’ generation needs elsewhere in the state. Consumers’ reliance on solar, though, has sent a market signal that large amounts of clean energy is feasible.

“That’s a game-changer,” Gallagher said of Consumers’ plan. “I think you’ll see other utilities try to dig into that — future plans can rely primarily on renewables.”

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