Maine renews net metering as lawmakers prep new clean energy, utility reform bills

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 19, 2019  /   Posted in Net Metering, solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Maine renews net metering as lawmakers prep new clean energy, utility reform bills

Solar developer plans to fight Wisconsin utility in court on third-party ownership

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 18, 2019  /   Posted in solar, third party power purchase agreement (PPA)  /   No Comments

The Wisconsin Supreme Court courtroom inside the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison. Eagle Point solar president Barry Shear says he's willing to take a dispute over third-party ownership here if necessary. “I’m going to take this to its conclusion," he said.

Solar developer plans to fight Wisconsin utility in court on third-party ownership

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Eagle Point Solar president Barry Shear says he’s prepared to take his case to state’s top court to clarify rules.

The standoff between a Wisconsin utility and solar developer intensified this week with a petition filed by Eagle Point Solar asking state regulators to force We Energies to proceed with an interconnection request for its project.

The March 6 filing also asks the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to declare that Eagle Point would not be acting as a public utility in the third-party-owned solar project it was developing with the city of Milwaukee.

Eagle Point president Barry Shear said he sees a long legal battle ahead, possibly ending up in the state Supreme Court as did his fight with a utility in Iowa, where the court ruled in favor of Eagle Point and the concept of third-party ownership.

If the Public Service Commission refuses to open a docket and consider Eagle Point’s request, Shear said he will challenge the decision in state court. If the commission were to open a docket and eventually find in Eagle Point’s favor, Shear predicted an appeal by We Energies.

We Energies spokesperson Amy Jahns said, “We are still reviewing the complaint, but the law is clear. If anyone sells electricity to our customers, they should be viewed as a public utility and should be registered as such. In Eagle Point’s case, because we already provide retail electric service to the city, Wisconsin law prohibits Eagle Point from doing so.”

In January, the commission, which did not return a request for comment, turned down a request from solar developer Sunrun to open a docket exploring the legality of third-party ownership. In his petition, Shear specified that his request is different because it involves one specific case rather than a theoretical situation.


Read more: Milwaukee leaders have choice words for utility in solar standoff


Solar developers, municipalities, nonprofit institutions and solar advocates in Milwaukee have asked the commission and state legislators for clarity on whether third-party ownership is legal, since many seek it as a way for institutions and cities to develop solar without paying steep upfront costs or foregoing tax credits not available to nonprofits. We Energies meanwhile has been seen as hostile to distributed solar generation by its customers and has tried to ban third-party ownership.

“I fully expect We Energies to fight this at every level,” Shear said. “They will probably get collaborators in the utility universe to oppose it, since they don’t want their revenue base diluted. If the utilities prevail or the Public Service Commission doesn’t take this up, I’m going to take it to court because I think on the law we are clearly in the right.”

Defining a public utility

The petition notes that under a Solar Services Agreement signed by Eagle Point and Milwaukee, Eagle Point would own 80 percent of six different solar installations on city property, and the city would own 20 percent, with the option to take full ownership over time. Eagle Point would provide services including financing the upfront costs of the panels, maintaining the panels and passing on the value of tax credits not available to the city since it doesn’t pay federal taxes.

The electricity would only be used on the site where it is generated, a crucial factor in arguing that the company would not be acting as a public utility as We Energies has charged.

Under the agreement, neither Eagle Point nor the city would sell electricity to any third party, nor back to We Energies. The city would pay Eagle Point a fixed charge per month, not based on kilowatts per hour generated, another provision meant to underscore it would not be acting as a utility.

Eagle Point argues in its petition that who owns a distributed generation asset like solar is legally supposed to have no bearing on whether the utility interconnects it to the grid. The interconnection process is meant to ensure the generation can be integrated with the grid without causing problems.

Eagle Point has long said that We Energies knew about the Milwaukee plan for months and raised no concerns, starting with the city’s request for proposals in April 2018, and didn’t object until late in the process, when Eagle Point had already invested about $100,000 in the project and foregone about $400,000 worth of other work, keeping 21 of its 27 installers available.

“Since it was such a compressed time frame I didn’t take on other projects, I couldn’t commit to doing other things,” Shear said. “I got completely kneecapped by We Energies.”

A public utility?

Eagle Point’s petition cites other legal cases to clarify the definition of a public utility.

It notes that the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1911 decided a landlord who built a steam plant to provide electricity to his tenants and several other buildings was not providing electricity to the public; nor was a power line obtained by a group of neighbors who “voluntarily band[ed] together” in a case decided in 1924.

When Ford Motor Company built a hydropower plant to supply its factory and actually wanted to be considered a public utility, the Wisconsin court disagreed. Ultimately, such case law says that serving a “restricted group” of people does not make something a public utility, Eagle Point’s petition argues.

“You can’t have a public utility under another public utility’s service territory — that’s their rationale” in denying interconnection, Shear said.

“The problem with that is the relevant and directly on-point Supreme Court cases that exist in Wisconsin and elsewhere about what a public utility is. You have to serve all of the public, not just one customer. I don’t meet any of those criteria, but We Energies — with their economic might — think they can say whatever they want to.”

Shrinking plans

At the same time it denied interconnection for the city’s project with Eagle Point, We Energies suggested Milwaukee participate in a new utility pilot project known as Solar Now or “Rent a Roof” wherein the utility would build solar on city facilities and pay a fee to the city.

“We are in regular contact with the city of Milwaukee and, as we have told them, by working with us on our Solar Now and DRER programs they could obtain nearly 40 percent of energy from renewable sources,” Jahns said, calling Solar Now the “largest approved solar program in Wisconsin history.”

After heated debate in several city council committee meetings, city officials rejected We Energies’ proposal and decided to use unspent capital funds to pay upfront for a much smaller solar installation — about 210 kW of solar capacity built on three libraries, instead of the originally planned 1-MW on six city sites. The city will pay Eagle Point to install the 210 kW of solar, then the city will own it outright, and will not be able to collect tax incentives.

“This is specifically the reason why third-party transactions are necessary,” Shear said. “The city would have had this solar array built without any capital outlay, all they would have had to do is buy the clean energy at a direct cost savings and the project would have gone forward.”

Since legal proceedings may take years to resolve, Shear said he’s unsure whether the larger project will ever be built. But he sees his battle with We Energies as important for the future of his company and solar more generally in Wisconsin. He said We Energies’ investment in blocking the project shows its larger importance.

“This is a drop of water in Lake Michigan compared to their total energy ocean, so it’s extraordinary they’d go to these lengths to stop this project,” Shear said. “I’m going to take this to its conclusion because what We Energies did in the city of Milwaukee has chilled and effectively tabled every municipal project we were working on in the state of Wisconsin. No one is willing to go forward until this is determined. We Energies has effectively blocked third-party solar in Wisconsin because of what they did in Milwaukee.”


Want more information about the Iowa fight for third party PPAs.

Iowa Supreme Court and 3rd Party PPAs

Solar and wind take the lead in FERC first infrastructure report of 2019

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 18, 2019  /   Posted in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), solar, wind  /   No Comments
March 15, 2019

By 

REW_Solarwind

According to an analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), new solar and wind generating capacity has taken the lead over natural gas and all other energy sources for the first month of  2019.

FERC's "Energy Infrastructure Update" report (with data through January 31, 2019) notes that 18 "units" of new solar capacity (631 MW) and four units of new wind capacity (519 MW) each beat new natural gas capacity (one unit - 465 MW) in January. No new capacity additions were reported for any other energy sources.

FERC's data also reveal that renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) now account for 21.23 percent of total available installed U.S. generating capacity. Five years ago, renewables were 16.24 percent. Thus, the nation's renewable energy capacity has been adding, on average, a percentage point each year.

Total wind generating capacity (97.18 GW) is rapidly closing in on that of hydropower (100.33 GW) and seems certain to overtake it sometime this year. Meanwhile the generating capacity of all renewables combined (254.57 GW) is about to surpass that of coal (264.49 GW) - again, very possibly in 2019. In addition, utility-scale solar has now surpassed 3 percent of the nation's generating capacity (i.e., 3.09 percent).

FPL proposing nations largest community solar program

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 18, 2019  /   Posted in solar  /   No Comments

 FPL

FPL proposing nations largest community solar program

Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) filed a proposal with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) for a new community solar program that would offer FPL customers the opportunity to help accelerate the cost-effective growth of solar in Florida by subscribing to a portion of new solar power capacity. In return, they will receive credits that are expected to reduce their monthly bills over time.

Weve been aggressively expanding solar with one goal in mind: bringing more solar to all of our customers cost-effectively while continuing to keep their bills lower than 90% of the country, said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. This innovative program is another major step forward in our 30-by-30 plan, which is one of the worlds largest solar expansions, and also an unprecedented opportunity for our customers to harness the power of the sun like never before.

FPL SolarTogether will significantly expand solar energy in Florida. Pending PSC approval, FPL plans to install 1,490 MW of new universal solar at 20 new solar power plants across its service territory to meet anticipated customer enrollment in the program. Built cost-effectively, the new solar power plants attributed to the program are projected to generate an estimated $139 million in net savings for customers over the long term, primarily from avoided fuel and other system savings. Participating customers will receive direct credits for the savings on their monthly bills, and the program is designed to also contribute a portion of the savings to all customers, which will help keep fuel costs low for everyone.

If approved, FPL SolarTogether will be the largest community solar program in the United States. According to the Solar Energy Industry of Americas latest information, a total of 1,298 MW of community solar has been installed in the U.S. through the third quarter of last year.

This program will more than double the amount of community solar currently in the U.S., said Silagy.

FPL studied community solar programs offered throughout the country, including Florida. Program participants will not be tied to a long-term contract and can terminate or reduce their subscription at any time. In addition, because the subscription is associated with a customer account and not a physical address, program participants who move within FPLs service area can maintain their subscription benefits. FPL expects program participants to achieve a simple payback on their subscription within seven years. FPL also will retire Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on behalf of participants who are looking to meet sustainability goals.

In order to gauge potential customer interest in a program like this, FPL has been working with its largest energy users. More than 200 of FPLs largest energy users including municipalities, national retail chains, universities, banks, restaurants and schools have committed to participate, providing the foundation for such a large program.

Broward College is committed to the education and advancement of sustainable energies that improve community wellness, said John Dunnuck, CEO, Broward College. The Colleges partnership with FPLs SolarTogether program is an investment in Floridas future.

If passed, the new energy centers built through the program will increase the use of solar power on the energy grid, helping to offset the use of other power plants fueled by non-renewable resources. The first six solar plants, each of which will have about 300,000 solar panels and be capable of generating 74.5 MW of solar, are scheduled to be operational in early 2020, with the remaining 14 facilities planned for 2021. FPL has already secured enough land to build all of these plants and the company plans to announce the individual locations in the future.

FPLs SolarTogether program provides an innovative approach to addressing business and residential needs for embracing clean energy in Florida and cost-effectively expanding the Sunshine States renewable energy footprint, said Tim Center, executive director of Tallahassee-based, Sustainable Florida. This initiative chalks up major wins for Floridas environment and sustainability.

In response, Southern Alliance for Clean Energys executive director Dr. Stephen A. Smith issued this statement:

SACE welcomes the news of Florida Power & Lights newly-announced SolarTogether Program. We believe this will be a significant move to provide low-cost solar power to a wider range of customers throughout Florida. We believe that this program, coupled with FPLs previously announced 30 x 30 commitment to utility-scale solar, shows that the utility is serious about advancing solar power in Florida. This program appears to make clean, solar power more widely available in the Sunshine State. We are carefully reviewing the details of this proposal and will provide more comments as we review this filing.


Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) is also considering a community solar program. For more information see:

IPL Community Solar-Local Green Power Documents

 

Solar park to ease peak energy demands

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 18, 2019  /   Posted in Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA), solar  /   No Comments

Solar park to ease peak energy demands

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

Gas City — A purchase agreement is being finalized to bring a solar park to the city.

The 17-acre, 2.5 megawatt, solar park will potentially power more than 200 homes in Gas City, according to Dick Justice, the Electric Department superintendent. The solar park is being developed by the Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA).

“(IMPA) has entered a purchase agreement with the owner of the property, which is contingent on all the details being worked out,” Justice said.

The purchase agreement is expected to be completed by the middle of the month, with construction starting as early as May. The property being purchased is on Ind. 22, near the Indiana Department of Transportation building.

While Justice does not know the full cost of building the park, IMPA will be paying for all of the construction and maintenance. Gas City residents, however, will reap the rewards.

According to Justice, customer’s energy bills are not going to be impacted in a negative way.

During peak power usage, the park will be able to help prevent against rate increases.

“What we’re trying to do is hedge against rising utility rates,” Justice said. “For us this is a more economical way to produce energy (compared to coal fired plants).”

According to Justice, a concern among Gas City residents is how much this will cost taxpayers.

“The city is not taking on any financial liability,” he said.

Once the solar park is completed, potentially as early as February 2020, the company will then sell the power to Gas City.

According to Justice, the park will help Gas City prepare for the future.

“If we invest in renewables, we help ward ourselves off from future impacts,” Justice said. “If in the next (federal) administration we’re going to have to drop off all coal fire units (because) we can’t containmate the atmosphere anymore what happens then? Do we start having brownouts? We wouldn’t have anything to back us up. With solar we have a chance of maintaining some sort of civility.”

Justice said while he knows there are a lot of residents skeptical about the park, he expects it to have a positive impact on the city.

“We’re very fortunate to be in a long-term contract with a power provider that is solely invested in trying to maintain rates, stability, and reliability,” he added.

According to Mayor Larry Leach, the solar park is fantastic for the city.

“IMPA is footing the bill,” Leach said. “It won’t cost the city a dime to put this in.”

According to Leach, it’s going to be a peak type plant, so when the electricity is made, it won’t go out on the grid for resale, but will stay right in Gas City.

The park will help alleviate issues when it comes to high energy demands during heavy cooling and heating months too.

“I’m proud of our Electric (Department) in Gas City,” Leach added. “During the last go around we had no outages in the city.”

According to IMPA’s website, the energy company has developed 20 solar parks throughout Indiana, including Peru, Greenfield and Richmond. The company aims to eventually have 61, Justice said, one for each area it covers.

Across the country renewable energy is on the rise.

According to Fortune Magazine, 18 percent of all electricity in the United States was produced from renewable energy sources in 2017. This is a three percent increase from the previous year, thanks to solar and wind projects.

Part of this is because it’s become much cheaper to harness renewable energy.

According to a 2017 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than most fossil fuels.

Copyright 2013 IndianaDG