Sierra Club rally against Indianapolis Power & Light rate increase: The Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition and City-County Councilman Zach Adamson rally against IPL’s request for a rate increase to pay for $500 million in upgrades to two of its coal-fired plants.
CAC’s Kerwin Olson: Dueling energy proposals bear monitoring at Indiana State House; How will they impact you? January 31, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in 2013 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
Tags: Citizens Action Coalition Executive Director Kerwin Olson, Indiana Gasification LLC, Indiana HB 1515 (2013), Indiana Rep. Suzanne Crouch (R-Evansville), Indiana SB 510 (2013), Indiana SB 560 (2013) utility transmission, Indiana Sen. Doug Eckerty (R-Yorktown)
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:
In any attempt to bring you a variety of viewpoints on energy and utility issues that will impact renewable energy and distributed generation, please find below a pieve written by Kerwin Olson who is the Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition.
Just a friendly reminder, SB 560 will be heard this morning (1/31/2013) in the Senate Utilities Committee starting at 9 am. You can watch on-line. Please visit this previous post for details http://wp.me/pMRZi-12b.
As of last night there were three proposed amendments circulating which may or may not be offered to SB 560.
Laura Ann Arnold
Published: January 31, 2013 3:00 a.m.
Dueling energy proposals bear monitoring
The fate of monthly utility bills and the future of Indiana energy policy will be a hot topic of discussion in the Indiana General Assembly.
Once again, the proposed coal-to-gas plant to be built in Rockport by Indiana Gasification will be the subject of legislation. Two companion bills, SB 510 (authored by Sen. Doug Eckerty – R, Yorktown) and HB 1515 (authored by Rep. Suzanne Crouch – R, Evansville) promise to protect consumers from what are certain to be excessive charges for the substitute natural gas to be produced by the proposed facility. By making this the law of our state, captive Hoosier ratepayers will be protected from being gouged by an Enron-like scheme that promises hefty returns for a privately held, out-of-state hedge fund.
Conversely, SB 560 (authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R, Monticello) guarantees that captive gas and electricity ratepayers will face enormous bill increases; the legislation eliminates regulatory protections to which captive consumers are entitled. SB 560 will shift almost all of the costs and risk of operating a monopoly utility company to captive ratepayers and away from voluntary investors. Additionally, SB 560 would allow the monopoly utilities to raise rates virtually automatically and would further reduce regulatory oversight by placing unreasonable time restrictions on both the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor to review requests by the monopoly utilities to raise your rates. Should SB 560 become law, monopoly utility profits will become excessive as the utilities will have little incentive to control costs while the more expensive, risky and obsolete technologies will continue to be chosen over cheaper, cleaner and less risky alternatives.
Every branch of government is being asked to do more with less. The public is struggling with stagnant and diminishing wages, while monthly electric bills have increased nearly 50 percent over the last decade, and the cost of living continues to soar, especially for essentials such as food and health care. Meanwhile, the monopoly electric and gas utility companies in Indiana are working hard to undermine regulatory oversight and are attempting to deregulate their monopoly revenue and profits. They are asking your elected officials for a raise, and they want it to come from your checkbook. While everyone else is being forced to tighten their belts and the working class and vulnerable populations struggle to survive, the monopoly utilities parade around the halls of government with unfettered access working to increase their monopoly revenue and profits at the expense of the public.
It should be interesting to observe the now Republican-dominated General Assembly and a newly elected governor with no Statehouse experience navigate the two paradigms. Will they allow the monopoly utilities with their deep pockets to control the agenda and the future of Indiana energy policy, or will they stand up for consumers, keep the utilities in check and protect the public interest? We’ll learn the answer during what promises to be a long and contentious 2013 General Assembly session. Stay tuned.
Kerwin Olson is executive director of Citizens Action Coalition in Indianapolis. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.
SB 560 Hearing in Senate Utilities Committee on 01/31/2013 at 9 AM in Room 233 of Indiana State House January 28, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
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SB 560 has been posted for a hearing in the Senate Utilities Committee as follows:
WHO: Indiana Senate Utilities Committee
WHAT: Committee Hearing on SB 560
WHEN: Thursday, January 31, 2013 starting at 9 AM until ???
WHERE: Room 233, State House, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204
Watch the Senate Utilities Committee hearing on-line. Please visit http://www.in.gov/legislative/2441.htm and then select Senate Room 233 from the pull down menu.
For information on SB 560 please see this earlier blog post at http://wp.me/pMRZi-11b.
If your State Senator is a member of the Senate Utilities Committee, please contact them BEFORE the hearing and tell them that SB 560 as currently written WILL NOT help renewable energy and distributed generation.
Please contact me if you are interested in receiving a fact sheet on SB 560 explaining why it will not help renewable energy and distributed generation. We fully expect major amendments to be offered in committee to change the bill. The amendment may even be a complete STRIP AND INSERT. We will try to keep you posted as information becomes available.
Indiana Senate Utilities Committee Members:
IndyStar: Two responses to article “Wind turbines: Birds at Risk” January 25, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Jim Purcell with TF Publishing, Thomas Anderson
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:
In case you don’t remember the original article that spawned these two responses, you can go back and read it at http://wp.me/pMRZi-10a
The debate goes on…but I think renewable energy is winning. But if you want a different perspective read the 6 Comments.
Laura Ann Arnold
Our View: Clean wind power has clear net benefits
January 24th, 2013 | 6 Comments
By John Anderson, Sean Brady, Kevin E. Parzyck, Shanelle Montana, Jeffrey Nemeth
As Indiana continues its national leadership in pursuing a more diverse energy portfolio, we who support wind energy development applaud The Indianapolis Star for devoting resources to covering the renewable power sector.
Regarding a Jan. 13 article, “Wind turbines: Birds at Risk,” however, we must point out that the coverage is presented in an unbalanced manner. All forms of energy production come at some cost — whether environmental, financial or otherwise — but to fully understand wind energy’s environmental effects, they must be compared and viewed in context with other forms of energy generation. When viewed in this fashion, wind power is broadly recognized as having the lowest impact, and as being the one most compatible with the environment.
The overall picture reveals that wind energy has created thousands of jobs for Hoosiers; generated tens of millions of dollars of tax revenue for state, county and local communities; and provides steady and substantial supplemental income for Indiana farmers and other landowners.
With regard to the environment, wind power — renewable, clean energy — creates no greenhouse gas or other harmful air pollution. In fact, Indiana’s wind farms currently help the state avoid 2.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually that otherwise would be released by fossil-fuel generation sources. And wind power also saves invaluable natural resources, using virtually no water in the power generation process.
As with many other features of modern-day life — highways, radio towers, airplanes and tall buildings — wind turbines factor into bird fatalities. According to studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations, for example, hundreds of millions of birds each year die in collisions with buildings. It’s estimated that approximately 60 million annually are killed by vehicles. Further, a recent report estimates that cats kill at least 500 million birds each year.
By contrast, based on recent analysis of publicly available data from studies conducted at more than 100 wind farms around the nation, it’s estimated that fewer than 150,000 birds are killed annually by wind power generation.
In addition to presenting these facts, we write to emphasize that the wind energy sector has historically and continues to actively strive to mitigate wildlife impacts, working directly with regulatory agencies and the conservation community and often going beyond what is required by law.
In conclusion, no energy source, or human activity for that matter, is completely benign. Regardless of how we decide to power our society, some impact will result. However, different energy sources have different impacts and some have especially acute, negative impacts on the health of our children, the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and wildlife populations. Given that wind is clean and renewable, uses virtually no water, and creates no air or water pollution, its net health and environmental benefits are clear.
Anderson is director of Siting Policy with American Wind Energy Association; Brady is regional policy manager with Wind on the Wires; Parzyck is vice president of Development with Invenergy; Montana is an associate of Regulatory & Legislative Affairs with EDF Renewable Energy; Nemeth is project manager of EDPR Renewable.
Local wind turbine hasn’t killed a single bird
January 21st, 2013, Indianapolis Star Letter to the Editor
The state of Indiana and our power companies deserve a round of applause and praise for the wind farms that have been constructed in the last four years. God has blessed us with wind and the sun, and we need to do a better job capturing these resources as our primary source of electricity. It is unfortunate that The Star’s recent article (“Wind turbines: Birds at risk for from growing wind power in Indiana,” Jan. 13) took a negative position on wind energy by focusing on “estimates” of birds that are killed by turbines. As the owner of the largest wind turbine in Indianapolis (6355 Morenci Trail, near 62nd Street and Georgetown Road), I feel it important to educate others on wind turbines and bird kills. My turbine’s blades reach 125 feet into the air and spin 1,800 revolutions an hour.
After over four years of production, my turbine has not killed one bird. The residents of Pike Township opposed my turbine five years ago and stated it would kill birds. They were wrong. It is time we all admit global warming is real and we need to do everything we can to save our planet. Wind energy is a safe and natural way to produce electricity and I am proud of our state for all it has done. Carpe Vendus! (Seize the wind!)
Founder and CEO, TF PUBLISHING
IndplsStar: Opponents emerge for IPL’s $500M pollution control plan; Urge IPL to invest in renewable energy January 25, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
Tags: Citizens Action Coalition Executive Director Kerwin Olson, Nightmare on Harding Street, Sierra Club conservation organizer Megan Anderson, Zach Adamson an Indianapolis councilman at large.
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Sierra Club rally against Indianapolis Power & Light rate increase
The Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition and City-County Councilman Zach Adamson rally against IPL’s request for a rate increase to pay for $500 million in upgrades to two of its coal-fired plants.
This is a must see video of remarks made prior to the IURC public field hearing.
Written by Tony Cook
Indianapolis Power & Light Co.’s plan to spend more than $500 million on environmental controls at two old coal-fired power plants is stirring opposition.
Consumer and environmental advocates — including an Indianapolis city-county councilman — argue that electric customers shouldn’t have to pay higher rates to extend the life of outdated and dirty coal plants.
“If we’re going to have a rate increase, it would be better to invest in a plant that isn’t going to poison our air and contaminate our soil with mercury,” said Democrat Zach Adamson, a councilman at large.
He and about 70 representatives from the Sierra Club and Citizens Action Coalition — wearing green “Nightmare on Harding Street” T-shirts — held a protest Thursday before an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission public hearing on the topic at the Indiana History Center.
IPL plans to spend $511 million on environmental upgrades to its Petersburg and Harding Street coal-fired plants. Individual generating units at those plants are 27 to 46 years old, according to IPL. Company officials say the upgrades would cut mercury emissions 80 percent and are necessary because of new mercury and air toxic standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To pay for the improvements, IPL wants to raise rates. Customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity would see their monthly bills rise $1.13 by 2014. The monthly increase would rise to $8.92 in 2017.
“Putting half a billion dollars into an outdated coal plant to keep it polluting the city for years to come is a waste of money,” said Megan Anderson, a conservation organizer with the Sierra Club.
Instead, opponents want IPL to invest in clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power.
Brad Riley, an IPL spokesman, said those alternatives wouldn’t be cost-effective and would end up costing ratepayers much more.
He also said IPL, which provides electricity to 470,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the Indianapolis area, ranks eighth in the country for its use of wind-generated energy and seventh in the central part of the country for its use of solar power.
“We’ve got a great diversity in our portfolio,” he said.
But critics say that’s not good enough. They point out that the Indianapolis metropolitan area ranks 14th in the nation for year-round particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association.
“This is just a Band-Aid that’s going to cost over $500 million,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition.
His group and other organizations representing consumer and environmental interests have until Monday to file testimony with the IURC.
Call Star reporter Tony Cook at (317) 444-6081 and follow him at twitter.com/indystartony.
Tags: climate change, President Obama second inaugural address climate change remarks
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I guess what I am the most curious about is what Indiana Governor Mike Pence says in his first State of the State address this evening. The speech will be carried live on most TV stations in Indiana and also some radio stations. You can also watch it on your computer, as the state will live stream it at http://www.IN.gov/gov.
I am still the most interested if Governor Pence will address his Executive order 13-06 creating the Indiana Office of Energy Development as a distinct executive office within the Office of the Governor. See
Executive Order 13-06
Creation of the Indiana Office of Energy Development
By the way, state legislation will be needed to make this change. I didn’t catch it the first few times but the Executive Order states: “This Executive Order shall expire at such time as the General Assembly enacts legislation to codify OED.”
So I guess we will see action on SB 529 to establish the Indiana Office of Energy Development within the Office of the Governor introduced by Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) who chairs the Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs. SB 529 has been referred to the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee.
Perhaps we will learn more about this in the State of the State tonight. Keep reading this blog!
Laura Ann Arnold
WASHINGTON — President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second Inaugural Address, setting in motion what Democrats say will be a deliberately paced but aggressive campaign built around the use of his executive powers to sidestep Congressional opposition.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said on Monday at the start of eight sentences on the subject, more than he devoted to any other specific area. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
The central place he gave to the subject seemed to answer the question of whether he considered it a realistic second-term priority. He devoted scant attention to it in the campaign and has delivered a mixed message about its importance since the election.
Mr. Obama is heading into the effort having extensively studied the lessons from his first term, when he failed to win passage of comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions of the gases that cause global warming. This time, the White House plans to avoid such a fight and instead focus on what it can do administratively to reduce emissions from power plants, increase the efficiency of home appliances and have the federal government itself produce less carbon pollution.
Mr. Obama’s path on global warming is a case study in his evolving sense of the limits of his power and his increased willingness to work around intense conservative opposition rather than seek compromise. After coming to office four years ago on a pledge to heal the planet and turn back the rise of the seas, he is proceeding cautiously this time, Democrats said, intent on making sure his approach is vetted politically, economically and technologically so as not to risk missing what many environmental advocates say could be the last best chance for years to address the problem.
The centerpiece will be action by the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down further on emissions from coal-burning power plants under regulations still being drafted — and likely to draw legal challenges.
The administration plans to supplement that step by adopting new energy efficiency standards for home appliances and buildings, a seemingly small advance that can have a substantial impact by reducing demand for electricity. Those standards would echo the sharp increase in fuel economy that the administration required from automakers in the first term.
The Pentagon, one of the country’s largest energy users, is also taking strides toward cutting use and converting to renewable fuels.
Mr. Obama’s aides are planning those steps in conjunction with a campaign to build public support and head off political opposition in a way the administration did not the last time around. But the White House has cautioned activists not to expect full-scale engagement while Congress remains occupied by guns, immigration and the budget.
The president’s emphasis on climate change drew fire from conservatives. Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by the Koch brothers, who made a fortune in refining and other oil interests, criticized the speech in a statement. “His address read like a liberal laundry list with global warming at the top,” Mr. Phillips said. “Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again.”
Still, Mr. Obama has signaled that he intends to expand his own role in making a public case for why action is necessary and why, despite the conservative argument that such changes would cost jobs and leave the United States less competitive with rising powers like China, they could have economic benefits by promoting a clean-energy industry. In addition to the prominent mention on Monday, Mr. Obama also used strong language inhis speech on election night, referring to “the destructive power of a warming planet.”
Those remarks stood in contrast to Mr. Obama’s comments at his first postelection news conference, when he said he planned to convene “a wide-ranging conversation” about climate change and was vague about action. He is also expected to highlight his plans in his State of the Union address next month and in his budget plan soon afterward.
Beyond new policies, the administration is seeking to capitalize on the surge of natural gasproduction over the past few years. As a cheaper and cleaner alternative to coal, natural gas gives it a chance to argue that coal is less economically attractive.
After the defeat in 2010 of legislation that would have capped carbon emissions and issued tradable permits for emissions, Mr. Obama turned to regulation and financing for alternative energy. Despite the lack of comprehensive legislation, emissions have declined roughly 10 percent since he took office, a result both of the economic slowdown and of energy efficiency moves by government and industry.
The administration is discussing with Congressional Democrats, some of whom are leery of the issue because their states are home to coal businesses, how to head off a Republican counterattack on the new regulations. Democrats are paying particular attention to the likelihood of Republicans employing a little-used procedure to block new regulations with a simple majority vote.
Senate Democrats are also girding for a battle when Mr. Obama nominates a new head of the E.P.A. The agency, excoriated by Republicans as a job-killing bureaucracy, would take the lead in setting the new regulations.
The approach is a turnabout from the first term, when Mr. Obama’s guiding principle in trying to pass the cap-and-trade bill was that a negotiated legislative solution was likely to be more politically palatable than regulation by executive fiat. Now there is a broad expectation that he will follow up his first big use of the E.P.A.’s powers to rein in emissions — proposed rules last year for new power plants — with a plan to crack down on emissions from existing power plants.
According to estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council, emissions from current coal-fired plants could be reduced by more than 25 percent by 2020, yielding large health and environmental benefits at relatively low cost. Such an approach would allow Mr. Obama to fulfill his 2009 pledge to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the group says.
“There’s a really big opportunity, perhaps bigger than most people realize,” said Dan Lashof, director of the defense council’s climate and clean air program.
The regulatory push will be particularly important because Mr. Obama has little prospect of winning as much money for clean energy as he did in his first term, with Republicans now in control of the House. Despite the renewed attention to climate change following Hurricane Sandy and record-high temperatures in the continental United States last year, there is little sign that the politics of the issue will get any easier for Mr. Obama.
WSJ: Rhetoric Heats Up on Climate Change/ Climate Change Climbs Up Agenda
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama used some of his most impassioned language to date on climate change in his speech Monday, but his policy options are limited after Republicans blocked his approach to the issue in his first term.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said in his inaugural address.
“Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms,” he said.
Environmentalists cheered the remarks, hoping that Mr. Obama would press harder to control greenhouse-gas emissions. Republicans, some of whom are skeptical about the extent of global warming or see the cost of tackling it as too high, described his address as lacking in gestures of bipartisanship.
Mr. Obama began to stress climate change in the later stages of the presidential campaign. He said at the Democratic National Convention that global warming was “not a hoax” and called recent droughts and floods “a threat to our children’s future.” Since then, he has repeatedly pledged to make the climate a second-term priority.
Despite Monday’s forceful rhetoric, he has few policy options. In 2009, the House, then controlled by Democrats, passed a bill to cap carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions and to introduce an emissions trading system. The bill died in the Democratic-controlled Senate the next year. It has no chance of passing the current House with the GOP in the majority. Likewise, the House GOP is opposed to a tax on carbon.
That leaves further regulatory action by the Environmental Protection Agency as the likeliest way the president could take steps to curb emissions.
As early as this spring, the EPA could make final greenhouse-gas emissions rules for new power plants that would effectively rule out new coal-fired plants using the current standard in technology. The EPA is also weighing rules for existing power plants. Mr. Obama’s inaugural address left environmentalists who want a strict standard encouraged.
A surge in natural-gas production has already reduced demand for coal to power electric-generating plants and helped reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions from energy.
The president also reiterated his support for the American renewable energy industry. “America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it,” he said. “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise.”
Mr. Obama’s first-term support for solar energy, wind farms and electric-battery technologies came under attack from Republicans. The failure of solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra LLC gave the GOP ammunition to argue that the administration was wasting money on uneconomic technology.
A version of this article appeared January 22, 2013, on page A7 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Rhetoric Heats Up On Climate Change.
By the way, the print edition of the WSJ delivered to me this morning ran this same article with the headline, ‘Climate Change Climbs Up Agenda’, which I believe is a slightly more neutral headline. Curious. LAA
In Indiana, debate over how ‘trackers’ shape future energy system | Midwest Energy News January 21, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in 2013 Indiana General Assembly, Uncategorized.
Tags: Ed Simcox with the Indiana Energy Association, Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda, Indiana SB 560 (2013) utility transmission, Indiana utility cost trackers, Kerwin Olson Citizens Action Coalition
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This article from Midwestern Energy News discusses SB 560 on utility transmission introduced by Sen. Brandt Hershman. There is no official word yet about when this bill will be scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Utility Committee. Continue to watch this blog for details!
Transmission lines near Walnut, Indiana. (Photo by Patrick Finnegan via Creative Commons)
New legislation in the Indiana Senate would ensure a healthy, guaranteed profit in perpetuity on utility investments in wires, telephone poles, substations, and other parts of the transmission and distribution infrastructure, and ratepayer advocates and environmentalists are crying foul.
If such a measure becomes law, they say, it will burden low-income ratepayers with unnecessarily high bills and further entrench centralized, coal- and gas-based electricity generation, placing distributed, renewable generation at a disadvantage.
At issue in the new legislation is an important but esoteric provision of utility law called a cost tracker. When states allow trackers, they bypass rate cases, a key step in which state utility regulators scrutinize the books of monopoly electric utilities on behalf of the customers who are forced to buy their electricity.
The state then allows a line item to be added to utility bills for a specified purpose—in this case, for costs incurred when utilities replace or maintain power poles, wires and the like. In Indiana, trackers typically guarantee utilities a profit of between 8.5 and 12 percent on costs of a particular type, and ratepayers supply the company with that guaranteed profit.
The electricity bills that Indiana residents pay are a sum of the utility’s rate and the various line items.
Over the years, the state’s five investor-owned utilities—Duke Energy, Indiana Power and Light, Vectren, Nipsco, and Indiana Michigan Power, have persuaded state legislators to let them recoup most of their costs through trackers, including the cost of coal, natural gas, uranium and other fuel, the cost of scrubbers and other pollution controls, the cost of energy-efficiency efforts, and now the cost of wires, poles, transformers and other parts of the transmission and distribution network.
Because the state’s utilities are allowed a variety of trackers, their rates are not an accurate reflection of what customers actually pay. So when an Indiana utility says that its rates are rising only 2-3 percent per year, that’s technically correct, said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, an Indianapolis-based ratepayer advocacy group. But it’s also misleading, Olson said, because “customers don’t pay rates, customers pay bills.”
What’s more, Olson said, “utilities don’t like rate cases” and try to avoid them because they’re expensive to litigate, and because they allow the public utility commission, and the interested public, to examine their books and question whether costs they’re trying to get reimbursed for are costs they actually incurred.
That’s nonsense, said Ed Simcox, president of Indiana Energy Association, a trade group that represents the state’s investor-owned utilities.
Trackers are routine in Indiana and other states, he said, and they’re legitimate ways to recoup costs. The tracker for transmission and distribution infrastructure, in particular, is a legitimate way for companies to recoup costs to repair and replace aging infrastructure, he added.
A benefit for whom?
The tracker for transmission and distribution is important for reliability, Simcox said.
There are some very basic needs that the system has, he said. “They include pipe in the ground for gas companies, half-century-old wooden poles to string power lines and aging transformers that need to be replaced,” Simcox said. A lot of this will be done in the foreseeable future—over the next 10 years.
Moreover, Simcox said, the expenses recouped by trackers “have to be approved by the commission. That’s something these advocates wouldn’t tell you. The commission has the ability to open the books of the company at any time.”
Having trackers even benefits ratepayers, Simcox maintained. By guaranteeing revenue, it “enhances the position of the company in the financial community.” That means that utilities can pay lower interest rates when they borrow money for capital improvements, which in turn saves money for ratepayers, who reimburse the companies for their costs, he said.
Olson maintains that utilities are simply feathering their nest at the expense of ratepayers.
“Utility rate increases are the most regressive taxes you can have on the general population. They hit the poor the hardest,” Olson added.
Moreover, trackers are simply a different way for utilities to get guaranteed revenue to maintain a reliable electrical system. Whether the companies open their books in rate cases or use trackers to pay for it, utilities still need to do their job and provide reliable electricity.
“They’re going to do that stuff anyway because they have to,” Olson said.
Charging ratepayers for coal’s costs
Guaranteeing cost recovery for transmission lines could perpetuate an electrical system that produces far more climate-warming greenhouse gases than it might, said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.
“If you replace the transmission and distribution infrastructure on a 1:1 basis or build in anticipation of new central power plants, you’re reinforcing the current system,” he said.
That current system in Indiana is one of the most coal-reliant in the nation. In 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, the state generated 90 percent of its electricity by burning coal, far more than the U.S. average of 48 percent, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
And according to a report [PDF] from the Environmental Integrity Project, Indiana was the fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter overall in the United States in 2010, emitting more than three times the carbon dioxide of New York and California, which are far more populous.
Trackers are one of several ways Indiana’s utilities perpetuate the current system, Olson said. Utilities have had such dominion over the Indiana legislature, he maintained, that if the current bill passes they will have guaranteed that ratepayers pay fully for the costs of coal to burn; pollution controls that keep coal plants in compliance with federal environmental rules, and the costs of wires and infrastructure to move electricity from central plants to the populace.
“Essentially they have a tracker from coalmine to light switch,” Olson said.
CAC says–”IPL: Stop investing in the past; Start investing in the future! Tell the IURC to say NO to IPL rate increase!” January 21, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), IPL Rate REP, Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
Tags: Citizens Action Coalition (CAC), IPL Environmental Compliance case in Cause No. 44242
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Do you agree that IPL should stop investing in the past and start investing in the future? Should IPL reconsider renewing and extending Rate REP or feed-in tariff which allows customers to invest in renewable energy and distributed generation?
Click this link below for information from Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) concerning the upcoming field hearing for the IPL Environmental Compliance case in Cause No. 44242.
For details on how to participate in the hearing see: http://indianadg.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/voice-your-view-on-ipl-environmental-compliance-case-12413/
Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) is currently seeking permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to raise rates in order to install pollution control equipment on their fleet of aging coal-fired power plants. IPL’s almost exclusive reliance on coal (approximately 99% of the electricity generated by IPL is from burning coal) continues to expose ratepayers and shareholders to enormous costs and risks and is contributing to significant public health and environmental problems.
It’s time for IPL to begin to diversify their generation portfolio and move into the 21st century by making meaningful investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Investing in renewables and efficiency will reduce ratepayer and shareholder risk, protect our health and the quality of our environment, and put money back into Hoosiers’ pockets by creating jobs and reducing monthly electric bills.
Let us know if you plan to attend the hearing. See you there!!
FERC Proposes Rule to Speed Up Solar Energy Grid Interconnection January 21, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Uncategorized.
Tags: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), FERC Docket No. RM13-2-000, Small Generator Interconnection Rulemaking
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Tulsa, OK USA — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed changes to a rule that will speed up the process and reduce the costs to interconnect smaller-sized solar power projects to the grid while maintaining system reliability and safety. The changes were necessary, the organization claims, because of market changes that were due to state renewable energy goals and policies.
In 2005, FERC issued Order No. 2006, which established national interconnection procedures for generation projects that are 20 MW or less in size and subject to FERC’s wholesale jurisdiction. However, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) filed an interconnection rulemaking petition with FERC in February 2012, arguing that certain aspects of the order have become barriers to cost-effective and timely interconnections. Its proposal will allow solar projects that met certain technical screens to qualify for a “fast track” interconnection process. As a result, the amount of solar considered under the sped-up process is expected to as much as double.
The FERC’s new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes four specific reforms:
- Allow interconnection customers to request a pre-application report from transmission providers to help them better evaluate points of interconnection before submitting a final request.
- Increase the current 2 MW threshold to 5 MW in order to participate in the Fast Track Process. Eligibility would also be based on individual system and resource characteristics.
- Revise customer options meeting and supplemental review for projects that fail the Fast Track screens.
- Give interconnection customers an opportunity to provide written comments on the upgrades necessary for the interconnection.
SEIA said the changes are welcome news in the solar power industry. “We applaud FERC for recognizing the challenges facing wholesale distributed generation development, which is one of the fastest-growing segments of the solar energy industry,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “This important proposed rule has the potential to roughly double the amount of solar generation capacity eligible to be fast-tracked in the U.S.”
Resch said he hopes the states will look at the proposal as a prototype for their own interconnection rules.
Voice Your View on IPL Environmental Compliance Case 1/24/13 January 17, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
Tags: IPL Environmental Compliance case in Cause No. 44242
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See next blog post for more information on this case pending before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) from the Citizens Action Coalition (CAC).
Written consumer comments also invited
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is encouraging Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) customers to comment on the utility’s pending environmental compliance construction case, through both written comments and the case’s upcoming public field hearing.
An Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) public field hearing will be held
DATE: Thursday, January 24, 2013
TIME: 6:00 pm EST
PLACE: Indiana History Center , 450 West Ohio St., Indianapolis, IN 46202
The hearing’s public comment portion will start at 6:00 p.m.
Sworn oral and written comments regarding the case will be accepted during the field hearing.
Oral and written consumer comments carry equal weight and will become part of the case’s official evidentiary record.
Commissioners are not allowed to answer questions during the field hearing. (However, OUCC and IURC staff will be available before, during and after the hearing.)
An OUCC informational session on the regulatory process and public field hearing procedures will begin at 5:30 p.m.
IPL is asking the IURC to approve its proposed Environmental Compliance Construction Project, which would include the construction, installation and operation of new pollution control equipment at IPL’s Petersburg and Harding Street generating stations. The equipment would be installed on five generating units that make up 82 percent of IPL’s coalfired capacity. It would reduce mercury emissions along with emissions of non-mercury metal hazardous air pollutants and acid gas hazardous air pollutants.
In its testimony, the utility states that the project is necessary for compliance with federal regulations, specifically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule.
IPL is also seeking IURC approval to recover the project’s costs through rates, with rate adjustments to be made every six months. The utility currently estimates the project’s construction costs – not including financing and demolition costs – at nearly $511 million (compared to an initial construction cost estimate of $606 million).
By 2014, IPL expects the project to add $1.13 to the monthly bill for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh). According to IPL’s testimony, this monthly amount would rise to $8.92 in 2017.
The OUCC – which represents consumer interests in cases before the IURC – is still evaluating this case and is scheduled to file testimony on January 28, 2013. Additional parties that have intervened in this case – including the Sierra Club, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana (CAC), and the IPL Industrial Group – are also scheduled to file testimony on January 28.
More information on this case is available online at www.in.gov/oucc/2732.htm.
Consumers who wish to submit written comments in this case may do so via the OUCC’s Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm, or by mail, email or fax:
Mail: Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Fax: (317) 232-5923
Written comments the OUCC receives by January 24 will be filed with the Commission and included in the case’s formal evidentiary record. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to “IURC Cause No. 44242.”
Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff tollfree t 1-888-441-2494.
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IURC Cause No. 44242
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.
PUCO chief blasts ‘green’ energy on Twitter; Is this appropriate behavior for a state utility regulator? Objectivity??? January 17, 2013Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Green Energy Ohio (GEO) Executive Director William Spratley, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), PUCO Chairman Todd Snitcher, PUCO's deputy public affairs director Jason Gilham
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:
OK, so this guy is not tweeting about open cases before the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) but it does appear to me that he is inherently biased and does not have an objective and open mind about renewable energy. Isn’t that bad enough for someone who should be an impartial judge making decisions based on the evidence presented in the record. I thought things here in Indiana were bad in the past but I think things are now much better under Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) Chairman Jim Atterholt after the departure of David Lott Hardy.
This might be on par though with action when last year Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels put on his recommended Christmas Book List Robert Bryce’s book entitled, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. No problem though now. Daniels is no longer Indiana’s Governor. Now Daniels is the new President of Purdue University.
Laura Ann Arnold
PUCO observers say Chairman Todd Snitchler is unusually vocal about his opinion
The Columbus Dispatch–Saturday January 12, 2013 6:04 AM
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s ruling this week against a solar-energy project may not have come as a surprise to anyone following Chairman Todd Snitchler’s Twitter account.
The former lawmaker from Uniontown, Ohio, frequently shares material critical of solar, wind and“green” energy, even re-tweeting a story called “Elites of West have cranked up myth of Global Warming” from Pravda, a Communist Party-connected newspaper in Russia, calling it “interesting.”
Among more than 1,000 tweets from the past year, Snitchler did not once share anything positive about renewable energy. Instead, he tweeted about how “clean-energy aid racks up losses” and “the Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows”; shared the conservative website Drudge Report’s “complete list of green energy failures” and conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham’s “windbag & greeniac update”; and re-tweeted “electric cars pose environmental threat,” “after Sandy no one lined up for wind turbines” and that the “ ‘green’religion is taking over from Christian religion.”
The social medium Twitter allows users to communicate in messages of up to 140 characters, and to re-tweet others’ messages, which often include links to websites.
The Republican, who uses Ronald Reagan in front of an American flag for his Twitter photo, also tweets about the shortcomings of Barack Obama, the press and those advocating gun control.
Following the president’s re-election, Snitchler tweeted: “Last night’s big winner: the politics of personal destruction.” Two days after the school shootings in Connecticut last month, he re-tweeted: “Would it be too much trouble to enforce the gun laws already on the books?”
Snitchler notes on his Twitter bio that “these tweets are mine and do not reflect the views of the PUCO or anyone else.” However, he commingles notices of PUCO hearings and official news with his personal observations.
Snitchler would not talk in person about his Twitter account, instead relaying answers through Jason Gilham, the PUCO’s deputy public-affairs director, who noted, “There’s no references to any open cases.”
About the same time, Snitchler was tweeting, “Say goodnight Gracie…”
Gilham said all five commission members undoubtedly have their own opinions, which is one reason the law mandates bipartisan representation.
But longtime observers of the utilities commission say past chairmen were never so vociferous or openly partisan about their opinions.
“I would say they were a little more circumspect,” said William Spratley, who was state consumers’ counsel from when the office was formed in 1977 to 1993. He now runs Green Energy Ohio, a nonprofit group he founded 13 years ago that educates the public on solar and wind issues.
By law, Snitchler also is chairman of the Ohio Power Siting Board, which considers whether proposed major wind or solar facilities are in the public interest.
Snitchler voted along with a majority of PUCO members this week to nix the Turning Point Solar project, a 49.9-megawatt photovoltaic array planned by American Electric Power for southeast of Zanesville. PUCO staff had recommended to the governing board that the project was needed. The facility, which would have brought an estimated 300 construction jobs and 300 manufacturing jobs, would have been the largest project of its type east of the Rockies. AEP, which was denied permission to assess ratepayers for the undertaking, is now considering funding alternatives.
Gilham said there was nothing in Wednesday’s PUCO order that discounts the merits of the solar project.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel would not comment on the tweets.