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CAC’s Kerwin Olson: Dueling energy proposals bear monitoring at Indiana State House; How will they impact you? January 31, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in 2013 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
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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

http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20130131/EDIT05/301319991/1021/EDIT

Published: January 31, 2013 3:00 a.m.

Dueling energy proposals bear monitoring

Kerwin Olson

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.

IndplsStar: Opponents emerge for IPL’s $500M pollution control plan; Urge IPL to invest in renewable energy January 25, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:
Let’s give a big “shout-out” to Indianapolis City-County At-large Council Member Zach Adamson for testifying at this IURC public field hearing last night in Cause No. 44242. Please note that Indiana State Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) attended this hearing last night which was attended by 4 of the 5 members of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) including Chairman Jim Atterholt.
I also testified last night urging that IPL’s Rate REP or feed-in tariff which is scheduled to expire March 30, 2013 be extended and expanded. I suggested that there was a lost opportunity for worthwhile renewable energy projects in the IPL Rate REP Queue that are not likely to be able to participate in the program. Specifically, I mentioned 15 different proposed projects representing 1.5 MWs of solar PV projects that are a part of the Indy Solar Initiative. For details see Indy Solar Initiative10_02_Englewood CDC and East Washington Street Partnership. I also mentioned additional proposed projects not slated to be done under the IPL Rate REP unless it is extended and expanded including St. Luke’s Methodist Church, University High School and the Jewish Community Center (JCC). It is difficult to understand what additional projects have been proposed for the IPL Rate REP since the list does identify them except by the date their application was filed a code name with a letter representing the applicant and a number.
I plan to revise and edit my oral comments. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a written copy.
More on this case as it unfolds. Watch this blog for updates!
Laura Ann Arnold

Sierra Club rally against Indianapolis Power & Lig...

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.

   Written by Tony Cook, Jan 24, 2013   |4Comments

Consumer and environmental advocates rallied before an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission public hearing on Indianapolis Power and Light's plan to spend more than $500 million on environmental controls at two coal-fired power plants at the Indiana History Center in Indianapolis on Thursday, January 24, 2013. Speaking at center is Sierra Club's Megan Anderson, Indiana Beyond Coal Campaign conservation organizer.

Consumer and environmental advocates rallied before an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission public hearing on Indianapolis Power and Light’s plan to spend more than $500 million on environmental controls at two coal-fired power plants at the Indiana History Center in Indianapolis on Thursday, January 24, 2013. Speaking at center is Sierra Club’s Megan Anderson, Indiana Beyond Coal Campaign conservation organizer.  /  Charlie Nye / The Star

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.

View Video HERE http://www.indystar.com/videonetwork/2117556920001/Sierra-Club-rally-against-Indianapolis-Power-Light-rate-increase

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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.

Hoosiers Rally and Deliver 2,000 Petitions to Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) Headquarters November 29, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Uncategorized.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 28th, 2012

Contact: Megan Anderson, 812-325-0685megan.anderson@sierraclub.org

Pastor Wyatt Watkins, 317-750-5873watkinsdt@aol.com

Kerwin Olson, 317-702-0461kolson@citact.org

Indianapolis Beyond Coal Campaign Launch Event
Indianapolis, IN – Today (11/28/2012) dozens of concerned ratepayers and community members gathered at Monument Circle to mark the launch of the Sierra Club’s Indianapolis Beyond Coal Campaign by delivering a growing list of 2,000 petitions to Indianapolis Power and Light’s (IPL) Headquarters opposing rate increases to keep IPL’s aging coal plants online and asking instead that IPL move toward clean energy.

“Coal-fired power plants emit tremendous quantities of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, causing global climate change,” said Gabriel Filippelli, Professor and Director of the Center for Urban Health, IUPUI.  “But they also emit significant amounts of the toxic element mercury, much of it depositing right here in central Indiana, polluting our waterways, fish, and children.”

The negative impacts of coal go beyond public health and the environment by also impacting Hoosier’s wallets.

“In addition to wreaking havoc on public health and environmental quality, coal has become a detriment to our economy,” said Kerwin Olson, Executive Director Citizens Action Coalition, a consumer advocacy group. “Over the last ten years, the ratepayers of IPL have seen their bills increase nearly 44%, largely as a result of the costs associated with burning coal.  It’s long past due for IPL to shift gears and invest aggressively in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy so Hoosiers can save energy, save money, and breathe easy.”

IPL can decide to retire some of its outdated, polluting coal burning units to prevent premature death and asthma in the Indianapolis community and invest in clean, renewable energy solutions. Instead, IPL wants to charge customers $606.1 million to upgrade their aging coal burning units at Harding St. and Petersburg. With the cost of coal rising and clean energy prices plummeting, utilities across the country move to add diversity in their energy mix.  Despite this growing trend, IPL has no plans to invest in clean energy solutions in the foreseeable future. These upgrades could mean IPL would continue to burn dirty coal in Indianapolis for decades to come.

Many Indianapolis residents feel they have paid the price for coal plant pollution in Indianapolis for far too long.  IPL’s Harding Street coal plant has two smaller units that lack pollution controls, and the company has no specific retirement date set.

“My son has had asthma since he was 7 weeks old, and with a baby on the way, cleaning up in the air in Indianapolis is even more urgent,” said Niesha McKinley, a concerned parent in Indianapolis. “Everyday IPL’s coal plant operates is another day my children are exposed to toxic pollution;  IPL needs to retire it’s old dirty coal burning power plant as soon as possible, and move toward clean energy.”

These upgrades will fail to address dangerous carbon pollution and coal ash. IPL already has eight coal ash ponds located near the plant and the White River. The Environmental Protection Agency ranked some of these ponds as “high hazard” meaning that a failure could cause loss of life and/or property damage.

“All the major faiths affirm the intrinsic worth of the planet and the call to cherish and keep it; they likewise call us to love our neighbors and act for the welfare of the vulnerable among us, who consistently suffer first and foremost when we abuse the environment,” said the Rev. T. Wyatt Watkins, Co-Pastor of Cumberland First Baptist Church in Indianapolis and Board Chair for Educational Programming for Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light.

The group, who is partnered with CREDO Action, will continue gathering comments and petitions until January 28th calling on IPL to move beyond coal.

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As Indiana utility ends feed-in tariffs, some question motive | Midwest Energy News August 23, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), IPL Rate REP, Uncategorized.
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As Indiana utility ends feed-in tariffs, some question motive | Midwest Energy News.

As Indiana utility ends feed-in tariffs, some question motive

Posted on 08/23/2012 by

Workers install solar panels on the roof of an Indianapolis home in 2009. Indianapolis Power & Light may soon have more solar power installed in its service area than any other utility in the Midwest. (Photo courtesy EcoSource, Inc., used with permission)

Last month, Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL), an investor-owned utility that provides electricity to 470,000 customers in central Indiana, put out a press release boasting about its support of 30 MW of new solar developments.

The new developments would make IPL the leading provider of solar power among Midwestern utilities, the company claimed, citing Solar Electric Power Association’s 2011 utility solar rankings. IPL also touted the 300 MW of wind power already in its portfolio.

The utility’s claims were repeated in glowing news reports around central Indiana.

But what the company did not say was that the 30 MW of new solar was all that remained of an innovative feed-in tariff project that would have incorporated up to 100 MW of renewable energy into their generating mix, and is now ending—over the protests of both renewable energy developers and environmentalists.

“They did a 180-degree turn on the program,” said Laura Arnold, the president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, an Indianapolis-based environmental group. “Just three years ago, IPL was part of a broad coalition of utilities that were rightly calling public attention to climate change and the need for a comprehensive national policy,” he added. “Now IPL is withdrawing one of its only existing policies to begin the long process of cutting carbon.”

IPL did not respond to several phone calls and emails requesting comment.

Voluntary policies

Unlike many other states, Indiana does not require utilities to incorporate increasing amounts of renewable energy into their generating mix via a renewable portfolio standard, although it did institute modest voluntary goals in 2011 that aim for 10 percent renewable energy in the state by 2025. The state also has no law mandating a renewable feed-in tariff—a policy that requires utilities to provide customers that provide electricity to the grid from solar, wind or biomass a long-term rate high enough to justify their initial investment.

As a result, any feed-in tariff program by an Indiana utility is voluntary. The state’s public utility commission, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, approved IPL’s pilot feed-in tariff program, which it calls its Rate Renewable Energy Production (Rate-REP) program, in March 2010.

Under the program, as originally proposed, solar, wind and biomass developers would apply to IPL to participate, and the winning companies would build projects providing up to 100 MW of power—about 1 percent of IPL’s generating mix. In exchange, IPL would contract with the companies to pay them between 7 cents per kilowatt-hour for wind and 24 cents per kilowatt-hour for solar over a 10-year period. (IPL’s current contract terms guarantee a fixed rate for 15 years rather than ten.) IPL would charge slightly higher rates to its customers to cover the cost difference.

The policy worked: Within a year, solar and wind developers applied to build 170 MW of projects, Arnold said.

Then IPL pulled the plug.

‘Considerable return’ on investments

In a June 28 letter to the chair of the IURC explaining the company’s reasoning, William Henley, IPL’s vice president of corporate affairs, first lauded the pilot program, saying that it “had generated benefits for both customers and the Company.”

Customers, Henley wrote, would be paid for 15 years at rates high enough to cover costs and generate a “reasonable return on their investments.” IPL and its customers would benefit by “sourcing renewable energy from within IPL’s service territory at a set cost for 15 years to hedge against the potentially higher cost to comply with future renewable energy purchase mandates and to help keep the investments local.”

If it was so successful, then why did IPL terminate the program? In his letter to IURC chairman James Atterholt, Henley listed several reasons.

With 300 MW of utility-scale wind farms under contract and several MW of solar, IPL had enough renewable energy in its generation portfolio to promote clean energy and hedge against future renewable energy purchase mandates, he wrote. But today’s higher costs of renewable energy, as compared to “traditional forms of generation” such as coal, “must be balanced against other expected cost increases such as those necessary to comply with Environmental Protection Agency mandates,” Henley wrote.

Henley also maintained that costs for solar panels may soon rise, causing demand to fall.

And he said that “Rate REP has not generated the interest among customers that IPL originally expected.”

That’s highly misleading, say renewable energy advocates.

Afraid of competition?

By 2011, a year after the pilot program was launched, the company had 170 MW of proposed projects, more than the program could accommodate. Then IPL moved to end it.

“We believe they withdrew the program because the program would have been quite successful,” said Olson. “Utilities have fought solar PV for decades, especially rooftop PV. You’re generating your own power. It’s competition and loss of business,” Olson explained.

At the time of IPL’s announcement in late June, IPL had contracts for 2 MW in solar projects, and in their July 19 press release, they announced that Sunrise Energy Ventures, had won a reverse auction to supply 30 MW of solar energy to IPL’s mix. (In the reverse auction, the contractors proposed a price at which to sell electricity, and IPL chose the lowest bidder.

Dean Leischow, managing director of Sunrise, told Midwest Energy News the company plans to build three 10 MW, 70-acre solar farms in fields on the outskirts of Indianapolis. IPL has agreed to pay the company a fixed rate for 15 years.

As a result, IPL could lead all Midwest utilities in the amount of solar power generated in their service territory, according to Solar Electric Power Association’s 2011 utility solar rankings, IPL maintained in its press release.

That sounds about right, said Leischow, of Sunrise Energy Ventures.

“The Midwest is not a hotbed for renewable energy, so that would make it fairly easy for IPL to take a lead position. I think IPL going out with 30 MW puts them in the lead,” he said. “It’s an exciting project for Indiana and an exciting project for us, and I’m looking forward to getting it rolling.”

And Ken Zagzebski, IPL’s president and CEO, also touted the deal.

“IPL’s interest in solar energy is part of our commitment to a more diversified portfolio of power generation that includes appropriate renewable sources that allow us to provide safe, reliable energy at some of the most affordable residential prices in the nation,” Zabzebski said, according to the company’s July 19 press release.

But Olson had a very different take on the situation. “There’s lots of greenwashing going on,” he said.