Posts

California virus war slams into its other crisis: wildfires

By David R Baker and Mark Chediak, Bloomberg Green


Highlights

Social distancing and stay at home mandates have made preparing for wildfire season harder, limiting tree trimming, controlled burns, and powerline maintenance.

  • Though California may suffer another severe fire season, the U.S. Forest Service has suspended in-person training for firefighters
  • In the State budget Governor Gavin Newsom called for $129 million for new fire-related positions as well as wildfire forecasting center. But an updated budget, reflecting coronavirus realities, is expected by mid-May. Money budgeted for fire prevention might be spent instead on efforts to fight the virus and restart California’s economy
  • As of April 23, 58% of the state was abnormally dry, compared to 6% a year ago and 36% of the state is currently experiencing drought, further fueling the next wildfire season
  • So far this year PG&E has trimmed or chopped down trees along 573 miles of power lines in order to minimize fire vulnerability 
  • Southern California Edison plans to install 700 miles of insulated power lines this year and is now trying to schedule any necessary power interruptions for night time or early morning to minimize the impact on at-home workers 

Increased air pollution from fires and fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. With community energy resilience we can ensure that our power is clean and not further contributing to emissions in our communities. 


Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-28/california-s-virus-war-collides-with-its-other-crisis-wildfires?sref=ABTRBDIh

Michigan utility sets goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, a record in U.S.

By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News


Highlights

Consumers Energy in Michigan aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, the fastest timetable of any major utility in the country.

  • Previously, the utility pledged to cut 90% of its emissions by 2040
  • Renewable energy will account for almost 72% of their portfolio, while natural gas will account for almost 13%
  • The utility plans to use carbon offsets such as carbon capture and sequestration
  • Margrethe Kearney, a Michigan-based staff attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, feels optimistic about Consumers net-zero plan as many other plans from utilities are not realistic or don’t actually reduce emissions 
  • Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and DTE Energy are three utilities that have “net-zero plans” that involve opening new natural gas plants and don’t advance the closure of fossil fuel plants

In California, thanks to Senate Bill 100, the California Clean Energy Act of 2017,  California has set a target of 100% clean electricity for California by 2045.  This is a good step toward a climate-safe California.


Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26022020/clean-energy-michigan-emissions-cutting-california-solar

A clean energy revolution is rising in the midwest, with utilities in the vanguard

by Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News

Even with all the evidence that renewable energy has become less expensive than fossil fuels, it doesn’t seem real until utilities start to stake their futures on it.

For some Midwestern utilities, 2018 is the year that happened.

Xcel Energy of Minnesota in early December said it would go to zero carbon emissionsthroughout its eight-state territory by 2050, the first major utility to do so.

That followed some big steps by Consumers Energy in Michigan and NIPSCO in Indiana, which issued plans to shut down coal-fired power plants sooner than previously planned while also accelerating development of wind and solar power.

Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02012019/renewable-energy-tipping-point-midwest-2018-year-review-utilities-wind-solar-xcel-100-percent

Sun Solar Electric Installing a system in Santa Rosa, Caliofrnia

Utilities are buying up distributed energy companies. Should Community Energy agencies take a lesson?

The following article by Jeff St. John of Greentech Media demonstrates the burgeoning competition for electricity customers as utility monopolies lose their stronghold. Will Community Choice Energy agencies take a lesson and avoid losing their own customers? Considering their community focus, are Community Choice agencies developing sufficient opportunities and incentives for local solar to support the solar stakeholders in their service territories? Comments encouraged at the bottom.

The case for utilities to bundle their energy businesses—before they’re cannibalized

The utility industry has already been undergoing significant change over the past 25 years, with the rise of independent grid operators, competitive energy markets and the split of vertically-integrated business models.

But the rise of distributed energy is creating more turmoil for the utility industry than even these epochal changes. And because these changes are being driven by fundamental advances in technology, they’re happening at a pace and scale that’s increasingly outside the utility’s control.

These underlying trends — or “megatrends,” if you will — have created a world in which utilities are increasingly moving into unfamiliar markets and business models, according to experts at Greentech Media’s Grid Edge World Forum 2017 conference in San Jose.

“There are two no-regret decisions for utilities — renewable energy and anything that gets them closer to customers,” said Andrew Bennett, senior vice president and “Internet of Things Evangelist” for Schneider Electric North America, during a Wednesday panel session. “Look at all the acquisitions that are taking place on the commercial side of utilities, both European and in the U.S. over the last year.”

Large-scale renewables have long been a part of many utilities’ portfolios, but this trend has been accelerating over the past few years. Notable examples include Duke Energy Renewables, the utility giant’s new business founded in 2007 and expanded through the acquisition of California solar installer REC Solar and energy management company Phoenix Energy Technologies. Other utility moves into commercial solar include NextEra’s acquisition of Smart Energy Capital and Edison International’s purchase of SoCore.

Utilities are also getting closer to customers. Some of the biggest U.S. examples include Southern Company’s $431 million purchase of PowerSecure and its 1.5-gigawatt fleet of backup power systems, and Edison International’s creation of its energy services business through the acquisition of a roster of energy service providers and renewable power developers.

European utilities have been following suit. France’s EDF formed its distributed electricity and storage business unit earlier this year, building on its 2016 acquisition of groSolar. French utility Engie bought U.S. energy services provider Ecova and OpTerra Energy Services, as well as behind-the-meter battery startup Green Charge Networks. And Italian utility Enel’s U.S. subsidiary has joined the fray with its purchase of behind-the-meter energy storage project developer Demand Energy, and most recently, demand response market leader EnerNOC.

All of these acquisitions share several common characteristics, Bennett said. First, they’re bringing utilities opportunities in territories outside their core regulated services territories. After all, “you’re not going to self-cannibalize your steady income,” he said.

Second, they’re aimed at capturing the growing share of large commercial and industrial customers that are looking for more control of their energy usage. “They’re going to take those high-end customers, because the customers want it.”

These two trends are mutually reinforcing, he noted. The defection of C&I customers from traditional utility relationships is already happening, “and at a scale that’s pretty large,” said Bennett, pointing to high-profile examples like MGM’s Nevada casinos paying $87 million to drop service from utility NV Energy and take up with retail power provider Tenaska.

It doesn’t take too many of these losses to have a significant impact on a utility, he noted. “You don’t need to lose 10 percent of your customers. You just have to lose a few percentage points of your top customers that are subsidizing major portions of your grid costs.”

Regulatory efforts are underway to enable distributed energy to play a role in utility operations, as with California’s DRP proceeding and New York’s REV initiative, as well as to play a role in energy markets run by transmission system operators such as California ISO or PJM.

But “regulator-driven change hasn’t been particularly successful” in this industry, noted Michael Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid, noted, citing the experience of California’s abortive deregulation in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Regulatory changes can also take too long to keep pace with changes being wrought by technology, noted Todd Glass, a partner with law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Still, despite the rise of contenders like Tesla and SolarCity, the utilities’ deep pockets and central role as energy provider for the majority of the country could put them in position to offer the complete package of products and services that many customers are looking for, said Glass.

“I don’t know who the ultimate competitors or providers of services will be in the future,” he said. “You’re going to have larger companies offering bundled services.”

Smaller companies that can’t pull together this complete suite are “going to be acquired, largely, I think — or evolve into much bigger companies.”

Another Important Legislative Victory for Community Choice Energy

A two-year struggle to defeat an insidious piece of legislation in Sacramento, Assembly Bill 976, has come to a happy conclusion. On September 27 Governor Brown vetoed AB976 and added a brief signing statement (see below). In this statement the Governor echoed what community choice proponents drove home repeatedly in committee hearings and elsewhere.

The Climate Protection Campaign worked with the Marin Energy Authority, the Local Energy Aggregation Network, the Local Clean Energy Alliance, and other community choice energy supporters throughout the state to pull off what many consider to be an upset victory. We fought big money and influential utility lobbyists trying to pass the bill.

It would have singled out community choice energy programs like Sonoma Clean Power and prohibited them from using the same consulting service before and after the launch of a program. Because Community Choice Aggregation is a relatively new field, few expert consulting services exist.

With the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2010, passage of SB790 in 2011, and defeat of AB976 in 2012, the coast is getting clearer and clearer for emerging community choice energy programs throughout California to launch.

Many thanks to all of you who joined the fight, signed on to opposition letters, and sent your own letters.

   – Woody Hastings

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 976 without my signature.

This bill prohibits any company from doing business with a Community Choice Aggregation program if that company advised a local government on establishing the program.

This goes too far –local governments already have plenty of laws on conflicts of interests and transparent decision making. Adding the restriction in this bill would serve only to impede efforts to establish community choice energy programs.

Sincerely,

Edmund G. Brown Jr.