From an article in Wind Energy Weekly:
Wind energy is more affordable than ever, and new installations across the country are saving consumers money on their electric bills, as utilities rush to lock in long-term favorable rates, AWEA said in its third-quarter market report this week.
“This is what a successful business looks like with stable tax policy. Utilities are locking in a great deal for their electric customers while it’s available. We’re keeping rates down all across the U.S., even in the heart of the South,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode, pointing to recent wind power purchases by the Southern Company in Alabama, Austin Energy in Texas, and Xcel Energy in Colorado as examples.
The U.S. wind industry installed just over 1,200 MW in the third quarter, and about 3,360 MW on the year so far—but has more than 8,400 MW under construction. That is more than in any quarter since 2008, as the federal Production Tax Credit has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment.
“This shows what we’re capable of: adding new, affordable electric generation,” said Bode. “Traditional tax incentives are working. There’s a lot of business right now, people are employed, and manufacturers are looking to expand here in the U.S.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From the testimony of RENEW presented by Michael Vickerman, who draws attention to the fact that We Energies is trying to defund its $6 million/year renewable energy development program without any justification. In fact We Energies doesn’t say anything about their actions. RENEW asks the PSC not to sanction this sleight of hand maneuver:
Q. What is the purpose of your testimony?
A. The purpose of my testimony is to discuss the May 2011 decision by We Energies to cancel a 10-year, $60 million commitment to support renewable energy development in its service territory. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***] [***END CONFIDENTIAL***] (Exhibit __ (MJV-1)).
My testimony includes a recommendation to the Commission that it not allow We Energies to reallocate in 2012 the $6 million per year it had committed to spend on renewable energy development activities for other purposes. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***] [***END CONFIDENTIAL***]
Q. What is RENEW’s interest in this proceeding?
A. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***][***END CONFIDENTIAL***] RENEW is also a founding member of the We Energies Renewable Energy Collaborative (“WEREC”), the stakeholder body that has helped We Energies to achieve its voluntary renewable energy goal (5% by 2011) and maximize the value of its 10-year commitment to build, largely from scratch, a strong renewable energy infrastructure within its service territory. The collaborative, consisting of Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Citizens Utility Board, American Wind Energy Association, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation, Customers First Coalition, and the 16th Street Community Health Center, has been working since 2002 to shape and guide We Energies’ renewable energy program. I think I can speak for all of the nonprofits in the collaborative when I say that our combined efforts and resources produced the strongest and most innovative utility-run renewable energy program in the state. Until We Energies announced its decision to terminate it, the program it had developed was widely regarded as one of the most successful utility-administered renewable energy initiatives in the nation.
Q. What was the basis of We Energies’ $6 million per year commitment to renewable energy?
A. I will quote from Jeff Anthony, who, as a We Energies manager in 2005, submitted testimony in the utility’s 2005 rate case (Docket No. 05-UR-102) providing details regarding We Energies’ request to recover $6 million per year in costs associated with planned renewable energy development activities:
In its first “Power the Future” filing in early 2002, [We Energies] made several commitments to renewable energy. Among those commitments was that, subject to regulatory approval and cost recovery, the Company would spend an additional $6 million per year to achieve a target of 5 percent of Wisconsin retail load served by the year 2011. With reference to this commitment, the PSCW in its November 10, 2003, Order in the “Power the Future” docket, stated: “As part of the PTF proposal, WEPCO has committed to a goal of obtaining 5 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2011. This is more than twice the renewable portfolio standard set forth under Wis. Stats. § 196.378, which requires that at least 2.2 percent of each electric provider’s retail energy must be from renewable energy resources by this date. WEC has also declared its intent to spend up to $6 million per year for ten years on emerging technologies and activities, to encourage the development of renewable resources.
Q. We Energies launched its Renewable Energy Development program in 2002. Why did the utility wait until 2006 to begin spending $6 million per year on the program?
A. As a condition of its WICOR merger, the Commission imposed a five-year rate freeze on We Energies that expired on January 1, 2006.
Q. Did We Energies receive approval on its request to recover $6 million for renewable energy development costs?
A. Yes, it did. It also received approval from the Commission in 2007 to spend $6 million per year on its renewable energy development program in 2008 and 2009, and it also received approval in 2009 to spend $6 million per year on its renewable energy development program in 2010 and 2011. All told, We Energies has sought and received permission to spend up to $36 million on the renewable energy program it has developed in consultation with WEREC.
Q. Did We Energies produce a “Renewable Energy Development” program plan for the PSC’s review?
A. Yes. In 2006, We Energies created a fully fleshed-out program plan and presented it to the PSC that September, building on the summary table it had submitted in the previous rate case. The program plan contained a diverse portfolio of renewable energy projects and initiatives. We Energies also committed to hiring an outside firm to perform an independent assessment of all of the elements and initiatives set forth in the Renewable Energy Development program plan.
Q. What elements of We Energies’ Renewable Energy Development program do you consider to be particularly successful?
A. Several of We Energies’ customer incentives and tariffs were unique in the way they complemented Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program. For example, We Energies was the first utility to: (1) offer a solar energy-specific buyback rate; (2) increase the net energy billing capacity ceiling for small wind systems generators to 100 kW; and (3) support renewable energy-specific conferences and events such as Solar Decade held in Milwaukee. Perhaps the most innovative element in We Energies’ program, however, was its special incentive for nonprofit customers seeking to install renewable energy systems. Every three months, We Energies would solicit proposals from schools, religious institutions, local governments, nature centers and other nonprofit entities to co-fund new renewable energy systems on their premises. This We Energies incentive supplemented Focus on Energy grants and cash-back awards. It was designed to overcome the inability of these nonprofit entities to capture federal renewable energy tax credits to offset their own system acquisition costs. As a result of this unique incentive, there are more renewable energy systems serving nonprofit customers in We Energies territory than in any other utility territory. This initiative has an educational component to it as well; We Energies posts real-time production data from these systems on its web site. (Exhibit __ (MJV-2)).
We Energies was also the first Wisconsin utility to field a large solar initiative which supported a total of one megawatt of photovoltaic generating capacity on seven customer rooftops. All told, We Energies’ support of solar energy, including solar hot water systems, helped foster the convergence of a solar industry cluster in southeast Wisconsin consisting of such companies as Helios USA, Johnson Controls, Caleffi Solar, Hot Water Products, and Sunvest.
Q. In what other ways did We Energies’ program benefit ratepayers?
A. We Energies has a number of renewable energy systems 10 kW and above that are interconnected to its distribution system. (Exhibit __ (MJV-3)). Depending on the specific tariff through which We Energies acquires the generation, many of these installations, including most if not all of the biogas generation facilities in its service territory, are a source of Renewable Energy Credits, that, beginning in 2012, can be banked to help the utility meet its 2015 target under Wisconsin’s Renewable Energy Standard. That supply cushion could become very valuable to We Energies if an extended interruption occurs with a major supply source of renewable electricity. Also, the preponderance of solar PV systems in We Energies territory was a contributing factor enabling We Energies to weather July’s heat waves without setting a new record for system-wide peak demand.
Q. Did RENEW have any advance knowledge of We Energies’ unilateral decision to prematurely terminate its Renewable Energy Program?
A. At WEREC’s May 11, 2011 meeting, We Energies representatives disclosed to the collaborative the company’s internal decision to unilaterally and prematurely terminate the program. There had been no discussion of such an outcome between We Energies and any of the other collaborative members prior to the meeting. We Energies’ representatives assured us that the decision was final and irrevocable. Indeed, by the time We Energies got around to dropping this particular bombshell on WEREC participants, program termination was already a fait accompli. One day later, an announcement on the termination appeared on We Energies’ web site.
Q. Has We Energies provided any information to the Commission explaining its unilateral decision to prematurely terminate its program?
A. No, it has not. We Energies has yet to offer an explanation for its decision in this proceeding. In fact, We Energies is not explicitly asking for permission to discontinue funding for this initiative at this time. Instead, the program’s suspension is merely assumed within its proposed suspension of certain regulatory amortizations for 2012. This suspension for the test year would appear to set the stage for termination of the program pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code ch. PSC 137.
Q. Why should the Commission reject We Energies’ decision to prematurely and unilaterally terminate its Renewable Energy Development program?
A. There are several persuasive reasons for not sanctioning We Energies’ decision to unilaterally and prematurely terminate its Renewable Energy Development program. One, this proceeding, to date, is devoid of any justification by We Energies for this abrupt change of course. Two, the Commission has in three previous rate cases approved the $6 million per year earmarked for supporting renewable energy development activities. Nothing has happened between the most recent approval of funds for this initiative and today that warrant a lesser amount of funding for this initiative, let alone its outright termination. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***][***END CONFIDENTIAL***] In other words, there is a trust issue here that should not be summarily dismissed.
Five, the Commission staff audit in this proceeding revealed excess revenue for the test year of more than $85.8 million under the proposal submitted by WEPCO compared with adjustments proposed by Commission staff. “In other words, these proposed adjustments indicate that applicants are proposing to defer $85.8 million more than is necessary to achieve no change in base rates.” Accordingly, there is no valid basis for We Energies to contend that it must terminate or suspend its renewable energy program with a relatively small annual budget of $6 million. We Energies could cover program costs 14 times over with its revenue surplus. Six, this initiative is an important source of renewable energy development and innovation throughout We Energies’ service territory, providing support for customer-sited renewable energy installations, conferences, workshops, research and development activities, demonstration projects, and advanced renewable buyback rates. Although the accomplishments of this program over the past five years are a good start, there is still much to be achieved. Termination of this program would be a severe blow to area contractors, businesses, and manufacturers that invested in new production capacity and expanded their workforce in direct response to the favorable climate for renewable energy that We Energies had created in its service territory. Allowing We Energies to abruptly terminate its renewable energy initiative without cause would send a strong signal to these businesses and other prospective market actors that they should focus their renewable energy development work in out-of-state markets, where policy commitments are durable enough to survive the whims of utility managers.
Q. Does this complete your direct testimony?
A. Yes it does.
For immediate release
May 13, 2011
We Energies Terminates Its Renewable Energy Program
Utility Pulls Plug on $6 Million a Year Commitment
As reported on its Web site, Milwaukee-based We Energies will discontinue an innovative and effective renewable energy development program that supported scores of renewable energy systems throughout its service territory. [The announcement can be accessed at http://www.we-energies.com/re.]
“It’s a sad day when the state’s largest utility decides to walk away from its commitment to a clean energy future,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.
As indicated in various filings with the Public Service Commission, We Energies had committed to spend $6 million a year over 10 years to increase its renewable energy supplies and make renewable energy more affordable to its customers through grants and incentives. We Energies’ commitment came in the wake of a settlement with RENEW over the utility’s plans to build two coal-fired power stations in southeast Wisconsin.
Of the $60 million committed, the utility has spent approximately $30 million since 2006. This program will be zeroed out in We Energies’ next rate filing, which will cover 2012 and 2013.
This program supported numerous customer-sited renewable energy installations [see list below], conferences and workshops, research and development activities, and innovative buyback rates.
“Perhaps not coincidently, the decision to terminate this program comes just months after We Energies placed its second coal-fired plant in service. The $6 million a year was a small price to pay for the all of the renewable energy advances that occurred while the utility built two coal plants,” said Vickerman.
“Now that the coal plant is up and running, it appears that the program has outlived its usefulness to We Energies,” Vickerman said.
Six million dollars equates to about .025 percent of We Energies’ annual expenditures.
“This cancellation comes as a blow to area contractors and businesses that were relying on the program to create jobs and clean energy,” said Vickerman. “The achievements leveraged far outweigh the program’s negligible cost.”
“Between utility program cutbacks and state government rollbacks, Wisconsin’s policy framework for supporting renewable energy will be largely dismantled by the end of the year.”
RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW’s Web site at http://www.renewwisconsin.org.
Customer-owned renewable energy success stories and live data
A growing number of customers have their own renewable energy facilities. The links below go to summaries of the projects and/or real-time production data from the solar photovoltaic, solar hot water and wind renewable energy generation systems.
Solar electric photovoltaic
Ascension Lutheran Church
City of Brookfield Safety Building
Concordia University Wisconsin
Cooper Elementary School
Cross Lutheran Church
Crown of Life Lutheran Church
Energy Producing Home #1
Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ – Waukesha
Fairview Charter School
Family Enrichment Center of Ozaukee County
First Congregational Church – Port Washington
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee
Fox River Christian Church
Fox Valley Lutheran High School
Gateway Technical College Horizon Center Solar Tracker
GE Research Park
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church and School
Growing Power – Milwaukee
HOPE Christian School
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School
La Casa de Esperanza
Lake Country School
Lake Park Lutheran Church
Madison Area Technical College – Fort Atkinson Campus
Madison College – Fort Atkinson
Menomonee Falls North Middle School
Milwaukee Area Tech College – Oak Creek
Milwaukee Central Library
Milwaukee County Zoo
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
Milwaukee Recycling Education Facility
MSOE:Fat Spaniel Tech MSOE Monitor
Navarino Nature Center
North Shore Presbyterian Church
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Outpost Natural Foods
Pragmatic Construction Home 1 – PV
Purdy Elementary School – Fort Atkinson
Racine City Hall Annex
Racine Eco-Justice Center
Racine St. Catherine’s High School
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Shoreland Lutheran High School
Shorewood School District
Still Point Zen Center
The Order of Julian of Norwich
Town of Greenville
Town of Menasha
Unitarian Universalist Church West
United Community Center
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin – Parkside
Urban Ecology Center
Village of Marshall Wastewater Treatment Facility
Village of Wind Point
Walden III Middle and Senior High School
Waukesha County Technical College
Wauwatosa Fire Department
Whitewater Innovation Center
Wisconsin Lutheran College
Wisconsin State Fair Park
Solar water heating
Fort Atkinson High School Solar Thermal
Fort Atkinson Middle School Solar Thermal
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity SHW 1
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity SHW 2
We Energies HQ: Fat Spaniel Tech Wired Solar
Solar electric photovoltaic and wind
Lakeshore Technical College
Mequon Nature Preserve
Milwaukee Area Tech College – Mequon
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee – Camp Whitcomb Mason
Village of Cascade Wastewater Treatment Plant
List from We Energies’ Web site — http://www.we-energies.com/residential/energyeff/active_installdata.htmRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From a news release issued by the Public Service Commissiion of Wisconsin:
MADISON – Two reports released today by the Public Service commission of Wisconsin (PSC) indicate that Wisconsin’s electric utilities and cooperatives continue to make steady progress in adding renewable energy to the state’s energy supplies. All of the electric providers meet or exceed state requirements and many offer incentives to customers who want to generate their own renewable electricity.
Renewable Portfolio Standard Compliance
Wisconsiin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law requires retail electric providers to produce 66 percent of the state’s eelectricity from renewable resources by the year 2010, and 110 percent by 2015. each year, Wisconsin utilities and cooperatives are required to report to the PSC their progress in meeting thee renewable milestones. Today the PSC released the 2009 RPS compliance Report which indicates:
+ All 118 Wisconsin electric providers met their RPS requirement for 2009;
+ 113 providers exceeded their requirements for the year, creating excess renewable resource credits that can be banked and used for compliance in future years; and,
+ In 2009, 6.29 percent of the electricity sold by the state’s utilities and cooperatives was generated from renewable resources, up from 4.90 percent in 2008.
Distributed Renewable Generation
PSC also released a status report on its investigation into “advanced a term renewable tariffs,” a term used to describe long-term contracts whereby utilities and cooperatives offer to purchase electricity at premium prices from customers who generate electricity from small, renewable systems such as solar panels. Highlights of the status report include:
+ More than 300 of Wisconssin’s electric providers, representing about 90% of the state’ s electricity market, have voluntarily offered this kind of incentive;
+ Customers have responded by installing more than 10 MW of small, distributed capacity utilizing biogas (from manure digesters on farms), solar panels, and wind turbines; and,
+ An additional 8.2 MW off generation capacity, mostly from biogas projects, is under construction and will soon be generating electricity.
Though the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance approved funding for Focus on Energy, an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes Republican reservations about the program:
Lawmaker calls for audit; business groups against added funds
With a decision possible Tuesday [December 14] on an increase in funding for the state Focus on Energy program, a lawmaker called for an audit of the energy efficiency initiative and several business groups came out against what they criticized as “a $340 million energy tax hike.”
Business groups including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, the Wisconsin Paper Council, Midwest Food Processors Association and the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses issued a letter opposing increased funding for energy efficiency.
“Energy conservation and efficiency is a great idea, which is why so many businesses, like paper companies, already do it,” said Ed Wilusz, vice president of government relations for the Wisconsin Paper Council, in a statement. “But the existing state program appears to be working well. We doubt that the massive spending increase called for in this proposal is necessary or would be effective.”
Supporters of energy efficiency say it’s the least-cost alternative to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and a way to help the state postpone costlier expenses like investments in power plants.
The opposition by business groups comes even though large manufacturers in Wisconsin are exempt under state law from paying more to the Focus on Energy program.
The Focus on Energy program is funded through a surcharge on most customers’ electric bills. Under the PSC proposal, funding would ramp up over the next four years, raising $20 million more than current levels in 2011 and $60 million more in 2012. The increase would result in an average rate increase of 0.2% in 2011 for utility customers, and 0.7% in 2012.
Increases in funding are also proposed for 2013 and 2014 under the PSC proposal that will be reviewed Tuesday by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) said Monday he wants the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct an audit of Focus on Energy before lawmakers agree to an increase in funding.
“Our economy is still in bad shape, and families and businesses in our state are hurting,” he said in a statement. “We need to make sure that this program is providing the benefits that it claims it is before we agree to add more funding.”
Although not audited by the Legislative Audit Bureau, the Focus on Energy program is audited regularly by independent consulting firms.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
In a vote along party lines, the Joint Finance Committee adopted a proposal on Tuesday to collect more money from utility ratepayers in order to expand the incentives to make businesses and homes more energy efficient.
The higher spending is projected to deliver savings to utility customers as they take advantage of stepped-up incentives to reduce energy waste, according to projections by the state Public Service Commission and the energy-efficiency research group Energy Center of Wisconsin.
The proposal will enable the PSC to collect more money on electricity bills beginning in 2011. The $20 million increase in 2011 will raise $120 million for the state’s Focus on Energy program. Further increases would boost that to $160 million in 2012, $204 million in 2013 and $256 million in 2014.
The PSC projected the increase would result in a 0.2% increase in electric bills in 2011, and that by 2013 bills would be 0.6% higher than current levels. The forecast assumes the average customer would then start to see savings on electricity bills that would drop the average customer’s bill by 1% from today’s levels by 2016.
For a typical We Energies customer now paying $99.53 a month, that would mean an increase of 20 cents a month in 2011 and another 40 cents a month in 2012, but bills on average would fall by nearly $1 a month by 2016 as homeowners take advantage of bigger efficiency incentives.
Rates for large factories and paper mills would not rise. They are exempt from paying more into the Focus on Energy program under state law.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )