PG&E reaches green energy goals early, but hurdles loom

PG&E has arrived at its goals for renewable energy deliveries earlier than what’s required by a statewide mandate, the company said Tuesday — but fresh challenges loom due to the embattled utility’s reliance on a nuclear energy plant in central California that’s slated for deactivation. The company stated that it has reached the 2020 renewable […]

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Reasonable rates’ is stricken from CPUC mission statement

The California Public Utilities Commission has amended its long-standing mission statement, leaving out the idea of ensuring “reasonable rates” for the water and power used by the public. The change comes as state utility regulators have been under criminal investigation for potentially improper backchannel dealings with the utility companies they oversee and facing multiple lawsuits alleging they failed to protect the people they serve. For more than 20 years, the agency mission statement said, “The CPUC serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.” Under a recent revision, the statement now says: “The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.”

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California regulators propose replacing PG&E natural gas plants with energy storage

State regulators want Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to replace three natural gas plants with energy storage, a move that represents another significant step toward a clean energy future. The California Public Utilities Commission will vote Jan. 11 on the proposal that would require PG&E to seek clean alternatives to replace the three fossil-fuel plants.

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PG&E customers face higher bills under PUC battery plan

PG&E customers might confront higher monthly bills under a regulatory plan that directs the utility to seek new electricity sources, such as batteries, to replace three power plants — including one in San Jose. The power plants involved are the Metcalf Energy Center in south San Jose, along with Northern California’s Feather River Energy Center and the Yuba City Energy Center. All three now operate on fossil fuels.

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Wind Power Capacity Has Surpassed Coal in Texas

Wind power capacity edged out coal for the first time in the Texas history last week after a new 155-megawatt wind farm in Scurry County came online. The farm in question is the Fluvanna Wind Energy Project, located on some 32,000 acres leased from more than 130 landowners.

Fluvanna pushed total wind power capacity in the state to more than 20,000 megawatts, while coal capacity stands at 19,800 megawatts and is slated to fall to 14,700 megawatts by the end of 2018 thanks to planned coal powerplant closures. Next year, Luminant will shutter three coal-fired plants—Monticello, Sandow, and Big Brown—and San Antonio’s CPS Energy will close J.T. Deely Station. Wind capacity in the state will reach 24,400 megawatts by the end of 2018, according to projections from Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at UT Austin’s Energy Institute.

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California may reach 50% renewable power goal by 2020 — 10 years early

Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an ambitious law ordering California utility companies to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

It looks like they may hit that goal a decade ahead of schedule.

An annual report issued Monday by California regulators found that the state’s three big, investor-owned utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. — are collectively on track to reach the 50 percent milestone by 2020, although individual companies could exceed the mark or fall just short of it.

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Regulators recommend that the state reject a Ventura County natural gas plant

A California Energy Commission committee is urging the state to reject a proposal to build a new natural gas plant in Ventura County.

Called the Puente Energy project, the 262-megawatt power plant would be owned and operated by NRG, a Houston-based electricity company. NRG contracted with Southern California Edison to supply power to the utility.

In what the regulators themselves called an “unusual” statement, the two-member committee said that the proposed plant, set for construction on Mandalay Bay in Oxnard, conflicted with state laws and goals for communities and the environment.

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New York’s Zero Emission Credit For Upstate Nuclear Plants Upheld

Nuclear plants in New York will continue to receive payments collected from all in-state load serving entities (LSE) in recognition of their clean energy contributions. Those payments, which might be as high as $8 billion over a ten year period, may also be as low as zero during years in which the average wholesale price of electricity rises to a level at which selling power becomes profitable for the qualifying plants. In a decision filed July 25, Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed the motions filed by various electrical generators and trade groups of electrical generators that challenged the constitutionality of the New York Public Service Commission’s decision to create a Zero Emission Credit program.

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Market transformation will end dominance of electrical utilities, regulators predict

California is poised for a swift transformation of its electricity landscape — and that could bring tumult if preparations aren’t made soon to maintain quality and avoid reliability problems like rolling blackouts, the state’s leading energy regulator is warning. After decades of dominance by investor-owned utilities, electricity markets in the state are becoming more competitive. Ratepayers today have a growing number of choices for powering their lights, laptops and electric cars — from installing rooftop solar panels and consumer-scale batteries to joining increasingly popular government-run electricity programs known as community choice aggregation, or CCA. Currently, investor-owned utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric together buy and sell more than 75 percent of the state’s electricity. Their collective share could plunge to 10 percent within the next five years, with CCA programs causing most of the change, according to the state’s most aggressive forecast. More conservative estimates still show major shifts away from the utilities.

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The DWP’s biggest union is in line to get six raises by 2021

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who campaigned four years ago as someone who would stand up for Department of Water and Power ratepayers, is pushing a proposal to give six raises within five years to more than 9,000 workers at the utility.

The salary agreement, backed Tuesday by Garcetti’s appointees on the DWP board, would provide raises of least 13.2% and as much as 22.3% by October 2021, depending on inflation. Beyond that, the pact would deliver a 4% boost over two years to the base pay of hundreds of DWP electrical distribution mechanics, also known as linemen.

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Plan To Regionalize Western Power Grid Stalls Post-Trump

California energy regulators say the state could benefit from sharing more electricity with its neighbors during heat waves such as this week’s, but a proposal to do so has stalled after the election of President Trump. . . . “We will reduce costs for everybody. We will reduce pollution. We will improve system reliability, and these are all reasons to do this,” says Cavanagh. Last August, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote to leadership in the Legislature that he would look to pass a proposal earlier this year. “I have directed my staff, the Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board to continue working with the Legislature,” Brown wrote. “The goal is to develop a strong proposal that the Legislature can consider in January.” That still hasn’t happened, although the governor has maintained he still supports regionalization.

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Rising solar generation in California coincides with negative wholesale electricity prices

On March 11, utility-scale solar generation in the territory of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) accounted for almost 40% of net grid power produced during the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is the first time CAISO has achieved these levels, reflecting an almost 50% growth in utility-scale solar photovoltaic installed capacity in 2016. The large and growing amount of solar generation has occasionally driven power prices on the CAISO power exchange during late winter and early spring daylight hours to very low, and sometimes negative, prices. However, consumers in California continue to pay average retail electricity prices that are among the highest in the nation.

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Investors Are Building Their Own Green-Power Lines

Altogether, these and other merchant-transmission projects could cost upward of $17 billion, plus at least a further $20 billion in wind, solar and hydro projects to fill these lines. There are no federal subsidies available for building transmission lines, though wind farm developers are eligible to tap a U.S. tax credit for building new production.

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Northern California customers fume as PG&E bills soar

The 13 percent increase in natural gas rates took effect in August, but consumers didn’t feel the pinch until December, when residents turned up their thermostats in the face of a particularly cold and wet season. Electricity rates were raised three times in the past year. Combined, electricity and gas rates for PG&E customers are an average of 21 percent higher than they were a year ago, said utility spokesman Donald Cutler.

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Edison and Tesla unveil giant energy storage system

The facility at the utility’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario contains nearly 400 Tesla PowerPack units on a 1.5-acre site, which can store enough energy to power 2,500 homes for a day or 15,000 homes for four hours. The utility will use the collection of lithium-ion batteries, which look like big white refrigerators, to gather electricity at night and other off-peak hours so that the electrons can be injected back into the grid when power use jumps.

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