CAISO Warns of Possible Summer Blackouts Because of Aliso Canyon
The inactive Southern California Gas Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility this summer could cause energy shortages and imperil electric reliability, according to CAISO and other agencies.
The storage facility, which was shut down after leaking 100,000 metric tons of gas this winter, represents more than 64% of SoCalGas’ storage capacity, according to a report issued by CAISO, the Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The facility supplies fuel to 17 gas-fired power plants that account for about 70% of generation capacity in the region. It won’t be returned to service until later this year.
“Aliso Canyon plays an essential role in maintaining both natural gas and electric reliability in the greater Los Angeles area,” the agencies said in a statement. “As a result, the facility’s limited current operations create a distinct possibility of electricity service interruptions in the coming summer months.”
More: Power Magazine
Cyber Fears Prompt Call for Utility Meetings
A Public Utilities Regulatory Authority report released last week lays out plans to strengthen the cybersecurity of water, gas and electricity systems in the state through voluntary, cooperative efforts with utilities.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the new PURA report offers “a road map to support cybersecurity defenses” for utilities. The report calls for annual closed-door meetings with utilities to review and improve cybersecurity measures.
Electricity, water and gas utilities agreed to participate in the annual reviews, according to the report, but telecommunications companies have balked, fearing the process could lead to more state regulation.
More: Hartford Courant
Ameren Electric, Gas Customers to See Lower Rates
Ameren Illinois is expected to submit a service delivery plan this month that will decrease 2017 rates by $14 million, the fourth decrease since 2011 when the state’s Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act was adopted.
The utility said natural gas customers also should see a drop in the supply portion of their bill beginning this month because of a nearly 4-cent reduction in the per-therm cost of the fuel.
More: Belleville News-Democrat
Misery Ridge Wind Turbines Fought Amid Bankruptcy Fears
An opposition group said that uncertainty over embattled SunEdison’s financial future is reason to stall the company’s plan to erect a wind turbine project in the state.
SunEdison, whose bankruptcy is reported to be imminent, has not yet filed a site application for a 26-turbine wind farm in Misery Ridge, but it placed meteorological towers at the site last year to measure conditions.
“We felt it was important to get it out there and let everyone know that there could be some serious problems if SunEdison goes bankrupt,” said Richard McDonald, a member of the steering committee for the Moosehead Region Futures Committee.
More: Portland Press Herald
New Law Forces State to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Gov. Larry Hogan last week signed a bill that will require Maryland to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, reauthorizes the 2009 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, which compels the state to reduce emissions to 25% below 2006 levels by 2020.
It also added a new target: 40% below 2006 levels by 2030.
More: The Washington Post
Man Charged in Power Line Plot
A 61-year-old man faces terrorism charges in U.S. District Court after authorities found several incendiary devices attached to National Grid high-voltage power lines, including one that started a brush fire. The lines carry power to Greater Boston from Canada.
Danny M. Kelly was held without bail after police found a note on one of the power poles that demanded that National Grid help the author persuade the judicial system to pay him back for the “damage they did to my family.” Kelly was convicted a decade ago of cutting telecommunications cables in five towns.
Authorities said that the bombs contained thermite, which could be used to cut through metal.
More: The Boston Globe
Temporary Wind Data Towers Now Require Visible Markings
A new state law will require visible markings on temporary meteorological towers used to gather data for wind energy projects, which critics say can be quickly erected and are difficult for low-flying pilots to see. The National Transportation Safety Board reports three fatal aircraft collisions with such towers since 2003.
As of May 30, any tower 50 feet or taller will be covered by the law. Previously, towers under the 200-foot federal threshold were exempt from a requirement for orange-and-white obstruction markings.
“We are very pleased the governor and Legislature passed this law quickly,” said Mike Trout, Aeronautics Commission director. The towers “can be very problematic for agricultural, balloon and helicopter pilots to see.”
Senate Considers Formula Ratemaking Bill
A utility-supported bill that would change how investor-owned electric utilities are regulated has advanced to the floor of the Senate for debate. The “21st Century Grid Modernization and Security Act” uses formula ratemaking and would weaken state utility regulators’ authority in rate-setting.
Ameren argues the bill would provide predictable rate increases that are needed to quickly recoup investments in the aging electric grid. Several large industrial customers oppose the bill, saying the new system will cause rates to rise beyond projections.
Illinois passed a similar set of rules in 2011.
More: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Governor: New Owners For Troubled Colstrip Plant
Gov. Steve Bullock said April 5 he is forming a working group to explore an ownership change for three of the four units at Washington’s 2,100-MW Colstrip power plant, one of the nation’s largest coal-fired power complexes. The plant faces pressure from competitive market forces and the increasing cost of regulatory compliance.
The units are now owned by Avista, NorthWestern Energy, PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric, Puget Sound Energy and Talen Energy. Washington state has passed a law that would allow PSE to set aside money for the closure of Colstrip’s two oldest units, built in the 1970s.
More: The Associated Press
State Lawmakers Beat Filibuster, Advance Wind Energy Bill
State lawmakers have advanced a bill that will remove a requirement that wind energy developers need a power purchase agreement in place in order to serve out-of-state markets. Advocates say the measure will encourage more private development of wind farms that would otherwise go to other states.
Opponents tried to halt the proposal by arguing it would only help prop up an industry that relies on federal tax subsidies. But supporters said it would boost development that would generate tax revenue and lease payments for state residents.
The state ranks third nationally in the intensity of its winds, but lags most surrounding prairie states when it comes to installed wind-generating capacity. The proposal would liberate wind developers from having to arrange a power purchase agreement with out-of-state electricity buyers before getting approvals for wind projects aimed at serving regional markets.
More: Omaha World-Herald
Senate Leader Opposes Kinder Morgan Pipeline
Republican Senate President Chuck Morse is taking a stand against Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project, citing what he called the company’s dismissive attitude to the state’s regulatory authority.
“Given that there are pipeline projects being proposed in New England that provide similar benefits to New Hampshire with far less impacts, I believe that the NED pipeline, as currently proposed, is not the best project to address our current energy market problems,” he wrote in a recent letter to the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission and the state commissioner of environmental services.
Morse told the New Hampshire Union Leader his decision was prompted by Kinder Morgan’s letter to FERC reminding the agency that any restrictions imposed by the state would be pre-empted by federal law. The proposed pipeline would carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England, with an 80-mile route across the state.
Senate Bill Doubles Eligible Solar Sales
The Senate approved a bill that would double the statewide quota of solar energy that utilities are required to buy from customer generators and direct regulators to modify the net-metering rules to stop cost-shifting.
House Bill 1116, which would increase the amount of solar power produced from 50 MW to 100 MW, would help the industry retain about 700 jobs, proponents said. Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has called for increasing the net metering cap, said she would sign the bill.
The bill also directs the Public Utilities Commission to develop an alternative rate that would be paid to solar generators so that the rates of nonsolar customers are not adversely affected by the shift to distributed power.
Gov. Cuomo Urged To Block Pipeline
Activists led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. protested outside the state Capitol to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to block a FERC-approved shale gas pipeline project by denying it state water protection permits.
The planned $750 million Constitution Pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to a pipeline serving New England, needs a water quality permit from the state to move forward. FERC approved the project in December 2014 and upheld its ruling in February. (See FERC Upholds Constitution Pipeline OK.)
Climate change activists have mounted political pressure on Cuomo to halt the project, whose construction they say would harm the environment and whose operation would enable the consumption of greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels.
More: Times Union
Cayuga Fire Started During Plant Maintenance
A fire in the smokestack of the coal-fired Cayuga power plant outside Ithaca was contained within 90 minutes on Wednesday, causing no injuries and having no effect on power generation.
The fire broke out during routine maintenance of the plant’s Unit 2 turbine, according to Cayuga Operating Co. The power plant’s Unit 1 turbine remains functional. “The fire does not appear to be related to any of the generating equipment or to the power plant itself; it’s something that’s within the structure,” Tompkins County Emergency Response Director Lee Shurtleff said.
State regulators in February rejected a ratepayer-subsidized plan to repower the coal-fired plant with natural gas. A transmission project that could imperil the plant’s future was approved at that time. (See Cayuga Coal Plant in Jeopardy.)
More: Ithaca Journal
GE Installing 3 MW Of Solar Power
General Electric is installing about 3 MW of solar panels on its Schenectady headquarters and Healthcare facility in North Greenbush.
The company’s new smart grid division, known as “Current, powered by GE,” will install the solar panels on rooftops, car ports and on the ground. They will produce 75 million kWh of electricity over 20 years.
The two sites are among 18 GE facilities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that are getting solar panels.
More: Albany Times Union
Offshore Wind Farms Would Impact Beach Tourism, Study Says
A North Carolina State University economic study concludes that many tourists would be unwilling to rent beach houses if they included a view of offshore wind farms. The study from the NC State Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy also reports that tourists would expect to receive discounted rates if their viewshed included wind turbines.
“There was a lot of support for wind energy, but no one was willing to pay more to see wind turbines from the beach by their vacation rental property,” said Laura Taylor, the center’s director. “And if turbines are built close to shore, most people said they would choose a different vacation location where they wouldn’t have to see turbines.
“However, the good news is that our results also show that if turbines are built further than 8 miles from shore, the visual impacts diminish substantially for many survey respondents, and it is unlikely the turbines would negatively impact coastal vacation property markets,” she said.
Black Fork Wind Project Gets More Time for Development
Canadian energy company Capital Power has received a two-year extension from state regulators to start work on its proposed 200-MW Black Fork wind project.
The company acquired the project among 10 solar and wind developments when it bought Element Power in 2014 for $69 million.
Construction is set to start next year on the wind farm, which will be sited on 14,800 acres in Crawford and Richland counties and interconnect with the PJM grid at the 138-kV Howard substation.
OCC to Decide Fate of OG&E’s Scrubber Plans
The Corporation Commission conducted a three-day hearing on Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s plan to install costly scrubbers on its 1,138-MW Sooner coal-fired plant. This is OG&E’s third attempt for scrubber approval; regulators voted down two earlier attempts in December.
OG&E said its plan to install a $500 million scrubber upgrade at the twin-unit plant would ensure its customers get the benefits of low-price coal for another 30 years. If regulators grant scrubber approval, the utility would come back after the project is built to add the costs to customer bills.
More: The Oklahoman
TransCanada Estimates Pipeline Leak at 16,800 Gallons
TransCanada officials last week estimated that a leak in the Keystone pipeline released about 400 barrels of crude oil, or about 16,800 gallons. The cause of the leak is under investigation.
TransCanada shut down the pipeline after the leak was discovered April 2, about 4 miles from a pump station in Hutchinson County. The pipeline, with a daily capacity of about 550,000 barrels, runs from Alberta to Oklahoma. The loss of the capacity is not expected to impact the market for crude oil, which is already oversupplied.
More: The Associated Press
Tighter Renewable Siting Rules Concern Farmers
New rules proposed in the state that would grant local governments more power over siting renewable energy projects are raising concerns among farmers who think their interest in the energy projects might be diminished.
Regulations proposed in Senate Bill 230 could saddle landowners with added fees and siting restrictions for solar, wind and manure-digester projects. It will unfairly burden farmers, said Jeff Forward, board chairman of Renewable Energy Vermont, an industry advocacy group.
The renewable energy advocacy group also said that “last-minute amendments” to the bill primarily represent the interests of “a small, vocal minority of Vermonters” and “pose serious consequences for electric ratepayers and the more than 16,000 employees comprising our state’s clean energy economy.”
More: Burlington Free Press
Gov. Walker Lifts State’s Nuclear Ban
Gov. Scott Walker has signed 2015 Assembly Bill 384, revoking the state’s moratorium on new nuclear plants. The law orders the Public Service Commission to consider nuclear reactor construction before it can approve any new nonrenewable combustible-energy facilities.
The law revokes a 1983 state law, enacted four years after the Three Mile Island accident, which banned the state from considering new nuclear facilities until a national nuclear waste storage facility was constructed. There is still no waste repository, but nuclear advocates are renewing a push for atomic energy as a viable emission-free alternative to fossil fuel generation.
The state has one nuclear station, the Point Beach Nuclear Plant operated by NextEra Energy on Lake Michigan.
More: The Associated Press