CMP: Bill to Create Consumer-owned Utility Amounts to ‘Hostile Takeover’
A bill that would create a consumer-owned power company to “restore local ownership and control of Maine’s power delivery systems” received strong support from disgruntled ratepayers at a public hearing last week but was challenged by Central Maine Power as a constitutionally questionable proposal that would reduce grid investment and reliability.
Following the hearing on LD 1646, CMP President and CEO Doug Herling issued a statement that left no uncertainty about the state’s largest electric utility’s stance on the bill.
“The Maine Power Delivery Authority bill, LD 1646, proposes to seize private company assets that are not for sale and put them into the public domain; there are serious constitutional questions about this proposal and the business community should be concerned about this precedent,” Herling stated. “Maine people should also question how a public body can dedicate the necessary investment and the daily operating knowledge to manage electric service in Maine.”
PUC Approves Agreements for Xcel to Service to Google Data Center
The Public Utilities Commission last week approved agreements for Xcel Energy to provide electric service to a proposed new Google data center.
The commission approved several electric service agreements and related ratemaking treatments submitted by Xcel. The data center would be owned and operated by Honeycrisp Power, an affiliate of Google. The facility would be located in Becker on property adjacent to Xcel’s Sherco coal plants.
The PUC found that the proposals by Xcel are in the public interest because of the economic development and jobs associated with the project, both locally and across the state. The addition of Google as a customer will help enable Xcel to meet its revenue requirements without raising its rates.
More: Daily Energy Insider
Bill Would Severely Curtail Ability of Businesses to Leave NV Energy
State Sen. Chris Brooks (D) last week introduced a bill that would add numerous new restrictions and requirements for businesses that already have or are in the process of departing NV Energy’s electric service.
The bill would now require any business applying to leave the utility prove that such an exit would be “in the public interest.” Current law allows large customers to file an application with the Public Utilities Commission to obtain power from another source, as long as it is determined the exit isn’t contrary to public benefit and the departing business pays an “impact” fee to offset any financial burden that other customers would pay.
Under the bill, exits would be much more limited and require several more steps before they take place. It would require NV Energy to include in its integrated resource plan the total amount of energy that departed customers can purchase from outside providers.
More: The Nevada Independent
BPU Going to Court over $300M Nuclear Bailout
The Board of Public Utilities is going in front of a court over hundreds of millions a year in ratepayer subsidies it approved for Public Service Enterprise Group last month.
The Rate Counsel last week filed an appeal of the board’s decision to award PSEG $900 million over three years. The appeal will be heard in the state Superior Court’s Appellate Division.
PSEG said it needed the hefty subsidy, paid for by an increase in people’s electric bills, or else it would close its three nuclear units in Salem County. But that assessment was disputed by the Rate Counsel and the PJM Independent Market Monitor, which reviewed PSEG’s financial statements and argued the firm did not need support from residents to stop its nuclear units from shuttering.
More: Press of Atlantic City
PRC Unanimously Rejects Rehearing on PNM Tx Line for Facebook
The Public Regulation Commission unanimously rejected motions to reconsider a decision to charge Facebook nearly half the cost of a new $85 million transmission line.
Public Service Company of New Mexico and two other intervenors had asked the five-member commission to reconsider its mid-April decision, which said PNM could not charge general ratepayers anything for building the transmission line because the utility had said the line would only serve a new Facebook data center. However, PNM has since corrected its testimony, calling the line a “network upgrade” that benefits both wholesale and retail customers.
But the commission rejected those motions at its open meeting last week. It said PNM and the other parties did not explicitly ask to reopen the case record for new evidence to be entered through a formal rehearing, forcing it to rely on existing evidence in the record. PNM could appeal to the state Supreme Court.
More: Albuquerque Journal
DEC Rejects Williams Pipeline
The Department of Environmental Conservation last week rejected Williams Co.’s application to construct a nearly $1 billion, 37-mile natural gas pipeline through the state.
The Northeast Pipeline Enhancement is intended to expand the existing Transco natural gas pipeline system. It would run entirely underwater, with 23.5 miles through the New York Bay.
In a statement announcing its decision, the department noted that it had received comments from more than 45,000 people about the project, 90% of whom opposed it. It said that construction would contaminate waters with mercury and copper.
More: The New York Times
OCC Approves OG&E’s Plant Acquisition Plan
The Corporation Commission last week approved Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s plan to spend about $27 million to acquire a 360-MW coal-fired plant owned by AES Shady Point. The plan also authorizes OGE to spend $26 million to buy a 146-MW natural gas-fired, combined cycle plant owned by Oklahoma Cogeneration.
The commission issued the order after spending a couple of hours hearing arguments about the competitive bidding process the utility used to make its selections and about a rate adjustment connected to its plan. The order won’t allow OGE to begin recovering costs until a pending rate case is settled.
While the deal does affect customers’ bills, utility officials said customers won’t see an increase. They said the costs to acquire the plants is less than what OGE had been paying each for power under previously existing power purchase agreements, noting they expect customers will save at least $40 million each of the next three years.
More: The Oklahoman
NorthWestern Suggests $6.5M Rate Increase, down from $34.8M
NorthWestern Energy customers would see a $6.5 million rate increase under a proposed settlement between the utility and opponents to its billing plans. The increase is down from the $34.8 million originally sought by the utility.
For months, the utility has argued that it needed to raise rates $34.8 million ($76.44 per residential customer per year). In February, the Public Utilities Commission agreed that NorthWestern could increase its rates by $10 million in the interim while the remaining $24.8 million would being considered. The $10 million rate hike already approved would be walked back as part of the settlement.
The settlement agreement also preserves a 10% return on equity for NorthWestern’s 30% ownership share of Colstrip Power Plant.
More: Billings Gazette
Otter Tail Power on Road to Increase Rates
The Public Utilities Commission approved a return on equity rate for Otter Tail Power that will allow the company to increase base rates charged to its customers.
The PUC approved an 8.75% ROE. Otter Tail argued for 10%, while PUC staff recommended 8.25%. The action comes after an analysis of Otter Tail’s request to increase customer base rates to generate about $6 million in additional revenue. The final revenue requirement is expected to be presented by Otter Tail and PUC staff for approval on May 28.
More: Capjournal Bureau
MGE Targets Carbon-neutral Electricity by 2050
Madison Gas & Electric last week set a goal to eventually eliminate or offset all carbon emissions, joining a handful of investor-owned utilities that have committed to full decarbonization by 2050.
CEO Jeff Keebler said MGE’s future requires “ambitious and critical reductions” in carbon that align with scientific recommendations for limiting global warming. He said the goal will require technologies that are not yet commercially available or cost effective, “but it is where we need to be.”
The company said its plan will rely on “significant” new renewable energy resources and reducing the use of fossil fuels. MGE had previously committed to cutting 80% of carbon emissions by 2050.
More: Wisconsin State Journal