Renewable energy legislation at a crucial point

OK folks, I need your input here. Renewable energy legislation has been slowly starting to come together in the General Assembly and is at a crucial point. There is legislation in the House and Senate to require utilities to get more energy from renewable source. I'm proud to have joined Reps. Pricey Harrison, Jim Harrell, and Carolyn Justice in introducing the House bill (H77). There's been an ongoing series of negotiations between the utilities, industrial rate payers, environmental groups, etc. Things are coming to a head and the Senate is likely to vote on a version of their bill next week.

The Raleigh N&O ran a story from the AP that does a good job of describing where things stand now. Please take a minute to read it and give me your input on what the next step is.

Comments

I dont know

The fact that some environmental groups say its good and some say its bad makes it hard to decide.

Im with Rep Harrison, I dont see why if we want renewable energy we are going to make life easier for companies that refuse to provide it.

Its like slapping them and then giving them a million dollars, when we should be slapping them and taking a million.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

PS

thanks for stopping by, I hope this post turns into a lot of letter writing later on.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

No blank check for new plant construction!

Grier,

Thanks very much for raising this question publicly.

H77 is one of the most important bills of this session, and the renewable/efficiency standard for utilities is sorely needed.

Having said that, it is even more critical that utilities not get the blank check of essentially guaranteed "construction work in progress" (CWIP) financing for their coal and nuclear plant construction. That would represent an economic and environmental disaster in the making.

The reason is simple: If the utilities are guaranteed that ratepayers/consumers will pay for whatever plants they build, they will build more than we need--regardless of what is done with renewables and efficiency investment. Utility profits are based primarily on the interplay between the size of their rate base and their rate of return. Therefore, the bigger their rate base (the value of their plants and other facilities), the more potential they have for high profits to their stockholders.

Transferring the entire risk of new construction from their stockholders to the public ratepayers, via CWIP financing, skews their entire planning process. New baseload (coal and nuclear) construction becomes a vastly more attractive proposition, with little or no downside risk to the corporation.

I remember from 1982, when I was already working on this issue on behalf of consumer and conservation groups, the dramatic impact that legislative repeal of automatic CWIP had on new plant construction planning in North Carolina. That action was critical in pulling the final plug on several unneeded nuclear units that were holding on in the utility planning process, purely on the articificial life support of guaranteed consumer financing.

For the sake of our environment and our pocketbooks, please insist that the CWIP "blank check" provisions be stripped from any bill that moves forward in this session. If we have to wait an extra year to get the renewable portfolio standard, that's not good, but it's better than approving expanded CWIP.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor

Dan Besse

Horse trading

I understand the mechanics of horse-trading in concept, but I don't understand them here.

The mandate for an increase in the amount of renewable energy is about serving the public good. Ideally, it would be supported by anyone who cares at all about the inevitable oil crunch, as well as global warming, just as new CAFE standards were supported in Congress this week over the strong objections of automakers.

A required increase in the amount of renewable energy should not be contingent on an unrelated quid pro quo - and certainly not on technologies that exacerbate global warming. Base-load financing for coal power, for example, should be off the table completely.

In fact, base-load financing should be off the table in any instance. Which means you'll need more variables to throw into the negotiating pot. For example, the assurance of expedited review on certain power company initiatives might mean more to them than financing for projects that may never happen.

Also, I recommend moving "nuclear" into a separate category for discussion. While it does have significant risks in terms of waste and accidents, I don't see those risks as being as damaging as the risks of continued reliance on fossil fuels (carbon emissions). I know that I part company with most progressives on this issue, but here's how I see it: If we could have powered the world over the past 100 years with nuclear power instead of oil, coal and natural gas, wouldn't that have been preferable given the climate change impacts we're dealing with today? I know, I know, there's that pesky waste issue. To which I say - we could have solved it for less money than we're spending on Bush's war in Iraq.

I know this isn't all that helpful, so let me summarize: If you have to do horse trading, the horse called "base load financing" is not one that makes much sense to me.

More to the point, I don't actually see why the power companies even have a seat at this particular table.

It's all a balance

I'm a long term BlueNC reader who is from Colorado. As a state we passed a ballot amendment to force utilities to provide 10% of their energy from renewables and it has been good. At the same time the legislature (now democrat lead for the first time in 40 years) is increasing the strictures on coal fired power plants. I also work for the power company as a lineman so I see that business from the inside. I think rolling things together like this article states is not terribly helpful. The U.S. has an incredible amount of available coal and ignoring that resource just is not prudent. Forcing those companies who use the affordable resource to invest in scrubbing technology is both necessary and possible. The balancing act between the environment and the U.S. need for affordable energy has never been more precarious. Nuclear power does have inherent risks and disposal problems but it can be done efficiently and it provides an alternative for providing power during the high need hours when things like solar and wind aren't so reliable. Part of the problem with renewables is that the energy needs vary during the day and the energy providers must meet that need per instructions from their regulating public utility commissions. In short? They aren't allowed to tell customers that they just don't have power for them when they wake up in the morning or cook dinner at night. Coal, and nuclear energy do this. So does Natural Gas but we are now on the "red" side of natural gas use as well in that we import it to meet the current need so building power plants fueled with it only leads to a greater dependance on unreliable foreign resouces.

Keeping these types of issues seperate allows for a much greater attention to the nuances of each. I recommend that. Colorado's law on renewables has lead to the public utility providing for a 50% rebate on solar installations by customers and the construction of the U.S.'s largest solar field as well as a large investment in wind technology. It has been good. Restrictions on coal emmissions have also been good. If those issues had been rolled together I don't think the net result would have been as beneficial.

Good luck, these are not easy choices.

Thank you for your input

I'm on a flyby, so will digest later. It's good to hear from someone with an "inside" view.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

No more coal plants

I don't care if that means no renewable energy standards--if we build more coal plants, that means more coal burned. That should be completely off the table. If you want to reduce global warming, renewable energy only works if it's replacing fossil fuels, not supplementing it as fossil fuel consumption increases. Every lump of coal burned digs us in deeper.

There just isn't any point in giving incentives to build more coal plants. If you want to provide incentives to produce more electricity, offer more money to consumers who use solar/wind to add electricity to the power grid. Or offer incentives for sustainable building and urban planning to reduce consumption.

Thanks for stopping by and asking. I remember reading a Doonesbury comic printed in the 70s, during Watergate, about a Congressman wrestling with the impeachment decision and coming to his home district and talking to some constituents in a local store. I just figured that nothing like that happened anymore because a Wal-Mart just doesn't have the same atmosphere as a mom-and-pop for serious discussion. Plus, I'm "represented" by Viriginia Foxx, Burr and Dole, 4 winger county commissioners and 4 winger school board members who don't give a damn about me. So it's nice to see that some elected officials do care.

Hey old man

Thanks for weighing in on this. Getting the perspective of front-line power guy is something we rarely have a chance to do, and lord knows, you get it done on the front lines.

A

PS BlueNC friends, pagandenman is the guy who goes out in snow storms and restores your electricity . . . or handles downed utility poles when some drunk smashes them with a car. He's a saint, in other words.

This is important,

but it's equally important that we not expose ourselves to an unnecessary drain on revenues that ends up taking us nowhere.

We need to closely evaluate the cost/benefit of each and every aspect of this legislation that diverts taxpayer monies to private utility companies, to make sure there are no false economies at work here.

2 cents

Whatever we do with renewables we have to start doing it now. The state population is headed towards a 50% increase by 2030. Renewables and efficiency can take a big chunk out of that. There is still going to be a gap in total demand and in base load that has to be filled. I don't think they should be lumped together in one REP bill.

Lisa Sorg has written an article: Insider "605" meetings shape laws about how Senate Bill 3 has been massaged to reflect utility interests more closely than House Bill 77. I'm just as annoyed that environmental insiders have been part of this as I am that utilities have been involved without public sunshine. What I fear is a consensus of parochial interests that is less than satisfactory for stakeholders not invited to the table.

I have to agree

that Nuclear power must be part of the solution. What to do with the waste is a sticky issue, but at least the waste can be contained. The same cannot be said with a coal powered plant and its greenhouse gas emissions.

Population growth and the ever growing number of gadgets in our homes are leading to an ever-increasing demand for power. Renewables and conservation must play a big role in meeting that demand. But not only should we never build another coal plant, we should be working to replace the ones we have with nuclear power.

I'm sorry,

but if that Duke Rep thinks this,

"We believe nuclear has to be a solution," said Scott Gardner of Duke Energy during an animated conversation with Luebke in front of reporters, adding, "There is no incentive for the utilities to do renewable energy."

then I'm going to have to rethink that voluntary $4 block a month I give them to use renewables.

If the powers that be can't wrap their heads around the iminent need for solar, windpower and biofuels then they will be cut out of the picture. Who needs the poisons they spew. Conservation has to be the biggest part of the equation but there is SO much more that can be done there.

Nuclear is different

We need more nuclear plants, but that's because we don't need any new coal plants.

1 Thessalonians 5:21: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

The Lesser of Two Evils Type Choice

Man, how I wish we could just have some good choices for a change.

More renewables: solar, wind, waste to energy ... geothermal...

I think the utilities push for coal & nuclear because that's where they see profit. They don't see profit in the others. If they did, that's where they'd be headed.

Renewable energy means renewable energy

Would Alcoholics Anonymous require that you take a shot of vodka as step one in their twelve step program? No - that's ridiculous. So why would we have a renewable energy bill that supports coal and nuclear - as well as giving financial incentives for the continued use of hog lagoons?

This bill isn't ready for prime time. Unless you work for the utilities...

The House would show true leadership - along with environmental stewardship and consumer protection - by working to either remove the bad provisions in S3 or stopping the bill until it truly just deals with renewable energy. We can wait until next year to get this right.

except

I think the Senate might own the liquor store instead of being a member of AA

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

Which Makes Me Wonder -

Who is invested in the Utilities and to what extent?

Anyway to find out? Any conflict of interest there.

And before you ask, yes, I have a suspicious mind and I always suspect ulterior motives.

Unique's first rule of politics: Trust No One.

Agreed ...

Corporations are seeing Global Climate Change as a grand opportunity for subsidies. Politicians are under tremendous pressure to implement and sustain tax credits, tax exemptions, direct payments, and research grants for corporate "greenwashing".

The new title of S3, (which was Promote Renewable Energy / Energy Efficiency), is now Promote Renewable Energy / Baseload Generation. NC Conservation Network reports 13 "stakeholder"/"605" meetings, or 53 hours, according to George Givens. His overview of major components of the bill were divided into three parts – Renewable and Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), baseload financing (new coal and nuclear), and various tax provisions. This Senate version has changed dramatically from it's original, and from House Bill 77.

As Pricey points out in her weekly update:

The bill also makes it easier to build new nuclear and coal fired power plants (regardless of the merits, they have no connection to renewable energy).

NC's Energy Policy can be progressive, or "just go along", with nuclear, "clean" coal, hog manure, etc. as "renewable", thus eligible for substantial subsidies and further polluting. Undermining and delaying an inevitable move towards solar, wind and reduction of waste would be a waste of taxpayer money.

In it's current form, Senate Bill 3 takes us back to the 20th century, which is contradictory to the original intent. That this very important legislation has been formed through a long and intensive "605" process is disturbing, and certainly requires more time.

zate,

did you coin the "greenwashing" term. I lurve it.

Nope ...

Greenwashing is what astroturf groups do.
Grassroots groups note that it has been going on for a long time!

Is it possible to exempt coal from CWIP?

I understand the impetus for CWIP in the face of the renewables requirement, but could there be a stipulation that CWIP *not* be used for coal, and possibly nuclear?

I think on balance, CWIP for coal plants just cannot work. Coal is simply too problematic a power source, and it's not just greenhouse gases and acid rain, although those are certainly huge problems. It's also the mountaintop removal used to mine coal, as well as the terrible working conditions and risks that miners have to endure.

I don't like nuclear much, but unlike NCWARN, I'm not at all interested in shuttering any nuclear plants while there's still a coal plant burning somewhere. If it makes it politically more feasible, I could see putting in a nuclear exemption into CWIP as well. I don't want to be too strict -- if CWIP gets used for natural gas plants, I could support that.

If CWIP funding for coal is locked in, could we stipulate that all coal for a CWIP-funded plant has to come from a unionized, non-mountaintop removal source? Yeah, I thought not. Oh, well.

if there is a coal plant built

we should make it as costly as possible.

We are imposing fuel efficiency standards on Ford and Chevy, why cant we impose similar things on Progress Energy?

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

You mean ...

... instead of Progress and Duke imposing risks and costs onto us taxpayers?

For that we need HB77. The House has a huge job ahead on this one!

See if you can find

all the potential loopholes in these recommendations:

Duke Energy strongly recommends policymakers use the following principles when proposing mandates on renewable power.

Begin with sensible renewable requirement levels initially and ramp up over time
Moderate the amount of renewables over time to avoid price spikes
Require all electric providers to participate including municipals, REMCs and third party suppliers
Protect and inform customers
Cap costs of renewable programs to ensure any increases on customer bills are reasonable
Conduct periodic reviews of the renewable program to determine impact on the customer
Allow compliance flexibility
Allow electric providers to use a suite of technologies to meet the renewable requirement
Allow the purchase of national renewable energy certificates to meet the requirement
Promote the use of conservation and energy efficiency
Place energy efficiency on “equal footing” with new generation - megawatts saved are as effective as any zero-emissions technology
Ensure appropriate and timely recovery of compliance costs
Allow electric providers timely recovery of all costs plus a return on renewable supply acquisitions

They left out: Help us think up other creative ways to suck up taxpayers' money and dodge Federal requirements.

"Stakeholders'"

meetings supplied a whole lot of help already :)

Is there a difference between -

what it says and what it means?

This I don't understand at all:

Moderate the amount of renewables over time to avoid price spikes

Um, yeah. No - What? Moderate = limit? Produces prices spikes in what way? No - I still don't get this.

And this:

Allow electric providers timely recovery of all costs plus a return on renewable supply acquisitions

Recovery of all costs. Meaning - someone besides the utilities end up paying for the cost - ? Return on supply acquisitions means what - the sun is free, the wind is free, the equipment needs to be paid for - transmission lines from new production plants to substations have to be paid for ... so are they asking for subsidies to pay for this plus
profit?

Maybe we're all in the wrong business.

I'm dead-set opposed to new coal plants until

the technology to totally capture their emissions is available...which I'm told is 8-10 years away. According to a recent article in THE NATION

Coal is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels: For every ton you burn, three tons of carbon dioxide are created. As everyone knows, CO2 is the main greenhouse gas responsible for heating up the planet. Globally, coal is responsible for about 40 percent of all CO2 emissions. In America we burn more than a billion tons of coal a year, mostly to generate electricity. A big coal-fired power plant typically emits as much CO2 in a single year as a million SUVs

.

I also agree with "blazin" that renewable energy ought to mean renewable energy.

Lets face it. The Sun produces more energy, for free, than any other source available on earth. We in NC are blessed with a climate conducive to harnessing that energy. Rather than have utility companies build vast fields of solar panels why not provide incentives to homeowners and business to make private use of solar energy, tied into the power grid, economically feasible and to incent development of more efficient less and costly solar panels?

Today one could buy 20 170w solar panels and a 3500w inverter for about $25,000. Installing and tying into the grid...lets say another $5K. That means at any given time you could be generating 3400 watts of energy....enough to run most of the items in your home except high demand items like Water Heaters, A/C, dryers and so on. But, your lights and fridge and other stuff would pretty much be handled. At times when you had an excess...your meter would run backward and you'd be feeding the power grid.

The problem is economics...at $0.15/kwhr and a monthly bill of say $175 you're using about 1250 Kwhr or about 40kwhr a day. The above solar system would generate perhaps 20 kwhr/day...average. So you cut your bill in half, but you're still paying for the $30K investment. With your savings of say $82.50/mo, you can't even pay the interest on a loan to install the stuff...AT TODAY's RATES.

But, if there was a yearly tax credit or Investment tax credit...and rates go UP...this could be an economic winner...plus do much for the environment.

I know this is simplistic, but think of the potential. New technologies using enzyme paints to create electricity is out there... But you can bet the energy companies aren't pushing for it...just like the oil companies haven't pushed for gasoline economy.

We need some courageous and public spirited leadership on this issue...and NO baseline financing for plants we'll likely never use...or will never pay for themselves...except at taxpayer expense.

SE NC Dems

Stan Bozarth

wow

that quote is devastating. But, "the technology to totally capture their emissions is available...which I'm told is 8-10 years away"

There is no plan to make it easier to get it out of the ground I dont believe. From what I know "clean coal" is an oxymoron. And while getting it out of the ground might not create the same amount of pollution as burning it, it destroys a ton of things.

I have nothing to add on top of the rest of your comments.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

It's not just emissions

Even if we capture all the emissions, coal still has disastrous environmental effects, namely through mountaintop removal mining and mine spoil poisoning.

Even if we never build another coal plant, we'll be neck-deep in coal energy for decades to come. There's no need to make it worse than it already is.

Solar vs. Coal

What would solar power cost you?
Find out by going to www.findsolar.com .

Two articles on Coal From:
Rachel's Democracy & Health News #911, Jun. 14, 2007 (www.rachel.org)

Trojan Horse: Coal-to-Liquids
The people who make the important decisions for the U.S. have
decided that, after we run out of cheap oil, they'll just switch us to
liquid fuels made from coal. Successfully opposing this plan will
require a titanic struggle. Let's start with some basic facts about
coal-to-liquids (CTL).

Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal-to-Liquids
In his important book, Big Coal, Jeff Goodell reveals the
political influence of the coal industry. Now the coal industry has
decided it wants the U.S. taxpayer to subsidize it with tens of
billions of dollars. Both Republicans and Democrats are already riding
this gravy train.

Maybe I'm being

too clever, but what if they decided constructing renewable energy plants wasn't really necessary? From the bill:

(

e) An electric power supplier may meet the requirements of this section by:

(1) Generating electric power at a new renewable energy facility;

(2) Reducing energy consumption through the implementation of an energy efficiency measure;

(3) Purchasing electric power from a new renewable energy facility; or

(4) Any combination of subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) of this subsection.

And if (when?) they pay whatever exhorbitant price their supplier (partner?) demands, they just:

(5) Include a procedure as an alternative to the procedure set out in G.S. 62‑133 to annually adjust the rates of public utilities to allow timely recovery of all reasonable costs of complying with this section.

I'm almost done with my tinfoil hat diatribe, but there's one more thing:

(1) Allow an electric power supplier to meet up to fifty percent (50%) of its REPS requirements through savings due to the implementation of energy efficiency measures.

Assuming this isn't just an invitation to cook the kilowatt books, If they can achieve this level of savings through efficency measures, then why (in the name of all that's holy) does it take green legislation to motivate them to do such?

no tinfoil necessary.

If they can achieve this level of savings through efficency measures, then why (in the name of all that's holy) does it take green legislation to motivate them to do such?

This makes sense.

Net Metering

Addressing the point made by Stan above concerning home mounted solar arrays connected to the grid:

With the renewable requirements in Colorado, Xcel Energy (whom I work for) has drawn up a user agreement and a 50% rebate on home arrays. Their page can be found here: http://www.xcelenergy.com/XLWEB/CDA/0,3080,1-1-2_735_25709-23075-2_417_731-0,00.html

Basically they instituted a system called Net Metering. This method basically runs your meter backward during the day when your system is producing power and the biggest need is there for the business community. During the evening when you run air conditioning, cook, and all that other homey stuff the meter typically runs forward again. At the end of a one year period the account is settled up if you are still running a credit and it starts over for the next 12 month period. This eliminates the need for a customer to install battery banks or an inverter (although they can do so for short term backup if they wish) and has the wonderful advantage of evening out the generation needs for the power company. This is a positive bargaining chip because "day" power is more costly for a utility and "night" power is usually cheaper so it is a cost bonus for the utility.

Installing this system can be done either by the homeowner or by a licensed contractor, has to be coordinated with the utility for the cut over and requires about one more box on the wall where the power from the utility comes into the house. It adds around $500 to the installation if a contractor does it and about $100 if you do it.

I like this system: No toxin producing batteries to replace; no inverters that add to the cost; a community effect where we all work together to produce power for everyone; a lower utility bill for me; and a reduction in greenhouse gas emmissions when it gets popular. Only a fool would believe that the utility won't still produce all the power it can and sell it over the grid to some other state, but eventually I think it could cause less generation by coal etc to happen. (yes I'm a bit of a dreamer, someone has to do it!)

I have figured up my own cost recovery estimate and it runs somewhere around 5 years based on taking out a home equity loan to install the system and taking into account my average electricity bill. After the 5 years I'm all PROFIT! :)

This is the first time

I've actually understood this. Thanks, Denny.

Duke & Progress don't need our help to finance coal/nuke plant

This isn't just an argument about WHETHER to have new coal and nuclear, but how they will be paid for. If legislators take out the financial incentives for new nuke and coal out of the RPS legislation like S3, that doesn't mean those plants won't be built. It just means Duke and Progress might actually have to PAY for them instead of customers. Duke and Progress shouldn't get money from consumers to make bad business decisions.

Duke Energy makes around $1,800,000,000 in profits annually:
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/snapshots/443.html

Progress Energy about $700,000,000 each year:
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/snapshots/260.html

Big energy companies are already getting handouts from federal taxpayers for new nuke and coal plants: "The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained $9 billion in coal subsidies, nearly twice the incentives given to renewable programs."
- http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A38220

Coal an nuclear don't need incentives and those fuels will only get more and more expensive (not less). We need renewables and efficiency to protect consumers - and the earth from melting - so those are the only things that should be in legislation about clean energy.

House legislators should strip Senate 3 of the bad provisions for Duke and Progress and keep the clean energy bill clean.

Thanks!

Can you imagine

the impact it would have if even 25% of the populace did this?

I have figured up my own cost recovery estimate and it runs somewhere around 5 years based on taking out a home equity loan to install the system and taking into account my average electricity bill. After the 5 years I'm all PROFIT! :)

A few years ago I read an article about some Solar folks in Tennessee who were tied into the grid. Some produced surplus and others fell short of their annual usage, but the overall implications were astounding.

But if our legislators want to be green, they need to stop letting the Public/Private/Publicly traded utility companies help them craft legislation, and pursue steps to encourage individuals to be energy self-reliant. By restricting net-metered individuals from also selling through NC Greenpower, and allowing utility companies to severely limit the volume from potential home producers:

Net metering is available on a first-come, first-served basis in conjunction with the utility's interconnection standards, up to an aggregate limit of 0.2% of the utility's North Carolina jurisdictional retail peak load for the previous year.

we are helping to stifle the growth of renewable energy.