CLEAN ENERGY

ELPC’s Josh Mandelbaum Named to Midwest Energy News 40 Under 40

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2016

Contact:
David Jakubiak

Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Josh Mandelbaum Named to Midwest Energy News’ 2016 40 Under 40 Class
Des Moines-based Attorney Leads Iowa Clean Energy Work On Wind Power, Solar Energy and Energy Efficiency

DES MOINES, IOWA – Josh Mandelbaum, a staff attorney with the Midwest regional environmental advocacy group the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) was named to Midwest Energy News’ 2016 40 Under 40 Class on Wednesday. Mandelbaum was among 15 emerging leaders from the clean energy sector selected for the recognition on the first of three days of announcements. The 2016 class will be honored at a reception in Chicago on November 10.

“I’m honored to be recognized for work advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency in Iowa,” Mandelbaum said. “The 2016 class is loaded with inspiring colleagues who are bringing cleaner air and water, economic development and a 21st Century electric grid to the Midwest.”

As ELPC’s lead attorney in Iowa, Mandelbaum has played a key role advancing energy efficiency policies in Iowa which allow utility customers to save money on cost saving energy efficiency improvements. His work on solar energy has helped bring solar power to homes and businesses across the state and he recently worked on an agreement which allowed the nation’s largest wind energy project to move forward, promising billions in private investments, jobs and clean energy to the state.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders. We develop and lead successful strategic advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural resources. We are public interest environmental entrepreneurs who engage in creative business dealmaking with diverse interests to put into practice our belief that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. ELPC’s multidisciplinary staff of talented and experienced public interest attorneys, environmental business specialists, public policy advocates and communications specialists brings a strong and effective combination of skills to solve environmental problems.

A 2009 graduate of the University of Iowa Law School, Mandelbaum worked as a litigation associate with the Lane & Waterman law firm in Davenport before joining ELPC. Before law school, he worked for four years as a Senior Policy Advisor for Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, and held a fellowship at the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Secretary’s Policy Office.

Learn more about ELPCs work in Iowa.

Crain’s Detroit Business: Howard Talks About Net Metering in Michigan

Crains Detroit

September 25, 2016

Critics: Proposed Charge Could Pull Plug on Clean Energy Growth

By Jay Greene

A proposed new grid charge leveled at small solar and wind projects in legislation on the Michigan Senate floor could derail growth in the state’s net metering program that incentivizes clean energy produced by homeowners and small businesses.

Despite some changes in Michigan Senate Bills 437 and 438 — primarily sections that govern net metering program rules — businesses in the state’s small solar and wind industry say the proposed bill package could reverse more than eight years of growth in net metering by discouraging investment in small projects.

Under SB 437, the Michigan Public Service Commission would be empowered to set a “fair and equitable grid charge to apply to customers who participated in a net metering or distributed generation program.”

The proposed bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, would likely require the MPSC to hold a contested hearing before an administrative judge who would hear testimony from all sides about a grid charge. The judge would then make a recommendation to the MPSC, which the commission could accept, reject or modify in an order, said MPSC spokeswoman Judy Palnau.

Last week, Nofs distributed draft four of SB 437 S-6 to the Republican caucus. Spokesman Greg Moore told Crain’s that while Nofs wanted to hold a vote on SBs 437 and 438, which is sponsored by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, a vote on the energy package likely will be held sometime in October.

Mark Hagerty, president of Michigan Solar Solutions in Commerce Township, said his business could be adversely affected if the grid charge was too high and discouraged customers from investing $10,000 to $20,000 in a rooftop solar project.

“If the grid access fee is comparable to what other states have done (about $5 per month), there would be a slight impact,” Hagerty said. “The bill doesn’t put a cap on the fee. If it is high, it could have a substantial impact on net metering and solar.”

While Hagerty said his business is up 40 percent over last year with about 55 projects, several customers have already backed away from rooftop solar installations because of talk of changing the law. He said the vast majority of system installations are solar projects approved for net metering.

“My biggest concern is if I hire somebody, and the state changes its policy, I have to lay them off and deal with unemployment and legacy costs,” said Hagerty, who employs seven and is opening another office in Riverdale. “I hope this bill dies on the vine,” he added.

Officials for Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Energy Co., the state’s two investor-owned utilities, have told Crain’s they favor the grid charge and that the current net metering law creates unfair subsidies that must be paid for by customers who don’t own solar systems.

The utilities, which call net metering a “subsidy,” believe solar and wind customers should pay their fair share to support transmission lines, substations, transformers, meters and other infrastructure costs.

 Slow but Steady Growth

A small but growing number of people and small businesses in Michigan over the past decade have invested thousands of dollars in small solar panel arrays under 20 kilowatts to save money, improve electric grid reliability and cut down on greenhouse gases that contribute to man-made climate change, experts say.

Under Michigan’s 2008 landmark energy bill, Public Act 295, the state mandated a net metering program that gives credits to electric customers whose solar or wind power generating systems produce electric energy in excess of their needs. That electricity contributes to power grid reliability and, in effect, can provide local electricity to neighbors.

Last year, there was a 20 percent increase in net metering in Michigan, said the MPSC’s 2015 net metering and solar program report issued Sept. 12. The MPSC report said net metering increased to 2,155 customers in 2015 from 1,840 customers in 2014.

One reason for the growth is that solar panel costs have dropped 50 percent since 2010. Another reason is the net metering program gives customers credits based on retail rates.

But a grid charge fee, if set too high, could reverse those positive growth trends, said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Read More at http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20160925/NEWS/160929816/critics-proposed-charge-could-pull-plug-on-clean-energy-growth

PV Magazine: ELPC’s Klein Talks About Community Solar in Minnesota

PV Magazine

September 21. 2016

Community Solar Is (Finally) Moving Forward in Minnesota
By Christian Roselund

Mortenson Construction’s groundbreaking on the first in 11 MW of projects is part of a boom in community solar construction in the state, despite big delays in Xcel Energy’s interconnection process.

After Minnesota passed enabling legislation in 2013, the solar industry has had high hopes for community solar in the state. However, to say that progress has been slow may be an understatement.

A website tracking community solar lists only seven with less than 600 kW of combined capacity in Minnesota. In the service area of the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, only four projects have been put online for a total of around 400 kW, as of the utility’s latest regulatory filing.

This is set to change in the next few months. Yesterday Mortenson Construction, one of the nation’s largest renewable energy engineering, procurement and construction contractors, announced that it has broken ground on the first of eight community solar projects totaling 11 MW. Mortenson expects these projects to come online by early 2017, and to begin work on more projects next year.

Mortenson is building these projects in partnership with SunShare, which administers the projects and signs up subscribers, as well as WakeSun LLC, which is developing and financing the projects. The total portfolio to be built by this consortium over the next year and a half will serve around 6,000 customers.

The initial 11 MW which Mortenson is building joins another 83 MW of community solar which is currently under construction in Xcel Energy’s service area. And while these projects will represent a dramatic growth not only for community solar but Minnesota’s overall solar market, they are still only a small fraction of the projects which developers have planned for the state.

Xcel’s latest filing shows applications for 876 community solar projects in different stages of interconnection review, totaling 820 MW. Another 1,226 projects representing nearly 1.2 GW of capacity have been withdrawn.

Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) Senior Attorney Bradley Klein says that much of the delay in putting community solar online is due to Xcel’s interconnection process, which he describes as “extremely slow”, noting that the process for approval “hasn’t been transparent”.

“I think that there were legitimate challenges, related to the amount of interest and applications that went in at one time,” Klein told pv magazine. “I don’t think Xcel was equipped to handle them, in part because the rules in place were outdated.”

Read More at https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2016/09/21/community-solar-is-finally-moving-forward-in-minnesota/

ELPC’s Learner & Shah make 2016 “Who’s Who” List

Crain’s Chicago Business publishes an annual “Who’s Who in Chicago” list of movers and shakers. The 2016 list features ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner as one of the 561 people whose names you need to know, from Fortune 500 CEOs to civic leaders and philanthropists. Click here to see the full list.

Crain’s also published a list of the 100 most-connected people in business, with ELPC Board member Smita Shah as #19. Smita heads up Spaan Tech Inc., an engineering, construction and architecture firm.

Crains

Press Release: Environmental Groups Call For Strong Net Metering Standards in Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 1, 2016

Contact:

David Jakubiak, ELPC

Katy Heggen, IEC

Utility Proposals Filed in Iowa Solar Energy Case
Environmental Groups Renew Call for Strong Net Metering Standards

On July 19, 2016, the Iowa Utilities Board issued a strong order preserving the existing net metering framework. The order also requires utilities to file pilot net metering tariffs designed to encourage renewable energy development. On Wednesday, MidAmerican Energy and Interstate Power and Light Company filed proposals with the Board.

The Iowa Environmental Council and Environmental Law & Policy Center are reviewing the utilities’ proposals. We look forward to receiving input from solar developers, customers, and other stakeholders, and continuing to work with the utilities to effectively implement the Board’s order to preserve and expand net metering and encourage more renewable energy in Iowa. In addition, we think the intent of the Board was to allow customers to net meter up to 100 percent of their annual energy usage. We are concerned that the requirement to have the cash out in January limits this. We look forward to working with all stakeholders and the Board to address this issue moving forward.

“We commend MidAmerican for proactively working with stakeholders to address concerns about the definition of 100 percent of load and allowing third party financed systems to net meter in its initial filing,” said Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We are disappointed that IPL did not address concerns that we shared in developing this filing, but we are hopeful that they will make improvements going forward.”

“Iowa has the potential to be a leader in solar, just as we are for wind, and growing solar energy benefits our economy and environment,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director at the Iowa Environmental Council. “Net metering is one of the key policies to encourage more solar, which the Board order recognizes, and we expect the utilities to implement the pilots to achieve this goal.”

Power Magazine: Huge New Wind Farm Commended By ELPC

Image result for power magazine logo

August 29, 2016

Huge Iowa Wind Farm Gets Go-Ahead 

By Thomas Overton

MidAmerican Energy’s Wind XI project in Iowa, which will comprise up to 2 GW of total generation, has received approval from state regulators to proceed with construction, the company said.

The $3.6 billion project will place 1,000 turbines at several sites still to be finalized. Plans were announced in April 2016, and the Iowa Utilities Board on Aug. 29 gave approval to proceed. The company is not asking for a rate increase or assistance from the state to pay for it.

State and local environmental groups hailed the decision.

“The economic, environmental and community benefits derived from wind energy are clear and compelling in Iowa,” said Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We look forward to working with MidAmerican and the Utilities Board to help the state fully realize those benefits as the project gets underway, and to helping advance other wind, solar and energy efficiency projects that will accelerate Iowa’s transition to clean energy.”

Read More at http://www.powermag.com/huge-iowa-wind-farm-gets-go-ahead/

 

News: ELPC, Iowa Environmental Council Commend Approval of Wind XI

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2016

Contact:

David Jakubiak

Environmental Groups Commend Approval of Nation’s Largest Wind Project
Wind XI Extends Iowa’s National Clean Energy Lead

The Iowa Environmental Council joined the Environmental Law & Policy Center on Monday in commending the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) for approving Wind XI, a 2,000 MW wind energy proposal announced by MidAmerican Energy this April.

“We applaud MidAmerican for its continued wind energy leadership, and commend the IUB for issuing the approval order a full month before MidAmerican’s requested decision date,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director with the Council. “The early approval helps ensure MidAmerican can take full advantage of the recently extended federal wind production tax credit – a policy we support.”

According to the utility, once completed, Wind XI will be the largest wind energy project in the US, powering approximately 800,000 homes.

“The economic, environmental and community benefits derived from wind energy are clear and compelling in Iowa,” said Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We look forward to working with MidAmerican and the Utilities Board to help the state fully realize those benefits as the project gets underway, and to helping advance other wind, solar and energy efficiency projects that will accelerate Iowa’s transition to clean energy.”

Wind XI is slated for completion by the end of 2019, and will increase the amount of installed wind in Iowa – 6,212 MW at the end of 2015 according to the American Wind Energy Association – by nearly one-third. This project, along with other wind energy projects currently under construction and development, will be a significant boon to Iowa wind energy economy.

The groups have indicated strong support for the project, jointly intervened in the Wind XI docket, reviewed hundreds of pages of filings, and submitted testimony in support of MidAmerican’s proposal.

Wind XI and other significant clean energy projects currently before the IUB for consideration – including a 500 MW project proposal announced by Alliant Energy last month – position Iowa to reach several key clean energy milestones. Wind XI puts Iowa on a path to exceed 40% wind energy and 10,000 MW of installed wind by 2020. According to several Department of Energy studies, Iowa could reach 20,000 MW by 2030.

Wind energy currently provides more than $17 million in land lease payments to landowners annually, supports between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs in Iowa, and is a leading source of property taxes in counties with significant wind development. Wind is also a low cost energy resource and one of Iowa’s leading options for cleaner air.

Both MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy’s announcements position the utilities to comply with the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon pollution 32 percent nation-wide by 2030. Our analysis indicates that continued energy efficiency programs along with wind additions ranging from 1,500 MW to 2,500 MW will be enough for Iowa to meet its modest carbon pollution reduction target by 2030.

Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Kelter Says Ohio Proposal Bad For Customers

Midwest-Energy-News-Logo

Ohio Utility Seeks to Double Its Fixed Distribution Charges

By Kathiann M. Kowalski

In response to an increasing number of customers installing solar power or opting for energy efficiency measures, American Electric Power has asked Ohio regulators to increase the share of distribution charges that all its utility customers must pay, regardless of how much electricity they use.

AEP Ohio has seen a jump in its solar net metering customers from 286 in 2011 to 983 currently, said company spokesperson Terri Flora. The company’s website says it serves nearly 1.5 million total customers.

“This increase in net metering customers is currently resulting in a shift of the recovery of fixed costs from net metering customers to non-net metering customers,” Flora said, explaining the rationale for the proposed change.
While the proposal is “revenue neutral,” according to Flora, clean energy advocates say it would more than double customers’ fixed distribution charges. That, in turn, decreases incentives for energy efficiency and solar energy.

“When you raise the fixed customer charge, what you’re doing is you’re taking control out of the customer’s hands to control their own bills by using less electricity,” said Rob Kelter at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
A ‘huge change’

Electricity bills for Ohio consumers have two parts: a charge for regulated distribution services provided by the utility in their geographic area, and a generation charge for electricity supplied competitively by either the utility or another company.

Some charges on the distribution part of the bill are made regardless of how much electricity a customer uses. From the customer’s perspective, it’s a charge for having service available, regardless of how much or how little is used from the grid.

The rest of the distribution charge varies with the amount of electricity used by the customer. So, the more electricity that’s used, the higher the total distribution charge.

From the AEP’s perspective, though, “virtually all distribution costs are fixed costs,” Flora said.

“AEP Ohio is only proposing to move a portion of [those] costs into the fixed customer charge,” she continued. “Our average cost is $27.24 per customer, and we are proposing a customer charge of $18.40.”

That would be more than twice the current fixed charge of $8.40.

Approval of the proposal would be a “a huge change” in Ohio regulatory policy with “big ramifications for customers,” Kelter said.

Read More at http://midwestenergynews.com/2016/08/26/ohio-utility-seeks-to-double-its-fixed-distribution-charges/

Peabody trying to shift coal clean-up costs onto taxpayers, ELPC’s Learner explains to NPR’s Marketplace

Just about every big coal mining company in America is in bankruptcy, or emerging from it. That includes the world’s largest private sector coal firm: Peabody Energy.

Peabody won court approval to set aside just a small amount of money for environmental cleanup – a mere 15 cents on the dollar. That leaves the states in which it operates at risk for the rest.

The whole question here is, if coal companies wobble and fall down for good, who pays for the cleanup? The process of removing water pollution, planting trees and shrubs and returning the topsoil is expensive and time-consuming.

In Peabody’s case, the court and three key mining states agreed to let the company put up just a fraction of the cleanup money that would be required.

“They’re trying to shift the costs from the coal mining companies back to the states, and basically onto taxpayers,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said. “And unfortunately, for example, the state of Indiana seems to have agreed to take 15 to 17 cents on the dollar.”

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Progress IL: Enviros rally & testify on clean energy justice issues in Chicago

Environmentalists from across the country were in Chicago Wednesday to testify before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about its proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP).

CEIP is an optional component of the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to slash carbon emissions from existing U.S. power plants. The voluntary incentive program is meant to jump-start action to curb carbon pollution and help states comply with the Clean Power Plan.

CEIP seeks to reward early investment in energy efficiency and solar projects in low-income communities as well as zero-emitting renewable energy projects — including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower — in all communities.

Participating states could use the emission allowances or emission rate credits distributed through the program to comply with the Clean Power Plan when it takes effect in 2022. The EPA, which released its updated CEIP plan in June, is proposing that the matching pool of allowances or emission rate credits be split evenly between low-income community projects and renewable energy projects.

Emma Lockridge, a leader with Michigan United and the People’s Action Institute, was among dozens of speakers from across the country who testified this morning in support of making CEIP mandatory and more comprehensive.

Lockridge and many other hearing attendees described themselves as living in frontline, environmental justice communities.

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