Energy Efficiency

Duluth News Tribune Op-Ed by ELPC’s Learner: Environment, economy can flourish together

The elections are behind us. Let’s now focus on opportunities to advance clean water, clean transportation and clean-energy solutions that can help make Duluth an even stronger, more sustainable community.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center has opened a new office here, staffed by Duluth native Jessica Dexter. We will be working with civic partners to make a difference in advancing positive environmental solutions in three areas of focus.

First, Duluth is at the headwaters of the Great Lakes and not far from the Mississippi River’s headwaters. America’s greatest freshwater systems both start in this region. For many years, the Environmental Law and Policy Center has been working collaboratively with environmental and policymaker partners to clean up the Great Lakes and reduce pollution in the Mississippi River basin.

The Great Lakes are global gems, representing 22 percent of the world’s freshwater supply and providing drinking water to 42 million people in eight states and two provinces. The Environmental Law and Policy Center played a key role in advancing the transformative Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which, since 2011, has provided more than $1.3 billion in federal support to more than 2,000 projects that have improved water quality, protected and restored native habitat and species, prevented and controlled invasive species, and are helping solve additional Great Lakes environmental problems.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center’s public-interest attorneys are focusing on reducing mercury and other toxic contamination that impair the Great Lakes’ ecological health and safe drinking-water supplies. We look forward to working with Minnesota partners to advance sound, science-based legal and policy solutions to better protect Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.

The mighty Mississippi River flows past Minnesota and nine other states before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it provides drinking water for more than 18 million people and vital cultural, recreational, economic and wildlife resources. Reducing phosphorus and nutrient pollution from fertilizer and manure runoff from agricultural operations into the waterways of the Upper Mississippi River basin is necessary to protect threatened local drinking water and to counteract the growing Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” caused by pollution.

Second, better transportation is vital for Duluth’s economic and environmental health. The Minnesota Legislature will consider a transportation bill this session. It should prioritize smart investments in transit and rail, which are gaining passengers, and “fix it first” when it comes to highways and bridges. According to the St. Louis County Public Works Department, 20 percent of the bridges in the county longer than 10 feet are “deficient.” Fixing problem bridges should be a priority.

Let’s also support better inter-city rail transportation options that advance Duluth’s future. Modern, faster, comfortable and convenient passenger rail service between Duluth and the Twin Cities will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create jobs and better connect the regional economy.

A “hard-wired” rail link would make Duluth less dependent on airlines’ changing plans and business priorities and would connect Duluth to the Twin Cities metropolitan area and beyond. In addition, new passenger rail service creates a competitive price constraint on airfares and helps attract businesses and mobile young professionals to Duluth.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center long has been a recognized leader in advancing the Midwest high-speed rail network. We look forward to working with Duluth-area businesses, environmental leaders and transportation experts to accelerate modern Duluth’s higher-speed rail from vision to reality.

Third, the Environmental Law and Policy Center is advancing breakthrough policies that accelerate solar-energy development and remove regulatory barriers. The center’s public-interest attorneys and experts were extensively engaged in persuading the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to adopt a forward-looking “value of solar tariff” that takes into account the multiple benefits of solar-energy development.

Solar energy should be compensated in ways that value the jobs and economic development from new projects, the pollution reduction and public health benefits, and the importance of solar as a peak-power resource that’s generally available when the power is needed most for demand and reliability. Let’s work together to advance Minnesota leadership on innovative clean-energy policies and projects.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center believes environmental progress and economic growth can be achieved together. We put this sustainability principle into practice with the positive initiatives described above. We look forward to working with our Duluth partners to advance clean-water, clean-transportation and clean-energy solutions that work well and support Duluth’s sustainability.

Howard Learner is executive director in Chicago of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, an environmental and economic development advocacy organization that recently opened an office in Duluth. The center has offices in five Midwestern cities.

 

Crain’s Chicago Business: New math to help Exelon’s nukes

While Exelon prepares to ask state legislators to rescue its Illinois nuclear plants, new rules set by an obscure power-grid organization back East would send more than a half-billion dollars to those sites by significantly raising electric bills.

The changes raise questions about whether state action is even necessary.

PJM Interconnection, the Valley Forge, Pa.-based regional power-grid operator for all or parts of 13 states including northern Illinois, on Dec. 3 approved changes to the way electricity generators are compensated for their promise to deliver during peak-demand periods. The changes, which are subject to approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will benefit Chicago-based Exelon more than any other power company in the 13-state region, analysts say.

When they take effect in 2018, those alterations will funnel more than $560 million in additional revenue that year to five of Exelon’s six Illinois nuclear stations, according to an analysis by former Illinois Power Agency Director Mark Pruitt. (One, the downstate Clinton plant, isn’t in the PJM region and wouldn’t benefit from the special payments.) Spread across all six of Exelon’s plants, that revenue would add roughly 22 percent to the net revenue they collected as a group in 2013.

Compared with what Commonwealth Edison customers pay today, the changes would hike the price of electricity 19 percent. Customers’ total rates would increase by 11 percent, although that number is expected to rise with increases in the separate cost of delivering the juice.

Pruitt’s analysis doesn’t account for any changes in underlying wholesale power prices. But Exelon has projected that they will rise modestly over that period, which would hike rates further.

Exelon complains that market distortions have reduced wholesale power prices fetched by its nukes and has threatened to close as many as three of its six Illinois plants without a boost in revenue. It plans to lobby state lawmakers next year for financial assistance in the form of higher electricity rates, although it has yet to make a formal proposal.

But critics ask why the state should force households and businesses to pay Exelon more when the company appears to be in line for a major increase in revenue—courtesy of PJM—in three years.

“Why should the Illinois Legislature create another windfall for Exelon at the expense of Illinois ratepayers?” says Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, which is often at odds with Exelon. “There’s no good reason for that.”

The fees for peak-demand power delivery, also known as “capacity” charges, are set three years in advance and are paid to operators on top of what they get for the juice they produce. As wholesale power prices have declined—largely due to the low cost of natural gas—capacity payments have become a more important component of power generators’ revenue streams.

PJM has grown increasingly concerned about grid reliability during high-demand periods. PJM officials cite last winter’s polar vortex in particular when 22 percent of the resources “on call” were unavailable when demand spiked. Parts of the region came uncomfortably close to forced outages.

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Midwest Energy News: On utilities and solar, Wisconsin goes its own way

What’s the matter with Wisconsin?

That’s what many clean energy proponents are asking, in the wake of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC)’s decisions in favor of rate restructuring that could virtually kill solar and other types of distributed generation across much of the state.

Despite significant public opposition, the PSC in November decided to approve rate cases filed by utilities We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) and the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, which could drastically reduce the feasibility of installing solar or other types of renewable energy for consumers in the Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay areas.

The approvals are not final until written decisions are issued; PSC spokesman Nathan Conrad said that will likely happen in mid-December.

Similar rate restructuring proposals have been made by utilities around the country. But public service commissions have overwhelmingly not supported them, either turning down the requests or delaying a decision while demanding more study.

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ELPC Comments on EPA’s Clean Power Plan

For Immediate Release

Contact: David Jakubiak

ELPC Files Comments on U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan:
America’s Energy Future Lies in Efficiency, Wind and Solar;
Midwest Poised to be a Global Climate Leader

CHICAGO – America’s Midwest is positioned to lead in delivering climate change solutions powered by wind and solar energy and maximizing energy efficiency, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) said in comments filed today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Monday marked the deadline for comments on the EPA’s landmark Clean Power Plan which is designed to reduce the carbon pollution from existing power plants by more than 30 percent by 2030.

“Six Midwest states account for 5 percent of global carbon pollution. We should lead with positive clean energy solutions to climate change problems here in America’s Heartland,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director at ELPC. “Those solutions are already being developed with wind and solar energy and with the rapid advancement of energy efficiency.”

Even greater carbon reductions can be achieved with state policies that foster the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency. For this reason, ELPC requests that U.S. EPA set stronger renewable energy targets based on growth in the last 5-6 years and stronger energy efficiency targets that are verifiable and transparent.

Addressing climate change is a priority in the Midwest because of the threat the changing climate poses to the region’s agriculture, its aging transportation and storm water infrastructure, and public health.

Wind power and solar energy are clean energy, but nuclear power generation that creates highly radioactive waste is not. ELPC requests eliminating “preserved nuclear capacity,” and asks that if this compliance option is upheld, then “EPA should require a very high showing by states that any ‘preserved’ nuclear power is both truly ‘at risk’ of early retirement, and, in fact, will be predominantly replaced by fossil-fuel generation.”

Learner said: “In this new century, we’ll power our economy with clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency that will create jobs, spur economic growth, and cut carbon pollution to address our climate change problems.”

 

 Download ELPC’s Comments on U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

2014: ELPC Advances Clean Energy & Clean Transportation Solutions, Protects the Midwest’s Special Natural Places

Dear Friends and Supporters,

DavidHowardELPC has achieved strong successes in challenging times, demonstrating that smart, strategic legal and policy advocacy can both improve environmental quality and grow the Midwest’s economy. ELPC’s solutions-focused strategies engage diverse partners and seize opportunities to make a fundamental difference in accelerating clean energy development and clean transportation technologies, protecting clean air and clean water, and preserving the Midwest’s special wild and natural places. Our multidisciplinary staff teams of expert public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s, policy advocates and communications specialists, combined with sound science engagement from ELPC’s Science Advisory Council, play to win and know how to get things done—truly making a difference for a better world.

We’re on the cusp of fundamental environmental changes. New solar energy, wind power, battery and lighting technologies can help clean up and transform the electricity sector. The Obama Administration’s landmark Clean Power Plan will, in effect, impose a price on carbon pollution while allowing flexible pollution reduction strategies that can be sculpted for effective solutions in each state.

ELPC’s advocacy led to the nation’s largest-ever investment in high-speed rail, including $2.6 billion for developing the Midwest rail network. Modern, faster, more comfortable new trains are being manufactured in the Midwest, creating jobs and spurring economic growth. The Midwest is a proving ground for the rest of the nation: higher-speed rail is arriving, with ELPC’s leadership.

Innovative car technologies – all-electric vehicles, gas-electric hybrids, fuel cell, CNG and others – combined with better designs and lighter materials are reducing
pollution from the transportation sector while lifestyle and economic changes lead to fewer people driving
cars and fewer vehicle miles traveled.

President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has bipartisan support and sustained appropriations, which have largely avoided political squabbling. The projects supported by $1.3 billion of federal funds over the past four years are achieving real results for restoring the Great Lakes ecological system.

This is an exciting and challenging time for ELPC’s Board and Staff to seize these opportunities for environmental quality and economic development progress. We’re proud of ELPC’s accomplishments in helping transform our Midwest home into a cleaner and more vibrant place to live, work and play.

Sincerely,

Howard A. Learner and David Wilhelm
ELPC Executive Director and Board Chair

 

Protecting the Midwest’s Prairies, Wilderness & Great Lakes

EOY-Sylvania

ELPC’s strategic litigation and advocacy campaigns provide our Midwestern conservation colleagues with first-rate legal firepower when necessary to protect treasured natural resources. ELPC public interest attorneys work in both the federal and state courts, and in the court of public opinion, to protect the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and the Midwest’s special natural areas, threatened species and wildlife habitats. ELPC establishes key legal precedents that protect our natural heritage now and for the future.

Protecting the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie – Challenging the Proposed Illiana Tollway. Midewin is our country’s first national tallgrass prairie and is home to northeastern Illinois’ largest, most diverse community of grassland birds. ELPC and our clients Openlands, Midewin Heritage Association and Sierra Club are challenging the boondoggle Illiana Tollway, which threatens the Midewin Prairie and wildlife habitat with damaging noise, light and pollution from convoys of heavy trucks. ELPC’s federal and state court litigation, combined with our media and public education campaign, has exposed the financial folly of the Illiana Tollway and its destructive impacts on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. In October, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Board again voted overwhelmingly against adding the Illiana Tollway to the regional plan. The Illiana Tollway is now the hottest transportation battle in Illinois.

Defending the Sylvania National Wilderness Area. Sylvania is a beautiful 18,327-acre wilderness area with quiet connected lakes and old-growth trees on the Wisconsin-Michigan border. ELPC attorneys, representing Friends of Sylvania, Sylvania Wilderness Cabins, and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition won a major victory in federal district court to finally limit “grandfathered” polluting and noisy gas-powered motorboat use along the Sylvania Wilderness. This ELPC litigation victory is a key precedent for protecting our Wilderness Areas, National Forests, and National Lakeshores in the North Woods and Upper Great Lakes. We’re protecting the Sylvania Wilderness against invasive species and preserving wilderness tranquility for people to enjoy in this special place.

Stopping the SS Badger from Dumping Toxic Coal Ash in Lake Michigan. ELPC and our colleagues are working with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and others to stop the coal-burning SS Badger, a Lake-Michigan ferry boat, from dumping about 1 million pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan each year. In 2013, the SS Badger’s owner agreed with the US EPA to reduce coal ash dumping in 2014 and completely stop by 2015. The SS Badger’s owner now claims to have installed digital combustion controls that lower fuel consumption, and, next summer, will store the coal ash on board. ELPC will work to ensure that the SS Badger stops dumping into the Great Lakes.

Protecting the Great Lakes from Aging Oil Pipelines. Every day, Enbridge’s decaying, 60-year-old “Line 5” pipeline carries over 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluid under the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. In 2010, another Enbridge pipeline spilled more than 875,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. That spill created an ecological disaster that is still being cleaned up today. ELPC is working with the Michigan Land Use Institute, Michigan Environmental Council, FLOW and other partners to require Enbridge to remove, replace or upgrade its pipeline to protect the vulnerable Straits of Mackinac. We are gaining support from policymakers to take needed protective action.

 

Leading the Midwest’s Clean Energy Transformation

EOY-Solar

Disruptive solar energy and battery technologies and sustained advances in energy efficiency are poised to transform the electricity sector like wireless and the internet transformed telecommunications. ELPC advocates new policies to drive energy markets and technological innovations that can change the world.

Growing Renewable Energy in the Heartland. Wind power development is driving manufacturing jobs, rural economic development and pollution reduction. Iowa leads the nation, generating 28% of its electricity from wind power. Chicago has 14 global and North American wind power corporate headquarters. Wind power equipment supply chain businesses create jobs across the Midwest. Solar technologies keep advancing and PV panels drop in price, while energy efficiency advances in appliances, lighting and buildings save us money and reduce pollution.

ELPC’s solutions-based advocacy accelerates clean energy through an “innovate and replicate” model in which new policies — including updating standards for more solar on the grid in Illinois and new solar approaches in Minnesota — can be replicated in more states to drive markets, reduce barriers, and advance clean energy across the Midwest.

Expanding Energy Efficiency Programs. LED lights save 90% more energy than incandescent bulbs. In Illinois, ELPC steered new programs to accelerate market penetration of LED lights and home weatherization to produce longer-term, deeper energy savings. In Iowa, ELPC persuaded a utility to increase discounted LED lights from 2% to more than 40% by 2018, thereby avoiding more than 45 million pounds of CO2 pollution. ELPC’s sustained advocacy to accelerate energy efficiency in the Midwest will save consumers money on their utility bills, reduce the need for polluting power plants, and lighten the load on the electricity grid thereby improving reliability. A key indicator of market change: American Electric Power told the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that it expects electricity demand to decrease by 16% over the next ten years.

Solar is Poised for Breakthrough Success. ELPC’s advocacy leadership is advancing breakthrough policies and removing barriers to solar energy development. ELPC persuaded the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to adopt an innovative “value of solar tariff” to recognize the multiple economic and social benefits of solar. ELPC is working with Illinois policymakers to update standards that will make solar easier to finance and connect to the grid. ELPC attorneys won a nationally precedential case before the Iowa Supreme Court to remove utility-sponsored regulatory barriers against a conventional financing mechanism used to support solar installations on public buildings, homes and business.

ELPC attorneys and a diverse coalition of solar power and energy efficiency businesses, RENEW, AARP, low-income consumer groups, and municipalities are fighting back before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin against three Wisconsin utilities seeking to raise fixed charges and impose costly regulatory barriers to advancing solar energy and energy efficiency innovations. We need to win before the Comission and in the court of public opinion.

ELPC designed Illinois’ new $30 million solar procurement program, and we are working to create more sustainable cities by developing old industrial brownfields into solar “brightfields” that generate clean energy, create jobs and spur economic revitalization. ELPC’s multidisciplinary team of energy experts works on multiple fronts to accelerate Midwest leadership to a cleaner energy future.

 

Advancing Midwest Leadership for Climate Change Solutions

EOY-McCartyThe Midwest is the center of our nation’s carbon pollution problems and should be the fulcrum for clean energy and clean transportation solutions. ELPC is working to speed development of clean wind power and solar energy resources, implement policies to advance energy efficiency, and accelerate hybrids, electric vehicles and other modern clean car technologies combined with better planning. These climate change solutions are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for our environment and public health.

Achieving the Full Potential of the Clean Power Plan. President Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan advances climate solutions leadership. The U.S. EPA is finalizing strong federal carbon pollution reduction standards in 2015 that will use Midwest states’ implementation plans to clean up the Midwest’s electricity sector. Supportive policies, improved technologies and changes in business and public attitudes and actions are driving clean energy from early adopters to the mainstream, with more wind power development, more solar energy installations and more efficient LED lighting, appliances, HVAC, pumps and motors. Electricity demand is declining while the Midwest economy is rebounding, and renewables and natural gas are squeezing out old coal plants and reducing carbon pollution. ELPC’s framework strategy Repowering the Midwest is moving from policy vision to reality.

 

Accelerating the Next Generation of Sustainable Transportation

Advancing Midwest High-Speed Rail Development. ELPC’s sustained advocacy to advance the Chicago-hubbed Midwest high-speed rail network is achieving major progress with bipartisan political and business, labor and civic support. By late 2015, we expect 110 mph modern rail service on 75% – 80% of the Chicago–St. Louis corridor, and soon after on the Chicago-Detroit corridor. Modern passenger railcars manufactured in Rochelle, Illinois are on track by early 2016. Minnesota continues planning for high speed rail projects as well. Key federal transportation legislation is a priority for Congress in 2015, and ELPC is working closely with the pivotal Midwest delegation to expand funding for high-speed rail development that improves mobility, reduces pollution, creates jobs and spurs economic growth.

Reducing Harmful Diesel Pollution. ELPC and our community partners challenged increased diesel pollution from Norfolk Southern’s rail yard expansion in Chicago’s Englewood community. ELPC’s legal and policy advocacy combined with community organizing, public engagement and media attention brought Norfolk Southern to the negotiating table. The settlement will reduce particulate pollution from diesel rail equipment and trucks, add neighborhood green space, and bring new jobs and economic growth.

Promoting Electric Vehicles. ELPC business and policy specialists are working to expand electric vehicle market penetration by removing barriers and advancing supportive policies. ELPC is partnering with the City of Chicago and leading businesses to promote workplace charging policies and infrastructure. By developing the policies to create workplace and home charging opportunities, electric vehicles can be used by more people, expanding capacity for businesses to operate large-scale green fleets.


 You may also download a PDF of our year-end brochure here.

 

 

Cleveland Plain Dealer: FirstEnergy to End Energy Efficiency Programs

ELPC’s Robert Kelter spoke with JohnFunk of the Cleveland Plain Dealer about FirstEnergy’s plan to gut long running and successful energy efficiency programs.

This story is reposed from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and can be found at:

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2014/09/energy_efficiency_programs_wil.html

Energy efficiency programs will end for FirstEnergy customers

By John Funk, The Plain Dealer

AKRON, Ohio — FirstEnergy is abolishing most of its Ohio consumer and business energy efficiency programs by the end of the year — on the grounds that the elimination will lower monthly electric bills.

The company will continue similar programs in Pennsylvania and in other states where FirstEnergy also operates local power companies, but where lawmakers have not changed state laws to create an opportunity to end efficiency subsidies.

In Ohio, where the Republican-controlled General Assembly did change the law, FirstEnergy will on Dec. 31 end consumer cash rebates for everything from LED light bulbs to ceiling fans, from household appliances to whole house air conditioning, from heat pumps to geothermal heating.

Also going away are discounted household energy audits and cash rebates to homebuilders and buyers of very high-efficiency homes. Parallel programs for businesses are also disappearing.

A company spokeswoman explained Wednesday that since customers have been paying for those subsidized programs through increases in rates, monthly bills would be lower when the programs are eliminated.

Spokeswoman Diane Francis said the company had not calculated the extent of consumer savings when the programs are gone but that overall savings for FirstEnergy’s Ohio customers — including commercial and heavy industry — would be “tens of millions of dollars.”

But Tuesday, FirstEnergy’s top executive for rates and regulatory affairs, William Ridmann, said consumers on average are paying about $4.50 a month in extra charges to pay for the efficiency programs.

In the last five years the total cost of the efficiency programs, including programs to help heavy industry become more efficient and competitive, had led to about $1 billion in temporary charges, he said. Ridmann did not say how much the upgrades had saved customers in power costs.

They want to sell more higher-priced electricity and are throwing their customers under the bus,” Robert Kelter, Environmental Law & Policy Center.
FirstEnergy told a happier customer story in reports to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2012 comparing the anticipated cost of the programs over the coming three years to the savings created by reducing the amount of power purchased.

And in individual attachments for each of its Ohio companies accompanying that overall report, the company said it had achieved a balance between costs and anticipated savings.

“The Company believes that it has prepared an EE&PDR (energy efficiency & peak demand reduction) strategy as reflected in this three year Plan that balances near-term energy savings opportunities among all rate classes with longer-term programs that continue to create jobs and build capacity for delivering greater energy and demand reduction impacts in the future,” those introductory remarks noted.

A 2013 report to the PUCO looking back at costs and benefits for that year and 2012 showed generally that for every $1 spent on energy efficiency, customers had saved more than $2 in power costs.

The company’s conclusion was based on a series of complicated calculations, a process that FirstEnergy’s spokeswoman Francis on Thursday said may not have been the most accurate way of figuring, though the company has not amended the reports to say otherwise.

Francis pointed to a footnote in the reports stating that the calculations did not take into account customers who did not apply for the rebates, and said only 7 percent of its residential customers participated.

Still, that two-to-one assertion caught the eye of energy efficiency advocates and environmental groups earlier this year when they were opposing the passage of legislation backed by FirstEnergy that weakened the state’s efficiency standards and opened the door to what the company is doing now.

“The facts don’t bear this out,” said Samantha Williams, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, of FirstEnergy’s current claim that the programs are a financial burden to customers.

“FirstEnergy’s own analysis shows that efficiency works and saves customers two-to-one on their investment,” she said, referring to the series of complicated calculations in the reports, calculations used by all utilities.

As for the issue in the footnote, Williams said the company’s argument ignores the system-wide benefit, namely that efficiency suppresses overall demand, lowering power prices.

“Actually, what’s best for customers is keeping the efficiency programs and helping them save money,” she said, adding that FirstEnergy is the only Ohio utility ending the programs.

Robert Kelter, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, said FirstEnergy has steadily resisted creating the programs. Staffs from the ELPC and the NRDC meet regularly with employees from each Ohio utility to suggest efficiency programs, he said.

The company then files details of its programs with the PUCO under protective order, preventing others from revealing details.

“It’s clear from this filing that they want their unregulated affiliate (FirstEnergy Solutions) to be able to sell more higher-priced electricity and are throwing their customers under the bus,” said Kelter.

“They are cutting out 50 to 75 percent of all their efficiency programs. Demand will not continue to fall as it has. There is no question that prices will go up and that shareholder profits will go up.”

Kelter was referring in part to industrial customers.

FirstEnergy notes in its amended plans filed Wednesday with the PUCO that its large industrial customers will no longer have to participate at all in the utility’s efficiency programs but instead will have to run their own programs and report directly to the state. That is another provision of the recent changes in state law. Industry has chaffed at having to abide by state-mandated efficiency rules and pay hefty extra charges. And as they leave, FirstEnergy will no longer have to count the power they use or save in its calculations.

FirstEnergy’s move to scrap the programs comes less than two weeks after a bill imposing a two-year freeze on Ohio’s energy efficiency standards became law.

The language in that legislation — Senate Bill 310 — is what FirstEnergy is relying on to amend its programs. While the entire bill is temporary — the freeze is for only two years — FirstEnergy’s changes to its efficiency programs are permitted to be permanent. And that may lead other utilities to follow FirstEnergy.

“FirstEnergy is playing its traditional role of driving a train through the loopholes ahead of all other utilities, said Mark Shanahan, energy adviser to former Gov. Ted Strickland. “And doing it under the guise of helping customers.”

Midwest Energy News: Advocates say Wisconsin solar fight could spill into other states

A closely watched battle over utility policy in Wisconsin could determine the fate of solar development throughout the region, advocates say.

The dispute is over three major rate cases recently filed by We Energies,Madison Gas & Electric andWisconsin Public Service Corporation. The three utilities cover much of the eastern half of the state as well as its largest cities.

If the state Public Service Commission (PSC) approves the cases, solar experts say there will be a massive chill over solar development in these utilities’ service territories. And they expect other utilities in Wisconsin and beyond will file similar requests.

All three cases would significantly restructure the way residential and business customers are charged for electricity, so that all customers pay a higher fixed amount each month while the variable charges based on electricity use are reduced.

This creates an inherent disincentive to reduce energy use – whether through installing solar panels or increasing energy efficiency. RENEW Wisconsin program and policy director Michael Vickerman described it as a “reverse Robin Hood” move that shifts the burden of paying for electricity from large energy consumers to small consumers.

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ELPC to Quadrennial Energy Review: North Dakota’s More than Oil and Natural Gas!

Mindi-QuadEnergyReview

 

For Immediate Release
August 8, 2014
Contact: David Jakubiak, ELPC
312-795-3713, djakubiak@elpc.org

Bismarck, ND – North Dakota’s oil-fueled economic boom should not stifle development of a diverse energy mix, mask the losses of wasteful resource flaring, or place North Dakota’s unique special places at risk, the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Mindi Schmitz told state, federal and business leaders Friday at the state’s Quadrennial Energy Review.

“This boom is primarily focused on Bakken oil, but there are other energy development opportunities here to diversify the state’s energy mix and broaden the economic expansion,” said Schmitz, North Dakota governmental relations specialist with ELPC.

The Review held at Bismarck State College was attended by a who’s who of federal, state and business leaders from the energy and transportation sector. Gov. Jack Dalrymple was joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer. Others on hand included Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF; and Robert Steede, director of Enbridge North Dakota.

Schmitz noted that North Dakota has the sixth most wind resource in the nation, yet ranks 11th in wind energy production. “There is a substantial and costly gap between the potential represented in the size of the resource and the actual represented by on-the-ground wind development.”

Additionally, she called for continued efforts to end the wasteful venting and flaring of North Dakota’s natural gas resource. While steps have been made, she said, about 1/3rd of the natural gas extracted in the state is still flared. As the number of wells grow,  the amount of gas rises as well.

“In May 2014 alone, operators flared nearly 10 billion cubic feet of gas. That’s enough to heat around 100,000 average homes for a year,” she said.

Flaring, Schmitz said, is taking money out of the pockets of landowners and is costing the local, state and federal government millions in lost tax revenue. “In May 2013, gas flaring cost the state about $3.6 million in lost tax revenue per day.”

Flaring also pollutes, she said, producing huge amounts of harmful, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds; greenhouse gas pollution, including carbon dioxide and methane.

Of particular concern, Schmitz argued are special places on North Dakota that are irreplaceable.

“Flames from flaring obscure what were once pristine, starry night skies and pollution from flaring harms the park’s plants and animals,” she said. “We should not be fracking and flaring within view of Teddy Roosevelt National Park or any other special place.”

Schmitz offered 5 recommendations to reduce risks posed by oil developemt:

  • Adopt standards to minimize flaring from oil/mixed oil-and-gas wells;
  • Promulgate requirements to minimize methane leakage from wells, pipes and associated gas production and transport equipment;
  • Pass more stringent rules for pipelines, railcars and trucks to minimize oil/wastewater spills, and strictly enforce those rules;
  • Require that, where possible, fracking wastewater be recycled, and fund research to increase wastewater recycling; and
  • Bolster protections for special places under federal control, including Teddy Roosevelt National Park, the Dakota Grasslands, and other sites with historical, archaeological and natural resource assets.

“We can have responsible energy development with immense benefits, and provide greater protection for North Dakota air, water and special places,” she said.

Learner: Exelon’s deal to acquire Integrys Energy raises anti-competitive concerns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2014
Contact: Jill Geiger
312-795-3703

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

Exelon’s announcement that it plans to buy Integrys Energy Services raises anti-competitive concerns for Northern Illinois consumers, according to the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Executive Director Howard Learner.

“We have serious questions about whether Exelon’s purchase of Integrys Energy Services will reduce competition in the Northern Illinois retail electricity market, leading to higher utility bills and fewer renewable energy opportunities for consumers.”

“Exelon is the parent company of both Commonwealth Edison and Constellation Energy, which compete for retail electric consumers with Integrys Energy Services in Northern Illinois. If combined, these companies appear to control more than half of the retail electricity market in Northern Illinois.  This market concentration could become even greater as First Energy has publicly stated that it is scaling back its retail electricity business.”

“One of the promises of deregulation in Illinois was a competitive retail electricity services market that would benefit consumers.  We’re concerned that this new acquisition by Exelon appears to reduce competition and increase the concentration of market power.  We urge the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Illinois Commerce Commission and other federal and state agencies to carefully investigate, review and determine the potential anti-competitive impacts of Exelon’s announced new acquisition of Integrys Energy Services.”

ELPC Hosts U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Clean Energy Business Roundtable

ELPC was honored to host U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a Clean Energy Business Roundtable today at our Chicago office. We were joined by 35 corporate clean energy and sustainability business leaders, including executives from Baxter Healthcare, Broadwind Energy, Clean Line Energy, E.ON Energy USA, Hecate Energy, Invenergy, Johnson Controls, Next Era Energy, Schneider Electric, SoCore Energy, VLV Development, Walgreens, Wangxiang, and West Monroe Partners.

Following my introduction, there was a lively discussion between Administrator McCarthy and business leaders on the investment and job opportunities spurred by the proposed Clean Power Plan. Administrator McCarthy summed up:

“We wanted the standards to be very flexible and wanted to show there are job growth opportunities here … The amount of money you save when you look at efficiency and renewables in a city is amazing and people really like it … If you can do it in one city, you can do it in every city. All I’m asking people to think about is what’s already been done in so many other places.”

ELPC and I look forward to working with you to advance strong carbon pollution reduction standards that can create jobs, spur technological innovation and engineering ingenuity, and improve our public health and environment. Solving climate change problems is the moral, economic, policy, political and technological challenge of our generation. Let’s work together to make a difference.

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

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ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now