Energy Efficiency

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Lake Erie to Ohio EPA: Please, Call Me Impaired

 

 

Lake Erie to Ohio EPA: Please, Call Me Impaired

By Peter Krause

 

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a list of impaired waters in Ohio, but to the disappointment of environmentalists, it doesn’t include the open waters of Lake Erie.

Designating the lake as “impaired” is critical to stemming the encroachment of harmful algal blooms, said Frank Szollosi. The category would require the state of Ohio to work with the U.S. EPA to develop a concrete plan to remediate the problem.

But the Ohio EPA did not include Erie’s open waters on a list of impaired waterways when it submitted it to the U.S. EPA last fall. The U.S. EPA approved the list May 18.

What frustrates Ohio environmentalists further is that Michigan included western Lake Erie on its list of impaired waters. That was approved by the U.S. EPA.

“This is not sensible,” U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur said in a statement Tuesday. Kaptur, a Democrat, represents a swath of shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland. “There is no imaginary line in the middle of Lake Erie where one side of the lake faces challenges that don’t impact the other side… Eleven million people depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water and this contradictory action fails to address the real danger they face from the presence of toxic algal blooms.”

A spokesperson for the Ohio EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal Clean Water Act sets a standards for impaired waters, Szollosi said. In the case of algae blooms and nutrient loading, the U.S. EPA would require that the sources and amounts of nutrients be identified and limits set.

“We want a legally enforceable measuring stick for progress,” he said.

Without the official limits, Szollosi said voluntary incentives simply won’t work.

Incentives were applied to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay for 20 years, he said, but not until pollution standards were put in place did any meaningful reduction of nutrients occur.

In Lake Erie, the major problem is farm fertilizers running off into the lake, primarily by way of the Maumee River in Toledo. Three years ago, 400,000 Toledo area residents were temporarily without drinking water after harmful toxins from algal blooms fouled the water supply.

Algae that spreads into the central basin of the lake can also create a massive dead zone.

The phosphorus in the fertilizer is the main problem, according to Jeff Reutter, former director of the Ohio State University’s Sea Grant College Program and Stone Lab, who discussed the issue with cleveland.com this month during a water summit in Cleveland sponsored by the Cleveland Water Alliance.

Other stewards of Lake Erie have are as indignant as Szollosi over Lake Erie being excluded from the list of impaired waters.

“The waters of the Great Lakes are the most critical asset we have,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, in a prepared statement. “We are disappointed in the EPA decision to all Ohio to keep the status quo. Michigan can’t address Lake Erie’s issues alone. There must be a collective action and commitment to solve it.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center also weighed in. “By passing the buck back and forth, EPA and Ohio EPA are ducking the real issue that Ohio’s reliance on unenforceable, voluntary measures will not get the job done in addressing phosphorus pollution in Lake Erie,” reads a written statement from center staff attorney Madeline Fleisher.

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Press Release: Innovative Clean Energy Financing Bill Heads for IL Governor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2017

Contact: David Jakubiak

Illinois Closer to Innovative Clean Energy Financing Opportunity
General Assembly Sends PACE Financing Bill to Governor Rauner

SPRINGFIELD, IL – An innovative financing opportunity offered to businesses and property owners in 19 states may finally come to Illinois through legislation headed to Governor Rauner’s desk, after being passed by the State Senate 53-0 on Wednesday.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing allows counties or municipal governments to establish programs that provide financing for the upfront costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The costs are then repaid through an assessment on the property tax bill for the property where the improvement has been made.

In Illinois PACE would function as a so-called “double opt-in” program. First a municipality or county would need to create a local PACE program; then property owners would need to opt-in to the programs.

“Illinois is deploying an innovative clean energy financing opportunity for commercial, industrial and multifamily building owners that will save consumers’ money, decrease energy use and reduce pollution,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The PACE measure enjoyed broad bipartisan support. On April 28th, PACE passed in the Illinois House where it was championed by Representative Lou Lang. Senator Karen McConnaughay led the effort to pass HB 2831 in the Illinois Senate. If signed by Governor Rauner, the bill will make Illinois the 20th state to offer PACE financing. Nationwide PACE financing has led to more than $3 billion in clean energy investments.

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ELPC’s Rob Kelter Critical Of Renewed Attacks On Clean Energy In Ohio

GOP State Legislators Trying Again to Weaken Renewable-Energy Standards
March 7, 2017
By Dan Gearino

Republican state legislators are trying again to weaken clean-energy standards, hoping to pass a measure similar to one that Gov. John Kasich vetoed in December.

The 73-page bill would change state rules that require electricity utilities to invest in renewable energy and help customers to reduce energy use.

House Bill 114, introduced Tuesday, has more than 50 co-sponsors, including all of the Republican leadership, in a chamber with 99 members.

“We just wanted to have a strong showing of support,” said Rep. Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, the lead sponsor.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, clean-energy businesses and others say that they are ready to fight this proposal just as they did previous ones.

The question for legislators is whether there is enough support to override another veto. Republicans added to their House and Senate majorities in the November election, but it is not clear whether leaders can win the votes of two-thirds of each chamber, the minimum needed to override a veto by Kasich, a fellow Republican.

“I know a lot of people will interpret (the bill) as being hostile to the governor … but that’s not the intent,” Blessing said.

Emmalee Kalmbach, a Kasich spokeswoman, had this statement:

“The governor has been clear regarding the need to work with the General Assembly to craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state’s economy,” she said.

Among the proposed changes in the bill:

  • Utilities would no longer face penalties for not meeting annual benchmarks for purchases of renewable energy. Instead, the companies would have optional goals.
  • The rules for energy savings would go through several changes, reducing the amount required while also expanding the definition of what types of savings can be counted.
  • Many businesses would be able to opt out of electricity-bill charges that pay for utilities’ clean-energy programs.

Blessing said utilities have indicated to him that they would continue clean-energy programs even without mandates and would like the flexibility of no longer facing penalties for not meeting the standards.

“The mandates at this point are just unnecessary,” he said.

Indeed, Columbus-based American Electric Power has a plan to dramatically expand its spending on wind and solar power.

“We are still reviewing the legislation, but we think there needs to be a broader policy discussion about Ohio’s energy future,” said Scott Blake, an AEP spokesman. “We’ve made significant investments to comply with the renewable and energy efficiency standards that are in place and have run very successful programs for our customers.”

Opponents of the bill say there is no good reason to tinker with a law that has been good for the state.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” said Rob Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Ohio’s energy policy is in a good place right now, and we should leave it alone.”

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EnergyWire: ELPC’s Brad Klein Says Net-Metering Does Not Raise Rates Paid by Non-Solar Customers

EnergyWireNet-Metering Proposal Raises Subsidy Questions in Ind.
February 10, 2017
By Jeffrey Tomich

Indiana joined the cavalcade of states debating the factious topic of net metering as the utility industry squared off with solar advocates and other supporters over how to fairly compensate consumers who generate their own electricity.

A hearing before the Senate Utilities Committee included familiar arguments about jobs, the environment and whether the state’s current policy, initially adopted in 2005, is forcing non-solar customers to subsidize their neighbors with solar panels.

From Nevada to Arizona and beyond, legislatures and utility commissions have debated proposals to eliminate or weaken net-metering policies — changes pushed by utilities who say increasing solar penetration hurts their ability to recover costs of maintaining the grid.

Currently, Indiana net metering customers are credited for the excess power they put on the grid at the retail electricity rate. On average, the retail rate in Indiana is about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour.

State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R) filed S.B. 309 last month. It addresses more than rooftop solar. But the debate over net metering consumed most of yesterday’s five-hour hearing. In the end, the committee adjourned without taking a vote.

As filed, S.B. 309 would end net metering in Indiana in 2027 and replace it with a “buy-all, sell-all” model under which customer-generators would sell their electric output to utilities at the wholesale rate and purchase energy for their home or business at the retail rate.

The bill prompted an immediate backlash, and Hershman offered an amendment yesterday that replaced the “buy-all, sell-all” proposal with a system to credit customer-generators at a rate equal to the utility’s average wholesale energy price, plus a 25 percent premium. Based on testimony from the Indiana Energy Association (IEA), the lobbying group for investor-owned utilities, that wholesale rate is presently about 3 cents per kWh.

The amendment would end net metering in 2022 — five years sooner than the initial bill. Customers who participate in net-metering tariffs when the programs end would be grandfathered for a decade.

“We want to encourage a technology to a degree,” Hershman said. “But at such point as that technology’s cost is dropping dramatically and that policy stays static, what you’re doing is creating an increasing subsidy.

“It’s a heck of a deal if you can get it,” he added. “But the question is, is that good public policy?”

Subsidy Questions

At the heart of the debate was to what extent, if any, net metering creates subsidies among Indiana utility customers.

Bill supporters including the IEA, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity told the committee there is no doubt that solar-owning customers in Indiana are being subsidized by customers without rooftop solar systems.

“While we’re growing an industry, while we’re developing an industry, that kind of solar support with a subsidy is not a bad idea,” said Mark Maassel, IEA’s executive director. “But at some point, we do need to transition away from asking someone to pay for someone else’s facilities.”

Even Hershman’s amendment that would compensate customer generators at 25 percent above the wholesale energy price wouldn’t change that, he said.

“It does continue a subsidy,” Maassel said. “It’s less than there is today, but it does continue a subsidy.”

Bill supporters, however, had no answer when they were asked to quantify the amount of any subsidy or provide data to back up their claims.

“If the utility believes there is a subsidy, then the burden of proof is theirs,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, an environmental and consumer advocacy group. “They have no burden of proof in this building. We should not blindly accept their false narrative.”

Brad Klein, senior attorney for the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest advocacy group, cited studies from other states and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that showed net metering has little if any impact on the rates paid by non-solar customers.

If anything, he said, the benefits of distributed generation are too often overlooked.

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Kelter says FirstEnergy’s Changes to Energy Efficiency Program is Improvement From Plan Before Ohio Freeze on Clean Energy Standards

Midwest-Energy-News-LogoOhio Utility’s Efficiency Programs to Move Forward Under Settlement
January 5, 2017
By Kathiann M. Kowalski

As 2016 drew to a close, key environmental groups signed onto FirstEnergy’s revised energy efficiency plan for its Ohio utility customers.

The December 8 stipulation addresses major objections to FirstEnergy’s earlier plan, including elimination of terms that would have let the company profit from energy-saving activities it played no part in.

FirstEnergy’s revised energy efficiency plan “comes on the heels of the thaw on Ohio’s previously frozen clean energy standards, and the growing acknowledgement across Ohio’s utilities of the value of energy efficiency for customers,” said Samantha Williams at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is one of the settling parties.

While other Ohio utilities continued to offer a range of money-saving efficiency programs during the recent two-year freeze on the state’s clean energy standards, FirstEnergy moved to gut most of its efficiency programs in 2014.

“Thankfully, the programs are back, and we’re very encouraged by the progress we’ve made with the utility in working towards more extensive, innovative options,” said Williams.

“The plan will allow our customers to participate in energy-saving programs through 2019, and strives to achieve energy savings each year that will meet or exceed Ohio’s annual reduction targets,” FirstEnergy spokesperson Doug Colafella said.

Not all parties have joined in the settlement, however, and the revised plan still requires approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. A hearing is scheduled for January 23.

‘A Big Change’

Provisions of the revised plan “are quite similar” to ones outlined in previous filings, Colafella said, “with some tweaks based on input from stakeholders who signed onto the plan, including key environmental groups.”

Yet those changes matter a lot to Williams and the NRDC, as well as the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Ohio Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund.

Among other things, FirstEnergy will not get shared savings profits from cuts in electricity usage that result from customer actions in which the company played no role.

“Keeping ‘non-programs’ like these off the shared savings ledger means utilities will be more focused on other programs that are actively designed to provide new, cost-effective benefits to consumers,” Williams said.

“That’s a big change,” agreed Rob Kelter of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “To their credit, FirstEnergy has come up with what we feel is a very reasonable program. And it’s certainly a big improvement on what they were running before the freeze.”

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Press Release: ELPC Responds to Ohio Gov. Kasich Veto of State Energy Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STATEMENT BY ROB KELTER
Environmental Law & Policy Center

COLUMBUS, OHIO — Rob Kelter, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s veto of a bill passed by the Ohio State Legislature that would have made standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy voluntary for the next two years:

“The governor’s veto today is a positive step towards a clean energy future for Ohio. Ohio needs a balanced energy policy that includes renewable energy and energy efficiency. Business owners  in the state’s renewable energy sector and energy efficiency sectors need certainty about Ohio’s direction so they can continue to invest in the state and create jobs. This balanced approach also benefits Ohio utility customers because it will help lower their bills.”

“Opponents of clean energy have distorted this debate from the start. The standards that Ohio is reinstating with the governor’s veto represent a positive, but modest, step towards a clean energy future for its citizens. Ohio is still heavily dependent on coal and nuclear energy, but now we’re back on track to a more balanced energy future.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer: ELPC’s Kelter Calls Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Veto of State Energy Bill Positive Step Forward

Plain_Dealer_mastheadKasich Wins Strong Support from Environmentalists for Green Mandates
December 27, 2016
By John Funk

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich broke ranks with the legislature’s GOP leadership  Tuesday, vetoing a bill crafted by some of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, who believe wind and solar companies should compete against the state’s entrenched power companies on their own.

Kasich’s veto follows a campaign by environmental, business and consumer groups opposing the legislation.

Many of them celebrated the veto on Tuesday. Here are some of their comments.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio:

“While states such as Michigan and Illinois go forward with renewable energy, the Ohio Legislature seems determined to anchor us in the last century,” said Al Rosenfield, the league’s lobbyist. “We are pleased that HB 554 has been vetoed by Governor Kasich. We urge the General Assembly to sustain the veto, so that Ohio can move forward.”

Advanced Energy Economy: 

Today, Governor Kasich’s principled leadership has given Ohio an opportunity to get back on track,” said J.R. Tolbert, vice president for state policy. “He stood behind his commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency, allowing Ohio to regain its competitive advantage nationally. “Governor Kasich understands that renewable energy and energy efficiency create jobs and save money. That’s a formula that is good for business and good for every Ohioan.”

“The two-year freeze has cost Ohio jobs and investments. In the last three years, while Ohio has been idling, Michigan has attracted over $1.1 billion in renewable energy investments,” said Ted Ford, president of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy.

The Environmental Defense Fund:

“Today Governor Kasich put economic growth over politics, and stood up for a cleaner, healthier energy future for Ohio. With the state’s renewable and efficiency standards back in place, Ohio can reclaim its spot as a clean energy leader, clearing the way for well-paying jobs, millions in investment, and healthier air for all. Ohioans should cheer – it may be winter, but the clean energy freeze has finally thawed,” said Dick Munson, director, Midwest Clean Energy.

The Sierra Club Ohio Chapter:

We commend Gov.Kasich for vetoing the Ohio Legislature’s attempt to tie our state to outdated, dirty, and expensive energy sources. The world is doubling down on wind, solar, and energy efficiency, and Ohio’s robust manufacturing base is now in a better position to maximize that opportunity,” said Jenn Miller, director. “The return of energy efficiency and renewable energy standards will benefit all Ohioans, as Ohio’s clean energy programs result in lower energy costs, job creation, and improved air quality. We encourage Gov. Kasich to continue to move forward with clean energy policies that will benefit our state for years to come.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists:

Governor Kasich showed real leadership today. By vetoing House Bill 554, he has sent a strong message to the clean energy market that Ohio is serious about creating jobs and spurring investment in that industry,” said Melanie Moore, Midwest field director.

“The Union of Concerned Scientists has been working in coordination with local experts and activists for several years to lift the renewable energy standard freeze to create a win-win situation for the state’s economy and the environment. Governor Kasich’s actions have shown that he too believes Ohio families and businesses benefit when the state’s energy policy includes strong renewable energy and energy efficiency commitments.

EDP Renewables

“This courageous decision by the Governor is a positive step towards reaping a critical economic benefit for Ohio,” said Ryan Brown, executive vice president for eastern U.S. and Canada. “Reforming siting rules to allow Ohio communities that want to host wind farms to do so is the next step in taking advantage of this local resource.” EDPR is a Madrid-based international solar developer, which is completing a 100 megawatt project in Paulding County. The wind farm will power Amazon’s new data center in central Ohio.

The National Audubon Society:

“Conservative politics and profitable clean energy go hand-in-hand. Governor Kasich gets it and Ohioans owe him a big thanks,” said David Yarnold, Audubon president and CEO.

“Audubon has long supported the reinstatement of Ohio’s clean energy standards,” said Marnie Urso, Audubon’s senior program manager in Ohio. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy are vital components to protecting Ohio’s birds, wildlife and people from the threats of pollution and climate change.”

The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund:

“I applaud Gov. Kasich for showing true leadership and vetoing this bill. HB 554 is a sloppy piece of legislation that could increase electric bills and clog our air with pollution while hampering innovation and job growth,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, president. “We urge legislators to follow Gov. Kasich’s lead and allow Ohio’s clean energy potential to be unleashed.”

 MOMS Clean Air Force:

“The 40,000 members of Moms Clean Air Force in Ohio are so proud of Governor Kasich for standing by his pledge to veto legislation that stifled clean energy development in our state,” sai Laura Burns, Ohio coordinator,

“We know there is a connection between an investment in clean energy technologies and a reduction in harmful emissions. By vetoing House Bill 554, Gov Kasich has not only demonstrated his commitment to a clean energy economy in Ohio, but he has also ensured that our children will be protected from air pollution. We thank Governor Kasich for his leadership.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center:

“The governor’s veto today is a positive step towards a clean energy future for Ohio. Ohio needs a balanced energy policy that includes renewable energy and energy efficiency. Business owners in the state’s renewable energy sector and energy efficiency sectors need certainty about Ohio’s direction so they can continue to invest in the state and create jobs,” said Rob Kelter, senior attorney.

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ClimateWire: ELPC’s Learner Sees More Wind, Solar in Illinois’ Future

Midwestern Lawmakers Green The Grid, Slightly
Benjamin Storrow, E&E News Reporter

Midwestern state capitals buzzed with energy legislation in the dying days of 2016.

In Illinois, legislators handed out $2.4 billion in subsidies to two nuclear plants, bolstered the state’s renewable energy mandates and gave utilities added financial incentive to pursue energy efficiency measures. Michigan lawmakers haggled over how much of the state’s power market should be open to competition but ultimately made few major changes. And in Ohio, legislators passed a plan to effectively make the Buckeye State’s renewable power standards optional. The measure’s fate now hinges on Gov. John Kasich (R), who has voiced his displeasure with the plan.

The net impact of all that paper-pushing: a slightly greener grid in one of America’s most coal-dependent regions.

How much credit, or derision, lawmakers can claim is unclear. Coal was already under siege from cheap natural gas in the Midwest. Wind, too, has made inroads — especially in Illinois, where it accounts for the majority of new capacity.

“On the margin, some of the legislation will have an impact,” said Travis Miller, an analyst who tracks the power sector at the investment research firm Morningstar. “But these are very large power markets, and at the end of the day, economics are going to drive what type of generation is in the energy mix.”

That’s not to dismiss the entirety of what lawmakers did, particularly in Illinois. Subsidies for Exelon Corp.’s two nuclear plants make the economic landscape for Dynegy Inc.’s coal plants even more challenging, analysts said. The Illinois Power Generating Co., an Dynegy subsidiary, filed for bankruptcy a few days after the bill passed.

Lawmakers in Springfield, Ill., provided a fix to Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard, ensuring an annual budget of $200 million in renewable energy credits. Greens are especially excited that roughly half of that sum will go toward distributed and community solar.

“Illinois will have more wind power and solar energy, as they receive policy support and are increasingly economic in the marketplace,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago. “The public wants more clean renewable energy, and the public is going to get more clean renewable energy.”

Read the full story at: http://www.eenews.net/climatewire/2016/12/19/stories/1060047392

 

Energy Wire: Howard Lauds Renewable Energy Victories In Illinois Legislation

EnergyWire

Exelon Nuclear Plants Get Bailout in Sweeping Energy Bill
December 2, 2016
By Jeffrey Tomich

Years of sagging energy prices and eroding electricity demand pushed two Illinois nuclear plants to the brink of closure. A procedural assist in the final hours of the legislative calendar spared the plants from a knockout blow.

In the end, lawmakers approved the most significant rewrite of state energy policy in two decades. Among other things, it authorizes up to $2.4 billion in subsidies over the next decade to keep Exelon Corp.’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants running.

The bill, which will also trigger billions of dollars for wind, solar and energy efficiency, was helped by a last-minute maneuver removing the effective date. The seemingly innocuous change lowered the threshold for passage in the House, where it ultimately passed by just three votes.

The “Future Energy Jobs Bill” now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who issued a statement late yesterday evening indicating he’ll sign it.

“This legislation will save thousands of jobs. It protects ratepayers, through guaranteed caps, from large rate increases in years to come. It also ensures taxpayers are not on the hook to keep the power plants open and online,” Rauner said in a statement.

The stakes in the battle over S.B. 2814 were high, especially for Chicago-based Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear operator, which has been pushing for state aid for money-losing nuclear plants for the past two years (EnergyWire, June 3). The company threatened to take “irreversible” steps to shut down the plants if the Legislature didn’t pass the bill yesterday.

It’s also a win for clean energy advocates. The measure strengthens the state’s energy efficiency standard and includes a fix for Illinois’ long-broken renewable standard. Specifically, it requires development of enough new wind and solar energy to power 1 million homes by 2030.

Exelon went head-to-head with a coalition of wind and solar groups for much of the past two years over the future of Illinois’ energy mix (EnergyWire, Feb. 27, 2015). The state’s largest energy company and green groups finally reached a compromise last week.

“This forward-looking energy policy levels the playing field and values all carbon-free energy equally, positions Illinois as a national leader in advancing clean energy, and will provide a major boost to the Illinois economy,” Exelon’s chief executive, Chris Crane, said in a statement.

For opponents, including the state’s biggest energy users, the outcome is a setback.

Manufacturers, chemical plants and owners of Chicago skyscrapers repeatedly warned legislators that the bill will increase electric costs, undoing the benefits of competition that grew from deregulation in the late 1990s.

“Beware when you hear Exelon telling you what’s good for the customers,” an official from the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago told a Senate committee in a hearing Wednesday. “We’re the customers.”

Power plant owner Dynegy Inc., which has shut down 20 percent of the generating capacity in downstate Illinois in the past six months, also lobbied hard to kill the bill in the final days.

Dynegy supported it until last week, when the sponsor pulled a convoluted provision that would have generated millions of dollars in additional capacity payments for the Houston-based company’s coal plants (EnergyWire, Nov. 23).

A company spokesman didn’t respond to an email seeking comment last night.

Rates, Jobs at Issue

In the end, for legislators who voted on the bill yesterday evening, arguments centered on bill’s impact on electric rates and the state’s economy. And both sides came armed with conflicting data and studies as supporting evidence.

Rep. Bill Mitchell (R), whose district includes the 1,046-megawatt Clinton nuclear plant northeast of Springfield pleaded with lawmakers to spare jobs and taxes that are vital to the area.

Not only the 800 jobs at the plant but also those at nearby schools and businesses that depend on the plant were in jeopardy.

“The people of DeWitt County have been put through hell for the last six months wondering if they’ll have a job,” he said.

Opponents made equally passionate pleas to not ram through a massive, complex bill in the final hours while the state faces so many other pressing needs.

Rep. Mark Batinick (R) said the aid for Exelon was unnecessary because Illinois is a significant exporter of electricity.

“We’re going to subsidize a company so that it can sell its power out of state?” he said. “That’s supposed to be more important than a budget, than social services, than education?”

Bill supporters cited studies by Illinois agencies and another by Brattle Group consultants suggesting that Illinois electricity rates would go up if the nuclear plants shut down prematurely. Rauner pressed for rate caps for all classes of utility customers as a condition for his approval.

Including the energy savings from huge investments in energy efficiency that would be unleashed, consumers would actually see a net savings in energy costs in the long run, according to proponents including the Citizens Utility Board, a utility watchdog group.

St. Louis-based Ameren, a distribution utility that serves the southern half of Illinois, agreed and said its customers would save money even factoring in the cost of the nuclear subsidies.

Other consumer advocates, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) and AARP, weren’t convinced. Both fought the bill until the end and raised questions about whether the last-minute rate caps would protect all customers equally.

“We want to gamble on 50-plus lobbyists who spend a lot of money who tell us if we don’t do something, the sky’s going to fall? The sky is not falling, and rates are not guaranteed to go up,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R).

State Sen. Chapin Rose (R), the bill’s lead sponsor in the state Senate, asserted that allowing the Exelon plants to close was the bigger risk. “How would you define losing 20 percent of the power on your grid? That’s a gamble,” he said.

Renewables, Efficiency Score Wins

Almost overshadowed by the drama around Exelon’s nuclear plants was the effect the bill will have on renewable energy development and energy efficiency in Illinois.

Illinois’ 25 percent renewable standard has been broken for years because of an unintended conflict in state law. S.B. 2814 resolves the conflict so the standard can be funded. It also specifically requires development of 1,300 megawatts of new wind and 300 MW of solar — a mix of utility-scale, community and rooftop projects.

The bill also strengthens Illinois’ energy efficiency standard, requiring Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison to reduce electricity usage in its service area by 21.5 percent by 2030. Ameren will be required to cut usage in its mostly rural downstate territory by 13 percent.

“This legislation should reenergize Illinois’ solar energy and wind power development bringing investments and cleaner air and water,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, in a statement.

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WI State Journal: ELPC Concerned Over Use of Energy Efficiency Money On Broadband Coupons

Microsoft Word - Document1

More Broadband Money is on the Way for Rural Wisconsin
December 2, 2016
By Judy Newman

Efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural Wisconsin residents and businesses got a double-boost on Thursday, with up to $61.5 million in additional funds being funneled toward projects to expand broadband.

Gov. Scott Walker asked the state Legislature to pass a bill that would allocate an additional $35.5 million over the next three years to make broadband more accessible to rural residents and businesses.

The proposal, to be funded by a surplus in the state’s Universal Service Fund, would triple Wisconsin’s broadband and technology investments to $52 million for the 2017 through 2019 fiscal years, Walker said.

“It will allow Wisconsin communities, especially in rural areas, to compete for jobs, improve education, and provide a higher quality of life,” the governor said.

The money includes grants to expand high-speed internet access in rural areas, and for schools and libraries to upgrade their internet access and train teachers.

Also on Thursday, the state Public Service Commission approved spending up to $26 million in the 2017 and 2018 calendar years toward new programs for rural areas that couple energy efficiency projects with broadband upgrades.

The PSC action puts broadband benefits — for the first time — into the mix of incentives offered through the Focus on Energy program for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It also calls on internet service providers, from local companies to national giants, to offer a package of energy- and internet-related incentives.

That means, for example, rural homeowners may be able to get a $50 rebate for installing high-speed internet along with a rebate for adding a smart thermostat. “Smart thermostats use the internet to adjust the energy consumption in your home,” said Bob Seitz, executive assistant to PSC chairwoman Ellen Nowak.

The plan drew some critics.

“The Public Service Commission continues to try to fit a square peg in a round hole,” Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in a statement. “Using Focus to fund internet subscriptions only helps people who already have broadband access; it doesn’t increase access to those who could most benefit.”

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