Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Rob Kelter says New Ohio Energy Bill Could Threaten Jobs


Critics: Jobs Will Be in Jeopardy if Ohio Energy Bill Becomes Law
December 2, 2016
By Kathiann M. Kowalski

On the same day that a new study reported that more than 300 companies in Ohio are part of the supply chains for the wind and solar industries, lawmakers voted a bill out of committee that would make compliance with the state’s clean energy standards voluntary until 2020.

If House Bill 554 becomes law, critics say the state would lose out on business opportunities and jobs. In their view, the bill would also discourage competition, keep electricity prices high and promote pollution that causes health problems and contributes to climate change.

“We’re either going to move in a clean energy direction that produces new jobs related to solar and wind and efficiency,” said Rob Kelter of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which released the supply chain report on Nov. 30. “Or we’re going to let other states and other countries manufacture these new products.”

‘Behind the Radar’

According to the supply chain report, 207 Ohio companies supply the solar energy industry, 134 manufacture things for the wind energy industry, and 20 serve as suppliers for both industries.

Those companies’ manufacturing operations “are sort of behind the radar,” Kelter noted.

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WCBE.org: ELPC’s Rob Kelter Says Ohio’s Trained Workforce Makes it Ready to Become Renewable-Energy Hub

wcbe.org logo

Report: Keeping Green Energy Standards Freeze Will Hurt Ohio Businesses
December 1, 2016
By Jim Letizia

While state lawmakers continue to fight over whether to extend the 2014 freeze on Ohio’s clean energy standards, a new report shows keeping them in place can position the state to be an industry leader.

The report by The Environmental Law and Policy Center shows Ohio has more than 300 solar and wind supply-chain businesses, meaning it’s ready to become a major renewable-energy hub. Center spokesperson Robert Kelter says Ohio’s manufacturing base and trained workforce are a main reason why.

The report also cites the state’s central location and transportation system, as well as the large number of institutions that support renewable energy growth and development.

 Read Here

Public News Service: ELPC’s Rob Kelter says wind and solar play important role in Ohio’s clean-energy future

Public News ServiceReport: Solar and Wind Good Business for Ohio Companies
November 30, 2016
By Mary Kuhlman

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As Ohio lawmakers debate the future of the freeze on the state’s clean-energy standards, a new report highlights how strong clean-energy policies can boost the economic growth of wind and solar energy. According to research released today by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, with more than 300 solar and wind supply-chain businesses, the Buckeye State is primed to become a major renewable-energy hub.

Senior attorney at the center Robert Kelter said the state’s established manufacturing base and trained workforce are a big part of the reason.

“Ohio has a really strong workforce of people in the manufacturing sector, and those people are perfect for the kinds of jobs that are needed to supply the wind and solar industries,” he explained.

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Scientific American: ELPC’s Learner Weighs in on Coal and Energy Legislation in Illinois

Scientific American

Will the Rust Belt Stick with Coal Under Trump?
November 22, 2016
By Ben Storrow

Coal remains king in the Rust Belt. But whether the carbon-laden fuel retains its throne depends on state lawmakers in a handful of Midwestern capitals.

Illinois legislators are debating a bill that would provide subsidies to aging nuclear and coal plants. Ohio policymakers are fielding calls from utilities to guarantee a rate of return for their old coal facilities. And Michigan representatives are sorting through an energy package that will determine the future makeup of their state’s electric grid.

The state decisions come at a critical moment for U.S. energy policy. Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest means the United States is unlikely to implement the carbon caps on the power sector proposed under President Obama, which are the centerpiece of America’s participation in the Paris climate agreement.

Trump’s victory has added a new wrinkle to Rust Belt energy debates. In Illinois, Exelon Corp. had argued financial assistance for its nuclear plants was essential to meeting the state’s goals under the Clean Power Plan, U.S. EPA’s carbon-cutting regimen. Utility executives, testifying before Illinois lawmakers last week, acknowledged Trump’s victory complicated their position (EnergyWire, Nov. 17).

To the north in Michigan, some Republican lawmakers are calling for policymakers to apply the brakes on an energy package that was developed with the assumption the Clean Power Plan would be put into place. Supporters, who include Gov. Rick Snyder (R), dismiss those arguments. Michigan has witnessed a wave of coal plant closures this year and needs to focus on grid reliability, they say.

“Could some coal plants stay open longer as a result of the Clean Power Plan going away? Yes, I think that’s a possibility,” said Paul Patterson, a financial analyst who tracks the utility sector at Glenrock Associates LLC. “We will have to wait and see what the Trump administration comes up with, but also for what the individual states want to do.”

The decisions made by Midwestern lawmakers figure to be particularly important. The Rust Belt remains disproportionately reliant on coal to meet its electricity needs, meaning a further greening of the U.S. grid will depend to a great degree on state actions.

Michigan gets 46 percent of its power from coal. The fuel accounts for 59 percent of power generation in Ohio. In neighboring Indiana, that figure reaches as high as 75 percent. Nationally, coal power represents about a third of total power production.

Debate over the Clean Power Plan obscures a more important trend, though, analysts said. Economics will be the main driver in deciding the future makeup of the Rust Belt’s power grid.

Electricity demand in the region is stagnating, in large part due to energy efficiency measures.

Natural gas plants are out-competing their coal counterparts. And renewables are fast approaching the point where they can displace coal-fired power, even without subsidies.

There is also this: Many Rust Belt coal plants are simply old.

Analysts predict the region’s electric grid will become less reliant on coal in the coming years, regardless of whether the Clean Power Plan is implemented. But how fast the transition occurs, and what fuels replace it, will depend to a great degree on what state policymakers decide.

“I don’t think the Clean Power Plan is the central story,” said Nachy Kanfer, deputy director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “I think the central story is how wholesale markets reorganize themselves to survive in an era of persistently low wholesale power prices and a market where consumers are persistently demanding cleaner alternatives.”

A Brownish-Green ‘Christmas Tree’ Bill in Ill.

Illinois lawmakers have proposed expanding the state’s ability to procure electrons from coal plants in the southern part of the state (EnergyWire, Nov. 16). The provision was largely aimed at winning the support of coal-reliant utilities, like Dynegy Inc., which might have objected to the bill’s financial support for Exelon’s nuclear facilities. But it has attracted a wide array of opposition from environmentalists, who object to the coal facilities’ emissions, and business groups, which are against paying more to keep old plants online.

To complicate matters further, the legislation also contains measures aimed at enticing greens.

It calls on Commonwealth Edison Co., which serves the Chicago area, to cut electricity demand 23 percent by 2030 through efficiency measures. The bill would also boost the state’s renewable energy standard, requiring 25 percent of Illinois power to come from low-carbon sources by 2025.

“Right now, the bill is a Christmas tree that badly needs some pruning,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

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Energy Wire: ELPC’s Brad Klein Talks Updating Interconnection Standards for Solar


October 17, 2016
Midwest States Urged to Update Grid Access Rules Ahead of Growth
By Jeffrey Tomich

When Xcel Energy Inc. began accepting applications for community solar projects in December 2014, the utility and virtually everyone else who worked with regulators to develop rules for the program were stunned by the magnitude of the response.

Within weeks, Minneapolis-based Xcel received requests totaling hundreds of megawatts of shared solar capacity. To date, more than 1,000 applications pending represent more than 1 gigawatt of capacity.

The backlog that accompanied the community solar boom in Xcel’s service area — the product of a 2013 law — not only led to frustration and anger among developers, it served as a cautionary tale for regulators, utilities and solar developers in other states.

While other Midwest states might not see such sudden and dramatic growth, solar advocates believe it’s a matter of when, not if, those markets take off. And when that happens, they want states to have the tools to smoothly handle the increase in projects wanting grid access and not repeat the Minnesota experience.

“That’s exactly the type of situation we’re trying to avoid,” said Brad Klein, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Midwest clean energy advocacy group.

Read the whole story at www.eenews.net




Press Release: Environmental Groups Call on State of Ohio to Protect Lake Erie Drinking Water, Prevent Algal Blooms


Brian Kaiser, Ohio Environmental Council (614) 487-5837
Molly M. Flanagan, Alliance for the Great Lakes (312) 445-9741
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation (734) 904-1589
Sandy Bihn, Lake Erie Waterkeeper (419) 367-1691

Groups Call on State of Ohio to Protect Lake Erie Drinking Water, Prevent Algal Blooms

August 30, 2016

Columbus, OH – Environmental and conservation groups are again calling for the designation of all western Lake Erie as officially “impaired” in order to restore the lake and prevent toxic algae from continuing to threaten drinking water sources for the cities of Toledo and Oregon.

The Clean Water Act requires Ohio to take a close look at all of the state’s rivers, streams and lakes to determine if they are clean enough to provide safe drinking water, fishing, and swimming. If they do not, they are required to be listed as “impaired,” followed with a plan that sets pollution limits and detailed actions to meet them. Ohio EPA released its draft list of impaired waters for public comments with an August 29 deadline – five months past the federal deadline of April 1st.

Instead of looking at the entire western basin within Ohio’s borders, Ohio EPA only evaluated and gave the impairment designation to Lake Erie’s shorelines and included the drinking water intake area for Toledo and Oregon. The agency said it does not plan to analyze the rest of Ohio’s portion of the lake, instead saying the US EPA in Chicago should.

“Ohio’s disjointed approach makes no sense,” said Adam Rissien, Director of Clean Water at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Restoring water quality along the shorelines doesn’t fix the problem three miles out.”

“It’s past time to take serious action to address toxic algae in Lake Erie,” said Molly M. Flanagan, Vice President of Policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Millions of Ohioans depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water and their livelihood. We cannot afford to keep kicking this can down the road.”

“Ohio EPA missed an opportunity to stand up for Lake Erie,” said said Gail Hesse, director of Great Lakes water program at the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “The state of Ohio needs to use all of the tools at its disposal, including the Clean Water Act, to address water quality impairment and the actions needed to provide clean, safe drinking water.”

“Lake Erie needs the federal framework in the Clean Water Act to bring all stakeholders together to agree on harmful algae sources and amounts, followed by an Implementation Plan that provides annual reports which contain what is being reduced and where,” says Sandy Bihn from Lake Erie Waterkeeper and Lake Erie Improvement Association.

Among the groups calling on the Ohio EPA to designate all of western Lake Erie as “Impaired” are the Ohio Environmental Council, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation, Freshwater Future, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, Lake Erie Waterkeeper and the Lake Erie Improvement Association.

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


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/

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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The Toledo Blade Op-Ed: ELPC’s Learner and Allies Call for Tougher Action to Rid Lake Erie of Toxic Algae Blooms

Closing Gap Between Talk, Action with Lake
By Howard Learner
Published on July 30, 2016

Tuesday marks two years since nearly 500,000 Toledo-area residents were cut off from safe drinking water because toxic algae contaminated the public water supply.

Predictions of a mild algae bloom this year because of light rainfall, along with Toledo’s water treatment plant upgrades, suggest that there will be no water shutoffs this year. But banking the future of the people around Lake Erie on the whims of the weather is a sucker’s bet.

Last week, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency placed parts of Lake Erie on its “impaired” list under the Clean Water Act, including where Toledo draws its drinking water, as well as miles of shoreline and areas around the lake islands. The point is to identify severely polluted spots that need special attention. All of western Lake Erie should be designated impaired given the entire basin’s chronic toxic algae problem.

Still, even naming parts of Lake Erie “impaired” acknowledges the blindingly obvious fact the lake’s ability to provide safe drinking water is under threat. The primary reason is also obvious: too much fertilizer and manure run off farm fields, with too few protections to keep water clean before it gets to Lake Erie.

According to a recent study conducted by leading Midwest academic institutions, including OSU, the Maumee River is the main contributor to western Lake Erie’s toxic algae problem, with 85 percent of the river’s pollution stemming from crop fields and livestock farms.

Manure and chemical fertilizer are swept into the Maumee River during storms and snow melts.

There are sensible actions and solutions that can prevent damaging runoffs. Specific farming practices like cover crops and perennials reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the lake and are highly effective when combined with actions like not over-applying manure and fertilizer. Experts in Ohio already work with farmers to encourage their voluntary adoption, as they have done for decades. And yet today, with all of those activities happening, we are still talking about algae bloom “season” as if it’s normal for toxic water to show up every summer.

The dry spring that is buying Lake Erie time this year is an outlier and will become more so as climate change continues to alter our Great Lakes. While Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario have taken positive steps to reduce phosphorus, current actions will not achieve the 40 percent phosphorus reduction by 2025 committed to by their leaders in June, 2015.

Ohio released a draft of its plan to meet this commitment earlier this year. Unfortunately, Ohio’s plan relies too much on voluntary approaches that have been shown to be insufficient across the country, and won’t successfully reduce phosphorus levels to meet the ambitious 2025 goal. A voluntary approach alone will not curb phosphorus pollution from the agricultural industry.

That is why we are glad the state of Ohio has designated at least parts of Lake Erie as impaired — an initial step toward real protections that put safe and clean water first.

We are also calling on state lawmakers and officials to establish new policies that ensure widespread adoption of practices that are verified proper applications of fertilizer and manure and will reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into nearby rivers and lakes. We also need proactive compliance to confirm that existing rules are being followed.

When our region loses clean, safe drinking water, we put everything at risk. Don’t bank on the weather. Bank on decisions that put clean, safe drinking water first.

Mr. Learner is the executive director at Environmental Law & Policy Center. Co-author Heather Taylor-Miesle is executive director at the Ohio Environmental Council. Co-author Joel Brammeier is president and CEO of Alliance for the Great Lakes.


Ecosystem Marketplace: ELPC’s Brad Klein Weighs in on Water Quality Trading Programs

Water Quality Trading: What Works? What Doesn’t? And Why Don’t We Know This Already?

By Kelli Barrett

July 22, 2016

Water utilities and NGOs around the world are using market-based mechanisms to clean regional water bodies and restore surrounding watersheds, but critics say the programs are unproven. Proponents counter: yes, they are, and the data exists to prove it!

For years now, North American cities like Denver and New York have been diverting water fees into forest conservation, while Kenyan flower-growers have been voluntarily paying upland farmers to develop terraces that slow runoff. Just this week, legislators in the Peruvian Capital of Lima authorized a program that will divert some of the city’s water fees into the restoration of ancient, pre-Incan canals high in the Andes to capture floodwater for the dry season. In addition to these “investments in watershed services” (IWS) programs, water authorities in the United States, New Zeeland, and Australia are experimenting with something called “water quality trading” (WQT), which aims to keep levels of fertilizer at scientifically acceptable levels by helping farmers implement conservation practices that reduce their agricultural runoff.

Each program is uniquely its own, but they all hinge on the premise that market-based mechanisms deliver better results and more flexibility by focusing on quantifiable, verifiable outcomes – either in terms of water quality or regularity of supply – rather than the rigid edicts of “command-and-control” regulation.

Last autumn, an organization called Food and Water Watch (FWW) challenged that assumption, at least as far as WQT is concerned, in a paper that re-labeled WQT as “pollution trading” and charged that it undermines the Clean Water Act (CWA) and puts US waterways at great risk – a contention that was promptly dismissed by WQT proponents like Brent Fewell and Bobby Cochran.

Fewell, a one-time senior official at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and founder of the law firm Earth and Water Group, penned a piece entitled “Food & Water Lies – FWW Stands in the Way of Environmental Protection” which derided the organization as being ideologically anti-market and anti-public private partnership, while Cochran, the Executive Director of the Oregon-based nonprofit Willamette Partnership, was a bit more forgiving.

“FWW did not do an independent assessment on water quality trading,” said Cochran, whose organization is active in the WQT space and often acts as an advocate for trading.

However, Cochran adds that proponents of trading aren’t producing objective content either.

And while the pro and con camps continue to argue, reams of hard data from dozens of pilot projects are sitting around just begging for a disinterested, scientific evaluation. Cochran, among other practitioners, suggest a third-party, independent review of this data to settle the debate over whether WQT is effective.


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