CLEAN ENERGY

Industry Leaders collaborate to launch new regulatory innovation initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For media requests, please contact Jordan Nachbar at jnachbar@sepapower.org or Judith Nemes at jnemes@elpc.org 

Industry leaders collaborate to launch new regulatory innovation initiative

“Renovate” seeks to enable the evolution of state regulatory processes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A diverse group of national nonprofit organizations and industry thought leaders announced a new initiative to help evolve state regulatory processes for the power sector to keep pace with the dynamic energy needs of customers and develop more effective ways of working together to identify and deliver new solutions to those needs.

Renovate is convened by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and launched in partnership with the Environmental Law & Policy Center and other leading electric industry and stakeholder groups (see the full list below).

The initiative’s vision is to enable the evolution of state regulatory processes and practices in order to address the scalable deployment of innovative technologies and business operating models that support the transition to a clean and modern energy grid.

“This groundbreaking initiative will help address the challenges in meeting customer needs and increased expectations for a modern grid enabled by new technologies, while continuing to provide clean, affordable, safe, and reliable electric service,” said Janet Gail Besser, Managing Director of Regulatory Innovation & Utility Business Models at SEPA.

“The electricity system is rapidly changing, and states must advance forward-looking policies to achieve the public benefits,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “States can lead with policies to accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that are good for consumers, good for economic development, and good for the environment.”

To begin Renovate, a task force including commissioners, consumer and environmental advocates, legislators, and leaders from utilities, solution providers and state energy offices alongside initiative partners identified problem statements to guide the initiative’s focus. The problem statements include issues on the steep learning curve for all industry participants, managing system risk and uncertainty, managing increased rate of change and the balancing and cross-coordination of multiple priority sets.

Working with a task force of stakeholder representatives and partners, the next phase of the initiative entails identifying a set of solutions to designated problem statements, and identifying, assessing and benchmarking existing regulatory innovations—both domestically and globally—which will include the development and publication of key illustrative case studies.

For more information on the Renovate Initiative and to view the full list of partners and task force members, click here

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Renovate Partner Organizations:
American Public Power Association (APPA)
Edison Electric Institute (EEI)
Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC)
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions (NARUC)
National Association of State Energy Offices (NASEO)
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
National Governors Association (NGA)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP)
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)
Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)

About SEPA
The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) is an educational nonprofit working to facilitate the electric power industry’s smart transition to a clean and modern energy future through education, research, standards and collaboration. SEPA offers a range of research initiatives and resources, as well as conferences, educational events, advisory services, and professional networking opportunities. SEPA is founder and co-sponsor of North American Smart Energy Week (a trade show which includes Solar Power International and Energy Storage International among other smart energy topics) and winner of the Keystone Policy Center’s 2016 Leadership in Energy Award.

About ELPC
ELPC is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders. The organization develops and leads successful strategic advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural resources.

Wisconsin PSC/DNR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Echoes Concerns of Unneeded Transmission Line Harming Driftless Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Dave Clutter, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, (608) 692-2153, Dave@driftlessconservancy.org
George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, (608) 516-5545, georgemeyer@tds.net
Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, (312) 795-3706, JNemes@elpc.org

Wisconsin PSC/DNR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Echoes Conservation Groups & Natural Resource Experts’ Concerns of Unneeded Huge Transmission Line Harming Scenic Driftless Area

State report identifies harmful impacts, need for huge transmission line questioned

Dodgeville, WI – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ and Public Service Commission’s just-released draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) confirms many of the same vital natural resources concerns over American Transmission Company’s (ATC) proposed huge Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and 17-story high towers already voiced by local conservation groups and leading natural resources experts. The proposed transmission line would cut a wide swath through the Driftless Area’s scenic landscapes, conservation lands, parklands, key waterways, and other natural resource treasures. This is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which, in any case, is not needed for electricity reliability.

According to Driftless Area Land Conservancy Executive Director David Clutter: “The Driftless Area is a nationally significant landscape that should be protected. We appreciated that Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources’ draft EIS recognized many of the same potential harms we and others identified that a massive transmission line and its 17-story high towers would inflict upon this unique treasure in the Midwest.”

A top-rate team of Wisconsin’s leading natural resources experts presented their concerns in written comments filed in January with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Their comments were submitted on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is serving as their public legal counsel.

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former Director of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, said: “The Driftless Area and specifically the locations that would be harmed by the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. State, federal and local governments have invested many millions of dollars in lands for fish and wildlife habitat, public access and recreational purposes including hunting, fishing, trapping, biking, hiking and birdwatching which generate scores of millions of dollars into the local and state economies. The value of these public lands will be significantly degraded by the construction of the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.”

Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the attorneys for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation said:  “The Driftless Area is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which is not needed for reliability in any case as electricity demand is flat and there is already surplus power. The proposed costly transmission line is yesterday’s misguided way to meet future energy needs for people and businesses in Wisconsin.  There are better, cleaner, and more flexible solar energy, storage, wind power and energy efficiency resources in southwest Wisconsin that would create jobs and economic growth here instead of subsidizing out-of-state energy including fossil fuel generation.”

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2018 Year End Report

ELPC has been protecting the Midwest’s environment and natural heritage for 25 years. In 2018, we expanded our team of skilled public interest attorneys, policy advocates and communications specialists. We remain focused on the strategic legal, policy and advocacy work that has made ELPC so effective. This work has never been more important and we look forward to more successes in 2019.

To learn more about our 25 years of successful environmental advocacy, download our 2018 End of Year report or view below.

A+ Team of Wisconsin Natural Resources Experts Oppose Huge Transmission Line That Endangers Scenic Driftless Area Values

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A+ Team of Wisconsin Natural Resources Experts Oppose Huge Transmission Line That Endangers Scenic Driftless Area Values

Threats to Unique Landscape, Recreational Tourism and Fragile Ecosystems

Dodgeville, WI – Four of Wisconsin’s leading natural resources experts filed strong written comments opposing American Transmission Company’s (ATC) proposed huge Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and 17-story towers that will cut a wide swath through the Driftless Area’s scenic landscapes, conservation lands, parklands, key waterways and other natural resource treasures. This is the wrong place for a huge transmission line that is not needed for electricity reliability.

The experts’ written comments were filed individually by January 4th with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They were also submitted on behalf of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC) and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) by public interest attorneys at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is serving as legal counsel for DALC and WWF.

According to DALC Executive Director David Clutter: “The Driftless Area is a nationally significant landscape that should be protected. This massive transmission line and its 17-story tall towers are not needed for reliability, and the Driftless Area should not be sacrificed for ATC’s profits.  We are pleased to have a superb team of natural resources experts weigh in on the importance of protecting and conserving a unique treasure in the Midwest.”

The natural resources expert team includes:

George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former Director of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, stated:

“The Driftless Area and specifically the locations proposed to be traversed by the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. State, federal and local governments have invested over $100 million dollars in lands for fish and wildlife habitat, public access and recreational purposes including hunting, fishing, trapping, biking, hiking and birdwatching which generate scores of millions of dollars into the local and state economies. The value of these public lands will be significantly degraded by the construction of the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.”

Don Waller, Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies and former Department Chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated:

“As a professional conservation biologist, I am concerned about the environmental impacts of this proposed transmission line as I know this project would have both immediate and sustained deleterious impacts on plant, bird, and other animal populations in the region.”

Stephen Born, Emeritus Professor of Planning and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated:

“One of the greatest losses associated with a major transmission line across this special region is the degradation of scenic and amenity resources. Because these highly-valued scenic resources are among the surest victims of a huge transmission line, those impacts should be thoroughly and carefully assessed in the review process for the transmission line.”

Curt Meine, Senior Fellow at the The Aldo Leopold Foundation and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated:

“We must strive together for energy solutions that do not sacrifice other conservation goals and degrade the quality of our land (in the Driftless Area). The decision on this proposed powerline is a test.  It will show if we as a society are willing to resist the easy path of expediency and short-term profit.”

The proposed 345 kV high-voltage transmission line is on a route cutting a wide path from Dubuque, Iowa, through the Upper Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Refuge, across protected conservation lands, wetlands, family farms, school district property and many sensitive natural areas in the Driftless Area. The huge transmission line routes would run through the protected Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area and Black Earth Watershed Conservation Area, and by Governor Dodge State Park and Blue Mounds State Park.

ATC is requesting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Public Service Commission so that it can assert eminent domain in order to take private land for its expensive transmission line and high towers.

Howard Learner, Executive Director at the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the attorneys for DALC and the WWF said: “The Driftless Area is the wrong place for a huge transmission line, which is not needed for reliability in any case. The proposed costly transmission line is yesterday’s misguided way to meet future energy needs for people and businesses in Wisconsin.  There are better, cleaner, and more flexible solar energy, storage, wind power and energy efficiency resources in southwest Wisconsin that would create jobs and economic growth here instead of subsidizing out-of-state energy including fossil fuel generation.”

 

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ELPC Commends Preservation of Key Energy Title in New Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Andy Olsen, (608)-334-1456, AOlsen@elpc.org

New Farm Bill Preserves Key REAP Farm Energy Program 

Washington, D.C. – The House and Senate have now passed the Farm Bill and sent it on to the President. The bill continues the Energy Title which includes programs to help develop the vast potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency in agriculture. The bill maintains the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) at $50 million per year of mandatory funding.

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director said:
“The Conference Committee produced Farm Bill wisely preserved the REAP program. We thank the Members of Congress who supported the program that delivers benefits to all agricultural sectors and every state.”

Andy Olsen, ELPC Senior Policy Advocate said: “REAP has done much for many farmers and rural small businesses, as well as our environment. We welcome the continuation of the program and seek to increase funding to do even more for our country.”

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New Environmental Study of Proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Improperly Rejects Alternatives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Chuck Tenneson, charles@driftlessconservancy.org, 608-930-3252

Sarah Eddy, seddy@elpc.org, 312-795-3710

DODGEVILLE, Wis., Dec. 10, 2018 – The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line includes only a cursory review of non-transmission alternatives to the high-voltage line such as greater energy efficiency, local renewables, and energy storage, despite requirements in federal law that alternatives be considered thoroughly. The draft EIS admits that non-transmission alternatives, along with lower-voltage and underground alternatives, were “not carried forward for detailed analysis.”

The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line in southwest Wisconsin would cut a swath through the state’s scenic and ecologically unique Driftless Area. The cost of the project would be borne by electric ratepayers in Wisconsin and other states and energy experts have concluded that the new transmission line is not needed due to flattened demand for electricity in Wisconsin and recent advances in energy technology.

The costs and environmental damage that would be created by the transmission line has sparked opposition and legal challenges from local grassroots citizens and conservation groups. Wisconsin’s Dane and Iowa Counties voted to oppose the transmission line and have intervened in the Public Service Commission proceedings to fight the project.

“We wouldn’t think of putting a power line across the Grand Canyon, so why would we think of putting one through one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the Upper Midwest?” Said Dave Clutter, executive director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. “We have a national treasure in the Driftless Area, and we should treat it like one.”

“RUS is required by federal law to ‘rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives’ to proposed transmission lines like the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project,” said Howard Learner, one of the Environmental Law and Policy Center attorneys representing DALC. “RUS cannot simply look at different environmentally harmful routes for this huge transmission line and call it a day.”

“Iowa County residents have come together to adamantly oppose this unneeded high-voltage power line, which would irreversibly damage the landscape, ecology, and recreation economy we depend on,” said Betsy D’Angelo, a member of the Driftless Defenders’ leadership team. “There are alternatives that can improve our electric system without damaging the Driftless Area’s most important natural areas.”

“The draft environmental impact statement for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project ignores the reality of new technology that has improved energy efficiency and decreased the demand for electricity,” said David Meylor, chairman of the Western Dane Preservation Campaign, the Mount Horeb area citizens group formed to oppose the line. “Recent analyses of electric demand demonstrate that the expensive, invasive Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line project simply isn’t needed.”

“The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission line will have a significant negative impact on fish and wildlife habitat and the management of public lands in Southwestern Wisconsin and in light of other energy alternatives should not be constructed,” stated George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line would install towers of up to 175-feet along a 100-mile route that would affect sensitive natural areas and disrupt economic activity. The project could cost ratepayers more than $1 billion during the life of the project, including a profit margin for the transmission line’s utility owners that is guaranteed by Wisconsin law.

Legal counsel for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy will be reviewing the RUS’s draft EIS in greater detail and will submit comprehensive public comments to the agency. Members of the public are strongly encouraged to submit comments before the deadline of Feb. 5, 2019.

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Issued by:

Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Driftless Defenders

Environmental Law and Policy Center

Western Dane County Preservation Campaign

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

Howard Learner on the State of Solar in the Midwest

ELPC’s President and Executive Director, Howard Learner, joined SEIA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Abigail Ross Hopper, November 14 at the Solar Power Midwest conference to discuss key trends facing the solar industry in the Midwest. There was a discussion on the state of distributed and utility-scale solar since the passage of critical energy legislation in Illinois and Michigan, how recent electoral outcomes factor into regional opportunities and challenges to solar, and how effective strategic partnerships can make solar a more dominant player in the Midwest energy landscape.

Howard closed the conversation with a call of optimism for the future of clean energy saying “We can blow through the 7GW of solar we have in the Midwest if we get the implementation right and seize the opportunities presented.”

Inside Climate News: Can Illinois Handle a 2000% Jump in Solar Capacity? We’re About to Find Out

Can Illinois handle a 2000% jump in solar capacity? We’re about to find out

October 30, 2018

By Dan Gearino

Illinois is about to learn what it takes to manage a nearly 20-fold increase in solar power.

A new state law requires utilities to dramatically increase their purchases of renewable energy, with a goal of getting at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity from clean energy by 2025, a large part of it from solar.

For a state starting with very little solar power now—less than 100 megawatts—becoming a Midwest solar leader will mean building an industry infrastructure almost from scratch, and doing it fast.

To ramp up by the deadline, the state needs two things: workers and projects.

People involved in the effort describe an atmosphere of almost chaotic progress. State officials and clean energy advocates want Illinois to be a model for how to expand clean energy in a way that provides targeted help to the local communities.

“The stakes are high,” said David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, a Chicago-based consumer advocacy group involved in the process. “I think we have a good plan and we have reasons to be optimistic in general, but there’s no question we’ll face some roadblocks and things we didn’t think of.”

Hundreds of people have enrolled in job-training programs across the state, organized by nonprofit groups as part of the law. Developers are submitting proposals for new solar projects. And some of the established developers are starting to complain that the process for selecting projects—designed to give a wide number of developers a chance—is flawed.

Catapulting Illinois to a Midwest Solar Leader

Illinois ranks 35th in the country in solar power right now, with 98 megawatts, less than 1 percent of its electricity generation. Development has been slow here in part because the state lacks the supportive policies from the government and utilities that have boosted solar elsewhere.

Five years from now, analysts expect to see nearly 2,000 megawatts of solar power in Illinois and the state in 17th place nationally, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association. No other state has Illinois’ combination of starting from so low and being on track to rise so high during that period.

“It’s going to catapult Illinois to the forefront of the solar market, and put our state on the path to the renewable future we need to limit the worst impacts of climate change,” said MeLena Hessel, policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

This boom in renewable energy stems from the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act, a 2016 law that provided subsidies for two nuclear power plants and also set the target to get 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025, among other requirements. The renewable energy provisions were part of a legislative compromise to get enough votes to approve the nuclear power subsidies. (The law was upheld by a federal court in September.)

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Energy News Network: Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

By Andy Balaskovitz

Independent power producers say recent rulings by Michigan regulators provide short-term development opportunities but also more uncertainty in the coming years as they negotiate contracts with a major utility.

On October 5, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued multiple orders related to the prices Consumers Energy pays to independent producers under federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts.

One ruling allows for up to 150 megawatts worth of projects to qualify for PURPA contracts at rates that advocates say are more favorable for developers. The rates had been on hold for months as regulators settled questions around avoided costs and contract terms. Avoided costs are the rates paid by law to independent producers based on the price of the utility building the generation itself.

However, it’s unclear how long those terms will stay in place or how much opportunity there will be in the future. In the coming months, the MPSC may allow Consumers to restructure those rates and contract terms in ways that developers say would stifle PURPA contracts. While the most recent rulings apply to Consumers, DTE Energy’s avoided costs are also under consideration.

Clean energy advocates and independent power producers have been closely following the cases for more than two years as PURPA rules could determine the level of third-party solar development in the state. The debate over PURPA and solar development has played out in multiple states in recent years.

Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which intervened in Consumers’ rate cases, said the rulings effectively delay certainty over PURPA contracts by pushing them into Consumers’ IRP, which won’t be finalized for another six months.

“That undercurrent is a troubling,” Kearney said. “Do we really want a commission that isn’t making timely decisions and bouncing issues from one contested case to another?”
If the MPSC doesn’t agree with Consumers’ proposed avoided costs and contract terms, the company still has the ability to withdraw its IRP, while granting the utility’s request could harm developers, Kearney said.

“They’ve suggested that if any part of their plan is not approved, they could pull the whole thing,” Kearney said. “The change in the contract terms would strike a huge blow to independent power producers.”

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Lakeshore Public Radio: State Policies Making Indiana Clean Energy Businesses Less Competitive

September 25, 2018
Reports: State Policies Making Indiana Clean Energy Businesses Less Competitive
by Rebecca Thiele

 

Nearly 90 companies in Indiana play some role in renewable energy projects, which bring jobs to the state. But these businesses can’t be as successful without the policies to support them, according to a new report by the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The ELPC says lately Indiana hasn’t been creating a good business environment for renewable energy. The state opted to phase out net metering last year and eliminated statewide energy efficiency standards in 2014. Chris Rohaly is the president of Green Alternatives Inc., a small solar installation company in Kokomo.

“I’m bidding against companies out of Ohio or Illinois and they — because of the strength of their home markets — are pretty well funded,” he says.

ELPC Clean Energy Business Specialist Tamara Dzubay co-authored the report. She says the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects two renewable energy jobs will grow substantially in the next eight years — but without the right policies, Indiana could miss out on the opportunity.

“Solar energy installation and wind turbine technician jobs cannot be outsourced, so many jobs are there to stay,” Dzubay says.

Among other things, the ELPC suggested developing a statewide energy plan and making it mandatory for utilities to get half of their energy from renewables by 2030.

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