ELPC News

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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.”

Milwaukee J-S: Manitowoc factory lands wind tower orders worth $34 million

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Broadwind Energy Inc. said Thursday it has received orders to produce wind turbine towers at its factory in Manitowoc.

The company said the orders from an unidentified U.S. turbine manufacturer are valued at $34 million.

“With these orders, approximately two-thirds of our tower production capacity for 2015 is sold,” said Peter Duprey, Broadwind president and chief executive, in a statement. “We are currently in late stage discussions to fill the remaining 2015 tower capacity and have started discussions for additional commitments into 2016 and beyond.”

Broadwind, based in Cicero, Ill., will announce its second-quarter results next week.

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Poll Says Small Business Owners Support EPA Water Rule

Thursday, July 24, 2014

new poll from the American Sustainable Business Council released Wednesday found that 80 percent of small business owners say they would support provisions of the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule.

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SustainableBusiness.com: Solar Wins Big In Iowa, Next Battle is Wisconsin

Monday, July 21, 2014

Solar just won big in Iowa in the latest battle with utilities.

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of solar leasing, rejecting the utility’s (and state regulators) claim that only it can sell energy. In a typical leasing arrangement, the city of Dubuque signed a long-term power purchase agreement with Eagle Point Solar, which installed and owns the solar system.

Alliant Energy Corp insists that Eagle Point acted like a public utility in signing a third party power purchase agreement, infringing on its monopoly in the service area. Iowa’s regulatory board agreed.

If the case ended there, solar installers would be subject to a gamut of regulations, increasing costs and complexity for the industry, says the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which represented a coalition of solar businesses and environmental groups in the appeal.

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The (Iowa) Daily Reporter: Storm Lake steps into carbon footprint spotlight

Monday, July 21, 2014

STORM LAKE — The few, the passionate.

Monday night, Storm Lake hosted one of only two field hearings in the state on a newly-announced Environmental Protection Agency proposal to cut carbon emissions from power plants, thought to be a key cause of climate change.

Only 10 people showed up. But those 10 weren’t shy about sharing their opinions — and on a few occasions, arguing their viewpoints about the future of the energy industry with some steam.

The comments from the Storm Lake meeting were videotaped to be shared directly with the EPA.

No one at the hearing questioned the validity of climate change.

“We continue to see the dangerous effects of climate change every day in Iowa, with communities across the state going from drought conditions to severe flooding in a matter of weeks,” said Susan Guy, representing Iowa Interfaith Power & Light. She said her goal is to equip “people of faith” to address the issues of climate change.

When they EPA announced its new proposal in June, no citizen hearings were scheduled for the Iowa region, and her organization felt people in the state should have a chance to be heard. After Storm Lake, a second citizen hearing was to be held in Des Moines.

“Climate change is already posing a risk to health and lifestyle in Iowa,” added Steve Falck of the Environmental Law and Policy Center which is active across the midwest.

While many are claiming the EPA initiative could cost jobs in Iowa, he is of the opinion that it can help create new ones.

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Microsoft To Buy Power From 175 MW Illinois Wind Farm

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Computer software giant Microsoft has signed up to buy the power from the 175 MW Pilot Hill Wind Project, located 60 miles southwest of Chicago. In addition, developer EDF Renewable Energy has acquired a 96% stake in the Illinois project from Orion Energy Group and Vision Energy.

Microsoft’s newly inked 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) represents the company’s largest wind investment to date, following a November PPA with RES Americas for the 110 MW Keechi wind project in Texas. The tech company says it is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and becoming carbon neutral.

Pilot Hill will consist of GE and Vestas wind turbines, and the wind project is situated on the same electric grid that powers Microsoft’s Chicago-area data center. EDF says physical construction will commence shortly, with commercial operation anticipated during the first quarter of 2015.

“The Pilot Hill Wind Project is important to Microsoft because it helps solidify our commitment to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources to meet our energy needs,” says Brian Janous, director of energy strategy for Microsoft. “Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services from the power plant to the chip. Long-term commitments like Pilot Hill help ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our data centers.”

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ELPC Unveils New Ad Campaign in Waukegan, Gets Out Message to Clean Up Coal Plants

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Old Plant. New Owner. Same Problems. What will NRG Energy do to clean up the Waukegan Coal Plant?

If you pick up a copy (or visit the websites) of the Lake County News Sun or Reflejos this month, you might see the following advertisement from ELPC and the Clean Power Lake County Coalition:

Waukegan Ad

ELPC and allies have been working to clean up or shut down the old, dirty Waukegan coal plant for some time. This latest advertising campaign targets the plant’s new owner, NRG Energy, in the hopes that it will increase pressure on the company to declare its plans — hopefully, to clean up the plant — as soon as possible.

Thank you to everyone who already helped this ad go viral on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t already, please share with your friends and networks:

Facebook 2013Twitter 2013

Des Moines Register: Ruling is victory for solar energy

Monday, July 14, 2014

A nationally watched Iowa Supreme Court ruling in favor of a solar energy company could spur growth of the solar industry throughout the state, advocates said Friday.

A split Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that Eagle Point Solar would not violate Iowa law by selling electricity to the city of Dubuque that the company generates through a solar panel installation on the roof of a city building. Industry leaders praise such arrangements, called power purchase agreements, as a key to developing more solar energy.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Environmental Council issued a report finding that the state could supply approximately 20 percent of its energy needs each year through rooftop solar installations. Though solar still lags behind wind energy in Iowa, decreases in costs for solar equipment combined with tax credits are creating a ripe environment for growth, the report said.

The ruling will help tip the scales for solar by legalizing another way for people and governments to pay for solar projects, said Barry Shear, president and CEO of Eagle Point Solar.

“This ruling now makes other solar projects like this viable,” he said in a statement. “We can go to any municipality, any university, any wastewater treatment plant, churches … and we can put solar on their roof or on their property — and they have to come up with zero dollars to do this.”

Iowa’s main public utility companies, Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy, have fought power purchase agreements, arguing that state regulations give them exclusive rights to sell energy in defined territories.

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Two Iowa Supreme Court Victories Advance Clean Energy and Clean Water

Friday, July 11, 2014

This morning, ELPC and our clients and colleagues achieved two big victories before the Iowa Supreme Court on very important solar energy development and clean water protection issues. The first-rate new legal firepower that ELPC has brought to Iowa was key to achieving these legal breakthroughs for the future of clean energy and clean water in Iowa and for setting national precedents. Here are the results:

Iowa Supreme Court Victory #1 – Removing Barriers to Solar Energy Development. ELPC attorneys Brad Klein and Josh Mandelbaum represented a coalition of solar businesses and environmental groups in a case appealing an Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) decision that made solar energy much more expensive and difficult to develop. The original IUB ruling essentially labeled solar installers “public utilities,” subject to a wide gamut of regulatory requirements, if they financed their solar projects through power-purchase agreements with their clients. The Board’s ruling would have increased solar costs and complexity for Iowa businesses like Dubuque-based Eagle Point Solar, which was represented in our suit.

Today’s favorable 4-2 ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court removed regulatory barriers that Iowa utilities were seeking to impose on solar energy development. The decision will result in reduced up-front costs, opening up the solar market to a larger audience. Furthermore, the court noted that companies like Eagle Point Solar “…further one of the goals of regulated electric companies, namely, the use of energy efficient and renewable energy sources.” The fact that the court agrees with ELPC’s legal analysis means good things for the future of solar in Iowa and across the Midwest. Learn more.

Iowa Supreme Court Victory #2 – Protecting Clean Water. In 2010, ELPC and our allies at the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) celebrated Iowa’s adoption of strong “anti-degradation” standards – an important but often ignored part of the Clean Water Act designed to keep unnecessary pollution out of clean waterways. But since then, naysayers have been challenging this important standard and even issuing intrusive subpoenas to intimidate local environmentalists. ELPC and IEC have been steadfast in our defense of both the standards and environmentalists’ First Amendment rights to engage in public participation, achieving courtroom victories in both October 2011 and March 2012, when the courts dismissed groundless subpoenas and threw out a lawsuit challenging the clean water standard.

The Iowa Farm Bureau appealed these decisions, but today the Iowa Supreme Court had the final say when it upheld the fair and open rule-making process that established Iowa’s common-sense water protection standards. This is a clear win for clean water and open and fair government. Now we can put the Farm Bureau’s attempts to delay and distract behind us and move on to protect some of Iowa’s most important lakes, rivers and streams. Learn more.

These cases represent what ELPC does best: We advance environmental solutions that make good economic sense, we hold our ground as powerful forces attempt to dismantle important environmental and public health successes, and we achieve progress on long-term challenges that require effective, steady and innovative advocacy. ELPC has brought new public interest legal advocacy capacity to Iowa, which is producing results and achieving clean energy and clean water progress.

Thank you for your continued engagement with ELPC in achieving successes. Working together, we are making a difference for a healthier society, growing economy and better environment for all.

Iowa Supreme Court Opens Door for Solar Energy Choice

Friday, July 11, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                     

July 11, 2014

Contact:

Manny Gonzales

312.795.3706

MGonzales@elpc.org

 

Josh Mandelbaum

515-244-0253

jmandelbaum@elpc.org

 

Iowa Supreme Court Opens Door for Solar Energy Choice

Ruling Affords Iowans Same Options Offered Families in Other States

 

DES MOINES –Iowans can offer their roof space to solar energy developers and buy the power created from those panels according to an Iowa Supreme Court decision released Friday.

“Today’s decision is a win for Iowans because it gives everyone the option to go solar affordably,” said Brad Klein, senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), who argued the case last spring on behalf of a large coalition of solar energy and environmental advocates. “Across the country, families, businesses and communities have gone solar with third-party ownership. Now, that opportunity can come to Iowa, too.”

In 2011, Alliant Energy argued that an agreement between Dubuque-based Eagle Point Solar and the City of Dubuque violated the utility’s monopoly territory. Under the agreement, Eagle Point agreed to install and maintain solar panels on the Dubuque City Council building, the City would then pay Eagle Point for the energy created by those panels. The utility argued that the agreement, known as a third-party power purchase agreement (PPA) amounted to the creation of a utility. This claim was rejected by the court.

In his majority opinion, Justice Appel wrote that “Third-party PPAs like the one proposed by Eagle Point actually further one of the goals of regulated electric companies, namely, the use of energy efficient and renewable energy sources.”

“We are pleased that the court agreed with us that agreements that take place behind the meter cannot be considered utility deals,” said Josh Mandelbaum, staff attorney with ELPC’s Des Moines office.  “The fact that the court agrees with our analysis of the law means good things for the future of solar in Iowa.”

A recent report by the Iowa Environmental Council, Real Potential, Ready Today: Solar Energy in Iowa highlighted the significant potential for solar energy in Iowa. Mandelbaum said that Iowa is already starting to see the rapid growth of solar, which most recently was highlighted by the tripling of funding available for state tax credits for solar energy installation.

“This ruling opens up solar to a larger audience by bringing down up-front costs. This decision will make solar more affordable for Iowa families and businesses, and it also helps cities, churches and other non-profits to get the whole value of clean energy,” Mandelbaum added.

Friday’s ruling upholds an April 2013 ruling by the Iowa District Court.