The Utilities Quiet Control of Decentralized Power Technologies

From The Power Line  a blog hosted by Bill Powers

Scott Sklar is one of the most expert of US experts on decentralized power.  Here is a very informative article he posted recently on Renewable Energy World.  Mr. Sklar takes apart power company claims that by using modern decentralized power technologies, small scale electricity producers are getting a free ride from consumers stuck in the clutches of obsolete generation and distribution.

This is a must read for anyone wanting to know “the rest of the story.”  To read The Power Line blog, take a look here.

Just a note: Bill Powers is among CETF and SOUL’s expert witnesses in disputing the need for the Badger Coulee Transmission Line.

Wisconsin Electric’s War on Solar: A Case Study

In Wisconsin, WE Energies has proposed rate changes to the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) that will increase monthly facilities fees on all customers and add crushing tariffs to those who produce grid-tied renewable energy. Their latest attempt to gain support for their proposals was contained in a brochure that went out to all of their customers with this month’s billing (“Learn about Our 2015-16 Rate Request”). In short, it contains information that is simply not true in order to demonize solar customers as unfair moochers. How do I know it’s not true? We are having a grid-tied solar array installed this week, and I know exactly what it will cost us to use the grid. The truth needs to get out before the PSC hearings in Madison on September 24 and Milwaukee on October 8. Follow me below the jump and tell all of your friends in Wisconsin the truth!

Read more here.

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Energy Efficiency Drives a Changing Energy Paradigm

The Courant (Hartford Connecticut) Sep 11, 2014

Efficiency, Renewables Cut Away At Growth In New England Electricity Use

http://www.courant.com/business/hc-iso-new-england-energy-forecast-0912-20140911,0,2934000.story

BOSTON — Efficiency efforts throughout New England are expected in the next decade to offset most of the increase in demand for electricity, officials with the region’s electric grid said Thursday.

More distributed generation in the form of solar installations also will cut away at the amount of power needed from the region’s largely natural-gas-fired power plants.

ISO New England, the nonprofit group that runs the region’s wholesale power markets and operates the power grid, said Thursday that electricity use would be 129,000 megawatt hours in 2014, growing only slightly to 130,500 megawatt hours in 2023.

The report’s projections take a general stab at outlining how demand for electricity measures up to what’s available through the region’s power plants, a forecast that has increased in importance after a number of large, important power plants announced they would be closing down in the next few years.

“The message is much different this year: We are short on resources,” Michael I. Henderson, the grid’s director of regional planning and cooperation, told a Boston conference room full of state officials, energy advocates and representatives of the power industry. “With retirements coming we’re facing additional challenges.”

The fear is that the region is getting closer and closer to being over-reliant on natural gas, if it hasn’t crossed that line already.

While that shift has resulted in much lower power prices for residents and businesses, higher demand for the fuel has not been met with booming construction of more pipelines to get it here. The outcome: New England has paid serious premiums for the fuel in the past few winters because of competition between power plants and the gas distribution companies that feed homes and businesses.

While the 2014 Regional System Plan released in draft form Thursday gave a nod to the seriousness of the gas issue, it doesn’t offer a clear long-term solution. For the short term, ISO New England has received federal approval for a program of stop-gap measures to get the region through another winter that is likely to prove tough for the electric grid.

The winter reliability program provides a financial incentive for power plants to stockpile oil or to arrange for deliveries of natural gas ahead of time. It also provides additional incentives for large users of power to turn off or ratchet down their usage during times when the system is especially constrained.

For the first time, the regional plan showed a projection of distributed electric generation projects, which are large solar arrays. According to the group’s analysis, New England had 500 megawatts of solar last year, which will grow to 1,800 megawatts in a decade. Connecticut’s share of that is the second largest of any state in the region, behind Massachusetts, with 345.4 megawatts in 2023.

Wisconsin PSC combines SOUL and CETF for Intervenor Funds

By Bev Vaillancourt, CETF Board Member

As you may know, XCEL Energy and American Transmission Company (ATC)’s application for the Badger-Coulee line has been received by the Wisconsin PSC. Following that, SOUL and CETF separately applied to the Wisconsin PSC for intervenor funds to cover the cost of expert testimony as part of the application review process. Though together the request was for over $200,000, the Wisconsin PSC determined that the intervenor applications were duplicative enough to award a joint amount of $75,000.

With that decision, SOUL and CETF were faced with the problem of having to dramatically reduce what the two groups could offer in compensation to expert witnesses while still presenting a solid and compelling stance that the Badger Coulee line is 1) not needed, 2) environmentally harmful, and 3) economically obscene. In effect, SOUL and CETF were expected to divide the funds in any way the two groups could agree to do so.

After a great deal of introspection and discussion, the SOUL and CETF boards independently voted to join forces and dollars, with a focus on compensating key expert witnesses. A newly developed joint workplan, as required by the WPSC, will be submitted soon. A steering committee made up of 2 SOUL board members and 2 CETF board members has been formed to monitor progress of all documents required of expert witnesses, to ensure that filings with the WPSC are done in a timely manner, and to maximize our opportunities for collaboration and effective dissent.

Fund raising efforts are ongoing to try to maximize the dollars awarded by the WPSC. Look for more information on this website posted as this process unfolds.

We will keep you updated as more happens. The CETF Board is excited about working in joint effort with SOUL. In unity there is strength! The CETF board very much wants to hear from you. Feel free to post your thoughts to this blog. More about SOUL can be found here.

 

Energy Innovation Key to our Future

by Deb Severson

Rather than accept that battles waged about high-voltage regional transmission lines are between not-in-my-backyard challengers and straight-line engineers, or coal vs. renewable energy, we should get curious, educated and involved.

Rather than accept that more transmission will improve the reliability and environmental impact of our grid, we need to relentlessly ask “why?” Especially when the stakes are so high.

Read the entire article at LaCrosseTribune.com.

Thank you, Deb, for another eloquently written article on the need for a energy solution paradigm shift in Wisconsin and across the nation.

 

 

PSC Cracks the Door Open for Citizen Input on CapX2020

IMPORTANT INFORMATION from Deb Severson

On May 14, 2014 the Wisconsin Public Service Commission authorized the limited reopening of the CapX2020 docket to consider new evidence regarding the route.  CETF commented, and asked the Commission to use its discretion to reevaluate the project based on:

  1. I.               Potential for adverse human, animal and avian health issues on these, and all, routes  that were previously not addressed

Despite the substantive recent research, the Environmental Impact Statement ignored growing concern and research regarding human, animal and avian health connected to transmission lines’ emission of UV and ionizing radiation due to corona discharge. … when it is a public health issue, the Commission should apply this new learning not only to the realignment of routes but the project at large ….  New and recent research calls into question the Commission conclusion “the facilities approved by this Final Decision will not have undue adverse impacts on environmental values including ecologic balance, public health and welfare, …” and provides a significant cause to pause to protect citizens, communities and our habitat.

  1. II.              Updated cost projections based on the potential and previously granted realignments, along with progress / learning to date
  1. III.            Implications of exercising eminent domain on these, and all, routes when other solutions resolve reliability-based need in the La Crosse area

If the Commission and applicants say utilities are maxed out on using demand response to shave peak demand and new information shows CapX2020 utilities have shaved their use to none, how in good conscience can eminent domain and rate payer dollars be sacrificed to expand utility access to the wholesale energy market?

On January 9, 2014, CETF and SOUL petitioned the Commission to Reopen the CapX2020 docket providing relevant new information that negated or deferred the need for the CapX2020 Hampton-La Crosse transmission line, and demonstrated that less expensive and less denigrating solutions were available to address critical load concerns in the La Crosse area.

The Commission ignored the request, and CETF takes issue with the Commission’s ignoring citizens who present crucial, valid and new information while choosing to reopen the docket when the utilities make the request.  Because of this, CETF asked the Commission to be certain the project benefits the ratepayers the Commission is meant to serve by considering new information presented in its May 30 response  but also in January 2014.

Comment period has been extended to Friday June13, 2014 12:00 noon and CETF encourages interested citizens to provide their own comments.

Wisconsin Public Radio talks Badger Coolee Project

It’s time to turn our attention to Badger Coulee. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has accepted Xcel Energy’s and ATC’s application regarding the Badger Coulee Transmission Project. Scoping meetings are planned in the near future.

Deb Severson from Citizen’s Energy Task Force was invited to a Wisconsin Public Radio forum on the merits of the Badger Coulee line. Her candid comments are well worth the listen. Click on the link to move to the WPR website. Click “Listen” to hear Deb’s comments, along with those of ATC and the WPSC. Deb, as always, presents measured and well researched comments that go to the heart of this unneeded and costly project.

Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project

 

Songs of the Badger Tallgrass Prairie

Songs of the Badger Tallgrass Prairie, Part 4

by Laura Olah, executive director CSWAB

songbird

Documented rare species at Badger Army Ammunition Plant include the Eastern Whip-poor-will.  Made famous in folk songs, poems, and literature for their endless chanting on summer nights, Whip-poor-wills are easy to hear but hard to see. Their brindled plumage blends perfectly with the gray-brown leaf litter of the open forests where they breed and roost.  These birds are on the decline in parts of their range as open forests are converted to suburbs or agriculture.

Sound and Disturbance

There is significant scientific literature documenting the physical and ecological effects of off-road vehicle use, ranging from soil compaction to non-native plant dispersal.  However, the most widespread impact on songbirds and other wildlife is disturbance. Disruption of breeding and nesting birds is a particularly well documented problem.  Many species are sensitive to human disturbance with the potential disruption of courtship activities, over-exposure of eggs or young birds to weather, and premature fledging of juveniles. Repeated disturbance can eventually lead to nest abandonment and long-term bird community changes.

Acoustic interference from noise can hamper the detection of song by birds of the same species, making it more difficult for them to establish and maintain territories, attract mates, and/or maintain pair bonds. This, in turn, may reduce breeding success in noisy roadside habitats. When begging for food, nestlings may need to call louder to elicit the desired response from their parents, thereby increasing the energetic cost of obtaining food and potentially decreasing fitness.

High levels of traffic noise may also interfere with the detection of alarm calls such as those signaling the presence of predators, which may lead to higher rates of predation.  In addition to road noise, scientific studies have documented a correlation between high urban noise levels and songbird diversity – the more noise, the fewer the number of bird species.

Activities that create an urbanized environment (clean pavement, mowed grass, maintained buildings, and ornamental landscaping) are predicted to produce a bird community dominated by a few non-native and common native bird species, WDNR biologists caution.

All of these considerations make clear that high-impact use and sound disturbance will be detrimental to the songbirds of Badger.

To  hear the song of the Eastern Whip-poor-will, go to:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/eastern_whip-poor-will/sounds

 

NEXT WEEK: Wisconsin ranks second nationally in the proportion of citizens considered birders, with fully one-third of residents 16 and older reporting they travel to watch birds, or actively watch and identify birds around home, according to a new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report.  PLUS, how you can help save the songbirds of Badger.

 

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… for a sustainable energy future