Library filed under Energy Policy from Montana
A Montana utility case pending before federal regulators could set a precedent for how energy storage facilities paired with renewable generation will be treated under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), a 1978 law intended to increase competition in power generation.
Xcel Energy Inc. announced it was pulling out of the Mountain West Transmission Group, a collection of eight Rocky Mountain utilities that had been pondering a wider partnership with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). The move underscores the difficulty of uniting the region's disparate utilities under a regional transmission organization ...It also represented a setback for renewable advocates, who believe an integrated grid will facilitate the expansion of wind and solar in the West's coal-centric power sector.
New rules will require big wind farm owners to post bonds with the state of Montana to ensure decommissioning including the removal of giant towers. Draft decommissioning rules were published Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Quality detailing the process and requirements.
A state program that requires utilities to buy from small-scale, locally owned renewable energy projects in Montana is facing a do-or-die moment in Helena. Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, is pushing Senate Bill 78, which would eliminate the Community Renewable Energy Projects program. The bill passed a final vote last week in the Senate 30-19 and now moves into the House of Representatives.
A startup that wants to build a 25 megawatt wind farm near Greycliff in Sweet Grass County claims it’s been frustrated at every turn by resistance from NorthWestern Energy and the state’s all-Republican Public Service Commission.
Several small power projects in Montana complained to FERC in June, arguing that Montana's rules require some projects to win a competitive bid, but NorthWestern Energy doesn't offer enough bidding opportunities.
In a clear reference to wind power, Gallagher said all five of the PSC's Republican members "campaigned against the concept of using the utility bill to force Montana's families and employers to be unwilling investors in high-cost, low-output, intermittent generation and other programs that at present can exist only through government mandates and substantial tax and ratepayer subsidies."
After PPL Montana announced a plan to mothball its J.E. Corette power plant in Billings, likely eliminating 35 jobs and dealing a blow to the local economy, some blamed federally subsidized wind power as the culprit. ..."The wind was brought in to create jobs and to clear carbon emissions, but they've done neither," Winger said. "We're subsidizing a type of industry that can't make it on its own and replacing jobs with unsustainable work."
The utility said it couldn't achieve full compliance because of the unavailability of projects and unforeseen circumstances in which projects fell through ...One of those projects was the Big Otter wind farm, which NorthWestern dropped it, citing environmental concerns.
The divisive issue of "eminent domain" stormed back to prominence at the Legislature Tuesday, as the state Senate revived and then endorsed a once-dead bill that gives a Canadian company the power to condemn property along its route for a power line in north-central Montana.
Officials pushing the bills say that energy prices soar and consumers suffer when utilities are required to allocate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. Clean energy groups counter that lowering the bar on state renewable energy policies would stifle new investment and kill jobs.
The report, prepared by economists at the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, found that Montanans will likely pay $225 million more for power in 2015 because of the state's RPS, and it could cost them as much as $348 million more. Meanwhile there will be negligible environmental benefit, as it is unclear whether use of renewables such as wind and solar actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
I'm not condemning these projects because the information simply isn't available now to determine whether the greater good is to build them. But I do believe that to this point, they've done the absolute bare minimum to explain themselves to the community. Montana deserves better. And Montana can do better for itself.
Travis Kavulla, the Republican opposing Democrat Don Ryan in northern Montana's open seat in PSC District 1, has a similar view. He says requiring utilities to buy a minimum amount of renewable power adds costs to power bills "without generating any real benefits."
The legislative Energy and Telecommunications Committee met at the end of last month to consider several measures, but Republicans and Democrats on the panel ended in a 4-4 draw over a long-term energy strategy. Republicans on the committee were unhappy that last-minute changes to the legislation de-emphasized support for the state's oil, gas and coal industries, instead favoring the development of alternative and renewable energy sources.
SDG&E's proposal will face opposition from consumer groups when it goes before the California Public Utilities Commission, said Michael Shames ..."It's a disturbing example of how this Commission's obsession with renewable power results in perverse incentives for utilities," he said. "And a very compelling reason why the regulators have to seriously reassess its tradeable renewable energy credit policy.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Friday vetoed three bills - one to provide a capital-gains tax credits as an incentive for businesses and two bills to deal with renewable energy.
At the center of conflicts over the bill stands an esoteric commodity known as a renewable energy credit. These certificates - often called RECs or 'wrecks' - are granted to developers for each megawatt hour of clean power generated. ...the utility has argued the measure is only intended to address what is essentially a double requirement for renewable purchases that results in higher bills for its customers.
But we can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, the state should be taking steps to indemnify itself against the possibility, however remote, of "ghost wind farms" - sprawling graveyards with 30-story tombstones in the event a developer or the technology fails.
What may be the most significant environmental-policy/energy bills of the session face a crucial vote today in the Montana House - a vote that could go a long way toward getting the bills through the Legislature. The bills sponsored by Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, would restrict how citizens and citizen groups can appeal permits for energy projects such as power plants and transmission lines.