- Newsletter (385)
This newsletter was originally published on August 4, 2017.
DTE Files Application for New 1100MW Natural Gas Plant
On August 1, DTE Energy filed a Certificate of Necessity (CON) with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to build a 1,100 MW combined cycle natural gas-fired power plant in East China Township in St. Clair County, where DTE already operates a coal-fired power plant. The cost for the new plant is expected to be $1 billion, and DTE hopes to have the plant online by 2022. DTE submitted over 1000 pages of information to the MPSC to review and to consider the CON, including an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
In the IRP, DTE argues the most reasonable and prudent path is to achieve 1.5% energy waste reduction savings, to obtain 15% of its energy from renewable resources by 2021 – consistent with the statutory minimum, to add 125 MW of demand response, and to build the 1100 MW combined cycle gas turbine in order to make up for coal plants being retired. In its application, DTE expects PURPA contracts to decline to 100 MW by 2022.
The IRP – a required step for a certificate of necessity – is being submitted prior to the MPSC completing an extensive stakeholder process to outline the IRP parameters under the new 2016 legislation. The next step in the MPSC IRP planning effort is three public hearings in September around the state in Grand Rapids, Livonia, and Marquette.
If the MPSC approves DTE’s application, DTE would be guaranteed rate-recovery of the costs involved, a necessary step in order to obtain the financing necessary for this type of project. A prehearing conference has been scheduled for September 7, 2017; interested interveners ordinarily must file petitions to intervene not less than seven days prior to the initial prehearing conference. The MPSC has 270 days to respond, adding to an already very full plate of issues.
Bill Would Create Federal Regulations for Autonomous Vehicles
Autonomous vehicle legislation is gaining momentum the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislation, which would make AV regulation a federal issue rather than a state issue, has also won early praise from industry groups.
According to Morning Consult, the bill would “allow manufacturers to produce a limited number of approved vehicles that do not meet current safety standards for testing and development”, while at the same time prohibiting states regulating AVs’ mechanics or software.
This federal regulatory framework is important because manufacturers look to the federal government for a definitive regulatory standard rather than relying on a “patchwork” of state rules, says Aaron Jacoby, chair of national law firm Arent Fox LLP’s automotive industry practice group.
This bill is similar to a senate bill currently being drafted by Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). The Senate version of the bill has not yet been made public.
Michigan Energy News:
- Michigan EIBC member ChargePoint installed Michigan’s first electric vehicle charging stations that charge users by the kilowatt-hour. The stations are located in west Lansing outside the Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Agency for Energy, and are open to the public.
- An Upper Peninsula utility is facing pushback on its plans to build two new natural gas plants, with an independent analysis saying that the proposed project would overcharge UP ratepayers by more than $370 million over the life of the project.
- The Lansing Board of Water and Light is moving forward with plans to deploy automated meter infrastructure – or smart meters – a plan the municipal utility explains will improve overall service.
- A solar energy company is exploring the possibility of building a solar panel farm at the Owosso Community Airport.
- Stakeholders say MISO should consider the value of energy storage.
- Solar thermal systems are helping a Michigan dairy farms use less energy.
- Southwest Michigan residents are questioning federal regulators about the planned closure of Palisades nuclear plant.
- Twenty-three finalists for the 2017 Michigan Energy Excellence Awards have been named, representing business, organizations, and others from across the state. The awards presentations will take place in mid-October.
- While the Michigan Public Service Commission is satisfied that current electric generating capacity can meet Michigan’s needs over the next five years, it remains concerned about the longer-term.
- A new solar-powered, net-zero-energy community is set to locate outside of Ann Arbor after the Washtenaw County Commission gave the go-ahead to begin development.
- A Grand Rapids developer is combining affordable housing with clean energy and location along public transit routes to offer tenants a “new affordability” model that offers low energy and transportation costs, in addition to affordable rents.
News from Washington:
- Energy Secretary Rick Perry is among the names being considered to head the Department of Homeland Security following former DHS chief John Kelly’s move to be President Trump’s Chief of Staff.
- The U.S. Senate approved the nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before heading home for the August recess. The approvals give FERC its first quorum since February.
- Analysts and industry groups are hoping that the upcoming discussions to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may provide an opportunity to better align energy policies.
- President Trump’s Advisory Council on Infrastructure shared goals to analyze solutions for an “all of the above” approach to energy.
- An upcoming Senate bill paves the way for more natural gas development.
- House lawmakers passed a spending bill that contains cuts to advanced energy.
- Congress is continuing to fight over energy-efficient light bulbs, as congressional Republicans renewed their effort to preserve traditional light bulbs by passing a measure to block federal energy standards.
- A Senate Appropriations Committee report, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) criticized the Trump administration’s proposed research funding cuts at the Department of Energy for being shortsighted and outlined the ways in which the Senate’s proposed budget will restore funding for energy research.
National Grid & Efficiency News:
- A report commissioned by Congress says the U.S. grid is vulnerable to cyberattacks and natural disasters. The report calls on the DOE to play a bigger role in coordinating with grid operators.
- Clean energy groups are calling on federal energy regulators to determine whether states can control energy efficiency resources in different grid territories.
- States could save consumers and businesses $113 billion with new efficiency standards, according to a new report.
- Ohio regulators are continuing hearings this week for input on statewide grid modernization efforts.
- Texas utilities Oncor, the largest public utility in the state, and Sharyland, a small family-owned utility, exchanged access to a transmission lines in West Texas for access to customers, reducing prices for ratepayers.
- A new Energy Information Administration report says California’s “duck curve” problem is intensifying.
- ComEd is offering additional rebates for smart thermostats to boost demand in its bid to deploy 100,000 of the devises.
National Solar News:
- Fully one-fourth of all solar interconnected to date was added in 2016, according to a new report from the Smart Electric Power Alliance.
- Hawaii regulators have approved the state’s largest solar-plus-storage system. The project, which is being developed by an affiliate of Michigan EIBC member AES Energy Storage and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, will consist of a 28 MW solar farm connected to a 20 MW five-hour storage installation.
- Solar companies across the country are worried about the impact of a trade case brought by Suniva. Analysts at Greentech Media Research said the tariff could slow solar industry growth by 66%.
- The developer of a 480-acre solar farm, which was slated to be the largest in Montana, stated that the project may be abandoned due to regulatory issues.
- An Akron, Ohio, company received a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy to design and test a new solar-plus-storage system.
- Louisiana homeowners will again receive tax credits for solar panels after the state previously revoked the program.
- Lawmakers in Maine failed to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill to promote solar deployment. It’s the second time in three years that lawmakers have passed such legislation only to see it vetoed by the Governor.
- Missouri-based SunEdison was approved for a bankruptcy plan that will leave nothing for shareholders.
- Maryland-based Direct Energy Solar will lay off 108 employees and close its Columbia office as part of a business model shift.
- A 41,000-panel solar array – slated to be the largest in Maine – is expected to be partially operational by the end of the year.
- An Arkansas rural co-op received national recognition for a solar project helping to retain a major employer.
- A solar-powered city is being built outside of Denver, Colorado.
National Wind News:
- AWEA announced that construction of wind farms in Q2 2017 is up 40% over the same period last year.
- A bipartisan pair of Senators have introduced legislation that would extend the 30% Investment Tax Credit to the first 3GW of offshore wind built in the United States, regardless of when it came online.
- Deepwater Wind announced a partnership with Tesla to develop a 144MW offshore wind project with a 40MW battery storage system. If approved, the project off the coast of Massachusetts could commence construction in 2022, and begin commercial operations in 2023.
- The Icebreaker Wind project on Lake Erie is steps away from state certification.
- As more Nebraska wind projects are developed, local opposition grows.
- A South Dakota county will consider larger setbacks for turbines following opposition from residents.
- Michigan EIBC member company Invenergy and General Electric announced plans to build the largest single wind installation in the country for Ohio-based AEP – a 2,000 MW project in Oklahoma.
National Fossil Fuel and Nuclear News:
- According to an Energy and Policy Institute report, utilities were warned as early as the 1970s about the role of fossil fuels in climate change.
- The Texas Municipal Power Agency says it is not economical to operate a 470 MW coal-fired plant in Anderson year-round.
- The city council of Spokane, Washington will let voters decide whether the city should fine railroad operators for shipping coal and crude oil through its downtown area.
- Opponents of nuclear subsidies in Illinois are appealing a judge’s ruling that allows the state’s plan to move forward with a bailout for Excelon nuclear plants.
- The developer of a planned $380 million floating natural gas terminal off the southern coast of Puerto Rico announced it was cancelling contracts with Puerto Rico’s utility following the utility’s $9 billion bankruptcy.
- The cost for the only new nuclear generation station currently under development in the U.S. now exceeds $25 billion, but Southern Company is still standing by the Vogtle project.
National Technology & Market News:
- A new report from Navigant Consulting projects the energy as a service market for the commercial and industrial market to exceed $220 billion over the next decade.
- JP Morgan is pledging to completely power its operations using renewable energy by 2020, as well as committing to investing $200 million in the sector by 2025.
- Google Inc.’s research division and fusion energy company Tri Alpha Energy developed an algorithm to increase the energy output from nuclear fusion.
- Berkshire Hathaway is acquiring utilities and natural gas plants across the country and tapping into advanced energy production to build a “recession-resistant energy powerhouse.”
- Michigan EIBC member company CLEAResult won the 2017 Smart Energy Power Alliance (SEPA) Power Players Change Agents of the Year Award.
- Per capita residential electricity sales have fallen by 7% since 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration.
- The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $7.8 million to 11 entities working to develop “innovative pathways” to engage private capital to fund clean energy projects.
National Vehicle & Mobility News:
- Toyota and Mazda are partnering on an electric vehicle initiative in a move to catch up with Nissan and other automakers. The move may also include a U.S. assembly plant.
- Oil major BP is looking to enter the electric vehicle charging space, and is currently exploring opportunities to add battery recharging docks to its service stations.
- Electric-car startups continue to face tough odds due to high capital requirements and the challenge of mass producing vehicles.
- Tesla’s second quarter earnings report beat investor expectations as the electric car, solar, and battery company begins shipping its first Model 3 sedans.
- According to a Los Angeles Times editorial, California Gov. Jerry Brown may have sacrificed his high-speed rail initiative as part of a compromise to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program.
- A factory in California will employ almost 100 workers and be able to manufacture up to 400 zero-emission electric buses annually.
- Los Angeles announced plans to electrify its entire 2200 bus fleet by 2030.
Michigan Energy Events:
The MPSC will host a technical conference on the future of electric vehicle charging on August 9 at the public service commission office, 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing.
SAVE THE DATE: The Powering Mobility conference will take place on September 25 at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. The event, which is the 4th Annual Michigan Energy Future Conference, will bring together leaders from industry, government, utilities, finance, and academe working at the nexus of advanced mobility and vehicle electrification.
The 1st Annual Sustainable Detroit Forum is scheduled for October 25. The event will consist of interactive learning, keynotes, and short presentations. Proposals for presentations will be accepted for Sustainable Projects, Personal Green Stories, and Lessons Learned/Greatest Failures.
National Energy Events:
Energy Storage North America will take place August 8-10 in San Diego. As the largest conference and expo for grid-connected energy storage in North America, Energy Storage North America brings together utilities, regulators, municipal leaders, project developers, investors, systems integrators, and commercial and industrial customers for top-tier networking and information sharing.
EUCI is hosting “Addressing Process and Technical Issues for Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources” August 14-15 in Chicago. The conference will serve as a forum for all entities involved in the interconnection process to review process and technical issues for interconnecting grid-scale renewable energy and Distributed Energy Resource (DER) projects. Panel sessions will feature the perspectives of distribution, developers, utilities, and system operators to share their expertise and discuss best practices for optimizing the interconnection process. Register here.
Mark your calendars for the Catalysts of the Climate Economy summit in Burlington, Vermont, September 6-8. This event will focus on ways to accelerate economic development for a low-carbon future. The event will feature speakers, round-table discussions, and other forums with entrepreneurs, investors, and thoughts leaders. Speakers include EIBC member company Generate Capital’s Jigar Shah; Danny Kennedy of the CA Clean Energy Fund; Carol Browner, Former Climate and Energy Czar in the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy; and CEOs and leaders from Patagonia, Green Mountain Power, Stonyfield Yogurt, General Motors, Seventh Generation, Ben and Jerry’s, Fetzer Vineyards, Proterra, Generation Investment Management, and more!
Solar Power International will take place September 10-13 in Las Vegas. Powered by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Smart Electric Power Alliance, SPI is the largest and fastest growing solar show in North America.
Renewable Energy Grid Operations: Integration, Forecasting, Modeling, Planning and Curtailment, hosted by EUCI, is scheduled for September 11-12 in Austin, Texas. This conference will evaluate the biggest challenges to renewable energy integration, and identify solutions and pathways that coordinate responses and overcome these challenges. Case studies from experts and industry professionals from around the country will share their experiences and lessons learned on renewable integration. Register here.
ACORE Finance West will take place in San Francisco on October 12. The annual conference highlights top investment opportunities and provide the latest insights on the financing of renewable energy and grid modernization efforts in leading western markets.
Join SEIA and Smart Electric Power Alliance for Solar Power Midwest in Chicago, October 19-20. The event features multiple networking and educational opportunities with a targeted, buying audience.
The 2017 U.S. Power and Renewables Summit will take place in Austin on November 7-8. The conference, hosted by Greentech Media, provides an in-depth look at how solar, wind, and related renewable energy technologies are impacting power markeys, and how this interaction is raising key questions and challenges for the industry moving forward.
The U.S. Energy Storage Summit 2017 is taking place December 12-13 in San Francisco. Now in its third year, this event brings together utilities, financiers, regulators, technology innovators, and storage practitioners for two full days of data-intensive presentations, analyst-led panel sessions with industry leaders, and extensive, high-level networking.
A website from the Michigan Public Service Commission provides details on updates to state energy laws. For more information, or to sign up for notifications, visit www.michigan.gov/energylegislation.
World Resources Institute recently published an Implementation Guide for Utilities, outlining best practices in designing renewable energy projects to meet large energy customers’ needs.
ARPA-E announced up to $20 million in funding for high efficiency Distributed Generation systems to reduce the cost and increase the energy efficiency associated with providing electric power to commercial and industrial end users. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portal, ARPA-E eXCHANGE.