Archive

Threat of shutdown hovers over negotiations between Millstone and utilities over power prices

The Malloy administration last year selected Millstone as a source of “low-cost zero carbon energy” and offshore wind that combined will bolster Connecticut’s contribution to reduced emissions. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection directed Eversource and UI to negotiate a price downward “to better reflect a reasonable rate of return for the plant’s owner, Dominion Energy,” then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in December.

A “normal utility rate of return on equity” is 9 percent, but the state would consider 12 percent to 15 percent reasonable for a plant with a long-term contract, Malloy said.

Emily Lewis, a senior policy analyst at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said the attempt to negotiate a lower price with Millstone is a “big ask.”

“It comes back to ratepayers,” she said. “How much are ratepayers going to pay to subsidize Millstone?”

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

Regional Interest in Battery Storage Heats Up

With the sweltering days of summer behind us and New Englanders reluctantly turning their minds to winter storm season, it is worth asking how we can keep our electric grid running affordably and efficiently during both heat waves and cold snaps. Behind-the-meter energy storage is one solution that is showing increasing promise.  

In-Home Energy Storage

Behind-the meter energy storage refers to when customers store electric power purchased from the grid or power generated themselves (such as from rooftop solar panels) in batteries installed in their homes. The market for behind-the-meter storage is growing rapidly due to decreasing costs and growing awareness. In addition to providing backup power to homeowners during outages, like a traditional generator, this storage can provide backup power for the grid itself.

Battery storage can also be combined with innovative electric rates. For example, time-varying rates could encourage customers to purchase power from the grid during periods of low demand and use energy stored in their battery during periods of high demand. This would lower storage users’ bills directly while reducing the use of expensive and polluting backup plants typically needed during times when temperatures surge or plunge. In turn, avoiding these expensive resources will cut energy prices for all customers.

Policies and Pilots

Many states are currently experimenting with adding battery storage to the grid to help reduce prices and integrate renewable energy sources that produce power intermittently. This wide range of pilots is providing valuable lessons for putting storage to good use. For example, Vermont’s Green Mountain Power (GMP) claimed it saved customers $500K during a heat wave this summer through its pilot of in-home batteries. During the hours of highest demand, the program allows GMP to withdraw energy stored in customers’ batteries instead of paying very high prices on the wholesale market. This year, GMP also expanded its pilot program to allow customers to purchase third-party storage devices. In New Hampshire, Liberty Utilities is proposing a similar pilot that would combine storage with time-varying rates to provide customers with incentives to use electricity during times of lower demand.

To support a future electric grid where consumers are empowered to produce, store, and use their own electricity, state policies should enable residents to own and operate batteries to the largest extent possible. Utility ownership of residential batteries can stifle the development of competitive markets and reduce customers’ flexibility in deciding how and when to deploy their power. Acadia Center will continue to advocate for programs that prioritize a customer-centered model, helping states pursue and expand programs like those detailed above.

Rhode Island charts a course for a cleaner grid

The agencies spent eight months engaging with more than 200 people and 65 organizations in the process, including local residents, national experts, clean energy companies, nonprofits, and Rhode Island’s utility, National Grid. The aim was a blueprint outlining how the state can achieve a cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable energy system—one that adapts and evolves as consumer demand and technology does.

[…]

The decision received overwhelming support from stakeholders, including customer advocates and environmental advocacy organizations.

“It’s a big first step,” said Mark LeBel, a staff attorney with the clean energy nonprofit Acadia Center, which was a stakeholder in the project. “We can’t do it all at once, and I think Rhode Island has taken a big first step here.”

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

New Rates, Energy Plan Approved for R.I. Electricity

After months of hearings and negotiations, an energy initiative called grid modernization is moving forward in Rhode Island, along with new gas and electricity rates.

On Aug. 24 the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a new model for compensating National Grid for operating and maintaining utility poles, transmission lines, and substations. For the next three years a portion of National Grid’s revenue will also go to making the power grid more cost-efficient and accommodating to renewable power, electric vehicles, and energy storage.

Read the full article from ecoRI News here.

Rhode Island approves National Grid modernization plan, rate increase

States are increasingly focused on efforts to transform the power sector, but regulators need to strike a delicate balance to ensure that customers are not over-burdened by costly grid modernization investments.

The agreement puts Rhode Island “into a leadership role among New England states seeking to reform utility regulations,” according to a statement from Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center.

The final settlement represents a win for low-income customer advocates, most of whom will see a significant rate reduction. The current discount for income-eligible customers will be doubled to 25% of the total bill, with another 5% for customers who qualify through income restrictive federal assistance programs.

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.

R.I regulators OK changes to electricity, gas rates

The settlement, approved unanimously by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission in an open meeting, gives the state’s dominant utility about one-third of its original $214.8 million request made last November and less than two-thirds of a revised request of $137.5 million that factored in changes to federal taxes by the Trump administration.

The version of the settlement amended by the commission is also about $4.5 million lower than the initial iteration that was filed in June and resulted from negotiations between the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, National Grid, the state Office of Energy Resources and other stakeholders, such as nonprofit groups the George Wiley Center and Acadia Center.

Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.

Eversource seeks higher fees on customers with solar

Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said Eversource’s demand charge isn’t fair to small consumers of electricity because there is no way for a customer to forecast the fee or manage it. He also said a utility’s costs are never driven by the peak demands of an individual, residential customer.

Acadia recommends creating a distribution reliability charge based on the customer’s electricity consumption over a 12-month period, which would give the homeowner an incentive to reduce his or her use of electricity. LeBel – the coauthor of a report on demand charges entitled “Charge Without a Cause?” – said Eversource’s response to growing solar use appears to be an overreaction. “There’s not a big enough problem to go there anytime soon,” he said.

Read the full story from Commonwealth Magazine here.