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Proposed Eversource rate hike unpopular with some residents, politicians

Mark LeBel, a staff attorney with the Acadia Center — a nonprofit advocacy group intervening in the rate case — said the imposition of a demand charge based on a 15-minute peak would be “unfair, and really hard to manage” without “smart meters” to keep track of peak usage dramatically adding to costs.

Also, LeBel said, moving from existing rate structures that provide customers with incentives to reduce consumption in peak months or during peak hours would “be bad for energy efficiency and low-income customers who tend to use less electricity. For customers who use more, they’ll be paying less per kilowatt-hour, while people using less will see their bills rise because of the higher customer charge.”

Read the full article from the Greenfield Recorder here.

New Analysis Shows Outdated Rules Causing Utilities to Pursue High Priced Options; Eversource Rate Case More of the Same

BOSTON — New analysis from Acadia Center demonstrates that outdated financial incentives are driving expenditures on expensive and unnecessary utility infrastructure and inhibiting clean energy in the Northeast. Analysis of recent electric transmission and gas pipeline expansions demonstrates that utilities earn higher returns on these traditional expenditures than on local clean energy alternatives. The need to reform outdated incentives and change utility planning has come to stark relief in a rate case proposal from one of the region’s largest utilities. In it, Eversource proposes unprecedented returns on expenditures and electricity rates that inhibit clean energy while causing consumers to pay more than they should.

“Energy efficiency, community and rooftop solar, and smart energy management are revolutionizing the energy sector by offering clean, lower cost energy alternatives, but outdated incentive structures that provide high utility financial returns for old ways of doing business are standing in the way”, said Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “It’s time for the Commonwealth to seize the moment, save money for ratepayers and build a clean, lower carbon energy system.”

Acadia Center’s analysis Incentives for Change: Why Utilities Continue to Build and How Regulators Can Motivate Them to Modernize, shows through two examples of commonly financed energy projects — a transmission project in Maine and gas pipeline expansion in Connecticut — how utilities stand to earn far more from expensive, traditional infrastructure than from low cost clean energy alternatives.

“Under the current rules, it is impossible for consumers to have confidence that the millions of dollars we are all paying for energy infrastructure are the best choices for our environment and wallets,” said Abigail Anthony, Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization Initiative. “The rules need to change to stimulate competition between traditional power plants, pipelines, and transmission and local solutions like solar, storage, and smart appliances.”

Utility financial incentives and grid planning rules are a part of Eversource’s rate case in Massachusetts. While advancing some important steps, too much of what Eversource proposes would undermine consumer control and clean energy incentives. On the positive side, Eversource proposes to “decouple” its revenue from electricity sales, which supports the Commonwealth’s efforts to ramp up energy efficiency. The company also proposes some potentially beneficial grid modernization investments, procurement of energy storage, and measures to help deploy more electric vehicle charging stations.

However, Eversource proposes other changes that exacerbate a regulatory structure that skews in favor of traditional projects over clean energy, including:

Additional information on proposals in Eversource’s rate case are available in Acadia Center’s summary analysis.

 

Contacts: 

Abigail Anthony, Director, Grid Modernization Initiative
401.276.0600, aanthony@acadiacenter.org

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
617.742.0054 x107, kwazny@acadiacenter.org

Eversource facing big Beacon Hill challenge

Peter Shattuck, the director of the Massachusetts office of the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said he didn’t think Eversource would be successful in winning support for pipeline financing on Beacon Hill. “Last session the Senate voted unanimously to block the pipeline tariff, and with continuing grassroots opposition and another uneventful winter, legislation is unlikely,” he said.

Read the full article from Commonwealth here. 

Connecticut regulators cut UI rate hike request

Bill Dornbos, the Connecticut director of the Acadia Center, said the reduction of the fixed-rate service charge is a crucial step to protect consumers and encouraging renewable energy. The Acadia Center is a Boston-based environmental group,

“The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and … more closely aligning the state’s electric rate structure with its energy policy,” Dornbos said in a statement.

Read the full article from the New Haven Register here.

Connecticut Rules in Favor of Consumers and Clean Energy in Electric Rate Case

Hartford, Conn.– Acadia Center applauds the announcement today by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) of its decision to dramatically lower the fixed charge for United Illuminating’s residential customers from $17.25 to $9.64. This 45% reduction represents a crucial step in implementing a new law enacted by the legislature last year to limit fixed charges, which customers pay monthly regardless of how much energy they use.

Bill Dornbos, Director of Acadia Center’s Connecticut Office, said, “Consumers everywhere prefer choice and control, and this lower monthly fixed charge will give customers substantially more control over their electric bills. The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, more closely aligning the state’s electric rate structure with its energy policy.”

By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings UI’s fixed charge down to the levels of surrounding states and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests, leading the nation at a time when utilities around the country are petitioning for significantly higher fixed charges.

Acadia Center thanks the PURA, Office of Consumer Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, and the legislature for their contributions to bringing this relief to UI’s electric customers.

 

Contacts:

Bill Dornbos, Senior Attorney and Director, Connecticut Office
860-246-7121 x202, wdornbos@acadiacenter.org

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney
617.742.0054 x104, mlebel@acadiacenter.org

Environmental, consumer groups call on Connecticut regulators to cut UI rate

The groups making the request include such environmental groups as the Acadia Center and the Sierra Club, as well as consumer groups including AARP Connecticut and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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Bill Dornbos, Connecticut director and senior attorney at Acadia Center, said reducing UI’s current fixed charge for residential customers “would not only give immediate relief to Connecticut homeowners who are struggling with high energy costs, but it would also better align our electricity pricing with our energy efficiency and clean energy policies and help grow clean energy industries that can boost Connecticut’s economy.”

Fixed-rate charges became a hot topic among Connecticut lawmakers in 2014 when Connecticut Light & Power, now known as Eversource Energy, sought to raise its monthly rate. PURA ultimately allowed an increase in the fixed charge for Eversource’s residential customers to $19.25 per month, currently the highest residential fixed charge for any investor-owned electric utility in New England.

State lawmakers responded by passing a new consumer protection law, enacted in 2015, that requires PURA to apply a new standard to fixed charges. Dornbos said passage of the law “made it clear that they (lawmakers) wanted to see fixed charges capped and reduced.”

“They clearly did not want the status quo to continue,” he said.

Connecticut’s Office of Consumer Counsel has offered expert testimony concluding that UI’s residential fixed charge should be reduced to between $6 and $8 per month to comply with the new law’s requirements, Dornbos said,

“I think the public is going to be very disappointed if that is not the outcome,” he said.

Read the full article from the New Haven Register here.

Mass. Regulators Reject DER Surcharge in Rate Case

Several intervenors contended that the proposal ran contrary to Massachusetts’ efforts to have its rate design more accurately reflect market conditions.

“Reforms to electricity rate design must strike a careful balance between economic efficiency, equity for all customers, protection of low-income ratepayers and access to community distributed generation,” Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center, said in a statement.

Read the full article from RTO Insider here.

Massachusetts’ New Rate Case Ruling Is Good News for Distributed Energy

But pro-solar groups including the Acadia Center, Vote Solar and the Energy Freedom Coalition of America (EFCA) protested that National Grid had failed to provide data or evidence to back up this assertion. DPU’s ruling sided with these protests, finding that National Grid “has not quantified the amount of costs attributable specifically to DG customers and has not quantified the distribution system benefits associated with DG customers in its service territory.”

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But opponents like the nonprofit Acadia Center said that singling out those types of projects would “arbitrarily discourage key types of distributed generation, including community shared solar and projects that benefit affordable housing projects and low-income ratepayers.” In other words, it would hinder customers who can’t put solar on their own rooftops.

Beyond that, the fees are “not based on an analysis of the costs and benefits of distributed generation to the electric system or even based on estimated costs to the distribution system,” the group wrote. Distributed energy backers have noted that these projects can actually help reduce system costs, by providing more energy closer to the point of consumption and reducing load on the grid.

Read the full article from Greentech Media here.

Massachusetts DPU Protects Clean Energy and Consumer Control in Electricity Rate Case Ruling

BOSTON — Friday afternoon, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued a decision in the National Grid electricity rate case, D.P.U. 15-155. In the decision, the DPU denied a number of utility proposals that would have reduced customer control of energy bills, discouraged investment in energy efficiency, arbitrarily penalized clean local energy production, and restricted access to community distributed generation. Further information on these proposals may be found here.

Peter Shattuck, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director, said, “We are encouraged that the DPU rejected National Grid’s rate design proposals that would have unfairly impacted residential ratepayers and set back our clean energy future. The DPU agreed with Acadia Center’s case that tiered customer charges would not be efficient or understandable and that the proposed access fees were not based on sound analysis. This decision also granted a significant overall revenue increase to National Grid, which emphasizes that we should be finding new ways to lower costs and avoid expensive new infrastructure investments.”

Acadia Center intervened in this proceeding, participated in discovery, filed expert testimony, and submitted briefs on a number of key electricity rate design issues.

Dr. Abigail Anthony, Acadia Center’s Director of Grid Modernization and Utility Reform and expert witness in this proceeding, said, “As a party in this docket, Acadia Center consistently advanced a long-term vision for regulatory reforms that promotes clean energy while addressing legitimate consumer concerns.”

A number of other states in the region, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York, are engaging in efforts to proactively identify the new regulatory processes and analyses needed to support a consumer-friendly, clean energy future. Acadia Center urges the Massachusetts DPU to take further steps to do the same.

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney at Acadia Center, said, “Reforms to electricity rate design must strike a careful balance between economic efficiency, equity for all customers, protection of low-income ratepayers, and access to community distributed generation. Acadia Center is actively working on all of these issues and looks forward to working with other stakeholders to bring together broadly acceptable solutions.”

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Acadia Center is a non-profit, research, and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low-carbon, and consumer-friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.

Environmental Groups: Con Ed Rate Case Settlement Proposal’s Advancement of Energy Efficiency Programs Will Help Meet Clean Energy Standard Targets

ALBANY, NY – New energy efficiency programs in a Joint Settlement Proposal filed today on Consolidated Edison Company of New York’s electric rates for 2017 to 2019 will help meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and Clean Energy Standard renewables targets, according to environmental and energy efficiency groups participating in the proposed agreement with the utility, city, and state.

The Joint Settlement Proposal would commit the utility to $99 million in new energy efficiency programs over the next three years, providing customer energy bill savings while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants.

The Department of Public Service staff filed the proposed settlement today with the New York Public Service Commission for review and potential approval. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pace Energy and Climate Center, Acadia Center and the Association for Energy Affordability said the proposed efficiency programs are anticipated to yield more than 300 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of savings annually by 2019, and would continue to save customers that much each year for many years beyond that. A System Peak Reduction Program would add an additional 22 GWh of efficiency per year by the same date, while providing 49 megawatts of system peak reduction, which means fewer of Con Edison’s dirtiest, most expensive peaking power plants will be needed to serve Con Edison’s 3.3 million customers on the highest demand days of the year.

“By 2019, Con Edison’s new energy efficiency programs are expected to annually save the same amount of electricity that’s used by more than 70,000 typical New York City residential customers,” said Miles Farmer of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s significant. The Public Service Commission should approve these programs and build upon that progress with more aggressive energy efficiency targets and initiatives in the near future.”

The Public Service Commission is expected this week to consider the procedural schedule for reviewing the Joint Settlement Proposal. Signatories include Department of Public Service staff, Con Edison, the Pace Energy and Climate Center, the City of New York, and various other environmental and consumer groups.

“By assisting customers to use energy more effectively, ConEd’s proposed programs would bring New York one step closer to achieving its requirement to use 50% renewables by 2030,” said Acadia Center President Dan Sosland. “Energy efficiency is far less expensive than building and operating fossil fuel power plants, and less risky, which means New Yorkers will benefit from this transition to a clean energy future.”

A study released by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. in April concluded that implementing aggressive energy efficiency targets and funding them appropriately holds the potential to reduce total costs to New York State’s electricity customers by roughly $3 billion.

Much more work remains to be done to pull New York up to speed with its neighbors in the Northeast. While the proposed Energy Efficiency and System Peak Reduction Programs are projected to help Con Edison more than double its energy efficiency performance over the level previously committed to (about 0.3% of load in efficiency gains per year), its total achievement will still be far short of the 2% to 3% in efficiency gains being made by utilities in states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Radina Valova, a Pace Energy and Climate Center Staff Attorney, noted, “The programs will secure energy efficiency in a way that makes the grid itself more cost-effective by responding to locational needs, bundling offerings through Distributed Energy Resource providers, and leveraging market-based approaches. Clean energy advocacy groups like ours support this broad focus on energy efficiency opportunities because it allows the utility to promote the most cost-effective and market-friendly savings opportunities.”

“This settlement proposal ensures Con Edison’s ability and commitment to leverage bigger and better ideas and technologies in pursuit of a broad range of advanced energy efficiency opportunities, working with third parties and interested consumers. This approach is an important step for Con Edison and a strong precedent for other utilities to help New York to meet its clean energy goals,” said David Hepinstall of the Association for Energy Affordability, Inc.

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Released jointly by Acadia Center, Association for Energy Affordability, Inc., National Resources Defense Council, and Pace Energy and Climate Center