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In what is being called an unprecedented decision, solar energy went head-to-head with natural gas in a competitive evaluation for utility resource planning — and solar came out on top.
Xcel Energy demonstrated need for 150 MW of new electricity generation by 2017 (and possibly 500 MW by 2019. Office of Administrative Hearings (ALJ) to look at several proposals to decide “the most reasonable and prudent strategy” to meet Xcel’s needs. Three of the five proposals received dealt with natural gas as the energy source, one offered solar in a rather unique way.
The solar project encompasses roughly 20 different commercial-sized sites (2-10 MW) adding up to 100 MW, sized to offset roughly 20 percent of the existing load at each respective substation. The cost for the 100 MW project was $250 million. Using computer models, the ALJ’s administrative law judge Eric Lipman compared each proposal against each other, gauging cost savings, fuel consumption, pollutants emitted, and other factors, and then added a number of contingencies for mandated CO2 reductions, market pricing fluctuations for each energy source, and both short- and long-term demand projections — as well as the mandated RPS and solar carve-out. Lipman also added criteria to be “compatible with protecting the natural and socioeconomic environments, including human health.”
Lipman decreed that in the short-term “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel’s ratepayers is drawn from selecting Geronimo’s solar energy proposal.” When properly analyzed under either a LCOE or strategist modeling, the solar submission was the lowest cost resource proposed.
Responding to the ruling, Xcel issued a statement saying it appreciates the work of the ALJ toward resource acquisitions but it “disagree[s] with some of the findings and recommendation,” and the company pledged to file a complete response once exceptions are filed with the commission.
According to a recent time-and-motion study of rooftop solar installations, the biggest opportunity for cost reductions are with integrated racking, and in eliminating the array of little nuts, bolts, wires, clips, pieces and parts that don’t add any functional value to the system, but still need to be assembled on the rooftop.
Based on a tally of 2013 REAP announcements, the total awards for the Southeastern states approaches $5 million in grants, leveraging more than $15 million in private dollars. These investments include solar photovoltaic installations, energy efficiency equipment, geothermal, and biomass projects.
Energy efficiency awards were particularly notable this year, with diverse projects including irrigation, lighting, agricultural curing and drying, and diesel engines being replaced with electric motors.
Here’s the state-by-state breakdown of 2013 REAP grant awards for our region (rounded down to the nearest thousand):
FL > $354,000
GA > $1,400,000
NC > $1,417,000
SC > $584,000
TN > $1,224,000
President Barack Obama has issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. federal government to pursue a goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The document also instructs all federal agencies to take specific steps to better manage building performance, enhance energy efficiency and reduce energy waste.
The missive represents a follow-through on the president’s plan to counter climate change, announced in June. It directs agencies to achieve the renewable energy consumption target through a number of approved actions. The actions, in order of priority, are the following:
Installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities and retain renewable energy certificates;
Contracting for energy that includes the installation of a renewable energy project on-site at a federal facility or off-site and the retention of renewable energy certificates for the term of the contract;
Purchasing electricity and corresponding renewable energy certificates; and
Purchasing renewable energy certificates.
The memorandum sets a number of interim targets for renewable energy usage up to the ultimate 20% by 2020 goal. The first of these is a 10% target for 2015.
Electric power industry’s traditional revenue collection model, which is based on a fixed tariff applied to volumetric consumption, is showing signs of erosion due to customer self-generation at a time of tepid to non-existent demand growth. The challenge of distributed energy resources (DERs) could not have come at a worse time for the industry – just as massive investments are needed to upgrade and modernize an aging infrastructure, it is facing the prospects of a growing number of consumers buying fewer kWhs and paying even less for the privilege of being connected to the grid under prevailing laws. This is especially true for the distributors of TVA power who are prevented by contract from generating electricity. The only alternative for TVA distributors to improve their distribution system is to charge the heck out of their customers. TVA needs to give their distributors some latitude in creating new ways of generating new sources of revenue. That will require some changes in their contract to allow them to have their own distributed solar programs. Are there any other alternatives?
These days Barry Goldwater, Jr. is on an unlikely crusade. In March, the former California Republican congressman founded Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed, or TUSK, after Arizona’s largest electric utility proposed a hefty new fee on solar customers and a plan to lower net metering rates, which dictate how much electric utilities pay solar customers for excess energy sold back to the grid. As Mr. Goldwater stated it “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice.”
Goldwater’s team won a minor victory Thursday, when state utilities regulators narrowly voted to impose an average $5 monthly fee on new solar customers in Arizona. While the ruling was a compromise for the solar industry, and an acknowledgement that solar users shift power costs to the utility’s non-renewables customers, the new fees are just a fraction of the $50 to $100 that APS had asked commissioners to add to solar customers’ monthly bills.
Backed by powerful conservative groups, public utilities in several states are now pushing to curb the solar industry, and asking regulators to raise fees and impose new restrictions on solar customers. And as more people turn to rooftop solar as a way to reduce energy costs—90,000 businesses and homeowners installed panels last year, up 46 percent from 2011—the issue is pitting pro-utilities Republicans against this fledgling movement of libertarian-minded activists who see independent power generation as an individual right. In other words, the fight over solar power is raging within the GOP itself.
“As more customers install solar on their homes, it becomes even more important that everyone who uses the grid shares in the cost of keeping it operating reliably for the future,” APS CEO Don Brandt said in the company’s filing with the state regulatory commission.
(SLevy) That is where ‘Dual Metering’ which is the TVA improvement over ‘Net Metering’ is the better alternative. The general definition of dual metering is “the arrangement that measures energy exported to and imported from the utility grid separately.” In present use within the TVA system dual metering is configured as two meters; one meter to read the home use of electric energy and the other meter to monitor the solar energy generated and sent out to the distribution line. Do not confuse this with ‘Smart Metering’ where electronic measurement devices are used by utilities to communicate information for billing customers and operating their electric systems. Kudos for TVA. Why? Because the individual user should be responsible for his or her share of the cost of maintaining the distribution grid based on how much energy they use. Their use is separately metered under Dual Metering. Now the rooftop solar is also separately metered so that the user can and should be justly compensated for the excess energy their solar system produces that goes out on the grid to be used by the neighbors. This extra solar energy should be fairly compensated as the utility saves money by not having to buy the energy delivered to the grid by the solar system from the utility power provider. So TVA and its distributors have the advantage of being in a position to fairly deal with the solar PV rooftop user/provider. What do you think?
original article in New Republic.
NY Times article:
The Tennessee Valley Authority sharply accelerated a shift away from coal as an energy source on Thursday, saying it would shut down eight electricity-generating units that together will burn nearly a fifth of its coal this year. TVA is to generate 20 percent of its electricity from coal, instead of the current 38 percent. It also plans to increase the use of renewable energy sources like solar and hydropower to 20 percent, from the current 15.7 percent. Bill Johnson, said experts were studying whether more coal-fired plants should be shut down later.
Two other developments hastened the shutdowns: the advent of cheap natural gas, which has turned coal into a costlier fuel, and falling demand for electricity. Thursday’s announcement was the second and biggest step the authority had taken to reduce its appetite for coal. In 2011, T.V.A. agreed to retire 18 coal-fired generating units to settle a lawsuit by states and environmental groups charging violations of the Clean Air Act. Four of those 18 units have been shuttered so far.
Eventually, the authority hopes to get a fifth of its power each from coal, natural gas and renewables and the remaining two-fifths from nuclear plants.
November 14, 2013. Today at a board meeting in Oxford, Mississippi the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors voted to retire units at three of its coal plants. This will affect coal-burning units at the Colbert and Widows Creek plants in Alabama and the Paradise plant in Kentucky.
TVA’s commitment to retire units at three coal plants will protect customers from rising energy bills as coal prices increase, and protect families from the health threats posed by coal pollution. According to the Clean Air Task Force, pollution from the Colbert coal plant in Alabama alone contributed to 940 asthma attacks, 83 heart attacks, and 57 deaths per year.
As the nation’s largest public power provider, TVA was first established to bring innovation to the Valley and address a wide range of environmental, economic and technological issues. As it transitions away from coal, TVA should remain true to its founding principles by bypassing natural gas or any other dirty fossil fuel that will continue to exacerbate environmental and public health issues.
TVA is now mapping out its next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the strategy document outlining the utilities energy portfolio for the next 20 years. As TVA works to protect public health and decrease energy costs by moving away from coal, the utility can also commit to speeding the deployment of the most promising and cost-effective renewable technologies, like wind and solar, in its IRP. Wind and solar power are currently experiencing fast growth while simultaneously becoming more cost-competitive with TVA’s other fuel choices.
This report was excerpted from the following resource: http://www.enewspf.com/latest-news/science/science-a-environmental/47950-tennessee-valley-authority-makes-major-coal-plant-retirement-announcement.html
The Tennessee Valley Authority is gathering public input on a long-range plan for the type and mix of energy sources it needs to provide power to the region.
Finding the right mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro-electric, renewable energy and efficiency programs is the goal of the 18-month-long planning process, TVA Vice President Joe Hoagland said. “It takes a very long, strategic look at the assets TVA needs to provide low-cost electricity for the people in the Tennessee Valley,” Hoagland said in an interview.
The direction TVA takes will ultimately affect how much residents pay for electricity, and the federal utility is embarking on the planning process at a time when it faces scrutiny from a variety of interest groups.
TVA is spending more than $1 billion to install new pollution controls at its coal-fired power plant in Gallatin. Environmental groups sued TVA for not fully studying alternatives, including retiring the aging facility.
Conservation groups and the solar industry in Tennessee have criticized TVA for not doing enough to support that renewable resource. They say TVA’s small-scale solar program is stifling the industry because it sets a cap on solar power far below demand. Some of the solar installation companies have to look outside the state for work. Our polysilicon manufacturers have laid off their work force. The on-again, off-again opportunities for solar installations are killing the solar businesses in Tennessee.
I attended the first meeting along with 15 other people. Promises of answers to questions have not been received by those that asked questions which the moderator could not answer.
Hoagland said gathering input helps TVA understand what the public and other stakeholders consider important. The “Integrated Resource Plan” looks at different fuel options and tries to anticipate how those might evolve over the next two decades, he said.
TVA completed its last plan in 2011 and typically only does an update every three to five years. But Hoagland said changes in the energy industry require an earlier update.
Natural gas prices have dropped dramatically in recent years in the midst of a nationwide surge in production. At the same time, TVA’s growth in power demand has slowed, Hoagland said.
The 2011 plan anticipated natural gas prices at about $6 per million BTUs, escalating over time, Hoagland said. Now, prices are between $3 and $3.50, he said. The current plan also assumed a 2 percent to 3 percent rate of growth, while TVA now anticipates growth at less than 1 percent.
In addition, TVA hopes to complete the Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 plant in 2015 and retire at least 2,700 megawatts of less-efficient coal capacity by 2018.
Anne Davis, managing attorney in Nashville for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Tuesday that she appreciates that TVA is accelerating the start of the new resource plan. She said she expects the new plan to focus on how TVA will replace its “oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient coal plants with clean and modern resources like solar, wind, hydro optimization, energy efficiency, and demand response.”
“The precipitous drop in cost of renewables and technological improvements in efficiency — coupled with enormous public demand for both of these resources — will demand more attention in this IRP,” Davis said by email.
“We have already been working with TVA on these issues, and we are committed to helping TVA modernize its long-term portfolio in a way that’s protective of ratepayers’ health, environment, and pocketbooks.”
The first public meeting was held on Thursday, October 24th in Knoxville. A second is scheduled for Nov. 6 in Memphis. To encourage more input, TVA is allowing the public to participate through online webinars. The public can access those at www.tva.gov/irp.
TVA hopes to use the webinars and a social media outreach effort to boost public participation, particular with younger residents, Hoagland said.
most of this article was taken from the Tennessean article: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20131023/NEWS/310230137/