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LA County Choice Program Urged to Rely on Distributed Generation

21 Jul 2016


Los Angeles County is seeking electricity suppliers for a community choice aggregation program that could begin Jan. 1.

“Community choice aggregators represent a significant opportunity for communities to band together and purchase green energy for their residents, at a lower price, than the current structure of for-profit investor-owned utilities now allow,” according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Keuhl...

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This Week’s Buzz

15 Jul 2016


 

Regionalizing California’s grid to lower the cost and improve the integration of rising levels of solar and wind power gets a bit of a black eye. In spite of the California grid operator’s intentions to increase grid efficiency and transparency and lower costs by eliminating the current “balkanization,” its first western grid partner, PacifiCorp, plays by different rules.

Current discovers a long-term coal deal the company signed last year in Utah, which is being challenged by ratepayer advocates...

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Jon Wellinghoff: SolarCity’s Powerhouse

14 Jul 2016


Part 2

Editor’s Note: Current editor Elizabeth McCarthy interviewed Jon Wellinghoff who’s served at SolarCity’s head of policy planning for two months.

We met in a conference room in the company’s office in Potrero Hill, one of the sunniest parts of foggy San Francisco. The spacious, cubicle-free office occupies more than half of a large converted warehouse, which is filled with natural light from being glass sided...

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This Week’s Buzz

8 Jul 2016


The buzz in this week’s issue of Current includes the latest on the turf battle in San Diego between San Diego Gas & Electric and community energy advocates. Like Pacific Gas & Electric when it was confronted with choice in Marin County, the San Diego utility wants to keep its ratepayers from joining a community aggregator.

In foggy San Francisco, from his new digs at SolarCity, Jon Wellinghoff details the challenges and benefits of more solar rooftops, efficiency and other distributed resources...

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Some Western States Press FERC to Limit PURPA Eligibility

30 Jun 2016


Federal regulators face pressure from western state energy regulators—who may join California in a regionalized grid and wholesale power market—to tighten eligibility requirements for independent qualifying facilities under The Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act.

That law, according to Allison Clements with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s FERC Project, “continues to play [a critical role] in furthering Congressional intent towards developing zero fuel cost, carbon free renewable energy and reducing reliance on fossil-fueled power generation...

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Half Empty or Half Full Solar Glass

23 Jun 2016


Claims that residential solar rooftops result in unfair cost shifting to non-solar ratepayers were vigorously debated at a June 21 meeting held by the federal agency charged with ensuring competition and consumer protection.

Utility cost shifting claims are not based on “substantial evidence,” said Jon Wellinghoff, SolarCity chief policy officer, during a Federal Trade Commission meeting on distributed solar and its market and environmental impacts...

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JUICE: Dirty Power

16 Jun 2016


I travelled through unfamiliar lands last week during my drive from Eastern Iowa to San Francisco with my daughter. As bad as the towns we passed dotted with Trump signs, were the coal-filled trains that continually chugged by.

While driving across Iowa, Nebraska and parts of Wyoming, there was a steady stream of locomotives pulling 100 or more box cars brimming with black coal on the rail line that paralleled a good part of our route...

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GUEST JUICE: Five Easy Pieces for a Better California Public Utilities Commission

9 Jun 2016


By Todd Edmister

The California Public Utilities Commission and Legislature are exploring various commission reforms, from internal administrative changes to constitutional amendments (ACA 11). Regardless of how these various reform efforts play out, there are some comparatively simple things that the CPUC or its successors (should the constitutional amendments pass) can do to make for a better regulatory regime:

Raise salaries (across the board, but especially in the Administrative Law Judge Division);

Create a “promote in place” option for senior employees;

Hire more accountants;

Disband the Policy & Planning Division and allocate its staff to industry divisions; and

Halt all ex parte communications...

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OPINIONATED: Making Solar Affordable in the Golden State

2 Jun 2016


By Andrea Deveau

California, known for its sun-kissed beaches and stark desert beauty, should be leading the way when it comes to the transition away from fossil fuels and toward affordable solar power. But an exorbitant fee that goes directly to the pockets of the state investor-owned utilities is keeping solar out of reach for millions of California businesses and residents.

Most cities in California are fortunate to have more than 250 days a year with sun, so solar power is an attractive, affordable, and environmentally sustainable option for our state...

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JUICE: Electric Rodeo, The Sequel

26 May 2016


(Click here to read Part 1)

Location, location, location.

It’s the well-known mantra of the real estate business. It’s also the mantra of the emerging electric vehicle charging station business.

Strategically located EV charging stations are worth their weight in gold. They are visible, convenient, and promote the use of plug-in cars in a state that seeks to cut its carbon pollution from its largest source: the transportation sector...

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JUICE: Electric Rodeo

19 May 2016


If it was early 1900, I would be one of the 20 million people in the U.S. who owned a horse and not among the 4,000 owners of the new-fangled horseless carriage. I wouldn’t be among the 25,000 gasoline-operated car owners five years later either, largely because of the steep cost and the dearth of fueling stations.

At the get go, car ownership was limited to the wealthy. The first gas station didn’t appear until 1905...

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Shifting Grid Sands

19 May 2016


The impacts of changing technologies and creating a multi-state grid on California’s carbon-lite energy policies, jobs outlook and power rates were debated May 17 at the Power Association of Northern California’s annual seminar in San Francisco.

There were no clear conclusions.

“This is a very chaotic environment to make predictions” said Mike Picker, California Public Utilities Commission president, regarding how the changing grid paradigm will play out...

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Senate Committee Looks Beyond Aliso Canyon

12 May 2016


State energy regulators and utilities signaled May 10 that the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field may not play the central role to energy reliability in Southern California that it has in the past.

They discussed both the short-term prospects for energy reliability and the longer-term need for the facility at a May 10 oversight hearing by the Senate Energy, Utilities, & Communications Committee...

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JUICE: Breaking Away

5 May 2016


Whether state lawmakers and voters ultimately move to restructure the California Public Utilities Commission remains to be seen. But one thing that’s clear is that making the Office of Ratepayer Advocates an independent agency would be a powerful first step given the experience of other states.

Across the nation, offices like ORA are supposed to serve as key defenders of utility ratepayers in public utility commission proceedings...

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GUEST JUICE: Geothermal Balances California’s Renewable Portfolio

28 Apr 2016


By V. John White

California’s rapid renewable energy expansion has led to a boom in large-scale solar and wind projects and a huge expansion of rooftop solar. As costs have fallen, solar energy has become much less expensive, and utility-scale solar is now the least cost renewable energy.

Geothermal energy has historically been a large part of California’s renewable energy portfolio, but its role in California’s renewable power supply has steadily declined...

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Lawmakers Concerned About EV Charging Proposal

21 Apr 2016


Nearly two dozen lawmakers are calling on the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that Pacific Gas & Electric’s proposed electric vehicle charging station plan does not give the utility an unfair market advantage.

Concerns were raised by 14 state Democrats and eight Republican legislators in an April 6 letter to CPUC Commissioner Carla Peterman regarding a $160 million ratepayer-funded PG&E proposal...

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GUEST JUICE: Kryptonite Needed for Community Choice Super Fee

14 Apr 2016


By Erica Etelson

Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission kicked off what is expected to be a long and arduous process of reforming the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment. The PCIA is an ongoing fee that California investor-owned utilities impose on departing ratepayers. That is, those of us who switch to a Community Choice energy program or procure electricity from a Direct Access retailer must pony up money every month to compensate the private utilities for losses associated with stranded contracts they’ve entered (or claim to have entered) on our behalf...

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ORA Head Highlights Agency’s Savings to Ratepayers

14 Apr 2016


The new Director of the Office of Ratepayer Advocates said that for every dollar her agency spends, $192 in rate reductions are achieved. Last year, the ratepayer advocate saved utility customers a total $5.3 billion, Elizabeth Echols, the ORA director, said at an April 12 Power Association of Northern California meeting.

Echols was sworn in as the new director two weeks ago.

She has worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations, including as regional administrator for the Small Business Administration...

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Florio Floats Compensating Utilities that Buy Distributed Energy

7 Apr 2016


California’s investor-owned utilities could get a 3.5 percent return on power they buy from distributed resources if a proposal by California Public Utilities Commission member Mike Florio goes forward.

While Florio noted he is not wedded to the specific percentage, he reasoned in his April 4 proposal that utilities might be more amendable to relying on power from small-scale solar systems, fuel cells, or storage systems operated within their distribution networks if they earned a profit...

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JUICE: Good News in the Sierra

31 Mar 2016


Media’s focus, like that of many families at holiday gatherings, is on the messy, bad news.

The scuttlebutt at our Easter get together, for example, covered the absent spouse, the volatile niece, and the in-law who offends just about everyone. Those of us slaving away in the kitchen, per usual, virtually got ignored.

Absent from recent media headlines is that hydropower will be plentiful this summer, particularly in the northern and central Sierras, which provide most of the in-state hydroelectricity...

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