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The Buzz

19 Nov 2020


State utility regulators aim to move on demand side resources to avoid outages when it is roasting hot next summer. They plan to take the unusual step of expediting changes to California Public Utilities Commission resource adequacy, demand response and other load reduction programs.

Over at the nation’s capital, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission holds its first post-election meeting. The demoted Republican Chair Neil Chatterjee stands by his decision to support carbon pricing...

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The Buzz

12 Nov 2020


Pacific Gas & Electric pitches a plan to transfer $7.5 billion of shareholder debt to ratepayers, which gets raked over the coals. Consumer advocates argue that substituting long-term ratepayer-backed bonds for the bankruptcy debt puts customers' pocketbooks at risk and fails to meet legal requirements. Those mandates include that the financing be rate neutral and boost the utility’s chances of attaining investment grade ratings...

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The Buzz

6 Nov 2020


Neil Chatterjee, who has served as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair for more than two years, is suddenly replaced. President Trump late Thursday names James Danly the new FERC chief.

In blue California, state utility regulators approve Southern California Edison’s plan to issue $337 million in ratepayer-backed bonds to recover the costs of making its system more fire resilient. The California Public Utilities Commission also suspends a controversial multi-million- dollar bonus program for shareholders for squishy energy savings...

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Guest Juice: Energy Crisis 2.0: It’s Time to Use Our Smart Meters

2 Nov 2020


The rolling blackouts, according to the Preliminary Report on Causes of August Rotating Outages, were fundamentally caused by a California Independent System Operator software glitch and community choice agencies, utilities and direct access providers collectively under-scheduling customer demand in the Day-Ahead Market by ~7% to 8% on Aug. 14 and 15.

Ordinarily the under-scheduling wouldn’t have been a problem because how much demand Load Serving Entities choose to schedule in the Day Ahead Market should never impact the stability of the market—by design...

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The Buzz

30 Oct 2020


Two California private utility parents report third quarter earnings, one bearing good news and the other far from rosy. Pacific Gas & Electric gets a post-bankruptcy bounce. Edison International goes the opposite direction.

SoCalGas gets slammed for its climate damaging activities, from undermining home electrification to suing the state for its clean trucks rule. Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Barragán demand answers, pointing to wildfire destruction worsened by climate change...

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New Energy Providers Join Forces Against Entrenched Agency Rules

29 Oct 2020


Bureaucratic red tape at the California Public Utilities Commission prevented East Bay Community Energy from contracting for clean, behind-the-meter electricity last year that could have provided power or lowered demand during the August heat waves. The resources were designated to help meet East Bay’s 2020 resource adequacy obligations. The community aggregator says it also is hitting a wall with regulators who have limited its ability to invest in clean demand response and capitalize on aggregated residential solar-plus-storage resources, Stefanie Tanenhaus, EBCE senior regulatory analyst, told Current...

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The Old Must Yield to Clean Microgrids, Advocates Say

27 Oct 2020


California is striving to attain a clean, reliable, and affordable grid, but getting there requires huge changes—from institutional to technological. Part and parcel of this transition is the age-old battle between the established and the newbies, with the former fighting to hold onto turf and the newcomers struggling to get some viable sod in an evolving landscape.

A prime example is the struggle at the California Public Utilities Commission to advance non-utility owned clean microgrids...

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The Buzz

23 Oct 2020


State utility regulators allow Pacific Gas & Electric to fold $447 million into rates to recoup part of its wildfire tab. Whether these incurred costs linked to different accounts are reasonable will be determined later.

Also this week, a majority of the California Public Utilities Commission refuses to back a penalty program aimed at stopping poor ratepayers from being ripped off by sleezy solar contractors...

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Recurring Problem Forced Diablo Canyon Nuke Unit Offline

20 Oct 2020


The untimely Oct. 15 shut down of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant’s Unit 2 is the second malfunction in a critical component of its electric generator, which was just rebuilt. In July, the same Pacific Gas & Electric unit was forced offline because then, as now, the cooling system that lowers the extreme heat inside the spinning generator was leaking hydrogen gas, which is the cooling fluid...

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CPUC Judge Adds Ratepayer Protections to $337M SCE Bond

20 Oct 2020


The California Public Utilities Commission pushes back against a controversial proposal by Southern California Edison to put its ratepayers on the hook for $337 million in new debt. The utility plans to raise the money from bondholders to cover its costs of hardening power equipment against fire threats, which will be fully repaid by SCE customers.

An administrative law judge proposes establishing a financial team to ensure that this first revival of utility securitized bonds comes with the lowest possible costs to ratepayers...

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The Buzz

16 Oct 2020


The grid operator calls for conservation in the face of spiking temperatures along the Southern California Coast and in the northern part of the state. Peak demand is not the issue: the large Diablo nuclear power plant going offline and fire threats are.

Federal energy regulators agree to allow carbon pricing into grid markets. But okays are to be made on a case by case basis, and on condition that the state pricing mechanism is not deemed a subsidy...

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News Roundup: Diablo Goes Down during Flex Alert

15 Oct 2020


Updated Oct. 16

Temperatures at the Southern California coast and in parts of northern California are projected to be 15-25 degrees above normal and the state grid operator has called for residents and businesses to conserve electricity. Making matters worse is that the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and its 2,200 megawatts of power went offline.

Diablo’s Unit 1 has been undergoing a scheduled maintenance and been offline since Oct...

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The Buzz

9 Oct 2020


The release of the much anticipated first analysis of the major causes of the mid-August blackouts highlights warnings previously raised. That includes agency resource forecasting and planning missing the mark on climate and a cleaner grid.

Major stakeholders—from utilities to community energy—insist that clean reliable resources are needed now more than ever. The California Public Utilities promises to accelerate its resource planning to reflect the changing climate and grid...

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Report: Salton Sea ‘Lithium Valley’ Could Supply 33% of Global Demand

6 Oct 2020


Just one week after a law was signed in California creating a special committee to explore the potential of the Salton Sea to yield significant amounts of lithium, a report concludes it could result in a multi-billion dollar windfall for the state and its electric vehicles. The report by the non-profit New Energy Nexus says the extraction could help the economy recover from the pandemic, create thousands of jobs, and make the state a key player in the competitive battery market...

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The Buzz

2 Oct 2020


Pacific Gas & Electric seeks a couple of billion dollars more from ratepayer pocketbooks for utility-sparked wildfires in 2017 and 2018. It also asks state regulators for the green light to put its long-time headquarters in San Francisco up for sale. It says it will give the gain to customers. In other news, the grid operator board rolls out the welcome mat for its new chief.

The head of the Assembly energy committee tells Current that Southern California Edison’s possible pursuit of more expensive financing in place of AAA rated bonds to cover a few hundred million dollars in wildfire won't be fully paid by ratepayers...

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CPUC, not SCE, Calls Shots on Ratepayer Bonds, Lawmaker Says

1 Oct 2020


Southern California Edison is threatening to use pricier financing to recoup $337 million in wildfire costs if the California Public Utilities Commission doesn’t okay its controversial plan to issue bonds fully secured by ratepayers. SCE says it will recover the costs “through traditional utility financing, which will cost customers more,” in an opening brief filed Sept. 25.  

Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee Chair Chris Holden took issue with the threat...

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The Buzz

25 Sep 2020


Southern California Edison reaches a $2 billion settlement with insurance firms that paid business and residential claims for their losses from wildfires in 2017-18 fires and mudslides. It includes funds for claims filed through mid-2023.

The same day, the City of San Diego formally opens bidding for its electric and gas right-of-way franchise. It has been held by San Diego Gas & Electric, whose competitors now include Warren Buffet...

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New Bonds Put Ratepayers 100% on the Hook, and the Tab?

23 Sep 2020


Consumer advocates are warning that a test case before the California Public Utilities Commission will set a grave precedent for Californians if regulators give it the okay. At issue is how much private utilities get to charge ratepayers for bonds they issue to cover their wildfire costs, including protecting against blazes.

Southern California Edison plans to issue $327 million in bonds, specifically a type of instrument known as securitized bonds, which are paid back entirely by ratepayers...

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The Buzz

18 Sep 2020


Groundbreaking action by federal regulators requires grid operators to open their doors to aggregated power from energy storage, solar rooftops, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency. CAISO is ahead of the regional transmission operator pack, but the new rule is expected to ease the way for more clean distributed resources into its grid.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also investigates the causes of California’s rolling blackouts...

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Fed Commodities Regulators Break the Mold with Call for Carbon Pricing

17 Sep 2020


The climate crisis threatens the stability of the U.S. financial markets, warned commissioners appointed by the current president to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in a recent report.

Although their report has not been approved by the full commission, Emilie Mazzacurati, founder/CEO of climate risk analyst 427, called it miraculous in the current political environment. She added that it sets out principles a new administration could use to ameliorate climate risks...

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