Every two weeks Viohl & Associates publishes an Energy Update, which provides summaries of significant federal and state energy news.
In the States
NH – Eversource, New Hampshire’s largest utility company, filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a ruling by the Public Utilities Commission to block the extension of a natural gas pipeline expansion project. Eversource estimates the pipeline project, known as the Access Northeast and Algonquin Natural Gas Pipeline, would lead to “significant customer savings” while also decreasing overall operating costs. The project, which was to be financed in part by electricity ratepayers over a long-term contract, was disallowed by the PUC since an earlier court ruling stated “utilities can't pass on to ratepayers the costs of financing new natural gas pipelines.” Bill Quinlan, New Hampshire operations president for Eversource, said ““Expanding the supply of gas into New England is one of the necessary actions that must occur as part of the effort to reduce energy costs and ensure reliability. We believe it’s important that proposals like this one have the opportunity to be fully considered.” Eversource takes pipeline case to New Hampshire Supreme Court – The New Hampshire Union Leader
VT – While showcasing the construction of a new solar power project in Montpelier called a Solar Canopy, Governor Phil Scott announced his support for the state’s existing renewable energy mandate requiring that 90 percent of its energy be derived from renewable sources by 2050. Governor Scott said the renewable energy goal contributes positively to his focus on economic development and “creates jobs that keep young people from leaving the state.” The Governor also maintained that local communities should play a greater role in determining renewable energy project siting, one of his campaign pledges. Solar Canopy, which was erected by Waterbury-based SunCommon, was founded in 2012 and employs about 70 people. "Companies like SunCommon, and many others who are creating jobs and innovating here in Vermont, are exactly what we need to reach these (economic development) goals," Governor Scott said. Vermont’s new governor sticking with renewable energy goal – Associated Press
WY – Six state lawmakers proposed assessing a penalty on utilities if they make use of wind or solar energy to generate electricity for their customers. According to the legislation, Senate File 71, utilities would have a year to comply with the measure, if enacted, and would be restricted to utilizing six resources to generate electricity. Additionally, the state’s utilities would have to derive 100 percent of their Wyoming-sold energy from these six resources, which include coal and natural gas, by 2019. Shannon Anderson of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, called the law unsound, noting “It would be very difficult to implement, difficult to regulate, since it goes against longstanding precedent to choose least-cost resources, and [since] it ignores the reality of a multi-state grid.” Bill would penalize utilities for wind-generated electricity for Wyoming customers – The Casper Star-Tribune
Federal and Regional
President Donald Trump selected Cheryl LaFleur to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency which regulates the nation’s power markets and pipelines, among other responsibilities under the Department of Energy. Ms. LaFleur, a Democrat and former utility executive, replaces Norman Bay, who has led the agency since April 2015, as acting chairman. “LaFleur’s appointment signals that Trump is hearing congressional Republicans’ complaints about FERC being too heavy handed to the markets,” said Katie Bays, a Washington-based energy analyst for Height Securities. Ken Irvin, a Washington-based partner at Sidley Austin LLP who represents energy marketers and traders, said “She has a very informed knowledge of the energy business and how to be an effective regulator. She’s very in tune with our markets.” Trump names LaFleur acting head of federal energy regulator – Bloomberg
Reversing a decision by his predecessor, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to construct the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. President Trump, in so doing, promised to renegotiate the terms of the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline so the federal government can receive a portion of the pipeline’s profits. TransCanada said it remains committed to building the pipeline, though noted it would still require approval from the states the pipeline crosses as well as the U.S. Department of State. Meanwhile, the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been the subject of numerous protests by environmental groups as well as the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, faces several legal challenges that allege the proposed pipeline poses a danger to the tribe’s water supply. Trump signs executive actions to advance Keystone, Dakota Access pipelines – Politico
In the States
UT – Governor Gary Herbert’s Office of Energy Development hosted the second annual Utah Air and Energy Symposium to discuss the state’s air quality challenges vis-à-vis future energy development, which is set to be a key topic studied by the state legislature during next year’s 45-day legislative session. Much of the discussion at the Symposium focused on alternative fuel vehicles, air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry, and methane leaks, which the state’s Department of Environmental Quality is currently studying. Jon Goldstein of the Environmental Defense Fund spoke in favor of increased regulations, noting that neighboring Colorado was able to achieve a 75 percent reduction in methane leaks by implementing new rules on the state’s energy producers. In another session, state Representative Stephen Handy (R) discussed his work to secure Utah’s part of the settlement under Volkswagen’s violation of diesel emissions and his hope that the state will utilize the funds to replace diesel school buses. Utah air quality, energy event draws diverse crowd – KSL Salt Lake City
VA – At an event showcasing the installation of a new solar system for public schools in Albemarle County, Governor Terry McAuliffe released an update to his 2014 Virginia Energy Plan, titled the “Energy in the New Virginia Economy,” which outlines his administration’s work on the Commonwealth’s strategic energy priorities. The update to the energy plan, which is required by statute, focuses on the Governor’s four priorities: strategic growth in the energy sector, best in class infrastructure, alternative fuels and advanced vehicles technology, and workforce development. Some of the achievements highlighted by the Governor include the construction of a 80 megawatt solar farm in Accomack County, the creation of the Commonwealth’s first Green Community Program, and the use of over 200 alternative fuel vehicles by the state government. “Today's installation is the perfect venue to formally unveil an update on the progress we are making toward making Virginia a leader in the global energy economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The clean energy sector has been a central part of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy and that effort has paid off as revenue in the sector has grown four-fold to $2 billion.” At Monticello High School, McAuliffe touts solar panels, energy plan – The News & Advance
VT – Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish energy company, is seeking to build the state’s largest wind energy project, which would consist of 24 turbines almost 500 feet tall generating close to 90 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for 42,000 homes annually. The project, which would be built in a private forest near the towns of Windham and Grafton, is on the ballot this fall for voters to approve or disapprove. Under increasing pressure and scrutiny from local officials and residents who are concerned the proposed project will generate noise and lower property values, and sensing the voters would reject the proposed wind farm, Iberdrola offered to pay “a total of $565,000 a year to the 815 registered voters in both towns, or $14.1 million over 25 years,” for their support. The project, which is supported by outgoing Governor Peter Shumlin, has become a key issue in the race to succeed him with Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott (R) opposing the project and Sue Minter (D), a former transportation secretary under Governor Shumlin, supporting it. “There’s nothing I’m more proud of than my legacy of having helped to get Vermont off of oil and coal and moved us more aggressively than any other state in the nation to renewables,” Governor Shumlin said. Vermont wind project needs support, so company offers to pay voters – The New York Times
Federal and Regional
The National Governors Association (NGA) published two papers focused on enhancing energy assurance planning and response and strategies for states to develop advanced energy storage. Both publications were developed by the NGA’s Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy, and Transportation Division, which “provides information, research, policy analysis, technical assistance, and resource development for governors and their staff.” The first paper summarizes the NGA’s findings from a 2015 project in which NGA and New Jersey state officials worked with six other states – Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island – “to understand and apply lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy” while the second paper explores how states can use incentives, regulations, and policy to boost energy storage.
The United States Navy announced its purchasing renewable energy from a new 150-megawatt solar farm in Arizona, or what is soon to be the largest procurement of renewable energy by the federal government, according to federal officials. The solar facility, called the Mesquite Solar Complex, is owned by Sempra U.S. Gar & Power and will supply a third of the electricity needs of the Navy’s installations in California, including the San Diego naval base and the Marines’ Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton bases The Navy’s purchase will support over 800 temporary construction and permanent jobs. “It’s going to be reliable, it’s going to be cheaper than what we’re paying for brown power, and it just diversifies our energy sources for these bases,” said Dennis McGinn, the assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. U.S. government makes biggest clean energy purchase ever – The Washington Post and Tonopah solar farms to supply energy to military bases – The Arizona Republic