The Latest in Utilities’ Battle Against Solar & Efficiency

Wisconsin and Florida have joined Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana in protecting its utilities from the threat of distributed generation and/or energy efficiency – a sure sign of ALEC’s presence.

At last week’s 2015 States and National Policy Summit, ALEC laid out the agenda – “limited government, unlimited pollution,” says Aliya Haq at Natural Resource Defense Council. Besides getting rid of renewable energy, halting energy efficiency and expanding oil drilling everywhere, the EPA is squarely in its sight this year – even with a model bill that would completely eliminate the agency!

Florida

Regulators voted 3-2 to eliminate all solar rebates at the end of next year and to cut energy efficiency programs required of utilities by 90%.  And they did it just as the Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo began there.

Florida

“The historic rollbacks in conservation goals are bad news for customers – especially those on lower incomes, says the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Earthjustice. During the proceeding, SACE showed that higher levels of energy efficiency cost less than building new, more costly power plants. Instead of siding with customers, regulators sided with monopoly utility shareholders, once again, by setting meager goals that promote construction of new power plants -which earn the companies a hefty profit, while leaving fewer opportunities for customers to lower energy use and save money on bills.”

Amazingly, utilities say solar rebates and efficiency programs aren’t cost-effective, claiming it’s cheaper for them to produce a kilowatt of electricity than to save it. At the same time, regulators approved Duke Energy’s $1.5 billion natural gas plant to be built at customers’ expense. Duke and FPL could even charge customers for fracking exploration, reports UtilityDive.

Over the summer, utility Florida Power & Light (FPL) got approval to charge customers $9 per month to fund construction of its solar projects. Pretty amazing, because FPL has long been one of the top wind developers in the US – from its own coffers. And it joined with other state utilities to ask regulators to slash energy efficiency incentives, after donating heavily to keep Republican Rick Scott as Governor. 

Because of these outrageous moves, legislation has been introduced to reform the regulatory agency, Florida Public Service Commission.

Meanwhile, Michigan‘s energy efficiency measures returned almost $4 in savings for every dollar spent, according to its regulators.

Ohio

Ohio succumbed earlier this year, freezing its renewable energy and efficiency standards for two years. As part of that bill, utilities would be allowed to opt out of efficiency rebates that encourage people to buy efficient light bulbs and Energy Star appliances.

FirstEnergy has taken them up on it and at the end of this year most efficiency programs will end. But ratepayers will continue to pay for them through previous rate hikes that support those programs and they will pay for “lost distribution revenues” – fees FirstEnergy receives for cooperating with those state mandates!, reports Cleveland.com. 

The company is also trying to convince the commission to approve a new three-year rate plan that would commit Illuminating Co., Ohio Edison, and Toledo Edison to buy all their  power for 15 years – at whatever the cost – from two of its large, old power plants – one nuclear and one coal, reports Cleveland.com.

Wisconsin

Regulators approved a 75% hike in fixed charges of about $16 a month, offset by slightly lower prices for energy.

Commissioner Eric Callisto – the sole person who voted against the rate change, and the only person not appointed by ALEC member Governor Walker – says the idea that a fixed charge promotes fairness is “silly” because it “guarantees the folks who use the least amount of energy will pay more,” he told Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Utilities will also pay less to net-metered customers – those who send excess solar back to the grid.  

The charge “effectively demolishes” rooftop solar in Wisconsin, Michael Vickerman at RENEW Wisconsin, told Utility Dive.

Since there isn’t much solar in the state yet, the utility is thinking ahead. It’s “tantamount to a 40% reduction in the value of what customers receive from a solar project,” Tyler Huebner of Renew Wisconsin, told the Journal Sentinel. “This decision is bad for job creation, bad for energy independence, bad for the environment, and bad for customers. Today our supposedly conservative commissioners approved a new tax, killed jobs and restricted energy choice in Wisconsin.”

We Energies also wanted to ban customers from leasing renewable energy systems, like and solar and anaerobic digesters, but the Wisconsin Public Service Commission rejected that.

Kansas, Utah, Texas?

Even in Koch Bros country, Kansas refused to repeal its Renewable Portfolio Standard earlier this year, but they did dilute net-metering for solar. When it comes up next year, it has a much better of chance of passing after even more Republicans were elected in the mid-terms.

Rocky Mountain Power in Utah filed for a $4.25 surcharge for  solar owners and the largest municipal utility in the US, CPS Energy in Texas, wants a $450 connection fee and monthly charges of $1 per kilowatt per month.

Read our articles, Vermont Raises Support for Solar While Slew of States Consider Repeal and Solar Wins Big In Iowa, Next Battle is Wisconsin.

Read more about the politics in Wisconsin:

 

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