Will Plant Vogtle Nuke Georgia Power Bills? Act Now!

SACE’s Sara Barczak contributed content to this blog.

This has been an intense week for the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project so here’s a quick blog to get you updated. SACE has been on the ground at the public hearings all week where we learned that Georgia’s Public Service Commissioners have expedited their timeline to make a decision on Georgia Power’s request to double the estimated costs for Plant Vogtle to December 21, not February 2018, like originally scheduled! Georgia Power is asking to push those costs onto YOU, instead of its shareholders. With less time to flood the inboxes of the Commissioners, we really need your help!

Please take a moment to voice your concerns by Dec 20th with the five elected Commissioners before their vote on the 21st. We encourage you to personalize your letters, which only takes a few minutes!

SEND A LETTER!

Already sent in your letter? Help us inform and empower your friends and family on social media to speak out, too! Share this action on Facebook and Twitter!

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The Changing Solar Landscape in the Southeastern US

The author, Elise Fox.

This is a guest post written by Dr. Elise B. Fox, Principal Engineer at Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, SC, and Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

The Southeastern US is not typically synonymous with aggressive renewable energy strategies, but several factors over the past several years are changing the trajectory. For one, the cost of solar is rapidly declining. If we take South Carolina for example (see Figure 1) the average cost of a residential PV system fell from $4.40/W to $3.44/W, or roughly $1/W, in a two-year period. For a home owner installing a 9 kW system, the current average size system in SC, this equates to a $8,640 savings or a 22% savings.

While costs are falling, adoption rates are not uniformly increasing in Southern states. South Carolina, has increased the total capacity of residential systems from 3.6 MW in 2014 to over 65 MW this year. This is a statewide increase from close to 580 individual distributed systems to over 6,000. That is tremendous growth in a short period of time. South Carolina’s nearest neighbors, Georgia and North Carolina, are the two Southeastern states we typically hear about for growth of the solar industry. However, SC has double the residential solar install capacity of NC and thirteen times that of GA. It also won’t be long before the state, which has half the population of its neighbors, catches up in utility scale solar. A quick look at interconnection filings shows over 4 GW of utility scale solar in the queue for SC. Read more…

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Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

This blog has been updated from its original posting.

The last few months have been an exceptional time for the electric vehicle (EV) movement. Major automakers have been making historic announcements signaling that they have seen the future and it is electric.

France and Britain, in keeping with the Paris Accord, made announcements in July that they would ban gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040 with the aim of combating the air pollution crisis.  Since then, we’ve seen a domino like response from several other countries including India and Norway setting firm dates (2030 and 2025, respectively); while others: Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Korea, Spain, and eight American states have set targets for electric car sales.

Real shock waves were felt in September when China (the world’s largest car market) announced that their government is developing a long-term plan to phase out vehicles powered by fossil fuels. China’s aggressive plan has forced the hand of the auto manufacturers.

Read more…

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Overshadowed by coal ash issue, debate continues over Duke Energy’s fixed charge

This is a guest post written by Elizabeth Outz for Southeast Energy News. To read the original post, click here.

Will a ‘Basic Customer Charge’ slip onto your Duke Energy-Progress bill each month?? Photo: S. Gilliam

As a high-profile hearing over Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike in North Carolina logged its seventh day, an expert witness for anti-poverty and environmental groups said the utility’s own data prove it should lower – not raise – the flat monthly fee it levies on residential customers.

In a case centered on whether ratepayers should foot $200 million of Duke’s coal-ash cleanup costs, the proposed $3 increase in the ‘Basic Customer Charge’ has grabbed relatively little attention. The charge is hidden to most customers – adding to its obscurity.

But advocates say setting the fee too high has big implications: disproportionately burdening low and fixed-income ratepayers, discouraging energy conservation and rooftop solar, and giving customers less control over their monthly bill.

The flat charge is now just over $11 for Duke Energy Progress, one of two Duke utilities that provide electric service in the state. Though it does not vary with electricity use, it is lumped in with charges that do – unless customers ask for a detailed bill.

A fact sheet on Duke’s website says the charge covers “maintaining your electric meter to your home or business as well as maintaining customer records, billing and other transactions affecting the account.”

Yet energy consultant Johnathan Wallach said Tuesday that the utility’s data show that covering those expenses, along with the initial connection to the grid, only costs each residential customer $8.54.

“Costs are being inappropriately recovered,” said Wallach, who argued the flat charge to residential customers should include costs associated with connecting customers and servicing them regardless of electricity use. “No more, no less,” he said.

A difference over poles and wires

Attorneys for Duke declined to cross-examine Wallach, who appeared on behalf of the North Carolina Justice Center, the North Carolina Housing Coalition, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said later they did not dispute the calculations — but reiterated the company’s position that the current fee was well short of residents’ portion of “fixed” distribution costs of almost $28. Read more…

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Alabama PSC’s Gift List: Power Company “Nice,” Alabamians “Naughty”?

Alabama PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, ready for the December 12 meeting.

Every year on the second Tuesday in December, the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) holds a public meeting about Alabama Power’s rate structure and the cost impacts of keeping coal-fired power plants burning. If this meeting represented the PSC’s holiday gifts, it’s easy to see who the favorite child is… and it isn’t the bill-paying public.

The Commission gives the bulk of the all-day meeting to Alabama Power to present and take questions from officials, while the rest of us get as little as 45 minutes (at the very end of the morning and afternoon sessions) to ask questions. In all that time, the Commission still doesn’t require Alabama Power to demonstrate consideration of alternative actions to the expensive ones it chose.  It’s not a decision-making meeting; the rates are generally approved the week before.

And that’s just a stocking stuffer compared to the real present: The Commission has let Alabama Power earn a profit upwards of 13 percent, far higher than most other electric utilities. In other words, for every hundred dollars they spend on providing electricity, including upgrading outdated coal plants, they get over $113 back from customers. I’d put that kind of gift on my list if I could! Read more…

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Poll: Majority of Tennessee Voters Support Solar and Oppose Fixed Charges On Bill or Restrictions to Customer Choice

Recent polling conducted by North Star Opinion Research shows widespread support throughout Tennessee for solar energy as well as strong opposition to solar market barriers currently being erected by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) such as fixed (mandatory) monthly charges and limitations to customer choice.

Conducted October 21-26, 2017, the poll contacted 600 registered voters in Tennessee for live interviews over the phone, with 44 percent of the interviews taking place on cell phones and the sample including diverse representation of gender, age, race, and location.

The study found that 81 percent of Tennessee voters want to see more solar in Tennessee, with 88 percent of voters wanting it on their own home. In addition, 88 percent prefer that their electricity bill be based on usage, rather than a fixed fee, and 83 percent of voters believe that local power companies should have the ability to purchase energy from sources other than TVA.

Founding members of the Tennesseans for Solar Choice coalition participated in a press conference on Monday, December 4th, to discuss these results and the big picture implications for both Tennesseans and the direction that TVA appears to be heading. Here are some highlights from the press conference: Read more…

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Are industrial power customers favored too much?

The mandatory charge on customers for financing the construction of Plant Vogtle has risen from an average of 0.25 cents per kilowatt-hours sold to 0.48 cents per kilowatt-hours sold. The actual rate is heavily weighted towards residential customer use.

Across the Southeast, industrial power customers get special perks. One reason is that they can afford to hire lawyers and experts to persist in asking for the most favorable treatment they can get. One example of this is the advance payment for Georgia Power Company’s Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project.

Georgia Power customers have already paid over $2.2 billion for financing costs associated with the expansion of Plant Vogtle, without receiving a single kilowatt-hour of electricity from the incomplete nuclear power plant. Under Georgia’s 2009 Nuclear Energy Financing Act (SB31), this pay-in-advance payment is allocated to customers in a very specific way – which heavily favors industrial power customers.

SACE obtained the total payments by customer class through the ongoing Plant Vogtle proceedings before the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) (see below). Using data supplied to the Energy Information Administration by Georgia Power, we have calculated the average cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) electricity sold and per customer.

Residential customers are currently paying over 0.7 cents/kWh, while industrial customers pay less than 0.2 cents/kWh. Over the first six years of these mandatory nuclear plant construction financing fees, residential customers have paid 45% more than average (on a per kWh basis), while industrial customers have enjoyed a 58% below average rate.

The average residential customer, using 1,081 kWh per month, has paid $484 towards the cost of Plant Vogtle through September 2017. Of that total, residential customers have paid about $153 per household to provide industrial customers with $319 million in rate savings. (Georgians are also paying for this advance fee in other ways, such as for schools and municipalities that also pay electric bills and are subject to this charge.)

If industrial customers had paid at the average rate, they would have paid over $615 million to finance the construction of Plant Vogtle, rather than the $257 million they have paid through September 2017.  However, the Georgia General Assembly set a standard that resulted in the Plant Vogtle advance payment representing less than 3% of industrial customer bills. If they were paying for Plant Vogtle at the same rate as residential customers, industrial users might have been much more concerned about whether Plant Vogtle was in customer interests. The severely delayed and over budget reactors have essentially doubled in cost and are more than 5 years delayed.

Georgia Power Company has collected $2.2 billion from 2011 through September 2017 to finance the construction of Plant Vogtle. See HR-1-6 at http://www.psc.state.ga.us/factsv2/Document.aspx?documentNumber=170337

The next Georgia Public Service Commission hearing for Plant Vogtle begins on December 11, 2017 @ 10 am Eastern. The Commission will hear testimony from its own expert witnesses that found that it is uneconomic to continue the troubled project, as well as testimony from intervening parties including SACE.

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Bolting From Hurricane Irma: Maximizing the benefits of solar and an electric vehicle

The official end to Hurricane Season 2017 is today, November 30.  It was an especially unforgiving season and as we reflect back we wanted to share a story on how renewable energy and electric vehicles can offer benefits. The following is an account from two local Florida residents that we interviewed on how they fared through Hurricane Irma with their Chevy Bolt.

The sounds of the guests across the hallway fleeing in the middle of the night are what startled Simon and Jody awake. The couple had evacuated to a hotel in Punta Gorda, Florida because their home was in the projected path of the Category 4 storm. Dazed, they started following the local weather reports and Jody began to read a flurry of text messages on her phone saying, “Get out, it’s headed your way!”  Ironically, the storm had turned and was now projected to hit the west coast of Florida where they had sought refuge. By 2am, they decided it wasn’t worth the risk to stay put.  They tossed the room key to some young storm chasers that came to Punta Gorda with a “good luck guys, be safe” and were headed back to their coastal outpost of Miami, Coconut Grove. Read more…

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Report: Wind, solar are cheapest options, NOW

Lazard Associates Levelized Cost of Energy 11.0, 2017

Lazard Associates Levelized Cost of Energy 11.0, 2017

Don’t believe the fake news hype about cheap coal and natural gas! A new report out by energy industry experts, Lazard Associates, shows that wind power and solar power are now the lowest cost energy resources – period.

In its annual Levelized Cost of Energy analysis, Lazard Associates found the cost for power generated from wind energy resources were around $30-$60 per megawatt hour (MWh) range – even without any subsidies! Unsubsidized solar power resources provided power at a cost of $43-$48/MWh range. That’s 3-6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for wind, or 4.3-4.8 cents per kWh for solar. Of course with existing federal tax credits, real wind power prices could be as low as $14/MWh, or 1.4 cents/kWh, and real solar prices may reach as low as $35/MWh, or 3.5 cents/kWh.

Now compare that with the costs of power generate by coal ($60-$143/MWh) and natural gas ($42-$78/MWh) and its clear that renewable energy is the best economic option for our nation’s power providers.

Since 2009, wind power prices have plummeted by 67% and solar power prices have dropped by 86%.

Read more…

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Support Clean Energy This Giving Tuesday!

 

First Black Friday. Then Cyber Monday. Now Giving Tuesday! With one commercial holiday after another, it’s easy to get caught up in the season of shopping, instead of the season of giving.

This year, while you’re out scouring for deals on things to purchase for your loved ones, take a moment to find ways to protect your loved ones: Participate in Giving Tuesday, and give your community the gift they deserve.

For the fifth year, SACE has joined #Giving Tuesday- a global day of giving that aims to harness the collective power of a unique blend of partners – charities, families, businesses and individuals – to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season.

Coinciding with the Thanksgiving Holiday and the kick-off of the holiday shopping season, Giving Tuesday reminds us that this is the time to pay it forward. It inspires us to take collaborative action now, to help ourselves and help our communities improve quality of life throughout the country.

During the most generous season of the year, #GivingTuesday is an excuse to give back in better, smarter ways to the causes you support, in order to help create a better world.

On November 28th, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, you can join others around the country and encourage spending with a purpose. Join us in this movement in an effort to change the way we produce and consume energy in the Southeast by supporting the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

You can participate by investing just $5.00 and becoming a SACE member by visiting the donate page of our website.  

If you are reading this blog, you are already helping to create a better world by staying up to date on critical energy issues that are affecting you and this region. We are thankful for everything you do to support responsible energy choices that will lead to a cleaner, safer and healthier world. Thank you for being a voice for clean energy.

To learn more about the #GivingTuesday Movement, please visit: http://www.givingtuesday.org.

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