Florida: Energy Winners and Losers in 2017

Happy 2018! As we would look forward to taking positive steps  towards a cleaner, smarter energy future in the Sunshine State this year, it’s instructive to look at the state energy trends from last year. Clean energy policies and projects advanced in 2017. Here’s a look at some of the energy “winners” and “losers” from 2017 in Florida.


Utility scale solar                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

No doubt that solar power was the big winner in Florida in 2017. As solar costs continue to plummet, a number of utility scale additions came into service and there were multiple announcements of planned construction of significant new utility-scale solar in the next several years. The solar installations that served Florida in 2017 ranged in size from small systems, such as the Tampa Electric 1.8 MW solar canopy at Legoland Florida, to a number of  larger utility-owned solar systems of about 74.5 MW in size.

Gulf Power, for instance, brought 120 MW of solar power online in 2017 through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Coronal, which constructed solar installations on three military bases in Gulf’s service territory. Duke Energy Florida announced plans, as part of its 2017 rate settlement agreement,  to build up to 700 MW of solar over the next 4 years – its first 74.9 MW project will be located in Hamilton County. SACE was a party to the agreement as it advanced solar development, closed the chapter on an abandoned nuclear project, and introduced a program to expand the use of electric vehicles.

Similarly, pursuant to a rate settlement agreement, Tampa Electric announced plans to build up to 600 MW of solar in the same time frame – and is pushing for regulatory approval from the Public Service Commission  (PSC) for the first tranche of 145 MW of solar projects. Florida Power and Light (FPL), the largest power company in the state, continued its solar expansion of by brining online another 225 MW in late December of 2016 and will complete another 596 MW (eight 74.5 MW systems) by the end of this year, or early next year.

Municipal utilities aren’t far behind, in fact many are leading their investor-owned utility brethren on solar development relative to the number of customers in their service territory (solar watts per customer). JEA, the state’s largest municipal utility, announced the addition of 250 MW of solar PPAs by 2020 as part of its revised solar policy – bringing it to about 300 MW by 2021. The City of Tallahassee is adding another 40 MW by 2020 to its already existing 20 MW for a total of 60 MW. Look for the announcement of significant solar additions by municipal utilities this year. Read more…

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Clean Line: A TVA Failure of Clean Energy and Environmental Leadership

It has become increasingly clear that the Tennessee Valley Authority is taking a hostile position towards renewable energy. TVA’s recent decision to ignore, or flat out reject, renewable energy from the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is the latest in a string of anti-renewable energy positions taken by the nation’s largest public utility. TVA is woefully behind peer utilities in procuring significant solar energy resources (Duke Energy North Carolina, Georgia Power, FPL in Florida to name just a few). Newly proposed 2018 solar rate structures would undermine distributed energy resources by taking the buy back rate below retail for TVA’s customer owned solar systems, effectively making TVA an “anti net-metering utility.” In 2016, TVA quietly let a 300 megawatt wind farm power purchase agreement lapse – a nearly 20% drop in renewable energy purchases. These are all examples of TVA’s movement away from clean, renewable energy.

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project was the largest renewable energy project proposed for the Southeast. The project would have delivered 3,500 megawatts of exceptionally low-cost, high capacity factor wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to a converter station in TVA territory.

Naysayers will claim the Plains and Eastern Clean Line just wasn’t cheap enough. TVA could have netted carbon-free energy for about two cents per kilowatt hour ($0.02/kWh) -  a locked-in price, lower than the fuel prices of natural gas.

If TVA had participated, the project could have sent low cost wind power to other utilities in the region, including the Carolinas, Georgia and even Florida. The Plains and Eastern Clean Line would have been the crown jewel for renewable energy projects in the Southeast, this can not be overstated. It would have also been a major United States infrastructure project using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines to move wind from the Plains to Eastern load centers, demonstrating the value of HVDC technology and diversifying the Southeast’s grid (both resources and connectivity) with systems further to the West. Read more…

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4 Ways You Can Help Defeat Trump’s Disastrous New Drilling Plan

This map shows the areas proposed for offshore oil and gas development by President Trump. The dates indicate the years in which lease sales will be held for those areas.

You may have heard the news that last week President Trump unveiled an utterly insane national plan for offshore drilling that seeks to auction off 90% of our country’s offshore waters to oil companies. In the plan, the coastlines of every single coastal state except Hawaii would be jeopardized by offshore drilling, with potential drilling as close as 3 miles to shore in almost all states. Check out the map on the right to see where exactly the Trump Administration has proposed we drill for oil and gas. Many of these places have never hosted offshore drilling activities, have no desire to host such activities, and do not even have adequate oil or gas resources to possibly justify it. To learn more about this foolish drilling plan, and why it’s such a bad deal for the American people, check out our previous blog post here.

Now it’s time to get mad and do something about it. Here are 4 ways you can help defeat Trump’s disastrous new drilling plan: Read more…

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Trump Administration pushes offshore drilling EVERYWHERE

This map shows the areas proposed for offshore oil and gas development by President Trump. The dates indicate the years in which lease sales will be held for those areas.

Today, the Trump Administration took a huge step toward disaster with the announcement of their draft proposed five year program for offshore drilling. The proposed plan will foist oil and gas drilling as close as 3 miles to shore along the entirety of the coasts of the lower 48 states, including the Atlantic, Straits of Florida, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific. Drilling privileges for Atlantic coast areas from Central Florida to Delaware would be auctioned to oil companies beginning in 2020 and for the Eastern Gulf of Mexico area currently under moratorium and Straits of Florida (off of South Florida and the Keys) in 2023. Altogether, the new drilling plan makes 90% of the nation’s waters available for oil companies to drill.

The announcement came in the form of a “Draft Proposed Program”, which lays out a proposed schedule for lease sales of offshore areas to oil and gas companies over a five year span from 2019 to 2024, including 47 total lease sales, including 12 for the Gulf of Mexico, 8 for the Atlantic, and 1 for the Straits of Florida. The proposed program also tentatively rejects any buffer zone around the shore and skips any exclusion of areas due to military, economic, or biological concern, although these could end up being adopted as alternative proposals.

Read more…

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What do “The Last Jedi” and Georgia actually have in common?

At the end of December, just when everyone was focused on the premier of the new Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi” (and the holiday season), the Georgia Public Service Commission ignored their own Staff’s recommendations – and that of intervenors including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – and unanimously voted to allow the Plant Vogtle nuclear project to proceed. In short: the Commission voted to let Georgia Power continue to build the wildly over-budget and mismanaged plant and to continue recovering costs from customers and earning profits despite management mistakes, with only a slight reduction in the allowed profit that Georgia Power can earn.

The very next day, Vice Chair and Commissioner Tim Echols had an opinion editorial piece published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (which also ran in numerous papers around the region) explaining his support for the beleaguered project and proposing that ‘The Last Jedi” and Georgia actually had much in common. (In fact, it was published the next week in the Washington Times with the headline “What ‘The Last Jedi’ and Georgia have in common”.)

While I give Commissioner Echols props for trying to headline hijack a very popular new film and a piece of the most successful movie franchise of all time (check out how many tags I included in this blog in an attempt to do the same!), he’s aiming more like a storm trooper than a Jedi Knight with those analogies. Commissioner Echols was actually – with a straight face – trying to equate the Last Jedi of the Old Order (our battle worn hero, Luke Skywalker) with the Last Nuclear Plant of the so-called Nuclear Renaissance. Read more…

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These 51 Southeast Mayors and Communities Are Going for 100% Renewable Energy

These mayors have pledged to support 100% renewable energy in their community.

Mayors and cities around the Southeast are going all in on renewable energy, which can help lower electricity costs, reduce pollution, and create jobs. The Sierra Club is compiling a list of all the municipalities, counties and mayors who have proclaimed support for a 100% renewable energy future, listing 186 mayors nationally, and more than a quarter of them are in the Southeast region!

Some mayors and local governments have taken their commitment to the next level and adopted formal goals through their entire city or county commission. Solar and wind power are now the cheapest forms of new electricity since costs have declined so steeply in recent years, so these local leaders are positioned to potentially save their communities lots of money. Meanwhile, scientific confidence is extremely high that we must transition to a clean energy economy to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. The fact of the matter is there’s a lot that cities can do on their own to promote renewable energy, reduce energy needs, cut pollution, and boost quality of life, and the mayors and communities listed below are taking important steps to realize that potential.

Check out the list below (bolded communities have adopted formal goals) and if your mayor has already stepped up, please thank them. If your mayor hasn’t joined yet, please ask them to join! Keep reading below for measures your city or county can take to help transition to the clean energy economy.

North Carolina Read more…

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Energy Storage: Charging Ahead in 2018

US Annual Energy Storage Deployment Forecast, 2012-2022E (MW), GTM Research and Energy Storage Association, 2017

US Annual Energy Storage Deployment Forecast, 2012-2022E (MW), GTM Research and Energy Storage Association, 2017

GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association recently released a new report on the energy storage market. Due to the rapidly declining price of energy storage (predominately batteries), the report states that nearly 300 megawatts of energy storage is expected to be deployed in 2017 – a 28% increase over 2016. Large, utility-scale battery deployments are leading market deployments. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-ion battery prices have declined over 70% since 2010.

While the industry growth rate is shockingly good news, the real story is where energy storage is beginning to take hold. States like Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida are evaluating storage options in integrated resource plans, pilot programs, and through energy storage procurement. Some examples are listed below.

  • Duke Florida plans to add 50 MW of battery storage.
  • Kentucky Power’s IRP has plans for adding 10 MW of battery storage by 2025.
  • Duke Energy in North Carolina will install a 9 MW battery system in transmission-constrained Asheville.
  • West Virginia’s Laurel Mountain wind farm has a co-located 32 MW / 8 MWh lithium-ion battery system.
  • Duke Energy’s Notrees Windpower Project in western Texas is upgrading from lead-acid batteries to a 36 MW lithium-ion system.
  • Southern Company is testing a 1 MW / 2 MWh lithium-ion battery system in Cedartown, Georgia.
  • Southern Company and Gulf Power are testing a 250 kW / 1 MWh Tesla Powerpack in Pensacola, Florida.
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Electric Power Board (EPB) has energized a 100kW/400kWh Vanadium flow battery.
  • Entergy New Orleans paired its new 1 MW solar PV facility with a 500 kWh lithium-ion battery system.
  • Arkansas Electric Cooperative Company began evaluating battery storage in 2015 for its IRP.
  • Dominion Energy (Virginia) has an IRP that evaluates battery storage, and even pumped-hydro storage.

Granted, we are accustomed to the storage discussion being acceptable in the expected places – high cost regions with goals or mandates; however, the South, a historically low-cost region, has a fairly long history of energy storage projects. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Raccoon Mountain pumped hydro station is one of the largest in the country. The project has been operational for nearly 40 years, with a net capacity of 1,652 MW. Power South, a cooperative utility in Alabama, operates the nation’s only compressed-air energy storage system. The 110 MW CAES system was installed in McIntosh, Alabama, in 1991.

We’ve seen this before: an emerging technology becomes cost competitive, and then adoption occurs rather rapidly. It happened with wind, and then with solar, and now energy storage is following a similar trajectory.

Energy storage has a number of unique attributes that are creating significant interest. For example, battery storage and other energy storage devices have a fast ramp rate, and in both directions – meaning energy storage devices can quickly absorb excess renewable energy, and then discharge that same energy when renewable resources are less available. Also, energy storage can provide frequency and voltage support almost instantaneously, which is very difficult (and costly) for virtually all power plants. Storage can provide peaking power, an exceptionally valuable energy resource. As costs decline, energy storage could also provide large scale diurnal or seasonal load shifting capabilities.

Never-the-less,  the energy storage industry is still quite young. Much of the industry is diligently trying to tease out all the possible value streams and propositions provided by quick-acting, low-cost storage options. The Rocky Mountain Institute has evaluated at least thirteen distinct values that battery storage can provide, to a variety of energy users. Some electric utility market structures were conceived well before large-scale energy storage options were foreseen, so some market reforms may be necessary. Also, basic industrial jargon will need to be ironed out and explained to potential utility customers, and their regulators.

But 2018 is already shaping up to be a very interesting year for energy storage. Stay plugged in.

Economics of Battery Energy Storage, Rocky Mountain Institute, 2017

Economics of Battery Energy Storage, Rocky Mountain Institute, 2017

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A Nobel Prize for a Behavioral Economics Pioneer: Are there Lessons for (Utility) Regulation?

This is a guest post of a blog written by Scott Hempling which originally ran on his law firm’s blog in November 2017 here.

Richard Thaler has won the Nobel Prize in Economics, by undermining the “rational actor” assumption central to economics.  He proved that humans’ economic decisions are afflicted by systematic biases. His discoveries have direct application to utility regulation.

Less interested in economists’ formulas than in humans’ quirks, a young Thaler began keeping “The List”:  examples of decisions—including economists’ decisions—that were economically irrational.  Then, inspired by the groundbreaking work of psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, Thaler spent decades proving that people have consistent, predictable biases that distort decision-making.  Thaler describes his work superbly in Misbehaving:  The Making of Behavioral Economics (2015).  The book is both autobiography and economic history, because Thaler’s career made economic history.

Thaler also wrote, with Cass Sunstein, the great book Nudge:  Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008), whose applications to utility regulation I discussed in a prior essay.   Kahneman himself won the Economics Nobel in 2002, a prize Tversky would have shared had he lived.  Kahneman detailed his discoveries in his masterpiece, Thinking Fast and Slow (2011); the entire subject was recently retold for popular readership by Michael Lewis in The Undoing Project:  A Friendship that Changed Our Minds (2017).

Reading these four books causes one to ask:  Might the biases discovered by these intellectual eminences affect utility regulation?  (I use “bias” not in the conventional sense of having a closed mind, or a predisposition to favor one side of a debate, but rather in the Thalerian sense of having a propensity to make decisions based on irrelevant factors.)   Among the many bias-types discovered by Kahneman, Tversky and Thaler, consider these three.

Anchoring:  Are decisions affected by irrelevancies?  Experimenters rigged a wheel of fortune so that it always stopped on 10 or 65.  Two separate groups of students were told to watch the wheel spin, write down the resulting number; then guess the percentage of African nations in the United Nations.  For the group whose wheel stopped at 10, the average answer was 25%.  For the group whose wheel stopped at 65. the average answer as 45%.  (Thinking Fast and Slow at 119.)  The wheel’s number was the anchor; the anchor influenced the guess.  Real world implication?    “If you consider how much you should pay for a house, you will be influenced by the asking price.”  Id. at 122.   Read more…

Make Your New Year’s Resolution an Electric Solution!

Ringing in the New Year with hope is a longstanding tradition that has existed since ancient times.  In Rome, they celebrated the god of change and beginnings, Janus, for whom the month was named. His two faces symbolized looking back into the past and looking ahead to the new, and this symbolic time for the Romans gave birth to the tradition of making promises to improve one’s life in the new year.  The tradition has endured and as we pause for reflection it’s time to decide on our New Year’s Resolution for 2018.

If you haven’t already worked one out (perhaps even if you have), we invite you to Resolve to Drive an Electric Car in 2018.  This is an easy resolution you can actually keep.  We’ve gone so far as to draw up a fun top 10 list that is sure to delight.

Top Ten Reasons to Resolve to Drive An Electric Car in 2018

10. It’s easy and you will love the ride!

9. You can tell your friends and family how tech savvy you are!

8. You will experience first-hand how quiet & FUN they are to drive.

7. Many dealerships have free popcorn!

6. You could test drive a friend’s electric car. (They might not have popcorn.)

5. Nissan will come to you. Just register for a test drive here: https://allnewleafdrive.com/

4. It’s free entertainment. You’ll need it after the holiday hangover.

3. The pride of emissions free driving.

2. It’s not a diet. Period.

1. It only takes an hour or so but might change your whole year!

Read more…

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Southeastern Communities Get Million Dollar Sustainability Boost

SSCF is open to Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

SSCF grants are open to cities or counties in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The Southeast has long struggled to meet its resident’s needs for energy efficiency retrofits and lower utility bills. The reason why the programs that meet those needs struggle to get off the ground is that many of our communities are historically and chronically under-resourced. But the Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund (SSCF) may start to change that.

SSCF is open to city and county municipalities from nine states in the Southeast and awards up to $300,000 per grantee for sustainability projects. The fund recently announced the winners of its inaugural year of grants.  Six grantees were chosen this cycle - including several much-needed energy efficiency projects!

While multiple projects center on energy efficiency, they all employ slightly different approaches to achieving savings. Some focus on improving existing services, like in Buncombe County, North Carolina, where the proposed project will identify high-need homes to reduce peak energy demand driven by cold winter mornings. (Incidentally, Buncombe & Asheville recently set a goal for 100% renewables – way to go!) Other projects will leverage in-kind support to both improve existing services and add new ones. The Electric Power Board’s (EPB) energy efficiency process in Chattanooga, Tennessee will offer more energy efficiency options, provide Spanish language applications, and streamline the process, while also implementing new programs from the city’s climate action plan.

Read more…

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