How will TVA’s Grid Access Charge Affect Your Rates?

TVA has done it again. They’ve misled the public on a key economic decision. TVA has proposed a discriminatory rate structure change and is hiding its real intent in a desperate measure to limit new technologies and customer freedoms.

Public comments for TVA’s new Grid Access Charge policy proposal closed yesterday after just 30 days. Thanks to some Freedom of Information Act requests SACE filed, we were able to (mostly) unpack a confusing and misleading proposal. (You can read our comments here – they are 50 pages, plus supplementary material, so we hope you find them enlightening!) What TVA said in its “Environmental Assessment” differs dramatically from what TVA said behind closed doors.

Bottom line: TVA should withdraw the proposed Grid Access Charge. It is bad policy and will hurt customers. It runs counter to TVA’s mission. It will fail. Instead, TVA should work with Local Power Companies, businesses, and residential customers to embrace customer choice and control through solar, energy efficiency, storage, and electric cars. Read more…

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The Heavy Hand of FPL Changes Law; Preempting Local Governments

Money in politics typically never leads to good outcomes for utility customers. Case in point: a bill recently signed into law by Governor Scott helps power companies – in particular FPL – build new high-voltage transmission lines by preempting local governments’ ability to apply zoning and environmental protection laws to new power line development.

FPL exerts oversized influence in Tallahassee through significant campaign contributions and use of lobbyists. The Miami Herald, for instance, reported in 2016 that FPL had given $805,000 directly to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee.The Governor and majority of legislators often accommodate the state’s biggest power company.

If you can’t win the game, change the rules of the game                                                           

The bill, HB 405, effectively eliminates local control on transmission line siting and stems from a legal battle between FPL and a number of Miami-Dade County local governments.  The local governments challenged a 2014  decision by the State Siting Board, comprised of the governor and cabinet, approving miles of transmission line infrastructure to serve FPL’s Turkey Point plant. A portion of the transmission lines were to run through densely populated urban areas and environmentally sensitive lands – the towers would be over 100 feet tall. The governments appealed to the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals arguing that the Siting Board – and an Administrative Judge’s Recommend Order, had erred in not considering local land regulations that apply to “development” of new transmission lines.

The judge agreed with the local governments finding that the Siting Board incorrectly determined that transmission line corridors are excluded by the definition of “development.” The Court reversed the Final order and remanded the case back to the Siting Board “for further review consistent with local development regulations, comprehensive plans and the applicable environmental regulations.” Read more…

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Last Chance to Protect Biscayne Bay, Region’s Drinking Water from Turkey Point Pollution

FPL’s polluting Turkey Point facility has been all over the news again because next Tuesday morning, April 10, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners will convene a Commission meeting which includes a scheduled vote on a controversial Joint Partnership Agreement (JPA) with Florida Power and Light (FPL) regarding what to do about the utility’s antiquated, failing cooling canal system (item 11A3 on the agenda). Local organizations, including SACE, are demanding the Agreement be strengthened before the County approves, otherwise the agreement could substantially delay the cleanup at Turkey Point, resulting in long-term impacts on the region’s drinking water resource, the Biscayne Aquifer, and the health of Biscayne Bay and the adjacent Biscayne and Everglades National Parks.

Clean It Up Now!” has been the rallying cry for concerned local organizations because FPL has also filed for a 20-year operating license extension with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). NOW is the time for the County to demand a comprehensive solution to fix a decades-long problem.

The groups have sent many letters and supporting information to the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners recommending ways to strengthen the Agreement. Three requests have been consistently mentioned:

1. A commitment by Miami-Dade County to continue to seek decommissioning of Turkey Point’s cooling canal system and implementing upgrades to the cooling technology, such as the installation of cooling tower, and to maintain regulatory and operational control over the wastewater treatment facility and reuse water.

2. Any reclaimed wastewater treated for use at the Turkey Point facility must meet non-degradation water quality standards for release into Biscayne Bay.

3. A commitment to explore options to allocate a meaningful portion of treated wastewater for Biscayne Bay restoration and wetland rehydration.

Residents of Miami-Dade have a LAST CHANCE to influence this decision. Take action NOW to make a difference!

Read more…

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Damning Report by Inspector General Exposes the Truth About TVA’s Luxury Jet

After watchdog groups raised questions about the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) purchase of seemingly unnecessary and exorbitant aircraft, TVA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report summarizing its own audit of the purchase and use of two of TVA’s most recent luxury toys, a 2015 Cessna Citation 560 XLS+ jet and a 2015 Beechcraft King Air 350i. Strangely missing from this TVA OIG audit is a review of the second jet, a 2017 Cessna Citation 560 XLS+  and a EC 145 Mercedes-Benz style helicopter, both purchased under  CEO Bill Johnson’s “life style of the rich and famous” tenure at TVA. The OIG audit clearly shows that TVA could not justify the 2015 purchase of one jet, and yet Johnson went out and bought a second jet in 2017.

In the audit the majority of  justifications communicated by TVA executives for the 2015 jet purchase were systematically shown to be imaginary at the best and dishonest at worst. These purchases follow a growing pattern of extraordinary salary and bonuses paid to TVA’s top executives including CEO Bill Johnson as the highest paid Federal employee in the nation current receiving over $6.5 million dollars annually.

The OIG findings come on the heels of a TVA proposal to increase costs for residential and small business customers, adding fixed fees to already inflated residential small business rates that have been increased over the past few years as TVA gave large industrial customers big rate cuts. 

Clearly no longer your grandfather’s TVA, the “public power” utility has been using ratepayer money to fly TVA’s top executives, and even their spouses, around in style. TVA’s jet was more likely to be flying empty, than with the nine passenger capacity TVA claimed it needed to accommodate with an $11 million jet.

The OIG audit covered only a 20-month period – from July 1, 2015 to February 28, 2017 – and only focused on the one TVA Cessna jet. Given that TVA’s second jet and high-end luxury helicopter were also purchased recently, it is more than likely that TVA was failed to do any cost-effectiveness review before making the decision to spend millions of dollars on these extra toys.

We are glad to see the OIG audit, given that TVA has refused to reply to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests sent by SACE for all flight logs and records of TVA’s jets. Despite Bill Johnson’s recent claim that TVA is the “most transparent entity on the planet” and that TVA “shares anything with anybody,” TVA has refused to release any information related to use of TVA’s luxury aircraft via FOIA requests. Instead, SACE worked with the Energy and Policy Institute to get records from the Federal Aviation Association via FOIA requests, receiving a response and documents within two weeks of filing that request. The FAA records show that at least 19 times in a two year period, TVA’s aircraft went to Raleigh, NC, where Bill Johnson has a second home. This OIG report is only the tip of the iceberg – and we believe the OIG should expand its audit to review the purchase and use of all of TVA’s aircraft since January 2013. 

Bill Johnson seems to be treating TVA’s jet like a cab, having it pick him up and drop him off at his second home in NC or flying him to locations, like Pittsburgh, PA, that were unrelated to business travel.  Like a kid caught by his parents and trying to explain its way out of the situation, TVA threw excuse after excuse at the OIG who remained unconvinced.  Read more…

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Women DRIVING Electric Transportation: Catherine Teebay, Forth

This blog is part of a series called Women in EVs – celebrating women leading on the development and adoption of electric vehicles. Other blogs in this series can be found here. 

We are pleased to introduce Catherine Teebay as this week’s featured EV champion.  Catherine is a leader in EV advocacy in the Northwest, where she is currently working as a Program Manager at Forth, but has a long history with electric vehicles.

Catherine Teebay,  Progam Manager at Forth and lifelong EV enthusiast

Who or what is Forth and what do you do?

Forth is a nonprofit, automotive trade group working to advance and advocate for autonomous, connected, electric and shared mobility in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We are headquartered in Portland, Oregon, but are also working on projects in Washington, Utah, and California. We also host Roadmap, formerly EV Roadmap, the largest electric vehicle conference in North America every June. I primarily focus on managing demonstration projects, like the Community Electric Vehicle Project (CEV) and Community E-Bike Project (CEV), and support consumer engagement work and the Go Forth Electric Showcase. Some of my current work also includes developing case studies for the CEV and CEB projects (available early this summer), consulting on work with Rocky Mountain Power, and supporting Electrify America’s Discover and Drive program in California.

Read more…

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Where Does the Florida PSC Stand on Expanding Rooftop Solar?

Where does the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) stand on expanding the benefits of rooftop solar to more Floridians? The 5-member commission, appointed by Governor Scott, failed to approve a proposed solar equipment lease structure for Sunrun at its March 1st Agenda Conference; but the issue could be back before the PSC in the next month.

The solar equipment lease

There are residential customers that want to enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of “going solar,” but may not want to invest the upfront cash to purchase a rooftop solar system or simply don’t want the ownership responsibilities.  Third party financing is a tool that can serve those customers and lower the up-front cost and maintenance of a solar system. Third party financing includes the sale of solar power to a retail customer by a non-utility solar provider,  and a solar system equipment lease to a retail customer. It’s a service that continues to meet the growing demand for solar nationwide.

But, if you’re a solar provider or solar advocate in Florida, you know that third party retail sales aren’t available in Florida. The state doesn’t allow any entity, other than a utility, to provide power to a retail customer. The prohibition is found in state statute that defines a utility as supplying electricity to and for the public. The Florida Supreme Court held in 1988 that the “public” includes supplying electricity to even one retail customer.

Yet, the lease of a solar system is permitted in Florida, but it hasn’t been generally used as a tool for rooftop solar development in the Sunshine State. But, the approval of Amendment 4 by voters, and the passage of SB 80 by the Legislature last year, reduced tangible personal property taxes on solar systems (including leased residential solar equipment). With the tax burden lifted, the solar lease is a now an economically viable solar product in the Sunshine State.

Seeking clarity from the PSC 

Sunrun, in late 2017, filed a declaratory statement petition asking the PSC to approve the structure of a proposed solar lease to be offered in Florida – specifically to find that it does not constitute a retail sale of power. A declaratory statement is a way to resolve a controversy or answer questions about laws or rules over which an agency has authority. After all, it makes sense to get regulatory clarity before investing resources into a state-wide solar leasing program.The Florida PSC staff recommended approval of Sunrun’s proposed lease structure - finding that based on the facts in the petition, which is the standard by which declaratory petitions are judged, the lease was not a retail sale of power.

A solar equipment system lease between a customer and a solar provider is allowed in Florida, as long as the contract is not structured as a retail purchase of power according the state’s  net metering rule and Commission precedent. Therefore, provisions in a lease that base the rent on the output of the solar system, or provide certain performance guarantees, can be interpreted as a retail sale of power. Read more…

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Guest Blog: Everyday Climate Vulnerability in Places like Memphis

This is a guest blog written by Shelley Poticha with NRDC. To read the original post, click here.

Photo from Pixabay

Big storms like Harvey in Houston and Katrina in New Orleans garner weeks of headlines. But each American city has a climate story to tell—one that affects people every day and that can be just as devastating to families and communities over time.

Memphis—among six localities in which we work as part of the Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC)—is among them.

We’re highlighting Memphis this week at the National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference in Miami as a city in which leaders, stakeholders and citizens are making the connection between climate, disinvestment, health and economic opportunity.

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the conference brings together public, nonprofit, and private sector practitioners and leaders to learn how to form coalitions of stakeholders, resources, and strategies to strengthen communities in the face of social and economic challenges. This year, it is also emphasizing the importance of resilience in revitalizing communities faced with repeated devastation from the effects of climate change.

What the conference this year demonstrates is the awakening of many members of the community development field to these connections—that the people being brought out of poverty are the same ones disproportionately hurt by harsh storms and extreme temperatures. We can’t keep building and rebuilding in the same way and expect different results. And, we can’t keep accepting these losses of life and property, calculated to be in the billions of dollars nationally.

The Memphis story

In Memphis, for example, the SPARCC collaborative table Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR)—a group of stakeholders, leaders, activists and citizens—officially launched its community advisory board last month and has begun determining high-priority issues across neighborhoods in North Memphis, one of the poorest areas in the country and one that faces problems including dilapidated housing, repeated flooding and the nation’s highest energy burden. What is special about SPARCC in Memphis is that the collaborators include residents who live in and care deeply for their community. Read more…

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How Students in Memphis are Uplifting Their Community…and How You Can Help!

Memphis is ground zero for one of the most important energy issues facing families today - extreme energy burdens. In Memphis, families are spending 3 times the national average on utility bills. Lower-income and minority communities in Memphis have even higher energy burdens, with some paying almost 20% of their annual income to keep the lights on.

As TVA recently proposed a new grid access fee that would result in an additional fixed charges on electric bills throughout the Valley and in Memphis, we’ve been hearing personal stories across the city about these energy burdens. Virgie Banks, a community leader in Memphis, spoke directly to the TVA Board last month about her concerns:

“As I travel throughout the city of Memphis, citizens are concerned about the rates they are being charged…there are some that got their bills this month…over 800 dollars. And they are on a fixed income. How are they going to buy their medicine? Eat? Pay their utility bills and live?”

All donations welcome at https://www.gofundme.com/onelesswithplusone

SACE is spearheading the Memphis Has the Power campaign, which is pushing for larger investments in energy efficiency initiatives for the most impacted residents across the city. But SACE’s intern, Jazzmyn Davenport, and her fellow college students wanted to find a tangible way to do something to help these struggling residents right now. Last week, they kicked off a one-month giving campaign across multiple campuses called One Less for Plus One, to raise money for a program that helps pay high utility bills for families in need.

Plus-1 is a Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) program administered by the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) to pay utility services for people in need. MLGW customers fund the program through one-time donations or by adding a dollar or more to their utility bill each month.

If you’re inspired by these college students making a difference in their community, please consider chipping in – big or small – to help them reach their goal of $500! The fundraising campaign ends on April 15th.

Click here to make a donation: www.gofundme.com/onelesswithplusone. Join them to make sure there is at least One Less family struggling under the weight of energy costs with the Plus One program.

To learn more about the Memphis Has the Power Campaign, visit memphishasthepower.org.

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Women DRIVING Electric Transportation: Lisa Poger

This blog is the first in a series called Women in EVs – celebrating women leading on the development and adoption of electric vehicles. Other blogs in this series can be found here.

 

In recognition of International Women’s Month and upcoming Earth Month, we are taking a look at women helping to DRIVE electric transportation forward across the U.S.  Did you know that in the 1900s electric cars (often referred to today as EVs) were advertised as “ladies’ cars”? Women were the first leaders in driving electric.  Unfortunately, it came with some negative assumptions about women’s abilities. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine on EV marketing, Roger White, curator of road transportation at the National Museum of American History, found that “car manufacturers, car dealers and the rest of society assumed that women lacked the mechanical aptitude and physical strength to drive and maintain gasoline-powered vehicles.”

History has shown that more people should have paid attention to these early trailblazers: the benefits of EVs far outweigh those of internal combustion engines. They are easy to use, cleaner, easier to maintain and have amazing speed. EVs are for EVeryone!

Lisa Poger, our first profiled champion in our Women DRIVING electric transportations series, is leading efforts in North Carolina to set the state on a path to cleaner transportation. We’ve had the opportunity to work with Lisa as part of the North Carolina EV Working Group and as a member of Plug-In NC. We had a chance to hear from her about her background and work.  Check out this amazing leader below:

Lisa Poger

Lisa is an environmental scientist with an electric utility background. She moved to North Carolina and started a new job in 2011 as a project manager at Advanced Energy with no experience in EVs.  Within a year, she was driving her own Nissan Leaf and promoting EVs at outreach events! Today, she is an Electric Transportation Specialist at Advanced Energy and co-lead the state-wide industry collaborative Plug-In NC. Read more…

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Southeast Chapters Head to Capital Cities to Say No Way to New Drilling!

This is a guest blog originally posted by Surfrider. To read the original post, click here.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released a draft of the 2019-2024 five year offshore oil drilling plan for US waters. Unfortunately, this plan calls for expanding offshore oil drilling to over 90 percent of our coastal waters!

From Maine to Florida, California to Washington State, and almost all of Alaska – no US coastal waters are safe from the impacts of offshore oil drilling if this plan gets approved. The likelihood for yet another spill is just too high to risk our coastal economies, beach vacations, marine wildlife, and pristine coastlines. This is especially true for the quaint coastal communities of America’s Southeast. Hundreds of concerned coastal community members from the Carolinas and Georgia rallied during BOEM public meetings in opposition to this dreadful plan.

Rally to Raleigh: North Carolina Residents Trek Inland for the BOEM Meeting

BOEM held its only North Carolina (NC) informational meeting on the Trump administration’s proposed offshore drilling plan – away from the coast – in Raleigh on February 26. Try as it might, this did not keep coastal voices away; instead it fired them up to skip work, pile on buses and stand out in the rain chanting in opposition to the risky, dangerous, obsolescent plan that could destroy our coastal economies and threaten our way-of-life.

About 500 people crowded a hotel ballroom near the BOEM meeting, including more than 200 coastal residents who boarded buses chartered by the Don’t Drill NC Coalition, a partnership of 13 environmental organizations in NC, of which Surfrider Cape Fear Chapter and Surfrider Outer Banks Chapter are members.

Coastal residents on one of the buses that left from the coastal town of Wilmington, NC. They were asked to wear blue to represent the coast.

The Don’t Drill NC Coalition secured a diverse line-up of speakers for the “Rally to Raleigh,” including Representative Deb Butler, whose district includes the Wilmington area beaches. “One drop of oil on our shores will cost us millions of dollars in revenue, but more importantly it would cost us a way-of-life that money cannot buy . . . no deal, no drill, not now, not ever,” she declared to the affirming crowd. Read more…

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