ALEC likely Behind Anti-Greenhouse Gas Bills

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a corporate bill mill. Global corporations and state politicians create “model bills” behind closed doors and then they work to get these bills filed in state legislatures across the country. In ALEC’s own words, corporations have “a VOICE and a VOTE” on specific changes to laws that are then proposed in the states.

The most recent effort is to weaken EPA’s forthcoming rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.  The EPA is responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions according to the Supreme Court. To that end, EPA will be proposing new rules this June to regulate carbon emissions from existing fossil-fuel based power plants. But, there is a plot afoot. In state houses across the country, shockingly similar legislation has sprung up. Louisiana’s bills can be found here and here. Below is the run down on what the state bills have in common:

I. Resolves to create a double standard in the state’s carbon standard where carbon limits would be set at levels that individual coal or gas plants can meet on their own, without using flexible compliance measures. Utilities would be allowed to comply with carbon pollution limits using the maximum amount of flexibility under the law.

  • Alabama SJR 57
  • Arizona – SCR 1022
  • Florida  SM 1174
  • Illinois SR 912
  • Missouri SCR 40
  • Nebraska LR 482
  • Tennessee HJR 663
  • West Virginia HR 13
  • Wyoming SJ 01
  • Louisiana SB 650

II. Fails to recognize that states must submit plans that meet minimum Clean Air Act requirements, and these plans must be approved by EPA. In so doing, the resolution ignores and defies the law of the land.

  • Alabama SJR 57
  • Arizona – SCR 1022
  • Florida  SM 1174
  • Georgia HR 1158
  • Illinois SR 912
  • Iowa HR 118
  • Missouri SCR 40
  • Nebraska LR 482
  • Tennessee HJR 663
  • West Virginia HR 13
  • Wyoming SJ 01
  • South Dakota HCR 1022
  • Louisiana SB 650

III. Allows for weaker carbon limits for any individual plant based on hard to verify facts

  • Alabama SJR 57
  • Arizona – SCR 1022
  • Florida  SM 1174
  • Illinois SR 912
  • Missouri SCR 40
  • Nebraska LR 482
  • Wyoming SJ 01
  • Louisiana SB 650

IV. Resolves that EPA should set new source standards for fossil-fuel fired plants based on ultra-supercritcal plants without CCS.

  • Georgia HR 1158
  • South Dakota HCR 1022

Latest on Solar Net-Metering Policy at the LA PSC

The stalemate over solar power and net-energy metering continues at the Louisiana Public Service Commission.  For nearly a year, commissioners have delayed discussion of a proposal by District 3 Commissioner Lambert Boissiere, D-New Orleans, to require electric utilities to receive certification from the PSC that they have reached a PSC-imposed limit of .5 percent of net-metering capacity before refusing to allow new net-metering applications on the grid.  As it stands three rural electric co-operatives – Panola-Harrison, Northeast and Washington-St. Tammany – claim they have hit their .5-percent limits and are denying new net-metering applications.

 Solar installation companies report they have been negotiating with electric utilities and individual commissioners on ways to break the impasse, but there is no obvious progress.

 Recall that the commission voted 3-2 last June to defeat a proposal by District 4 Commissioner Clyde Holloway, R-Forest Hill, to downgrade the value of electricity from net-metering customers.  Boissiere, District 5 Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Bossier City, and District 2 Commissioner Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, voted ‘no’ and District 1 Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, R-Metairie, joined Holloway in voting ‘yea.’

 At the same meeting commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of a proposal by Holloway to convert the PSC’s .5-percent net-metering threshold from merely a trigger for further review of net-metering into a “hard cap” limiting the growth of net-metering.  Boissiere and Campbell voted ‘no’ and Skrmetta and Angelle joined Holloway in voting ‘yea.’

 Staff of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, meanwhile, attended this week’s PSC meeting with copies of a new statewide public-opinion survey showing strong support for solar power and net-metering.  The poll was conducted for the Alliance by Dr. Ed Chervenak at the University of New Orleans Department of Political Science.  It was based on telephone interviews conducted in February with a random sample of 505 registered voters living in all five PSC districts.

 Here are some key questions and results of the Chervenak poll:

  •  Should Louisiana state government try to make renewable energy like solar power more affordable, less affordable, or do nothing to affect its cost?  Results: 78.3 percent said more affordable, 4 percent said less affordable, and 17.8 percent said do nothing.
  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Customers deserve to continue receiving retail credit for the energy they produce, as currently proscribed by Louisiana’s net-metering law?  Results: 49.5 percent said strongly agree, 43 percent said agree, 4.2 percent said disagree and 3.3 percent said strongly disagree.
  • Do you approve or disapprove of the utilities’ proposal that customers with net-metered solar panels should be charged an additional fee?  Results: 5.4 percent said strongly approve, 10.7 said approve, 37.3 percent said disapprove and 46.6 percent said strongly disapprove.
  • Louisiana’s current law (the PSC’s order capping net-metering at .5 percent of utility capacity) has some of the most restrictive limits on how many homeowners can use net-metering.  Do you think the state should lift the cap and allow more individuals to receive retail credit for the solar energy they produce?  Or do you think the state should restrict the growth  of solar energy by capping how many people can net-meter?  Results: 89.5 percent said allow more individuals to get solar net-metering, 10.5 percent said continue restricting solar net-metering.

 Meanwhile, The Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge reported earlier this month (http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/8349370-123/suit-filed-against-solar-company) that two New Orleans residents filed suit in federal court accusing Jon Sader, CEO of Sader Power Enterprises, of overstating the potential energy savings that could be realized from leasing his solar equipment.  The suit also alleges that Sader Power and Griswold Power, also connected to Jon Sader, are not properly licensed to install solar systems in Louisiana.

 Sader told the newspaper he is confident the court will conclude that his leasing agreements are legal, but his spokesman declined comment on the charge that Sader is not properly licensed to install solar.

 The LPSC’s next meeting is scheduled Wednesday, March 12, in Baton Rouge.  Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

 Bill Robertson

Office of Foster Campbell

LA PSC District 5, Shreveport

800 256 2412

Bike to Work Day Aims to Make City More Bike Friendly

  Put it on your calendar! Bike to work day is next week!

For more information about this event, please click on the following link below….

http://www.wwltv.com/news/Bike-to-Work-Day-aims-to-make-city-more-bike-friendly-253407991.html

Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) Meeting Agenda 4/2/2014

Louisiana Public Service Commission Meeting Proposed Agenda: 4/2/2014

  • Docket Number X-33192: Louisiana Public Service Commission, ex parte. In re: Examination of the Comprehensive Costs and Benefits of Net Metering in Louisiana. (This docket is currently being published for informational purposes only. Notices of intervention will not be accepted at this time.)

Louisiana Public Service Commission Supplemental Agenda: 4/2/2014

Jason Williams, candidate for City-Council-at-Large answers Energy Questions

The Alliance submitted a questionnaire to candidates in the run-off for New Orleans City council, which will take place this Saturday, March 15. Jason Williams responded to the questions below.

Q. New Orleans is the only city with independent regulatory authority over an investor owned utility, with the rest of the state regulated by the Louisiana Public Service Commission.  Should the Council continue to protect their unique role as energy regulators? If yes, why? If not, why not?

A. The City Council of New Orleans should continue its independent role as energy regulators using the best practices to efficiently and affordably deliver energy to its consumers. The City Council cannot deny Entergy New Orleans is its largest corporate partner employing more citizens of New Orleans than any other corporation. However, we must remain diligent in our oversight to protect the interest of all rate payers especially those with limited resources. As a matter of good governance the Council should collaborate with the Louisiana Public Service Commission to share exchangeable resources and industry trends to improve these measures in every possible manner

Q. The City Council will be deciding how many New Orleans citizens and businesses may participate in Energy Smart over the next 3 years. How much growth would you like to see? Are there other improvements to the program you would advocate for?

A. There should be no limit to the growth of or accessibility to the Energy Smart Program for all residents and businesses of New Orleans. The rollout of the Energy Smart Program should begin with low income residents and emerging businesses before branching out to more affluent homes and sustainable businesses, but access to the program should be available to all.

Q. In recent years, New Orleans has seen some of the nation’s fastest growth in residential solar and is second in the nation on number of solar systems per capita. Nationally, Utility companies are fighting the growth of solar to protect their market share. Do you believe New Orleans should continue to grow this local industry and increase investment in clean energy? If yes, what would you do as a City Council member to help foster the growth of renewable energy? If not, why not?

A. Yes, New Orleans should grow the local solar industry and increase its investment in clean energy. As a City Council at Large Member, I will push the growth of the solar industry to include back up batteries to store power the customer retrieve when solar is not available. The current system does not allow the customer to store energy for later use forcing the consumer to use Entergy as its only power source once solar access stops. Storing power for later use can greatly reduce recovery cost related to natural and other disaster.

Q. In your opinion is there enough community engagement with respect to policy decisions concerning Entergy and how it functions as the sole utility for the city? If not, how would you encourage stakeholder engagement? 

A. There is not enough community engagement with respect to policy decisions concerning Entergy and how it functions. The primary reason is the failure to properly educate the community on the functions of the Utility Committee, their meeting schedule and the understanding that proposed changes are voted on at City Council meetings.

Q. Every family and business is affected by utility regulation and energy policy decisions through the energy bills they pay each month.  Due to the highly technical issues involved in overseeing a monopoly utility, the City Council (like all utility regulators) must spend money for staff, consultants, and expenses to fulfill their regulatory duties – a cost of several million dollars also paid by customers.  What factors do you feel are most important in determining how much to spend, and how to spend the money used to fulfill the Council’s regulatory duties and effectively protect the public interest?

A. The factors most important in determining how a monopoly utility spends its resources are similar to that of a public office. I believe resources dedicated to staff should also include training and professional development. Investment in your staffs professional growth pays direct dividends in their personal growth. I would consent to the use of consultants where the staff skill set prove lacking making the use of subject matter experts necessary. With the use of consultants I would insist on measures of accountability including but not limited to delivery of intellectual property to be institutionalized into company practices.

Q. After Hurricane Katrina, electricity and natural gas rates rose steeply in New Orleans. Although it has been reduced in recent years, over the past 3 months it has risen at an alarming rate and is projected to do so through 2015. Entergy is anticipating a rate increase request this year. What approach should the Council take during the next term to control costs and keep energy affordable for New Orleans?

A.  The Council should require review of systems efficiencies with Entergy before granting rate increases. Every public utility even those that are investor owned should prove its systems and operational efficiencies prior to placing rate increases on the consumer. Once a rate increase is deemed necessary the Utility Committee should work with Entergy to determine the increments of the rate increase to lessen the potential hardship on the consumer.

Q. The cost of energy is broader that just what we pay on our utility bill each month. The City Council’s decisions on energy sources have long-term implications for our health and environment.  What do you feel are the most significant environmental issues related to the Council’s energy policy decisions and should pollution and public health be addressed when making decisions on energy sources? If yes, how? If not, why not?

A. The Council’s Energy Policy seems to lack any reference to environmental issues. If new construction of power plants is a part of improving energy efficiency the Council should demand information on potential health or environmental compromises. The Council serves on the front line of constituent advocacy. Therefore, it is paramount that the Council require all public utilities to produce information on how their actions affect the environment, pollution and public health. We must investigate the use of cleaner energy as a measure of public safety.

Q. On November 1, 2013, President Obama signed into effect an executive order on Climate Change — the Plan is intended to reduce domestic carbon emissions 17% by 2020.  If States do not comply with the 17% goal on emissions they risk losing money from the Federal Government for critical infrastructure (bridges, highways, etc.) New Orleans is uniquely vulnerable to severe storms and sea level rise caused by global warming.  What responsibility does our city, and more specifically our city leadership, have on this issue?  If you agree that the City Council has a responsibility, what steps would you take for our community and demonstrate meaningful action? 

A. Absolutely the City Council has a responsibility to take every measure to comply with President Obama’s Executive Order on Climate Change. The City of New Orleans cannot afford to compromise any federal funding for infrastructure improvements. Historically Governor Jindal has pushed back on Executive Orders, Regulations and even Resources coming from President Obama. This is where the City of New Orleans retaining regulatory authority over the investor owned energy company, Entergy New Orleans proves most advantages. The Council must rely on its Federal representation in the Senate and Congress to assure the resources are available to comply with this Executive Order with or without support for the current Governor’s administration’s involvement

Q. Years before the Public Service Commission took similar action, the New Orleans City Council created and funded the Energy Smart energy efficiency programs and called for a 20 year energy plan that would bring more transparency to decisions affecting the construction of new power plants and future investments in efficiency and renewable energy.  Should New Orleans continue to set new policies and take action ahead of the Public Service Commission?  If yes, what policy areas should New Orleans be leading? If not, why not.

A. As reliable, accessible, cleaner, renewable energy comes available the Council must continue to set polices and take action ahead of the Public Service Commission. With New Orleans continuing with recovery efforts from the named storms of the past 8 years, we must create policies that institutionalize best practices, lessons learned and industry trends that are proven to increase efficiency and affective energy.

Cynthia Hedge-Morrell on Energy Issues

At the debate held by the Alliance for Affordable Energy for City Council candidates, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell offered her thoughts on the role of a city council member on utility issues. As Hedge-Morrell has served as the chair of the utility committee she has a unique perspective on the issues.

Texas Beat Us to the Wind, Now They Are Beating Us to the Sun

Reprinted here from Renewable Energy World.Com . . .

Texas is known for going big. In a state with so much land and so much sun it’s no wonder that the state is starting to warm to solar. And while much of the news surrounding the giant solar farms (100 megawatts or more) in the U.S. and world is coming from California and Arizona, the 400 megawatt Alamo Solar Project will shine some of that light on the Lone Star state.

OCI Solar Power announced that it completed the first, 41-megawatt phase of the gargantuan project, which is providing solar power to CPS Energy’s customers in San Antonio. Once completed this project alone will propel Texas to one of the leading U.S. states for solar. After all, when the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research released their “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012” this past March only California, Arizona and New Jersey had more than 400 megawatts of solar online. Still, California’s amount of online solar is expected to exceed 2,000 megawatts of power by the end of 2013, so Texas has a way to go if it wants to catch up to California.

“Alamo I is an interesting milestone because it’s now the largest solar farm in Texas, but it’s still a small part of what is to come,” said OCI Solar Power President and CEO Tony Dorazio. “Alamo I is only step one to Texas’ rise as a big player in solar.”

Still, the approach in San Antonio is relatively unique. The utility, in calling for 400 megawatts of solar — to start, invited solar manufacturers to locate operations in the region. As such OCI Solar, a subsidiary of Korean-based OCI Enterprises chose to move its U.S. headquarters to San Antonio. It is also establishing manufacturing facilities in the area with its partner solar panel maker Nexelon.

The solar farm is the result of those actions and part of CPS Energy’s aggressive goals to use more renewables and cleaner energy. “By 2020, 65 percent of our community’s electricity will come from resources that are low- or no-carbon emitting — reducing emissions in an amount that’s equal to removing more than a million cars from local roads,” said CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby. “Reducing pollutants in the air we breathe is a no-brainer, and we’ve been pleased to partner with OCI Solar Power in our efforts to make that happen.”

San Antonio and CPS Energy are expecting big things out of the partnership. They and OCI Solar anticipate that the agreement will bring 800 permanent manufacturing jobs with an annual economic impact of $700 million to Texas. OCI Solar called it “The largest economic development agreement between a municipal utility and private company.” While hiring isn’t complete yet — the deal was struck in 2012, OCI and its three partners that have established headquarters in San Antonio have already created more than 150 permanent jobs and 600 temporary construction jobs in the area.

“San Antonio is fast becoming a leader in the New Energy Economy by combining economic development with environmentally sound practices,” said San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. “This solar farm expands our clean energy portfolio while adding hundreds of 21st century manufacturing jobs to the local economy.”

Construction on Alamo I began early this year. Already OCI has started construction on second phase, Alamo II (a 4.4 megawatt project) slated completion in early 2014. Subsequent stages of the project will come online. With the whole project slated for completion in 2016.

While the news here is for a large project, establishing local manufacturing and employment in solar, will familiarize more people in the region with solar. It could also result in more homeowners and businesses in the region going solar with local installers. The city already has established itself as one of Texas’ solar hotspots with the support of Solar San Antonio, a local solar advocacy organization.

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