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Energy News Roundup: June 4-June 10

This week in regional energy news …


ISO New England Executive Explains How ISO-NE Prepares for Summer

In a brief but informative interview, ISO New England’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Vamsi Chadalavada explains how ISO New England prepares for summer conditions and this summer’s expected peak demand.  With forecasts indicating that the New England economy will improve, and improve at a faster clip than the rest of the nation, ISO New England expects peak demand this summer to exceed last year’s actual peak of 27,100 MW.  If temperatures hit 90 degrees, ISO New England expects peak demand to be approximately 27,550 MW.  If temperatures hit 95 degrees (as they did last summer), ISO New England expects the peak to be approximately 29,600 MW.  ISO New England’s preparations include working with generators and transmission owners to complete facility inspections and maintenance before summer and working with state, regional and federal entities to make sure appropriate entities are aware of the readiness of the system and that the communication protocols that will be used in emergencies are understood.


Maine Energy Bill Moves Out of Committee

Last Wednesday, the Maine Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee held a Work Session for LD 1570.  The much talked about Governor’s bill has gained attention of the media and renewable generators. 

The most controversial aspect of the bill has been the proposed freeze in the scheduled increase in the renewable portfolio standard for “new” renewable generation (e.g. solar, wind, hydro).  LePage Administration officials had claimed that this change would save Maine ratepayers $42 million over the next six years.  Renewable generators questioned those calculations and warned that such a move would seriously jeopardize future investment in new renewable generation in Maine.  For example, Verso Paper addressed the Committee by highlighting its current $43 million investment in a bio-mass generator.  Verso was clear that the proposed freeze in the Class 1 RPS would jeopardize its project.  Ultimately, the Committee worked out a compromise.  The final version of the amended bill does away with the proposed freeze, but directs the Maine PUC to study the portfolio standard and report back to the Legislature.

Also, while the original version of the amendment included a proposed section that would have set the alternative compliance payment rate at 150% of the average market price for the most recent year which data was available, the amendment now requires the MPUC to study the ACM and recommend to the Committee an appropriate ACM mechanism.

LD 1570 also called for the MPUC to adopt rules that place certain requirements on long term contracts signed by T&D utilities. This rulemaking requirement was retained.   The MPUC will be prohibited from directing a T&D utility to enter into a long term contract (except for off shore wind and tidal) until the final rules are adopted.

The remainder of the amendment directs the MPUC to complete a report regarding the RPS – source and cost of RECs used, impact of RECs on the regional REC market, the impact of the RPS on the viability of generators in the state, the cost and use of the ACM, etc.  The MPUC will provide the report during the Legislature’s second session. 

Although, the Committee voted unanimously to support the amended version, the debate surrounding these issues will continue during the Legislature’s second session.


ISO New England Posts Five-Minute Load Forecast Graph on Its Main Website 

Ever curious about how closely actual electricity demand follows ISO New England’s daily load forecast?  ISO-NE’s load-forecast graph allows you to view the daily curve and track changes in New England’s electricity consumption. The graph compares ISO-NE’s demand forecast with actual, real-time load. The graph was previously available only through ISO-NE’s neData portal, but can now also be found under the Operation Forecasting section of the ISO-NE’s main website.  The graph is often used to watch actual demand climb on days of high electricity demand.



Debate Continues on Maine Governor’s Energy Legislation

Active debate continues in the Maine Legislature on a proposal of the LePage Administration to eliminate current requirements that energy sellers include new renewable generation within their portfolio, including new resources such as wind, solar, bio-mass and hydro. Under current law, retail energy sellers must include a certain percentage of so-called “Tier One” resources within their energy mix, which percentage is currently at 4% and would rise by 1% per year until reaching 15% of each provider’s energy sales.  LD 1570, however, would freeze Maine’s renewable portfolio standard at the current 4% for such new renewable.  According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, the change would likely save homeowners 40 cents a month.  However, the Administration rejects those numbers and suggests that the change would save Maine ratepayers $42 million over the next six years. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce has declined to support the Administration’s proposal stating, “Overall, we need to do everything we can to lower electricity costs. But we also have to take into account businesses that benefit from hydro, biomass and wind.”  Many business interests are similarly concerned that the policy designed to lower energy costs will inadvertently stifle investment in Maine’s developing green energy industry. 


Smart Meter Opt-Out for CMP Customers Approved by MPUC

During Tuesday’s deliberations, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved smart meter opt-out options for Central Maine Power customers.  The Commission approved two smart meter opt-out options: (1) the option of installing a smart meter with its transmitter turned off and (2) the ability to retain the existing analog meter.  Additionally, customers may choose to relocate smart meters to a different location on the customer’s property, at the customer’s expense.

Both opt-out choices come with costs that must be paid by the customers who select to opt out.  Choosing a digital smart meter with the wireless transmitter turned off will carry an initial charge of $20, plus a $10.50 monthly charge.  Retaining an existing mechanical meter will cost $40 initially, plus a $12 monthly charge.  Low-income residents may qualify for a 50% subsidy of the opt-out cost.  Depending on how many customers ultimately choose something other than a standard smart meter, the costs may be adjusted in the future. So far, an estimated 1% of all customers have asked not to have the new meters installed at their homes and businesses.

Commissioner Vafiades emphasized the need to move forward by shifting the focus to the benefits of smart meters, while allowing those who reject smart meters to opt out: “Based on sound public policy, as allowed by statute and taking into consideration all public correspondence and filings, we conclude that offering a smart meter opt-out options is reasonable and in the public interest. For the long term success of smart meter implementation and to maximize its potential to the fullest, the public needs to be actively engaged in monitoring their usage and real-time price of electricity and modifying their behavior accordingly. To achieve this goal, we need to shift the focus to the benefits of smart meters and allow the small minority to opt out.”

Commissioner Littell noted the Commission’s thorough review of customer concerns and the range of options now available: “We have reviewed every filing, every complaint and every letter sent to this Commission regarding smart meters. Based on our review, we conclude that any CMP residential or small commercial customer should have four choices: 1) the default smart meter which will become the standard meter in CMP territory; 2) the ability to select a smart meter with the transmitter-off; 3) the ability to keep the customer’s existing analog meter; or, 4) the ability to move the new smart meters elsewhere on their property at the customer’s expense.”


Energy News Roundup: April 2-April 8

This week in regional energy news …