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Facts of the Day are informational snippets gathered from industry leading sources around the web pertaining to the energy industry.

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Regulation


Massachusetts utilities ordered to modernize the grid

6/17/14 | Utility Dive

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has ordered the state's electric distribution utilities to file long-term plans to modernize the grid over a ten year period, with regular upgrades to each plan as modernization progresses.

A separate order asks utilities to offer time-varying rates and empower customers to make more informed decisions about their electricity use.

National Grid to begin construction of new electric transmission project in Massachusetts

5/27/14 | Energy Business Review

National Grid announced that it would begin construction on a 15.4 mile 345kV electric transmission line project within its existing right-of-way in the towns of Millbury, Sutton, Northbridge, Uxbridge and Millville following the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board's (EFSB) final approval, which was issued on May 16.

National Grid's transmission line project in Massachusetts is part of a larger 75-mile long 345 kV transmission line known as the Interstate Reliability Project (IRP) planned for construction in the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island by National Grid, and in Connecticut by The Connecticut Light and Power Company.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner pushes new electricity regulations

4/14/14 | Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Pam Witmer urged a Pennsylvania House committee Thursday to adopt a series of regulations that would give the state's electricity consumers more information and less waiting time when trying to switch suppliers.

The PUC last week introduced regulations that would cut the time it takes to switch electricity suppliers to three days, down from an average of 11 to 40 days, depending on the billing cycle. The proposed changes also would provide interested consumers with clearer contract language and more disclosures about the variability of the rates.

The PUC proposals came in response to more than 15,000 calls the agency received about high electricity bills this winter. Most of the calls came from customers who had either signed up for a variable-rate plan or had their fixed-rate plan expire and were moved to a variable rate plan.

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant can operate through year-end

3/31/14 | Power Engineering

The Vermont Public Service Board will allow the 605-MW Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to operate through the rest of 2014 in exchange for payments to the state.

The board issued a certificate of public good which allows the plant to operate through the end of the year. Plant owner Entergy announced in August that it would close the plant in 2014 due to market conditions.

Pennsylvania Intends to Require Suppliers to Send Advance Notice of Some Variable Rate Changes

3/25/14 | Energy Choice Matters

The Pennsylvania PUC intends to adopt a standard Electric Generation Supplier "Contract Summary" which all EGSs will be required to use for residential and small business customers, and the PUC also intends to require EGSs to provide certain customers with advance notice of variable rates.

Notably, the proposed EGS Contract Summary requires a "Statement Regarding Savings," in which the EGS must state in, "plain language that the supply price may not always provide savings to the customer."

New England governors start push to cut cost of power

1/27/14 | Morning Sentinal

The six New England governors have set in motion a first-of-its-kind plan to increase the region's natural-gas pipeline capacity by nearly 20 percent in three years and build at least one major electric transmission line to bring renewable energy from Canada.

Utility customers would be asked to help pay for the projects, which together could cost billions of dollars, through electricity rates. But the costs soon would be recovered by savings on energy bills as the projects increase supplies of lower-cost power, said Tom Welch, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and an architect of the plan.

House Votes to Speed Up Approval for Natural Gas Pipelines

11/25/13 | The Hill

The House passed legislation last Thursday that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve applications for natural gas pipelines within 12 months. The gas pipeline bill is needed because demand for natural gas is rising across the country, but producers are having trouble getting gas to the East Coast.

US FERC allows gas pipeline, power grid operators to share information

11/18/13 | Platts

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late Friday issued a final rule allowing interstate natural gas pipelines and electric transmission operators to share certain non-public operational information in an effort to improve reliability. Ensuring "robust communications" between transmission operators in the electric and gas sectors "will help both systems operate reliably and effectively," FERC said in a statement, pointing to the increasing reliance on gas as a fuel for power generation.

Vt may look at cutting power regulation

11/13/13 | Rutland Herald

The chairman of the House's top energy committee says it might be time to bring competition back to Vermont's electricity market. Rep. Tony Klein, an East Montpelier Democrat, said Tuesday he'll entertain a proposal to partly deregulate the state's utility market and allow Vermont's largest consumers of electricity to negotiate power contracts with sellers outside their designated service territories.

PJM approves $1.2B in power transmission improvements

10/7/13 | Penn Energy

The PJM Interconnection Board of Managers authorized $1.2 billion in upgrades and improvements to the high-voltage electric transmission system that serves the Mid-Atlantic and all or parts of other states between the Mid-Atlantic and Chicago, Ill. The upgrades and improvements were identified as part of PJM's continuous regional planning process.

The announced changes call for upgrades and improvements to transformers, substations and other transmission facilities throughout the region served by PJM.

What the U.S. government shutdown means for the energy sector?

10/2/13 | Utility Dive

Department of Energy
In the near term, the Department of Energy (DOE) plans to operate on leftover funds from previous years' appropriations. Once those are exhausted, a shutdown plan takes effect that would furlough 12,701 of its 13,814 employees. Activities will be limited to the safety of human life or the protection of property.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
If FERC exhausted the carryover funds and had to implement a shutdown, less than 5% of employees would be at work, assigned to the monitoring of energy markets, electric reliability and infrastructure.

Department of Interior
More than 58,000 of the Department of the Interior's (DOI) 72,500 employees will be furloughed. More than half of the department's offshore oil and natural gas activitie

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The NRC will not shut down right away but operate by using carryover funds to maintain all its operations. If the shutdown lasts longer than the carryover funds, NRC will keep less than 8% of its 3,900 employees on the job to perform inspections and respond to emergencies.

EPA Proposes Carbon Pollution Standards For New Power Plants

9/23/13 | Renew Grid

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new Clean Air Act standards for natural gas and coal-fired power plants in an effort to curb carbon pollution. This proposal applies only to new plants. According to the EPA, power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the U.S., accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

Arizona Corporation Commission Stops Looking Into Deregulation

9/23/13 | Mondaq

Last Wednesday, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted to close its docket on electricity deregulation, based on concerns over the constitutionality of a deregulated electricity market in Arizona. The issue had been on the table since May, when the ACC opened a docket to explore the possibility of allowing consumers to choose their electricity provider in a competitive market.

The Commission presumably supports the idea of deregulated markets but was constrained by Arizona's constitution and prior court opinions on the issue. Specifically, Article 15, Section 3 of the state constitution requires the ACC to set electricity rates.

White House calls for increased grid spending

8/12/13 | The Boston Globe

Power outages cost the economy $18 billion to $33 billion per year, according to the report, a figure that has been rising steadily over the past 20 years. That can rise to $40 billion to $75 billion in years with severe storms such as 2008's Hurricane Ike and last year's Superstorm Sandy.

The administration proposes spending on training and preparation, stronger equipment such as concrete poles, and more advanced sensing and diagnostic equipment that can predict failures, prevent them from getting worse, and restore power faster after it has gone out.

Seven of the ten costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012. Eleven times last year weather-related outages led to losses of $1 billion or more, the second most on record, behind 2011.

10 years after blackout, US grid faces new threats

8/12/13 | The Associated Press

The U.S. electrical grid is better managed and more flexible a decade after its largest blackout but remains vulnerable to increasingly extreme weather, cybersecurity threats, and stress caused by shifts in where and how power is produced.

Maintenance spending for overhead lines increased an average of 8.2 percent per year from 2003 to 2012. In the period before the blackout, from 1994 to 2003, that spending grew 3 percent on average per year.

Spending on transmission equipment also increased. From 2003 to 2012, utilities spent an average of $21,514 per year on devices and station equipment per mile of transmission line. From 1994 to 2003, spending averaged $7,185 per year.

The number of miles of transmission line remained roughly the same, suggesting new money was mostly spent on equipment to make the existing system stronger and more responsive.

Nuclear Closures at Entergy to Exelon Seen on Obama Plan

7/22/13 | Bloomberg

Nuclear reactors that light New York City and Chicago with carbon-free electricity face possible extinction before they can reap the benefits of President Barack Obama's proposed climate rules. Entergy Corp. (ETR)'s Indian Point power plant in New York and Exelon Corp. (EXC)'s Clinton facility in Illinois are among nuclear generators that may be shut down from either political or financial pressure on an industry that generates as much as $50 billion in U.S. electricity sales each year.

Maine energy reform bill could lower electricity costs

6/4/13 | FierceEnergy

The bill identifies Maine's electric bills as the 12th highest in the United States. The Natural Resources Committee of Maine estimated that the bill could lower electric bills by $100 to $200 million per year after implementation, including $30 million in immediate rate relief. Cost reductions would come from streamlining natural gas and hydroelectric development in the state.

Coalition of states threaten EPA with lawsuit over New Source Performance Standard delay

4/22/13 | Power Engineering

Nine states and Washington D.C. threatened to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for delaying the finalization of the New Source Performance Standards for new power plants. EPA’s standards limit carbon dioxide emissions to 1,000 pounds per MWh for new power plants.

US energy-related CO2 emissions reach record low in 2012

4/8/13 | Gas to Power Journal

Coal-to-gas switching in power generation has led to a plunge of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States to reach a record low in 2012, dropping to 5.3 billion metric tons of CO2 - the lowest level since 1994.

The largest drop in emissions in 2012 came from coal use in power generation. "In spring and early summer of 2012, low natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation, and increased less CO2-intensive gas-fired generation," analyst from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

New Mass. rules require more renewable power

4/1/13 | The Boston Globe

Massachusetts regulators have approved new requirements that state utilities seek more electricity from renewable sources. The new provisions approved Friday by the Department of Public Utilities require utilities to solicit bids for long-term clean energy contracts at least twice by the end of 2016.

Renewables are often more expensive than fossil fuel sources such as natural gas. Above-market costs in clean energy contracts are typically passed on to ratepayers.

EPA may revise rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants

3/18/13 | Power Engineering

The Obama administration in leaning toward revising a rule that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The original rule, which was originally issued in March 2012, issued rules limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases from new power plants but did not impose any restrictions on existing coal-fired power plants. It requires new power plants to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per MW/h of electricity produced.

US energy intensity to continue decline through 2040 - EIAs

3/6/13 | Gas to Power Journal

Energy intensity in the US will continue its steady decline since the 1970s through 2040 mainly due to greater efficiency and structural changes in the economy, projections from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) show. Between 1950 and 2011, the energy intensity in the US decreased by 58 percent per real dollar of GDP from 1950 to 2011, according to EIA figures.

The fall in energy intensity is set to continue with the EIA's 2013 Annual Energy Outlook Reference case projecting an average annual decline of 2 percent to continue through to 2040.

Pay to Play: Pennsylvania to Seek Authority to Impose Annual Tax on Retail Suppliers, Brokers

2/20/13 | Energy Choice Matters

Pennsylvania will proceed with seeking legislative authority to impose an annual licensing fee on electric generation suppliers, including retail suppliers, brokers, marketers, and aggregators.

"[T]he Commission intends to require all EGSs, including brokers and marketers, to pay an annual flat fee in the amount of $1,000," the PUC said.

EPA: Power plants still top source of greenhouse gases

2/6/13 | Electric Light & Power

Power plants remain the largest stationary source of greenhouse gas emissions with 2,221 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), which equals about one-third of total U.S. emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posted the second year of GHG emissions data on its website February 5. The information, which shows GHG emissions in 2011, allows public access to emissions data by sector, greenhouse gas and geographic region.

Emissions from power plants were down about 4.6 percent from 2010 to 2011, however, which the EPA states reflects an ongoing increase in power generation from natural gas and renewable energy sources.

Nebraska governor OKs Keystone XL route

1/23/13 | Fuel Fix

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman on Tuesday approved a new route for the Keystone XL pipeline that would ferry Canadian oil sands crude to the Gulf Coast, setting up a big Obama administration decision on whether to green light the controversial project. The widely anticipated move now puts the pipeline's future squarely in front of Obama's State Department, which is tasked with vetting the $7 billion project because it would cross the U.S.- Canada border.

Fracking lobbyists prepare case against Matt Damon's Promised Land

12/19/12 | The Guardian

Hollywood's discovery of fracking has caused some unease in the oil and gas industry - even in the midst of America's energy boom. A leading lobby group, Energy in Depth, has put out a 'cheat sheet' of pro-fracking talking points to counter any bad publicity that may arise following the release of the new Matt Damon film, Promised Land. The film, directed by Gus Van Sant, stars Damon as a gas company salesman who travels the dying towns of the American heartland, buying up drilling rights from struggling farmers. It is due for a limited release.