Renewable energy company TerraForm Global Inc. is pulling out of an agreement to take control of projects accounting for 2,200 megawatts of generation capacity due to adverse market conditions in Brazil, companies involved in the deal said on Tuesday. TerraForm, a unit of U.S.-based SunEdison Inc., was negotiating to take control of generation assets from Brazilian renewable energy company Renova Energia SA in a share swap valued at 13.4 billion reais ($3.45 billion). Gizmodo: Paris Is Covered in Fake Ads That Mock the Climate Talks' Corporate Sponsors U.K.-based activist group Brandalism has peppered the streets of Paris with 600 fake outdoor ads meant to expose the hypocrisy of COP21 Climate Conference corporate sponsors. The fake, unauthorized outdoor ads were strategically placed around Paris this past weekend, and were made to look nearly identical to the originals. The ads were prepared by an impressive array of artists, a team that includes Neta Harari, Jimmy Cauty, Banksy-collaborator Paul Insect, Escif, and Kennard Phillips. In all, some 82 artists contributed from 19 different countries. Guardian: U.K. Becomes Only G7 Country to Increase Fossil-Fuel Subsidies The U.K. is alone among G7 nations in dramatically increasing its fossil-fuel subsidies, despite an earlier pledge to phase them out, a new report has found. The revelation will embarrass ministers who want to take a leading role at a crunch U.N. climate change summit in Paris in December, but who have been sharply cutting support for green energy at home. The report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International found that as a whole, G20 nations are responsible for $452B (£297B) a year in subsidies for fossil-fuel production. The G20, which meets on Sunday in Turkey, pledged in 2009 to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies. Pacific Standard: Where Should All the Coal Miners Go? Hillary Clinton's briefing on her plan calls for "federal investments that help people to find good jobs without having to move." Realistically, however, economic development is a slow process. It takes time for local governments to woo new industries, and for companies to make the decision to relocate and build new facilities. If coal country does manage to reinvent itself, as former industrial towns like Cleveland and Pittsburgh have successfully done, it's unlikely to happen quickly enough to provide jobs for most of today's coal miners. And if the economy of American coal country is utterly decimated by the shuttering of the coal industry, there won't be any local employers hiring, no matter what kind of retraining coal miners receive. It is usually best to save unpopular news until a major holiday. In Louisiana, a state with a history of brazen political corruption and dominance by the oil and gas industry, this is a time-honored method of limiting public outcry. Last Wednesday, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, Entergy Louisiana informed state regulators that it would close its net metering program. The utility says that solar installations in its service area had reached a capacity exceeding 0.5% of its peak load, the level at which it is allowed to shut off the program.
News Article | January 18, 2016
The big news is that two Chinese state owned nuclear firms have announced plans to build floating nuclear power plants in the 100-300 MW range. (WNA) A demonstration floating nuclear power plant based on China National Nuclear Corporation’s (CNNC’s) ACP100S small reactor will be built by 2019. The move comes just days after China General Nuclear (CGN) said it will build a prototype offshore plant by 2020. CGN announced (next story) on 12 January that development of its ACPR50S reactor design had recently been approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan for innovative energy technologies. CNNC said that its ACP100S reactor – a marine version of its ACP100 small modular reactor (SMR) design – had also been approved by the NDRC as part of the same plan. CNNC said its Nuclear Power Institute of China subsidiary had completed a preliminary design for a floating nuclear power plant featuring the ACP100S reactor as well as “all the scientific research work.” Construction of a demonstration unit is to start by the end of this year, with completion set for 2019. (WNA) China General Nuclear (CGN) expects to complete construction of a demonstration small modular offshore multi-purpose reactor by 2020. CGN said development of its ACPR50S reactor design had recently been approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan for innovative energy technologies. The company said it is currently carrying out preliminary design work for a demonstration ACPR50S project. Construction of the first floating reactor is expected to start next year with electricity generation to begin in 2020. The 60 MWe reactor has been developed for the supply of electricity, heat and desalination and could be used on islands or in coastal areas, or for offshore oil and gas exploration, according to CGN. The Chinese company said it is also working on the ACPR100 small reactor for use on land. This reactor will have an output of some 450 MWt (140 MWe) and would be suitable for providing power to large-scale industrial parks or to remote mountainous areas. CGN said the development of small-scale offshore and onshore nuclear power reactors will complement its large-scale plants and provide more diverse energy options. (WNA) A US House of Representatives committee has approved a bipartisan bill to support federal research and development (R&D) and stimulate private investment in advanced nuclear reactor technologies. The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act. The bill was introduced by energy subcommittee chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas), along with full committee ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The legislation directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to set priorities for federal R&D infrastructure that will enable the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies and provide a clear path forward to attract private investment for prototype development at DOE laboratories. It enables the private sector to partner with national laboratories for the purpose of developing novel reactor concepts, leverages DOE’s supercomputing infrastructure to accelerate nuclear energy R&D, and provides statutory direction for a DOE reactor-based fast neutron source that will operate as an open-access user facility. It also authorizes DOE to enable the private sector to construct and operate privately-funded reactor prototypes at DOE sites. In addition, the bill requires DOE to present a transparent, strategic, ten-year plan for prioritizing nuclear R&D programs. (NucNet) The global nuclear security system still has “major gaps” that prevent it from being truly comprehensive and effective, the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative says in its 2016 Index. The index, which assesses nuclear materials security conditions in 24 countries with one kilogramme or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials, says there is no common set of international standards and best practices, there is no mechanism for holding states with lax security accountable, and the legal foundation for securing nuclear materials is neither complete nor universally observed. In addition to assessing the risks posed by vulnerable nuclear materials and insufficient security policies in states that don’t have materials, the index assesses for the first time the potential risks to nuclear facilities posed by sabotage and cyberattack. It says cyberattacks are increasing and a growing number of states are exploring nuclear energy even though they lack the legal, regulatory, and security frameworks to ensure that their facilities are secure as well as safe. (NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company’s Springfields facility in the UK has reached the requirements necessary to manufacture Westinghouse small modular reactor (SMR) fuel, Westinghouse said. This milestone is “a key first” for the UK’s SMR programme and an important part of Westinghouse’s proposed partnership with the UK government to deploy SMR technology. Westinghouse Springfields achieved the milestone following a readiness assessment based upon fabrication data for two proprietary SMR fuel assemblies manufactured at the company’s Columbia fuel fabrication facility in the US state of South Carolina. Mick Gornall, managing director of Westinghouse Springfields, said manufacturing Westinghouse SMR fuel at Springfields will “secure the future of a strategic national asset” of nuclear fuel manufacturing capability. (WNA) The first of four reactor coolant pumps for the initial AP1000 unit at the Haiyang site in China’s Shandong province has been transported by road from Curtiss-Wright’s manufacturing facility in Cheswick, Pennsylvania, to the port of Philadelphia ahead of shipment to China, State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation announced yesterday. The first two such pumps for Sanmen 1 in Zhejiang province – expected in September to be the first AP1000 to start up – arrived on the site on 30 December. (NucNet) Testing of the instrumentation and control (I&C) systems has begun at Teollisuuden Voima’s (TVO) Olkiluoto-3 nuclear plant with an application for an operating licence likely to be submitted in April, TVO said. The I&C systems will be used for operating, monitoring and controlling the 1,600-MW EPR unit. In December 2015 TVO said system commissioning of the plant is expected to begin in the spring of 2016 with regular electricity generation beginning in “more than three years. TVO said the estimated schedule came from plant supplier Areva-Siemens. Commissioning of the plant is about nine years behind schedule and costs are almost three times over budget. Market Reform Essential For Nuclear In US, Says NEI (NucNet) Market reform is essential to ensure that the reliability, environmental and economic benefits of nuclear power are not taken for granted, and that reactor operators are compensated for these attributes in the same way as other low-carbon sources, Alex Flint, the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice-president for governmental affairs, said in an interview published on the NEI’s website. Mr Flint said there has been “movement to address the issue”. He said at the national level, the NEI is working with the Edison Electric Institute and the Electric Power Supply Association to make officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency aware of the potential challenges to grid reliability and the administration’s clean air goals. In 2015, FERC and a number of regional transmission organizations took significant steps to address flaws in electricity markets that fail to provide the price signals needed to support investment in new or existing nuclear power plants. Mr Flint said, “Urged on by the NEI and a number of energy associations, FERC has begun a rulemaking to address price suppression and promises to address other issues in future. In an encouraging sign, Exelon Corporation cited positive regional reforms in deferring decisions on the potential closing of its Clinton nuclear station in Illinois and the Ginna nuclear station in New York.” Late last year Entergy Corporation said it would close its Pilgrim-1 and Fitzpatrick reactors because of poor economic conditions for nuclear.
News Article | August 18, 2016
Nuclear power generates about one-fifth of all electricity in the United States, but it’s had a rough 40 years or so. Between high upfront costs for installation, complicated permitting, rare but dramatic accidents, and general NIMBY, development of new U.S. nuclear facilities all but halted in the last part of the twentieth century. But that might be changing. In the news this week: new nuclear projects in the Southeast, new nuke-supporting policy in New York, and small modular reactors unveiling some of their secrets. It’s a physics-filled news update from Advanced Energy Perspectives. The Tennessee Valley Authority is doing final tests on Watts Bar 2, which, when it comes into commercial operation at summer’s end, will be the first new reactor in the United States since Watts Bar 1 came online in 1996. Last week, a major milestone in testing: the Watts Bar 2 reactor reached 75% reactor power, then operators deliberately lowered the generation level to 30%, and then a deliberate and successful shutdown. Watts Bar unit 2 actually began construction in 1973, with work halted for significant periods in the interim, both for safety concerns and economics. The latest round of construction kicked off again in 2007, and the reactor first came online in May. TVA is cutting no corners. The testing process is slow: ramping up the reactor bit by bit before beginning shut down protocols. Watts Bar 2 also features the FLEX system developed by the nuclear industry in response to Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Fukushima task force. FLEX involves additional backup power and emergency equipment protecting against a major disruption threatening the cooling system. In Georgia, more signs of the long-promised nuclear renaissance. As we reported last week, state regulators gave Georgia Power Co. permission to start laying groundwork for a new nuclear facility south of Columbus in rural Stewart County. Public Service Commission staff had recommended putting off the decision until 2019 but, in light of what the Atlanta Business Chronicle characterized as “growing pressure from the federal government on states to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants coupled with the volatility of natural gas prices,” the Commission voted to let Georgia Power go ahead with preliminary site work and licensing now. “If we’re going to close coal plants and add renewables, we have to add more base-load [capacity],” said Commissioner Tim Echols. “It has to be carbon-free nuclear power.” New York certainly thinks so. Earlier this month the New York PSC approved a clean energy standard of 50% renewable energy by 2030 that includes guaranteed income for nuclear power plants. The subsidies for three aging upstate plants use a formula outlined by Utility Dive as “based on expected power costs and the social price on carbon” federal agencies use. Basically, the PSC has decided to consider the positive externalities of nuclear energy – a reliable energy source that does not produce any emissions or pollutants, including greenhouse gases – at least while renewable energy capacity is built up. This is something that owners of existing nuclear plants, challenged by competition from low-priced natural gas, have been calling for, though mostly to no avail – until now. Already this policy has borne fruit. Exelon has entered into an agreement to purchase the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant located in Scriba, in upstate New York, which Entergy hadplanned to retire later this year or early next year if it couldn’t find a buyer. With the PSC’s decision to guarantee the plant’s ability to generate revenue, Exelon was ready to make a deal. The $110 million price tag may turn out to be a screaming deal for Exelon. The plant does need to be refueled next year, which will cost money, but it’s nothing like the billions usually necessary to start up a nuclear plant. The Watts Bar 2 reactor, for instance, cost $4.7 billion to build, and that’s about half of what similar nuclear plants will cost in Georgia and South Carolina. But with New York’s commitment to keep its nukes going, that $110 million investment could pay off, at least through 2029. Exelon’s CEO and President Chris Crane sure thinks so. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement for the continued operation of FitzPatrick,” Crane said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing FitzPatrick’s highly-skilled team of professionals into the Exelon Generation nuclear program, and to continue delivering to New York the environmental, economic and grid reliability benefits of this important energy asset.” On the other end of the nuclear generation scale, small nuclear reactors are continuing to seek a spot in the market. TVA submitted the first-ever permit to locate a small modular reactor (SMR)near the Clinch River earlier this summer. Transatomic, one of the companies offering SMR designs, recently released a white paper detailing the design of their reactor. “This design is the result of years of open, clearly communicated scientific progress,” said Dr. Leslie Dewan, Transatomic’s CEO. “Our research has demonstrated many-fold increases in fuel efficiency over existing technologies, and we’re really excited about the next steps in our development process.” As Penn State professor Edward Klevans wrote in an Op-Ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week, “there is an overwhelming case for continued reliance on, and expansion of, America’s nuclear energy infrastructure.” Get all the latest news and industry updates by signing up for our weekly newsletter below.
This past week marked the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan -- an ambitious plan to cut carbon pollution from new and existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030. The plan has been stayed by the courts as 27 states sue to block it. Nonetheless, many states are making arrangements to comply, including some of the states participating in the lawsuit. The New York Times reports that state officials are making a political calculation: “If Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints a new Supreme Court justice, Mr. Obama’s climate plan will probably survive.” In the meantime, state legislators and regulators across the country continue to take action on clean energy on their own accord. Below we chronicle some of the most significant state-level policy developments from recent weeks on the topics of renewable portfolio standards, net metering, community solar, tax incentives, grid modernization, energy storage, resource planning, rate design and electric vehicles. On August 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York’s Public Service Commission’s formal approval of New York’s Clean Energy Standard (CES), which will require 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030. The CES will be enforced by requiring utilities and other energy suppliers to obtain a targeted number of Renewable Energy Credits from renewable energy developers each year, which will help to finance new, clean resources added to the grid. In addition, the CES also supports New York’s nuclear power plants, which currently provide more than 30 percent of the state’s electricity. Starting in April 2017, the CES requires all investor-owned utilities and other energy suppliers in New York state to pay for the intrinsic value of carbon-free emissions from nuclear power plants by purchasing zero-emission credits. Output from the nuclear plants will not count toward the 50 percent renewables mandate. “This will allow financially-struggling upstate nuclear power plants to remain in operation during New York’s transition to 50 percent renewables by 2030,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. “A growing number of climate scientists have warned that if these nuclear plants were to abruptly close, carbon emissions in New York will increase by more than 31 million metric tons during the next two years, resulting in public health and other societal costs of at least $1.4 billion.” Exelon, which operates two nuclear facilities in upstate New York, said the CES will save “thousands of high-paying jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term investments in energy infrastructure in upstate New York,” according to a press release. New York PSC estimates indicate that the CES would offer Exelon $7 billion in zero-emissions credits over the lifetime of the arrangement. Cuomo’s office said the CES is expected to add less than $2 per month to the average residential customer’s bill overall and will help meet the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Notably, New York is taking a different approach than California, where Pacific Gas & Electric recently set a timeframe for retiring the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. New York’s solution could inform decision-making in other states with struggling nuclear assets, including Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey. Several other directives were also included in the CES: Lawmakers in Rhode Island have been busy. In recent weeks, the general assembly passed a slew of energy-related bills intended to enhance the state's renewable energy policies, create green jobs, and move the state toward a low-carbon future. Lawmakers also passed a number of environmental and health bills on issues such lead water testing, compost and ocean acidification. Gov. Gina Raimondo held a bill-signing event in July with SolarCity, announcing that the solar installer would also be expanding operations in the state. SolarCity facilities typically employ about 100 people. “We look forward to increasing our solar product offerings in the Ocean State,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. On August 1, the Massachusetts legislature passed a comprehensive energy bill (H.4568) that requires local utilities to solicit long-term contracts to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by June 2027. The bill also requires the state to solicit long-term contracts for 1,200 megawatts of hydropower and other renewable resources, such as solar and land-based wind. Furthermore, the bill created a property-assessed clean energy (PACE) program to help finance energy-efficiency upgrades and clean energy projects for commercial buildings. There are currently are about 1,800 megawatts of renewable energy installed in Massachusetts. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the new clean energy bill will result in up to 40 percent of the state’s electricity coming from hydropower, wind, and other sources by 2030. The bill will also contribute to the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Despite these wins, the legislation is considered a compromise for clean energy advocates, MassLive reports. The Senate version of the bill sought to deploy even more offshore wind. Senate lawmakers were also disappointed that the final bill failed to increase the renewable portfolio standard, which House lawmakers said would result in increasing payments made by ratepayers. The energy bill now heads to the governor’s desk. If signed (which is expected), the legislation would also instruct the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to set an energy storage target for 2020 if it is deemed to be necessary. If established, Massachusetts will become the third state in the U.S. to create an energy storage mandate, following California and Oregon. The District of Columbia Council has unanimously approved legislation (B21-650) to boost D.C.'s renewable energy target from 20 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2032, with a 5 percent carve-out for solar. The bill is expected to quadruple the number of jobs in D.C.'s solar industry, which currently employs about 1,000 people. The bill also establishes a new "Solar for All" program that seeks to cut the electric bills of 100,000 low-income households in half by 2032, primarily through clean energy and energy conservation. Last year, Minnesota Power met its 25 percent Renewable Energy Standard for 2025 a decade early, but that hasn’t put an end to its clean energy pursuits. Last month, the utility announced it intends to add another 600 megawatts of wind and solar power capacity to its fleet following a request by state regulators, SeeNews Renewables reports. In the coming weeks, Minnesota Power plans to issue a request for proposals for 300 megawatts of wind and 300 megawatts of solar. The utility said it will also consider optimizing its power portfolio with customer-owned and utility-scale demand response, as well as onsite generation resources. On July 27, NV Energy filed a request for regulators to keep rooftop solar customers who installed their system prior to December 31, 2015 on the previously approved net-metering rates for 20 years. The utility asked for the grandfathering rule to also apply to customers with active or pending applications as of December 31, 2015. In February, state regulators issued a final order to triple the monthly fixed charge solar customers pay and reduce the credit solar customers receive for net excess generation by three-quarters over the next 12 years. The first rate change went into effect on January 1, 2016 and effectively shut down the Nevada rooftop solar market. In a controversial move, regulators also applied the decision to Nevada’s estimated 18,000 existing solar rooftop solar customers. While NV Energy originally requested the net metering change in July 2015, it requested no changes for existing customers. NV Energy’s new proposal comes after the Governor's New Energy Industry Task Force passed a motion in May to grandfather existing solar customers for 25 years. Task Force recommendations will underpin legislation introduced by Governor Sandoval next year. The Bring Back Solar Alliance, a political action committee supported by SolarCity, is also attempting to overturn the solar rate hike. However, the group’s ballot initiative was thrown out by the Nevada Supreme Court last week. Supreme Court justices raised concerns over the referendum at a hearing last month, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The court ultimately ruled on Thursday that the motion is not a referendum, but rather an “initiative petition,” which means solar advocates would have to launch a new petition asking lawmakers to pass a bill undoing the net metering changes. Only if legislators fail to approve the measure during the 2017 session will it go to voters in 2018. While the ballot initiative may have hit a roadblock, it seems likely that existing solar customers could see some form of grandfathering approved within the next year based on the task force recommendations. But even if the old rates are restored for customers who installed their systems before December 31, 2015, the change does little, if anything, to reboot the stalled Nevada rooftop solar market. In another twist, PUCN commissioner David Noble, who wrote the order to increase solar fees and not allow grandfathering, will not be reappointed by the governor. After vetoing a net metering compromise deal in April, Maine Governor Paul LePage filed a proposal with the state PUC last month to end retail rate net metering altogether, giving existing solar customers a three-year grandfathering period. After the three-year phase-down, solar customer would be compensated at a price closer to the real-time value of electricity in the region, Maine Public Broadcasting reports. Steve Hinchman, the chief financial officer at Portland-based solar contractor ReVision energy, said the proposal is based on “a crock of lies and misperceptions and misinformation,” and that it’s “really disheartening.” Last month, as part of a broader debate on distributed generation, the Iowa Utilities Board ordered that the state's two major utilities -- MidAmerican and Alliant Energy -- must increase their net metering cap from 500 kilowatts to 1 megawatt, Midwest Energy News reports. The order also makes net metering available to all classes of customers, including commercial, industrial and general service customers, such as wastewater treatment plants. In addition, the new tariff comes with a new set of rules. Under existing policy, net-metered customers can roll over excess credits to be applied against future bills indefinitely. Under the new policy, there will be an annual true-up. At the beginning of each year, excess credits will be removed from the books and compensated at the avoided-cost rate, the proceeds from which will be divided in two: half will be returned to the customer as a cash payment and half will go to a utility aid fund for low-income customers. The new net metering rules will be adopted for three years, after which point the board will assess the plan and decide whether or not to make the changes permanent. All new solar customers must go on the new rate. Existing solar customers have the option to switch onto the new rate, but cannot switch back. In July, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to adopt a value-of-solar methodology -- currently optional for utilities in the state -- for compensating community solar customers, Midwest Energy News reports. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, is currently managing one of the largest community garden programs in the country, and has been criticized for delays. The value-of-solar approach includes external factors such as avoided transmission investments, health and environmental benefits of clean energy, and the ability to support the grid on sunny days. The improved transparency of the compensation plan may help to attract solar project financing and put to rest concerns that utility customers are subsidizing community solar buyers. Idaho Power is seeking approval of a pilot program to offer community solar subscriptions to a 500-kilowatt system, according to EQ Research. The utility would charge a one-time upfront subscription fee based on the costs of constructing and operating the facility, equal to about $740 for a 320-watt panel. Subscriptions would be limited to 100 percent of a customer’s annual usage and could last up to 25 years. Customers would receive a bill credit for fuel costs in riders and base rates, attributable to their subscription level. Mississippi Entergy recently filed a report with the Mississippi Public Service Commission on the potential to develop community solar. The report cites the need for more centralized, utility-scale solar installations between 5 and 10 megawatts. Entergy outlined its program structure as pay-as-you-go, with a monetary bill credit, and no signup fee. The program would also require a time commitment of at least 12 months, customers would be limited to subscribing to 100 percent of their average annual energy use, and no less than 2 kilowatts. Florida lawmakers from both political parties are sponsoring a ballot initiative that would authorize the state legislature to exempt solar projects on commercial and industrial properties from Florida’s real property tax and the tangible personal property tax for leased equipment. Amendment 4 builds upon existing law that exempts residential customers from paying property taxes on renewable energy devices, including solar PV, wind turbines, solar water heaters and geothermal heat pumps. Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes said he believes passing this amendment will serve as a catalyst for the broader solar market in the state, which has seen relatively little solar development despite Florida’s vast solar resources. “When this policy passes, and we have more commercial solar available, then I think you'll start seeing a wider adoption and a more robust discussion inside the legislature about distributed generation,” said Brandes, in a recent interview. According to EQ Research, recently published Public Service Commission data reveals that only 11,626 customer-owned DG systems are operating in Florida, which boasts a population of 20 million. Florida Power & Light, which serves 4.8 million customer accounts, has 4,257 customer-owned solar and other DG facilities on its system, with a combined capacity of 43.9 megawatts. Roughly a year ago, Louisiana lawmakers decided to cap the state’s solar tax credit program in the face of worsening budget struggles. Not only did they apply the cap to new solar customers, they applied it to anyone who purchased solar prior in 2015, before the incentive change was even proposed. The Times-Picayune reports that solar customers are now having to dig into their retirement savings and take out loans in order to cover the higher, unexpected costs of their solar systems. The program currently has a sunset in 2017 at a cap of $25 million, with a $10 million cap set for 2015 and 2016, and a $5 million cap in 2017. Credits are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, which has caused some customers to lose out on the incentive. The Times-Picayune writes that taxpayers who are denied a credit will be able to appeal the decision before the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeal. In June, the CPUC authorized $111.8 million in additional funding for the New Solar Homes Partnership program. The program will be funded via a non-bypassable charge on customers’ bills and administrated by the California Energy Commission. The CEC has also been directed to explore potential changes to the program structure. The residential solar market in Utah is booming. About 7,700 customers signed up for Rocky Mountain Power's net metering program between January and June of this year, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The utility had 3,200 net metering customers in Utah at the end of 2015. The governor’s office expects to process a total of 12,000 residential solar applications this year, which are eligible for a tax credit of up to 40 percent of installation costs. The governor’s office now expects to spend $42 million on the program, much more than in previous years, because of solar’s growing popularity. As a result, lawmakers could decide to reevaluate the program next session. Regulators have cast doubt on Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s $87 million smart meter plan, Albuquerque Business First reports. On July 15, two regulatory staff members filed testimony expressing doubt over the benefits PNM claims will stem from replacing 531,000 electricity meters. Rather than saving consumers $21 million, staff found the initiative could cost consumers $12 million. ”PNM's projected AMI project costs are uncertain and indicate that the AMI project would not produce sustained savings, compared to the existing metering system, until 2024,” wrote Charles Gunter, accounting bureau chief for the utility division of the Public Regulation Commission. PNM maintains that the cost/benefits ratio is strong and that the smart meters will save customers money through improved efficiency and reliability. Another hearing on the utility’s plan is scheduled for mid-August. Maryland The Maryland Public Service Commission has rejected Baltimore Gas & Electric's proposal to construct, operate and recover costs associated with two "public purpose" microgrids. The proposal was refused for a variety of reasons, including lack of cost-effectiveness and ratepayer impacts. Two committees in Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s New Energy Industry Task Force have issued a policy proposal for energy-storage procurement. The Joint Grid Modernization and Distributed Generation & Storage Technical Advisory Committees both identified significant barriers to deploying energy storage in the state’s legacy grid procedures and tariffs. According to EQ Research, the proposal includes the following provisions: The proposal states that no additional costs are to be incurred by Nevadans as a result of the state adopting storage procurement targets. The Georgia Public Service Commission has approved Georgia Power's long-term integrated resource plan that includes the procurement of 1,600 megawatts of renewables by 2021. The plan includes an increase in Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative directing the company to procure 1,200 megawatts of renewables made up of 150 megawatts of distributed energy resources and 1,050 megawatts of utility-scale resources (with a maximum of 300 megawatts for wind). The procurement of utility-scale resources will take place through two separate requests for proposals, one in 2017 and one in 2019. The plan also includes the following: During the proceeding, Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald put forward a motion to expand Georgia Power’s solar programs into new markets, including rooftop solar and community solar, but the proposal was ultimately defeated. “The strongest solar markets are the ones that enable diverse participation and diverse ownership,” said Scott Thomasson, program director of new markets for Vote Solar, in a statement. “While Commissioner McDonald’s motion to foster that diverse participation didn’t get the support it needed, the addition of a community solar program and the overall outcome of today’s vote are strong measures to keep Georgia’s solar market growing.” The California Public Utilities Commission released a ruling on July 22 on requirements for bill comparisons and engaging new customers. The ruling, written by Administrative Law Judge Jeanne McKinney, requires California’s investor-owned utilities to educate customers about their rate options when they take up service. It also outlines rules as utilities transition to default time-of-use rates. Hawaii’s electric utilities have proposed to extend a five-year pilot program for public EV-charging facilities by another 10 years, according to EQ Research. The current program -- set to expire on June 30, 2018 -- includes a tariff prescribing the rates and parameters of the utilities’ sale of electricity to third-party operators of public charging facilities. The utilities are also pursuing strategic host site locations to install DC fast chargers.
Water is pumped over the Valley Park levee on the Meramec River in Valley Park, Missouri, in this National Guard picture taken December 31, 2015. Picture taken December 31, 2015. The nuclear plants along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers are not expected to be adversely affected by flooding and heavy rains, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Tuesday. Along the Missouri River, Omaha Public Power District's Fort Calhoun nuclear generating station and Nebraska Public Power District's Cooper nuclear station are not expected to be affected, the NRC statement added. Ameren Corp's Callaway plant in Missouri and Entergy Corp's Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville, Arkansas, have not been affected by heavy rains and no impact is predicted, the regulator said. Plants in the vicinity of the Mississippi River, such as Grand Gulf in Mississippi, and River Bend and Waterford in Louisiana, all operated by Entergy, are also not likely to be affected by the adverse weather, the NRC added. The swollen Mississippi and rivers that feed into it caused havoc in Missouri and Illinois after late December heavy rain and severe storms brought flooding across several central U.S. states, leaving at least 33 people dead.