News

Trump budget proposal includes elimination of LIHEAP funding

Standing together to power strong communities

Natural gas still the top generation fuel, says Association report

Public power message to Capitol Hill: leave tax-exempt financing alone

What Public Power Can Learn from Down Under

Fighting for Community

Colorado utility to pair battery technology, solar in pilot project

Portman, Shaheen introduce energy-efficiency bill

Southwest Power Pool sets new wind generation penetration record of 52.1 percent

Energy storage rule should focus on benefits to consumers, groups say

For lack of quorum, FERC cancels monthly meetings

Alaska utilities sign power pooling agreement

March 20, 2017

Trump budget proposal includes elimination of LIHEAP funding

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
News Director

Funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, would be eliminated under a discretionary spending proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 released March 16 by the Trump Administration.
 
“Compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes,” the proposal states.

The document released March 16 is the first of a series of budget documents to be released this spring by President Donald Trump.

The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition previously launched an effort to secure stakeholder signatures for a letter in support of LIHEAP funding. The letter urges Congress to protect and increase funding to LIHEAP.

“Sufficiently funded, LIHEAP serves a vital, life-saving role protecting millions of families from America’s cold winters and hot summers,” the letter states. “Strong LIHEAP funding is necessary if this program is to continue to allow states and their charitable partners to serve America’s most vulnerable households.”

Additional details about how organizations can sign on to the letter are available here.

Budget also calls for big EPA funding cut, limits on DOE funding

Under the budget proposal rolled out on March 16, funding for the Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by $2.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2018. It would also eliminate or reduce funding for certain Department of Energy programs.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget said that the full budget, including specific entitlement spending and tax proposals and discretionary spending priorities beyond 2018, will be released later this spring.

March 14, 2017

Standing together to power strong communities

Public Power Lines
By Sue Kelly
President & CEO, American Public Power Association
March 6, 2017

Whether it’s meeting evolving customer needs, assuring safety and reliability, or serving their communities in novel ways — often with limited staff and resources — public power utilities are working hard. Sometimes I marvel at just how much they do to power strong communities.

Much of this is, of course, thanks to folks who are doing some of the grittiest work in the electricity business — maintaining all the equipment that keeps the lights on for our customers. And linework is no easy job. It’s one of the hardest and most dangerous. Hear from the widow of a fallen lineworker in Last Word.

Stories like Tracy Moore’s are precisely why it’s so important to the American Public Power Association that lineworkers stay safe when doing their job. For the 16th time since 1955, we’ve published a new edition of the Safety Manual. (Read more on page 8.)
At the annual Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo in San Antonio in May we’ll reward the teams that perform their work in the safest manner in various simulated conditions.

While the work lineworkers do is vital to our industry’s success and very serious, if I’ve learned one thing about them, it’s that they are very proud of their skills and love to show them off. The Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo is our most memorable celebratory event.

Competition and events aside, one of the best parts of the Lineworker’s Rodeo for me is witnessing the camaraderie. Teams from utilities across the nation compete against each other, but they may have also worked hand-in-hand restoring power, thanks to a mutual aid agreement. They may be competing in the morning and checking out each other’s T-shirt art in the afternoon. (Having sold shirts in the Association’s store more than once, I can personally attest to the strong appetite for T-shirts among lineworkers and their families!) Such relationships are the very fabric of public power’s strength. Our communities vary in size, but we are powerful when we stand together.

For a long time, the mutual aid network for the electricity industry needed to address only physical threats. The biggest threats to our system were unpredictable weather events — wind storms, ice storms, hurricanes … even squirrels! But the world around us has changed and so have the threats to our reliability and safety. Cybersecurity is now a top priority for public power utilities, and this is where new relationships are forming to expand our community’s strength.

I’m talking about cyber mutual assistance — translating everything we know about coming to each other’s aid in physical scenarios to those digital threats. The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (on which Kevin Wailes, CEO of Lincoln Electric System, is co-chair) has already assembled a team of utility representatives to build this cyber mutual assistance network. Representing public power on the network’s executive committee is Randy Crissman, vice president of technical compliance operations at the New York Power Authority. Crissman and other utility representatives are developing a cyber mutual assistance agreement that 80-plus utilities have already signed. This agreement spells out the processes utilities would use to ask for support and how they would provide reimbursement in a cyberattack — just like mutual aid agreements public power utilities already employ for physical events.

The process and participants are evolving and this group needs public power’s strength more than ever. I encourage you to participate, especially if your team includes cybersecurity specialists who bring unique skills to the table. The group is actively seeking more participants — email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

As the electricity landscape changes, public power utilities are exploring new ways of working together to deal with these changes. The American Public Power Association is here to support you. Find resources throughout this special Engineering issue of Public Power Magazine and on our website And I hope to see you at the rodeo!

March 7, 2017

Natural gas still the top generation fuel, says Association report

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
News Editor

Natural gas remains the top source of electricity generation in the United States and is expected to continue that role into the future, says a new report by the American Public Power Association. Wind energy and utility-scale solar power are providing an increasing share of U.S. electrical capacity, as the nation’s fuel mix continues to evolve at a gradual pace, according to the report.

America currently has over 1.19 million megawatts of generation capacity, says the report, America’s Electricity Generation Capacity 2017 Update — the Association’s eleventh annual report on current and forthcoming electricity generation capacity in the United States by types of fuel, location, and ownership.

The largest fuel source is natural gas, accounting for nearly 43 percent of all generation capacity. While natural gas capacity dates back to the 1950s, “the overwhelming bulk” of it is less than 25 years old, the report noted.

Coal is second, with a share of just over 24 percent of capacity. Nuclear power, hydro power, and wind power combine for just over 24 percent of capacity and solar currently constitutes two percent of all capacity, the report said. The figures in the report represent utility-scale solar only — they do not include distributed and other small-scale generating capacity.

“Despite the uncertain fate of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), development of new coal capacity has almost completely halted, while exiting coal capacity continues to retire at a steady pace,” the report said.

“Almost no new coal plants are slated to come online in future years, and other traditional forms of electric generation are being displaced by wind, solar, and other forms of renewable generation,” but natural gas continues to be the most popular fuel choice due to costs and efficiency considerations, the report said.

Wind and natural gas resources are being built nationwide, while solar generating capacity is mostly developing in the West and Southeast.

The report analyzes prospective generation capacity in four categories — capacity that is under construction, permitted, application pending, and proposed.

Over 316,000 MW of new generation capacity is under development in the United States — 96,864 MW under construction or permitted, and just under 219,580 MW proposed or pending application.

“Most of the capacity currently under construction or permitted to begin construction will be fueled by natural gas,” said Paul Zummo, APPA’s manager of policy research and analysis, who wrote the report. Solar and wind together account for nearly one-third of near-term potential capacity additions, he said.

While the Southeast has the most generation currently, with 25 percent of the nation’s total capacity, the Western region “is slated to add the most generation in the near- and long-term,
projecting nearly 95,000 MW of new capacity,” according to the report.

The analysis also provides information on retirements and planned retirements, cancellations, and capacity that has been added over the past eight years.

Natural gas “is the only resource for which additions outnumber cancellations,” the report noted. “For all other resources, far more capacity was cancelled than was added.”

Federal and state-wide regulatory and legislative developments, as well as shifts in fuel costs, “could force sudden changes in resource allocation,” the report noted. “Clearly, slow shifts in generating resources continue. Yet the data show that wildly fluctuating changes in the relative shares of generating capacity should not be expected in the near term.”

The full 19-page report can be found here.

March 1, 2017

Public power message to Capitol Hill: leave tax-exempt financing alone

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
News Director

Maintaining tax-exempt financing for public power utilities is one of the most significant messages that hundreds of officials from American Public Power Association member utilities planned to deliver in visits to Capitol Hill this week as part of activities related to the Association’s 2017 legislative rally, top officials from the Association said on Feb. 28.

And those public power representatives will be able to offer up plenty of examples of how municipal bonds and tax-exempt financing have benefitted public power communities in congressional districts, the Association officials said during a briefing for reporters held at the rally in Washington, D.C.

At the rally, the Association approved new policy resolutions on municipal bonds, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Power Act and pole attachments. The resolutions are determined by members and guide the Association’s policy positions. Four resolutions were approved by the Association’s Legislative & Resolutions Committee at the rally.

The first resolution calls for the preservation of municipal bond financing. Tax-exempt municipal bonds are critical to power system infrastructure investments and the Association will continue to oppose any efforts to tax interest paid on these bonds.

“This is a key issue for us, probably the number one issue that we will be pursuing on Capitol Hill during our legislative rally,” Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the Association, told reporters at the press briefing.

She was joined at the briefing by Desmarie Waterhouse, vice president of government relations and counsel, and Laura Marshall Schepis, senior vice president, advocacy and communications.

“Obviously as units of state and local government, our members use municipal bonds to support and to finance the building of new infrastructure at reasonable rates,” Kelly noted.

“It’s very important to us that we have continued access to this financing tool as we have for many, many years,” Kelly remarked.

“We want to make very clear to our congressmen and senators as we go up to the Hill that tax-exempt financing is very, very key to not only us as public power systems, but to all state and local governments,” she said. With respect to tax reform, the Association is asking that lawmakers “not touch municipal bonds.”

At a later point, she noted that as Association members fan out to congressional offices on Feb. 28 and March 1, they will be seeking co-signatories to a letter circulating on Capitol Hill that says tax-exempt bonds are a very important financing tool and should not be disturbed in any tax reform.

The bi-partisan letter from Reps. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill.  and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. will be sent to the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Association is seeking co-signatories from both parties in the House to support and to sign on to the letter, Kelly said.

She noted that there is also a Municipal Finance Caucus that has been formed by Ruppersberger and Hultgren “and we are trying to get other members of the House to join that caucus.”

Schepis said that “I think it’s safe to say with over 600 public power advocates headed up to the Hill this afternoon, many dozens of Members of Congress are going to be reminded of stories from their districts about the power of municipal bonds to strengthen communities and create jobs.”

Kelly noted that one of the sponsors of the resolution at the Association meeting was the city of Idaho Falls.

When Jackie Flowers, general manager of Idaho Falls Power, “got up to support the resolution she talked about how they had financed local generation with municipal bonds” and retired a series of bonds.

“They held a bond burning party” to highlight the fact that these bonds had built a hydropower facility, “which is now available for a long time to come” and, without any associated debt, can provide low-cost, carbon free power to their community.

“So it’s just a great story about how we build facilities with bonds,” Kelly remarked, noting that the Association has a hashtag “built by bonds,” which the Association is using during the rally.

(Laura Marshall Schepis, Sue Kelly and Desmarie Waterhouse take questions from reporters at legislative rally)

Federal Power Act oversight

Another resolution passed at the rally involves Federal Power Act Oversight. The Association is calling on Congress to examine the administration of the act and how environmental policies and technological changes in power generation and delivery are impacting the federal/state role set out by the act.

Kelly noted that the Federal Power Act was passed in the 1930s and “we believe it’s served the nation very well.”

However, in recent years, “interpretation of that act has created some tensions between state and local governments and wholesale electric power markets and, as a result, there’s been some increased interest in Congress in reviewing how the act works and what it does and we support that oversight and educational effort,” Kelly told reporters.

“We are not necessarily supporting re-opening the act itself. We believe that the act is very broadly written and that many of the reforms and processes we’d like to see can be accomplished without amending the act,” she said.

But the Association feels that it is important to have substantial oversight of the act “and we support that in Congress.”

A reporter asked Association officials to provide examples of a proposed policy change to the Federal Power Act that the Association would support.
In response, Waterhouse cited legislation called the Fair Ratepayer Accountability, Transparency, and Efficiency Standards Act, or Fair RATES Act, which was passed by the House in January.

The bill would ensure that where rate changes take effect because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is deadlocked, parties still would have recourse to seek a review (and an appeal of that review) of the rate changes.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., is supported by the Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The issue the bill seeks to address stems from a requirement under the Federal Power Act that a utility — this usually means an investor-owned, for-profit utility — must give FERC and the public 60 days' notice before making changes to its rate, charge, or classification structure.

If FERC is deadlocked, such changes take effect without any further action by the commission. FERC has said that changes taking effect after such a deadlock cannot be appealed because there is no decision by the commission to rehear or appeal.

The Fair RATES Act would fix this technical flaw, allowing any person, electric utility, state, municipality, or state commission aggrieved by a rate change that takes effect under such circumstances to seek rehearing within 30 days.

Other resolutions address Endangered Species Act, pole attachments

The other two resolutions approved at the rally relate to the Endangered Species Act and pole attachments.

In one resolution, the Association urges Congress to preserve the federal law giving public power utilities local control over pole attachments and to exempt them from related Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations.

Another resolution relates to reform of the Endangered Species Act. The Association supports Congress’s efforts to protect endangered species while ensuring responsible land, resource and water management, but feels that the law is due for Congressional review after more than 25 years to make it workable for all stakeholders.

(Officials from Association member utilities vote at legislative rally on Feb. 28)


Association priorities in 2017

Meanwhile, Waterhouse provided an overview of the Association’s priority issues for 2017.

Along with maintaining tax-exempt financing, the Association is focused on preserving the federal power program, protecting against a one-size-fits-all approach to distributed generation, supporting common sense environmental regulatory reforms and maintaining and strengthening industry-government partnerships in the area of grid security.

Wholesale markets

With respect to wholesale electricity markets, the Association remains concerned about the ability of public power to self-supply in the eastern regional transmission organizations, Waterhouse noted.

“This is an issue that we have been working on for a number of years,” Kelly noted.  “It seems like we’re getting a lot more traction with our arguments now than we did a few years ago.”

She noted that prior to his departure from FERC in early February, then-chairman Norman Bay wrote concurrences “where, in effect, he said very much what we’ve been saying for the last few years about the mandatory capacity markets – that they are in need of reform and that limitations such as the minimum offer price rule, the much lamented MOPR, really do need to be revisited.”

FERC vacancies

FERC has been without a quorum since Bay’s departure and has two commissioners – Cheryl LaFleur, who is acting chairman, and Colette Honorable.   

A reporter asked Association officials to describe what they would be looking for when it comes to new commissioners in terms of how they can assist in reforms of wholesale power markets.

“What I would be looking for in new FERC commissioners are ones that are frankly sensitive and well versed in the kind of jurisdictional proper boundaries of both states and localities on one side and the federal government on the other,” Kelly responded.

“In the case of our members, the issue of self-supply is a big one,” she pointed out. In the two Eastern RTOs with mandatory capacity markets – the PJM Interconnection and ISO New England – “and to a lesser extent in New York,” the ability of public power utilities to supply their own loads with their own resources “has been adversely impacted by market rules.”

Kelly said that “we would be looking to see commissioners who are taking a broader view of the need to allow more self-determination by states and localities as to what they want their power supply mix to look like” and to offer more deference as to what is going on in states and regions.

February 28, 2017

What Public Power Can Learn from Down Under

By Bill Gaines, Director and CEO, Tacoma Public Utilities and Colin Hansen, Executive Director, Kansas Municipal Utilities — Directors, Board of the American Public Power Association

In November 2016, we had the great opportunity to represent the American Public Power Association in a fact-finding mission to Australia organized by the Smart Electric Power Alliance. We’d like to share this overview of the electric system Down Under and our takeaways from the land of kangaroos, koalas, and vegemite.

Australia: a country of just 20 million people spread out over an island the size of the entire United States. And a country that contends with an interesting mix of electricity issues — frequent policy changes; declining solar subsidies; complex disaggregation of generation, transmission, and distribution; and the unique reliability challenges posed by its geography.

unknown-3The State of the System
All electric utilities in Australia were state owned until the late 1990s. At that point, the country adopted a competitive electricity model based on privatization and vertical separation of industry functions. Today, there is a regulated national wholesale energy market and a transmission grid that links the major population centers.

We quickly learned that Brisbane is tropical and Melbourne is cosmopolitan. And that Melbourne and Sydney have an intense rivalry. But it was a bit more challenging to figure out which entity takes care of which electricity function in each state or region. Add to that the vast number of utilities, generators, transmission companies, marketers, and the numerous agencies that pursue energy innovation — CSIRO, ARENA, Australian Research Council, CEFC, etc.

The generation and electricity retailing functions are completely privatized and competitive. Right now, Australia is about to disaggregate metering from distribution, adding yet another layer of complexity, and contention.

While we did not see any technologies in Australia that are not already in the US, we did see interesting and innovative applications of familiar technologies. For example, the distribution companies in Victoria are making innovative use of Lidar, AMI, and other remote sensing technologies to manage their networks. There is a very high penetration of rooftop solar — up to 28 percent — in some areas. This has spurred much interest in battery storage and improved use of demand side management measures such as water heater control, which has apparently been deployed on the distribution networks for quite some time.

As in the US, the utility industry and government policies vary widely across states and regions. While Queensland has massive amounts of rooftop solar, its overall renewable energy portfolio remains somewhat thin. Tasmania has much less rooftop solar but claims a 99.9 percent renewable energy penetration with large amounts of hydropower.

One interesting project we learned about was the Huntlee Community Energy Company, a local community that has been given a $5 million grant by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to develop a residential microgrid for approximately 1,000 homes. The microgrid will include rooftop solar, battery storage, gas and diesel generators, and a microgrid management system.

We also learned about some interesting uses of AMI analytics by distribution utilities — customer to substation mapping, using “abnormal” feeder detection algorithms to detect and locate faults, and even detecting energy theft!

Solar Subsidies
A slew of solar subsidies in the early 2000s enabled many Australians to install private solar at incredibly cheap prices.

According to 2015 data, one in seven Australian households had some form of solar installed. Queensland has the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world — about 28.8 percent of single family households have installed rooftop solar. The initial growth was most definitely fueled by government subsidies and policies. At one point, customers in Queensland could take advantage of a feed-in tariff in excess of 40 cents per kWh.

While those subsidies are largely rolling off, officials now talk about the “mass scale tipping point” caused by the reduced cost of solar compared to retail rates. One Australian official said that with subsidies, the estimated cost of rooftop solar is 10-12 cents per kWh, nearly half the average residential rate.  Where subsidies once drove investment in solar energy by average Australians, that continued growth is now driven by economics.

It was fascinating to turn on the TV (BTW, Aussies are obsessed with American politics in their programming) and see commercials for full solar systems at an installed cost of less than $4,000.

Recently however, the Australian government started implementing a plan to significantly downgrade subsidies, leaving many customers frustrated with what they now see as inadequate return on their investments.

Australia has been at the forefront of experimenting with pro-solar policies, and the many — and sometimes surprising — results of this experiment have lessons for U.S. utilities. Australia’s reliability-focused investments in the transmission and distribution grids, combined with the heavy solar incentives, drove electricity rates up during 2008-2015.

Looking to the Future
What we heard the most about from industry experts was the need for a multifaceted approach as Australia looks to the future. Despite the decrease in subsidies, solar is not going away, and many customers are exploring battery storage as well.

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The “prosumers” of the future are likely to be actively involved with customizing and designing products for their own needs. All aspects of the value chain seem to be shifting to a customer-centric model.  Utilities must prepare for an increasing number of customers moving away from centralized power and toward onsite generation and should be communicating the value of the grid to stakeholders. There will also be more electric vehicles to charge.

However, it became clear to us over the course of our fact-finding mission that Australian utility customers have been somewhat frustrated by high prices and low reliability over the years. So one cannot help but ask whether the majority of customers will actually have the desire to be involved in-depth, moving forward.

A “Future Grid Forum” that we learned about has estimated that perhaps as many as a third of Australian customers could eventually leave the grid, using a combination of solar panels, storage, energy efficiency, and gas generation. Experts estimated that this departure may be economically viable as soon as 2030 or 2040.

So what can the electric utility industry do in the face of so much change? We didn’t hear clear answers. But it is widely acknowledged that the coming decade will be a period of historic change for Australia’s electric utilities.

 When In Australia…
unknown-8…we tried to do as the Aussies do and learned that Foster’s is no longer the “it” beer — it’s now all about craft beer, like here in the US.

Vegemite is not used as one would use peanut butter. Instead, you put a thick layer of butter on a piece of bread or a cracker and then use only a thin layer of Vegemite on top of that. Even buttery goodness could not overcome the taste of Vegemite — perhaps that’s just for the locals. But Tim Tams are way better than Kit Kats!

Cricket, lawn bowling, and Aussie rules football are all very vogue – but for an American, figuring out the rules of those games is a different matter. And the sinks and toilets really do drain in the opposite direction from the Northern Hemisphere.

The Aussies drive on the wrong (left) side of the road, and they walk on the sidewalks that way too.

Other Lessons Learned
In a country known for its impressive assortment of animals that can kill you, some danger is to be expected. However, the danger can be mitigated by making smart choices. Going into the water? Wear a wetsuit to avoid jellyfish stings. Trekking through the outback? Check your shoes every morning for snakes and scorpions.

 To stretch the analogy here, a certain amount of danger is to be expected as the electricity sector undergoes massive change.

 However, the Australian electricity industry has been buffeted by the inconsistencies of federal and state energy policy over the years as various governments have moved in and out of office. The ramp-up and scale-back of extreme solar incentives, government grid investment mandates, and the imposition and subsequent removal of a nationwide carbon tax are examples. The critical need is for stable and predictable policy.

In the face of greater change, government must understand that the electric industry, unlike the administration, doesn’t turn on a dime. Policymakers must factor in the time required for the industry to adapt to new ideas.

We tried throughout the trip to think about what small public power systems might pursue as a “no regrets” approach to distributed generation and AMI. What we saw reinforced that small public power utilities in the U.S. first and foremost to get their ratemaking right. For many, that means a fairly rapid move from variable to fixed pricing, with well thought out net metering policies and interconnection standards.

Very small utilities can confidently invest in GIS, but some may want to wait on AMI until they have a better system or means of handling the deluge of customer information that comes with it. Small systems need to “get big” by working with their joint action agencies or associations to gain economies of scale and master the level of complexity and sophistication likely to dominate the future electric industry.

And finally, we learned from the great folks at SEPA while we were in Australia to shout out “Elmo” when a subject matter seemed to have exhausted itself but the discussion continued. Elmo is — “Enough, Let’s Move On” :)

February 24, 2017

Fighting for Community

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Editorial Consultant

Advocating for public power communities with all three branches of government in Washington is a core part of the American Public Power Association’s mission. The Association prioritizes issues where the need is greatest to protect the interests of public power customers, and to preserve decision-making at the community level.

In 2017, the Association expects regulatory and legislative activity to change substantially under President-elect Donald Trump’s new administration. Comprehensive tax reform will be a key issue addressed this year, which could impact the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Thus, it will be a top issue for public power.
As the next four years take shape, public power’s Washington advocates are working harder than ever for the interests of community-owned power. Here are some issues on the legislative horizon for 2017 and ideas for how public power communities can get involved.

Priority 1: Distributed Generation and New Technologies

What is it?
It’s not a cliché — the entire utility business is, in fact, changing. The American Public Power Association is working to help utilities prepare for this future by focusing on solar and other distributed energy resources, energy storage, and customer-side technologies like smart thermostats, grid-connected appliances, and electric vehicles. This strategic initiative, called Public Power Forward, aims not only to help utilities prepare, but also to make sure legislation maintains state and local control.

Why is it important?
Raise your hand if you’ve considered buying an electric vehicle. As a utility employee, you probably know what — if any — time-of-use rates are available. Many utilities haven’t even considered new rate structures for technologies like EVs. But consumers are adopting these technologies faster and faster. Public power communities are in the best position to work with their customers to enable the integration of these new technologies.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
The American Public Power Association will educate regulators and legislators at the federal level and support policies that keep decision-making on the local and state level, pushing back on efforts to federalize them. The Association is working to bring stories from public power communities before legislators to drive this message home. The American Public Power Association is also creating tools that members can use to devise paths forward to the utility of the future.

What can my community do?
Position your utility as the trusted energy advisor — encourage your customers to talk with you before they invest in new technologies. Train your staff to give them expert advice with confidence. Monitor the use and impact of distributed generation and share stats with your legislators to show that you support distributed generation in a way that doesn’t shift costs unduly to customers who do not install distributed generation.

Priority 2: Tax-Exempt Financing

What is it?
Tax-exempt financing, like municipal bonds, helps public power utilities create $11 billion new infrastructure annually. But this tax exemption often comes under attack by opponents who aim to cap or eliminate it.

Why is it important?
The incoming administration’s campaign appeared to support efforts to cap municipal bond interest. While it’s still unclear whether the incoming Trump administration will seek to eliminate the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds or cap municipal bond interest, comprehensive tax reform is very likely to occur in 2017 with both chambers of Congress remaining in Republican control.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
The American Public Power Association will continue to work with its members and other stakeholder groups to educate policymakers on the importance of tax-exempt financing. The Association’s lobbyists will enable members to testify before Congress, and to continually express public power’s views on any potential tax reform measures that threaten to eliminate tax-exempt financing or cap municipal bond interest.

What can my community do?
The Association will partner with local policymakers to deliver the message to Congress that municipal bonds are integral to public power communities. See the legislative priorities infographic on page 24 for talking points to share with your policy makers. Your community can also tell its story — take to social media! Use the hashtag #BuiltWithBonds to showcase how tax-exempt financing is improving your community.

Priority 3: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

What is it?
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from all fossil-fuel-fired power plants — new, modified and existing. According to the EPA, the regulations would reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030. More than 20 states and the industry sued the EPA, believing the regulations go far beyond what the EPA can do under the Clean Air Act. Other environmental regulations have kept public power’s lobbyists busy too, including the EPA’s 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard, Coal Combustion Residuals, Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update, and Waters of the United States.

Why is it important?
While the electricity industry at large spent much of 2015 and 2016 preparing for implementation of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is expected to do away with it. But the method the incoming administration may use to unwind the plan remains unclear. Regardless of whether public power communities are located in states that may or may not meet or their emissions targets, a rolling back of these rules will have implications for the entire electricity sector.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
Providing members with information about the changing regulatory landscape is a top priority. Members can expect updates, webinars and continued correspondence from Association lobbyists, who will continue working with congressional staff and federal agencies to convey the impact of environmental regulations on public power communities.

What can my community do?
Talk to your customers — explain where your electricity comes from and what you are doing to protect the environment. Monitor American Public Power Association media channels — especially Public Power Daily and our blogs — to track legislation and regulation and keep your stakeholders up to date on what’s happening around the country and how it impacts your community.

Priority 4: Wholesale Electricity Markets

What is it?
In parts of the country, the purchase and sale of wholesale power by utilities are administered by Regional Transmission Organizations or Independent System Operators — RTOs and ISOs. The RTOs and ISOs determine the rules for wholesale electricity markets, which include markets for electric capacity. Capacity markets pay a generator to stand ready to supply load or tell a customer to curtail their use when needed.

Why is it important?
If utilities self-supply power to serve their customers’ loads by generating it or buying it through bilateral contracts, they can save money and reduce dependence on the RTO and ISO-operated wholesale electricity markets. This is essential for public power. Participating in mandatory capacity market auctions, where prices are artificially inflated by merchant generators, is not a viable alternative. But the ability to self-supply is no longer protected. In addition to reforming the mandatory capacity markets, having rules for the energy markets that protect consumers from excessive prices is also important. In 2017, congressional committees are likely to hold oversight hearings on the Federal Power Act, which governs wholesale electricity markets.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
The Association is continuing to focus its advocacy effort on wholesale markets by filing comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, meeting with public power members in the West to help advocate on common issues regarding the potential expansion of the California Independent System Operator, drafting white papers, and educating legislators at oversight hearings on the Federal Power Act about the problems in wholesale markets.

What can my community do?
Electricity markets issues may seem esoteric and remote to your customers and local policymakers. However, if you can demonstrate how legislative and regulatory changes would
impact the electric bill, you can interest them and involve them in advocacy.

Priority 5: Comprehensive Energy Legislation

What is it?
The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 addresses reliability, hydropower licensing reform, energy efficiency, emerging utility workforce challenges, and natural gas pipeline permitting. The Senate passed the bill in April after significant debate.

Why is it important?
In the Senate, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, could bring an energy bill back for consideration. New chairmen of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy & Power are variables as they work to establish new staff teams and set priorities.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
If the energy bill conference report is approved before the end of the 114th Congress, the American Public Power Association will advocate on implementation issues in 2017. If the bill is not signed into law, but energy legislation is reintroduced in 2017, the Association will continue to advocate on provisions of importance to public power.

What can my community do?
Every voice matters. Get your stakeholders to weigh in with their members of Congress when important issues arise. Stay tuned for action alerts from the American Public Power Association with issue highlights and template messages you can send to your elected representatives.

Priority 6: Federal Power Program

What is it?
Power Marketing Administrations and the Tennessee Valley Authority are federal agencies that provide power to millions of Americans. There have been attempts to change the terms under which these services are provided as well as potentially eliminate the TVA.

Why is it important?
The not-for-profit PMAs are currently structured, power is provided at rates that cover all of the costs of generation and transmission, as well as repaying the federal investment. TVA is a robust public power partnership that on its own provides low-cost power to more than 9 million people. Modifying or disbanding these organizations could result in substantial rate increases for public power customers.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
The Association continues to advocate against any proposals that undermine PMAs or the Tennessee Valley Authority.

What can my community do?
Educate your customers — residents and business owners — and local public officials on why the TVA and PMAs are integral to emissions-free, reliable and affordable electricity in your community. Make sure that your representatives in state government and in Washington know what the TVA and PMAs are and how important they are to economic development and a diverse energy portfolio.

Priority 7: Grid Security

What is it?
Protecting the electric grid is always a top priority. While physical security has been a long-standing issue, cybersecurity and the associated threats are relatively new and rapidly changing. As the grid evolves, unfortunately so do threats to its integrity.

Why is it important?
The industry has made great strides in addressing threats and vulnerabilities, but emergency situations warrant federal involvement, which is why information sharing is critical.

What is The American Public Power Association doing?
The Association’s goal is to educate the public power community to better understand, install and implement new cyber and physical resiliency and security systems. The Association is also continuing to work toward improved coordination between industry and government while educating legislators and regulators. Members can find risk assessment tools and get information about security technologies from the Association.

What can my community do?
Let your community know that no utility is immune from threats but that you are taking steps to prevent and prepare for cyber and physical attacks on the grid. Let customers know what they can do at home to support safety and security. Explain to them how you are protecting their data and also collaborating at the local, state, and federal level to share information on grid security threats and best practices.

Raising Awareness of Public Power
Underlying all the policy and regulatory issues that public power confronts, is an image problem.

Even in public power communities, only 1 in 5 public customers under 55 knows that their electricity comes from a community-owned utility. We need to change the paradigm. We need to advocate from a position of strength, and our strength comes from our unique, not-for-profit business model that invests right back in the community. We need to better tell our story so policymakers and key influencers will know who we are.

Under its Raising Awareness of Public Power strategic initiative, the American Public Power Association is helping members better tell their story, to expand the value and knowledge of public power utilities in their communities. Utilities need stakeholders to understand where they come from, especially as looming regulations and ongoing technological changes rework the utility business. We’ve developed turnkey resources for members to adapt and use for public education and will continue to provide an increasing array of resources. In 2017, we are launching a pilot program to work with a select group of communities on a year-round awareness program. Participants in the pilot will serve as testers for new communications initiatives. The Association hopes to use what it learns across the pilot to provide more resources for all of its member utilities.

What can my community do?
• Work with customers, not against them, as the utility of the future takes shape.
• Educate your customers on the unique benefits of public power.
• Engage them in your decision-making and invite them to share their views.
• Nurture your customers, employees, mayors and city council members to be your advocates — at the grassroots level. Break down policy issues — at every level — and translate their impact in terms your audiences can relate to.

Use social media as a tool to engage and educate customers. Follow @Publicpowerorg and use the hashtag #PublicPower

February 23, 2017

Colorado utility to pair battery technology, solar in pilot project

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News Director

Investor-owned utility Xcel Energy is partnering with battery vendors Sunverge Energy and Northern Reliability Inc. to test battery storage technology to maximize the use of rooftop solar energy under a two-year pilot project, Xcel Energy said on Feb. 13.

As customers’ demand for solar energy in their homes and businesses increases, “this is a crucial time for Xcel Energy to learn how battery storage can help integrate higher concentrations of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy onto its system,” the company said in a news release related to the project.

Xcel Energy said it wants to not only learn how to accommodate more solar energy onto its grid, but also manage other grid issues such as voltage regulation and peak demand, and reduce energy costs.

The pilot project will take place in two neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado’s Stapleton community.

“For the program, Xcel Energy is testing six in-home, behind-the-meter battery units and six larger, utility-scale units along the feeder that serves the majority of the North Central Park and Eastbridge neighborhoods,” said Beth Chacon, Xcel Energy’s director of grid storage and emerging technologies. “We chose the Stapleton area because it has among the highest concentrations of rooftop installations in the Denver area.”

Distribution feeders bring electricity into homes and businesses and carry the energy produced by in-home solar systems to the electric grid.

All three companies want to understand how energy storage can help manage the impact of high concentration of rooftop solar energy on a feeder in these Stapleton neighborhoods, Xcel Energy said.

This includes accommodating more solar energy on Xcel Energy’s grid, while also storing excess solar power during the day and discharging stored power during peak energy usage times. There is also the hope of learning more about regulating voltage spikes and reducing energy costs, Xcel Energy noted.

San Francisco-based Sunverge Energy is providing the six in-home batteries and control software. Each Sunverge storage system is expected to be installed in the spring of 2017, and will be paired with pre-existing rooftop solar PV arrays.

Waitsfield, Vermont-based Northern Reliability Inc. is supplying the six utility-scale batteries that will be placed on either end of the distribution feed half loop and are paired to match the entire loop’s reverse power flow. The batteries are expected to be installed in the fall of 2017.

The Stapleton project is one of two Innovative Clean Technology, or ICT, programs approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in 2016.

Xcel Energy said its clean technology program enables the testing of emerging energy technologies that promise lower greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental benefits. The project is estimated to cost $4 million.

In addition, the ICT “not only provides the opportunity to test new technologies and evaluate their cost, but evaluate reliability and environmental performance on a small, demonstration scale before determining whether to deploy them widely for customers,” the utility said.

February 17, 2017

Portman, Shaheen introduce energy-efficiency bill

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News Editor

On Feb. 15, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced energy-efficiency legislation similar to energy efficiency legislation they have been trying to get passed for the last six years and has attracted broad bipartisan support in the past from consumer-owned utilities and others.

The legislation, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, calls for energy efficiency policy measures that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution, the senators said in a Feb. 15 news release. They noted that components of a previous version of the bill were signed into law by President Obama in April 2015 “and are already helping individuals and companies use less energy, creating jobs and reducing emissions.”

Taken together, these bipartisan reforms “include common-sense initiatives that will create nearly 200,000 new jobs and help the economy by saving consumers $16.2 billion annually in reduced energy costs by 2030,” said Shaheen and Portman.

They noted that the bill, S. 385, has received broad bipartisan support and passed the Senate last year by a vote of 85-12, though it stalled in the House. Original cosponsors include Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Chris Coons, D-Del., Al Franken, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss. Among those who have endorsed it are the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council and the Alliance to Save Energy.

“Energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to address our energy challenges in New Hampshire and around the country,” said Shaheen. “It’s also the largest sector in the U.S. clean energy economy, employing nearly 2.2 million Americans. Our bipartisan legislation would create jobs in the private sector, save families and businesses money, and drastically reduce pollution in a smart, effective and affordable way. Simply put, it’s good for our economy and good for our environment – that’s why it enjoys broad bipartisan support.”

Portman: bill would help consumers

Portman called the bill is “a win-win, creating nearly 200,000 new jobs and protecting our environment—all without a single new tax or mandate.”

The measure “would reduce our carbon emissions equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road over the next 15 years and give our workers in Ohio and around the country a competitive advantage by making our plants more energy efficient. It’s good news for the taxpayer, too, because it would make the federal government practice what it preaches and use energy more efficiently. And by saving consumers about $16.2 billion in reduced energy costs, it will help folks who are just trying to get by, bringing down the cost of living, easing the middle-class squeeze, and giving them a few dollars extra at the end of each month that they can use for a needed expense, or savings for an investment in a kid’s college education or for retirement. There is a reason this bill has garnered such widespread support. Congress should take it up as soon as possible.”

Included in the bill are provisions calling for greater energy efficiency in building codes, worker training, coordination of retrofitting assistance for schools, and an energy performance requirement for federal buildings.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimated in a 2014 study that, by the year 2030, the bill would create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion a year, and cut CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road.
 
Bill passed House in 2014, passed Senate last year

The two senators have been trying for several years to get their energy efficiency bill through Congress, and it has come close a couple of times.

In early 2014, the legislation passed the House with a broad bipartisan vote of 375-36, but then stalled in the Senate. The American Public Power Association, the Alliance to Save Energy and a broad coalition of over 80 companies, organizations, and trade associations wrote to the Senate majority leader and the chamber’s minority leader that spring, asking them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, but it never happened. Last year, Shaheen-Portman legislation was incorporated into a broad energy bill that passed the Senate, but could not make headway in the House.

Alliance president calls for passage

“This is exactly the kind of legislation Americans want Congress to pass — bipartisan, common-sense policy that saves taxpayers money and drives economic activity and job creation,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.

“There are nearly 2.2 million energy efficiency jobs across the country — in manufacturing, installation, construction, engineering and other sectors,” Callahan said. “We added 130,000 efficiency jobs last year alone, and the policies in this legislation will only boost those numbers moving forward." Saying that the bill should have been passed several years ago, Callahan urged leaders in both parties "to put an end to the gridlock and finally move it across the finish line.”

The Alliance to Save Energy’s board of directors recently named Gil Quiniones, CEO of the New York Power Authority, as the group’s new chairman.

February 16, 2017

Southwest Power Pool sets new wind generation penetration record of 52.1 percent

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News Director

The Southwest Power Pool set a wind-penetration record of 52.1 percent in the early morning of Feb. 12, making it the first regional transmission organization in North America to serve more than 50 percent of its load at a given time with wind energy, the grid operator said on Feb. 13.

The milestone beats a previous North American RTO record of 49.2 percent that SPP set April 24, 2016, it said in a press release, noting that wind penetration is a measure of the amount of total load served by wind at a given time.

The proliferation of wind power in the SPP region has grown significantly over the last decade. As recently as the early 2000s, SPP’s generating fleet included less than 400 MW of wind, and for years, wind was reported in the “Other” category in SPP’s fuel mix data, the grid operator said.

But wind is now the third most-prevalent fuel source in the SPP region. It made up approximately 15 percent of the organization’s generating capacity in 2016, behind only natural gas and coal.

Installed wind generation capacity increased in 2016 alone by more than 30 percent — up 4,000 MW from 12 GW to more than 16 GW, according to SPP. The RTO’s maximum simultaneous wind generation peak rose from 9,948 MW in 2015 to 12,336 MW in early 2016.

“Ten years ago, we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” SPP Vice President of Operations Bruce Rew said in the news release.

“Since then, we’ve gained experience and implemented new policies and procedures,” he said. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent wind penetration. It’s not even our ceiling,” Rew said, noting that SPP continues to study even higher levels of renewable, variable generation as part of its “plans to maintain a reliable and economic grid of the future.”

SPP said that the successful deployment of wind and other renewables in SPP is made possible because of its geographic diversity and robust transmission system. The RTO’s footprint covers almost 550,000 square miles from the Canadian border in Montana and North Dakota in the north to parts of New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana in the south.

SPP has approved the construction of more than $10 billion in high-voltage transmission infrastructure over the last decade, with much of it being built in the Midwest to connect rural, isolated wind farms to population centers hundreds of miles away.

February 15, 2017

Energy storage rule should focus on benefits to consumers, groups say

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News Editor

In comments it filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 13, the American Public Power Association said it generally supports FERC’s efforts to allow storage and distributed energy resources to participate in wholesale markets, but urged the commission to keep its main focus on the end result to electricity consumers, and offered a number of recommendations.

The Association joined the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in filing the comments on FERC’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking, or NOPR, on participation in organized wholesale markets by electric storage resources and distributed energy resource aggregators.

The notice of proposed rulemaking, issued on Nov. 17, 2016, would require regional transmission organizations and independent system operators to revise their wholesale power tariffs to better remove barriers to RTO-run wholesale market participation by energy storage resources such as large battery systems. It also would also require RTOs and ISOs to allow aggregators of distributed energy resources “to participate directly in the organized wholesale electric markets,” and similarly remove barriers to DER aggregator participation, FERC staff explained when the draft rule was issued.

“We urge the commission to maintain as its primary focus, efforts to allow electric storage and distributed energy resources to participate in organized wholesale markets for the benefit of end-use consumers,” said the Association and NRECA in their Feb. 13 comments.

The two groups noted that, in June 2016, APPA suggested four guiding principles with respect to electricity storage resources. Those principles “are applicable to the instant NOPR with respect to electric storage resources as well s distributed energy resource aggregation,” they said.

Those principles are:

1.    Maintain a focus on end-use customers. In removing barriers to entry for storage and distributed energy resources, FERC must move toward markets that produce just and reasonable rates for customers.

2.    Accommodate existing technology. FERC’s efforts should not threaten existing projects or hamper technological advances.

3.    Respect state and local regulatory authority. The final rule must not undermine the ability of state and local bodies to regulate existing and future storage and/or distributed energy projects. This issue “is of paramount importance to APPA and NRECA,” the two associations emphasized.

4.    Protect against double-recovery and cross-subsidies. Providers of storage or distributed energy resources must not be able to doubly recover their costs — at both cost- and market-based rates — or gain access to cross-subsidies, the two trade groups told FERC. One class of customers should not be put in a position of subsidizing another — e.g. wholesale customers should not subsidize retail customers, they said.

The comments also offer recommendations on specific proposals and requests for comment on FERC’s notice of proposed rulemaking.

Among those recommendations, APPA and NRECA said that, in order to abide by the statutory limits on its jurisdiction and authority, and in order to honor roles reserved for state and local authorities, the commission should clarify that the final rule will be “limited to RTO/ISO rules, and include a role for state and local authorities, similar to the Relevant Electric Retail Regulatory Authority (“RERRA”) for demand response aggregation” under FERC Orders No. 719 and 719-A.

February 9, 2017

For lack of quorum, FERC cancels monthly meetings

By Jeannine Anderson
News Editor

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Feb. 8 that it will cancel all of the commission’s future monthly meetings, including the upcoming Feb. 16 meeting, until a quorum is restored.
 
In a Feb. 8 news release, FERC said that “unless otherwise announced, FERC will continue to hold previously scheduled meetings and events sponsored by FERC, including the joint meeting between FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Feb. 23, 2017, and the upcoming Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 workshop on March 30, 2017. FERC also will continue to announce and schedule future meetings, technical conferences and workshops as appropriate.”

Late last month Norman Bay, who was FERC’s chairman for the last two years, said he would resign from the commission, effective on Feb. 3. Bay announced his resignation the same day that FERC said that President Trump had selected Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be the commission’s acting chairman.

Bay’s departure has left FERC without enough commissioners to vote on decisions or orders — a situation that marks uncharted territory for the agency.

The lack of a quorum threatens a state of inaction at the commission that “could have profound negative impacts for the nation’s electric, natural gas, and oil customers,” said the American Public Power Association and a coalition of more than a dozen energy trade groups.

The agency be “unable to tackle much of its important work promoting energy infrastructure for the benefit of U.S. energy consumers,” the coalition said in a Feb. 2 letter to President Trump. Among the other electricity industry groups signing the letter were the Large Public Power Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Edison Electric Institute.

February 6, 2017

Alaska utilities sign power pooling agreement

By Paul Ciampoli
News Director

Several utilities in Alaska, including public power utility Municipal Light & Power in Anchorage, have signed a power pooling and joint dispatch agreement, which they said will allow them to collectively utilize their generation and transmission assets to benefit tens of thousands of customers.
 
Along with ML&P, which is a member of the American Public Power Association, the agreement was signed by the Municipality of Anchorage, Chugach Electric Association and Matanuska Electric Association, and filed with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska on Jan. 30.
Chugach and Matanuska are electric cooperatives.

The power pooling and joint dispatch agreement is the framework for a commitment to jointly dispatch and share in the benefits of power pooling.

The filing with the RCA is considered informational as the utilities continue to work out details of the dispatch and payment reconciliation process throughout 2017.

Parties to the agreement noted in a Jan. 30 news release that signing of the agreement solidifies work of the utilities on a power market, allowing the utilities to buy and sell power when it is more economic than generating their own.

By running the most efficient units first, regardless of location or ownership, the utilities estimate the arrangement will jointly save $12 million to $16 million a year in fuel, operations and maintenance costs, and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90,000 to 120,000 tons per year.

In addition to the reduced cost of power and reduced CO2 emissions, power pooling and economic dispatch of power will also reduce natural gas usage.

“The work of the utilities serving Anchorage demonstrates what collaborative effort can achieve and builds on our cooperative work to provide reliable, cost-effective electric service for businesses and families,” said ML&P General Manager Mark Johnston.

“Working together to provide power to our customers in the most efficient, cost-effective manner means lower costs and improved reliability for everyone,” said Lee Thibert, Chugach CEO.

“We are pleased to see our recent utility cooperation expanded into a more formalized agreement that can reduce costs for our members,” said Tony Izzo, CEO, Matanuska Electric Association.

A filing requesting RCA approval of the final, long-term agreement is expected in 2018.

Other public power utilities pursue similar agreements

Other public power utilities have also pursued similar agreements.

For example, in an effort to save on costs, two Florida public power utilities last year announced plans to join forces and begin operating under a power pool-like dispatch agreement.

Gainesville Regional Utilities, a multi-service public power utility, formed the agreement with nearby JEA, Jacksonville’s community-owned electric utility.

Designed to run from May 2016 to December 2021, the arrangement could save GRU and JEA between $6.5 million and $10.8 million annually, according to the utilities.