Thursday, June 28, 2007

Spanish Gas

According to this article in the New Haven Register, a Spanish company is all set to scoop up the parent company of two major Connecticut Natural Gas Utilities -- Energy East (owner of SCG and CNG). This will put them at the helm of over 3 million customers across New England and New York, including roughly 300,000 in CT. They say they will focus on improving infrastructure. The deal awaits approval from FERC, state agencies and shareholders.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ansonia looks to create micro-grid

As a result of CT's new energy legislation, Ansonia is now planning to build its own li'l electric grid to sell municipal power to industrial customers. They figure that the "inter-city micro-grid" will pay itself back within 1.5 years and they will be able to supply more reliable power at a lower cost than existing suppliers. They anticipate building up to 1,000 KW of capacity, which is not a tremendous amount but a significant start. To give a rough idea of scale, this might generate enough power for 4 or 5 large supermarkets (demand fluctuates widely for industrial and commercial uses depending on the specific function).

Friday, June 15, 2007

GE Solar Installation

CCEF has awarded a $722,000 grant to General Electric (#7 on the Fortune 500 list) so that they can install their own solar panels on their corporate headquarters in Fairfield. The 168KW system is to be a demonstration unit to encourage other companies to follow the same path.
Asked why a large, profitable corporation like GE would need financial help from the state, O'Toole said one reason "is to show you have to invest in new technologies. Companies cannot do it alone."
Yes, that's $722,000 of public funding for GE to show the world that their solar panels are not economically viable. I'm not really feeling this one.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

CT #1 in Efficiency!!

At least according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy we are. This organization has ranked CT #1 in its State Efficiency Scorecard. Well, actually we're tied for first place with VT and California, but we can still say we're #1! The ranking does not necessarily mean that we are the most energy efficient state, just that they feel we have the best policies. Here are the criteria they used:
1. Spending on Utility and Public Benefits Energy Efficiency Programs
2. Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS)
3. Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
4. Building Energy Codes
5. Transportation Policies
6. Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards
7. Tax Incentives
8. State Lead by Example and Research & Development
I wonder if we will break the ties once the new energy bill is enacted.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Energy Bill Signed

WTNH is reporting that the Energy & Efficiency Bill has been signed into law...well, most of it. Rell vetoed two sections of the bill which she said put us over our spending cap. Interesting, because it's not really clear that she has the power to use a line item veto.

The sections she struck out are unfortunate. One was supposed to replenish the Conservation & Load Management Fund and Clean Energy Fund, which had been raided to pay for other costs (like electric bills for state buildings, etc). The Conservation fund is especially important because it supports efficiency improvements that might not be otherwise affordable in the short term and often pay back within a few years. Maybe even more importantly, the C&LM fund helped reduce peak loading significantly (almost 100 MW in 2002 alone). As we know, providing power in peak summer hours is particularly scary this year as transmission congestion may very well lead to blackouts. We all pitched in to these funds but then the money was diverted for other purposes. It seems right that they should be replenished.

Monday, June 4, 2007

More meat in the Energy & Efficiency Bill

I've been browsing over a summary of the pending energy bill and I would say there is quite a bit more meat in there than I had realized. In my last post I had said that we would be better served by an electric industry that did not increase profits with increased electricity usage. That's exactly what the legislature has proposed:

The bill requires DPUC, in rate cases that begin after the bill's passage, to order electric and gas companies to decouple their distribution revenues from the volume of sales. It can do this by a sales adjustment clause, rate changes that increase the amount of revenues recovered through fixed distribution charges, a mechanism that adjusts actual distribution revenues to reflect allowed revenues, or a combination of these measures. In making its choice, DPUC must consider the impact of such “decoupling” and the rate of return the company earns on its equity and make necessary adjustments.

I must say I am definitely feeling a bit better about this energy bill. Some other measures worth noting:
Rebates for energy efficient heating equip. installations
Mandatory property tax exemptions for renewable installations
New buildings over $5 million must meet LEED silver standard
Restoring previously-raided funds to Conservation & Clean Energy funds
Real-time pricing options for all customers

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Back In Business

Looks like UI and CL&P are going to be back in the business of generating electricity. Nobody seems very confident that this will help reduce electricity rates. So why are they passing the bill? I think Mr. Looney sums up the reasoning quite nicely:
"It's a difficult process because of its complexity," said Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven. He said the multitude of provisions in the 165-page bill were "discussed in sometimes agonizing detail."
In other words its a long bill that they don't understand and don't really enjoy hearing explained.

Actually, the way the bill is set up it may provide some relief over the next few years. The utilities will be allowed to build and operate their own peaking plants. They will operate (in theory) only during times of highest demand, when open market electricity prices shoot through the roof.

The bill does have some other provisions, such as varying rates based on the time of day power is used and offering tax breaks for energy-efficient appliances. I believe it also includes new efficiency standards for appliances, though I haven't seen the details yet. This is a much-needed change, but I think it is more suited for federal control, as we will likely only limit the number of available models (manufacturers will not make CT-only washing machines).

I think a real overhaul would somehow restructure the whole industry such that energy companies' profits do not depend so much on KWh sold. Right now everyone is just trying to sell more and more product and this really works against conservation. Any conservation initiatives are mandated by the gov't and paid by me and you through extra charges (per KWh) on our electric bills.
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