Tag Archives: Public utilities

California Public Utilities Commission approves nearly 100% increase in exit fees for CCA customers

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
[IMPORTANT INFORMATION: CLICK HERE – The “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment” (PCIA) and its impacts on customers who are served by alternative green energy companies (CCAs).  Unfortunately, the approved increase is not for a one-time fee, but rather a monthly fee that is tied to the usage on each electric account. It is charged on a kWh basis for all customers using CCA service.
Other proposed ongoing and monthly PGE penalties for solar customers were “proposed for rejection” by the Public Utilities Commission.  Stay tuned for their vote on January 28!  See also the Chronicle’s editorial on this, State regulators help advance rooftop solar.  – RS]

Customers of clean energy programs hit with fee increase

By Lizzie Johnson, December 17, 2015 7:53pm
PG&E and other big utilities also proposed cutting the amount of compensation that solar homeowners receive for excess electricity that they export to the grid. Photo: Lacy Atkins, SFC
PG&E and other big utilities also proposed cutting the amount of compensation that solar homeowners receive for excess electricity that they export to the grid. Photo: Lacy Atkins, SFC

The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to allow a nearly 100 percent price increase on exit fees for customers leaving Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for green energy programs like CleanPowerSF and Marin Clean Energy, which will make those and similar programs more expensive.

Many of the programs — where local governments buy green electricity for their residents, while private utilities own and operate the electrical grid — will be undermined financially by the uptick in the charge, called the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, their officials say.

“We are not surprised that the increase was approved,” said Marin Clean Energy spokeswoman Alexandra McCroskey. “We are disappointed. Our primary frustrations come from the fact that we are becoming almost liable for the market fluctuations for both ourselves and PG&E. If PG&E isn’t planning appropriately for people leaving for community choice aggregation programs, the PCIA will continue to increase. It’s poor planning.”

Under the increase, which is effective Jan. 1, customers making the switch to local green energy programs will face a heftier exit fee. Marin Clean Energy customers are projected to pay more than $36 million, up from $19.3 million in 2015. The cost for each residential customer would nearly double from about $6.70 each month to $13.

In San Francisco, the proposed exit fee for residents moving to CleanPowerSF would jump by 100.26 percent. Because the city energy program is designed to absorb costs for its customers, it would decrease the program’s revenue by $8.4 million.

Win for consumers

This month, PG&E and other big utilities also proposed cutting the amount of compensation that solar homeowners receive for excess electricity that they export to the grid, in addition to adding new monthly fees targeting solar homeowners. The CPUC released a proposed decision on the matter this week rejecting the fees. A vote is scheduled for January.

“Overall, we didn’t convince three commissioners to rule our way on the PCIA,” said Barbara Hale, assistant general manager for power at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “The fee is going to double, and that’s tough for us. But we are marching forward with our CleanPowerSF program, which will launch this spring. We are still moving forward.”

Hundreds of protesters came from as far as San Diego to oppose the fee increase at Thursday’s meeting in San Francisco. They carried homemade signs reading “Stand Up to Natural Gas!” and “CPUC: Consumers Pay Again?!” Public comment on the change stretched for more than two hours.

“We’ve achieved a great deal, but there is this overhang of costs that were necessary to kick-start the industry,” said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio. “The reason the PCIA is so high is because of high-cost renewable contracts that PG&E was required by law to enter into, and that this commission approved. I don’t think it’s fair to let one group of customers escape from paying those historic costs and simply load those on the remaining customers. That’s what the PCIA is all about.”

Charge required by law

PG&E originally filed an application to raise the fee by 70 percent in June, but submitted another request last month to as much as double it. The fee helps the power company pay for energy it contracted for when it had more customers, preventing remaining patrons from bearing the brunt of the costs. The charge is required by law and determined by a formula implemented by the CPUC in 2011.

The fee is influenced by several market factors, including the price of energy, which fluctuates from year to year, said David Rubin, PG&E’s director of service analysis. The cost of power is now cheaper, meaning the difference between what PG&E paid for in its contracts and the price today is higher.

“The PCIA is going up because it is based very specifically on the difference between the cost of supplies in our portfolio which are based on contracts we signed several years ago when renewable prices were higher,” Rubin said. “If dynamics were different, the PCIA would go down.”

Process has critics

PG&E performs the calculation annually and submits the annual filing to the commission for approval. But to calculate the fee increase, some of the inputs must include confidential contract information. Critics say the numbers going into this ‘black box’ prevent outsiders from replicating the formula, and that the increase is another attempt by PG&E to undermine fledgling green energy programs, like Peninsula Clean Energy, which will provide electricity in San Mateo County beginning in August.

“The fee is almost completely redacted,” said Francesca Vietor, president of the San Francisco PUC. “It is extremely difficult for us to know what an affordable rate for our program is when we don’t have a transparent process.”

The CPUC also ordered in its decision that a workshop be held on Feb. 16 to address the methodologies and inputs used for calculating the PCIA charge.

“One day you’re a hero, the next day you’re a goat,” CPUC President Michael Picker said. “We are in the nature of balancing decisions. But we will continue to scrutinize the PCIA formula and balance different interests equally.”

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    Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

    Repost from The Hill

    Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

    By Timothy Cama – 12/19/15 08:35 AM EST 
    Getty Images

    President Obama has vetoed a pair of measures by congressional Republicans that would have overturned the main pillars of his landmark climate change rules for power plants.

    The decision was widely expected, and Obama and his staff had repeatedly threatened the action as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.

    The White House announced early Saturday morning, as Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he is formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a “pocket veto” under the law. “Climate change poses a profound threat to our future and future generations,” the president said in a statement about Republicans’ attempt to kill the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.

    “The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama wrote, adding that “because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our nation, I cannot support it.”

    That rule from the Environmental Protection Agency mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon output by 2030.

    He had a similar argument in support of his regulation setting carbon limits for newly-built fossil fuel power plants, saying the legislation against it “would delay our transition to cleaner electricity generating technologies by enabling continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting infrastructure.”

    Congress passed the resolutions in November and December under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch.

    Obama had made clear his intent to veto the measures early on, so the passage by both GOP-led chambers of Congress was only symbolic.

    The votes came before and during the United Nations’ major climate change conference in Paris, as an attempt to undermine Obama’s negotiating position toward an international climate pact.

    Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change doubter, said it’s important to send a message about congressional disapproval, even with Obama’s veto.

    “While I fully expect these CRA resolutions to be vetoed, without the backing of the American people and the Congress, there will be no possibility of legislative resurrection once the courts render the final judgments on the president’s carbon mandates,” he said on the Senate floor shortly before the Senate’s action on the resolutions.

    Twenty-seven states and various energy and business interests are suing the Obama administration to stop the existing plant rule, saying it violates the Clean Air Act and states’ constitutional rights.

    They are seeking an immediate halt to the rule while it is litigated, something the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could decide on later this month.

    All Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election want to overturn the rules.

    In addition to the veto, Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them.

    Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation, including five this year, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress.

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      PGE proposes to double fees for clean energy customers

      Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
      [Editor:  The proposed increase is to be voted on at a Thursday, 12/17/15 meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission.  See agenda, p. 17 (Item #16, Adopting Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s 2016 Electric Procurement Cost Revenue Requirement Forecast.  The item in question is “$118.7 million for the Power Charge Indifference Amount.”  More background  and an ACTION letter opportunity at ActionNetwork.  More at Marin Independent Journal.  – RS]

      High cost of breaking away

      EDITORIAL – On Alternatives to PGE

      The Pacific Gas and Electric Co., California’s largest utility and a longtime regulated monopoly, insists that its application to nearly double a fee for customers defecting to local clean power plans is simply a matter of market forces.

      PG&E’s many critics think otherwise.

      “There’s an urgency for PG&E to stifle competition,” said state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “They’re protecting a monopoly.”

      The suspicions are understandable. PG&E has the legal right to charge the fee, known as a Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.

      It has to do with PG&E’s obligation to provide power to everyone in its service area as the utility of last resort. Should any customer’s alternate energy provider go out of business, PG&E still has to be able to provide for those customers — hence a fee.

      “We have to undertake long-term forecasts about serving those customers in the event of their other service provider going out of business,” said PG&E spokesperson Nicole Liebelt. “It’s about ensuring that those customers won’t be left stranded.”

      Liebelt said that PG&E’s longterm contract costs for serving customers are higher than current market costs, and that’s why the fee had to rise.

      “The formula for calculating the fee hasn’t changed,” Liebelt said. “It’s the inputs that change every year.”

      But the fee has never been as high as it is this year — the cost for each residential customer would nearly double, from $6.70 to $13 per month. In San Francisco, the proposed fee for residents looking to move to CleanPower SF would skyrocket by 100.26 percent.

      Meanwhile, there’s never been a greater danger of Bay Area customers stranding PG&E.

      CleanPowerSF, San Francisco’s city-run green energy program, launches in the spring. Peninsula Clean Energy, a community choice renewable energy program for San Mateo County, is scheduled to launch in August 2016.

      And Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power aren’t going anywhere.

      But the administrators of these programs have all cried foul, saying that the big fee hikes threaten their business models.

      We urge the California Public Utilities Commission to consider these arguments very carefully before they vote on a rate increase as early as next week.

      Leno has urged the CPUC to do a public review of its methodology for how the fee should be calculated before voting on any increase above 15 percent.

      Considering the fact that the CPUC has historically been incredibly deferential to PG&E’s concerns, Leno’s idea is worth considering. Electricity customers deserve choices, and local clean energy programs deserve the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

       

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        As World Leaders Craft Climate-Change Plan, ALEC Plots Its Downfall

        Repost from Public News Service – AZ
        [Editor:  This is an important – and alarming – report.  Thanks to Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, and to Public News Service for covering this story.  – RS]

        As World Leaders Craft Climate-Change Plan, ALEC Plots Its Downfall

        By Mark Richardson | December 8, 2015
        ALEC is funded in part by a number of large energy corporations that oppose pollution limits for the nation's power plants. (morguefile.com/Click)
        ALEC is funded in part by a number of large energy corporations that oppose pollution limits for the nation’s power plants. (morguefile.com)

        SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – At the same time world leaders gathered in Paris to find a solution for global climate change, another group has been meeting in Arizona to formulate a plan to scuttle their efforts.

        Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council met behind closed doors for three days in Scottsdale, in part to develop a game plan to undermine any agreements to limit carbon pollution. According to Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC’s members, which include global oil and gas companies and giant utility firms, are planning a full-court press at state legislatures in 2016.

        “They actually have model bills rolling back renewable energy. They have model bills rolling back wages, by pre-empting prevailing wages for construction workers, or living wages for other folks,” she said. “So, it’s a very interesting, very ‘retrograde’ agenda.”

        Bottari, whose group tracks ALEC and its activities, said ALEC normally pushes its agenda by promoting model legislation to states. However, she said, the group now has moved beyond that to a direct campaign against President Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which calls for a 32 percent cut in carbon emissions across the United States by 2030.

        ALEC has organized the attorneys general in 24 states to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in the name of states’ rights. Bottari said they want to block the administration from implementing any plan to limit the types of pollution that most scientists say are man-made contributors to climate change. She said ALEC has some heavyweight players in its corner.

        “Giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, and also energy traders like Koch Industries and those kinds of folks,” she said. “These people do not want to see a global climate agreement; they want to continue burning fossil fuels ’til the end of time.”

        Even if ALEC can’t stop plans to halt climate change, Bottari said, it hopes to cast doubt on the validity of the science behind them, or delay action on any treaties until after the presidential election.

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