In a long-awaited hearing which began last week, Ohio’s largest utility is seeking approval for a rate hike of $3 billion. FirstEnegy is asking the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) to force customers to pay for its old, dirty, uneconomic coal plants and a nearly-expired nuclear plant.
Although there are many reasons to oppose the bailout proposal, one key objection is that FirstEnergy’s sister company – FirstEnergy Solutions – owns these power plants. Rather than undertaking a competitive bid to find the best deal and most affordable prices available, FirstEnergy agreed to buy the power from FirstEnergy Solutions. Imagine if the owner of your company forced you and every employee to buy expensive health insurance from their cousin, even though you could easily get a better price if you shopped around.
If this sounds bad, it gets worse – this isn’t the first time FirstEnergy has tried this tactic. The utility did the same thing in 2013, and the PUCO slammed FirstEnergy for doing so. This is just a case of déjà vu all over again, and FirstEnergy should expect the same result. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio
To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, we still do not have a price on carbon, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the world and the biggest contributor to climate change. Despite knowing that a carbon price creates broad incentives to cut emissions, the current average price of carbon globally (which is below zero, once half a trillion dollars of fossil-fuel subsidies are factored in) is much too low relative to the hidden environmental, health, and societal costs of burning a ton of coal or a barrel of oil.
Policies that comprehensively reform the energy sector—a sector designed around fossil fuels—are necessary even as the price of renewable energy declines. The cost of solar photovoltaics, for example, has declined 80 percent since 2008. Prices will continue to fall, but not fast enough to make a dent in the climate problem.
Policymakers are more likely to price carbon appropriately if renewables are competitive with (or cheaper than) fossil fuels. But reducing the cost of renewable energy requires substantial investment, and thus a carbon price. The best hope of resolution is through controlled policy experiments designed to drive down the cost of renewable power sources even further and faster than in the past five years. Read More
How does a utility company structure charges for the electricity it sells? That depends on where you live, and across the country, utilities are filing for rate increases with state agencies and commissions. The utility’s charges may be some combination of a fixed monthly fee, a fee based on the volume of electricity used, and a fee connected to the customer’s peak energy use.
Westar Energy in Kansas is one example of a utility company filing for rate increases. The company recently asked the Kansas Corporation Commission for permission to increase the fixed monthly charge for residential customers. That’s not unusual in itself, but the amount of the fixed charge increase was shocking.
Westar also proposed a special rate structure squarely aimed at residential customers with solar panels, essentially penalizing them for using clean energy and discouraging more people from installing solar panels.
Environmental Defense Fund disagreed with Westar’s approach, and we filed expert testimony with Kansas regulators explaining why. Westar finally reached a settlement with the other stakeholders – and our recommendations were instrumental in eliminating the utility’s proposal to impose discriminatory rates on solar customers. Last week the Commission issued the order to approve the settlement. Read More
Anybody managing a household budget knows it pays to plan ahead. With advanced thinking we can buy favorite items with coupons, when they’re on sale, in bulk, or at the cheapest store in the area. Similarly, we know that buying under duress, or in the touristy spot, will likely mean higher prices. Using the same smart shopper skills, new changes to the way utilities charge for electricity are going to give Californians another way to save money on energy bills.
In the current system, most California households’ electricity prices don’t change throughout the day. There is no option for lower prices when system demands are lower and electricity is cheap in wholesale markets. But that’s about to change, thanks to a recent 5-0 decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Starting January 1, 2019, after a period of study, public outreach, and education, California’s large investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison) will switch households to time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. Read More
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a grid operator, states, and other parties just filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could decide whether Americans have access to low-cost, clean and reliable electricity.
The case, EPSA v. FERC, revolves around demand response, a resource that helps keep prices low and the lights on – and does so while also being environmentally friendly.
In 2013, for example, demand response saved customers in the mid-Atlantic region close to $12 billion. And during the polar vortex, which threatened the North-East with freezing cold in 2014, the same resource helped prevent black-outs.
The clean energy rule at issue in this case is called FERC Order 745. EDF has been writing about this demand response case throughout the past year. We’ve been fighting for low-cost demand response and we’ll keep fighting in the Supreme Court. Read More
By: Nancy E. Pfund, Managing Partner of DBL Investors, and Anand Chhabra, former Summer Associate at DBL Investors and current JD/MBA Candidate at Stanford University
Does more renewable energy mean more expensive electricity? In the nation’s debate on energy, few questions are more important to American families and businesses.
Many critics of renewables allege skyrocketing electricity prices and economic crisis, owing to growing reliance on renewables. This commentary has emphasized “exploding electricity prices,” an “attack on any state’s economy,” and “gouging job creators and American families with higher electricity bills.”
In our report, Renewables Are Driving Up Electricity Prices – Wait What?, we address this concern directly by assessing average retail electricity prices in the U.S., with a particular focus on whether states rely a lot or a little on renewables. What we discovered is that many of the fears espoused by critics of renewable energy are overblown. Read More