Last month, Xcel Energy subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) filed a rate case at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (Docket: 14AL-0660E). A lot of the case — the part that’s gotten most of the press — is about PSCo recovering the costs of retiring and retrofitting coal plants as agreed to under the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act (CACJA) of 2010. However, there’s a piece of the case that could have much wider implications. Way down deep in the last piece of direct testimony, PSCo witness Scott B. Brockett:
…provides support and recommendations regarding the initiation of a decoupling mechanism for residential and small commercial customers.
This recommendation has captivated all of us here at CEA because it could open the door to Xcel adopting a radically different business model, and becoming much more of an energy services utility (PDF), fit for the 21st century.
To explain why, we’re going to have to delve a ways into the weeds of the energy wonkosphere.
Continue reading Utilities Decoupling to Cover Their… Assets
I recently wrote about how our risk tolerance/aversion powerfully affects our estimation of the social cost of carbon, but obviously that’s not the only place that risk shows up in our energy systems. Fossil fuel based electricity is also exposed to a much more prosaic kind of risk: the possibility that fuel prices will increase over time.
Building a new coal or gas plant is a wager that fuel will continue to be available at a reasonable price over the lifetime of the plant, a lifetime measured in decades. Unfortunately, nobody has a particularly good record with long term energy system predictions so this is a fairly risky bet, unless you can get somebody to sign a long term fuel contract with a known price. That doesn’t really get rid of the risk, it just shifts it onto your fuel supplier. They take on the risk that they won’t make as much money as they could have, if they’d been able to sell the fuel at (higher) market rates. If the consumer is worried about rising prices, and the producer is worried about falling prices, then sometimes this can be a mutually beneficial arrangement. This is called “hedging”.
Continue reading Facing the Risk in Fossil Fueled Electricity
Thanks to all those who came out to protect the environmental and economic benefits of demand side management!
We have won a strategic victory. The PUC staff have recommended a rejection of Xcel’s plan to slash the program:
Though the demand-side management (DSM) landscape in Colorado is changing, Public Service Company of Colorado’s (Public Service or the Company) DSM plans continue to be cost effective and DSM should continue to be aggressively pursued. –DSM Strategic Issues – Trial Staff’s Statement of Position
Thanks again to everyone who showed up, shared their voice and passion to this important cause.
Stand up Against Xcel’s Proposal to Cut the
Demand Side Management Program
Tuesday, May 6th, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Lincoln Park, Veterans Memorial
Xcel is proposing to drastically cut their funding for their Demand Side Management (DSM) program. This program has been highly effective at deploying cost effective energy efficiency and load-shifting techniques to reduce our demand for fossil fuels.
Join us to put pressure on the PUC to not allow Xcel to defund this critical program. Jonny 5 from the Flobots will be MC’ing and providing musical entertainment!
See here a full explanation of the DSM program and Xcel’s current proposal.
This rally is a collaboration between Clean Energy Action, The Sierra Club, Frack Free Colorado, and others.
On April 9, the Commissioners of the Colorado PUC held a three hour informational meeting with presentations from Xcel, the collective solar parties, the Colorado Energy Office, the Office of Consumer Council, and Western Resources Advocates. The outlines of the process will start to firm up in May, but the parties laid out some general ideas for process and substance in PowerPoint presentations before a packed house.
As a quick recap, remember that this matter spun off from the 2014 RES compliance docket at the motion of the Colorado Energy Office. Their argument was, essentially, that if the value of solar was going to be debated it should get its own hearing instead of being stuck in the compliance plan almost as a sideshow. The CEO argued that severing the issues would “increase transparency and allow stakeholders from across the state to participate in the dialog related to incremental costs, net metering incentives, and solar energy rates.” (CEO motion 21 Jan 2014) The commissioners deliberated on the motion at their weekly meeting on January 29 and granted that motion shortly thereafter with much hand wringing about the structure of the new proceeding.
In response to that hand wringing, the commissioners held this informational meeting with the parties directed to discuss their “recommendations on the substantive issues the Commission should address in this proceeding, objectives the Commission should meet, and the best procedures satisfying those objectives.” (Decision No. C14-0294 in proceeding 14M-0235E) Continue reading Colorado PUC takes the next bite at Net Metering
Not Too Late to Urge Colorado Senators to reject the appointment of Glenn Vaad for PUC Commissioner
While Vaad’s ties to ALEC are important, most legislators may care more about his record. We also now understand that the nominee expressed an agnostic position regarding climate change. This view was given at a meeting with partner organizations and is absolutely untenable. Vaad has a record of voting against clean energy policies. He voted:
- Against increasing the Renewable Energy Standard (HB1001) in 2010
- Against Energy Efficiency Requirements (HB 1107) in 2008
- Against Prohibiting Restrictions on Energy Efficiency (HB 1270) in 2008
- Against Oil and Gas Commission Reconfiguration (HB 1341) in 2008
The PUC regulates telecom and transportation as well as utilities and his other votes indicate he won’t effectively regulate industry for the public good. To check out Vaad’s full voting record see VoteSmart.org.
Contact Your State Senator
Continue reading Continued Action Item: Speak Out Against PUC Nominee Glenn Vaad