Interesting Energy Utility Headlines for March/ April

Here are some key Minnesota Energy Utility headlines from the 3-12 to 4-9 time period. Articles about the PUC's Geronimo Solar approval will have their own separate blogpost:

March 12, 2014 -Minnesota becomes first state to set ‘value of solar’ tariff  Posted by Dan Haugen Midwest Energy News 

April 1, 2014, NRC troubled by 'degraded' performance at Monticello nuclear plant by DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune

April 3, 2014 - Xcel Energy gets clear message from NRC about Monticello plant performance  By Tim Hennagir Monticello Times

 April 6, 2014 -  Xcel conservation programs shave 1.7 percent off power sales by STEVE FISCHER , Star Tribune 

April 9, 2014 - Higher CenterPoint gas charge wins key approval from judge by DAVID SHAFFER, Star Tribune 

04/09/2014 If ‘value of solar’ is optional, will Minnesota utilities adopt it? Posted by Ken Paulman Midwest Energy News 

 

See below for a brief summaries of the featured articles. 

 

 

 03/12/2014  Minnesota becomes first state to set ‘value of solar’ tariff Midwest Energy News Posted by Dan Haugen

 

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the nation’s first statewide formula for calculating the value of customer-generated solar power involving a more holistic cost-benefit analysis that quantifies the environmental and social benefits solar energy. It provides investor owned utilities an alternative method to net metering as a way to credit customers for unused electricity they generate from solar panels. This article features a debate on which method is more beneficial.

 

04/09/2014 If ‘value of solar’ is optional, will Minnesota utilities adopt it?  Posted by Ken Paulman Midwest Energy News

 

On the same subject, the article tries to answer the question on whether the “value of solar” a program that Xcel energy will only adopt when forced to do when a state PUC requires it.

April 3, 2014 - Xcel Energy gets clear message from NRC about Monticello plant performance  By Tim Hennagir Monticello Times

 

April 1, 2014, NRC troubled by 'degraded' performance at Monticello nuclear plant by DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune

 

 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is known to be an industry friendly regulatory agency, is questioning why U.S. inspectors last year cited Xcel Energy for inadequate catastrophic flood planning. Given the scenarios of what could possibly go wrong, Protecting the Monticello Nuclear plant from a flooding event is a top concern for the Twin Cities. It is basically the same story with Prairie Island where casks of nuclear waste are stored in the Mississippi River Flood Plain.

 

April 6, 2014 -  Xcel conservation programs shave 1.7 percent off power sales by STEVE FISCHER , Star Tribune 

 

Thanks to conservation mandates from the State of Minnesota to reduce electric sales by 1.5% annually Xcel Energy has invested $95 million on natural gas and electric conservation programs in 2013 to get electric sales decreased by 1.7% in the state. Xcel gets a profitable return on its conservation efforts which have canceled out the need to build many new generation facilities.

Xcel is starting to send out reports with monthly bills that are intended to influence the ­behavior of their ratepayers through a program called Opower. These reports quantify a comparison between one's energy use and that of similar neighbors in hopes that the comparisons will draw attention to home energy saving tips and programs. What helped Xcel meet the goal (along with refrigerator recycling and rebates for high-efficiency furnaces) is a program they have to subsidize compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs at retailers yet a lot of their customers have remained unaware of it. 

 

April 9, 2014 - Higher CenterPoint gas charge wins key approval from judge by DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune

 Administrative judge LauraSue Schlatter recommended that CenterPoint Energy’s basic monthly charge would go from $8 to $12. The basic monthly charge is a regressive fee that applies to all residential customers regardless of how much gas they use particularly because it would be offset by a corresponding drop in the metered charge thus benefiting those who burn the most gas. Overall, customers as a whole should be rewarded not punished for taking measures to conserve, like getting more efficient furnaces and enhancing insulation. However the public utilities commission will have the final say on the new changes later this year. As people take measures to conserve on gas use, these regressive fees are a way to secure guaranteed returns that energy monopolies are in a position to demand. 

Buried within the article was how Centerpoint investors requested a 10.3% annual return on equity in regard to a rate increase request for natural gas delivery. Under a municipal utility we would not need to pay for this 10.3% in our bills that goes to profits toward individual shareholders. The money could be reinvested into the cities general fund which would offset property taxes and provide a revenue base for city services and improved infrastructure. 

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