Millstone over water 771x504By: Mark Pazniokas | ctmirror.com

HARTFORD: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill Tuesday that allows the state to enhance the profitability of Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford, while pointedly asserting that Dominion has not convinced his administration any such help is warranted.

The new law permits, but does not require, state energy officials to change the rules for how Dominion Energy sells electricity from Millstone, whose profits fell as energy prices were depressed by competition from electricity generated by relatively cheap and plentiful natural gas.

Malloy said in a statement announcing the bill-signing that the preliminary results of an assessment of Millstone’s economic viability, which he says was hampered by Dominion’s refusal to full share its financials, is that the plant “is expected to be highly profitable through 2035.”

“As such, there is unlikely to be a basis upon which to conclude at this time that Dominion requires electric ratepayers to provide financial support outside the regional market in order for Millstone to continue operating profitably,” Malloy said, quoting a letter from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

Malloy was asked a press conference if the letter was a message to Dominion to reconsider and share the financial data sought by DEEP and PURA.

“Yeah, I think that’s exactly the message,” Malloy said.

Dominion issued a statement praising the bill signing and ignoring the assertion no relief was necessary. The statement suggests that Dominion believes it still can make the case for new energy procurement rules for Millstone.

“On behalf of the 1,500 women and men who work at Millstone, I want to thank Gov. Malloy for signing this important legislation,” said Thomas F. Farrell, the company’s president and chief executive. “We are committed to working with his administration and with state energy regulators as the process laid out in the bill and the governor’s executive order continues.”

Millstone could sell up to three-quarters of its output in competition with other zero-carbon sources of electricity under the bill, a more favorable market because solar, wind and hydro power generally command higher prices.

The plant, whose electricity is sold throughout New England, generates the equivalent of 50 percent of Connecticut’s electric needs and nearly all of it is zero-carbon power, making it vital to the state’s meeting its goals for reducing greenhouse gases.

“I thank Gov. Malloy for recognizing the importance of Millstone to not only the southeast Connecticut region, but also to our entire state,” said Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, whose district includes Waterford. “This legislation is the result of bipartisan efforts including all stakeholders to protect a vital baseload energy source, build a bridge to a renewable future, and preserve thousands of jobs.”

Undisputed is that the nuclear industry is under distress, prompting the premature retirement of nuclear plants across the U.S., a loss of what environmentalists and others view as a bridge to an era when renewable energy can produce a larger share of electricity.

But industry analysts have concluded from publicly available documents that Millstone remains profitable. Promising confidentiality, the state has requested financial documents that Dominion says are proprietary.

The company has refused, saying they might be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. As a compromise, Dominion has proposed a briefing on the material, without providing copies.

AARP, one of the grass-roots groups that fought passage of the bill, expressed disappointment Malloy signed the measure, but was encouraged by his skepticism of Millstone’s need for financial relief.

“We do agree with the governor, DEEP and PURA that Millstone is expected to be highly profitable through 2035 based on publicly available data,” AARP said. “Therefore these processes must conclude that Dominion does not require electric ratepayers to provide financial support that could cost in excess of $300 million annually. AARP will work to ensure, absent disclosure by Millstone, that Connecticut ratepayers not be subjected to any special deal for the plant.”

Hartford Line commuter rail logoDOT Proposes Rates For Springfield to New Haven Rail

HARTFORD: The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing the proposed fares for the upcoming CTrail Hartford Line rail service and a 35-day comment period.

CTrail and Amtrak trains will together offer 17 roundtrips along this corridor, the DOT Fare proposal does not effect Amtrak service operating on this rail line.

CTrail One way rates will be $12.75 from Springfield to New Haven, $8 between Hartford to New Haven. Amtrak least expensive rate for existing service currently runs  at $16 between Hartford and New Haven and $24,00 Springfield and New Haven.

The DOT will have a 35 day comment period on the rates beginning on October23CT’s fares  , which must meet Federal Transit Administration guidelines  that mandate fares be evaluated for “equity and do not pose a disproportionate burden on low-income populations or a disparate impact on minority populations in the public transit service area.”

greenbankGreen Bank says the budget plan would effectively shut it down

 

Bryan Garcia, president of the Green Bank

A provision in the latest state budget compromise to take $27.5 million in ratepayer funds from the Connecticut Green Bank would “effectively shut down” the bank, its president, Bryan Garcia, said in an interview Monday.

The $27.5 million is essentially 100 percent of the bank’s funding – most of which comes from a longstanding fee on electric bills. A small portion of its funding comes from proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The bank uses that money to leverage additional funding – an 8-to-1 leverage at the moment – that means for every dollar of public ratepayer money the Green Bank brings in $8 of private capital. But that process cannot happen without the basic funding.

deathstarDEEP taking heat on its proposed changes to solar policy

 

Publishers Note:

Our publishing partner ctmiror.com and reporter Jan Ellen Spiegel are demonstrating the value of independent media in this very important article on the future of alternate energy in Connecticut and beyond.  Our chosen headline underscores how the utility industry nationwide is addressing the disruptive changes of new technology. Certainly there are serious issues about subsidy of solar and other alternate energies in Connecticut and this space is not a supporter of government subsisdy, even for alternate energy. Within a few years however homeowners and businessess will have reliable options for their energy use without reliance on the legacy systems. The question for business today, is will we be forcred to continue to pay for those legacy systems, it appears that the answer from Connecticut government is yes.

 
INDEPENDENCE SOLAR

Workers installing solar panels at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford.

When James Schwartz took a look at the solar energy provisions in the new Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES) draft released in July by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, he was pretty sure what it would mean for his 10-employee company, Independence Solar.

“We’d be out of business,” said Schwartz, who relocated Independence from Boston to Essex, Conn., because of the groundbreaking commercial solar program launched here in 2011. “There’s no business to be had based on the levels in there.”

With No plan for replacing Millstone, what are CT’s options?

By:   ctmirror.com

 
Millstone from The Day 771x494THE
 
DAY, Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford.

For the third time in less than a year-and-a-half, the Connecticut legislature has come close, but still hasn’t okayed a plan to boost the finances of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station.

Millstone’s owner Dominion is arguing it needs help because cheap power produced from natural gas is forcing it to consider shutting Millstone down.

But even if legislation does finally pass, it won’t change some basic realities: One day Millstone will close, and Connecticut doesn’t have a plan for that.

With Millstone will go some 2,100 megawatts of carbon emissions-free electricity. The plant is the largest single power source in the New England grid and accounts for nearly one-third of the power in Connecticut. It is critical to getting the state anywhere near meeting its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Many say the state should have been working on an after-Millstone plan at least since the issue of its closing first came up in early 2016 – but really long before that – a dozen years ago when the licenses for its Units 2 and 3 were extended to 2035 and 2045, respectively. (Unit 1 closed in 1995.)

The question of how to replace Millstone elicits all kinds of ideas. But parameters matter: Are we talking short-term, long-term, cleanly, at what cost to ratepayers? But in a world of changing energy and energy delivery technology, there’s also the idea that all of Millstone’s power doesn’t need to be replaced and that whatever you do, you need to modernize the electric grid too.

“The first thing you do is free yourself from the idea that you do actually have to replace it,” said Karl Rabago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at Pace Law School in New York, who has an extensive background as an energy executive and regulator. He also has advised Connecticut legislators and activists on a host of clean-energy matters.

“It’s not a zero-sum game. There are a lot of other resources that can displace the capacity,” Rabago said.

Raw numbers provided by Synapse Energy Economics of Cambridge, Mass., show the loss of Millstone wouldn’t plunge the region off a power cliff. Natural gas units scheduled to come online in the region by 2020 would offset currently scheduled plant retirements. Those are mostly coal plants, though one of the closures is the 670-megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Massachusetts in May 2019.

This expected new capacity does not include plants now in the early planning stage or any of the renewable energy sources under construction or somewhere in the pipeline. Massachusetts alone is requiring the building of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind and 1,600 megawatts of rooftop solar. Together that’s half-again Millstone’s capacity, even without other grid-scale clean power projects as well as additional rooftop solar.

According to a filing by the Independent System Operator that runs the New England grid (ISO-NE), an overview of power resources with and without Millstone showed that its loss right now would cut into the 16 percent reserve power ISO-NE maintains on the grid.

ISO-NE generally has 34,000 to 36,000 megawatts available. The highest demand ever on the grid was 28,130 megawatts on Aug. 2, 2006. Barring something cataclysmic, lights, air conditioners and everything else would have turned on even without Millstone.

Since then energy efficiency and rooftop solar systems have kept demand on the grid flat to declining, according to ISO-NE’s data. And ISO’s forecasts show those savings getting larger. Energy efficiency, which ISO says saves more than 1,800 megawatts now, is predicted to account for nearly 4,500 megawatts in 2026. In that same time period, it predicts solar will grow from around 1,900 megawatts to more than 5,600, and wind will go from 1,100 to more than 8,400.


Growth achieved so far and projected through 2026 in new energy sources and efficiencies.

It’s those ideas of efficiency and clean energy that Rabago is talking about. He and others believe Millstone can be replaced with an all-of-the-above approach that includes reducing power needs through more advanced energy management systems, microgrids that can take pressure off the main grid, as well as a suite of renewable energy options including solar, offshore wind, hydropower, fuel cells and the holy grail – energy storage.

“There’s no silver bullets, he said. “There’s only silver buckshot.”

That’s less of a radical concept than it might appear. Connecticut officials and energy experts need only look – and ARE looking – across the border to New York’s Renewing the Energy Vision – REV. It fosters new concepts in power generation, distribution and efficiency as the state faces shutdown of its Indian Point nuclear power plant, adopts a ban on natural gas fracking, and sets tough clean energy and greenhouse gas emission targets.

Rabago and others point to the 10-year shutdown processes underway at Indian Point and Diablo Canyon in California – both to be replaced with renewable energy.

“Instead of this sort of dance around ‘well maybe we’ll bail you out and maybe we won’t,’ it might be time to start the negotiations and say ‘dammit, shutdown is coming; now all we have to do is set the date,’” he said. “The planning objective is – it closes on Dec. 31, 202X, or whatever it is, and nobody notices. It closes and Connecticut breathes and New England breathes a collective yawn.”

But getting to that yawn, especially with replacement power that doesn’t add greenhouse gas emissions, hasn’t been the case with rapid nuclear shutdowns. Timing makes a big difference.

The emissions impact

A survey by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) showed that all six nuclear plants that have retired since late 2012, including San Onofre in California and Vermont Yankee, were replaced with fossil fuel generation – mainly natural gas, one with coal. In all cases greenhouse gas emissions rose.

The most recent greenhouse gas inventory in California showed in-state emissions still nine million metric tons higher than they were back in 2011 when San Onofre was running. In New England emissions went up by 2.5 percent in 2015 after Vermont Yankee closed the previous year.

“It’s not simple to replace them,” said Doug Vine, senior energy fellow at C2ES, who generally follows the nuclear industry. “It’s not simple to replace them quickly anyway. And all you’ve achieved is getting back to zero, so it’s like you’re running to stand still.”

That, along with the prospect that the knee-jerk replacement strategy for Millstone would be natural gas – particularly if it were to shut down soon – has the regional environmental community uniformly concerned, especially in the face of emissions in Connecticut that began rising again in 2013.

“The essential thing we’ve been saying throughout is you have to have a plan,” said Peter Shattuck, director of clean energy initiatives at the regional advocacy group, Acadia Center. “If there’s no plan to replace it – yes, it’s going to be replaced by gas right away.”

The environmental community and others also worry that if natural gas plants or pipelines become the short-term solution, the cost of such investments would keep them entrenched for decades, thwarting more robust development of grid-scale renewables, such as offshore wind and solar, as well as so-called distributed generation, the most common form of which is rooftop solar on individual homes and businesses.

Hydropower imported from Canada also is seen as a clean, quick-ish fix. “The large shiny object,” is what Vine called it. “It’s relatively close. The Canadians would love to sell more to the U.S.,” he said.

Environmental groups are split on hydro. There are tricky transmission issues – like getting lines built through northern New England’s undeveloped forests.

Connecticut v. New England

In a July executive order, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy authorized a rapid-response resource assessment to help figure out whether the state should come to Millstone’s financial defense. The assessment isn’t designed to be a replacement plan for Millstone, but it will make some evaluations of the kinds of things that might ultimately replace Millstone.

It also could begin to shed light on the costs to consumers of the various timing scenarios for closing Millstone, as well as the costs to prop it up. Those numbers are mysteries right now, especially with Dominion refusing to open Millstone’s books.

Because of the way the different regions within the New England grid receive power, the areas outside of Connecticut are likely to feel a greater pinch in power availability from the loss of Millstone than Connecticut would. (ISO-NE provided documentation, but refused repeated requests for an interview.)


A shared solar field in Rehoboth, Mass. Investment in the concept is heavy in that state.

And that speaks to a major dispute over the potential closing of Millstone – whether it’s a regional or a Connecticut issue.

Ask just about anyone in Connecticut wrestling with the Millstone problem, and the answer is regional.

“Connecticut is part of an integrated New England grid, so the question of what a replacement scenario looks like is also one we have to evaluate in combination with what else is happening in other states,” said Mary Sotos, DEEP’s new energy division chief. “We’re 25 percent of the New England load; Massachusetts is 50 percent. If Massachusetts is able to deliver on its aggressive goals, that’s good for us; that’s good for the region. But I think having a coordinated, thoughtful approach of how all those things work together will be an important part.”

While many put a large focus on how clean and renewable Millstone’s replacement power will be, Sotos put a lot of emphasis on cost. And she was definitely in the natural gas camp when it came to an immediate Millstone replacement because it’s now cheaper than renewable alternatives.

“If we’re trying to build out a competitive economy, and we already have the highest electric rates in the continental U.S., I don’t think we can be cavalier about costs,” she said. “I think there are tradeoffs.”

The other New England states have balked at spending money to help keep Millstone operating. Even though they benefit from its power, because the plant is located in Connecticut, through an old complicated formula Connecticut can claim most of the clean-power credits from Millstone.

There is widespread recognition that a multi-state grid like the one ISO-NE runs needs to have more regional camaraderie going forward. It doesn’t have the benefit of being a one-state grid like California’s or New York’s that can take unilateral actions more easily.

Indeed there are actually a number of regional actions in progress pertaining to the New England grid. One is called the Integrating Markets and Public Policy (IMAPP, pronounced Eye-map) process, in which ISO-NE is working with the voluntary New England Power Pool (NEPOOL) to coordinate power needs with clean energy and other state-specific policies.

A separate effort called Competitive Auctions with Subsidized Policy Resources (CASPR, pronounced casper), is looking at how to equitably have subsidized, renewable energy compete against more standard, non-subsidized forms of power – say offshore wind versus Millstone’s nuclear power.

ISO-NE is also conducting a regional fuel security analysis largely to assess the region’s increasing reliance on natural gas in the face of a number of planned power plant shutdowns and pipeline constraints, especially in winter. A Millstone closure could put even more pressure on the pipeline system, which has had been expanded very little in the face of widespread opposition all over the Northeast and a belief among many that it is unnecessary. The study is due for release this month.

All of this can be viewed not only as a back-door admission that Millstone is a regional, not just a Connecticut, concern, but also as an admission that the idea of eventually replacing it in the style of the old central station grid is a dated concept.

It’s unlikely a replacement for Millstone will mimic what the nuclear facility is considered now – a baseload power unit that operates 24/7. Replacement is more likely to be a compendium of all kinds of energy. Most, maybe even all, of it could be renewable, distributed around the region in ways that optimize efficiency for getting it into the grid when and where it’s needed.

In other words, it would be a whole new paradigm for how an electric grid operates. That would require a whole new mindset from everyone – utilities all the way down to customers.

Looking into the future

Dan Esty, the man who set Connecticut’s clean-energy strategy in motion in 2011 and served as the first DEEP commissioner until 2014, has long championed the idea of a modernized grid structure with market forces dictating it’s direction. He said the time has come for utilities – which in Connecticut now provide just transmission and distribution of electricity – to reframe their business models, and he regretted not having done more to make that happen while he was in office.

“The critical feature of the energy markets today is that you pay for energy and capacity,” he said. “In the energy market of the 21st century you need to pay for energy, capacity and attributes of the energy – whether it’s clean, whether it’s reliable.”

Essentially Esty is envisioning a business model in which a utility may benefit more from providing the components and efficiencies of a modernized grid structure than perpetuating the centralized structure that’s been in place for a century. But he cautioned that the utility model of 25 years from now is likely to be very different from the model in place over the next five to ten years. And he pointed particularly to energy storage – a not-yet-ready-for-prime-time technology that has the potential to be a game changer for intermittent energy sources like solar.

“In 25 years I can imagine getting beyond this concept of baseload power, but not in the next five to 10,” he said. “And I think this is where one has to have both a vision of the future and a practical reality in mind simultaneously to produce good energy policy.”


DEEPWATER WIND

A “jack-up vessel” helps install the final blade on a wind turbine in the Block Island Wind Farm.

There are some who think the state is being too timid and too slow in pushing for more renewables, and they point to tepid commitments to offshore wind and counter-intuitive solar policies in the new draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy released this summer. They think the state should be more actively trying to buy into the offshore wind market, now in development.

Massachusetts is already betting on offshore wind, which has the potential to produce large swaths of power. It may be variable, but is not intermittent like onshore wind.

There are those who would like to see the state push utilities more to embrace new businesses, such as running microgrids or advanced energy management or efficiency as part of a more decentralized energy system.

Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, who is co-chair of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee, reiterated what she has said repeatedly – that the state needs an “all-of-the-above” strategy.

“One of the frustrations is that so many people are traveling in one lane and not seeing the big picture,” she said.

She worries that the NIMBY mindset has now morphed into BANANA – build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone – and will make new energy sources harder to add as communities fight wind turbines, solar fields and even gas plants.

“Everybody intellectually loves this stuff till it comes to their neighborhood,” she said. “Then it freaks them out. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ They believe in it, but ‘please put it someplace else.’”

She too believes the utility business model needs a reset as part of plotting the path for a post-Millstone region.

“Not only do we have to have a whole reset – but it’s urgent. The clock is ticking,” she said. “The decisions we make in the next few years will mean years of what our energy ecosystem is going to look like. That’s why it’s so scary, because you’re afraid to invest too much in the wrong things – too many gas plants – yeah we’re going to live with those babies for 30 years.”

 

The Millstone nuclear power station.

solarSPRAGUE:– Greenskies Renewable Energy will be building a 150-kilowatt (DC) solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Sprague Waste Water Treatment Plant in Baltic.

The ground-mounted solar system will produce 131 megawatt hours (MWh) of electric power annually. The company’s release says that energy will be used to offset about “90% of the treatment plant’s current power needs.”

Under the 20-year power purchase agreement, or PPA, between Greenskies and the town’s Water and Sewer Authority, Greenskies will design, engineer, finance, construct and maintain the solar array, at no cost to the city. The company will then sell the power the array produces back to the town at a fixed and what the company says is a “significantly discounted rate.”

hartfordline

By, Mark Pazniokas ctmirror.com

HARTFORD: A joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts was chosen over Amtrak and three other bidders Monday as operator of the Hartford Line, a commuter rail service to New Haven and Springfield that will open next year with a deep federal operating subsidy.

Eighty percent of what the governor’s office says will be a $20 million operating budget will be covered for three years by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which also has subsidized the CTfastrak bus rapid-transit service since it opened in 2015.

170327 Press Rel 08 VejaMateWindfarm Reaches Halfway Installation MilestoneOrange: Avangrid Renewables of Portland , Oregon a subsidiary of Avangrid [NYSE AGR] of New Haven, the parent of United Illuminating has purchased a 50% stake in Vineyard Wind.

Formerly OffShore Wind MW, Vineyard Wind has leased an area of about 160,000 acres, approximately 14 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, where it hopes to develop as much as 1,600 megawatts of wind energy.

Denmark based Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners is the co-owner and has been the lead developer.

Recently, Avangrid Renewables secured an offshore wind lease auction off the coast of North Carolina.  Avangrid which trades on the NYSE is a subsidiary of the international energy giant, Iberdola of Bilbao, Spain.

Avangrid is itself a diversified energy and utility company, with more than $31 billion in assets and operations in 27 states with regulated utilities and electricity generation through two primary lines of business. Avangrid Networks is comprised of eight electric and natural gas utilities, serving approximately 3.2 million customers in New York and New England.

Avangrid Renewables operates 6.5 gigawatts of electricity capacity, primarily through wind power, in 22 states across the United States. AVANGRID employs approximately 6,800 people. 

In late April the CEO of Avangrid Renewables Frank Burkhartsmeyer resigned as president to become chief financial officer at Northwest Natural Gas Company, Laura Beane, previoulsy vice president of operations and maintenance services, was elevated to CEO.

Avangrid’s CEO James Torgerson, was CEO of UIL, before it was acquired by Avangrid, he said the ownership stake in Vineyard Wind — combined with the company’s victory in the first offshore wind lease auction in the United States off the coast of North Carolina — shows that it is “well positioned to grow this sector.”

CIP, which manages approximately $4 billion in assets, acquired Vineyard Wind rights  in August.

Vineyard Wind hopes to begin construction on the project in early 2020. The proposed development timetable demonstrates a shift in wind in Massachusetts for off shore wind development.

Last August, the Baystate’s Republican Governor, Charlie Baker, rejected his party’s long standing opposition to off-shore wind energy power off the Cape when he signed a bill requiring Massachusetts to purchase 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power.

An earlier development Cape Wind Associates, battled Cape Cod business groups, Republican lawmakers, and even former Senator Ted Kennedy for more than a decade over the project.

In spite of receiving all necessary state and federal approvals, the project stalled over financing issues and now appears dead. Electricity rates procured from Cape Wind were expected to be nearly twice the cost of other electricity generation in the market. The financing problem produced the opportunity for Massachusetts utilities’ National Grid [NYSE: NGG], based in Warwick, UK and Eversource, [NYSE: ES] of Boston to disavow the power purchase agreements, essentially killing the project.

Avantrgrid and Vineyard Wind will be vying for purchase agreements and regulatory approvals with a project proposed by 50-50 partners Dong Energy of Fredericia, Denmark, and Eversource. Dong Energy’s largest private investor is Goldman Sachs owning more than 19% of the company.

The Bay State Wind, proposal is also 15 to 20 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and it is initially estimated to include 100 wind turbines and cost at least $1 billion. Eversource has committed $10 million to get the project rolling.

Denmark has two important energy distinctions; it has the highest concentration of wind power generation in the world [40% of the country’s consumption] and the highest electricity rates in the world of any advanced country, more than 40 cents per kilowatt.

Wind power advocates say costs for new projects in Europe can now compete more directly with other generation.