natural gasWASHINGTON: Eversource and Avantgrid [United Illuminating] have won a major battle in a against allegations by an environmental group that the utilities manipulated the price of natural gas in New England.

FERC the Federal energy regulator has issued a ruling clearing the utilities of manipulation of the natural gas transmission system serving New England.

The Commission “has revealed no evidence of anticompetitive withholding of natural gas pipeline capacity on Algonquin Gas Transmission (line),” they added case closed saying, “the commission will take no further action on the matter.”

trainSPRINGFIELD,MA: CTrail commuter service between New Haven and Springfield won’t begin until May, but officials have already begun discussions to expand it.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has begun negotiating  a Pilot test with the Connecticut Department of Transportation  to extend the train service north to Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Massachusetts already owns the rail line it calls, the Knowledge Corridor rail line.

Oil platform BOEM
Ocean Confidence is a semi-submersible deep-water drilling rig used in the Gulf of Mexico.

Washington – The Trump administration on Thursday proposed opening most of the nation’s offshore areas to oil and gas drilling, including areas in the North Atlantic off the New England coast that have been off limits to exploration for decades.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed a five-year plan that would offer private companies 47 leases off the nation’s coastlines between 2019 and 2024. The plan proposes 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic, including two in the North Atlantic. It would be the largest offshore lease proposal ever made by the federal government.

Zinke said that 47 proposed leasing areas could increase federal revenue by $15 billion.

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Greenskies Solar Installation at Target Store in Newington

MIDDLETOWN: Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC (“Greenskies”) and its affiliates, has been purchased by Clean Focus Yield Limited of Sunnyvale, CA with offices in New Jersey, and Massachusetts and an affiliate in China.

Greenskies says, “Clean Focus is an integrated group of renewable-energy companies with “global reach.” According to the companies, “with this acquisition Clean Focus becomes the owner and operator of the largest commercial and industrial portfolio in the United States.”

Greenskies, is a vertically-integrated solar company in the United States, and will continue to operate under its brand and management from its Middletown, Connecticut headquarters.

In 2016 the Connecticut Technology Council named Greenskies among the 40 fastest growing tech companies in Connecticut. Westbrook Republican Senator Art Linares Jr. an assistant Minority leader and Mike Silvestrini founded the company in 2008 in a Westbrook basement, it currently has approximately 70 full time employees.


State energy officials concluded in a preliminary report released Thursday that the Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford will be profitable through 2035, undercutting its owner’s assertion that Connecticut must change how its electricity is sold or face the early retirement of New England’s largest source of carbon-free power.

But the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority conceded in a dense, 32-page assessment of the state’s deregulated energy market that the nuclear industry generally is under stress because of its high fixed costs and a market in which prices are set by relatively cheap natural gas.

It made no predictions about the plant’s future, other than concluding its owner, Dominion Energy, was unlikely to close it before 2022, the end of its current contractural obligations to produce power. The soonest it could begin the complex retirement process is March 2018, a month after DEEP and PURA are to issue their final report.

Rob Klee, the commissioner of DEEP, said it had reached no conclusion about whether the profitability meets Dominion’s requirements for a sufficient return on investment. As an unregulated “merchant plant,” Millstone faces more risk and volatility than generation plants owned by regulated utilities, which get a predictable return based on cost of service.

“Owners of merchant generation bear all of the risks and rewards of operating in a competitive market, and they and their shareholders — not state regulators — make the determination of what is a sufficient return on their capital investment,” the agencies said in the report. “Merchant generators’ financial goals may exceed the regulated rate of return earned by cost-of-service generators, given merchant generators’ exposure to the risks of low energy prices, unplanned outages, and other costs that a regulated generator can recover from electric ratepayers. Ultimately, these financial goals are unknown to state regulators in a deregulated market.”

Katie Dykes, the chair of PURA, said the two agencies have reached no conclusions about Millstone’s economic viability.

“This report is laying out the dots,” she said. “It’s not necesarily connecting the dots.”

Kevin Hennessy, who oversees governmental affairs for Dominion in the region, said the company probably would have no detailed response until Friday to the report and other material released Thursday. But he disputed the conclusion Millstone was assured of long-term profitability.

“We are profitable now. It’s at a margin that is very low compared to what people think and what assumptions are out there,” Hennessy said.

The agencies will make no recommendation on whether DEEP and PURA should open a new competitive solicitation process that would benefit Millstone by allowing it to compete with more expensive sources of clean energy until the conclusion of a public-comment period Jan. 8.

Under a law passed earlier this year, DEEP and PURA could allow Millstone to sell up to three-quarters of its output in competition with other zero-carbon sources of electricity, a more favorable market because solar, wind and hydro power generally command higher prices.

The assessment was hampered by Dominion’s refusal to share detailed financials, the agencies said.

“Despite DEEP and PURA’s specific data requests, Dominion only very recently provided a limited, two-page, high-level document with forward-looking financial projections,” they said. “The document lacked the standard documentation supporting the projections concerning its actual financial condition.”

They also offered a caution: “As with any assessment based on market projections, determining viability cannot be conclusively determined. Even the most careful analysis is fraught with uncertainty, since revenues and/or costs in the future will not precisely follow modeled projections.”

The report is a primer on the nature of Connecticut’s bifurcated electric system.

The state’s two major utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating, no longer generate power; they buy electricity in a fast-changing commodity market and then deliver it over a transmission system that is still regulated, its rates set based on PURA’s finding of what the cost of service and reasonable rate of return are.

Electricity is bought and sold in three markets that offer a mix of short- and long-term prices: a “Day-Ahead Energy Market,” a so-called balancing market in which prices can change in minutes, and longer-term transactions between buyers and sellers.

“Electricity production must continuously and instantaneously match demand on the system, and real-time energy prices adjust as often as every five minutes as the levels of supply and demand change on the system,” the report says.

Natural-gas fired plants generate about half the region’s electricity and tend to set the market price. As the cost of natural gas has fallen, it has depressed the price that Millstone and other nuclear plants can command for their electricity.

“In New England, poor market conditions and reduced revenues resulting from low gas and electricity wholesale prices as well as increased operational costs were a major contributing factor in owners’ decisions to close the Vermont Yankee and  nuclear power stations.

Yankee closed in 2014. Pilgrim, which is in Plymouth, Mass., is slated to close in 2019. New England’s other nuclear stations, Millstone and Seabrook in New Hampshire, are larger and more cost effective.

The report suggests that if Millstone closed, the region could find sufficient sources of electricity, but at a cost to the environment and local economy.

Millstone employs about 1,100 workers, and their average salary is $167,000. The plant generates about $1.3 billion in economic activity in Connecticut and a similar amount in the rest of the region.

eversource bill new ctHARTFORD, BOSTON: Eversource Energy [NYSE: ES] released a statement saying it was putting the Environmental Defense Fund [EDF] “on notice that the company will pursue legal action if EDF doesn’t halt its false and defamatory statements regarding Eversource’s gas purchasing practices.”

The company said to EDF, “your false and misleading statements are immediately actionable and expose you and those acting in concert with you to liability for substantial damages,” the Cease and Desist letter states. “If you do not cease and desist from all further publication of such statements, Eversource will take all appropriate action; indeed, we have retained outside counsel to protect our rights.”

The letter is response to a "report" by the EDF that Eversource and Avantgrid manipulated the supply of Natural Gas causing prices to be higher for the gas to consumers and power producers.

A spokesperson for EDF Jon Coifman said, ““We stand by the analysis and reject this obvious attempt to intimidate and chill legitimate public inquiry."

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Washington – An ambitious  — and to some in Connecticut controversial — plan to overhaul the railroad in the Northeast Corridor has come to a full stop, a victim of lack of funding. There also has been pushback to the plan from Fairfield County residents who fear the impact of laying down new high-speed-ready tracks and other development near their neighborhoods.

The Federal Railroad Administration in July issued its final Northeast Corridor (NEC) Future plan that detailed a long-term vision to improve and grow passenger rail service in the corridor at a cost between $121 billion and $153 billion.

The plan, called “Tier 1,” included adding 200 miles of expanded track capacity between Washington, D.C., and Boston, and making sure most of those new tracks can carry trains traveling at up to 220 miles per hour.

But Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Marc Willis said none of the eight states that would be impacted by the plan have submitted new project proposals so that NEC Future can move into the “Tier 2,” or project-level, phase of the plan.

“Right now, there is nothing going on,” Willis said.

 ct essexHARTFORD: The Connecticut Bond Commission approved the Connecticut Port Authority’s request to fund 18 projects under the Small Harbor Improvement Projects Program (SHIPP). The projects cover a range of improvements including: marina repair, dredging, boat ramp facilities improvement, harbor management plans and feasibility studies. Details of each project are in the attached document.

"These projects will create jobs and opportunity for working families across Connecticut", said Scott Bates, Chairman of the CPA. "By partnering with local officials to identify and fund projects, we have developed a new roadmap for investing in Connecticut's small harbor infrastructure and the long term growth of our maritime economy."

“We are very pleased to see these projects come to life under SHIPP,” said Evan Matthews, Executive Director of the Connecticut Port Authority. “Part of our core mission is to invest in the waterfront infrastructure that supports our local communities. Using our CPA resources, along with local funding where possible, we’re able to boost the outcome for everyone.”