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News From The States: Minelands and Power Plants Are Hot Renewable Development Spots

Posted by Robert Zullo on Nov 24, 2023

News From The States reports on a growing number of states converting old coal plants to renewable energy sites, quoting  Harry Godfrey, who speaks on the opportunities for states to create jobs and generate tax revenue through these conversions with support from the incentives designated by the Inflation Reduction Act.

AES Indiana’s Petersburg Generating Station, which towers over the White River here in southwest Indiana, has been burning coal to generate electricity since the late 1960s.

That era, though, will come to an end soon. Two of the power plant’s four coal-burning units have already retired and the last is planning to shut down in 2025. 

Power generation, however, will continue. Two of those coal units will be switched out to cleaner burning natural gas, and the company is also building an 800 megawatt-hour battery storage array at the Petersburg plant to take advantage of the existing grid connections and meet its electric capacity obligations, banking power when prices and power demand is low and discharging when demand climbs and the regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) needs the juice for the electric grid. 

AES’ project isn’t alone. Those same factors, along with the increasing resistance to new greenfield wind, solar and storage development, as well as massive backlogs in the queues to connect new power projects to the grid, mean former mine lands and the plants that burned the coal they produced are increasingly attractive spots for new renewable development. 

Conversion of old coal plant sites to new storage and renewable projects is happening in New JerseyNevada, Louisiana and elsewhere across the country.

States can play a major role in speeding these transitions, said Harry Godfrey, a managing director at Advanced Energy United, a trade association representing wind, solar, energy efficiency, battery storage and other businesses. On the one hand, renewable energy and decarbonization mandates are helping spur the transition to cleaner electricity. Twenty three states have 100% clean energy goals. Other policies, such as “securitization” legislation, can blunt the costs to consumers of retiring coal plants before the end of their useful lives. “They’re finding interesting financing options to manage those stranded costs,” Godfrey said. 

Illinois has a grant program specifically designed to incentivize retiring or shuttered coal plants to install energy storage. 

Also, tax credits in the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest piece of climate legislation in U.S. history, include a bonus 10% credit for “energy communities,” defined as brownfield sites, areas with large historic levels of employment or tax revenue derived from coal, oil, gas extraction or communities where a coal power station closed after 2009 or a coal mine closed after 1999, among other criteria. 

States that want to help speed the transition from old fossil fuel sites to new renewable energy facilities and take advantage of the jobs and tax revenue they can bring need to get on the ball, Godfrey said. 

That means inventorying and packaging sites in a similar fashion as states do to lure developers for other big economic development projects like trying to attract a factory or distribution center, he said. 

“The IRA is intentionally designed to promote these conversions,” he said. “The state’s role in economic development is really pivotal.”

Danny Van Clief, CEO of Sun Tribe Development, part of Sun Tribe Solar, a Charlottesville, Virginia, company that’s one of the largest clean energy companies in the mid-Atlantic, said it’s become increasingly difficult to get large solar farms approved. “Some of that resistance is rational and some of that resistance is somewhat irrational. We’re actually battling organized resistance to the deployment of renewables,” he said.

That opposition, Van Clief said, “causes us to be incredibly thoughtful about where we site potential projects.” Former mine lands and other “previously disturbed areas” tend to be less controversial sites and inject investment into communities that mined the coal that powered the United States for most of its industrialized history but have fallen on hard times since.

Sun Tribe, along with another solar developer, Washington, D.C.-based Sol Systems, is working with The Nature Conservancy to build solar projects on former coal mine lands in Southwest Virginia, Eastern Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky, that fall within its Cumberland Forest Project, one of the group’s largest conservation efforts at 253,000 acres. 

In Virginia, the state Energy Department, formerly the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, helped The Nature Conservancy identify non-forested former mine lands near existing utility lines and other infrastructure, which were then whittled down to avoid areas with important wildlife, habitat or other considerations that made them unsuitable for solar development. 

In the case of the Cumberland Forest project, the conservancy and the Virginia Department of Energy helped assure Sun Tribe that it wasn’t “onboarding additional liability” as a result of building on the former minelands, said Betsy Arlen, the company’s vice president of real estate.  

Building solar on former mineland is picking up steam across the country, from West Virginia and Vermont to Ohio and Nevada. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says there may be as much as 43 million acres of brownfields suitable for renewable power development. 

States can inventory the minelands in their state (and in some cases under their control) then analyze where nearby electric infrastructure is in order to gauge the possibilities for renewable power, Johnson said. Then they could explore whether redevelopment authorities could help turn brownfields into power projects by creating streamlined permitting processes and other incentives.

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Topics: State Policy, United In The News, Manufacturing and Infrastructure, Harrison Godfrey

PV Magazine: RE+Storage Better Than a Colorado Utility’s Proposed 400 MW Gas Unit: Strategen

Posted by William Driscoll on Nov 16, 2023

PV Magazine reports on a recent analysis of the electric resource plan for Xcel Energy’s Colorado subsidiary, the Public Service Company of Colorado. The analysis, commissioned by Advanced Energy United and authored by Strategen Consulting Group, found a clean energy resource portfolio would be a more cost-effective way to power Colorado homes and businesses compared to building a new natural gas “peaker” plant. The article quotes United's Brian Turner, who speaks to the cost impact Xcel's proposed plant would have on ratepayers.

Storage and renewables projects already offered in response to an RFP from the Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) would be more economic and provide greater capacity than a 400 MW gas peaker unit proposed by the utility, found the consulting firm Strategen in an analysis of the utility’s proposed resource plan.

The Colorado utility, an Xcel Energy subsidiary, “takes commendable strides toward decarbonization,” says the Strategen analysis, but the low cost of clean energy resources supported by the Inflation Reduction Act “could provide an opportunity to avoid additional natural gas deployment.”

Strategen analyzed a portfolio of battery storage, solar and wind projects it selected from a public list of almost 800 bids for new renewables and battery projects that were offered in response to the utility’s 2022 all-source request for proposals.

Strategen said its portfolio, sized to exceed the capacity of a 400 MW gas peaker unit the utility proposed in its resource plan, would provide savings of about $29 million in its first year of operation, with greater savings in subsequent years. Those savings do not consider grid service benefits, stranded asset risk or fuel supply risk.

Because the costs for specific RFP bids are not publicly available, Strategen’s analysis assumed that the costs of the battery storage, solar and wind projects would equal the generic costs that PSCo presented in an appendix to its resource plan.

PSCo’s plan proposes 628 MW of new gas units by 2027, representing “long-term investments that will restrict PSCo’s ability to eventually achieve a fully decarbonized grid,” Strategen’s report says.

For two of the gas units proposed by PSCo—sized at 200 MW and 28 MW—Strategen was unable to analyze the potential to substitute renewables and storage because the utility proposed those units specifically for their local reliability benefits, and the public database of projects submitted in response to the RFP did not disclose location data. Strategen said its analysis of the 400 MW gas unit may also be applicable to the 200 MW unit if locational data and local reliability analysis were made available to stakeholders.

Strategen credited PSCo with proposing in its resource plan an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, retiring all coal plants in the process.

Even so, Brian Turner, a director at the trade group Advanced Energy United, which sponsored the Strategen analysis, said Xcel’s proposal to build the new gas units “is a missed opportunity to provide Colorado households and businesses the best-cost and cleanest energy.” Turner noted that last winter the price of natural gas “skyrocketed, leaving ratepayers with high bills.”

Advanced Energy United said in a statement that as the cost of renewable energy continues to decline, new gas turbines risk becoming stranded assets, leaving ratepayers to pay billions of dollars “for a resource that may one day soon no longer produce any energy.”

The trade group formally presented its concerns in comments it submitted to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

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Topics: State Policy, United In The News, Energy Efficiency, Colorado, Brian Turner

RTO Insider: 2023 Elections Bring Billions for Texas Gas, Dem Wins in Virginia, NJ

RTO Insider reports on the results of 2023 notable state elections across the country. In the article, Kim Jemaine is quoted surrounding the outcome of the Virginia election, commenting on the motivation of Virginia voters to show out and vote against extremism in the state, flipping control of the House and maintaining a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a nearly $10 billion fund for gas generation in Texas, while handing Democrats victories in legislative elections in New Jersey and Virginia that have implications for energy policy there. 

Texas’ Proposition 7 passed by a vote of 1,641,453-886,991, gathering nearly 65% of the votes. (See $10B Fund for Gas Plants on Texas Ballot.) 

The proposition sets up the Texas Energy Fund (TEF), a $7.2 billion low-interest loan program intended for the development of up to 10 GW of natural gas plants. Some $5 billion will be set aside for 20-year, 3% interest loans to build new generation with at least 100 MW of fully dispatchable capacity. Power plants that come online before June 2029 are eligible for bonus payments. 

Another $2.8 billion will be dedicated to grants for infrastructure improvements in non-ERCOT regions and to strengthen resiliency by setting up microgrids at hospitals, fire stations and other critical facilities. The Texas Public Utility Commission will oversee the TEF and provide the grants and loans to finance the construction, maintenance, modernization and operation of the state’s electric facilities. 

Democrats strengthened their hold on the New Jersey legislature in Tuesday’s elections, retaining control of both legislative houses despite Republican efforts to paint Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s clean energy program — especially its offshore wind (OSW) projects — as excessive and expensive. 

With final results still to be confirmed, Democrats are expected to hold at least 24 seats in the 40-seat Senate and 51 of the 80 seats in the Assembly, adding at least five seats to their current 46. The election came two years after voters re-elected Murphy by a much narrower margin than expected, prompting speculation that the result reflected voter disapproval of his aggressive clean energy strategy

Virginia Democrats won enough seats to flip control of the House of Delegates and maintain their majority in the Senate, two years after losing the lower chamber and the governor’s office to Republicans. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will finish out the last two years of his term with slim majorities for the Democrats in both houses. Initial results have the Senate split 21-19 with the House of Delegates split 51-48, with the Republican candidate leading in one close race that had yet to be called late Wednesday. 

A big motivator for voters this fall was abortion, with Youngkin backing a plan to limit abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current law that allows abortion until the end of the second trimester. The majority of voters siding with Democrats on that issue showed they were rejecting extremism, said Advanced Energy United Policy Director Kim Jemaine. 

“I think you can essentially extrapolate from that, also, that voters are looking at some of the decisions made by Republicans in the General Assembly over the last couple of years and say that voters are also viewing climate denial and obstruction of clean energy policies in the bucket of extremism,” she added. 

She said she hoped Republicans will stop proposing bills curbing clean energy policies such as the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) of 2020, and the new Democratic majority can work with Youngkin on issues such as energy efficiency and expanding distributed generation. 

A Day 1 priority for the legislature should be filling the two empty seats on the three-person State Corporation Commission, which has operated with Chairman Jehmal Hudson as the only member for most of this year, Jemaine said. In Virginia, the General Assembly (both the Senate and the House of Delegates) elect the regulators for six-year terms with the governor only able to make temporary appointments if the legislature is out of session. 

“I think folks were waiting for the outcomes of their elections to move forward there,” Jemaine said. “And so, this presents an opportunity for Democrats to appoint judges that will hold [Dominion Energy] accountable and ensure that those decisions are in alignment with the VCEA.” 

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Topics: State Policy, Virginia, United In The News, Texas, New Jersey

Bill to fix interconnection delays stalling adoption of residential solar, heat pumps, and electric vehicle charging passes California legislature

Posted by Angelyn Tabalba on Sep 15, 2023

Legislation paves the way for more rapid clean energy deployment to California households

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA  Today, Advanced Energy United celebrated the bipartisan passage of SB 410, The Powering Up Californians Act, the first bill of its kind aimed at tackling delays in connecting customers’ clean energy technologies to the state’s power grid. Californians want clean energy solutions like residential solar and storage, heat pumps, and electric vehicles (EVs), but interconnection delays are a major obstacle in customer adoption of these technologies, slowing progress toward California’s decarbonization goals and customer energy savings.  

SB 410, introduced by Senator Josh Becker (District 13), requires an ongoing assessment of every investor-owned electric utility’s electrical service and interconnection performance, workforce staffing levels, and grid capacity. This bill also facilitates clear and reasonable timeframes for connecting clean energy systems to hold utilities accountable, benefit customers, and prevent future bottlenecks.  

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Topics: State Policy, Press Releases, Emilie Olson, California

Advanced Energy United applauds Gov. Hobbs and Arizona Legislature for using state budget to prioritize building clean energy infrastructure

Posted by Adam Winer on May 12, 2023

National business association thanks policymakers for bipartisanship and for embracing economic benefits of advanced energy.

PHOENIX, AZ, May 12, 2023 — National business group Advanced Energy United commends Governor Hobbs and the Arizona Legislature for their bipartisan efforts in passing a state budget that works to prioritize the immediate needs of Arizonans while continuing to invest in the state's advanced energy infrastructure. 

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Topics: State Policy, Press Releases, Arizona, Michael Barrio

New study: Indiana utilities could save customers $73 million by embracing advanced energy tech over new gas plants

Posted by Adam Winer on May 3, 2023

The report analyzed battery storage compared to natural gas “peakers” currently proposed by Indiana utilities

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., May 3, 2023 – Some of the largest utilities in Indiana could save their customers a combined $73.1 million by switching to advanced energy technologies instead of moving forward with plans to build new gas-fired power plants. The finding comes in a new study by Strategen Consulting, which analyzed several scenarios that considered a range of fuel and technology costs and deployment strategies and found that the utilities could achieve equivalent reliability and save their customers millions of dollars by building battery storage instead of new natural gas combustion turbines.

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Topics: State Policy, Press Releases, Indiana, Trish Demeter

Dominion Energy Virginia’s new resource plan does not fully align with Virginia Clean Economy Act

Posted by Adam Winer on May 2, 2023

New IRP not a “good faith decarbonization plan,” says national business group Advanced Energy United

[editor's note: this press release originally stated this was Dominion's first IRP since the VCEA was signed into law. It is Dominion's first IRP since the law went into effect.]

RICHMOND, VA, May 2, 2023 – This week, Dominion Energy Virginia filed its first Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) since the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), Virginia’s landmark energy law, went into effect in July of 2020. Today, Advanced Energy United, the business association that supported passage of the VCEA, criticized Dominion’s new approach for meeting the law’s requirements.

“We have seen this play from Dominion before. Its latest resource plan is yet another example of this utility picking a forecast that suits its business interests,” said Kim Jemaine, director at Advanced Energy United (formerly AEE). “Dominion chooses a questionable energy load forecast as justification for cherry-picking preferred technologies, preserving existing fossil-fuel facilities, and calling for new investment in gas fired resources. In our view, Dominion has not developed a good faith decarbonization plan that fully aligns with the Virginia Clean Economy Act, Virginia’s landmark energy law.”

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Topics: State Policy, Virginia, Press Releases, Kim Jemaine

Florida Senate Unanimously Approves ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ Bill for State Fleet Vehicles

Posted by Adam Winer on Apr 11, 2023

The legislation requires updated procurement standards that could save Florida taxpayers up to $277 million 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. April 11, 2023 – Today, national business group Advanced Energy United applauded the Florida Senate’s passage of CS/CS/SB 284: Energy. The bill would require the Department of Management Services (DMS) to consider not just the initial purchase price but the total cost of ownership for new additions to the state’s vehicle fleet, including operations, fuel, and maintenance costs. It also asks DMS to make recommendations to state agencies, local governments, and state colleges and universities using the same standards. 

Research from Advanced Energy United and the Electrification Coalition showed the bill has the potential to save Florida an average of $18,000 per vehicle by considering the total cost of ownership in vehicle procurement decisions. A full transition to electric vehicles for the state fleet could save Florida up to $277 million over that same period. 

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Topics: State Policy, Advanced Transportation, Press Releases, Michael Weiss, Florida

Advanced Energy United Celebrates Passage of the POWER Act by the Maryland General Assembly

Posted by Adam Winer on Apr 10, 2023

The POWER Act will accelerate the clean energy transition, ensure the construction of transmission lines, and create quality jobs in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md., April 10, 2023 – Today, national business association Advanced Energy United celebrated the Maryland General Assembly’s passage of the Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources Act (SB781/HB793), known as the POWER Act. Advanced Energy United represents the full range of technologies and services needed for 100% clean energy in Maryland and nationally, ranging from solar installers and EV manufacturers to energy efficiency companies and transmission developers, and more. The legislation, which is expected to be signed by Governor Wes Moore, lays a foundation for offshore wind and transmission line development in Maryland.

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Topics: State Policy, Press Releases, Transmission, Maryland, Nicholas Bibby

Advanced Energy United Applauds Introduction of California Legislation to Improve Power Transmission and Dispatch Operations

Posted by Calista Thompson on Feb 9, 2023

Assembly Bill 538 "jumpstarts" conversation around regional grid collaboration, with the potential to save hundreds of millions in energy costs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Introduced by Assemblymember Chris Holden (AD41), Assembly Bill 538 would create a structure that would allow the California Independent System Operation (CAISO) to integrate into a broader, independent regional transmission operator (RTO). A 2022 economic development study commissioned by Advanced Energy United and conducted by Energy Strategies found that a transition like the one proposed in AB 538 could create over 138,000 jobs and save ratepayers $538 million per year in energy costs.

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Topics: State Policy, California Engagement, 21st Century Electricity System, Wholesale Markets, Press Releases, Economic Impact, Amisha Rai, Western RTO, California