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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Midwest Watches as Alliant Energy Corp. Attempts to Prevent Third Party Solar Installations in Dubuque, RENEW's Michael Vickerman Comments

Worried over their ability to compete with solar energy installers like Dubuque-based Eagle Point Solar, Alliant Energy continues to throw legal roadblocks in the path of third party-owned solar. Wall Street Journal  reporter Ryan Tracy identifies the far reaching implications of the dispute with input from RENEW's Michael Vickerman. 

By Ryan Tracy

Disputes over the use of small-scale solar power are flaring across the nation, with utilities squaring off against solar-energy marketers over rules for the growing technology.Until now, the fights have been mainly before state regulators. In California, Louisiana and Virginia, utilitieshave sought to cut what they claim are unfairly high payments they are required to make to owners of homes or larger buildings with solar systems. 
At issue in an Iowa lawsuit is whether solar-system marketers can sell electricity in territories where localutilities have exclusive rights to customers. Such an arrangement isn't allowed or is under dispute in many states, limiting solar firms to sales of panels to homeowners and businesses. 
But if they win in Iowa, it could pave the way for fledgling solar industries to expand in other states. The case is being watched closely elsewhere in the Midwest, where policies granting utilities a monopoly on electricity service are one reason a solar-construction boom hasn't occurred, unlike in states such as California and NewJersey. 
Utilities "are proponents of renewable energy," said Barry Shear, president of Iowa's Eagle Point Solar LLC, but only "if they own the energy assets and the electrons flow through their grid and they can bill you." 
In March, an Iowa District Court judge said Mr. Shear's 18-employee company could sign power-purchase contracts in the Dubuque territory of Alliant Energy Corp., one of the state's largest utilities. Under the disputed deal, Eagle Point would own solar panels on the roof of a Dubuque municipal building and sell powerto the city at a rate similar to Alliant's. 
The disputed Dubuque deal employed a "third party" ownership arrangement, in which a rooftop solar system is owned by someone other than the property owner. Solar deals using that structure are growing inpopularity -- for both residential and commercial properties -- because they allow building landlords or homeowners to tap into solar power without a significant upfront investment. 
Judge Carla T. Schemmel, overturning an Iowa Utilities Board decision, said Eagle Point could sell solarelectricity to the city without encroaching on a utility's lawful turf. She noted that the city would still need to buy electricity from Alliant when the sun isn't shining. "Eagle Point is neither attempting to replace [the utilitynor] sever the link between [the utility] and the city," she wrote. "It is simply allowing the city to decrease its demand for electricity from the grid." 
Alliant says the ruling contradicts Iowa's policy of not allowing competition for electricity service. "They were going to be selling energy to one of our customers," said Kim King, manager of the renewable-energy program at Alliant, in an interview.The ruling was a defeat for Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s MidAmerican Energy Co. unit as well. MidAmerican, another Iowa utility that had sided with Alliant in the case, told the judge in January that if the utilities lost, it could lead to "a proliferation of solar installation in the state."Alliant and MidAmerican are appealing to the state Supreme Court. They say their problem isn't with solarplants -- each utility already connects to about 100 small-scale renewable-energy systems. Instead, they say they have a problem with the way the deal between Eagle Point and Dubuque was arranged. "This is not a dispute about solar energy. This is about a disagreement in the requirements under Iowa law," said Tina Potthoff, a MidAmerican spokeswoman, in an email. 
MidAmerican said in May that it may be capable of generating about 39% of its electricity from wind farms by 2016, making it one of several utilities with large renewable-energy portfolios. 
But many of those same utilities have objected to policies they say are too friendly to small-scale renewable-energy generation. NextEra Energy Inc. says it generates more electricity from the wind and sun than any other U.S. company. But its Florida Power & Light unit opposes allowing solar-system marketers to sell electricity to the unit's Florida customers. A spokesman for FP&L said the utility doesn't oppose solar, but Florida law doesn't allow "third party" sales. 
In Wisconsin, the question of whether solar-panel marketers can sell power in another utility's service territory is likely to be tested this year, said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director for Renew Wisconsin, a group that advocates use of solar power in that state. "If the utility objects, we may go down the same route that we saw in Iowa," he said.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Proposed Madison Biodigester Could Make the City a Pioneer in Renewable Energy Production

Madison recycling coordinator George Dreckmann's $20 million dollar proposal for a city-run biodigester and corresponding household organic refuse collection program could offer educational opportunities and ultimately reduce city landfill expenditures. Read Pat Schneider's Capital Times article below to learn more. 
By Pat Schneider
Melon rinds, chicken bones, even pizza delivery boxes: Three years from now Madison residents could be putting them all curbside in a third household bin for collection and transfer to a city-run biodigester where they would be converted into biogas and compost.
That’s if the City Council approves $20 million — and the "yuck" factor doesn't kill city recycling coordinator George Dreckmann's proposal.
Dreckmann included expenditures for a citywide organic waste composting program — including construction of a biodigester — in a 2014 capital budget proposal sent Friday to Mayor Paul Soglin.
 If the funding is approved and the digester is built on the proposed schedule, Madison would be among the first U.S. cities to run its own digester for residential organic waste, Dreckmann said.
[READ MORE]

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The New York Times Highlights MREA Fair Innovations and History

Michael Torttorello offers an informative and exciting overview of the MREA Fair's history and the passionate participants who make it possible.
By Michael Tortorello
At 9 o’clock Friday morning, some 20,000 people will start arriving at a vast field in Custer, Wis., to talk about wind power. No joke. Get this: Thousands of souls have been coming here every summer for 23 years to talk — really talk — about wind power. 

Here is the Energy Fair, a three-day convergence of homesteaders, hippies, ecotopians and more than a few end-times enthusiasts, staged by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Beyond the lecture titled “MacGyver Windmills” (that is, devices fabricated from junk), a $15 day pass gets you admission to 200 other workshops. Would you like to learn about home algae cultivation and humane rabbit husbandry (for meat and wool)? How about advanced photovoltaic systems and D.I.Y. biodiesel
The overarching theme is what marketers call “sustainable living,” and these days it hardly qualifies as a kooky pursuit. Many of the fair’s longtime commercial exhibitors, manufacturers of solar-energy technology or rainwater harvesting kits, could now find a home at the Home Depot.
 [READ MORE]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Will Wisconsin Ever Let the Sunshine In?

A commentary by Michael Vickerman, Director, Policy and Programs, RENEW Wisconsin


Once dismissed by electric utilities as a boutique energy resource, solar power has become the go-to renewable resource for a wide variety of electricity customers. From data centers to department stores, from airports to auto dealerships, more and more customers around the country are tapping into this clean and quiet energy source that shines on their rooftops every day.

Nationally, solar energy’s growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the first quarter of 2013, solar energy accounted for nearly half (49%) of the new generating capacity built, elbowing out wind and natural gas as the fastest-growing energy source in the United States. Declining installation costs coupled with easier access to third-party owned systems account for solar’s rapid advancement, especially in the residential sector. Even utilities in select states have begun diversifying their resource mix with large solar arrays.

For-profit businesses and homeowners in all 50 states can take advantage of the 30% federal investment tax credit in place through 2016. However, not all 50 states have flourishing solar markets. This is true even in states where electric rates are high enough to tempt homeowners and businesses to supply themselves with energy from the sun. Unfortunately, Wisconsin happens to be one of those states with a languishing solar market, though it wasn’t always that way.  

Five years ago, Wisconsin was a regional leader in encouraging customer investments in rooftop solar. Early adopters then could avail themselves of special solar buyback rates which most electric providers offered on a limited basis. For customers of utilities that did not offer these higher rates, a fair and transparent net metering service was available. The state’s Focus on Energy program contributed significantly to solar’s early success with grants and incentives that supported start-up installation contractors. In fact, that program instilled them with confidence that Wisconsin was a solid place to do business.  

Fast forward to today, and you see a very different market environment for solar energy here.  Attractive buyback rates in Wisconsin have become a distant memory. Some utilities have restructured their net metering service to make self-generation substantially less appealing to customers. And while state incentives for solar installations are still available, the flow of dollars has been reduced to a modest trickle. Solar contractors, like the rest of Wisconsin’s renewable energy business community, cope with the hard times by pursuing work opportunities in neighboring states like Iowa and Minnesota.

The installed costs of solar today are about half of what they were in 2008, while the price of utility-supplied electricity continues to move higher. Given the fact that solar’s return on investment to customers has never been higher, the attitudinal about-face we’re seeing is as inexplicable as it is counterproductive.

While Wisconsin raises the proverbial drawbridge to protect utilities from solar’s advances, the state of Minnesota, in stark contrast, has rolled out the welcome mat to this emerging industry. Just one month ago, Minnesota became the first state in the Upper Midwest to establish a solar electric standard. By 2020, the state’s largest utilities will need to source 1.5% of the electricity they sell at retail from solar generation systems. 

Through the same law, Minnesota strengthened its net metering policy, and required Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, to provide a community solar service to its customers. This innovative provision will enable Xcel customers who can’t host a solar system on their premises to invest in a nearby installation and receive a modest return through their monthly bills.  

What does Minnesota hope to achieve by adopting such an aggressive solar energy policy?
The list of objectives is long:
Ø  Promote manufacturing and contracting opportunities for solar energy and “green” construction firms;
Ø  Expand employment opportunities for the state’s work force;
Ø  Enhance the ability of business and residential customers to manage their electricity costs;
Ø  Modernize the state’s electrical infrastructure and diversify its resource mix;
Ø  Attract private investment capital into its energy sector from both in-state and out-of-state sources;
Ø  Minimize exposure to fuel price volatility, especially during on-peak hours;
Ø  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation;
Ø  Reduce imports of fossil fuel; and
Ø  Promote the state as a destination location for clean–tech companies. 

Ironically, the ingredients are now in place for an instructive side-by-side study on the value of state policy in advancing solar energy, with Minnesota serving as the test case and Wisconsin serving as the control. In terms of both solar resource and utility regulatory structure, the two states are very similar to each other.  And, with each state having about 14 megawatts of installed solar capacity, both share the same baseline from which to measure progress.

Indeed, the only significant difference going forward is state energy policy. In Minnesota, solar is subject to a state mandate that is projected to increase current capacity, in seven short years, by a factor of 30. In adjoining Wisconsin, solar operates within a policy vacuum. 

This raises the question, what do we gain from participating in an experiment in which Minnesota reaps all the economic and environmental benefits from its solar investments while we get to send more dollars out of state for fuel to feed 40-year-old power plants?

The fact is that Wisconsin cannot afford to stand idly by while Minnesota plugs itself squarely into a dynamic industry segment and exerts a gravitational pull on private investment and start-up companies in the region. It’s no secret that Wisconsin has struggled to find its economic bearings in the wake of the Great Recession. In contrast, clean energy has provided a great lift in other states that had the foresight to sow the marketplace with some well-thought and welcoming policy seeds.

In a popular two-part Simpsons episode, the diabolical Montgomery Burns builds a giant disc to block the sun’s rays from reaching Springfield, forcing city residents to become even more reliant on the power plant he owns. Though clearly cartoon satire, those of us who are  watching the ongoing retreat from solar energy know that if Wisconsin has any chance of capturing at least its proportional share of an industry that yielded $11.5 billion in new projects in 2012, it has to ditch the Mr. Burns act and begin designing a policy to let the sunshine in.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The 24th Annual Midwest Renewable Energy Fair is this Weekend!

The 24th Annual Energy Fair is next week! We have some highlights we wanted to share with you – and let you know that we have a few remaining exhibitor booths left, so if you wanted to exhibit, there's still time to sign up! Just contact Ellie Jackson as soon as you can at 715-592-6595 ext. 115 or elliej@midwestrenew.org

This year's highlights include:
  1. Keynote speakers Danny Kennedy of Sungevity and Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award nominated documentary GASLAND  - https://www.midwestrenew.org/fairkeynotes 
  2. The second annual Seeing RED presentation on Sunday where a 2kW PV system will be given away to one of four nonprofit finalists - http://www.seeingred.org
  3. A Solar Powering Your Community track on Friday featuring sessions on financing, solar market trends, an overview of the changes happening in Minnesota, presenters from Wisconsin's Energy Independent Communities, and more!
  4. Solar Professionals Workshops with Schletter, Caleffi, North Wind Renewable Energy, Quick Mount PV,  tenKsolar and more! 
  5. Extended workshops such as EV and Solar Charging and Successful Solar Business 
  6. A second stage (built by MREA's very own Mike White and Nick Hylla) so there will be even more entertainment - https://www.midwestrenew.org/fairentertainment 
The program guide is now online so you can check it out before next week https://www.midwestrenew.org/programguide 

And finally, here is a link to our promotional video for this year's Fair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1WwAy-xlYY 

We hope to see you there!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Please show your support for Clean Energy Choice

RENEW Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, and the Sierra Club are pushing for the State of Wisconsin to adopt "a policy expressly allowing customers to enter into contracts with third parties who install, own and operate a renewable energy system at the customer's premises." This initiative is called "Clean Energy Choice" and is one way to greatly expand solar energy installation in Wisconsin. 

The Eau Claire County Board, under the leadership of Chairman Gregg Moore, is considering a resolution in support of Clean Energy Choice in Wisconsin on Tuesday, June 18 at 7:00PM in the County Boardroom.
 Later this summer, a similar resolution will go in front of the Eau Claire City Council. La Crosse County and Dane County have already passed resolutions, and if enough municipalities do so the State of Wisconsin will hopefully be compelled to act.  Please use the Clean Energy Choice talking points below to guide you when you contact your county supervisor before Tuesday:


RENEW’s “Clean Energy Choice” Initiative  

Talking Points



Wisconsin must adopt a policy expressly allowing customers to enter into contracts with third parties who install, own and operate a renewable energy system at the customer’s premises.

  •  Current ambiguities in public utility law interfere with customers’ ability to access clean energy produced on their premises. Clean Energy Choice affirms their right to decide how they wish to purchase or implement a renewable energy system for their site.

  •   Because the third party owner provides the up-front capital under this arrangement, this policy will greatly expand the number of energy users who can afford to host wind, solar or biogas systems serving their homes or businesses.

  •  In contrast to standard utility electric service, purchasing energy directly from a renewable energy system enables households and businesses to lock in predetermined prices for 10 years or longer.

  •   In contrast to renewable energy purchased from utilities through their green power programs, the price of energy from a third-party owned renewable energy system does not increase or decrease as a result of short-term fluctuations in the cost of conventional energy.

  •  Clean Energy Choice will enable nonprofit entities to team up with for-profit companies that can take full advantage of federal tax incentives, such as the 30% Investment Tax Credit and accelerated depreciation.

  •  Earlier this year, the U.S. military solicited bids from businesses and developers to supply its bases and facilities with renewable energy produced by third parties on-site. The total amount of the pending solicitation is $7 billion. Unfortunately, without a Clean Energy Choice policy in place, there were no bids from companies to install renewables in Wisconsin.

  • Energy from a third party-owned system either flows to the customer directly, offsetting consumption, or is sold to the utility under an approved tariff. The rate impact from these installations would be negligible.

  • Clean Energy Choice would help households and businesses overcome the diminishing supply of renewable energy incentive dollars available from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program and utilities at no extra cost to ratepayers and taxpayers.

  • Clean Energy Choice will greatly expand market opportunities for Wisconsin companies and their employees who are part of the state’s renewable energy supply chain. For example, there are an estimated 135 companies in Wisconsin participating in the solar market, including Helios, Ingeteam, and Caleffi, three Milwaukee-based manufacturers.



Also, please consider attending the Eau Claire County Board meeting on Tuesday, June 18 at 7:00PM in the County Boardroom, 1st Floor Courthouse, Room 1277, 721 Oxford Ave., Eau Claire, WI. Members of the public may speak at the very beginning of the meeting for up to 5 minutes each.



Friday, June 14, 2013

Green Tech Solar's U.S. Solar Market Insight Reports 3,000 Unsubsidized Solar Installations in California in First Three Months of 2013

Falling residential PV system prices suggest an unprecedented shift in the U.S. solar market and by extension the entire electricity market. How utilities decide to approach solar energy will significantly impact the direction of this shift. Read Shayle Kann's commentary on the report below.

In the first quarter of this year there were 71.3 megawatts of residential solar installed in California’s three investor-owned utility territories, according to our just-released U.S. Solar Market Insight report. Of that total, 13.2 megawatts (18.5 percent) were installed without the support of rebates from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) or any other state-level program.

It would be hard to overstate the significance of this, so I’ll reiterate. In the first three months of this year, around 3,000 residential solar installations were completed in California with no state incentives. These installations did benefit from a number of things: full retail net metering (we’ll come back to this), the federal Investment Tax Credit and accelerated depreciation, and California’s relatively solar-friendly rate structures. But even so, this is emblematic of a sea change in the solar industry and, even more importantly, the energy industry.

Historically, residential solar markets in the U.S. were exclusively driven, and constrained, by state- and utility-level incentives, often in rebate form. When a sufficiently large rebate was introduced, the market reacted, but once rebate funding was depleted, the market disappeared. This served as a de facto cap on residential solar growth, and it is why the California statistic is so significant. If state-level incentives are no longer required, there are 3.5 years of runway before the ITC expires for the market to adapt, expand and mature. Assuming nothing else serves as a major barrier -- and this is a big "if" given net metering battles and the ever-increasing need for project finance -- the sky is the limit.

[READ MORE]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association Identify Solar Energy as a Significant Component of all New Electric Capacity Installed in the U.S.

The GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association 2013 quarterly report on U.S. solar markets finds that solar energy installations account for 48 percent of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S. last quarter, the largest contribution for any given year in the industry. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA attributes this growth to long-term pro renewable energy policies. Read the press release below and the fact sheet released with the report.
WASHINGTON, D.C. AND BOSTON, MA — GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) today release U.S. Solar Market Insight: 1st Quarter 2013, the definitive analysis of solar power markets in the U.S., with strategic state-specific data for 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
 This quarter’s report finds that the U.S. installed 723 megawatts (MW) in Q1 2013, which accounted for over 48 percent of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S. last quarter. Overall, these installations represent the best first quarter of any given year for the industry. In addition, the residential and utility market segments registered first-quarter highs with 164 MW and 318 MW respectively.
As explored in greater detail in the report, the residential market remains a highlight for U.S. solar with 53 percent year-over-year growth. Unlike the non-residential and utility markets, residential solar has not exhibited seasonality and market volatility on a national basis; quarterly growth in the U.S. residential market has ranged from 4 percent to 21 percent in 12 of the past 13 quarters. 
[READ MORE]


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Port of Milwaukee Wind Turbine: A Story of Successful Wisconsin Collaboration on Renewable Energy

Collaboration between the City of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability and the Port of Milwaukee to install a Northern Power 100-kilowatt wind turbine with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, We Energies and Focus on Energy reports success.

The City of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability and the Port of Milwaukee partnered to install a Northern Power 100-kilowatt (kW) wind turbine at the Port administration building near the shore of Lake Michigan. Commissioned in February 2012, the wind turbine provides more than 100% of the electricity needs of the administration building with its excess energy sold to We Energies.
In its first 9 months of operation, the project resulted in more than $5,000 in net revenue for the port after all electric expenses were paid. The estimated annual savings to the city are $14,000 to $20,000 (at 2011 rates, revenue included). Estimated annual production is 109,000 to 152,000 kilowatt-hours.
The turbine was manufactured in the United States, and many parts, including the tower, were made in Wisconsin. The $587,000 project received the bulk of its funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ($400,000) and $100,000 each from We Energies and the statewide Focus on Energy program. 
 [READ MORE]

Monday, June 10, 2013

Master Limited Partnerships for Renewable Energy: A Point/Counterpoint


In Midwest Energy News John Ferrell comments on the potential expansion of Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) to cover wind and solar energy providers. Ferrell asserts that including wind and solar companies in MLPs and thus allowing them to avoid paying corporate income tax would simply provide another tax loophole to big business rather than evening the playing field between renewable and conventional energy sources. In the counterpoint below Attorney Michael Allen of Energy Law Wisconsin identifies three primary reasons why the extension of MLPs to include wind and solar business will encourage more investment dollars to come into the renewables marketplace.
I write in response to John Farrell’s recent commentary on Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) in Midwest Energy News.  Bottom Line: I don’t entirely agree with Mr. Farrell’s pessimistic point of view. Here are a few areas where I respectfully disagree.
The first is while it is technically correct for Farrell to say that MLPs don’t pay corporate income tax, this statement is somewhat misleading, as it suggests that  that the income generated by Master Limited Partnerships avoids taxation.  It does not.  MLPs, just like the LLCs who comprise many of the members of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, do not escape income taxation on the money they earn.  Rather, their income flows through to their owners who pay the tax on this income at their own tax rates.  Renewable Energy MLPs would offer an advantage to persons who wanted to raise large amounts of money for renewable energy because the entities would get the best of both the partnership and corporate forms of doing business.  Like corporations they are publicly-traded, so many people, even small investors, would be able to invest and with a broader potential owner base they should be able to raise funds at more favorable rates.   In addition, they get the same favorable pass through tax treatment as an LLC because, unlike publicly traded corporations, their profits would not be taxed twice -- first at the corporate level and again when dividends or profits are distributed to the shareholders. 


Farrell may have a valid criticism of the FERC regulation of Master Limited Partnerships in the oil and gas industry in that FERC may be allowing them overly generous rate recovery --treating them as if they were subject to “double taxation” of profits and dividends when they are not.  However, if true, this is a criticism of FERC regulation that should be corrected at the FERC and avoided if Renewable Energy MLPs become a reality.  It is not an inherent defect with the MLP form of doing business.  It is unclear to me to what extent this would be an issue for renewable energy MLPs.  FERC regulation would apply if they were selling electricity in interstate commerce.  However one can imagine an MLP that would not be regulated by FERC because it focused on developing PV systems or micro grids serving business parks or subdivisions within states.


Farrell raises two other concerns with MLPs.  First, he claims they will enable large regulated utilities to get to the tax-saving “trough”. Second, he believes MLPs will reinforce centralized control of the energy system, and counter the trend of distributed local generation on rooftops, thereby taking ownership of the renewable energy system away from the “little guy”, who is unlikely to be an investor in a renewable energy MLP. 


I think Mr. Farrell’s view that these features make MLPs lousy policy for renewables is debatable.


First, plenty of “little guys” hold shares in regulated utilities, so I don’t know what would prevent them from being investors in renewable energy MLPs should they be utilized by utilities (For example -- my 84 year old mother holds units in Cedar Fair, the amusement park MLP).  Locally if you go to an MGE annual meeting you will see thousands of small investors.  In addition, if individual investors want to buy stock cheaply, they can do so in just about any utility and many other publicly-traded corporations and existing MLPs through low cost services that allow shareholders to buy as little as one share and reinvest their dividends or make additional modest investments through Dividend Reinvestment Plans and Direct Investment Plans.  Renewable Energy MLPs actually have the potential to open up ownership of renewables to people who, like the small investors who have flocked to Solar Mosaic, can’t afford to put a PV system on their own home and don’t have sufficient taxable income to be a major investor in a renewable energy project to get the tax credits, but can afford to invest a $1,000 or less in a renewable energy project.


Second, if utilities or other big industry players really want to get into renewables in a big way, they already can – they don’t need the MLP.  Look at Warren Buffett, or Duke Energy or MEMC, which purchased Sun Edison and just adopted its name.  They just need to find the right renewable investments in the right markets.  I think it is unlikely that it is the lack of the MLP form of doing business that is holding them back.


Finally, it is not cheap to set up an MLP and utilities can already raise money through their existing corporate structure (assuming the local state regulatory commission lets them do so).  I don’t think it is a certainty that they will be the ones to jump into the MLP game.  If you want to anticipate which financial heavyweights might use the MLP renewables structure, my sense it would be more likely to be the major oil companies (as Farrell notes) or the investment banks, who underwrote the fossil fuel and pipeline MLPs.


Ultimately, I think Mr. Farrell is making an argument that renewables are done best with local control and not by large centralized owners.  There are certainly benefits to the local approach, including increased responsiveness to local community concerns and perhaps, in some circumstances, even local grid security.  However, there are drawbacks too, including loss of potential economies of scale making renewables development more expensive than it needs to be and risk of inadequate depth of expertise to serve the needs of customers.  In addition, as noted above, one could even argue that MLPs, by offering an opportunity for small investors to invest in renewables via MLP unit ownership, may have a democratizing effect on renewables by opening up greater opportunity of ownership to small investors, even if ownership of renewable energy assets are concentrated in larger companies. 


Nothing is black and white, but I come down on the side of favoring MLPs, because I believe they will encourage more investment dollars to come into the renewables marketplace. And the clinching consideration that sways me in this direction is that if the Earth’s atmosphere obtains relief from GHG emissions due to increased development of renewables, I think the atmosphere doesn't care much whether these renewables are locally or centrally owned. 


Regards,


Michael
Michael J. Allen

Energy Law Wisconsin
1500 West Main Street, Suite 300
P.O. Box 27
Sun Prairie, WI 53590


 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dairyland Power Cooperative Works to Remind the Next Generation of the Value of Cooperative Utilities

 At the Dairyland Power Cooperative's 72nd annual meeting in La Crosse, President Bill Berg sought to remind younger cooperative members of the importance of cooperative utilities and the incorporation of new technology in the near future. Outlining the historical path of technological and social developments, Berg said of renewable energy that "You can view it as a threat or as something you need to be a part of". The La Crosse Tribune article below describes Dairyland's plans to incorporate more alternative energy practices into it operation.

“In an era of new technology we run the risk of becoming just another utility. We’re not just a utility. We’re an organization that empowers members … to improve the quality of their lives.” 

With the passage of the generation that experienced the electrification of rural America, La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative is looking for ways to remind younger members of the value of cooperative utilities and to prepare for the next game-changing technology.

That was the message delivered Wednesday to 246 delegates and about 350 others in attendance at the cooperative’s 72nd annual meeting in La Crosse.

In a speech modeled after the 1970s television show “Connections,” President Bill Berg traced a path of technological and social developments from a water-powered mill in 3rd century France to the printing press to automated punch cards and finally the modern computer chip.
“What once took hundreds of years can now happen in decades” — or faster, Berg said. “Perhaps the biggest threat could come from new technology.”

While photovoltaic solar generation can’t yet compete with fossil fuel sources on price and can’t be delivered on demand, Berg said the advances have been dramatic.

“You can view it as a threat or as something you need to be a part of.”

[READ MORE]