Utility Dive: Last-Minute Congressional Budget Compromise Saves EPA, ARPA-E Funding

  • The bipartisan budget compromise reached by Congress over the weekend salvaged funding for both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and clean energy research conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
  • The EPA's budget was trimmed by 1%, and ARPA-E actually received a $15 million boost instead of being eliminated, as previously proposed by the Trump administration. The deal runs through the remainder of the government's fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.

Energy Matters: Australia Hits New Solar Energy Record

The Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI), with data from the Clean Energy Regulator, says the country has a new solar energy record.

There are now 6 GW of solar power across the country, enough to meet the electricity needs of 1.3 million households.

Solar power now makes up 11 percent of [Australia's] total electricity generation capacity,” APVI chair Renate Egan said in a statement. In addition, Ms. Egan said more solar photovoltaic energy entered the system in 2016 than any other fuel. March saw 6,845 small-scale systems installed nationally with installation rates for March tracking higher than February’s.  

Power: Vogtle, V.C. Summer Project Owners Buy More Time to Mull Fate of Nuclear Units

The owners of the Vogtle and V.C. Summer nuclear expansions separately secured a few more weeks to allow work to continue onsite at each project while they decide how to proceed with the half-built AP1000 reactors after Westinghouse’s financial debacle.

In Georgia, owners of the project to expand Plant Vogtle extended an interim assessment agreement with Westinghouse until May 12. But Georgia Power’s parent company Southern Co. also revealed it is negotiating a new service agreement that could engage Westinghouse to provide design, engineering and procurement services in the event Southern Nuclear Operating Co. -- Southern Co.’s nuclear unit operations arm -- takes over management of construction at Units 3 and 4.

And in South Carolina, owners of the project to expand V.C. Summer extended a similar agreement through June 26. The project owners detailed their concerns and options in a recent ex parte briefing at the South Carolina Public Service Commission.

CommonWealth: Utilities Unveil RFP for Offshore Wind Power 

The state's utilities on Monday set in motion a first-of-its-kind procurement for 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by asking Massachusetts regulators to approve a bid process that gives companies some flexibility in setting the size of their projects while requiring them to price out two very different approaches to delivering the electricity to the mainland.

The draft request for proposals also raises the possibility that Massachusetts could invite a Rhode Island utility and the state of Connecticut to participate in the solicitation.

Legislation authorizing the offshore wind power procurement was approved in 2016. The law allows the state’s utilities to sign contracts for 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power over the next 10 years. The power price is required to drop with each successive contract. The contracting process is being run by the state’s utilities -- Eversource, National Grid and Unitil -- and being monitored by the Baker administration, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the Department of Public Utilities.

The three companies vying for offshore wind contracts off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard have very different views about the size of the initial power contract, but have been united in their belief that each firm should build its own transmission line to the mainland.  The draft RFP accommodated the varying views on contract size, while leaving the door open to an alternative approach on the transmission line.

Department of Interior Press Release: Secretary Zinke Signs Orders Implementing America-First Offshore Energy Strategy

On the stage of the Offshore Technology Conference, flanked by men and women who work on offshore oil and gas platforms, Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke today signed two secretarial orders aimed at unleashing America’s offshore energy potential and growing the U.S. economy. The first order implements President Trump’s executive order signed Friday and directs the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to develop a new five-year plan for oil and gas exploration in offshore waters and reconsider a number of regulations governing those activities. The second order establishes a new position -- Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy -- to coordinate the Interior Department’s energy portfolio that spans nine of the Department’s 10 bureaus.

Secretary Zinke told industry representatives at the annual Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, "We will conduct a thorough review of the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration and listen to state and local stakeholders. We also will conduct a thorough review of regulations that were created with good intentions but have had harmful impacts on America's energy security."