The policy experts at EQ Research have been sifting through regulatory proceedings and found 29 new dockets so far in 2017 -- initiated at public utility commissions in 18 states and the District of Columbia -- that are relevant to electric vehicles and/or electric-vehicle charging. Utilities and municipalities are also taking action on EVs outside of the formal regulatory process.
“One thing has become very evident from our research: Progress is being driven on multiple fronts, making EV deployment one of the more 'equal opportunity' policy pursuits in the clean-energy arena,” EQ Research’s Laurel Passera wrote in a blog post earlier this month.
EQ Research summarized the latest EV-related developments in the following handy map.
The research firm also offered the following summary of the latest EV actions. A comprehensive and regularly updated list of EV-related developments is available to subscribers of EQ Research’s “EV, Please!” service (contact the firm for more info).
Utility proposals and plans:
- California's three major electric investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have filed transportation-electrification proposals, pursuant to SB 350 of 2015.
- In the District of Columbia, Pepco filed a proposal to create a Plug-In EV Pilot Program that includes five new EV rate options.
- In Florida, TECO plans to educate its customers on EV operation and maintenance.
- Iowa's Alliant Energy has proposed a new EV-charging rate for residential customers and general-service customers.
- In Massachusetts, Eversource is seeking to invest $45 million in EV infrastructure and vehicle conversions over a five-year period.
- National Grid has proposed an electric-transportation initiative in New York that includes three separate programs.
- In Missouri, the Public Service Commission is exploring questions related to its role in promoting a competitive market for EVs.
- The Illinois Commerce Commission has commenced a sweeping “utility of the future” proceeding that includes addressing the advent of EVs.
- Michigan regulators are laying the groundwork to study future regulatory and infrastructure issues as demand for EVs grows.
- Four major West Coast cities -- Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle -- issued a request for information in January inviting automakers to describe plans for meeting an aggregate order from the four cities to buy or lease up to 24,000 EVs for their fleets.
- San Francisco recently approved an ordinance that requires new residential, commercial and municipal buildings to include sufficient electrical infrastructure to simultaneously charge EVs in 20 percent of the building’s parking spaces.
- In Illinois, the Chicago Department of Transportation joined a partnership to support EV chargers under the federally funded Drive Clean Station Program.
- New York’s Drive Clean Initiative will provide $70 million for EV rebates, consumer-awareness activities and other projects, with $55 million allocated for rebates of up to $2,000 for the purchase of new plug-in hybrid electric cars, all-electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell cars.
- Rhode Island’s DRIVE program offers rebates ranging from $500 to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of an eligible EV.
- In California, PG&E began offering EV rebates to residential customers under the Clean Fuel Rebate program, which is part of the state’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard initiative.
- In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power is offering a $10,000 discount on the purchase of a 2017 Nissan Leaf.
Montana’s Public Service Commission voted to significantly cut the guaranteed rates and contracts offered to solar projects 3 megawatts and under this week, after the state's largest utility received a flurry of interconnection requests, the Billings Gazette reports.
Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), utilities must offer contracts to small qualifying solar projects at rates set by the PSC. The favorable terms -- a 25-year contract and payment for power roughly double the spot market price -- wasn't a concern when solar panel costs were high. But costs have dropped dramatically, and NorthWestern, the largest utility, now believes the rates are too attractive.
In June 2016, the PSC agreed to suspend the incentives program. NorthWestern had received 97 solar hookup requests in the 18 months before Montana suspended its offer. After that point, the number of proposed solar projects 3 megawatts and under fell to just 10. In December 2016, FERC ruled that suspending the program was wrong.
On Thursday, the PSC responded by setting new rates for small solar projects. The new rules effectively cut contract lengths to five years, with an option to negotiate for five more. Renewable energy advocates said the new rules dim the prospects for solar in the state.
“Montana is going to lose out on the solar revolution. It’s going to go to Idaho and Wyoming and other states,” said Anne Hedges, of the Montana Environmental Information Center.
To ensure fairness, Commissioner Travis Kavulla persuaded the PSC to apply the same short-term contracts to any additional power generated by NorthWestern in the future, and the PSC agreed. NorthWestern did not have a detailed response on how the rate changes would affect the utility as of Thursday.
Florida governor signs renewable tax credits into law
Late last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 90 into law, approving a measure that will extend a property-tax exemption for renewable energy installations, including solar, wind and geothermal, to both commercial and residential properties. Sunrun announced that it’s entering the Florida market now that the policy is officially in place.
SB 90 enacts Amendment 4, a ballot measure that passed with 73 percent voter support during the primary election last August. The Republican-backed bill also passed unanimously in both the Florida Senate and House, although it was not voted on until the very end of the legislative session -- to the frustration of some.
“With something so widely supported by Floridians, you have to wonder what took so long,” said Chad Tudenggongbu, a senior renewable energy campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Voters in Florida have repeatedly and enthusiastically supported renewable power development. Politicians shouldn’t hold the Sunshine State back from becoming a leader in solar energy.”
Florida lawmakers worked closely with clean energy and jobs advocates to pass the legislation, including Vote Solar, the Solar Energy Industries Association, Advanced Energy Economy, and The Alliance for Solar Choice. While solar stakeholders failed to pass a ballot measure last year that would allow for third-party ownership in the state, they cheered the new law for enabling a more robust solar market.
“This is a victory for Florida, solar customers and non-solar customers alike,” said Patrick Altier, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association (FlaSEIA). “Better tax policy means more local jobs, lowered energy costs, and more clean, affordable solar energy in the Sunshine State.”
"Florida has tremendous solar resources, and this legislation will only enhance investment across the state," said Colin Meehan, director of regulatory and public affairs at First Solar, a leading global provider of advanced PV solar systems. "Utility-scale solar is increasingly competitive, and this legislation will help us continue to do business in Florida bringing reliable, affordable clean energy to Floridians.”
The Florida's solar industry is relatively small despite its large capacity. The state currently ranks only 13th in the nation for installed capacity, although it is third in technical solar potential.
Illinois House protects renewables funding
On Thursday, members of the Illinois House unanimously adopted a bill (HR 234) aimed at cutting pollution and expanding access to the clean energy economy in low-income communities. The legislation states that “we work together to create an environmental justice agenda that creates clean energy jobs that are accessible to all, addresses gender inequities and income disparities as we move toward a green economy, reduces recidivism rates while curbing climate change, and shapes policy that addresses the adverse and disproportionate impacts of climate change upon communities of color and economically-disadvantaged communities.”
HR 234 calls for protecting the Illinois Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF) and using it to implement the state’s Solar For All Program, established by the Future Energy Jobs Act. Solar For All seeks to create 2,000 jobs for persons with records and foster care alumni in the clean energy economy by 2030 by offering incentives to companies to hire trainees. The Senate unanimously approved a companion measure (SR 353) last month.
"As lawmakers work in the coming days to hopefully agree on a desperately needed budget for Illinois, we urge them to avoid sweeping funds from the RERF, which would deny economically disadvantaged communities across the state the jobs and cleaner air that are coming soon thanks to the Illinois Solar for All program in the Future Energy Jobs Act,” the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition said in a statement.
Ohio looks to ease restrictions on wind projects
Senate lawmakers in Ohio took steps this week to reform the state’s wind turbines setback policy as a part of the proposed biennial budget (HB 49). The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) calls the setback policy -- which mandates that wind turbines be situated at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line -- “among the most restrictive in the nation.” The provision has effectively brought new wind power development in Ohio to a halt since passing in 2014, according to the association.
“The Ohio Senate took a stand for the state’s future by aiming to reform burdensome regulation and unleash the job-creating economic potential of Ohio’s wind energy resources,” said Andrew Gohn, Eastern region policy director for AWEA. “We applaud the Senate’s leadership on this issue and urge the House to support the setback fix as well.”
According to Cleveland.com, an amendment submitted by Republican State Senator Cliff Hite would ditch the 1,300-foot rule, and instead base a wind turbine’s setback requirement on the height and length of the tower and blades. Wind power developers view the proposal as a thoughtful compromise, and see it opening up major investment opportunities.
"Since 2011, EDP Renewables has constructed two wind farms in Paulding County Ohio and invested approximately $400 million,” said Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America. “The Senate’s proposal to fix wind turbine siting rules will allow wind energy developers to make billions of dollars of investment in Ohio’s rural communities.”
Ohio’s business community has also expressed support for less restrictive setback rules. Last week, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s nearly 8,000 members sent a letter to Senator Hite, supporting “a more reasonable wind setback policy than Ohio law currently allows. Amazon Web Services -- which is currently building a 189-megawatt wind farm in Hardin County, Ohio -- has called for setback reform, too.
Reforming Ohio’s setback standard would result in over $4.2 billion in local economic benefits, according to a study published by AWEA. Wind power has already generated nearly 3,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in wind project investment in Ohio.
New York offers $6.3M for non-commercial energy storage
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced this week it’s making up to $6.3 million is available for innovative energy storage technologies that have not yet been commercialized, with the aim of supporting renewable energy resources and making the grid more flexible.
Program Opportunity Notice 3585 seeks concept papers focused on “advancing, developing and field testing of energy storage technologies that will address cost, performance and integration opportunities in New York,” according to the solicitation announcement. Papers should also identify how the technology will advance the state’s goal to have 50 percent of its electricity come from renewable resources by 2030.
More specifically, NYSERDA is seeking proposals focused on:
- Hardware (including balance-of-system hardware) cost reduction.
- Performance improvements (efficiency, energy and power density, and thermal stability), for NY-specific applications’ duty cycles (e.g., building demand response, electric vehicle charging, solar photovoltaics (PV), and large-scale wind farming).
- Load-side and generation-side field testing of new energy storage technologies to reduce peak load, store and reuse solar PV and wind energy to aid firming up these resources, and provide ancillary services.
NYSERDA will accept four-page concept papers during the first round of this solicitation through July 20, 2017. A scoring committee will then select papers through a competitive process, and request follow up proposals from the best submissions. The proposals selected will receive funding to move forward with their projects.
NYSERDA anticipates two rounds of this solicitation in 2017. Up to $1.825 million will be committed by Dec. 31, 2017 with the remainder of the $6.3 million committed during Round 2 by Dec. 18, 2018.
Earlier this year, NYSERDA announced $15.5 million in funding for energy storage projects that are already commercially available. Initial concept papers under the previous solicitation will be accepted through December 31, 2019 or until all funds are committed.
Bonus: Help your state go renewable
A new website launched this week that helps consumers push their states to adopt a cleaner energy mix. Gavin Ahern, the founder of Conscious Watt, describes it like this:
“We realized that most Americans lack specific knowledge when it comes to pro-renewable energy policy, especially at the state level. To address this, we designed a tool that allows users to identify which renewable energy options are available to them and other entities where they live based on the state policy in place (onsite solar, community solar, large-scale PPAs, etc.). We then allow users to select which of the unavailable options they would like to see available in their states and then connect them to their respective state senators/representatives/governors with automated email drafts supporting the enabling policy for those options.”
“We hope this website can help support state policy change that opens up more opportunities for customers of all type to purchase renewable energy. We think state-level action is imperative to help make up for decisions made at the federal level.”
You can check out Conscious Watt here.