Second Quarter News at the Coalition
This newsletter is a snapshot of the work the Coalition and broader community have engaged in over the past quarter. It highlights but does not include all of the work staff are doing behind the scenes with members and other stakeholders. We look forward to continuing to share these updates with you!
Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI)
In January, the Coalition established a JEDI council to help craft a JEDI commitment and accountability statement. In the first few months of the year, the JEDI council met and developed the first draft of this statement. The council included staff, board, and membership representation, led by a consultant. This document will continue to be a work in progress, and we look forward to sharing it with our membership and allies as we continue to grow and learn from this process.
NW Power and Conservation Council
The draft of the NW Power Council’s 2021 Regional Power Plan is scheduled to be issued in August. The Coalition has been deeply involved in the plan development as it relates to modeling, energy efficiency, and demand-side resources. Once the draft plan is released, there will be a 60-day comment period. The Coalition will develop plan highlights, summary documents and host webinars to educate our members and allies on the details of the draft 2021 Plan to help support public input to the Power Council.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Coalition has advocated for consumers to be protected, and for utilities and regulators to make special accommodations to account for these extraordinary times. In Washington, Governor Inslee extended for the final time the utility shutoff moratorium to September 30, and urged customers in need to contact their utilities to understand the assistance that is available. In Oregon, the disconnection moratorium ended on July 16. While disconnections have resumed for the general population, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved extended protection for special cases, including (but not limited to) those who have been in touch with their utility, have paid part of their balance, or have been displaced by wildfires. While neither the Idaho PUC or Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) has addressed disconnections and arrearages as a result of Covid-19 impacts directly, utilities in Idaho and Montana are continuing to offer flexible payment plans and information on access to financial resources.
Salmon and Energy
The momentum around the federal infrastructure and jobs plan creates a significant opportunity for funding and policy direction to restore Snake River and Columbia basin salmon. The Coalition has participated in a number of briefings with congressional offices on the need for comprehensive action on clean energy, power system infrastructure, and lower Snake River dam removal. Many Northwest Tribes, led by the Nez Perce, participated in a Tribal Salmon Summit and called on Congress and the Biden Administration to take comprehensive action to restore Columbia Basin salmon. The other big news of the quarter came from Senator Murray and Governor Inslee as they called for more urgency in addressing these issues. We hope this has impacts on federal consideration as well as the four Governor’s Columbia Basin Collaborative. The Coalition has been coordinating position statements on federal clean energy infrastructure needs as well as the need to modernize the role of the Bonneville Power Administration.
To learn more about the reliable and affordable clean energy options that can help restore salmon and protect the environment, take a look at NWEC’s Lower Snake River Dams Power Replacement Study.
Regional Coordination and Market Development
The Coalition is actively involved in three developments to improve and expand coordination of the electric power system in the west. First is the Northwest Power Pool Resource Adequacy program, which is expected to start with a voluntary phase in 2022 and a full program by 2024. This will help share resources across the western region during peak demand periods. Second is the anticipated entry of the Bonneville Power Administration into the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) in March 2022. BPA is the largest remaining utility not in the EIM, which has delivered over $1 billion in cost savings, provided better integration for renewable resources and improved grid reliability since 2014. Finally, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has a proposal for an Enhanced Day Ahead Market (EDAM) that could provide the next step forward toward a full western power market by 2024. Working closely with other clean energy advocacy organizations across the west, the Coalition’s aim is to ensure that these efforts provide full access to new clean resources – renewables, storage, and flexible demand – and build in customer protections against sudden price spikes.
State Regulatory and Utility Action for Q2
The passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) in 2019 is transforming power planning in Washington. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Avista both submitted integrated resource plans (IRPs) this spring, showing how they will meet the obligations of CETA to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and carbon-free by 2045. PSE has also filed an IRP Request for Proposal (RFP) and a Request for Information (RFI) for Demand Response (DR) resources. PacifiCorp (PAC) filed an incomplete draft IRP on April 1, without modeling or a resource portfolio, and as a result, has asked for an extension to submit the final IRP in September (UE-200420), draft clean energy implementation plans (CEIPs) in October, and final CEIP in December (UE-210223). Coalition staff will continue to engage closely in the power planning and procurement dockets to ensure compliance with the intent and letter of CETA. In addition, the investor-owned utilities have established CETA equity advisory groups.
Public utilities are also developing clean energy implementation plans (CEIPs), which include public participation plans. The Coalition is active with and providing input to Seattle City Light, Tacoma Power, and Snohomish PUD.
Other regulatory updates include:
- Last quarter the Coalition and our allies asked the Utilities and Transportation Commission to launch an investigation into the costs and benefits of continued operation of the Colstrip coal plant. This quarter, we submitted joint comments with the Sierra Club and a number of our members providing more details to the UTC. However, the UTC rejected the request while the Colstrip owners are in arbitration over setting the Colstrip O&M budget.
- Staff has worked with PSE to provide input on the development of their Transportation Electrification Plan, UE-210191. PSE filed an addendum to their Transportation Electrification Plan to provide more information on their plans to integrate load management and evaluate program costs and benefits.
- The 2021 statewide energy code updates are underway, and Coalition staff are participating in the process to ensure progress on energy efficiency for new construction.
- Ecology opened a rulemaking to adopt California’s Zero Emission Vehicle Program and Advanced Clean Truck Rule. Coalition staff are working with environmental, environmental justice, and labor partners to advocate for Ecology to adopt the full suite of California’s clean vehicle standards. The Coalition hosted a learning session with NRDC, the BlueGreen Alliance, and Climate Solutions on these two programs.
Oregon Regulatory Updates
UM 2011 (general capacity investigation): This docket is on track with a series of workshops including on ELCC (Effective Load Carrying Capacity) for resource assessment. NWEC is coordinating with Renewable Northwest to shape the Commission’s adoption of ELCC guidelines that will set the value of generation, storage, and demand response resources. The next workshop will be on hybrid resources (such as solar + battery), which is becoming a major part of the new clean resource mix.
UM 2005 (distribution system planning): This docket has a multi-channel effort. We are participating in workshops convened by PacifiCorp (PAC), Portland General Electric (PGE), and the Public Utility Commission (PUC). We provided technical expertise to Community Energy Project, Unite Oregon, and Coalition of Communities of Color to host a community-centered workshop on DSP and are now supporting the dissemination of their workshop findings.
AR 638 (utility wildfire mitigation plans): With members and environmental justice partners, we have been participating in workshops on public safety power shutoffs and community engagement plans, pushing for realistic conversations about the importance of local generation and storage to protect vulnerable communities. We are supporting a connection between community resilience and distribution system planning.
Executive Order 20-04 on Climate: We continue to facilitate regular conversations with advocates looking to maximize impact at the PUC in its implementation of EO 20-04. The Coalition is the point organization on issues of incorporating the social cost of carbon into energy efficiency evaluation, expanding low-income energy efficiency access, resource adequacy, distribution system planning, flexible demand, performance-based regulation, and transportation electrification. While some of these processes have yet to publicly launch at the PUC or are occurring across multiple dockets, we continue to monitor and push to stay on track with the PUC’s timeline.
UM 2165 (TE investment framework): This docket offers an opportunity to reimagine a new investment framework that more holistically accounts for and redistributes benefits to all customers. NWEC submitted comments identifying current barriers limiting equitable investments in TE and our procedural and technical recommendations to address those barriers. In addition, we worked with Climate Solutions, Forth, Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Verde to submit comments outlining our recommendation for establishing metrics to evaluate equity within a utility TE portfolio.
UM 1930 (community solar): The OPUC held a workshop on June 4, after which the Coalition, along with Wallowa Resources, Solarize Rogue, and Bonneville Environmental Foundation, submitted comments to inform the future of the program. At the time of the publication of this newsletter, OPUC staff was working on issuing a recommendation based on many stakeholder comments.
Idaho Power Company (IPC) is filing to accelerate the Jim Bridger depreciation schedule from 2034 to 2030. This would result in a short-term increase in rates and long-term savings.
Governor Little will be updating the state energy plan for Idaho. This plan, last updated in 2012, will be conducted through the Office of Energy and Mineral Resources. We have also been paying close attention to Idaho Power’s 2021 Integrated Resource Plan, (expected to be finalized in the fall), and a possible change in its demand response program to adjust for a change in peak times.
NorthWestern Energy (NWE) has filed for pre-approval for a 175 MW fossil gas power plant to be located in Laurel, MT. The Coalition and Renewable Northwest (RNW) jointly intervened in the docket that also requests approval for a 50 MW grid-tied battery.
NorthWestern Energy’s IRP planning process is underway, with a target filing date at the end of 2022. It is likely the outcome of the pre-approval docket as well as the finalization of new planning rules at the Commission will play a role in the development of the plan.
Unfortunately, the implementation of NorthWestern Energy’s pilot decoupling mechanism (Fixed Cost Recovery Mechanism – FCRM) has been delayed another year. Scheduled to begin July 1, 2020, NorthWestern successfully argued to the Commission that the potential of providing rebates to customers is not just and reasonable due to an unsubstantiated shift in load that occurred as a result of the pandemic.
State Policy Highlights for Q2
The 2021 legislative sessions came to an end this quarter, and it was mostly a big success! Here is an overview of what we worked on with state policy.
In Washington, we supported the passage of policies and programs advancing transportation electrification, energy affordability, and investments in clean energy and efficient buildings. To learn more about the specific work we did in the legislative session, take a look at our Washington Legislative Session Wrap-Up.
- More information about the Clean Fuels Standard and the upcoming rulemaking can be found here.
- More information about the Climate Commitment Act and the upcoming rulemaking can be found here.
During the Oregon legislative session, the Coalition staff along with allies worked to educate policymakers and push through a portfolio of legislation that advances equity, clean energy, emissions reduction, and energy efficiency. To learn more about the specific work we did in the legislative session, take a look at our Oregon Legislative Session Wrap-Up.
In Montana, the 2021 legislative session proved to be challenging, including several bills attempting to arbitrarily prolong the life of the Colstrip Generating station. Several of the energy bills that passed are being challenged to court, including the following:
- SB 265, targeting dispute resolution between Colstrip owners, requires arbitration to be held in Montana, despite a legal contract requiring such arbitration to be located in Spokane, WA.
- SB 266, allows the attorney general to assess a fine for failure to maintain Colstrip.
The next Montana legislative session will take place in 2023. In the interim, there will be studies on nuclear power, general capacity issues, as well as discussions on net metering and transportation electrification. Despite the challenges, our members helped us make this session better than it could have.
Outreach and Communication
In the beginning of summer, we hosted our 2021 Clean & Affordable Energy Conference. We discussed some of the most pressing issues in the Northwest’s energy landscape. These included salmon recovery, potential changes to the federal hydro system, and how to advance equity in the energy space through funding and community participation. Panelists also discussed how to address regulatory barriers to decarbonizing utilities, and how stakeholders can engage in the NW Power Council’s regional planning processes. If you missed the conference, take a look at our Conference Digest to learn more!
We also had our Spring Member Meeting, where we updated members on our programs and policy advocacy efforts. Read about that meeting in our Spring Member Meeting Summary.
Our staff has remained active these last few months discussing energy issues at other organizational events. Coalition Director Nancy Hirsh participated in several panels including a Snake River Dam Removal Panel hosted by the CleanTech Alliance, a consumer panel at the American Association of Blacks in Energy, and spoke at an International Youth Advocacy Summit. Fred Heutte, Senior Policy Associate, participated on a panel at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission’s Technical Conference to Discuss the Resource Adequacy Developments in the Western Interconnection. Lauren McCloy, Policy Director, spoke at the Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians Spring Convention. And Heather Moline, Energy and Equity Policy Associate discussed energy equity and storage at a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Roundtable!
In the news
Rep. Fitzgibbon Champions Historic Clean Energy Legislation, June 10, 2021, Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber
CUB Advocates for Consumer Protections as Disconnection Moratorium Ends, June 1, 2021, CUB
Natural gas plant, battery storage: What’s next for NorthWestern Energy?, May 24, 2021, Missoula Current
UMC Joins NW Energy Coalition, May 2021
Why Renewable Electricity Powers Decarbonization – and Pays Off, April 15, 2021, InvestigateWest