Spring Member Meeting Summary
May 11, 2021
10AM – 12PM (PST)
The Coalition thanks all our members for their ongoing engagement and support! We hope many of you can join us on June 2nd and June 10th for the Clean & Affordable Energy Conference!
The Coalition membership is broad, with a great diversity of individuals and member organizations who are active in the Coalition. Our members are at the core of who we are. They not only bring geographic diversity, but also variety in the types of organizations, utilities and energy companies. Together we are able to talk through challenging issues, and bring up innovative ways of thinking.
Executive Director, Nancy Hirsh provided a state of the organization update, and remarked how resilient and successful the Coalition has been – especially as it pertains to the significant impacts of Covid-19 on energy service and affordability.
In the past year, the pandemic has had adverse effects on human health, and impacted how utilities in the region view and address arrearage management strategies and disconnection. NWEC has been working with utilities to help target financial support to those most in need, including: developing plans to help customers with 60-90+ day arrearages, avoiding disconnections of vulnerable customers, and pushing for federal and state funds for energy assistance. To make this possible, we have appreciated all the collaboration with community-based organizations and others across the region.
Next, Nancy provided an overview of key programmatic themes in the organization. First, the region needs to use energy efficiency to reduce load as we simultaneously shift load on to the electric system through electrification of buildings and transportation. Along with energy efficiency, the region must use demand management, price signals, storage, and distributed generation and other customer-side resources to accelerate our ability to manage load. It’s important to deploy these customer side resources now to make sure we’re optimizing the system and managing loads to meet capacity needs. In addition, we need next generation planning that advances the idea of integrated system planning. We are seeing challenges for utilities and the NW Power and Conservation Council in adjusting their modeling and planning regimes to accommodate the energy transition. As we decarbonize, we need to be smart, equitable, innovative and strategic in the transition. More and more we are seeing the link between energy and environmental and cultural impacts, in particular with salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
As an organization internally, we’ve made changes as it relates to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) through the development of a JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Council, that began in January. This council has helped us think through an anti-racist statement for the organization, and led to inspiring work, as well as pushed us personally. As a primarily white led organization, this effort helps us think through how we can improve as an organization in terms of equity and justice for Black, Brown, and Indigenous (BBI) communities.
New Member Applications + Member Updates
We’ve received four member applications this spring from the following organizations, Cascadia Consulting Group, Electrify Now, Gallatin Power, and UMC. Cascadia Consulting Group works with public, non-profit, corporate, and tribal clients across the US and internationally to advance sustainability through climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity and habitat conservation, watershed planning, low impact development, and resource conservation. Electrify Now works to educate and empower individuals and businesses to discontinue the use of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and heat and to convert to clean, affordable alternatives. Gallatin Power is a new renewable energy development company, with roots in Pacific Northwest energy advocacy. Gallatin Power’s goal is simple, to bring affordable, clean and responsible energy projects to the Pacific Northwest. UMC is the “boots on the ground” of smart buildings and energy policy – we have a vested interest in creating healthy, sustainable, energy-efficient buildings. All four of these organizations were approved for membership.
This spring meeting was the first with our new Board chair, Shanna Brownstein, who welcomed the Coalition and organizational and individual member updates. To view member updates, visit this link.
Policy Updates by State
Idaho Power’s 2021 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), is expected to be finalized later this fall. The utility is focused on exiting out of its coal plants (specifically Jim Bridger), and building the Boardman to Hemmingway Transmission line.
Idaho Power is using the utility cost test instead of the total resource cost test for energy efficiency and demand response program design as well as the IRP process.
Interestingly, even through the pandemic, in 2020, Idaho Power had their second highest energy efficiency acquisition, which was spurred by the commercial sector and new construction in Boise.
Idaho Power is looking to change its demand response program, one of the largest in the Northwest, to meet more of their net load. Their peak time is shifting to later in the evening during the summer, and the utility is looking to make some changes to address this shift.
The PAC Idaho rate case expected in June has a focus on coal plants and possibly distributed energy resource (DER) values and programs. There is potential DER valuation/ program design dockets from IPC and/ or PAC this summer.
The Governor will be updating the state energy plan for Idaho, which was last updated in 2012. This will be conducted through the Office of Energy and Mineral Resources. We are unclear of what this process will look like, and the implications, but will be actively paying attention to this.
The State of Montana just finished their legislative session. It was a difficult session on all accounts. However, thanks to our members, it was better than it could have been.
Several energy bills that passed are being challenged in court, and will likely be thrown out due to constitutionality issues. SB 379, guaranteeing cost recovery for additional NorthWestern Energy (NWE) acquisition of Colstrip, failed. SB 265, requiring arbitration be held in Montana, and SB 266, allowing the attorney general to assess a fine for failure to maintain Colstrip, both passed. Oregon and Washington owners of Colstrip have already filed a lawsuit, naming NWE and Talen as defendants.
Other updates include that the Renewable Portfolio Standard was eliminated! HB 188 substantially increases the EV registration fee, and is now one of the highest in the country. HB 448 would increase the cap for non-residential net metering systems and passed in the House, but later turned into a bill that we do not support. SB 292 would have established a utility conservation standard, and passed the Senate Energy Committee, but later did not pass the floor vote. The legislative interim committee will study capacity issues and nuclear.
NWE is filing for a new 175 MW gas plant and 50 MW battery storage in Laurel, MT. They are continuing to make a push on demand-side management (DSM) advisory committee and put pressure on cost-effectiveness calculations and overall program design. The NWE IRP is starting soon, they’re planning rules updates, with the final rule expected soon. NWE has also requested to delay/ eliminate the decoupling mechanism ordered in previous rate case, but never implemented due to the pandemic.
In the Oregon Legislative session underway, the Coalition has five priority bills we are working on and supporting passage.
- HB 3141: Updates the structure and uses of Public Purpose Charge, and is awaiting assignment to a Ways & Means subcommittee.
- HB 2062: Sets efficiency standards for 11 appliances and gives authority to the Oregon Department of Energy to update existing standards if neighboring states do without going to the legislature. It has passed the House and Senate.
- HB 2475: Allows the PUC to set differential rates for Oregonians with low-incomes, expands intervenor funding for low-income and environmental justice groups. It has passed the House, and Senate.
- HB 2021: Sets a standard requiring 100% emission reductions by 2040 for Portland General Electric (PGE)and Pacific Power (PAC). It is in the House Revenue Committee and then will go to Ways & Means.
- HB 2739: Adds $10 million in energy bill assistance funds for PGE & PAC customers. It is awaiting assignment to a Ways & Means Subcommittee.
The Covid-19 docket at the Public Utility Commission is providing toolbox expansion, centering disproportionately affected ratepayers, Commission/ utility flexibility around the moratorium, and addressing arrearages.
For the Climate Action Executive Order 20-04 implementation, NWEC is leading the work at the PUC. Key policy objectives are distribution system planning and flexible load, energy efficiency valuation and LI access, GHG reduction in RFPs, resource adequacy, and TE investment framework.
A number of important bills passed in this year’s virtual legislative session in Washington State:
- SB 5192: Sets foundational standards for public charging and protects consumers.
- HB 1287: Directs planning and preparedness as the state transitions to a zero-emission transportation future.
- SB 5126: The Climate Commitment Act establishes an economy-wide cap and invest policy.
- HB 1091: Creates a low carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels.
- SB 5295: Empowers the Utilities and Transportation Commission to transform the regulation of gas & electric utilities toward multi-year rate plans and performance-based rate-making. Creates intervenor funding!
- HB 1446: Prohibiting a utility from being assessed a penalty for not meeting its biennial acquisition target for cost-effective conservation in special circumstances outside the utility’s control.
The legislature passed a Capital Budget allotting $10 million for the Weatherization + Health Program, and almost $10 million for Energy Retrofits for Public Buildings (formerly Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants), as well as more than $56 million for the Clean Energy Fund.
The Operating Budget will provide funding to the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to initiate an investigation of how gas utilities can contribute to meeting the state’s GHG emission reduction targets. In addition, there is funding for the Department of Commerce to implement strategies related to building emission reductions from the 2021 State Energy Strategy.
Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) Update: Integrated resource plans are underway and there is the creation of equity advisory groups.
Clean Buildings Act – There will be incentives and building owner notification of the new rules beginning on July 1, 2021.
C-PACER: King County is pursuing implementation. And other counties are considering the adoption of a C-PACER program.
Representing British Columbia (B.C.), board member Eric Mazzi provided an overview of current policies. This included:
- Climate Accountability Act: Goal of reducing GHGs 16% below 2007 levels by 2025 and an 80% reduction by 2050.
- Transportation: Clean BC covers low carbon fuels and electric vehicles (EVs)
- Electricity in BC: hydropower is key to current operations, and there are goals of increasing electrification and demand-side management.
- For buildings, energy efficiency measures are being taken, including retrofits and updating codes, as well as fuel switching to electrify.
Regional Updates: Salmon Recovery
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) unveiled his Columbia Basin initiative, with the overarching goal of improving the Snake River salmon and steelhead protection and recovery by breaching the four Lower Snake River dams. The plan includes the Columbia Basin Fund, which would provide $33.5 billion toward this effort. The goal of this plan is to replace the LSRD hydropower with clean energy, while supporting the affected agriculture and transportation sectors, and providing funding for the regional community and Tribal development.
There has been a varied response across different sectors, including a Northwest Tribal Salmon Alliance support letter. The Coalition is engaging directly with a number of Coalition members and stakeholders. The concerns seem to be around funding and the proposed moratorium on litigation. There is limited potential for dam removal to be part of the 2021 infrastructure package funding in Congress. Litigation continues related to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The four NW governors decided to convene a collaborative conversation on this issue prior to the release of the Simpson proposal. It remains to be seen how the regional collaborative dialogue, which is a longer-term process meshes with the opportunities presented by the near-term federal infrastructure package. The Coalition has been coordinating the review and response on clean energy issues. Our focus will be on outlining a broader vision, and modernizing the role of the BPA.
Regional Updates: 2021 Power Plan
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is currently developing the 2021 Northwest Power Plan. The NW Power Plan is issued every five years, and the 2021 Plan will have a 20-year overall plan and an Action Plan for 2022 – 2027.
The current schedule is to have the draft plan in mid-July then 60-day + public comment period, with the final plan adopted in November. The Plan will include a resource strategy for the Northwest and recommendations for the Bonneville Power Administration.
NWEC is coordinating a 2021 Plan working group to address the modeling and planning issues. The current baseline in the draft has an unbalanced resource mix and greatly reduces energy efficiency. In the NWEC April 16 letter of concern to the Power Council, we focused on key issues and concerns, which resulted in a written response and follow-ups with Council members and staff. Council conservation staff is proposing a “Modeling-Plus” pathway to give full recognition to EE adequacy, equity, resiliency, flexibility.
The coming months will be crucial as they will shape how the plan looks once it’s out of draft from. Next steps:
- May-June: Council staff will complete the modeling, and the Power Council will set the direction and work through the Plan draft material.
- Mid-July: Council will release the full 2021 Plan for public comment
- August – September: In-state hearings and written public comment period – NWEC will provide info, talking points, and help coordinate comments from stakeholders
- October: Council will review public comments and the draft plan
- November adoption of final 2021 Plan
Thank you for all who attended. We look forward to seeing you at future events and meetings.
Updated: May 24, 2021