Around the region – May 2011

Around the region: Highlights from the Executive Board caucus report

May 2011


PURPA case goes to utilities commission

Idaho’s Public Utilities Commission is considering a greatly reduced limit on the size of Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) projects eligible for the published avoided cost rate. Idaho Power Co. wants the capacity limit reduced from the current 10-megawatt level to just 100 kilowatts for new solar and wind projects. Idaho Power has raised concerns about developers dividing up larger projects to qualify for PURPA; renewables advocates note that Idaho Power continues to lag behind BPA and other utilities in wind-power development.

For more information on the Idaho Caucus report,

contact Ken Miller: kmiller (at) snakeriveralliance (dot) org


NorthWestern rate case settled

The Montana Public Service Commission settled the contentious NorthWestern Energy rate case by restoring the status quo. Last fall, the PSC approved two provisions long sought by energy efficiency and consumer advocates – rate “decoupling” and inverted block rates – but, among other things, reduced the utility’s rate of return to the dismay of both the company and conservation and low-income parties to the proceeding, who challenged the PSC’s decision in court. Now featuring new leadership, the PSC has agreed to remove the decoupling and inverted block rate (in which consumers who use less energy pay less) provisions from its original order and restore NorthWestern’s rate of return. Meanwhile, at the state legislature, bills inconsistent with clean energy objectives either did not pass or were vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Those vetoes probably will be sustained.

For more information on the Montana Caucus report,

contact Chuck Magraw: c.magraw (at) bresnan (dot) net


Renewables surviving legislative challenges

Oregon’s legislature has thus far rejected several attempts to weaken the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) and Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) programs remain threatened by a half-dozen bills, but clean energy advocates are working to limit changes to these important support mechanisms for both renewables and energy efficiency development.

For more information on the Oregon caucus report,

contact Wendy Gerlitz: wendy (at) nwenergy (dot) org


Governor signs bill to transition TransAlta plant off coal

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5769, ending coal-fired electricity generation in Washington by 2025, at a ceremony held at the TransAlta plant in Centralia. Legislators, labor leaders, company officials, plant workers and environmental/clean energy advocates including campaign leaders the Coalition, Sierra Club, Earth Ministry and Washington Environmental Council attended the festivities. Meanwhile back in Olympia, public-interest forces are fending off yet more attempts to undermine that state’s Clean Energy Initiative 937, this time by grandfathering in old biomass burners and giving bonus distributed-generation credits to one baseload-size solar project.

For more information on the Washington caucus report,

contact Nancy Hirsh: nancy (at) nwenergy (dot) org