SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
We are excited to announce that Florida voters rejected the deceptive, utility-backed Amendment 1, which would have halted solar development by paving the way for utilities to penalize solar customers.
As a founding member of Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC), the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has been leading efforts to bring more solar energy to Florida. Over the last two years, SACE worked with a broad and diverse coalition of groups to fight monopoly utilities and educate Floridians about the importance of opening the Sunshine State’s solar market.
“We are seeing a true Solar Uprising. For the second time this year, Florida voters have seen the light – first by supporting Amendment 4 this summer lowing burdensome taxes on solar power and then by defeating the utility-backed attempt to choke off customer-owned solar with the deceptively-worded Amendment 1. The Sunshine State voters have spoken clearly: they want more solar friendly policies and the freedom to harness the sun’s power for the benefit of all Floridians and not just the monopoly utilities,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy andboard member of Floridians for Solar Choice.
Together, we have fundamentally changed the conversation in Florida, the Sunshine State. SACE has helped raise national awareness around the importance of clean energy and the dirty tactics of Florida’s big power companies. Please read the coalition’s full press release here.
As the weather cools in the Home of the Blues, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) traveled from Washington, D.C. to Memphis to shine a spotlight on extreme energy burdens many Memphians are struggling under on a daily basis. ACEEE identified Memphis as the most energy burdened major metropolitan area in our country in a recent report.
A families’ energy burden is considered high when they are paying over 6% of total annual income for utilities in any given year – average national costs are around 3.5% of a household’s annual income. Low-income households’ energy costs, however, have an average cost that is more than three times higher than the norm. But in Memphis, the burdens are even more extreme. Memphis had the highest median energy burden in the country –paying an average of 6.2% of annual income. When you dig deeper, the disparity is even more glaring for low-income and minority communities. The median low-income household in Memphis spent 13.2% of its income on home energy bills, with over a quarter of low-income families spending over a quarter of their income on home energy.
Ariel Drehobl, primary author of “Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities” report, spent two days in Memphis meeting with city leaders, city agencies, community advocates and local power company staff discussing the report’s findings and how best to help ease costs for Memphis’ most vulnerable citizens. Presenting in front of the Memphis City Council Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) subcommittee, Ms. Drehobl explained some causes of these high burdens and what city leaders and residents could do in the near-term to help lower electricity bills.
Older housing stock, lack of personal capital due to widespread poverty, behavioral patterns, climate as well as a lack of significant investment in weatherization programs, are all contributing factors to these energy burdens. Although Memphis’ local power company, MLGW, offers weatherization grant programs, the programs often lack adequate funding to make a significant impact. Although the Tennessee Valley Authority, Memphis’ wholesale power provider, has recently invested significantly in other cities across the Tennessee Valley to provide whole-home weatherization projects for up to $10,000 per house, Memphis was not a beneficiary of that program and remains in need of significant weatherization investments.
SACE will continue to work towards long-term sustainable energy efficiency solutions that can help Memphis, TVA’s largest customer, address these extreme energy burdens.
On October 18, 2016, a significant coal ash spill was discovered by Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers along the Neuse River near Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee Steam Plant. The spill is about 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro, North Carolina. See Waterkeeper Alliance’s press release here for more information and a video.
Duke and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) first response was to deny that the material released was coal ash. Then, three days after the spill, DEQ sent a letter to Duke requesting that the utility create a plan to determine the amount of ash and other waste material released, assess the damage to the site’s ash pits from the flooding, sample and monitor the river for contamination and propose actions to respond to the release.
Duke’s latest spill is yet another tragic example of why utilities need to excavate coal ash from pits near waterways, and store it in lined, dry impoundments away from rivers and well above the water table, as soon as possible. Coal ash pits by our rivers are a disaster waiting to happen, and disaster struck yet again with heavy rains and flooding during Hurricane Matthew. If utilities fail to properly clean up their ash, states need to require them to do so.
The best way to eliminate the economic and public health risks of coal ash is for utilities to stop burning coal, properly store coal ash, and aggressively transition to renewable energy. Decision makers in the Southeast need urgently to protect our communities and environment from the risks of coal ash contamination. You can see if your community is at risk by checking SoutheastCoalAsh.org.
Last month the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) Staff issued a proposed Stipulation Agreement that fails to protect Georgia Power customers for increased costs associated with the now 45-month delayed, over budget nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro along the Savannah River. The estimated capital cost forecast has increased $1.262 billion for Georgia Power’s share of the project to $5.680 billion from the original $4.418 billion. The PSC press statement identified what appear to be only phantom savings to utility ratepayers while granting the Company guarantee of collection of billions of dollars in increased project costs.
SACE has several concerns with the proposed Stipulation, including:
- It appears to represent a de facto extension of the construction schedule from the current 39-month delay to 45 months with acknowledgement that it could be even further delayed, with nominal penalty for the Company.
- Capital costs up to $5.680 billion are considered reasonable and prudent despite the fact that $3.68 billion has been spent in capital costs as of the 15th Vogtle Construction Monitoring (VCM) report. This appears to represent approval of $2 billion in advance of those capital costs even being spent.
- The phantom cost savings of $325 million to customers over the next four years appears to be due to merely slowing down the collection of financing costs versus actually denying the Company collection of these costs.
On November 1, the PSC approved an expedited proceeding to consider the proposed Stipulation. Georgia Power and the PSC Staff will provide testimony later this month supporting the proposal. On December 6 a single hearing will be held with a PSC decision expected just in time for the holidays, on December 20.
The proposed Stipulation clearly rewards Southern Company for their and their Contractors’ bungling of the troubled Vogtle nuclear construction project, which has been plagued with a plethora of serious design, engineering and construction problems from the beginning that were identified by PSC Staff over years of testimony.
We encourage Georgia Power customers to contact the PSC and attend the hearing. The original approximately $14.1 billion Vogtle project is now estimated to cost well over $20 billion and there’s no telling if even that budget-busting price tag will hold. Find out more here.