http://www.cleanenergy.org/2017/04/03/april-2017/

SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

April 2017

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Happy Earth Month – April is Earth Month and now more than ever, we need to stand strong for a healthy planet. Despite recent actions by the Trump administration to roll back federal climate and environmental regulations, our nation cannot give up on facts and our responsibility to provide a clean, healthy future for generations to come. Help us do just that by continuing to fight for climate solutions in the Southeast. Donate today!

 

 

1. Victory in Northwest Florida

2. North Carolina’s 1st Offshore Wind Lease Sale Complete

3. Florida’s First Government-Owned Coal Plant “Off the Island”

 

1. Victory in Northwest Florida
Gulf Power Settlement is WIN for Consumers, Energy Efficiency, & Solar

gulf-victoryCustomers won big last month when Gulf Power agreed to a settlement of its proposed rate hike and pulled back on a huge requested increase in the fixed charge portion of customers’ bills. A big hike in the fixed charge would have unfairly penalized families that conserve and use less power and those that wish to use rooftop solar power. It would have also hit low and fixed income especially hard.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, along with League of Women Voters, challenged the fixed charge hike at the Florida Public Service Commission. If approved, it would have set a bad precedent for other power companies to attempt a similar fixed charge hikes.

Gulf Power wanted to increase the monthly fixed charge on its residential customers’ bills from the already high amount of about $18 to nearly $50. Gulf Power customers were very vocal in their opposition to the proposal, providing comment at public hearings in Panama City and Pensacola, as well as sending over 1,000 letters to the Public Service Commission.

“We are pleased to see Gulf Power withdraw the unprecedented fixed charge increase from their rate proposal” said Dr. Stephen Smith Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We firmly believe excessive fixed charges prevent consumers from being able to manage their bills with common sense actions like investments in energy efficiency and solar self generation. As rates continue to go up, consumers need the freedom and flexibility to control their cost while protecting the environment.”

 

2. North Carolina’s 1st Offshore Wind Lease Sale Complete
Avangrid Renewables Wins Lease Sale for $9 Million

 

offshore-wind-squareThe first of North Carolina’s offshore wind energy areas has been provisionally leased to Avangrid Renewables following a competitive auction for the rights.

The auction was held on March 16, when four wind energy companies bid back-and-forth over 17 rounds, until Avangrid Renewables posted the winning bid at just over $9 million. Avangrid is no stranger to North Carolina’s wind energy, as it brought the state’s first ever onshore wind farm online just several weeks ago.

The lease area, known as the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area, consists of 122,405 acres in the Atlantic, east of Currituck Sound, about 24 nautical miles from shore at its closest point to shore.

While Avangrid is the provisional winner of the lease, they are not yet permitted to build a wind farm, but rather they can propose site assessment activities, such as collecting meteorological and wildlife data, in the lease area. If their Site Assessment Plan (SAP) is approved, they will conduct extensive studies—likely for several years– and only then officially propose their wind farm in the form of a Construction and Operations Plan (COP). The COP will be subject to public input, environmental review, and regulatory oversight before Avangrid could be allowed to officially begin wind farm construction.

The specifics of any potential wind farm will not be known for quite some time, but we do know some basic information about the lease area and its capabilities for hosting a wind farm. The Kitty Hawk lease area is a little over 122,000 acres, or nearly 500 square kilometers. With an offshore wind carrying capacity of roughly 3-5 megawatts per square kilometer, the Kitty Hawk area could represent about 1,500-2,500 megawatts of wind power capacity. Each megawatt of capacity built would generate approximately the amount of electricity used by 300 homes each year, so the site could power up to 450,000 to 750,000 homes if fully built out.

Offshore wind energy has several unique benefits compared to other sources of power generation. Of course it is pollution-free and doesn’t use water, like power plants do, but also it has the potential to improve and revitalize coastal and port-dependent economies, offset power generation needs from expensive “peaker” plants, and be located close to large populations of power users along the coast. As such, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has been closely monitoring the wind energy area scoping process by attending informational sessions and submitting public comments in support of the process.

SACE would like to congratulate Avangrid for winning the Kitty Hawk lease sale and is looking forward to working together, along with many other stakeholders, to begin to harness the immense offshore wind resources of the Southeast.

 

3. Florida’s First Government-Owned Coal Plant “Off the Island”
Coal Plant Reality Show Heats Up

survivor-coal
Who will be voted off the island next? Florida’s dwindling cast of coal plant survivors just lost two stalwart characters, St. Johns River Power Park Units 1 and 2. While this definitely refutes the new administration’s hopes for a coal revival, we are optimistic that Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) is the first of several Florida government agencies to finally give up on wasteful coal plants.

Until 2015, it looked like the 1252 megawatt St. Johns River Power Park was one of the survivors. Operating 50-60% of the time from 2011 through 2014, it was typical of many Florida coal plants that aren’t running as much as utilities originally intended, but still enough to justify their existence.

Then, in 2015, the plot changed. For the past two years, the two units at St. Johns River were in a slump. Operation dropped to about 40%. And on Friday, JEA and minority owner Florida Power & Light announced that they are taking the two units out of Florida’s power show.

While it was surprising to see St Johns River get “voted off the island” next, the decision could be a foreshadowing of more government-owned coal plants being shut down. Three of the five subpar performers in the coal plant cast are owned by government, including Deerhaven, C.D. McIntosh 3, and Stanton Unit 1. Along with Gulf Power-owned Crist, they have almost always operated between 25-40% of the time since 2012. Performance at the Tampa Electric Big Bend plant began to falter in 2015, following a path very similar to St. Johns River Power Park.

How is it possible that these struggling plants remain on the stage, when JEA has pulled St. Johns River from the show? Are the utility directors too stubborn to give in to reality?

One possibility is that Florida’s government-owned utilities can sometimes be reluctant to make the tough calls, because keeping coal plants online can seem less controversial than embarking on something new. Florida’s government-owned utilities aren’t subject to any required process to consider potentially less expensive alternatives because regulators have relatively little jurisdiction over government-owned utilities. The St. Johns River plant retirement proves that financial reality will eventually catch up with government-owned utilities.

Click here to read more about the remaining cast on our blog.