Notes From The West

Craig Cox, Tuesday 12 September 2006 - 01:00:00

The West continued to be active in regulatory and policy issues over the summer of 2006. Here are some other recent activities from the West.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has a new commissioner: Barry Wong, appointed by Governor Janet Napolitano in July to fill the vacancy created by former commissioner Marc Spitzer's accession to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Wong who, like Spitzer, is a Republican, is a former state legislator with a track record of support for renewable energy policies and technologies.

The ACC expects to finalize its Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) by the end of this year. Calling for a renewable energy standard of 15% by 2025, with a 30% set-aside for distributed technologies, the draft REST rule was issued in the spring, and comments were taken over the summer.

In comments to the ACC, the Interwest Energy Alliance and other parties have pointed out Arizona's rich renewable energy resource base in wind energy, with developable potential of over 1,000 MW in the state.

Once the REST is finalized, Arizona will join most of its neighbors - California, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado - in having a renewable portfolio standard that will help spur new market development for wind and other clean energy resources.

Meanwhile, the ACC is also hearing the APS rate case, which offers opportunities to advance renewable energy market development with this rapidly growing utility. Interwest is an intervenor in this case and is seeking an independent expert in the company's future renewable energy RFPs, implementation of a solicitation schedule for near-term purchase of renewable energy and development of a performance-based incentive structure for clean energy resource acquisition.

The Public Utilities Commissions (PUC) in Colorado and Nevada are also considering dockets that present significant opportunities for advancing renewable energy deployment in those states. In Colorado, the PUC is hearing Public Service Company's (Xcel Energy) rate case. One item of interest is the company's request for current cost recovery of transmission investments. Interwest is an intervenor on this matter and seeks cost recovery mechanisms that will enable faster construction of transmission to sites of wind energy development potential.

Nevada's PUC is considering Nevada Power's integrated resource plan (IRP), which calls for 1,500 MW of new coal to meet its projected load growth. Most of its renewable obligations in the near term will be met by existing geothermal resources in the state, but the company's IRP calls for a wind integration study to examine future wind development.

A coalition of nonprofit environmental and public interest groups is intervening in this case under the name of "Nevada Coalition for Clean, Affordable and Reliable Energy," or NCARE. This coalition will seek to advance energy efficiency and renewable technologies as an alternative to Nevada Power's proposed coal plants.

The Colorado Task Force on Reliable Electricity Infrastructure, empanelled by state law earlier in 2006, brings together representatives from utility and non-utility stakeholder communities. This task force began meeting in August and has a legislative mandate to produce a report and recommendations by Nov. 1.

The task force has heard presentations on Colorado's transmission planning process, estimates of the state's future power generation requirements, and outlines of how other states approach transmission planning and cost recovery. The task force members will spend October reviewing final recommendations and preparing their report.

Representatives from the wind energy industry on this 15-member committee include Ron Lehr (AWEA) and Tom Feiler (Clipper Wind), as well as John Stulp (former Prowers County Commissioner, which is home of the 162 MW Colorado Green project).

Colorado's largest rural electric coop (and one of the nation's largest coops overall), Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), is outspoken in its opposition to wind energy and all other renewable energy technologies. IREA, which is trumpeting its $366-million investment in a new coal plant in Colorado, recently received nationwide publicity for paying $100,000 to an anti-climate change researcher to debunk climate-change theories.

IREA's activities have prompted disgruntled coop members to form a new organization called IREA Voices. This group (www.ireavoices.org) seeks to make IREA into "the most progressive Rural Electric Association (REA) in Colorado."

Candidates for governor of Colorado and Nevada have highlighted the benefits that renewable energy development can bring to their state.

In Colorado, gubernatorial candidates Bill Ritter (D) and Bob Beauprez (R) have both made renewable energy a centerpiece of their campaigns, with each candidate proposing numerous ideas for new programs and cooperative ventures with the state's universities and industries.

Both candidates discuss the importance of wind energy and of transmission for wind and renewable energy technologies. Ritter's first television advertisement of the campaign highlighted his proposal for a "new energy economy" and showed the candidate discussing his policies in front of a row of wind turbines.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, Democratic candidate Dina Titus has outlined an ambitious program that includes appointment of new PUC commissioners to "enforce state law" on renewable energy, convening of a renewable energy summit, expanding research partnerships and promotion of renewable energy as a "stabilizing influence" on utility rates.

Each candidate's energy platform is posted in full on his or her campaign Web sites.


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