Offshore Wind Projects Receive Boost from Massachusetts and Biden Administration

LCG, March 31, 2021--The Governor of Massachusetts signed legislation last Friday that authorizes the state to direct utilities to purchase an additional 2,400 MW of offshore wind energy by 2027.

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NV Energy's Greenlink Nevada Transmission Project Approved by PUCN

LCG, March 25, 2021--The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) on Monday approved proceeding with NV Energy's Greenlink Nevada transmission and renewable energy initiative. NV Energy's planned investment in Greenlink is over $2.5 billion.

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Industry News

California Capsule: Regulators Nix Utility Layoffs

LCG, March 16, 2001--The California Public Utilities Commission yesterday voted to force Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co. to rehire recently-laid-off workers and not plan any new layoffs.

The regulators ruled that the layoffs could not be made if customer service were adversely affected, something the utilities could not deny. Both companies admitted that it would take longer to answer customer telephone calls, install new service and restore service after outages, and that meters would be read only once every two months.

SoCal Ed termed the ruling "irresponsible," saying the cash preservation measures were desperately needed. "No one would seek these cost reductions except in a situation where they are necessary to preserve basic services," the company said.

In a statement, SoCal Ed said "It has been many months since California's electricity market turned dysfunctional. The commission has failed on repeated occasions to take the measures necessary to assure a reliable supply of electricity and a stable rate structure. Instead, it has driven the state's investor-owned utilities to the edge of bankruptcy, and jeopardized the essential services they provide millions of Californians. Meanwhile, the state continues to be mired in an energy crisis that continues unabated."

SoCal Ed's "edge of bankruptcy" and other news from California:

  • Coram Energy Group, a small power producer that operates some wind turbines in the Tehachapi Mountains that separate Northern from Southern California, said yesterday it will sign a bankruptcy petition against SoCal Ed. Coram owner Brian O'Sullivan told Dow Jones Newswires that the petition is being circulated among five other small producers of "environmentally friendly" power. The petition could be filed in a Los Angeles bankruptcy court as early as next week, and start the ball rolling -- downhill.

  • Caithness Energy LLC broke away yesterday from a group of larger creditors and got permission to slap a lien on a SoCal Ed facility in Laughlin, Nev. Caithness, which is owed $20 million by the utility, was allowed to attach the lien by U.S. District Judge Lloyd George of Las Vegas. The lien, once it becomes final, will be the first in the declining fortunes of California's investor-owned utilities.
    A lien gives a creditor a leg up on getting paid by giving him the right to claim all or a portion of the proceeds of any future sale of the property liened. The move could push larger creditors to take similar action, which could force SoCal Ed into involuntary bankruptcy.

  • The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is recommending that the agency set limits on what power producers can charge, according to a report in this morning's Wall Street Journal. The recommendation was discussed yesterday by the board of governors of the California Independent System Operator, which finds itself in the position of spending other people's money for high-priced power when supplies are tight.
    According to the paper, the ISO endorsed key elements of the FERC staff recommendation, including one that would impose plant-specific cost-plus price caps during electricity emergencies.

  • On the subject of price caps, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday that would set a temporary price cap on wholesale electricity in California and neighboring states. The measure, introduced by Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, would require a price lid which can be "load-differentiated based on supply and demand" or be based on cost of service. It would expire March 1, 2003. The bill would also prevent the federal government from ordering power producers to sell electricity into a state without a determination by FERC that the seller will be paid.

  • The California PUC declined yesterday to rule on how much money the state can take from customers' monthly electric bills to finance power purchases being made by the state Department of Water Resources. The water agency has spent about $43 million so far on power and a proposed $10 billion bond issue to fund continuing purchases is contingent in part on the revenues the state can tap.

  • And finally, yesterday was a Stage 2 Power Emergency day, as the Pacific Northwest disappointed Cal-ISO by trimming the amount of electricity it sent south to California. SoCal Ed was directed to shed more than 1,400 megawatts of load.

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