Posts Tagged ‘Wind Energy’

NorthWestern says changes would nix $900M dam deal – Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A NorthWestern Energy executive says the utility would have to walk away from a $900 million deal to buy 11 hydroelectric dams in Montana if forced to make changes recommended by the state Consumer Counsel.

NorthWestern vice president John Hines said Thursday the company would go to the open market to get more power if the deal with PPL Montana falls through,which could drive up rates.

The Montana Consumer Counsel is a state agency that represents consumers in utility hearings. It says the deal would increase electricity bills more than twice as much as South Dakota-based NorthWestern claims.

The Public Service Commission must approve the dam sale. Commissioners on Thursday in Billings held one of a series of listening sessions on the proposal.

A public hearing is planned in July.

via NorthWestern says changes would nix $900M dam deal – Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Montana.

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FERC: PSC rules improperly hinder renewable-power projects in state « WINData LLC

March 21, 2014 6:00 am • By MIKE DENNISON IR State Bureau

In a strongly worded ruling, a federal commission Thursday said Montana Public Service Commission rules are improperly hindering small, renewable-power projects in the state.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the PSC rules create an “unreasonable obstacle” for the projects to get contracts to sell their power to utilities, as well as go against a federal law meant to encourage development of the independently owned projects.

Yet the unanimous FERC ruling was not an enforcement action against the PSC, which regulates electric utilities in Montana.

Instead, FERC issued a “declaratory order,” leaving either the PSC to correct its rules or the independent power projects to take the issue to a court for enforcement.

Mike Uda, the Helena attorney representing wind-power producers who asked FERC to overturn the PSC rules, said he hopes the PSC will “do the right thing” and undo rules that prevent projects from getting contracts.

“It was a perfect system that they had to prevent (renewable power) development,” he said. “Well, now FERC has told them that’s against the law.”

Two Montana commissioners, however, said Thursday it’s too early to say how the PSC may respond to the ruling, and that its lawyers will review the FERC decision.

A spokeswoman for NorthWestern Energy, the state’s largest electric utility and a supporter of the PSC rules, also noted that FERC did not overturn the rules.

“The Montana rule still stands,” said Claudia Rapkoch. “It will be up to the judicial system to make any further disposition, if the (project developers) choose to pursue it.”

The fight is over a 22-year-old rule adopted by the Montana PSC that says if an independent, renewable-power project is larger than three megawatts and wants a contract to sell to NorthWestern or other utilities, it must win the contract in a competitive bidding process.

The rule was adopted to administer a 1978 federal law that requires utilities to buy power renewable power — wind or hydro power, usually — from independent projects, under certain circumstances.

The Montana PSC also limited to 50 megawatts the total power that can be produced by independent wind projects.

NorthWestern Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, has supported the rules, arguing that without them, the utility would be forced to accept contracts to buy more power than they need at prices above the market.

Small-power developers have long opposed the rules, saying they allow NorthWestern to ignore almost any independent power project they don’t want and, instead, choose development of its own projects.

Commissioner Travis Kavulla, R-Great Falls, who has voted against the rules, said the small-power projects can act as a check and balance against the utility, by offering power that may cost less than utility-sponsored projects.

“The bottom line is, you can’t have a utility that’s absorbing all of these opportunities (for project development), while blocking small, independent developers from doing the same things that cost the same, or less,” he said.

FERC’s ruling said requiring a small producer to win a contract through a competitive bid is “an unreasonable obstacle,” especially when such bidding contests are rarely held by utilities.

It also said limiting the total power from wind projects to 50 megawatts is “inconsistent” with federal law and FERC regulations, which require utilities to buy electricity from small, renewable-power projects that agree to sell for the “avoided cost” — a rate equivalent to what the utility would have to pay for the power elsewhere.

via FERC: PSC rules improperly hinder renewable-power projects in state.

via FERC: PSC rules improperly hinder renewable-power projects in state « WINData LLC.

Montana wind farm operator sues California utility for breach of contract

CUT BANK, Mont. – NaturEner, which owns and operates three wind farms in Montana, sued a California utility on Friday for breaching contracts to invest in the Rim Rock wind farm. The lawsuit also seeks to prevent the utility from reneging on its contractual promise to buy the renewable energy generated at the facility.

San Diego Gas & Electric, a subsidiary of energy conglomerate Sempra Energy, had agreed to invest approximately $285 million in the 189-megawatt Rim Rock wind farm and to purchase renewable energy credits as part of its obligation under California law to use renewable power. SDG&E has been purchasing renewable energy credits from Rim Rock since the project began operating 16 months ago.

But this week the utility informed NaturEner that it would not honor the deal, wrongfully claiming that the company had not satisfied some of the provisions of the contracts, mostly related to the protection of eagles and other birds.

In fact, NaturEner has implemented industry-leading wildlife conservation measures at the Rim Rock project. These measures include the installation of innovative radar detection systems for eagles, and the positioning of trained avian biologists at different locations who can immediately pause wind turbines, in coordination with NaturEner’s 24/7 real-time Operations Center, if there is even a slight risk of potential harm to an approaching eagle. These protections have been very effective, and no eagle has ever been harmed at the project.

NaturEner’s lawsuit, filed in Montana District Court in Toole County, argues that the utility’s actions are motivated by buyer’s remorse, because of the falling price of renewable power.

“SDG&E is obligated to purchase, at a contractually fixed price, the renewable energy credits generated by Rim Rock over the next 20 years. Since the purchase agreement was signed, the market price of renewable energy credits has dropped precipitously from the price that SDG&E agreed to pay,” the company argues in the lawsuit.

As NaturEner’s complaint explains, these circumstances lead the company to believe “that SDG&E is using the Avian Conditions as pretext for escaping its contractual obligations.”

NaturEner is a large employer and among the largest taxpayers in the area of rural Montana surrounding Rim Rock. SDG&E’s failure to comply with its contractual obligations would jeopardize jobs, investment, and tax revenues in Montana. NaturEner is seeking emergency relief from the court, with the goal of protecting its company and the State of Montana.

About NaturEner

NaturEner is a significant contributor to the local and Montana economy, with more than $875 million of investments in the state. NaturEner owns and operates approximately 62 percent of the existing wind power generation in Montana, enough to power 125,000 homes.

NaturEner USA, LLC and its affiliate NaturEner Energy Canada Inc. are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Spain-based Grupo NaturEner, S.A.

via Montana wind farm operator sues California utility for breach of contract.

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