Three teams from around the world in final running for OSU energy privatization

Two years after The Ohio State University (OSU) first announced its plans to explore privatizing its energy management (see our March 5, 2015 blog post), the university has identified three teams bidding on the project, including companies headquartered in Canada, Paris, and Australia, Columbus Business First reports. The teams “are made of a finance arm and an energy-operating company because of the complexity” of the project. According to the article, the winning bidder “would have to meet sustainability goals and the $150 million in what the university calls ‘academic collaboration investment,’ including $50 million apiece for research and philanthropy such as funding faculty positions.”

The three teams bidding for the opportunity to privatize OSU’s energy assets are Brookfield Asset Management and Enwave District Energy, Engie North America and Axium Infrastructure, and Macquarie Corporate Holdings and Veolia Energy Operating Services. For more, read the full article.

Sustainability

State legislators introduce second bill aimed at making energy mandates optional

Ohio Republicans “have introduced a bill to gut the state’s renewable energy standards,” Columbus Business First reports. Current law requires utilities “to supply 12.5 percent of their power with alternative energy by 2027.” Utilities that fail to comply with those standards will be required to make compliance payments. If passed, House Bill 114 (HB 114), however, will transition those mandates into voluntary goals. 

UtilityDive reports that HB 114 would also “permit customers who shop on the retail market to ‘opt out of paying any rider, charge, or other cost recovery mechanism’ designed to pay for utility electricity from renewable resources.” This opt-out provision is “reportedly a response to [American Electric Power’s] plans to construct 900 megawatts of renewable energy” (see our May 24, 2016 blog post). For more, read the full Columbus Business First and UtilityDive articles. 

Renewable Energy

AEP supports FirstEnergy’s request for zero-emission tax credits

FirstEnergy is requesting approval from Ohio legislatures for zero-emission tax credits to keep two nuclear power plants—the Davis-Besse plant and the Perry plant—afloat, UtilityDive reports. Fellow Ohio utility American Electric Power (AEP) has expressed support for those subsidies, so long as AEP customers do not pay for them. FirstEnergy’s proposal would keep those plants “generating carbon-free energy through their expected lifespan,” but “the extra costs would be borne by consumers and could affect market revenues for gas generators.” 

FirstEnergy and AEP “both won support for struggling coal and nuclear generation from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio” last year, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “subsequently blocked the deals, leading to talk of plant sales and re-regulation as many aging baseload plants struggle to compete with low-cost natural gas and renewable energy.” For more, read the full article

Environmental, Miscellaneous

OSU President Drake says energy privatization needed to meet sustainability goals

Appearing on a recent episode of WOSU’s “All Sides with Ann Fisher,” Ohio State University (OSU) President Michael Drake said the university’s plan to privatize its energy management “is necessary to reduce the campus’s carbon emissions and energy footprint,” thelantern.com reports. OSU began exploring the possibility of outsourcing its energy management to save money and increase energy efficiency over two years ago (see our March 5, 2015 blog post). Drake said the university needs a partner that can help them “achieve our sustainability goals” and that he hopes “the university becomes more efficient in the way it uses energy through the privatized arrangement,” according to the article. “We have certain buildings now that are too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer . . . I think we can just do a better job at managing our energy,” he said. Leading experts from around the world have expressed interest in partnering with OSU in this project (see our November 4, 2016 blog post). For more, read the full article

Energy Efficiency, Environmental, Sustainability

PUCO’s PowerForward initiative will explore smart grid technology

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is launching an exploration into grid modernization that “could be revolutionary” according to PUCO Chairman Asim Haque, the Journal-News reports. The initiative, dubbed “PowerForward,” aims “to chart a path forward for future grid modernization projects, innovative regulations and forward-thinking policies,” reports a recent UtilityDive article. Three key phases of the PowerForward initiative will span into 2018; the Journal-News reports the first phase will be a three-day conference with “presentations on the technologies currently affecting electricity distribution, the benefits to smart grid technology and technological innovations currently in development.” That event will be live-streamed on the PUCO website. For more, read the full Journal-News and UtilityDive articles. 

Transmission

PUCO announces "grid modernization" initiative

At its March 8, 2017, meeting, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) formally unveiled its grid modernization initiative, referred to as “PowerForward.” As the described by the commission:

PowerForward is the PUCO’s review of the latest in technological and regulatory innovation that could serve to enhance the consumer electricity experience. Through this series, we intend to chart a clear path forward for future grid modernization projects, innovative regulations and forward-thinking policies.

For more, read the full article.

Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Columbus’s Smart City efforts part of plan to become “nation’s teacher”

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has ambitious plans for the city’s Smart City efforts, saying “the plan is for Columbus to become ‘the nation’s teacher in how to become a Smart City,’” Columbus Business First reports. At a recent press conference, Ginther announced the hiring of the city’s “first chief innovation officer to lead the Smart City effort”: former deputy director of the Columbus Department of Development, Mike Stevens. Ginther also “said the Smart City effort has secured $367 million in public and private investment pledges to complement the initial $40 million in funding approved by the federal government,” according to the article. That amount includes $31 million from the city “primarily toward clean energy initiatives by the Columbus Division of Power.” Most of the private funding has been pledged by American Electric Power, which has focused its investing in “new electric vehicle charging stations and a rollout of smart meters.” For more, read the full article.

Project Finance

Buckeye Wind case goes to Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on an extension of certificate for the Buckeye Wind turbine project, the Urbana Citizen reports. The issue currently before the Ohio Supreme Court is whether a motion for extension constitutes an amendment to the original Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) certificate. Buckeye Wind attorney Michael Settineri “said nothing has changed in the project facility from when the board approved the amendment to Buckeye I through the motion for extension.” Settineri notes, for example, that “the turbines [are] in the same location and the setbacks remain the same.” By contrast, Jack Van Kley, an attorney for Union Neighbors United, argues that the extension is a substantive change that necessitates a re-evaluation of the project pursuant to current safety regulations. For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Wind

For the first time, wind is U.S.’s top source of renewable energy capacity

Wind energy “grew at its second-fastest pace ever during the last three months of 2016,” passing conventional hydropower to “become the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the U.S.,” according to a study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), The Hill reports. AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a statement, “American wind power is now the number one source of renewable capacity, thanks to more than 100,000 wind workers across all 50 states.” This U.S.-made “clean energy resource helps rural communities pay for new roads, bridges, and schools, while bringing back manufacturing jobs to the Rust Belt.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “wind power accounted for 4.7 percent of electricity generation in the United States” at the end of 2015; AWEA expects wind power will account for “10 percent of the U.S.’s electricity by 2020.” For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Wind

Ohio gained more than 1,000 solar industry jobs last year

A new report from The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit promoter of solar energy, found that “Ohio’s solar industry added more than 1,000 jobs last year,” Columbus Business First reports. According to the report, “Ohio’s solar industry rose to 5,831 jobs from 4,811 in 2015, a 21 percent increase.” Nationwide, solar employment increased 25 percent, and 44 states saw an increase in solar jobs last year. A solar job “is one in which an employee spends at least half of their time on work related to the renewable energy source.” For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Solar
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