ISO-New England conference in New London area...Deception Pass, WA; Connecticut;  Indian Point and Three-Mile-Island; CT DEEP advocate

POWER SUPPLY: 
Not just a local matter when the lights go out.  Sometimes they go out because people couldn't pay the bill...




10 years after August 10, 2003 blackout that began rolling in Cleveland and went to NYC (above left).
The power blackout I remember was the one in 1965 in New York City - it began around 5pm and lasted, according to Wikipedia, more than half a day.   I know I went to class the following morning, driven by a friend - at Barnard, education never skipped a beat.

A look at the US electric grid and who oversees it
DAY
Aug 10, 12:29 PM EDT

The U.S. electrical grid is a complex system of power plants, transmission lines, and local distribution networks that deliver power to homes and businesses. It comprises three major grids - Eastern, Western and Texas - which are divided into hundreds of smaller sections. A summary of how power flows on the system, who oversees it and what went wrong in the August 2003 blackout:

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GENERATION: The roughly 6,000 power plants nationwide use coal, natural gas, nuclear fission, wind or sun to generate electricity. The amount of power generated at any given time must match customers' demand for power exactly, or the system becomes unstable.

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TRANSMISSION: A network of high-voltage power lines delivers large amounts of power over long distances, from power plants to substations in population centers. There are 450,000 miles of transmission lines in the U.S., organized in networks designed to be able to continue to deliver power even if part of the network fails.

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BULK POWER: The power plants and transmission networks make up the bulk power system. The responsibility for setting standards and tracking the performance of this equipment was given to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. after the blackout, as the result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Prior to that, NERC promoted reliability through voluntary standards in a system that depended on peer pressure and the interests of various entities in the industry. Many aspects of the system, including pricing and reliability, are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The plants and wires are operated by investor-owned utilities, transmission companies, and federal nonprofit agencies.

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DISTRIBUTION: This network of smaller lines and equipment delivers low-voltage power from substations to customers through overhead lines and underground cables. Failures in this system from weather or other factors are responsible for most of the outages customers experience. Distribution is handled by hundreds of different investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities and cooperatives. It is regulated at the state level.

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WHAT WENT WRONG: In 2003, trees came into contact with several transmission lines operated by Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., and utilities and regional grid operators failed to stop the outage as the instability cascaded in the regional grid and beyond, eventually affecting 50 million people in eight states and parts of Canada. Investigators said FirstEnergy's grid management, regional operators' responses, the tools used to monitor the situation, and communication among the parties involved all contributed to the problem.

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Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, American Society of Civil Engineers, AP research



As heat waves continues, Malloy asks residents to conserve energy
DAY
Published 07/18/2013 12:00 AM

Governor Dannel P. Malloy is urging residents to conserve energy as Connecticut faces a record demand for electricity during the ongoing heat wave.

“With temperatures expected to remain well into the 90s into the weekend, air conditioning and other needs are putting real strains on our electric grid,” Malloy said. “Everyone can play a part in helping us cope with this demand by taking a few simple steps to save electricity.

“Reducing demand for electricity can be as easy as setting the air conditioner to a slightly higher temperature, running washers, dryers and dishwashers at night, and turning off lights and appliances that are not being used,” Malloy added.

ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator, says demand for electricity could close in on a seven-year record as businesses and individuals cope with the weeklong heat wave.

The National Weather Service says temperatures in much of New England are expected to be in the mid to high-90s through Saturday.




CT-N video should be online. 

Esty, Malloy Claim Victory Over Energy Policy Issues
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Jun 18, 2013 9:21pm

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty didn’t get everything they wanted, but they claimed victory Tuesday over some major energy policies approved by the legislature this year.

From changing the state’s mix of renewable energy sources to expanding natural gas lines, both Malloy and Esty touted their ability to move energy issues forward.

In the process, they engaged in some heated debates with environmentalists and other New England governors who largely opposed how they changed the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

The bill changing the renewable standards passed the House 112-33 and the Senate 26-6. Debate on the bill in the House was delayed after Esty’s conference call with UBS investors, which included a dialogue about the bill.  Concerned that Esty gave away information lawmakers didn’t even have at that point, the House delayed debate and environmentalists attempted to change the bill to exclude large-scale Canadian hydropower. Those attempts failed.

The heating oil dealers were a little more successful when it came to modifying a bill implementing Malloy’s “Comprehensive Energy Strategy.” The bill makes it easier for natural gas companies to convert about 300,000 customers to natural gas, which at the moment is cheaper than home heating oil mostly because of domestic production.  The heating oil dealers were able to eliminate Malloy’s proposal to provide a $500 tax credit for residents who bought a new furnace to convert their homes from oil to natural gas-powered heat.

“The truth is we did not get everything we asked for,” Esty said. “It was an enormously ambitious set of requests we put before the legislature, but the truth is the natural gas expansion plan goes forward virtually as proposed in the governor’s energy strategy.”

The three natural gas companies in the state submitted their expansion plans Monday to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Connecticut Natural Gas, Southern Connecticut Gas, and Yankee Gas want to connect 280,000 customers to natural gas over the next 10 years and they need the state to approve a new rate plan to finance the project.

“We think it does almost all of what the governor asked for in terms of expanding choice,” Esty said of the legislation.

Malloy admitted there were opponents to natural gas expansion “even though it’s cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable.”

“They did what they could to water down the bill,” Malloy said of the opposition. “I think you’d be hard pressed to say this is a watered down, substantially watered down, bill.”

He said there’s no requirement to convert to natural gas.

“Very little state money is being spent on this effort,” Malloy said. “Really, nothing.”

Heating oil dealers were concerned the state would be subsidizing the expansion of the natural gas lines and placing the burden of paying for it on the backs of all the state’s taxpayers. The industry also worried it would lose its place in a market that it currently dominates. Under the bill passed by the General Assembly, the cost of the expansion will largely be borne by the consumers who wish to convert to natural gas.

Even though Malloy would have liked to incentivize consumers with a credit on their income taxes, that portion of the bill was eliminated before it passed the General Assembly.

“Here in Connecticut where we have some of the highest energy costs in the United States that has clearly hampered our economy, what am I supposed to do?” Malloy said. “Just leave the people of Connecticut to only pay higher and higher and higher prices?” He said the natural gas expansion begins to address the issue in a comprehensive manner.

Did Malloy’s administration upset a few stakeholders like the environmental community with some of his proposals?

“Everybody tells me they want change. They just don’t want the thing they like to be changed,” Malloy said.

When pressed on his relationship with the environmental community, Malloy blamed the misunderstandings on the news media’s coverage of the debate on the renewable bill.

“Listen, we’re only as good as the coverage we get,” Malloy said.

The group of DEEP employees in the room laughed at the comment as they listened to the conference call held in Esty’s office.

“If you report on the people who have economic driven concerns, or if you report on the concerns of people who have not taken the time to understand what you’re trying to do — with the same regularity you report everything else — then sure there are always environments in which misunderstandings can be had,” Malloy said.

He said the audience he was trying to reach was the legislature. He wasn’t trying to please the environmentalists or other New England governors who worry about the impact the bill will have on Connecticut’s purchase of out-of-state biomass as a renewable energy source. Esty added that both the natural gas expansion and renewable bills passed with wide bipartisan majorities with 4-to-1 ratios.

“Despite some ups and down and heated debates along the way,” Malloy said. “The bottom line is this: we secured passage of several bills that advance both our environmental and energy agendas.”

Environmentalists were quick to issue statements critical of the Malloy administration’s energy policy.

“It is difficult to see Connecticut be a leader in so many environmental issues that protect our public health, safety and economy, and then fall flat on something as critical as energy,” Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, said.  “As we have said from the beginning of the session, environmental protections are the bedrock of our health, safety and economy.”

The group was disappointed in the large-scale hydropower and the last-minute raid of the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority. The $5 million raid on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was restored in the final hours of debate.

“Although this measure was abandoned due to overwhelming public outcry, it’s indicative that the state has a short-sighted view when it comes to energy policy,” Louis Burch, program coordinator for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said. “These programs were established to help save ratepayers money, create jobs, fight climate change, and expand renewable energy development.  Policy makers must realize that these programs are crucial for the long term health of Connecticut’s economy and environment, and should not be treated like a public slush fund.”



In New England, a Natural Gas Trap

By MATTHEW L. WALD, NYTIMES
February 15, 2013

Electricity prices in New England have been four to eight times higher than normal in the last few weeks, as the region’s extreme reliance on natural gas for power supplies has collided with a surge in demand for heating.

Frigid temperatures and the snowstorm that hammered parts of the Northeast last week have revived concerns about the lack of alternatives to natural gas. Many plants that ran on coal or oil have been shuttered, and the few that remain cannot be put into service quickly enough to meet spikes in demand. The price of electricity is determined by the price of gas.

Last year, natural gas provided 52 percent of New England’s electricity, and that share is expected to grow. Gas is generally cheaper than other energy sources, and the lower costs have spurred the retirement of aging coal generators and nuclear reactors. The six-state New England region and parts of Long Island are the most vulnerable now to overreliance on gas, a vulnerability heightened by a shortage of natural gas pipeline capacity, but officials worry that similar problems could spread to the Midwest.

“We are sticking a lot of straws into this soft drink,” said William P. Short III, an energy consultant whose clients include companies that move and burn gas. “This is a harbinger of things to come in New England, as well as New York.”

James G. Daly, vice president for energy supply at Northeast Utilities, a company that, through its subsidiaries, provides electricity to homes and businesses in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, said: “There is concern we don’t have enough capacity to supply heating and electricity generation.”

Northeast and many other companies are temporarily insulated from the spot market because they sign long-term contracts for electricity supply. But Northeast’s energy charges next year could be 10 percent higher than they are now, Mr. Daly said, because the companies that sell power on a long-term basis will charge more to absorb the risk of short-term spikes in prices.

“It is certainly true that a region like New England that relies on a single fuel source like natural gas for the bulk of its power does leave itself open for more disruptions than a region with a more diverse fuel mix,” said Jay Apt, executive director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “It’s not a knock against natural gas; it’s a knock against a single fuel source.”

The American Public Power Association has warned since 2010 that demand is outpacing the delivery capacity of gas infrastructure. At coal plants, “you can look out the window and see that 60-day supply of your fuel,” said Joe Nipper, the group’s senior vice president of government relations. But gas plants tend to deliver fuel just as it is needed.

The gyrations of the spot market are hard to follow because prices are set in units few consumers understand. Electricity is sold on the wholesale market in megawatt-hours, or thousands of kilowatt-hours; a megawatt-hour is enough to run a big suburban house for a month. Natural gas is sold in a unit called an MMBtu, or a million British thermal units. An MMBtu equals 10 therms, the unit home heating customers pay for.

Normally, a megawatt-hour costs $30 to $50, and an MMBtu less than $4. But not lately.

The problem began late last year. During a cold snap around Thanksgiving, electricity prices in New England shot up to the highest in the country: $103.20 per megawatt-hour and $12.37 per MMBtu on Nov. 27...full story here.


Neighboring States Ask CT Not To Extend Electricity Tax
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Feb 8, 2013 10:52am

A day after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released his two-year budget that includes an extension of a tax on electricity generators, the attorneys general of Massachusetts and Rhode Island wrote Connecticut legislative leaders and asked them not to continue it.

Democratic Attorneys General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts and Peter Kilmartin of Rhode Island said they were “disappointed” in Malloy’s budget for extending the tax.

“As you may be aware, a 2011 ISO New England study found that because all generators reap a windfall as a result of higher prices caused by the tax on Connecticut generators, New England ratepayers were likely to pay approximately $58 million more to purchase electricity because of the tax, and that approximately 75 percent of the higher energy costs resulting from the tax were likely to be borne by ratepayers outside of Connecticut. In essence, the ratepayers of our states and others are bearing the burden of higher energy market prices that are the direct result,” they wrote Connecticut lawmakers.

The two expressed sympathy for Connecticut’s fiscal situation, but believe the tax on electricity generation, which is bought and sold on a regional basis, will raise the rates on residents in their states.

Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba countered by offering a statement that said since the tax has been implemented electricity rates in Connecticut have gone down 12 percent.

“While we respect the opinions of our neighboring Attorneys General, we have to take the appropriate action for our state. The fact is that energy rates are down 12 percent across the board in Connecticut since the enactment of this revenue enhancement,” Doba said.

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said the reduction in electricity prices is tied to the low cost of natural gas and increased competition. Dolan argues that prices in Connecticut dropped in spite of the tax.

“Because of competition among generators and low fuel costs, consumers have seen price decreases,” Dolan said. “Yet this tax has made consumer costs higher compared to other states in the region putting Connecticut at a disadvantage when competing for jobs and investment against neighboring states.”

The drop in electricity prices also doesn’t take into consideration the fact that one of the biggest generators, Dominion, which operates the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford, decided not to pass on its share of the tax to ratepayers during the first two years.

But it’s an expense the company will no longer shoulder, if the tax is continues. Ken Holt, spokesman for the Dominion Millstone Power Station, said last week that “going forward if the tax is extended that tax is going to passed on to consumers.”

Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, said the letter from the attorneys general highlights the concerns they expressed at a press conference prior to the release of the governor’s budget.

“There’s a real concern the tax will be passed along to ratepayers,” Ritter said.

But she said the governor’s budget is just the opening offer. She said lawmakers will debate the issue as part of the larger budget discussion and taxes.

Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, said he’s been against the tax from the very beginning, but what the letter from the two Democratic attorneys general illustrates is that it’s not good for the competitiveness of the region.

“What this letter should announce to the world is that the decisions we reach here in Connecticut can have an impact on the region and make it difficult for us to attract business,” Williams said.

If the economy truly is operating on a more global basis then Williams argued things that make business less competitive like higher electric rates need to be taken more seriously by the state.

Williams said he doesn’t blame the administration for not understanding how the purchase of electricity is done regionally, but he blames them for sticking their heads in the sand and extending the tax for two more years.




http://www.ct.gov/ag/lib/ag/press_releases/2012/20121128_iso_budget_protest.pdf
A New Year’s gift of higher electric bills?
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
November 28, 2012

If the folks who run New England's electricity transmission grid get their way there's a good chance you'll be looking at higher electric bills come New Year's. But it won't be without a fight.

Three Connecticut state agencies have joined three other New England states to protest a proposed 10 percent budget increase by ISO-New England. Attorney General George Jepsen, Consumer Counsel Elin Katz and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Chairman Arthur House have sent a joint protest to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission protesting the increase.

They also are asking that FERC hold a hearing on it rather than just allowing it to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, and that ISO-New England's budgets be filed with state utility commissions 60 days before filing with FERC. State utility commissions currently have no authority over ISO's budget even though it is essentially ratepayer supported.

"Connecticut's electric rates are among the highest in the nation. FERC needs to determine why ISO-New England seeks to increase its burden on ratepayers by nearly 10 percent, when electricity demand is flat or declining," Jepsen said in a statement. "Connecticut and other New England states should have the opportunity to review the ISO-New England budget and provide input on whether the agency is acting reasonably to control costs."

According to a joint press release, the state agencies' review of ISO budgets shows that 80 percent of the proposed 2013 one goes to staff and outside professional services. Staffing levels have more than tripled in the past 15 years, the Connecticut agencies say. The review also pointed out that more than half of ISO's 524 employees receive salaries in excess of $100,000 and that last year, employees' merit bonuses averaged 9 percent.

Agencies in Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are also participating in the protest. The public comment period ends Friday, Nov. 30.


State Officials Aim To Put Hold On Electric Grid Operator's Planned 9.2% Budget Increase
The Hartford Courant
By BRIAN DOWLING bdowling@courant.com
8:09 PM EST, November 28, 2012

A handful of state officials are calling for federal regulators to put the brakes on a generous budget increase for the region's power grid operator, saying the mainly federal process needs to make room for more oversight from states.


"It needs a very open and clear justification," said Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz in an interview. "We have to find a better process and put pressure on ISO New England to watch their bottom line more closely"

ISO New England's operating budget would grow to $164 million, up 9.2 percent from $151 million in 2012, paid for either directly or indirectly by ratepayers.

Any similarly sized increase to ratepayers through state-regulated utilities would be picked over carefully, requiring clear justifications for spending growth. But since power grid operators are only regulated by federal officials, state officials don't have much power in the process.

In comments filed Wednesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Consumer Counsel Katz and the state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority argue that ISO New England's budget has grown without regard to economic conditions, "through periods of economic lag and recession when other regulated and unregulated companies have frozen or reduced costs and staffing levels."

ISO New England, a privately held company based in Holyoke, Mass, runs bulk electricity purchasing and transmission for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

In a statement Wednesday, the power grid operator called its budget process "open and transparent," adding that New England state officials were given opportunities to offer input "well before" the budget filing was made with federal regulators.

ISO New England said that the budget and personnel increases to the 2013 budget, which would go into effect Jan. 1, are to address the "challenges facing the reliable operation of the region's grid in the future, and all of the challenges have been agreed upon by stakeholders."

State officials argue they have little chance to offer formal input on any budget increases, the costs of which settle on ratepayers. For any similar budgetary increase that would affect the public, states would hold long, drawn out hearings to be sure the increases are justified.

In the past four years, the power grid operator's budget has increased 34 percent, and in that time, federal regulators haven't once held a hearing to examine the increases.

Connecticut officials are joined by officials from Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island in asking regulators to hold a hearing on ISO New England's 2013 budget.

State officials had an informational meeting on the budget with ISO New England in mid-September and another meeting in mid-October where state officials raised concerns about the grid's budget. The day following the second meeting, the power grid operator adopted its budget. The back-to-back meeting schedule left little time for the grid to integrate the officials concerns, they said.

In addition to requesting a hearing on the budget, state officials are asking federal regulators to require the power grid operator to file its budget to state agencies 60 days before filing for federal approval.

"Connecticut and other New England states should have the opportunity to review the ISO-NE budget and provide input on whether the agency is acting reasonably to control costs," Jepsen said, adding that when electricity demand in the region is flat or declining, the grid needs to explain such a large budget increase.

Arthur House, chair of PURA, said that the lack of "state regulator review has resulted in unchecked growth."




GOTTA HAVE A ROAD, FIRST...
Connecting Greenfield Drive to Lord's H'way ABOVE GROUND only came in the late 1980's...not paved!

Conn. utility proposes costly transmission project

DAY
Jan 2, 10:49 AM EST

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's largest utility is proposing to spend $47 million to bury power lines to improve electric reliability in Stamford.

Connecticut Light & Power is proposing a 115,000-volt underground transmission line about 1.5 miles that will connect two substations in the city.

Critics who said CL&P, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, restored power too slowly after powerful storms in 2011 urged the utility to bury lines to avoid power outages.

However, spokesman Frank Poirot (PIE'-roh) said Wednesday that the Stamford project was proposed four or five years ago to keep up with rising demand for electricity in the populous southwestern Connecticut city. He says burying lines is feasible in urban, densely populated areas.

CL&P has invited the public to view the project at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 in the Stamford Government Center.



News Analysis: Angry weather patterns show electrical supply vulnerable
Llewellyn King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 6:34 p.m., Sunday, November 18, 2012


WASHINGTON -- Better stock up on flashlights, batteries, nonperishable food and potable water because there is likely to be an electrical blackout in your future.  Three weeks after Superstorm Sandy tore up the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States, many are still without power. The lessons of Sandy -- big and small -- are not pretty.  The question is: Can the electric power system we have deal with the New Weather? The answer is plainly "No."

It is one of those situations in which no one is to blame and everyone is to blame.  Our electric power system is complex and uneven. Some of it is state-of-the-art and some of it dates back a century.  In New England, according to the utility National Grid, one transformer dates to 1909. Laughable? Well, many of the large transformers that are essential to the operation of the electric power system are 45 years old and operating beyond their planned life expectancy, known in engineering terms as "design life."

Wooden poles, which snap off in high winds, are still the standard poles in use for residential service, but Western Europe and industrialized Asia use steel and steel-reinforced concrete poles. The wooden pole business even has a lobby and its own trade association. About 100 million wooden poles are in use across the country. One- hundred-thousand wooden poles were rushed to the East Coast to aid repairs after Sandy.  Wooden poles are heavier than steel and do not last as long, but linemen prefer to climb them. There are arguments about costs and the life of poles; about 30-40 years for wood and 40-60 years for steel.

Most U.S. electricity is supplied by 58 investor-owned utilities, with about 20 percent coming from publicly owned entities, ranging from the Tennessee Valley Authority to small municipal utilities.

Most people are likely to lose their power from tornadoes and other wind events that snap poles or, more commonly, from trees falling on power lines. Nick Puga of Bates White, an economic consulting firm, points out that many residential communities were built in open farm fields over the past 40 years, and the first thing new homeowners do is plant trees. These are of quick-growing, shallow-rooted varieties that have sprung up near power lines.

But even in older residential communities, trees are a huge problem. People love them; the bigger, the older, the more spreading -- the better. Residents fight with the power companies over trimming, and threaten to sue if their beloved trees are trimmed or cut down.

Steve Mitnick, an economist, former energy adviser to the governor of New York and longtime utility consultant, said he believes the power companies are in crisis, organically troubled and woefully unprepared for what appear to be major weather changes. Mitnick does not lay the blame wholly on the utilities; the forces that have shaped the electric infrastructure, including the regulators, the customers and the politicians, also are to blame.

The pressure, Mitnick said, has been for low rates, often described as affordable, reliable power. This has produced a philosophy that relies more on swift response to outages rather than engineering against weather damage.  The utilities are especially proud of what they call mutual assistance. These are agreements under which crews are rushed from other utilities to those that have outages.  For Sandy, these maintenance crews were sped to the East Coast with their equipment from across the country and Canada. The procedure works well when the damage is limited to downed lines. But when it is bigger, as with recent storms, the imported crews are often at a loss, not knowing the local infrastructure or the whereabouts of trunk lines and transformers.

It is dangerous, difficult, first-responder work, and the workers deserve recognition.

But it is an imperfect system when the damage is urban rather than rural or suburban. There are reports of out-of-state utility workers looking lost in Lower Manhattan as they try to cope with the damage from Sandy in a world foreign to them.

For me, the depressing thing is the way we have come to accept the storm-related blackout as inevitable. This is another part of our sad acceptance of a declining infrastructure, from crowded roads to slow trains to a failing water supply. Once we had the best of these.



Not in CT, but might-have-been - similar issue to what we face?
No easy fix to outages that swept East Coast
Choices are repair an aging system or ante up to bury vulnerable lines.

Anchorage Daily News
By ERIC TUCKER and CHRIS KAHN, Associated Press
Published: July 3rd, 2012 11:51 PM
Last Modified: July 3rd, 2012 11:51 PM

WASHINGTON -- In the aftermath of storms that knocked out power to millions, sweltering residents and elected officials are demanding to know why it's taking so long to restring power lines and why they're not more resilient in the first place.


The answer, it turns out, is complicated: Above-ground lines are vulnerable to lashing winds and falling trees, but relocating them underground incurs huge costs -- as much as $15 million per mile of buried line -- and that gets passed onto consumers.

With memories of other extended outages fresh in the minds of many of the 1.26 million customers who still lack electricity, some question whether the delivery of power is more precarious than it used to be. The storms that began Friday have been responsible for the deaths of 24 people in seven states and the District of Columbia, including a utility contractor who fell to his death Monday in Garrett County, Md., while removing limbs from a storm-damaged tree.

"It's a system that from an infrastructure point of view is beginning to age, has been aging," said Gregory Reed, a professor of electric power engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. "We haven't expanded and modernized the bulk of the transmission and distribution network."

The powerful winds that swept from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic late Friday, toppling trees onto power lines and knocking out transmission towers and electrical substations, have renewed debate about whether to bury lines. District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray was among officials calling for the change this week and was seeking to meet with the chief executive of Pepco, the city's dominant utility, to discuss what he called a slow and frustrating response.

"They obviously need to invest more in preparing for getting the power back on," said Maryland state Sen. James Rosapepe, who is among those advocating for moving lines underground. "Every time this happens, they say they're shocked -- shocked that it rained or snowed or it was hot -- which isn't an acceptable excuse given that we all know about climate change."

Though the newest communities do bury their power lines, many older ones have found that it's too expensive to replace existing networks.

To bury power lines, utilities need to take over city streets so they can cut trenches into the asphalt, lay down plastic conduits and then the power lines. Manholes must be created to connect the lines together. The overall cost is between $5 million and $15 million per mile, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc., a nonprofit research and development group funded by electric utilities. Those costs get passed on to residents in the form of higher electric bills, making the idea unpalatable for many communities.

Power lines are already underground in parts of Washington, but initial estimates are that it would cost as much as $5.8 billion to bury them throughout the entire city and would cost customers an additional $107 per month, said Michael Maxwell, Pepco's vice president of asset management.

North Carolina considered burying its lines in 2003, after a winter storm knocked out power to 2 million utility customers. The North Carolina Public Staff Utilities Commission eventually concluded it was "prohibitively expensive" and time-consuming. The project would have cost $41 billion and taken 25 years to complete -- and it would have raised residential electric bills by 125 percent.

An onslaught of recent extreme weather around the country, including heat waves, wildfires and flooding, has increased strain on infrastructure already struggling to meet growing consumer demand. And some scientists predict the severe weather will only increase, though it will take time to study this year's weather before any conclusions can be drawn.

Pepco has contingency plans for dealing with severe weather like tornadoes and hurricanes and runs periodic drills in which staff go through the process of responding to mass outages. In this case, though, the hurricane-force winds lashed the region with no advance notice, creating a type of quick-hit storm that caught the utility flat-footed and for which it had not practiced, Maxwell said.

"That's going to be a very big lesson for us," he said. "We need to understand how we recover from this."

A stress index created by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., which monitors the country's power supply to annually assess its performance, shows that day-to-day performance seems to have improved, but there was an increase in high-stress days. The company counted six high-stress days in 2011, slightly more than the three preceding years. Weather was a contributing factor in nine of the 10 failures severe enough to generate a federally required report in 2011.

But utility insiders acknowledge that the math is little comfort when a customer's air conditioner fails during a triple-digit heat wave and the food spoils.

"The industry is getting better and better," said Aaron Strickland, who oversees distribution and emergency operations for Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co. "In my opinion, I think the expectations of customers are higher and higher because we depend so much on electricity. ... We expect to push that button and it works."

Still, he noted Friday's storms pummeled the region with no advance warning, and "you can't prepare for that."

"You don't see it coming," Strickland said. "It just happens."

Seth Blumsack, an assistant professor of energy policy and economics at Penn State, said utilities are making investments in transmission upgrades but "it doesn't look like blackouts are getting any less common."

"Some studies have suggested that they are getting more common," he said. "Some studies have suggested that they're happening at basically the same rate as they used to."

Though the country's power infrastructure is reliable, it was mostly built between the 1930s and 1970s and is starting to age, said Reed of the University of Pittsburgh.

Bruce Wollenberg, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota who specializes in power systems, said it's hard to tell if extended outages are more common than in years past. But the capacity for high-voltage transmission systems has not increased with demand, he said, in part because of the cost of moving power lines underground and the general distaste for having above-ground lines right outside homes.

"People don't want power lines -- period ...They don't like the way they look, they don't like a lot of things," Wollenberg said. "It's universal across the country, and I think across the world. People don't want power lines. They don't want more power lines."

Residents' complaints about the latest outages have increased with their duration.

Kevin Fogg, a barber from the rural community of Jefferson, about 45 miles northwest of Washington, scoffed when asked if he'd be willing to pay Potomac Edison higher rates to prevent more outages like the one he's been suffering through.

"I think it's more than it should be already," Fogg said.

He said the utility company should do a better job of trimming trees and branches that threaten power lines.

"There's a huge, dead tree hanging over our line and they said, 'Well, we're not going to cut it down,'" Fogg said. "It's got to break first and knock the power line down before they'll do anything about it. So I guess they won't do any preventive maintenance -- or at least not as much as they should."

Jean Cuseo, a middle-school art teacher from Jefferson, said she's not sure if she'd be willing to pay more to prevent outages, even if that were an option.

"I'm pretty environmentally friendly. If I could live off the grid I would," she said.


Storm could lead to higher electric rates in Conn.
Norwalk HOUR
MICHAEL MELIA, Associated Press
Posted on 11/12/2011

HARTFORD -- A rare October snow storm that caused record-breaking power outages could lead to increased electricity costs in Connecticut, where residents who endured days in the dark and cold already pay higher rates than any other state in the continental United States.

The price tag is expected to run to $100 million or more for the 12-day campaign that involved crews from as far as Colorado and Michigan in restoring power to more than 850,000 customers.

In a recent financial filing, the parent company of Connecticut's main electric utility said it expects to recover costs for the Oct. 29 snow storm by going through regulators. With multiple investigations probing the utility's storm response, however, the state's energy commissioner and a key state lawmaker told The Associated Press that claims of mismanagement and subpar performance -- if proven true -- could block the company from passing costs on to ratepayers.

"We don't know if it's going to be borne by ratepayers. I think it's very premature to make that statement," said Connecticut state Rep. Vicki Nardello of Prospect, co-chairwoman of the legislature's energy committee. She said Connecticut Light & Power has insurance against storms and a reserve account, and state energy regulators can prevent the utility from passing storm-related expenses on to customers if they are deemed to be "imprudent."

The rare, pre-Halloween nor'easter dumped up to 2 feet of wet, heavy snow that snapped tree limbs and power lines, and knocked out power to more than 3 million customers in the Northeast. It broke a state record for the number of customers left in the dark by a single storm that had been set only two months earlier when the remnants of Hurricane Irene slammed the Connecticut shoreline. A week after the storm hit, 176,000 customers were still without power. Electricity was restored to virtually all customers by Thursday.

Connecticut Light & Power has described it as the region's worst October snow storm in centuries.

Northeast Utilities, the Hartford-based parent company of CL&P, said in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it expects the storm costs will meet the criteria for reimbursement. A CL&P spokeswoman, Katie Blint, said the utility will make its case to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and it will be up to that agency to decide whether ratepayers will bear some of the burden.

An NU spokesman, Al Lara, said it will take weeks or months to determine the total cost of the restoration effort. He said he expected the regulatory review would not be influenced by the investigations targeting the outages.

"I would expect the process to be independent," he said.

Although it may make for good politics to side with customers after such a storm, utilities are able to recover most of their costs from ratepayers in the vast majority of cases, according to Neil Kalton, a senior equity analyst for Wells Fargo Securities in St Louis.

"I think at the end of the day pragmatism tends to prevail and there is a realization that when you have a massive torm like this at a bad time of year when the leaves are still on the trees, it's really out of the control of the company," Kalton said.

Only Hawaii has higher electric rates than Connecticut, a happenstance blamed on the state's high cost of living, the lack of coal-fired power plants and a fee that a former governor and state lawmakers imposed on electric utilities to pay off borrowing that helped balance the state budget. The average homeowner's electric bill in Connecticut is about $143 a month, compared to the national average of about $104 a month, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Any request for a rate increase would go before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which meets at least once every four years to set new rates and last did so in 2010. The utility could ask for a rate hike in the interim to cover storm-related costs.

Daniel Esty, who oversees PURA as commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said there are several concerns involving CL&P staffing levels, how quickly crews responded after the storm and whether enough crews were on standby.

"The expense of responding here is going to run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But I think there's a significant question of whether some of that should be disallowed," he said.

The storm response is the subject of several investigations at the state and federal level, including a review by the Washington, D.C.-based disaster response consulting firm Witt Associates. In announcing that probe into CL&P's response last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said: "I presume we're going to find some level of malfeasance."

Elin Swanson Katz, the state's consumer counsel, said the findings of the various investigations will affect the utility's ability to recover storm-related costs. Katz, whose office advocates for electric ratepayers, said she was concerned in particular by stories of crews that were paid to sit in parking lots for hours while they waited for instructions from CL&P.

"The burden is really on them to come explain the extent of the damage and explain why it's fair to attribute not to any sort of management issues but to the fact that this was the storm of the century," she said.

Northeast Utilities has offered $10 million to establish a fund to help residential customers who experienced losses because of the storm.

State Senate President Donald Williams said it would be more fair if CL&P offered a $50 credit to each affected customer -- a gesture that would cost the utility a tenth of its $388 million in earnings in 2010.

"I understand the storm was not CL&P's fault, but CL&P has admitted that their response could have been better," Williams said. "Homeowners and businesses lost an untold fortune in spoiled food and missed business, as well as covering the cost of hotel stays, takeout meals, flooded basements and a myriad of other, unnecessary daily expenses."



Reference to California...
What lies beneath: Greenwich to host public forum on gas pipeline
CTPOST
Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer

Published 11:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Out of sight, but not out of mind, a major natural gas pipeline that burrows its way from Greenwich to Bridgeport along the Merritt Parkway corridor is drawing new scrutiny.

Representatives from the state Department of Public Utility Control and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. will take questions and comments at a public forum in Greenwich on Thursday on everything from the condition of the interstate duct to what safeguards are in place in the event of a leak or explosion.

The event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Cone Room at Town Hall, is being sponsored by the Riverside Association and the DPUC.

The high-pressure pipeline is routed well to the north of Riverside.

Joseph Humphrey, the event's organizer and a member of the homeowner group's board of governors, said the pipeline doesn't have to run beneath a person's property for him or her to have a vested interest.

"We want citizens to raise questions," Humphrey said. "I'm going to raise a question: What happens if the pipeline ruptures right next to the Merritt right at rush hour?"

While there have never been any problems reported in Connecticut, Humphrey pointed out that a natural gas pipeline outside San Francisco exploded in September 2010, killing eight, leveling 35 homes and shooting flames 1,000 feet into the air.

"There's a fine line," Humphrey said. "You don't want to scare them to death, but the pipeline that's in place has been there since the 1950s."

In San Bruno, Calif., it took more than an hour to shut off the gas after the explosion...full story on CT here.



Odor From Kleen Energy Plant Linked To Turbine Tests

Another test conducted Wednesday afternoon
The Hartford Courant
By JOSH KOVNER, jkovner@courant.com
3:44 PM EDT, May 18, 2011


MIDDLETOWN –

Acrid diesel fumes wafting over neighborhoods surrounding the rebuilt Kleen Energy plant in south Middletown earlier this week have been linked to tests of one of the turbines, which is not yet performing at optimum levels, fire officials and plant representatives said Wednesday.

Another test of the turbine was conducted Wednesday afternoon from 1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Dwayne Gardner, a spokesman with state Department of Environmental protection, said six employees of the plant's general contractor, carrying air monitors, fanned out in the surrounding neighborhood during the Wednesday test.

Gardner said no fumes or diesel smoke were detected outside of the plant's boundaries, and that the DEP received no new complaints from area residents Wednesday afternoon. Gardner said the employees called in from the neighborhood every 15 minutes with monitoring results, and company representatives reported to the DEP.

Daniel Carey, spokesman for O&G Industries, the general contractor and a minority owner of the $1 billion plant, acknowledged that residents were not notified of an earlier test on Monday, which produced acrid fumes that stalled over parts of south Middletown, Portland and Durham in moisture-laden air and fog.

Residents on Monday night and Tuesday reported the odors to the South Fire District, Middletown Health Department and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The sprawling plant, built on a former feldspar mine overlooking the Connecticut River, was partially destroyed in a deadly natural-gas explosion on Feb. 7, 2010 that killed six workers, injured several dozen others, and resulted in more than $16 million in federal fines for safety violations against O&G, of Torrington, and other contractors at the site. The blast led to a statewide ban on "gas blows,'' in which natural gas was forced through pipelines at a tremendous pressure to clear the lines of debris.

The plant's majority owner is Energy Investors Funds, or EIF, through a Connecticut corporation called Kleen Energy Holdings, LLC.

The newly completed plant is in its testing phase, which will continue for about another 30 days.

The turbines run on natural gas, but must also be able to burn oil as a contingency plan. Carey said that fuel oil will be used again during the testing phase and residents still may smell fumes on occasion.

"We didn't anticipate (that the Monday test) would create the odor issues that it did,'' Carey said after plant representatives met with South Fire District, city health, and state DEP officials Wednesday morning.

He said residents were notified by phone of the test on Wednesday afternoon.

DEP spokesman Dennis Schain has said inspectors were reviewing the testing operations for any air-quality violations. No violations had been filed against the plant as of Wednesday afternoon. South Fire District Chief Edward Badamo has said the fumes don't represent a safety issue.

Badamo said the turbines have to be "tuned in'' and will run more efficiently when they are performing at full capacity.

Carey said the turbine on Monday was running slower and louder than it would normally. He said under normal circumstances, the smoke would be pushed through the stack with much greater energy and reach higher into the atmosphere to dissipate.



Kleen Energy Says It Was Not Responsible For Plant Explosion In Middletown
September 30, 2010|By EDMUND H. MAHONY, emahony@courant.com

The owners of Kleen Energy Systems are asserting that they should not be held responsible for operational delays caused by a deadly February explosion that damaged their nearly completed electric plant in Middletown because they had turned over total control of the plant to their construction contractors.

If the plant owners succeed in their claim that the cause of the explosion was beyond their control, they can invoke language in their state-approved contract that will enable them to avoid paying damages for failing to meet a deadline to have the plant capable of producing electricity by Dec. 1.

The argument by the owners that they had no control over events leading to the Feb. 7 explosion that killed six workers has been long-anticipated and is being met with skepticism in some quarters. The contract language that Kleen Energy is using in an effort to avoid responsibility for the disaster is known as force majeure.

 In Kleen Energy's contract, force majeure is defined as an event or circumstance "such as natural catastrophes, terrorism, war, riots or acts of God" that is not the result of negligence and prevents a contractual party from fulfilling its obligations. Kleen Energy is arguing that the explosion was an event beyond its control and not the result of its negligence.

Rather, Kleen Energy appears to place responsibility for the explosion on its principal construction contractor, O&G Industries.

"On the day of the explosion and fire, the contractor was in sole care, custody and control of the facility," Kleen Energy said in a Sept. 28 letter that has been filed with the state Department of Public Utility Control.

Representatives of Kleen Energy declined to discuss the letter or their assertion of force majeure.

A variety of experts have concluded that the explosion and fire that damaged nearby houses was sparked by construction workers using electrical equipment in the vicinity of an enormous pool of vented natural gas. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Kleen Energy's construction contractor and subcontractors $16.6 million for more than 100 safety violations.

State Consumer Counsel Mary J. Healy said Thursday that her staff of public consumer advocates might challenge Kleen Energy's claim that it is not responsible for the explosion.





OSHA To Release Results Of Probe Into Kleen Energy Plant Explosion
Hartford Courant
11:43 AM EDT, August 5, 2010

UPDATE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Feds fine builders of Connecticut power plant $16M for blast that killed 6 workers.
---------------------------------------------------------------
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected today to announce the result of its investigation into the deadly February explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown.

OSHA head Dr. David Michaels will hold a press conference call at noon today to discuss the probe of the explosion, in which six people were killed and 26 injured.

A commission appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell has already recommended that the process of clearing debris from natural gas pipelines at such plants be more tightly regulated. The commission, which was chaired by retired U.S. District Court Judge Alan H. Nevas, outlined several recommendations to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future. The suggestions include determining whether any state or federal agency has created a regulatory process to oversee the cleaning of natural gas pipes.

Nevas' commission determined that although the construction of the Kleen Energy plant was heavily regulated, no agency oversaw the process workers used to clean the natural gas pipeline, which it said ultimately caused the explosion.

"This is a process that appears, to me at least, to have fallen through the cracks," Nevas said at the time.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has also looked into the explosion. Safety board investigators said 15 separate gas purges were done over four hours the morning of the explosion. The gas was purged through a series of open pipes that were installed about 20 feet off the ground. One of the purge pipes was releasing gas and debris into a courtyard area behind the main power building. The investigators estimate that 400,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas was released from that pipe into the courtyard in the 10 minutes before the explosion.

Investigators have struggled to determine the ignition source, but because there were so many potential sources, that may be difficult to figure out.


Federal Investigators Recommend Ban On Natural Gas For Pipe Purges

Hartford Courant
By DAVE ALTIMARI
9:58 AM EDT, June 28, 2010

The federal agency investigating the Kleen Energy plant explosion is recommending that power plant owners be banned from using natural gas during pipe purging to avoid another disaster like the one that cost six people their lives in February.

In a series of "urgent recommendations," investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board want the National Fire Protection Association to require power plant owners to "use inherently safer alternatives such as air blows or pigging with air in lieu of flammable gas."

The board also is calling on OSHA to adopt new regulations prohibiting the release of flammable gas into the atmosphere during purges, prohibiting any work activity during purges and requiring that companies develop gas safety procedures and training for all contractors and workers on a site.

CSB investigators will propose the recommendations to the full board tonight at a 6:30 p.m. public hearing at the Saint Clements Castle conference facility in Portland.

The CSB only issues what it calls "urgent recommendations" when it believes there is a large-scale safety issue that needs immediate action.

With roughly 125 power plants across the country expected to commission natural gas-fired combustion turbines in the next five years, the board's recommendations on how to conduct gas purges to clean the pipes safely before putting the turbines online will have wide-ranging ramifications.

CSB investigators also concluded what a state commission appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell also did — that there is no oversight, state or federal, of these gas purges.

Six people died and as many as 27 were injured when a buildup of natural gas ignited and exploded on the morning of Feb. 7 at the Kleen Energy plant.

The safety board investigators said 15 separate gas purges were done over four hours the morning of the explosion. The gas was purged through a series of open pipes that were installed horizontally about 20 feet off the ground.

One of the purge pipes was releasing gas and debris into a courtyard area behind the main power building, which was boxed in by the giant recovery steam generators on each side. The investigators estimate that 480,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas was released from that pipe into the courtyard in the 10 minutes before the explosion. Just over two million standard cubic feet of natural gas had been released throughout the morning.

"Both the congested area and the orientation of the vent pipe likely adversely affected the dispersion of natural gas,'' CSB investigators concluded.

CSB officials also concluded that the purges conducted at the Kleen site that Sunday morning "greatly exceeded" the targeted amount that Siemens, the manufacturer of the two gas turbines in the building, said was necessary to clean the pipes.

CSB officials concluded "significantly more natural gas was released than was actually needed to remove debris from the piping."

There were about 50 people working inside the building at the time of the explosion, but only 15 of them were directly involved in the purges. Of that 15, five died in the explosion. The only person who died that was not part of the purge team was Roy Rushton, who was working on pipes near the gas turbine closest to a door leading to the courtyard area.

Investigators have been puzzled about how the purge was done that day. There was no safety meeting beforehand with workers, some contractors were instructed to work in the building even while the purges were occurring while others were directed to leave the building. Many workers left on their own when the smell of gas became so strong.

Investigators also have struggled to determine the ignition source, but because there were so many potential sources — from welders inside the building to portable diesel-fueled heaters — that may be difficult to figure out. Investigators confiscated a portable ground-thaw heating unit that was located in the courtyard not far from where the pipe was spewing gas but have not been able to determine if that was the ignition source.

The criminal investigation is expected to continue for several more months at least.

Investigators recently sent a gas monitor that had been used that day by Christopher Walters, the safety manager on site, to the National Transportation Safety Board in hopes that it could remove the microchip inside and capture any data from before the blast that would indicate what the gas levels were inside the power building just before the explosion.

This morning Congressional members of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the U.S. House and Education and Labor Committee holds a public hearing at city hall in Middletown, starting at 10 a.m.

Many of the city's first responders to the explosion are expected to testify, as is Jodi Thomas, the wife of Ronald Crabb, who was killed in the explosion.



State Panel Wants More Oversight Of Plant Pipe Purging
By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY and DAVE ALTIMARI, cdempsey@courant.com
1:29 PM EDT, June 3, 2010

HARTFORD —

A state government panel appointed the day after a deadly power plant explosion wants the process of clearing debris from natural gas pipelines at such plants to be more tightly regulated.

The cleaning, or "blowing" of a pipeline at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown Feb. 7 caused the blast, which killed six men and injured 26. The commission's chairman, Alan H. Nevas, a U.S. District Court judge, said Thursday that there is not enough oversight of workers involved in the dangerous procedure.

"This is a process that appears, to me at least, to have fallen through the cracks," Nevas said after the commission's meeting at the Legislative Office Building, during which the panel unanimously approved recommendations.

"Let me say I was surprised," the judge told reporters. "We live in a very regulated society. That something like this wasn't regulated was surprising."

Earlier, Nevas had summed up his commission's findings. While his group was tasked only with identifying the cause and origin of the blast, the panel of state government leaders went a step farther and suggested ways to better regulate the pipe-cleaning process. If the legislation is passed into law, Connecticut could become a national leader in the area, he said. Another state panel known as the Thomas Commission is charged with suggesting proposed laws to the state legislature, Nevas said.

Federal organizations also are studying the plant explosion, and how to prevent similar tragedies. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board will hold a public hearing on June 28 in Middletown to consider urgent safety recommendations regarding the use of natural gas when doing gas "blows" or purges like the one that was going on at the Kleen Energy plant.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Prince Edward Ballroom of St. Clements Castle in Portland. CSB's team that has been investigating the Kleen Energy explosion will present its findings to the three-person board. After a period of public comment, the board will then vote on the recommendations.  CSB investigators have been on scene since the days after the accident. They have sparred with Middletown police and prosecutors over access to key evidence.

CSB investigators said there were 15 separate gas purges done on the morning of the explosion over a four hour period. The gas was purged through a series of open pipes that were installed about 20 feet off the ground. One of the purge pipes was releasing the gas and debris right into a courtyard area located behind the main power building. CSB investigators estimate that about 400,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas was released from that pipe into the courtyard in the 10 minutes before the explosion.

Investigators have struggled to determine the ignition source of the blast, but because there were so many potential sources, that may be difficult ever to figure out.

"Efforts were made to eliminate or control potential ignition sources outside the power generation building. However, many ignition sources existed inside the building; electrical power to the building was on; welders were actively working, and diesel-fueled heaters were running,'' CSB's General Counsel Christopher W. Warner said.

The state panel's suggestions include:

* Determine whether any state or federal agency has developed a regulatory structure that could be applied to natural gas pipeline cleaning.

* Consult with experts to determine which methods are used and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each.

* Identify the agency or agencies best suited to regulating the process.

* Consider recommending that the Connecticut Siting Council impose safety conditions upon any company building a power plant that will use the gas blow cleaning process.

* Consider recommending regulations that specifically address the qualifications and training of staff involved in the gas blow process.

* Regulate the design specifications for the materials to be used in the gas blowing process.

* Identify the type of notice that must be given by the contractor to the regulatory agency before any gas-blowing operation.

* Establish specific procedures for the gas blow process, including who may be on the site.

Nevas' panel included representatives of the state departments of emergency management and homeland security, consumer protection, environmental protection, public utilities control, public safety and labor.

Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant



Energy overhaul debate is put on hold.  Fate of controversial plan remains in doubt as state Senate leaders call time out.

By Ted Mann Day Staff Writer
Article published May 4, 2010

Hartford - Late Monday night, state Senate leaders postponed debate on a massive proposal to overhaul state energy policy, pushing a vote back at least until today and leaving its fate unclear.

But any visitor wondering about the scope and import of the bill needed search no further than the crowds of lobbyists, activists and aides clustered in the marble hall outside the Senate chamber.

The attempt to make the most sweeping changes in Connecticut's electricity markets since their deregulation in 1998 has provoked an aggressive show of force by power companies, business interests, environmentalists and advocates for consumers, the elderly and the poor.

Swarms of lobbyists monitored the progress of the reform bill as Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, and Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, the co-chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee, made last minute changes to it all Monday afternoon.

And, as in previous days, they swarmed lawmakers and their aides whenever they emerged into the corridors, arguing the cases of the consumer groups who believe the reform will help drive down rates and spur renewable energy development, or of the industry groups who think it will cut into the profits of energy retailers, raise rates and kill jobs.

Fonfara was tired - he stifled a sudden involuntary yawn during an interview in the hallway outside the Senate Republican caucus room - but confident that the bill he has assembled with Nardello over the objections of Republicans and many powerful industry voices will eventually become law.

"This is a darn good bill, and I hope the governor listens to the debate tonight," Fonfara said Monday evening. "For the first time we're taking steps to reduce rates and build a clean energy economy, through solar, wind and hydro."

Despite making changes to address the concerns of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's administration and current regulators, the core principles of the bill remain, said Nardello.

Meanwhile, Republicans have denounced what they argue is the secrecy of the bill's construction.

Opposing the bill in its current form are, among others, the two utilities, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, and a host of small electric retailers who have entered the market to offer competition to CL&P and UI, and now claim to serve more than 300,000 customers in the state.

But a coalition of supporters of the proposal, including consumer advocates, the AARP and owners of renewable energy start-up firms, rallied in favor of the bill, saying it would lower rates for Connecticut consumers and redress some of the unintended effects on consumers from the deregulation bill the General Assembly passed in 1998.

"It is those people who are opposed to the bill that fed us the lies" that helped pass the deregulation bill, said Tom Swan, the executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, which supports the reform package. "If you liked their lies the last time around, you're going to love the lies they're coming up with this time."

Those who helped shape the bill also include state officials, including representatives from the office of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and from the Office of Consumer Counsel, a nonpartisan agency that represents the interests of utility customers.

The pushback from the Rell administration has been quiet but forceful.

Rell budget chief Robert L. Genuario and Department of Public Utility Control Chairman Kevin DelGobbo wrote last week to object to an earlier draft of the legislation, prompting Fonfara and Nardello to agree to some changes. They included a rewrite that would direct the state's Connecticut Energy and Technology Authority to study whether market rules at ISO-New England, the nonprofit operator of the state's transmission system, help drive up rates for Connecticut customers, and whether the state would benefit from pulling out of ISO-New England altogether.

The two administration officials were not appeased, however, and issued a second memo on Monday that details their continuing objections to the bill. Among their concerns are added costs to ratepayers from proposed incentives for solar power generation, and the additional risk that would be borne by utilities if they are allowed more flexible to structure their own power purchases on the open market, rather than buying through the so-called "middlemen" who currently assemble power contracts for the utilities and charge a premium in exchange for bearing risk.

Supporters of the bill believe utilities can make more cost-effective purchases on their own - cooperatives like the Connecticut Municipal Electrical Energy Cooperative already do this, Fonfara notes - while critics note that bad investments by the utilities could lead to losses that they would then try to recoup from ratepayers.

"The Administration can accept a number of these provisions as well intended; however we believe that the provisions of this proposed legislation passes the tipping point which place the Connecticut's ratepayers at risk for increased costs," DelGobbo and Genuario wrote on Monday.

In the memo, the two also object to the proposed reorganization of the DPUC and say some of the proposed restrictions on marketing practices by retail energy companies could adversely affect those businesses, though the memo does not say which restrictions they find objectionable.
Genuario and DelGobbo included a worksheet with their memo outlining the potential costs of the solar generation incentives and other benefits in the bill, arguing that the costs could rise anywhere from $76 million to $200 million.

But in a response Monday evening, representatives from the advocacy groups Environment Connecticut and Clean Water Action slammed those estimates, saying the administration had completely ignored provisions of the bill meant to cap the costs of the incentives, and drastically overstated the possible costs of the programs.

"They regurgitated the utilities' talking points," said Christopher Phelps of Environment Connecticut.





Mass-casualty event not a drill this time - full story here.


HE NEVER LETS A GOOD CRISIS GO TO "WASTE" - Nuclear or otherwise
Administration wants to radiate wealth and GLOW JOBS.  And what about this matter?



US to build two new nuclear power stations
I-BBC
Page last updated at 18:32 GMT, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

President Barack Obama has announced more than $8bn (£5bn) of federal loan guarantees to help build the first US nuclear power stations for 30 years.

Two new plants are to be constructed in the state of Georgia by US electricity firm Southern Company.

President Obama said the plants would be "safe and clean" and were needed to meet the country's future energy needs.

There have been no new nuclear power plants built in the US since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.

'Well-paid jobs'

The accident was caused by the partial core meltdown of one of the reactors at the site in Pennsylvania, which resulted in a release of radioactive gases into the atmosphere.

MARDELL'S AMERICA
Mark Mardell
This one plant will cut carbon pollution by 16 million tons each year when compared with a similar coal plant - it won't persuade all the environmentalists, but it is an argument that does weigh heavily with some of them
Mark Mardell

The president said the project would create "thousands of construction jobs over eight years and then hundreds of well-paid jobs" when the facilities become operational.

He added that it was "only the beginning" of efforts to develop a new generation of safe and clean energy-efficient technologies, which would help fight climate change.

The two new reactors will be built at an existing nuclear facility in Georgia.

Southern Company said the work would create about 3,000 construction jobs and 850 people would subsequently be permanently employed when the reactors became operational.

'Meet energy needs'

"On an issue which affects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we cannot continue to be mired in the same old debates between left and right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs," said President Obama.

THREE MILE ISLAND ACCIDENT
Partial core meltdown of one of the two reactors at the site, on 28 March 1979
Caused by a faulty valve which allowed large amounts of reactor coolant to leak
Resulted in radioactive gases being released into the atmosphere
About 140,000 people evacuated from the local area
No fatalities, but dispute remains over long-term health impact
Most significant accident in the history of the US nuclear power industry
The reactor in question remains mothballed, but the other at the site is still in operation

"To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we'll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It's that simple."

Southern's chief executive David Ratcliffe said the president's announcement was "an important endorsement in the role nuclear power must play in diversifying our nation's energy mix and helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions".

There are currently 104 operating nuclear reactors across 31 states in the US, which provide about a fifth of the country's electricity.

Meanwhile, there are currently 56 new nuclear reactors being built around the world.













How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb?

NU to apply for stimulus funding for 'smart grid'
DAY
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 7/18/2009

Northeast Utilities is seeking up to $75 million in federal stimulus funding that would help pay for smart grid technology for customers in three states.

The deadline is Aug. 6 to apply for $75 million in matching funds from the U.S. Department of Energy's Smart Grid Investment Grant program to cover eligible expenses. NU is applying through the Connecticut Light & Power Company, Western Massachusetts Electric Company and Public Services of New Hampshire.

”We believe that federal funding, combined with our expertise, can help accelerate the modernization of the regional power grid and enable the next generation of energy efficiency solutions,” said Charles W. Shivery, NU's chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

NU, which operates New England's largest electricity delivery system, notified DOE of its intent to apply on Thursday.

”We expect the majority of that money will be invested in Connecticut,” said Al Lara, an NU communications specialist. “The reason is, we've already laid the groundwork here in the state.”

”Smart grid” technology is used to describe a variety of new and different approaches to managing electricity, said Lara. The idea behind it is to help customers have more information to control their energy use and to modernize the distribution system to use energy more efficiently, he said.

One of the primary uses of the money would be to link automated distribution systems that allow the flow of electricity to be controlled remotely, aiding in the detection of outages, said James B. Robb, NU's senior vice president of planning and development.

Automation, which is already largely in place in Connecticut, supports the addition of new technologies like electric plug-in vehicles and renewable generation.

NU also has already invested in “Plan-It-Wise,” a smart meter project in which 3,000 customers are participating, Robb said. In that project, customers are testing half a dozen programs that provide information about pricing and billing for electricity consumption, he said.

The goal is both to help consumers save money and energy, said Lara. It also allows customers to keep track of energy “as you go along, so if you see you're overspending, you can control your use,” Lara said.



Dominion Pinpoints Unit 2 Reactor Leak
DAY
By Patricia Daddona

Published on 7/15/2009

Waterford - The Millstone Unit 2 reactor will remain shut down as operators fix a tiny leak located in part of the system that cools the reactor.

Originally, the reactor at the Millstone Power Station had been shut down since July 3 following an electrical storm that caused power fluctuations from the region's electrical grid and an automatic trip, or shutdown.

Then, on Monday, as operators were restarting the plant, they discovered a “very small” leak in a reactor coolant pump, Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an e-mail. Late in the afternoon Tuesday, the leak was still dripping and is slightly radioactive, but drains into a water collection area at the base of the building where it is captured, Sheehan wrote.

The reactor coolant system transfers heat produced in the reactor core to the steam generators. There, heat is produced for the turbine-generator, which in turn produces electricity.

By early evening, Dominion had pinpointed the problem.

”We have identified the location of the leak,” said Dominion spokesman Rich Zuercher in an e-mail. “It is on piping that provides cooling to a reactor coolant pump seal. We are preparing to make the repair. We also performed an 'extent-of-condition' examination on other reactor coolant pump seal cooling piping and are taking appropriate actions to prevent the potential for a similar issue to develop.”

While the reactor is idled, plant operators will fix the pipe. For competitive reasons, the company does not disclose how long the shutdown will last or when the reactor will come back online.

A pressurizer safety valve also failed to close properly and may have to be fixed, said Sheehan and Zuercher.

There was no danger from the leak to employees or the public, Sheehan and Zuercher said.

The Unit 3 reactor continues to function properly, they said.

Under normal conditions, Millstone generates 2,103 megawatts from its two working reactors - enough electricity to power 500,000 homes, according to the company's Web site. Unit 2 began commercial operation in late 1975. The Unit 1 reactor was closed in 1998.



AP IMPACT: Funds to Shut Nuclear Plants Fall Short
NYTIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 4:04 p.m. ET
June 16, 2009

VERNON, Vt. (AP) -- The companies that own almost half the nation's nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough money to dismantle them, and many may sit idle for decades and pose safety and security risks as a result, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The shortfalls are caused not by fluctuating appetites for nuclear power but by the stock market and other investments, which have suffered huge losses over the past year and devastated the plants' savings, and by the soaring costs of decommissioning.

At 19 nuclear plants, owners have won approval to idle reactors for as long as 60 years, presumably enough time to allow investments to recover and eventually pay for dismantling the plants and removing radioactive material.

But mothballing nuclear reactors or shutting them down inadequately presents the most severe of risks. Radioactive waste could leak from abandoned plants into ground water or released into the air, and spent nuclear fuel rods could be stolen by terrorists.

During the past two years, estimates of dismantling costs have soared by more than $4.6 billion because rising energy and labor costs, while the investment funds that are supposed to pay for shutting plants down have lost $4.4 billion in the battered stock market.

The power companies have been hammered by the same declining market returns as colleges, companies and private investors. Industry critics say reactor owners weren't saving enough even before the financial collapse, and that federal regulators have not held the industry to a high enough standard.

Federal regulators are expected to release a report later this week that will describe shortfalls at 30 of the nation's 104 nuclear plants and ask operators for details about how they plan to resolve the problem.

The amount of money set aside for dismantling the plants has decreased at nearly four of every five reactors, according to an AP analysis of financial records provided every other year to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The government could force plant operators to set aside more money.

Plant owners say they have several ways to close the gap. In addition to idling the plants, the government can simply extend licenses to operate them. And investments could recover in the years to come. Industry officials say a 6 percent annual rate of return is a reasonable long-term goal.

Most nuclear plants will be operating for several more decades and will be able to recoup their fund losses, said Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group.

Nuclear power critics say those plans are not enough.

''No one at the NRC wants to acknowledge what is absolutely obvious to us, that the funds are inadequate and that the industry has bare assets,'' said Arnold Gundersen, a retired nuclear engineer and decommissioning expert.

Those critics say the industry is making assumptions about their investments that do not account for another market collapse, political obstacles to getting the licenses renewed and unforeseen safety problems that could make nuclear power less palatable.

Last week, British officials reported on a 2007 leak in a cooling tank at the decommissioned Sizewell-A nuclear plant. If the leak had not been promptly discovered, officials said, nuclear fuel rods could have caught fire and sent airborne radioactive waste along the English coast, harming plant operators or the public.

The average cost of dismantling a nuclear reactor is now estimated now at $450 million. The average plant owner has about $300 million saved up for the job. Typically, the money is raised through a small surcharge on electric rates.

NRC records show utilities are trying to close the gaps:

--Owners at 19 plants have won approval to mothball reactors for as long as 60 years. A method called Safestor has been approved for reactors including the three Palo Verde units in the Arizona desert and the Three Mile Island 1 reactor near Harrisburg, Pa.

Under this method, radioactive fuel is removed from the reactor and the spent fuel storage pool and is stored in dry casks on plant property. Plant systems are drained of water, and the remaining radioactivity in the plant is left to decay until the facility is dismantled.

But some analysts worry the utility companies that own nuclear plants might not even exist in six decades.

''Our concern is that they'll just walk away from it,'' said Jim Riccio, a Greenpeace nuclear policy analyst. ''It's like a sitting time bomb. The notion that you can just walk away from these sites and everything will be hunky-dory is just not true.''

--The operators of 54 nuclear plants, or more than half in the U.S., have already received 20-year license extensions. Sixteen more are being reviewed, and the commission expects to receive 21 more applications in the next several years. To date, the NRC hasn't turned down any license extensions.

While companies ask for extensions for other reasons -- primarily to keep producing power and making money -- some companies have explicitly told shareholders they will use license extensions to meet their decommissioning obligations.

--Some plants are calculating growth projections for their investments with an annual return of 6 percent. While that is roughly what leading market indexes make over decades, the NRC found plant owners lost an average of 13 percent over the past two years.

In Texas, state rules govern utilities' investments, said Ashley Monts, a spokeswoman for Luminant Corp., which owns two nuclear plants near Glen Rose, Texas. Five years before a plant is set to close, she said, Luminant is required to have 60 percent of the cost available. Two and a half years out, the gap must be completely closed.

Luminant has about $385 million set aside to close its two plants in 2030 and 2033. Two years ago, that figure was $439 million. The cost of decommissioning the reactors is $824 million, almost $90 million than was estimated before.

--Plant operators appear to benefit from NRC rules that don't require them to set aside money to store old nuclear fuel, demolish buildings, or return the plant sites to pristine states. Although some states require a full site restoration, the federal government does not.

The Callaway Unit 1 reactor near Fulton, Mo., reported in March that meeting the NRC savings target for decommissioning would leave it far short of the real cost of cleaning up the site.

It began with a story similar to those told by other plants: The cost to meet the minimum federal requirement for decommissioning rose from $358 million to $406 million in two years. Its savings to pay for it dwindled from $268 million to $236 million.

But a detailed study of the cost of decommissioning Callaway showed something far worse: The federal savings target was about $288 million less than what it would actually cost for a full dismantling, cleanup and safe storage of spent nuclear waste.

The waste disposal problem has become especially acute since the federal government scrapped plans to store nuclear waste at a secure facility in Yucca Mountain, Nev. Instead, radioactive fuel rods are now stored in large concrete and steel canisters on plant grounds that are guarded around the clock and tested often for leaks.

The Vermont Yankee plant, in southeastern Vermont along the banks of the Connecticut River, was hailed as the future of power production for New England when it opened in 1972. Its license is set to expire in 2012, and its decommissioning fund has less than half the money expected to be needed.

As recently as December 2007, the fund held $416 million. Now it stands at about $384 million -- a rebound from where it stood a few months ago but not even close to the estimated $932 million it will eventually cost to dismantle the plant.

Entergy Corp. is seeking a 20-year license extension for Vermont Yankee, and is hoping to have enough money in the fund to decommission the plant in the 2030s. Jay Thayer, the plant's vice president for operations, said that if the decommissioning fund continues to perform poorly, the company may ask for permission to idle the plant for as long as 60 years under the Safestor program. That would put off the dismantling until 2092.

--------

On the Net:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov

Vermont Yankee: http://www.safecleanreliable.com/

Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.org

Nuclear Energy Institute: http://www.nei.org/

Luminant Corp.: http://www.luminant.com



State utility in deal for Canadian power
CT POST
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated: 05/22/2009 08:27:22 AM EDT

Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities reports that it and a Massachusetts company have been given federal approval for a high-voltage power line to link a Canadian power plant to New England.

NU says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday approved its joint proposal with Boston-based NSTAR. The power line will bring electricity from a hydroelectric power plant in Quebec to the regional high voltage system.

The two companies had proposed the plan last December.

FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff says the project provides access to clean, low-cost energy for consumers in a region of the nation with tight constraints on electricity supplies.

The proposed line would transmit at least 1,200 megawatts of power which is enough to power tens of thousands of homes.



Court says Burton can challenge Millstone 
DAY
By Patricia Daddona   
Published on 5/21/2009

The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that an anti-nuclear activist fighting to shut down Millstone Power Station has the right to challenge a state-run permit-renewal process.  In a two-year-old case brought by Nancy Burton of Redding Ridge and Mystic against the state Department of Environmental Protection's commissioner, Gina McCarthy, and Millstone owner Dominion, a trial court originally found that Burton lacked standing to sue. Burton is the leader of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone.

But on Wednesday, the high court released a legal opinion finding the trial court erred and Burton has a right to challenge the adequacy of a state water-discharge permit proceeding, now under way, to protect the public, the environment and marine life.

”We conclude that the plaintiff's complaint adequately sets forth facts to support an inference that unreasonable pollution, impairment or destruction of a natural resource will probably result from Millstone's operation,” the ruling stated. “The plaintiff … has standing to raise her claim ....”

In her lawsuit, Burton has also alleged the DEP hearing officer is biased and that the DEP has prejudged the case.  It is now up to the trial court to determine if the permit-renewal process is insufficient. If so, the court has the power to halt the proceedings “and craft orders to ensure that those rights are adequately protected,” the Supreme Court stated.

”This is GREAT NEWS for the community surrounded by Millstone,” Burton said in an e-mail. “It is GREAT NEWS for the fish. And it is GREAT NEWS for all who believe that conscientious citizen participation can make a difference.”

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office represented the DEP, said his staff would review claims Burton makes in Superior Court “if and when the plaintiff makes them.”

Amey Marrella, deputy commissioner of the DEP, defended Dominion's and the agency's efforts to revise the Millstone permit.  Millstone discharges heated and contaminated water into Long Island Sound, Niantic Bay and Jordan Cove. The reactors also trap and kill marine life at intakes when they suck millions of gallons of water into the plants for cooling purposes.

Burton alleges harm that she says has been exacerbated by the DEP's emergency authorization of the permit now under review. Since 1997, Millstone's two reactors have been operating without a revised permit.

Marrella said Dominion, which has since reapplied for the permit, is already taking steps to better protect aquatic life and embark on a study of alternative cooling methods.  Jim Norvelle, spokesman for Dominion, said the company is confident the Superior Court would find no merit to Burton's claims.  


Conn. House OKs restricting electricity choice   
DAY
Posted on Apr 29, 1:59 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The Connecticut House has passed legislation requiring future residential and small business customers to sign up with one of the state's two major power suppliers.

The amendment passed on a mostly party-line, 103-39 vote, with Democrats in the majority. It now moves to the Senate, where there is strong opposition.

Supporters say the move to restrict electricity choice would reduce rates, but opponents say it's bad public policy and would stifle innovation.

More than 90 percent of residential and business customers now buy power from Northeast Utilities or United Illuminating. Supporters say those customers pay a "risk premium" for allowing a small group to choose small, alternative power companies. They predict rates could drop by five percent.



NOTE:
Regulations Review is one of the Legislature's non-partisan Committees (7D-7R) - Program Review & Investigation is another.

"While the Legislative Regulation Review Committee has been in existence since 1972, it was a November 24, 1982 amendment to the State's Constitution which provided the authority for the General Assembly to adopt the current structure of the committee.

"It is the responsibility of the Legislative Regulation Review Committee to review regulations proposed by state agencies and approve them before regulations are implemented. This position was adopted since all regulation have the force of law, and it is important that regulations do not contravene the legislative intent, or conflict with current state or federal laws, or state or federal constitutions.

"This joint bipartisan committee is made up of 14 members: 6 senators and 8 representatives divided equally by party. In keeping with the bipartisan nature of the committee the chairmanship of the committee changes every two years. Pairing either a Senate Democrat and a House Republican or a Senate Republican and a House Democrat as co-chairs."
 

Panel Adopts Rell Rebate Plan; New Rules Govern Power Plant Emissions

By DAVID FUNKHOUSER | Courant Staff Writer
July 23, 2008

A legislative panel Tuesday overrode the advice of its own attorneys and adopted a set of rules governing power plant emissions that includes potential rebates for consumers.  The move is a victory for Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who had pushed for the rebates as a way to hedge against potentially higher electricity prices for consumers.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, however, has contended that Rell's plan is illegal because it does not conform to legislation passed last year that set up the emissions control program. Critics of the plan say the payout would be minuscule, and the money should be spent on energy efficiency programs that offer potentially larger savings.

Rell called the vote "a victory for taxpayers" and said, "I am pleased that lawmakers on the regulations review committee have joined me in recognizing that Connecticut can be a full participant in the effort to address climate change — and provide ratepayer protections at the same time."

But the vote surprised committee member Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford.

"It could have been handled in [the next] legislative session," Harris said. "There was no rush."

Harris said the issue was cast in the committee debate as being for or against relief for ratepayers.

"Of course we support relief to ratepayers," he said. "The larger issue that should be debated by the General Assembly is, does it make sense to give rebates that could amount to $2 or $3 a year," vs. much greater savings that could be gained through energy efficiency programs.

Rep Claudia Powers, R-Greenwich, who voted for Rell's proposal, noted that there is much uncertainty over energy prices.

"I tend to look at the big picture," she said.

Regardless of the actual dollars that may be saved, Powers said "in my reading this was the only section of the proposed regulations that was an actual, ironclad protection for the consumer, the ratepayer."

The panel voted 7-6 in favor of the rules, with Democrats and Republicans voting on both sides of the issue.

The new rules will apply to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state collaboration that aims to battle global warming by cutting back the amount of emissions of carbon dioxide from power-generating facilities across the region.  Under the initiative, states will auction off a limited supply of permits to emit CO2. The number of permits will gradually decline, giving power companies an incentive to invest in cleaner technology and renewable sources of electricity. The first auction is scheduled for Sept. 25.

The proceeds from the permit auction — according to the law passed by the legislature in 2007 — were to be used for conservation programs, loan management* and support for renewable energy sources such as biomass, wind and solar.

The permits are initially expected to sell for between $3 and $5 a ton. But recent surges in energy prices prompted Rell to propose a kind of safety valve to keep consumers from absorbing higher costs for electricity. Under her plan, if prices go above $5 a ton, the proceeds would be returned to consumers.  Opponents of Rell's move say that would amount to 23 cents a month for every dollar the price goes above $5 a ton — far less than could be saved through conservation programs that also would be funded through the auctions.

The regulations review committee, charged with signing off on new state regulations, adopted the rules for the regional initiative, including Rell's rebate proposal, Tuesday. That vote came despite advice from legislative attorneys who agreed with Blumenthal that Rell's proposal does not conform with the law.

The vote puts those who support the regional emissions control initiative in a bind: They want to see Connecticut participate in the first permit auction in September. Any legal challenge now could prevent that from happening.  Blumenthal appeared conciliatory in his reaction.

"Although my interpretation of the statute and legislative intent differed from today's decision by the legislative committee, I respect its decision and will do my best to implement it and serve the two goals of assisting consumers with energy cost savings and enhancing the environment," he said.

Voting for the regulations with Rell's amendments were Reps. T.R. Rowe, Paul Davis, William Hamzy, Arthur O'Neill and Claudia Powers, and Sens. Thomas Herlihy and Sam Caligiuri. Opposed were Reps. Carlo Leone and Christopher Caruso, and Sens. Andrew Rorabach, Jonathan Harris, Paul Doyle and Andrea Stillman.

---------------

* = missing Committee member a bank employee.




The 43rd Power Sources Conference will take place at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel from July 7-10, 2008.

Sponsored by the U.S. Army Research, Development & Engineering Command, Army Power Division, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research Development & Engineering Center, Sensors and Electronic Devices Directorate, and the Army Research Laboratory, the Power Sources Conference will focus on energy-generation and storage technology (largely, but not exclusively, electrochemical) that is of interest to the Department of Defense, other government agencies, and to the civilian marketplace. The conference will comprise the technical program, a poster session, and an exhibition.

The orientation of the conference will focus on devices, but relevant contributions on materials, mechanisms and power management are welcome, as are contributions on prototype development, manufacturing technology, device and system engineering, and economic and environmental considerations.



To The Last Drop? 
State forum offers a chilling look at the world's finite oil supply 
By Paul Choiniere  Day Editorial Page Editor    
Published on 12/9/2007 

 
On the afternoon of Nov. 1, with global oil prices trading at more than $90 per barrel and threatening to hit $100, state legislators gathered in the Legislative Office Building to hear sobering, even frightening news.

The world's supply of oil is reaching a production peak, while demand continues to grow rapidly, the panel of experts told the dozen or so lawmakers in attendance. With production unable to meet demand in coming years, oil prices will rise dramatically and gasoline shortages will develop, panelists contended.

The scenario described was one of looming disaster, a calamity that the state of Connecticut and the rest of the United States are ill prepared for. And this is not a catastrophe that will come and go, but persist for years, even decades, as the country goes through the painful process of weaning itself off cheap oil and settling into a lifestyle that recognizes the new reality of oil scarcity.

That the forum took place at a time when new oil price records were being set was mere coincidence. A group calling itself the Legislative Peak Oil Caucus had scheduled it months before. But the higher oil prices, and corresponding increases at the gas pump, certainly added a degree of drama and dread to the proceedings.

State Rep. Terry Backer, a Stratford Democrat and co-founder of the caucus, has since submitted a report calling on the legislature to form a Peak Oil Task Force to begin planning for an oil-shortage reality. The caucus also sees a need for a state Department of Energy. Amending state and local emergency plans to deal with the problems resulting from sudden gasoline shortages should be paramount, according to the report.

Only five years ago a barrel of crude was trading at $25 to $30 a barrel, where it had bounced around for 15 years. Since then it has increased by 200 percent, 50 percent in the last year alone. Gas prices above $3 per gallon and heating fuel costs almost as high are pushing many family budgets to the breaking point.

It is in inarguable that the United States, more than any other nation, has built a society based on cheap energy. Most people live in suburbs or rural locations that require the automobile to do most any task — get to work, participate in social activities, go shopping, even grab a gallon of milk and loaf of bread.

Our food largely comes from faraway places. Fossil-fuel based fertilizers and pesticides are used to produce the food. It is then trucked or shipped hundreds and often thousands of miles to reach local markets. Many of the material goods we buy are dependent on shipping supply lines stretching overseas to Asia and other lands.

When the price of oil goes up the price of all these things go up. If the cost of oil continues to rise, and gas shortages develop, our very way of life would be challenged. People would have trouble heating their ever-larger homes or finding gas to get to work. Food shortages could develop.

And while Europe, which has been dealing with high gas prices for decades, has maintained and expanded its mass transit systems, the U.S. passenger rail and trolley systems were largely dismantled after the automobile and cheap gas arrived on the scene early in the 20th century.

How much oil?

The big question, of course, is whether the threat is real and, if so, how serious? Even peak-oil advocates say it is impossible to predict with certainty when the highest oil production levels will be reached and then begin their decline. Some contend the world is approaching the peak now, and may have passed it, others project it will not happen until 2030.

Current world production is about 85 million barrels a day, and world demand roughly 75 million barrels daily. The margin between production and demand is slim enough to cause dramatic price spikes when natural disasters or political unrest threaten production. Oil demand will rapidly increase as the economies of India, China and other Asian nations continue their rapid expansion.

Energy analysts cannot agree on what the future holds. The United Nations projects the world will pump 140 million barrels a day by 2030. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts 120 million barrels. Such oil production could potentially keep up with demand.

Others paint a more dire picture. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil in France, for example, expects little growth in production in the next decade and then a steady decline. Such a scenario would create dramatic shortages and global struggles for what oil remains.

Most oil industry executives still contend the Earth contains plentiful oil deposits to meet world demand for decades to come. Copious oil can be had if restrictions on off-shore exploration and drilling in federal lands were moderated, they contend. Oil-sand deposits in Canada and the United States hold oil reserves to rival Saudi Arabia.

But as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, Christopher de Margerie, chief executive of the French oil company Total SA, is among a number of oil bosses who contend that predictions of continued oil production growth are unrealistic. He contends it will be hard to push oil production past a plateau of 100 million barrels per day, not enough to meet growing demand.

“There is a growing realization that it's not going to be cheap or easy to grow either capacity or production much beyond the present rates,” said Sally Odland, an oil and gas explorer who now administers a geophysical research division at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University. “It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict higher energy prices, greater volatility and periodic shortfalls on the 1- to 5-year horizon.”

Several factors contribute to this less optimistic outlook. Already discovered are most and perhaps all of the world's giant oil fields. What oil remains is getting harder to get at, requiring more energy and money. Turning oil sands into oil is even more expensive and energy consuming. After years of intensive development, costing billions of dollars, Canada's massive oil-sands deposits produce about 1.1 million barrels of crude a day, the proverbial drop in the world-demand bucket.

Rep. Backer said the real need for leadership is at the federal level. Dramatic reduction in energy use through smarter development policies, technological innovation, much tougher motor vehicle efficiency standards and rebuilding mass transit systems should become a national priority, Backer said.

But given the void in national leadership on the issue, he said, Connecticut must start planning now. 

It's Time To Use Resources Without Fear Mongering 
DAY
By Gene Guilford    
Published on 12/9/2007 

 
It seems that every day we find yet another entity in our society that slams us for just living. One cannot smoke a good cigar, enjoy a glass of wine, drive an SUV, live in a decent home, turn on the lights, or eat a nice steak without incurring the wrath of some social do-gooder ready to shoot from the hip at the behavior allegedly killing the planet or killing us.

We need a new holiday called “Freedom from Fear Day.”

In November members of the Peak Oil Caucus held a hearing involving Connecticut's apparent total lack of preparedness for the world running out of oil and natural gas. The hearing featured like-minded believers of the notion that the world is about to run out of the basic fossil fuels that power the world's economies and that the state is at risk for its failure to prepare for the economic depression, famine, and general calamity that are inevitable. Mind you, no mainstream energy experts participated in this “event,” only those who believe the world is coming to an end. This isn't the first time this has happened.

There are now 2.2 trillion barrels of conventional oil reserves known in the world — more than a 200-year supply. In addition, there are three times the proven reserves in tar sands in the United States, 800 billion barrels, as exists in the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. That's 110 years of total U.S. demand at 20 million barrels a day. If we used it for half our daily consumption, it's 220 years, according to a Rand Corp report conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy.

We forget history, but the Peak Oil Caucus has not only forgotten it, they also repeated it:

• 1879 — U.S. Geological Survey formed, in part because of fear of oil shortages.

• 1882 — Institute of Mining Engineers estimates 95 million barrels of oil remain. With 25 million barrels per year output, “Some day the cheque will come back endorsed no funds, and we are approaching that day very fast,” Samuel Wrigley says.

• 1906 — Fears of an oil shortage are “confirmed” by the U.S. Geological Survey. Representatives of the Detroit Board of Commerce attended hearings in Washington and told a Senate hearing that car manufacturers worried “not so much (about) cost as ... supply.”

• 1932 — Federal Oil Conservation Board estimates 10 billion barrels of oil remain.

• 1944 — Petroleum Administrator for War estimates 20 billion barrels of oil remain.

• 1980 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 648 billion barrels

• 1993 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 999 billion barrels

• 2000 — Remaining proven oil reserves put at 1,016 billion barrels.

Today, the U.S. Geological Survey, created in 1879 out of the fear that the United States was running out of oil, places recoverable world reserves at 2.2 trillion barrels. In the last 27 years proven world reserves have almost quadrupled.

Still, the Peak Oil Caucus wants to set up local “Peak Oil” councils in cities and towns around Connecticut to prepare for the coming Armageddon. According to these doomsayers, prices have increased exponentially during the last seven years because the world is running out of oil.

At the same time, some believe that running out of oil is a good thing, as we not only need to transition to a new energy economy, but we also need to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, largely (according to them) attributed to fossil fuel use, in order to stop the melting of the polar ice caps and the imminent flooding of the planet and killing of all life forms.

In 1941, then President Franklin Roosevelt talked about Four Freedoms — one of which is the Freedom from Fear. Freedom from Fear is something we one day may enjoy, but not likely as long as people like the Peak Oil Committee are intent on scaring the hell out of us. In addition to the global warming fanatics in your backyard you will also start hearing from the “peak oil” fanatics (same folks, different uniforms).

We need to produce more energy here at home and stop sending more than $1 billion a day overseas. Trouble is, most politicians pandering to special interests of the type seen in Hartford kill any discussion of expanding energy production here at home. We need to become more energy efficient and waste less energy.

Pity that the last legislative session in Hartford saw the enactment of a new energy law encouraging energy conservation, but our representatives didn't fund it. Meanwhile, the energy conservation tax provisions of the 2005 federal Energy Policy Act expire at the end of December.

Lots of talk and fear mongering — no action.

Gene Guilford is executive director of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association. 

We Know We'll Run Out — the Big Question Is 'When?' 
DAY
By Tom Whipple    
Published on 12/9/2007 

 
Peak oil is shorthand for the point in time when world oil production reaches its all-time high. By definition, after the peak production will never be higher.

People have been speculating that we would run out of oil ever since the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania 150 years ago. However, until the mid-20th century the geology of worldwide oil deposits was so poorly understood and so little of the Earth had been explored that these forecasts had no real basis.

In the mid-1950s, a geologist by the name of King Hubbert published a scientifically-based paper postulating that the lower-48 states would run out of oil around 1970. When Hubbert published his paper, drilling for oil had been going on for nearly 100 years and much geological knowledge had been accumulated. Hubbert, therefore, had a real basis for his projections. He turned out to be mostly right.

After U.S. oil production peaked in the early 1970s, the nation began importing more and more oil until today we bring in about two-thirds of our daily consumption of 21 million barrels. The growing dependence on imported oil resulted in shortages in the 1970s when the Middle East turned off the tap twice in the midst of unrest in that part of the world.

After the oil flow was restored in the early 1980s the U.S., unlike our friends in Europe, largely forgot about shortages, about conservation, about living modestly. Major new oil fields were discovered in Alaska, the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Oil was cheap and plentiful. Happy days were here again.

It proved to be a temporary illusion.

About ten years ago a new generation of geologists began to speculate about when world oil production would peak. This generation had the benefits of much better knowledge than ever before. The world had been extensively explored so there was a pretty good idea of just where oil was likely to be found, how much was left and how hard it would be to get at.

Still geology is an inexact science and to this day a controversy rages about just how much oil is left. Some are expecting the decline in world oil production to begin sometime in the next few years, while others say the peak is decades away. All sides agree, however, that the easy-to-produce oil is nearly gone and from here on out oil will be much more difficult and expensive to find and produce.

The issue, however, is not just one of how much oil is left in the ground. You must also have permission from the political entity controlling the land or sea above the oil before you can produce it. Unfortunately, most of the oil remaining in the world is in the hands of unstable or despotic governments such as Iraq, Iran and Nigeria. Governments control much of the rest, such as Russia and Venezuela, who are starting to use the political leverage they have gained through control of their country's oil exports.

Not only are supplies of cheap oil dwindling; the world's demand for oil is climbing rapidly. This is the primary reason we have seen the price of oil go from $20 to nearly $100 a barrel in this decade. Most of the increased demand is coming from China, India and other Asian countries. However, the oil exporting states such as those in the Persian Gulf, Russia and Venezuela are starting to keep an increasing share of their production for domestic use.

For the United States this is all very bad news.

If one puts these trends together, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that unprecedented economic difficulties are only a few years or maybe even months away. While there are substitutes for oil, it will take decades of work and trillions of dollars to bring these substitutes into widespread use. The transition from the oil age to whatever follows clearly will not be smooth and seamless.

For historians, the peaking of world oil production just could to be the most important and memorable crisis of the 21st century.

Tom Whipple is a retired CIA analyst who writes a column for the Falls Church News Press on Peak Oil. He is also the editor for the daily Peak Oil News and the weekly Peak Oil Review published by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.

We Need To Face Prospect of Dire Effects On All Of Us 
DAY
By John Kaufmann    
Published on 12/9/2007 

 
The city of Portland, Ore. took the potential for a looming energy crisis serious enough to appoint a citizen's task force to identify how the city would be affected and to make recommendations on how to prepare.

When supply for oil and natural gas can no longer keep pace with demand, prices will rise and problems begin. Since oil and natural gas are the most concentrated and flexible energy resources ever found and account for two-thirds of the energy we use, the implications of them declining are ominous. There are no magic bullets — not nuclear, coal, oil sands, biofuels, hydrogen, wind, or solar — that will fully replace oil and gas. We must learn to get by with less energy – a lot less.

In undertaking its job, the task the task force concluded that it does not matter whether the peak occurs in two years or 20 years, for it will require a massive effort over many years to prepare for a less energy intensive future. The sooner we begin, the better off we'll be.

What are some of the likely impacts? The 1970s gave us a glimpse, only this time the impacts will persist and deepen year after year as energy becomes scarcer and prices keep climbing. One of the obvious impacts is it will cost more to fill our gas tanks and heat our homes. People will drive less. Vacations will be closer to home. Many will struggle to figure out how to get to work. Disposable incomes will shrink.

Energy-intensive businesses, such as trucking, airlines and manufacturing, will be hit hard. If trucking costs more, delivered goods will cost more or may not be available. Also, as disposable incomes shrink, businesses that provide discretionary products or services will suffer. As profit margins shrink, there will be pressure to cut employee health insurance, retirement benefits and wages. Businesses will fail and unemployment will increase, further slowing the economy.

The vulnerable and marginalized — the elderly, the infirm, low-income households — will be the first victims. Their limited incomes will be stressed to the breaking point as they're forced to choose between heat, food and medicine. In addition, tax revenues and charitable contributions will decline at the same time that demand for services increases.

As incomes are stretched and heating costs rise, many people will slip down the housing ladder. Some homeowners may lose their homes and become renters. Renters may be forced into assisted housing. People in assisted housing may be forced into homelessness. There may be population shifts toward denser urban patterns, neighborhood clusters, or small towns, as people move closer to jobs, services and public transit, leaving some suburban areas isolated.

Food will be significantly affected, too. Natural gas is used to make fertilizer, and oil pesticides. Without these, agricultural production could drop perilously. Food prices will increase, and food will consume a larger share of family budgets. Long-distance foods, especially perishables, will become luxuries.

These are just a few of the impacts we will face. Many of the solutions will take years, if not decades, to put into place. Whether the peak is now or 20 years away, we need to begin preparations now. Portland has made the choice to begin. Connecticut should follow.

John Kaufmann is Senior Policy Analyst for the Oregon Department of Energy. He was lead staff for Portland's Peak Oil Task Force.  




Indian Point viewed in a new perspective...


INDIAN POINT (l)  RISK ASSESSMENT
Remember the "take cover" drills of the 1950's?  In Japan - smoking nuclear plant - but radiation is invisible

Indian Point future in doubt

New  York POST
By LEONARD GREENE
Last Updated: 8:56 AM, March 21, 2011
Posted: 2:52 AM, March 21, 2011

Japan's nuclear crisis will influence the location of future nuclear-power plants in the United States, and officials are reviewing the operation of the Indian Point plant north New York City, an Obama administration official said yesterday.

"We're going to have to look at whether this reactor should remain," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu on "Fox News Sunday." A major disaster at Indian Point could endanger 20 million people.


New York Denies Indian Point a Water Permit
NYTIMES
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER
April 3, 2010

In a major victory for environmental advocates, New York State has ruled that outmoded cooling technology at the Indian Point nuclear power plant kills so many Hudson River fish, and consumes and contaminates so much water, that it violates the federal Clean Water Act.

The decision is a blow to the plant’s owner, the Entergy Corporation, which now faces the prospect of having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build stadium-size cooling towers, or risk that Indian Point’s two operating reactors — which supply 30 percent of the electricity used by New York City and Westchester County — could be forced to shut down.

Entergy officials said that they were “disappointed” in the ruling and that they might fight it in court. The original federal licenses for the two 1970s-era reactors expire in 2013 and 2015, and a water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a 20-year renewal by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But a prolonged appeal in New York could delay a shutdown, Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the commission, said late Saturday.

An Entergy spokesman said that converting Indian Point’s cooling system would cost $1.1 billion and would require shutting both reactors down entirely for 42 weeks.

The ruling in New York comes after President Obama pressed for the construction of new nuclear plants in his State of the Union address. But it is the second instance since of a state asserting its power to threaten an existing nuclear plant. In Vermont, the State Senate voted overwhelmingly in February to block operation of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant after 2012, citing leaks of radioactive tritium, inaccurate testimony by company officials and other problems.

Nuclear proponents said they hoped that the federal government would determine that the nation’s energy needs should take precedence over such state-level actions. “The N.R.C. may decide this is not a policy they’re going to give credence to,” said Arthur J. Kremer, chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, of which Entergy is a member. “It’s bad news for investors in new power facilities and in upgrading old ones.”

The battle over Indian Point, which is in Buchanan, about 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, has been raging for decades, and the latest decision will not soon end that fight.

But the strongly worded letter from the Department of Environmental Conservation, issued late Friday, said flatly that Indian Point’s cooling systems, even if modified in a less expensive way proposed by Entergy, “do not and will not comply” with New York’s water quality standards.

It said the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species. The letter also said that radioactive material had polluted the Hudson after leaking into the groundwater.

The ruling concerned the cooling system at Indian Point Units 2 and 3, which were commissioned in the early 1970s. (Indian Point 1 was shut down in 1974.) Both take in enormous volumes of river water — a combined 2.5 billion gallons a day, or more than twice the average daily water consumption of all of New York City — and use it to create steam for turbines and to cool the reactors. The water is then pumped back into the Hudson, 20 or 30 degrees hotter.

Sucking so much water causes plankton, eggs and larvae to be drawn into the plant’s machinery, or entrained, and the water pressure also causes fish to be trapped, or impinged, against intake screens, the state said.

The plant’s “once-through” cooling system was obsolete by the late 1970s, when the state of the art became “closed-cycle” cooling — more akin to a car’s radiator — which consumes less than 10 percent as much water and kills fewer organisms.

“Conversion from a once-through cooling system to a closed-cycle cooling system, while expensive and involving a potentially lengthy construction process, is nevertheless the only available and technically feasibly technology” for Indian Point to satisfy the “best technology available” requirement of state water-quality regulations, an official of the Department of Environmental Conservation official wrote.

If Entergy fails to overturn the state’s ruling, it could take the fight to Washington. And the New York region’s economic reliance on Indian Point could give the corporation considerable leverage. Even Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who is one of the plant’s loudest critics, said he expected Entergy to “try to get the N.R.C. to back off the requirement” for a water quality certificate.

Other opponents of the plant hailed the ruling.

“The era in which you can take 2.5 billion gallons of water from the Hudson River every day, and return it to the river untreated and polluted — those days are over,” said Mr. Brodsky, who, with the folk singer Pete Seeger, successfully sued to get the state to enforce the clean-water laws at Indian Point. “Entergy has to either stop polluting the river or close the plant. End of discussion.”

Alex Matthiessen, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, said it was conceivable that Entergy could spend the money to retrofit its cooling system and then reapply to the state. But that would cause a huge delay, he added.

“For all we know, this is it — the beginning of the end,” he said.

Ms. Screnci, the spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the commission was “a ways away from reaching a decision on whether to renew the license.” But she added: “It’s my understanding that the law says that this certification must be in place for us to renew the license. So we’ll be watching to see what occurs in the meantime.”



The Power Grid Game: Choose a Catastrophe
NYTIMES
By PETER APPLEBOME
Published: December 9, 2007

BUCHANAN, N.Y.

The megawattage was higher than normal, but the politics sounded familiar when Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, with Democratic politicians and antinuclear activists in tow, dropped a rhetorical bomb on the Indian Point nuclear power plant on Monday.

Not only should the Nuclear Regulatory Commission deny an application to renew its license, Mr. Cuomo said, but “Indian Point should be closed, and it should be closed now.” For those who missed the urgency, he added, “Indian Point is, in my opinion, a catastrophe waiting to happen.”

Well, an ambitious Democratic politician in these parts can never go wrong railing against Indian Point — the more apocalyptic the language, the better. But even in the kingdom where the word “no” forever reigns supreme, closing Indian Point raises its share of vexing questions.

For starters: Is New York prepared to increase carbon emissions and perhaps flunk its goals under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to close Indian Point? In whose neighborhoods in Westchester or Rockland Counties is it prepared to build the power plants that would replace it? Is the possibility of more expensive and less reliable electricity an acceptable trade-off for not having to worry about Indian Point? If Indian Point poses an unacceptable risk, shouldn’t the dozens of nuclear plants in metropolitan areas around the country and the world close as well? And we’re comfortable with those carbon trade-offs too?

In the end, they come down to this: Do the forever-green, antinuke politics of the 1970s hold up in the global warming era of 2007? Think before you answer.

NUCLEAR power isn’t the most lovable of alternatives, and if you live in Westchester County, as I do, the specter of Indian Point is one of the constants of local discourse, like college admissions hysteria, real estate anxiety and Bill and Hillary sightings.

Indian Point’s critics say its safety record over the years has been too flawed, the population around it too large, the evacuation plans too inadequate to keep it open. You think, if they can’t get the sirens to operate, maybe there are bigger worries.

(Of course, it was New York State that sold this alleged catastrophe in the making to its current owners just six years ago, but we’ll let that pass.)

There’s plenty of hyperbole on both sides, and Entergy Nuclear, the plant’s owner, seems able to spend money like a drunken sailor to get its message out. Nuclear power’s most effective spokesman may be Patrick Moore, a founder and former member of the environmental group Greenpeace, who has been hired by the nuclear industry to promote the technology.

He says the resurgence of nuclear energy around the world — even in ultragreen countries like Finland — reflects the simple fact that nuclear power has more potential to replace and reduce carbon emissions than anything else, and that, leaving out the Model T technology of Chernobyl, its worldwide safety record remains almost impeccable.

“What drives me nuts,” he said, “ is that the environmental movement itself has become the primary obstacle to reducing fossil fuel emissions. Energy and climate are two sides of the same coin, and they’ve got it completely backward. Either you quit worrying about climate change and go on burning fossil fuels or you accept nuclear energy and get off fossil fuels. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place of their own making.”

Of course, if you factor in conservation and alternative energy, there should be other options. And maybe the biggest obstacle to nuclear power has been cost, not pesky enviros. But for now, all the painless green alternatives like massive conservation, smart building, solar power, wind power, ocean waves and the rest that are supposed to allow us to do without nuclear power are still minor parts of the equation.

Unless Mr. Cuomo succeeds in closing Indian Point tomorrow, we might hope for two things as its relicensing process plods on.

One, says Alex Matthiessen, president of Riverkeeper in Westchester, is a far more thorough hearing than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems to have in mind — one that looks at issues like evacuation plans, vulnerability to terrorist attacks, potential leaks from spent fuel pools and other issues. A 20-year renewal for a nuclear plant in the most populous part of the country shouldn’t be a rubber stamp.

The second is some kind of urgency about all the painless alternatives that are supposed to let us do without Indian Point and plants like it. As it is, we don’t want windmills off Long Island, and we don’t want the proposed Broadwater floating natural gas plant in Long Island Sound. We almost certainly don’t want a tunnel under the Sound. We don’t want Indian Point, and we sure as heck wouldn’t want a substantial plant to replace it. We want our bloated S.U.V.s and Hummers and the energy-hogging McMansions that the banks haven’t taken back. yet.

Maybe Santa is out there 365 days a year, and maybe we can turn all of Wyoming into a windmill farm that will solve everyone’s problems. Or maybe getting to a sane energy future is a lot more complicated than scaring people to death about Indian Point.


Plainfield Proposal Raises Concerns For Environment; Opposition To Power Plant Is 'Overblown,' Company Official Says 
DAY
By Ted Mann     
Published on 10/25/2007 

 
A coalition of state environmental groups urged regulators to block a proposed power plant in Plainfield that would burn construction and demolition debris to generate electricity.

The environmental groups, including Clean Water Action, Environment Connecticut and the Toxics Action Center, contend that the proposal by Plainfield Renewable Energy has used the mask of “renewable” power generation to push forward a potentially devastating project that would allow thousands of pounds of heavy metal pollutants, including arsenic and lead, to escape into the state's air and drinking water.

“This is about as far from a clean energy project as I can imagine,” said Roger Smith, the campaign director for Clean Water Action, which has asked Commissioner Gina McCarthy of the state Department of Environmental Protection to deny permits to the Plainfield project, and also fought the proposal before the Department of Public Utility Control, which will consider it next week.

The Plainfield company, meanwhile, says it is being unfairly accused and that the environmental groups that rallied against its project in front of the state Capitol Wednesday are severely overstating the potential harm its plant could cause.

The criticism is “obviously overblown and misinformed,” said Daniel J. Donovan, whose company, NuPower LLC, is seeking to build the plant along with Florida-based Decker Energy International.

Donovan, whose company is jockeying with another firm seeking to build a biomass electric plant — and obtain both state permits and ratepayer-funded subsidies to do so — blamed the environmental concerns on the competition. That firm, Clearview Power LLC, is seeking to build a plant that would burn both wood and chicken manure to generate electricity on the grounds of the Kofkoff egg farm in rural Bozrah.

“This is a coordinated effort by Clearview to spread misinformation, and unfortunately some of the environmental organizations have just taken this on face value,” Donovan said. “And if I were them, and I saw this, I'd be upset, too. Unfortunately, it's not true.”

A representative of Clearview could not be reached Wednesday to respond.

Environmental groups say, however, that proof of the potential environmental damage is in Plainfield Renewable Energy's own filings seeking permits from the DEP, including figures that show the plant could give off more than 1,400 pounds of arsenic and 7,200 pounds of lead each year, including smokestack emissions and the ash that burning wood — including pressure-treated lumber and other contaminated materials — would generate.

Donovan said those numbers are inaccurate. The company expects to emit about 640 pounds of lead per year, he said.

The company has been helped, Smith said, by a little-noticed change made last year by the state legislature. That change broadened the definition of fuels that could be burned in generation plants that qualify as renewable-energy projects, to include construction and demolition debris.

That loophole, Smith noted, applied only to biomass projects that had received assistance from the state's Clean Energy Fund before May 1, 2006, a criterion that applied to exactly one company in the state: Plainfield Renewable Energy.

Smith and others say the change also would make it easier for contaminated debris — including pressure-treated timber — to be burned for power, something they believe runs directly counter to the state's goal of making power through less-polluting means.

“This is a huge change,” he said. “They've gone from this stuff being illegal to burn in the state to not only is it legal for them to burn, but they get a ratepayer subsidy as a class-one renewable resource.”

Those criticisms are “woefully inaccurate,” said Donovan, who cited support from Plainfield's leaders and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The environmental organizations that we're talking about,” he said, referring to those fighting the Plainfield plant, “are really the small ones.”



"Wave Farm" the answer?
We look into other natural sources of power, and now, from the country that brought us innovations in solar power...



What lies beneath: Greenwich to host public forum on gas pipeline
CTPOST
Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer

Published 11:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Out of sight, but not out of mind, a major natural gas pipeline that burrows its way from Greenwich to Bridgeport along the Merritt Parkway corridor is drawing new scrutiny.

Representatives from the state Department of Public Utility Control and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. will take questions and comments at a public forum in Greenwich on Thursday on everything from the condition of the interstate duct to what safeguards are in place in the event of a leak or explosion.

The event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Cone Room at Town Hall, is being sponsored by the Riverside Association and the DPUC.

The high-pressure pipeline is routed well to the north of Riverside.

Joseph Humphrey, the event's organizer and a member of the homeowner group's board of governors, said the pipeline doesn't have to run beneath a person's property for him or her to have a vested interest.

"We want citizens to raise questions," Humphrey said. "I'm going to raise a question: What happens if the pipeline ruptures right next to the Merritt right at rush hour?"

While there have never been any problems reported in Connecticut, Humphrey pointed out that a natural gas pipeline outside San Francisco exploded in September 2010, killing eight, leveling 35 homes and shooting flames 1,000 feet into the air.

"There's a fine line," Humphrey said. "You don't want to scare them to death, but the pipeline that's in place has been there since the 1950s."

In San Bruno, Calif., it took more than an hour to shut off the gas after the explosion.

Humphrey wondered what shut-off mechanisms are in place in Connecticut, as well as the impact radius a similar accident would have.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. spokesman Richard Wheatley said the company, which is owned by Houston-based El Paso Corp., is still gathering information for its presentation.

"We will be prepared to discuss our pipeline and integrity management programs," Wheatley said. "We're proud of our record."

At the same time, Wheatley said the parent company, which owns 43,000 miles of pipeline from Bakersfield, Calif., to Boston, is trying to be responsive to requests for information.

"Part of our philosophy is we try to be a good neighbor and comply and meet the needs of the public and anyone else who may be seeking information about our pipelines," Wheatley said.

The company's pipeline crosses into Connecticut near the intersection of King and Glenville streets in Greenwich, where there is an above-ground compressor station.

From there, the pipeline runs under Riversville Road in a northeasterly direction, passing the Round Hill Club and Round Hill Road, Lake Avenue and North Street before crossing over the Merritt Parkway into backcountry Greenwich and North Stamford.

In Stamford, the pipeline bisects Long Ridge and High Ridge roads, with a branch passing the King school on Newfield Avenue. The main pipeline then cuts into New Canaan, where it lies beneath Waveny Park and the high school.

Further along the path of the pipeline are Norwalk's Silvermine neighborhood, the Route 7 connector interchange with the Merritt Parkway, the Aspetuck River in northern Westport, Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield and Routes 111 and 25 in Trumbull.

A branch of the pipeline juts into Bridgeport along Reservoir Avenue.

"This is no neighborhood pipeline," said Daniel Warzoha, Greenwich emergency management director.

Even though the gas running through the pipeline is odorized, Warzoha said property owners need to exercise common sense when doing excavation work.

"Every reputable contractor isn't going to make a move without calling before you dig," Warzoha said. "It's a more of a concern of a do-it-yourselfer or a contractor that doesn't want to play by the rules. The consequences could be extreme if there was a catastrophic failure."

Humphrey said the swath of people who would be affected by a failure would be wide.

"So it's a matter of intense interest for anybody here in Connecticut who's involved with planning and citizens who live in the right-of-way," Humphrey said.

The more Humphrey can raise awareness about the hidden pipeline, the better, as far as he's concerned.

"It's not like driving over the Mianus Bridge and wondering if it's going to give way under you," Humphrey said.


The Grim Energy Reality; Study finds New England reliance on natural gas for power will mean continued high electricity costs. 
By The Day    
Published on 8/14/2007 


Tired of high electric bills? You'd better get used to the idea. The organization that runs the New England power grid says that natural gas prices will determine the cost of electricity at least through 2025 regardless of what conservation efforts the states make or what policies they adapt for new generating plants.

The Independent System Operator New England, in a just-completed study, says the region's strong dependence on natural gas — now more than 38 percent — will continue to drive high electric rates. In fact, the study suggests that only falling natural gas prices could reduce electric bills.

Nuclear power, once the brave hope of the region for lower-cost power generation, has fallen out of favor. Nuclear plants provide just 14.4 percent of the region's power and the prospect of building additional nuclear power stations is unlikely. That is because most power companies believe it would be next to impossible to get approval to site nuclear stations in New England.

The region has been adding natural-gas-fired stations that are environmentally sound, but relatively expensive to operate. These plants are cleaner than oil- or coal-fired stations, hence their popularity as states strive to meet federal air-quality standards.

Gordon van Welle, chief executive of ISO New England, says that demand for electricity grows about 1.3 percent annually in the region. In order to meet the growing needs over the next 20 years, the region would have to produce new plants equal to about eight Seabrook, N.H., nuclear plants. Even so, the region would still be just as dependent upon natural gas, he says.

In fact, even if the region used technologies other than natural gas, New England would still be just about as dependent upon natural gas. New England pays a high price for the commodity, since much of it comes from far-away Louisiana or from Canada.

The region kept building natural gas plants as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal plants. The cleaner-air strategy has resulted in much higher electric costs.

Energy conservation has to be part of the solution. New Englanders have to become more prudent about how much electricity they use and when. A new Connecticut law that promotes “smart metering,” allowing consumers to pay less for using electricity during off-peak hours, should help.

New England probably will be among the last regions to consider new nuclear plants, something that likely will happen elsewhere in the country first. But it is clear that the region will have to develop more diversified means of providing electricity or continue to lose jobs to other regions that can produce power more cheaply.



System relies on ice to chill buildings
By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press Writer
July 14, 2007

NEW YORK - As the summer swelters on, skyscrapers and apartments around the city will be cranking up the air conditioning and pushing the city's power grid to the limit.
 
But some office towers and buildings have found a way to stay cool while keeping the AC to a minimum — by using an energy-saving system that relies on blocks of ice to pump chilly air through buildings.

The systems save companies money and reduce strain on the electrical grid in New York, where the city consumes more power on hot summer days than the entire nation of Chile.

It also cuts down on pollution. An ice-cooling system in the Credit Suisse offices at the historic Metropolitan Life tower in Manhattan is as good for the environment as taking 223 cars off the streets or planting 1.9 million acres of trees to absorb the carbon dioxide caused by electrical usage for one year.

Such a reduction in pollution is valuable in a city where the majority of emissions come from the operation of buildings. State officials say there are at least 3,000 ice-cooling systems worldwide.

"It is worth it to do in New York City," said William Beck, the head of critical engineering systems for Credit Suisse. "If you take the time to look, you can find innovative ways to be energy efficient, be environmental and sustainable."

Because electricity is needed to make the ice, water is frozen in large silver tanks at night when power demands are low. The cool air emanating from the ice blocks is then piped throughout the building more or less like traditional air conditioning. At night the water is frozen again and the cycle repeats.

Ice storage can be used as the sole cooling system, or it can be combined with traditional systems to help ease the power demands during peak hours. At Credit Suisse, for example, the company must cool 1.9 million square feet of office space at the Met Life tower, a historic building that was New York's tallest in the days before the Empire State Building.

In the basement, three main cooling rooms house chilling machines and 64 tanks that hold 800 gallons of water each. Credit Suisse has a traditional air conditioning system, but engineers use the more efficient system first.

Construction on the system took about four months, and company engineers say it is extremely efficient.

"The concept is the same, but when you make something mechanical, it can break, but a big block of ice four floors below grade level isn't going to do anything but melt," said Todd Coulard of Trane Energy Services. The company built the Credit Suisse system and is one of several that work with ice storage.

Trane, the air-conditioning arm of American Standard, also developed a system for Morgan Stanley's Westchester County offices, and just completed a new system for its offices on Fifth Avenue. A new Goldman Sachs headquarters will also have ice cooling. Credit Suisse is looking at installing the systems in offices around the globe, but nothing has been decided yet.

Coulard, an expert in energy efficiency, was hired by the company four years ago to develop the energy services department.

"I've been doing green since before it was cool," he said. "The idea of not only saving money for large companies, but doing something that benefits the environment is win-win. It's doing the right thing."

Engineers say the power-saving results from the system are impressive. And it translates into millions of dollars saved in energy bills for the companies.

Ice storage at Credit Suisse lowers the facility's peak energy use by 900 kilowatts, and reduces overall electric usage by 2.15 million kilowatt-hours annually — enough to power about 200 homes.

At the Morgan Stanley facility in Westchester County, the system reduces peak energy use by 740 kilowatts and overall electricity usage by 900,000 kilowatt hours annually.

Both companies received incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority under a program designed to improve the power grid and help businesses reduce operating costs.

The technology isn't for every office space. There has to be room to install the large tanks. And costs are considerable: Credit Suisse spent more than $3 million to renovate its cooling system; and Morgan Stanley's costs were comparable, which means the technology is best suited to large companies.

"This is for companies that want to go green but that there has to be other benefits, returns on investments," Coulard said. "It works for larger companies because their cooling costs are so considerable."



Plan For Cleaner Power Faltering; Jersey Firm Had Hoped To Improve Four Of The `Sooty Six' Plants In Connecticut
By MARK PETERS, Courant Staff Writer
May 5, 2007

A plan unveiled in a high-profile announcement last summer by NRG Energy to modernize and clean up some of the state's oldest and dirtiest power plants is quietly sputtering.

The New Jersey-based company proposed spending an estimated $2 billion to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency at four of the state's so-called Sooty Six plants.

The "Powering Connecticut" plan was touted by NRG as a way to bring plants in Middletown, Norwalk, Milford and Montville - which date to the '50s - into the 21st century. Those plants had come under fire in recent years as some of the state's worst sources of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, contributors to air pollution, acid rain and smog.

But, in a filing with federal financial regulators this week, NRG said the projects are now "less likely to move forward." It also said a smaller upgrade project in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich remains on schedule.

NRG, which supplies about a quarter of the electricity in Connecticut, said in the filing that the projects are in jeopardy because the plants failed to win long-term power contracts in a state-run auction last month. NRG projects were among more than 20 that competed for the lucrative contracts.

"It would have completely remade their Connecticut fleet," said Roger Smith, campaign director for the Connecticut chapter of Clean Water Action.

Data on emissions of the pollutants - sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides - were not available from state environmental regulators Friday, or from the company. But general figures from regulators and the company indicate that the plants would spew between 10 and 25 times less of the toxic pollutants after they were retrofitted.

NRG is reassessing its projects in Connecticut following the auction and will continue to look for economically viable ways to modernize and expand its plants, said Lori Neuman, a spokeswoman for the company. She declined to discuss any further details of NRG's schedule or plans for the state.

NRG had emphasized when it first announced the plan last June that the plants would need long-term contracts from the state to make the projects happen.

Under the state's market-based system for power generation that started in 2000, environmentalists and power officials had hoped private companies would upgrade old plants or build new ones, so that the old, inefficient plants would be retired. That is still the hope, and it was a reason for the long-term contracts that will be paid for by electric customers. But for now, the "Sooty Six" plants still provide key power, especially in times of peak demand, such as weekday summer afternoons.

NRG's plans included retrofitting plants in Middletown, Milford and Norwalk that run on natural gas and oil with new, cleaner systems. NRG would replace generators in Middletown and Milford and install additional emission controls in Norwalk. It would expand the overall amount of electricity it could produce and sell as part of the plan.

The original proposal also included a $1.5 billion "clean coal" plant to replace NRG's existing oil and natural gas-fired plant in Montville. The new plant, which faced opposition from environmental groups, would have run on a synthetic gas derived from coal.

NRG moved away from the proposed coal project last fall in favor of a new natural gas-fired plant that could eventually be converted to gasified coal.

Several milestones NRG laid out during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building last June haven't been met. State regulators say they have not received requests for permits probably needed to carry out various parts of the overhaul.

New units at NRG plants would be more efficient by using waste heat from the generators to produce additional electricity. As for emissions, the NRG plants that now rely heavily on oil would burn more natural gas, a considerably cleaner fuel, said Gary Rose, director of engineering and enforcement at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"There would clearly be a reduction of emission across the board," Rose said.

An executive order and the "Sooty Six" legislation passed five years ago required reductions in pollutants at the plants, but Smith said that was meant to be more of a stopgap until the plants closed or were updated. He was particularly happy to see the company drop the coal plant last fall, saying that would have contributed significantly to greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

In awarding the long-term contract on April 23, state regulators picked four projects, the largest of which is a proposed 620-megawatt plant next to NRG's Middletown plant.

If NRG ends up moving from "less likely" to abandoning its plan here, the overall effect on air quality is not clear because the amount of power the plants will produce after new plants come online is hard to predict.



Conservation Pays;   Companies Being Rewarded For Using Less Electricity, Installing Efficiency Devices
By MARK PETERS, Courant Staff Writer
January 14, 2007

GUILFORD -- David Ives, surrounded by spools of copper wire and the hum of machines, tinkered with a little blue box on the wall at Algonquin Industries. 
Ives, an energy engineer, was installing a device that will calculate how much electricity the company uses during the course of a day to shape metal into wire.  Once the box is in place, Algonquin can cut electricity use on the hottest days of the year and receive payments in exchange.

"They're one more with the power to go down," Ives said.

With demand for electricity continuing to climb, regulators in Connecticut and New England want more businesses and homes to reduce their power consumption, either temporarily at times of peak demand or permanently through efficiency measures.  To accomplish that, regulators are creating markets in which little blue boxes, fluorescent lights and energy-efficient air conditioners can start to compete with power plants for ratepayer-funded payments.

"It is absolutely a sea change in the industry, and New England is revolutionary," said Mike Gordon of ConsumerPowerline, a New York-based company that provides efficiency and curtailment services and does work in Connecticut.

Hundreds of companies have already agreed to help the New England power grid on the hottest days of summer by reducing production, turning off equipment and otherwise reducing the demand for electricity. Connecticut, alone, can already reduce the demand for power on a given day by 480 megawatts, or enough electricity for around 400,000 average homes.

But even with those curtailments in place, the grid is being stretched to its limits on days of peak demand, with each summer bringing a new record, according to ISO New England, which operates the regional electric grid.

Skyrocketing Demand

Environmental advocates, regulators and others in New England are beginning to challenge the notion that building more power plants is the only way to keep up with rising demand. They say cutting peak demand, which is expected to grow about 1.9 percent annually through 2015, is cheaper than chasing it.

"The issue becomes: How do you satisfy that increased demand?" said Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO.

Trying to balance the equation, Connecticut regulators and ISO have agreed to provide "capacity payments" both for efficiency measures and for companies that cut use at peak times. The New England electricity market is the first in the United States to take that approach, van Welie said.  To get those payments, efficiency companies will compete against power plants that also receive the payments. The capacity payments are designed to provide incentives to build more power plants, as well.

"I think efficiency definitely will qualify, and play an important role in those markets," said Derek Murrow, director of policy analysis for Environment Northeast, a regional group focused on energy, air quality and climate change.  The strategy could lead to lower prices by reducing the need for power from inefficient plants and natural gas-fired plants, which are costly to operate.

No new major power plant has started up in Connecticut since 2004, when a gas-fired generator in Milford went on line. A major transmission line project designed to improve the movement of electricity around the state and region won't be completed until 2009. Older, inefficient plants continue to be a major source of energy in the state.  As a result, electricity rates continue to rise, and Connecticut has the highest rates in the continental United States. The result is a new appreciation for energy conservation, experts say.

"Now that prices are higher," said Jeffrey Gaudiosi, vice president of the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut, "it is worth the trouble to do it."

An ISO study last year found that if New England reduced its peak demand for electricity by 5 percent, ratepayers could save almost $500 million a year. 
Just across the state line in Westchester County, N.Y., Con Edison is trying to deal with similar problems.  The old solutions of building more plants and adding more lines is slow and expensive, so Con Edison contracted with New Jersey-based Public Energy Solutions to cut demand by 40 megawatts, or enough electricity to power 35,000 average homes, said Keith Hartman, president of Public Energy Solutions.

The company started going business to business, offering incentives to pay for modifications that would cut demand. For each kilowatt that Con Edison does not need to supply, Public Energy Solutions gets a payment.  Studies find that New England has similar potential. In a 2005 study, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships determined that the region could eliminate about 4,300 megawatts of demand, or enough power for 2.4 million average households.

State Rep. Steve Fontana, D-North Haven, co-chairman of the legislature's energy and technology committee, believes Connecticut has barely begun to tap the potential of efficiency measures. To illustrate that notion, Fontana said he asks constituents how many compact fluorescent bulbs, which are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, they have installed in their houses. The answer is typically one or two out of a dozen or more light fixtures.

"We haven't done nearly enough if we haven't done things that are easy," he said.

The efficiency partnerships study showed that almost half of its projected reduction in electricity use could come from lighting alone. For example, only about 6 percent of all light bulbs in use in the United States are compact fluorescent bulbs, said Jim O'Reilly, the partnerships' director of policy, outreach and communications.

"You see the reservoir, the pool of potential," he said.  But efficiency improvements won't happen without the help of subsidies and market programs, experts say.

"There are lots of reasons why these investments are not made," said Susan Coakley, the partnerships' executive director.  In some cases, more efficient options in lighting, appliances and other equipment are expensive, meaning it can take years to recoup the extra costs.  Also, many existing efficiency programs focus on persuading consumers to make energy-efficient choices when they replace products. The harder thing to do is get consumers to replace inefficient appliances, bulbs and other items while they're still working, Coakley said.

Under the ISO market program, efficiency and curtailment efforts are expanding, getting paid through electric rates for each kilowatt taken off the grid. Payments in the beginning will be $3.05 per kilowatt per month.  At the same time, the state Department of Public Utility Control is preparing to award similar payments through long-term contracts that can stretch to 15 years. Both proposals for new power plants and efficiency and curtailment contractors have made bids for those contracts. The department is expected to award them in late April.

DemandDirect, the small company Algonquin Industries is working with, is one of the bidders. If it wins, it will have to find businesses willing to curtail power use during hot days and make permanent changes in air-conditioning, lighting and other equipment. It will use its capacity payments to pay companies to enter curtailment agreements or help finance the retrofitting of inefficient equipment.

Jeffrey Lines, one of the founders of the Woodbury-based company, estimated that companies that are willing to cut back 250 kilowatts at times of peak demand could receive $20,000 a year from the state and payments from ISO. Lines thinks there's enough potential efficiency business to keep his company and others busy for a long time.

"I think there are hundreds of additional megawatts that can be obtained without generators," Lines said.



Regulators Grant CL&P a 7.7 Percent Rate Increase; DPUC defends action despite protests from Rell, Blumenthal
DAY
By Stephanie Reitz, Associated Writer 
Published on 12/9/2006


Hartford — State regulators approved a 7.7 percent rate increase for Connecticut Light & Power electricity customers Friday, despite pleas from Gov. M. Jodi Rell to delay the increase until the General Assembly takes up the issue next month.

The increase passed by the Department of Public Utility Control takes effect Jan. 1.  For customers who do not use electricity for heat, the average increase will be 6.9 percent, or about $8.75 more per month, regulatory agency spokeswoman Beryl Lyons said Friday.  Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had asked regulators to delay the increase until the General Assembly can enact legislation that might soften the impact on customers. Connecticut utility bills are already among the highest in the nation. CL&P is the state's largest electric utility, serving 1.1 million customers.

“It is time that the ratepayers came first,” Rell said. “For this increase to come just when lighting and heating needs are hitting their peak makes matters even worse.”

However, regulators said they believed deferring the increases would hurt customers in the long run since the higher costs were inevitable, due to CL&P's contracts with power suppliers.  Of the average $8.75 more per month that consumers will pay under the new rates, CL&P will receive less than 15 cents, Lyons said. The rest goes to the power suppliers.

Rell's request for the delay also was submitted after the deadline for comment on the proposed increase, and therefore could not be considered as part of the official record, commissioners said.  Lawmakers plan to schedule a public hearing, tentatively set for Dec. 20, on potential energy legislation. Rell said legislative leaders have told her a special session before Jan. 3 would not be fruitful because they have not yet determined what measures might pass the House and Senate.

Blumenthal, who appeared before regulators Friday to ask for the increase to be delayed, said the higher prices will “hit our economy like a tsunami.” He said he continues to support a tax on windfall profits by power providers.

“A doubling of power rates in four years speaks shamefully for itself,” he said. “Our electricity system has gone horribly wrong.”

Since Connecticut deregulated its electric utility industry in 1997, UI and Northeast Utilities — which owns CL&P — have sold off their power generating businesses and focused only on distributing electricity.  The two companies must now purchase the electricity for their customers from power generators and middlemen. That means they must secure contracts with power producers at a time when the price of fossil fuels, burned by many power plants, has skyrocketed.

CL&P customers' bills rose by 22 percent earlier this year, an increase separate from the new rate approved Friday.

The lower rate that UI had locked in three years ago is now expiring, prompting the need for new contracts with power suppliers. UI has asked for a 38 percent increase, and a final decision is due Dec. 19.  In their request for the rate increase, CL&P officials said that one-year deferral of contracts they hold with energy providers would force the utility — and, by extension, its customers — to pay an additional $350 million to finance the purchase of power elsewhere.


Rell Enters Energy Fray;   Governor Asks Regulators To Postpone Rate Hikes For Electricity, Natural Gas
By MARK PETERS, Courant Staff Writer
December 6, 2006

Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked regulators Tuesday to postpone proposed increases in electric and natural gas rates, a request that, if approved, could force utilities to absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in rising energy costs.

Hours after Rell made her request, the state Department of Public Utility Control issued a draft decision approving an estimated 8 percent rate increase, effective Jan. 1, for Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest electric utility.

The DPUC is also reviewing a request for a 38 percent rate increase for residential customers of United Illuminating, which serves the Bridgeport and New Haven areas.

A DPUC spokeswoman said the commissioners will review Rell's request.

Under the state's deregulated system, CL&P and UI distribute electricity, but don't produce it. They buy electricity through suppliers and pass on the cost to customers. That makes it difficult to control the price of electricity because it comes from a variety of sources through a complicated market-based system.

Rell said the postponement would give state lawmakers more time to consider solutions to rapidly rising energy costs. But the General Assembly failed to pass an energy reform bill last spring, and despite some support for a special session to deal with the issue, one was never convened.

Rich Harris, a spokesman for Rell, said the governor believes the issue of soaring energy prices is something lawmakers want to work on immediately. Many homeowners can't afford higher rates, which could also hurt Connecticut's economy.

By delaying the electric rate increases a few months, Harris said, the General Assembly, which begins its legislative session early next month, would have time to act.

"I am eager to work with all sides to strike a balance that preserves the interests of all involved, but we must have working room," Rell said in a statement.

However, the governor's office did not provide details about who would pay the predicted cost of any delay.

The utilities say they must continue providing power. Under deregulation, CL&P and UI buy electricity through contracts with commodity firms and power companies. Their contracts end this month, and they have entered into a series of new contracts under the supervision of state officials. The cost of the electricity provided to CL&P and UI increased, contributing to their need for a rate increase, utility officials said.

Because of that system, the utilities, the state or another entity would have to absorb the increased costs if ratepayers do not. UI estimated that a delay would cost it an additional $40 million a month.

"What [the governor] is recommending is counterproductive," said Mitch Gross, a spokesman for CL&P.

The request from the Republican governor got a mixed reaction from Democrats. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal supported the idea, which he says is similar to a proposal he set forth last year. But House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said the governor's request will end up costing consumers more money over time.

CL&P customers were already dealt a 22.4 percent rate increase earlier this year. The utility has proposed an additional 8.9 percent increase to the average rates for residential and commercial customers. On Tuesday, the DPUC said the utility should drop the increase to about 8 percent. That would cost an additional $10.60 a month for a residential customer using 700 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Rell said she is also concerned about proposed natural gas rate increases from Yankee Gas Services Co. and Connecticut Natural Gas. Yankee would like to increase its rates by 8.5 percent, starting in July, and Connecticut Natural Gas is asking for an 8 percent increase that would begin in the spring.


State, ISO Disagree On Energy Outlook
DAY
By Patricia Daddona

Published on 11/3/2006

Connecticut should be able to handle expected increases in the demand for electricity through 2015, according to a draft report from state officials, but the manager of the regional wholesale electric market paints a darker picture.

The two extreme projections are used as best- and worst-case scenarios by the Connecticut Siting Council and the Independent System Operator, ISO-New England, respectively. Written by the council, the draft was first compiled in May, revised last week, and presented Tuesday to the public and utility operators. A vote on a final version is expected Nov. 14.

According to the siting council, the state's total peak electricity usage through 2015 is estimated at 7,654 megawatts, assuming normal weather conditions and no major retirements of electric generators. That figure represents a growth rate of 1.2 percent, compounded over 10 years.

ISO, in contrast, uses more stringent projection methods and predicts that demand will grow by 1.8 percent, to 8,535 megawatts by 2015. It estimates peak summer loads, when demand is highest here, at 9,120 megawatts.

One megawatt of electricity powers between 750 and 1,000 homes.

The siting council uses both sets of projections to help plan for unusually high demand. The report also details the latest ongoing and expected improvements to facilities used to generate and distribute electricity from Connecticut Light & Power, Millstone Power Station, and a variety of other large and small energy transmitters or sources.

Relying on two distinct estimates makes marshalling solutions to potential energy shortfalls complicated, said House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford. He is hoping to convince legislative leadership to call a special session on energy issues a couple of weeks after the Nov. 7 election, he said.

The draft report also lays out timetables and increased power supplies that are expected to contribute to a stable energy supply from the nuclear, electric, natural gas and other industries.

Dominion, which owns Millstone Power Station in Waterford, has made improvements in the past few years to its two operating nuclear reactors and boosted total output by 16.4 megawatts without any corresponding increase in fuel consumption, the report states. The company is considering another upgrade to the Unit 3 reactor that could boost output further.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had proposed a “windfall profits tax” on Millstone and a Bridgeport generator. Dominion maintains Blumenthal's estimates of alleged excess profits are miscalculated and exaggerated because the company hedged the sale of electricity for 2007 and locked in a fixed price of $62 a megawatt, said Dominion spokesman Pete Hyde.

CL&P is overseeing a variety of improvements to substations and its distribution system, and has proposed building and running new peaking power plants to help add to the electric supply.

“If the state thinks it's the way to go, we'll build it with the right regulatory arrangements,” said CL&P Spokesman Mitch Gross. “In the meantime we remain committed to working with state and local officials as well as community-based groups, to find solutions to the energy challenges we face.”

If a legislative session were called, Amann said, “everything (would be) on the table.”

Two task forces that include energy experts from Yale University and the University of Connecticut are looking for inventive ideas and alternative resources, he said.

“We need no matter what happens to be as independent as we possibly can be as a state,” he said.

 


It is not just an East Coast issue...FERC is everywhere!

PUD eyes turbines at Deception Pass

By Paul Boring
Jul 15 2006

Deception Pass is one of seven sites the Snohomish County Public Utility District is eyeing for potential tidal power projects.

The PUD is seeking a permit through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study Deception Pass as a possible tidal power site. FERC is also reviewing applications from the PUD for studies at Speiden, San Juan, and Guemes channels, Admiralty Inlet, and Agate and Rich passages.

A company called Washington Tidal Energy initially applied for a permit, prompting the PUD to submit a competing application. Washington Tidal’s proposal was unrealistic in scope, said Snohomish General Manager Steve Klein. The company proposed installing up to 300 turbines in Deception pass, while the PUD is proposing the installation of four.

Four turbines approximately 60 feet in diameter would produce three megawatts of power, which would provide enough to power 1,800 homes.

Like the other proposed sites, the PUD chose Deception Pass for its heightened tidal action. If the permit is granted, the utility district will be allowed to study the project’s viability for three years.

Klein emphasized that the project is not speculative. The PUD is owned by the public and the general manager said they are sensitive to the needs and concerns of the area. The intent is that generated power would be integrated into the local electricity system.

“It would be consumed by people in that area,” he said.

Given the almost exponential growth in the Pacific Northwest, Klein said tidal power is being researched to determine the viability of the renewable, alternative power source.

“This renewable is in our backyard,” he said, adding that the project studies will focus on non-invasiveness as well as aesthetics. “It’s being done for all the right reasons.”

The technology of tidal power is still in its embryonic stages compared to wind generated power, which has been utilized primarily in the eastern part of the state. Washington could ultimately become a leader in tidal power research and technology, said PUD attorney Jeff Kallstrom.

The PUD submitted their application June 22, triggering a 60-day comment period. As a competing applicant, Klein said he is unsure if the utility district will be granted the permit. FERC is expected to respond to the study application in two to three months.

Whidbey Environmental Action Network has filed a Motion to Intervene with FERC on the PUD’s proposal as well as Washington Tidal Energy’s.



FERC plan seems commendable, but 'cut the cards'
Norwalk HOUR editorial
June 26, 2006


We have come to regard with suspicion plans announced by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission which, we are told, are for our own good.

You may recall FERC's Locational Installed Capacity — LICAP — a plan that would have penalized areas such as Southwestern Fairfield County by charging higher rates than elsewhere in the state.

The supposed logic was that this would encourage utility companies to build new power generation stations in the area and thus be able to handle the power demands.

Apparently there was no rush to seek permission to build new energy plants, but there was a righteous howl from Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal that the plan sandbagged our area. At the time, we agreed with them — and still do.

The new proposal didn't sit well with the attorney general, either. He said all it will do is guarantee a rate increase whether the utilities build new plants or not.

The governor said that the new plan "continues a negative and disturbing pattern of electricity rate increases."

She estimates that the average increase for a homeowner would be between $8 and $12 per year, but that doesn't include any of the "ordinary" rate increases we have come to expect.

If there's any good news it is that the Department of Public Utility Control says the increase would be half of what it would have been under LICAP.

It's certainly no boon to ratepayers in the state, but it might well be a big windfall for the utility business. It will be interesting to see how many companies will compete when the bidding starts in 2008.

ISO New England, operator of the six-state power grid, will review the bids — if any.

A major part of the newest plan are rate increases of 4.5 percent in 2007, 5.1 percent in 2008 and 5.99 percent in 2009. This windfall is supposed to interest the utility industry in building more plants — and make more money.

Ratepayers already face the impact of the cost of upgrading transmission lines in this part of the state. The last thing we need is another costly layer of financial bureaucracy appearing on our electric bill.

We are all aware of the growing energy needs of an expanding Fairfield County. We realize that sensible efforts must be made to meet the demand.

As for the DPUC, it's really doesn't matter much what its position is, FERC has already decided and that's that.





Special Session To See Power Bill;  Measure Dealing With Electricity Supply Revived After Death By Senate Inaction
June 11, 2005
By BILL LEUKHARDT And STACY WONG, Courant Staff Writers

The Energy Independence bill is the state legislature's Frankenstein.

It expired with the session at midnight Wednesday, a victim of inaction by senators upset by last-minute House tinkering with the energy conservation and generation proposal.

Now it's alive again - jolted back to existence for the special session. It is the only non-budgetary proposal on the four-item agenda of issues that lawmakers consider too crucial to let die.

"There was a problem ... in the House and that's why it never got passed," Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca said Friday.

The original bill encouraging conservation and power generation sought to deal with inadequate electricity supplies and a looming $300 million federal penalty for that shortfall, he said.

But a section to let public utilities back into generating power on a small scale prompted a successful House push late June 8 to unplug that language from the bill. In 1998, with deregulation, the major utility companies sold off their generating facilities and began buying power for resale from independent generators inside and outside Connecticut.

Its opponents said the power-generation clause guaranteed Northeast Utilities and United Illuminating up to an $18 million profit.

So the bill was left to expire with the regular session. Minutes later, it was on the call of the special session later this month. It comes back for discussion in its original form, with no amendments.

"There is so much of importance in this bill and the opponents focused just on one tiny aspect," Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, the energy committee co-chairman, said Friday. "We literally had no time Wednesday night to talk to people about it. There was no time for a counter-voice."

"Public utilities are easy, faceless, nameless targets," Fonfara continued. "But if we do nothing to address the new [federal] fees coming in 2006, it's going to cost the public." The bill, he said, "is critical to the economy of the state."

An estimated $300 million or more in new electricity charges will be imposed on the utilities on Jan. 1, 2006, when a federal pricing plan called "locational installed capacity," or "LICAP," goes into effect. The financial incentives in the plan are designed to encourage construction of power plant reserve capacity in places where it is needed most, such as southwestern Connecticut.

But having the bill back again, without any of the changes voted by the House, angers those who backed the amendment striking out the power generation clause.

"We just feel this [re-introduction of the amendment-free bill] will energize the House," Rep. Vicki Nardello, D-Prospect, said Wednesday. Nardello led the House charge. "It illustrates the power of the lobbyists. We defeated this in a fair vote, and now it's back again on our agenda."

"This like nothing else talks to the need for election reform," Rep. Diana Urban, R-North Stonington, said Wednesday. She said she thinks political tactics supplanted the voice of the electorate with the wishes of the utilities.

On Friday, Connecticut Light & Power President Raymond Necci said state law has for several years permitted public utilities to be paid fees to reimburse them for the cost of buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of electricity to meet Connecticut's demand.

The language objected to by the House would extend an existing arrangement and would have trimmed the reimbursement, tying it to the utilities' purchase of lowest-cost power.

As for the public utilities' return to generation, Necci said, the 250 megawatts allowed under the bill would be small compared with the state's 7,000 megawatts peak appetite.

Connecticut business officials want something to be done to head off the estimated $300 million in new federal electricity fees.

Joseph McGee, vice president for public policy at the Business Council of Fairfield County, said the Connecticut legislature needs to make passage of the energy bill a priority.

"They should get it done. If the only fight is over the issue of the utilities and how you get them back in the generation business and be competitive, that should be worked out," he said.

State Consumer Counsel Mary Healey, who represents ratepayers on utility issues, said she supports the basic features of the bill that will reduce the LICAP charges.

But the procurement fee had nothing to do with that purpose, and she was glad to see it taken out.




Article created: 04/17/2005 02:34:56 AM
Cost of power lines goes beyond Conn.;  Ratepayers forced to wait, watch
ROB VARNON rvarnon@ctpost.com

Under the best possible scenario, Connecticut ratepayers will shoulder 27 percent of the $1.3 billion that Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating Co. are going to spend to upgrade the electric transmission lines leading into Fairfield County.
But better ease that collective sigh back in Connecticut, because getting that 27 percent deal depends on the five other New England states, the region's grid operator Massachusetts-based Independent System Operator New England, and finally the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Beryl Lyons, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, said CL&P and UI will have to apply for rate increases to cover what ISO determines to be Connecticut's share of the project after the lines go into service. Generally, the burden is spread out over more than a decade, she said. Phase I of the project, the 20-mile line from Bethel to Norwalk, should be in use by 2006, according to CL&P. Phase II, the 69-mile line from Middletown to Norwalk, is projected to see service in 2009, the company said.

In the meantime, Connecticut ratepayers will have to wait and watch what happens with the ISO.

The cost of transmission projects in New England can be shared among the states if the project is deemed to be necessary and improves the reliability of the region's power grid. Each state, according to ISO, pays in proportion to the amount of electricity it uses. Connecticut consumes 27 percent of all power in New England, Massachusetts 45 percent, New Hampshire 9 percent, Maine 8 percent, Rhode Island 7 and Vermont 4, according to ISO.

And, with such a big price, tag, there are objections.

"It makes a lot of people in Maine angry to think we are funding an economic development project [in Connecticut]," said Sharon Reishus, a commissioner   of the Maine Public Utility Commission. She said her state fought against the $357 million phase I CL&P project because Maine believes that the design is unreliable.

Reishus said her state isn't opposed to paying part of the costs, but doesn't want to pay for things that only benefit Connecticut communities. Maine isn't alone in taking that position as other states, including New Hampshire, have expressed concerns about the costs of Connecticut projects. But Maine has definitely taken the lead on the issue, according to CL&P.

Lisa Fink, a senior staff attorney for the Maine Commission, said right now an ISO advisory panel, called the New England Power Pool Reliability Committee, is reviewing phase I. The committee is made up of government officials and utility company representatives.

The committee is weighing the difference between what CL&P originally proposed a $125 million project — versus what CL&P is building now — the $357 million project. Costs for the project increased dramatically after the design was changed to include 12 miles of underground construction. Fink said the reliability committee will have to decide how much of the $225 million difference between what was approved and what was originally proposed will be shared.

Although the ISO cost allocation process is relatively new — having only been in effect since December 2004 — the committee has already rendered several decisions on other states' projects.  On April 5, the reliability committee said that only $600,000 in costs for a Rhode Island project should be eligible for cost sharing, when the company proposing it had asked that $3.7 million be shared.

The Rhode Island project includes the rerouting of a line under a highway and moving it underground.  Erin   O'Brien, an ISO spokesperson, said the ISO has not ruled on the Rhode Island application and does have some discretion in how much it will allow. She said applicants can appeal both the committee's and the ISO's decisions and no decision is final until FERC approves it.

Frank Poirot, a CL&P spokesman, said his company understands that the ISO's decision on phase I has significant ramifications for phase II.

As originally proposed, phase II would have cost approximately $600 million but it has increased to $1 billion and includes 24 miles of underground construction. Unlike the first project, however, UI and CL&P originally proposed that 24 miles of the line be buried. Costs have risen as the utilities have had to add equipment in order to meet reliability standards, according to CL&P. The estimated cost has also risen to reflect higher prices being charged for materials.

Ultimately,   Poirot said the process for determining Connecticut's share of phase II probably won't begin until later this year, because the actual cost hasn't been firmed up. The utilities must meet with towns and determine what types of structures they will use to hold the lines and that might affect the price, he said.

No one could say for sure when the ISO would rule on phase I.



Activist Faults NRC's Report On Millstone
March 31, 2005
By THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, Courant Staff Writer

WATERFORD -- The head of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone has accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of failing to properly regulate the operators of the plant's two nuclear reactors, which produce a large share of the state's electric power.

Nancy Burton, who advocates mothballing Millstone, dominated the public comment portion of a meeting Tuesday afternoon of representatives of the NRC and officials of Dominion Nuclear of Connecticut Inc., which owns Millstone.

During an earlier, hourlong discussion of Millstone, the NRC representatives offered a limited critique of Millstone, mostly praising the plant's security, operations and environmental controls during 2004. The NRC report says that overall, the nuclear power plant "operated safely" and "preserved public health."

When the public was invited to comment, there was a moment of silence with no response. Then, Burton, the sole responder, walked out of the sparse audience with a large briefcase of documents, sat next to a microphone and spent an hour questioning and more often lecturing the regulators and the regulated.

A number of times, Burton cut off the answers to questions she posed to the NRC panel, prompting protests from panel members. Several times, she interrupted an NRC official by insisting he should answer her questions without reading from a document. But another official countered that Burton was herself reading from documents.

Burton accused the NRC of not scrutinizing cancer-causing emissions from the plant, ignoring plant workers' job-related health concerns, not taking into account the wear and tear on the plant from repeated emergency maintenance shutdowns, and failing to detect signs that might have prevented what she termed a dangerous plant fire two months ago.

"We believe that Unit 2 has shown dismal performance record," Burton said, "and the NRC should call for a shutdown of this aged reactor before Dominion puts large amounts of money into it."

Days before the meeting, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the commission's inspectors have taken a close look at malfunctions that caused shutdowns, and at Millstone's reactions to those problems. "It's an example of how our reactor oversight process should work. If performance shows an anomaly, we expect we will go in and take a closer look, and that's exactly what we did in this case," he said. Overall, Unit 2 was subject to 4,685 hours of inspection work. Unit 3 was subject to 4,205 hours, he said.

Tuesday Paul Krohn, an NRC representative, promised to supply Burton with plant air emission readings he insisted were harmless to people living around the plant. And, he said, federal safety regulations are so strict and strongly enforced that it is unlikely workers are exposed to harmful radiation.

Krohn said the NRC inspection for fire safety was general in nature. So it was not extraordinary that NRC scrutiny did not anticipate a fire two weeks later, he added.

After the meeting, Peter Hyde, a spokesman for Dominion, said some of Burton's information about hazardous worker exposures creating cancerous tumors is pure fabrication. He said Burton's claim that the Jan. 14 fire in a Unit 2 turbine building electrical power switch dangerously compromised plant security for hours, is simply not true. The fire was relatively minor and backup security systems took over immediately, said Hyde, who added that he was an eyewitness to events that night.

Hyde said plant air monitoring on top of the building where the emission releases occur shows no dangerous levels of strontium-90, a cancer-causing agent that turned up in Dominion's goat milk samplings miles from the plant several years ago. That means the strontium-90 readings in goats' milk probably originated from fallout from past nuclear weapons testing, Hyde said.

Each time Unit 2 shut down, he said, it was closely inspected and parts were replaced as needed.




Officials take stand against electric rate hikes;  Officials take stand against electric rate hikes

By Tobin A. Coleman, Stamford ADVOCATE
January 12, 2005

The 54 Connecticut cities and towns facing a proposed federally mandated electric rate hike yesterday sent a message to the agency that's considering the charge: Don't do it.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell announced at a Hartford news conference that the towns had signed a petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission saying the proposed rate increase is wrong and will backfire.

The plan would split the state into two rate zones, increasing rates as much as 7 percent in one of them to pay for new power plants.

"This proposal is fatally flawed, and destined to fail," Blumenthal said in a statement. "FERC cannot impose catastrophic costs on consumers and pay generators wild windfalls without any public interest benefits." Blumenthal last year filed a lawsuit to stop the two-zone plan from going into effect.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has told FERC the plan is not good for the state, weighed in again yesterday, condemning the concept as bad for the state's economy.

Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, the first municipal official to publicly raise a red flag about the proposal, said he's hopeful continued pressure from cities and towns will convince the federal agency to drop the plan.

Farrell, in a phone interview after the news conference, said: "We have to fight it any way we can. The cities and towns, all 54 of them, unanimously reject the idea. The benefits to the state are false. This will cost citizens overall more money over time and FERC's ignoring the real issue, the transmission issue."

ACCURACY IN MEDIA:  This (below) is not true...yet!
Farrell is chairwoman of the state sponsored-regional planning agency that covers the eight municipalities in lower Fairfield County.

Southwestern Connecticut is suffering from an energy bottleneck. Business and residential growth are beginning to outstrip the ability to bring power into the area. As a result, two new electric transmission cable projects have been approved and two more, including a 345-kilovolt line from Norwalk to Middletown, are in the approval process.

Once regulators and towns along the line work out a plan to bury as much of the cable underground as is feasible and finish all the transmission cable projects, much of the area's energy needs will be met, and the need for new power plants will diminish, Blumenthal said.

The FERC plan, called Locational Installed Capacity, or LICAP, would split the state into two rate zones. Southwestern Connecticut and Fairfield County would be among consumers and businesses in the affected towns that pay about 7 percent more -- as much as $3.08 per month -- in a separate charge on their electric bills.

The charge is designed to give electric generating companies an economic incentive to build new power plants. The plan is being requested by ISO New England, the region's power grid operator. It would cost consumers about $393 million in 2006 and as much as $2.8 billion through 2010.

Opponents say LICAP will merely result in a windfall for the companies because the plan does not require the electric companies to build new plants, but gives them the added revenue.

"The decision to divide Connecticut against itself and artificially inflate the price of electricity for nearly three-quarters of the state's population makes no more sense now than it did when FERC first approved the idea last fall," Rell said yesterday in a strongly worded statement. "FERC's plan does nothing to address the real issue in southwestern Connecticut, which is the lack of transmission capacity. And it is simply not rational to believe that even after transmission capacity is improved there will be a sudden boom in power plant construction. The process of permitting and building a power plant takes many years," Rell said.

If the plan is approved, "Connecticut will be throttled back by shortsighted federal intervention," she said.

Malloy, who last year rallied other municipalities to fight the plan, said in a phone interview that it has other flaws.

"Even if power companies decided to build new power plants in the area, it is unlikely they would be approved because the region is already designated as not attaining air-quality standards," he said.

That is ironic, Malloy said, because much of the pollution causing the problem is produced by dirty coal-burning power plants in the Midwest that drifts with prevailing winds into the Northeast.

While Stamford and surrounding towns have done well retaining jobs, the rate increases will only work to scare businesses away, Malloy said.

"We are the only one that has done a good job retaining jobs in this area and could be a major blow to job retention in this area and other areas as well," Malloy said. "I think I would go so far as to say that FERC, it almost appears to be punitive in it's pronouncements about Fairfield and New Haven counties."

ISO New England President and Chief Executive Officer Gordon van Welie defended the plan.

"Without a new market mechanism that encourages investment, New England will face regionwide power system reliability problems within the next five to seven years, and earlier in high-consumption areas such as Connecticut and Boston," he said.

FERC has made a preliminary decision backing the plan. The agency is expected to make a final decision in June, according to the ISO New England Web site.




World Oil Supply 2004 report

Buffer to blitz homes;  Power plan eyed by siting council
By ROB VARNON rvarnon@ctpost.com, Sept. 29, 2004
NEW BRITAIN — More than 700 homes, including 114 in Milford, would be taken and razed if the Connecticut Siting Council adopts a proposed 300-foot buffer zone around new high-voltage power lines.  Testifying before the Connecticut Siting Council on Tuesday, United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power representatives said 741 properties in 11 municipalities would fall within the boundaries of a buffer zone that might be required as part of a project to upgrade power lines in southwestern Connecticut.

Orange would be affected the most with 222 buildings impacted.  Wallingford has the second-highest number of properties affected with 161, followed by Milford.  Marcia Wellman, a UI spokeswoman, said the utilities do not have the power to seize homes and buildings. The siting council would have to order that, she said.  The council is deciding how to interpret a new state regulation that requires creation of buffer zones around electric transmission lines.

Pamela Katz, the council chairwoman, could not say when a final decision will be made.

The main worry is that electric and magnetic fields generated by the lines could harm people's health as the      companies replace 115 kilovolt lines running between Middletown and Norwalk with 345-kv lines.  The companies also discussed two alternative, smaller buffer zone options.  Both options reduce EMFs by controlling the amount of current running through the wires. The companies said the number of homes affected would drop to as low as 78 under one of the scenarios.

Milford Mayor James Richetelli said the issue is safety and fairness.  "If the 300-foot buffer zone is required to safeguard the health of the residents living along the line and that requires the taking of land then the line should not be built above ground," Richetelli said.

Richetelli said that the utilities have decided to run 24 miles of the line underground through Stratford, Bridgeport, Fairfield and into Norwalk, because running overhead lines would require them to take a lot of land.  The 24 miles of underground work, however, present technical problems that have cast doubts about the reliability of the project.

UI and CL&P are studying the issue along with a consultant from General Electric Co. and the region's grid operator, Independent System Operator New England.  More than 50 people attended the meeting at Central Connecticut State University, but most were politicians, lawyers or utility workers involved in the application for the lines.

Herman Schuler, an Oxford resident, was one of the few who did not have direct ties to the application. He said he was a bit concerned by the amount of money the cable would cost and the whole process.  Schuler said the cost of taking those homes would be staggering and so would the loss to the grand lists of the towns. That's
especially so if the estimated worth of each of the homes ranges between $200,000 to $300,000, he said.

If each home was sold for $200,000, the total cost would amount to more than $148 million.  Schuler and a man from Orange, said there must also be millions in legal and consulting fees tied up in this process.  The council hearing is run more like a courtroom than like a typical government meeting. Lawyers wheeled in boxes and cases of documents on handcarts. Witnesses were sworn in and cross-examined sometimes by as many as four attorneys followed by question from the council.

The council will continue to hear the issue today, beginning at 10 a.m. at the CCSU building at 185 Main St., New Britain.  Maps of the areas affected can be viewed by visiting www.ct.gov/csc




This story doesn't go away - click here.
Supplying Power To Northeast Could Become Problem:  Congested transmission systems cited by NU, Quebec industry officials

By Susan Haigh, Published on 8/28/2001 New London DAY (in red, are parts of this article related to Weston issues)

Westbrook — Eastern Canada successfully helped New England keep the air conditioners humming during this summer's heat wave.  But the president of Hydro-Quebec and the president and CEO of Northeast Utilities warned governors and premiers from New England and eastern Canada Monday that delivering electricity to consumers in the coming years could be problematic because of bottlenecks in the transmission system.

Michael G. Morris of NU likened the current structure to rush-hour traffic along Interstate 95.  “That's what our transmission system looks like. It's congested,” Morris told the leaders, who gathered at the Water's Edge Resort for their 26th annual conference. The officials arrived Sunday for the event, titled “Trade and Globalization for the 21st Century.” Meetings wrap up today.

Canada is the top supplier of energy to the U.S., outside of what is produced in this country. Last year, 14 percent of the electricity produced by Hydro-Quebec, which uses mostly hydroelectric plants to generate power, was sold to neighboring markets such as New England. Hydro-Quebec
President and CEO Andre Caille said more of that so-called clean power could be transmitted to New England in future years. However, there are problems with transmission in southwestern Connecticut, the Boston area and New York City.

“Better transmission facilities, more bridges between regions, are now recognized as vital,” said Caille, warning the New England governors that states need to come to terms with finding new sites for transmission lines. “We see transmission capacity as one of the last pieces of restructuring the electric industry.”

Electric power was just one of several issues discussed during Monday's daylong session, which included French interpreters for some of the Canadian delegates. Gov. John G. Rowland, who co-chaired the event, said the New England states and the eastern Canadian provinces have much to discuss, especially issues affecting energy consumption, economic development and the environment.  He said there is not enough acknowledgement of the important bond between New England and Canada.

The group last met in Mystic in 1990. More than 600 people associated with the conference, including the officials, their staffs and security, attended the event. They've filled the Water's Edge Resort, as well as neighboring hotels and inns, some staying as far east as the Mystic Marriott.  Much of Monday's session concentrated on how to mesh economic development in a global market with environmental protection. The group passed two resolutions that called for a 10-year reduction in mercury emissions, as well as cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions. New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord credited the coalition of governors and premiers for leading the way in North America on the mercury issue in particular, despite criticism from environmentalists that the action taken was weak.

“This is very significant,” Lord said. “The objectives we have set, they are very aggressive targets and they may be very difficult to achieve.”

One of the resolutions directs the governors and premiers to reduce mercury releases into the environment by 75 percent on or before 2010. The leaders also agreed to advance mercury pollution prevention and education initiatives, as well as organize a symposium on the impacts of acid rain on human health.  But New England Zero Mercury Campaign, a coalition of New England environmental groups, claimed the action fell short of what is needed, and demanded more swift action to virtually eliminate man-made mercury by 2010. They organized a “belly brigade” of 20 advocates dressed as pregnant women to underscore the risk to fetuses and developing children posed by eating mercury-contaminated fish.

The brigade, however, was not allowed to protest on the grounds of the Water's Edge. Instead, they had to picket at the entrance to the luxury resort.  “We made some progress, but need some policies to come from this body,” said Brooke Suter, from the environmental group Connecticut's Clean Water Action. Suter said she was disappointed with the resolution passed by the governors and premiers. She said the increasing levels of mercury are threatening many industries that depend on a healthy environment, including fishing, tourism and wildlife viewing.  Michael Bender, of the Mercury Policy Project in Vermont, said the leaders did not recognize that even if all mercury emissions were stopped, it would still take 15 years to actually eliminate the pollutant.

Yet Rowland said governors are always working on ways to reduce mercury, calling the issue a great concern. He said the leaders would probably never be able to pass a timetable acceptable to the environmentalists.

There was little reaction to passage of a climate change action plan. The resolution calls for each province or state to develop a framework for reducing greenhouse gases, which are considered to contribute to global warming. Among specific recommendations, the group set a goal for themselves to reduce the gas emissions by 25 percent by 2012 through use of improved fuel-efficient government vehicles that burn lower-carbon fuels.

Maine Gov. Angus King said the resolution was significant because the leaders collectively agreed that greenhouse gases are affecting the climate. Also, he praised the group for having the foresight to officially recognize that environmental issues such as acid rain and mercury pollution have an impact on the region's long-term economic competitiveness, as well as free and fair trade.

“I think this act today will be looked back upon as one of the most important things we've done,” he said.

The group did not take any action on the power transmission problem. However, the New England governors appeared to be evaluating a federal proposal that would merge the independent system operator that oversees the New England power grid with the mid-Atlantic states' system operator.  The governors also discussed a proposal that would transmit power underwater from Canada to places such as Boston, eliminating the battles over siting lines on land.

The Canadian press, which far outnumbered the handful of Connecticut reporters covering the conference, appeared to be mostly concerned about an American tariff on Canadian lumber. This is a long-standing battle between the two countries, and the reporters raised the issue of whether Canada might cut off the power supply to New England in hopes of winning the battle on lumber.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada, downplayed the possibility of such a nasty trade war developing.  “I don't think it will be good for the U.S. economy and I don't think it will be good for the Canadian economy,” Cellucci said. New England currently absorbs about 45 percent of all exports from Atlantic Canada, according to one official at the conference. Exports of energy products, including electricity, refined petroleum and natural gas, have doubled in the past five years—leading the pack among Canadian goods sold to New England. On the other side of the trade equation, New England exported $9 billion in goods last year to Canada.

The government leaders ended the day's events with a state dinner at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford.


New England, Canada weigh high-tech plan: Alliance would promote region as entry point for job technology
By Susan Haigh - Published in the DAY on 8/29/2001
Westbrook — New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers wrapped up their annual conference Tuesday, pledging to work together to make the region a high-tech hub.  Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, co-chairman of the three-day event, suggested the cross-border          alliance could be the first of its kind, with regional leaders from two nations cooperating to find ways to address the needs of the information technology workforce.

Rowland also suggested the joint effort could eventually lead to a regional marketing initiative.  “This resolution is basically to say, 'Hey, take a look at us. We have a lot to offer,' ” he said.  “California starts to eliminate itself because of its energy problems. So we can make our part of the     world the entry point to job technology.”

The New England states and the eastern provinces are already home to a growing “knowledge industry,” including high-tech computer, electronics, e-commerce and communications jobs. The concentration of information technology workers in New England is 23 percent greater than the rest of the United States. And Montreal hosts the largest percent of technology workers in North America.

Since these jobs allow a growing number of people to telecommute — work for a California computer company, for example, while living in Maine — the leaders from both nations agreed now is the time to push this region as an ideal place to live and work in this high-tech era. Rural locales such as Maine and northern Vermont and New Hampshire, can offer a certain quality of life to people looking to live in the countryside and still work in the technology sector.

“There's a level of opportunity that really wasn't available to us 10 or 15 years ago,” said Maine Gov. Angus S. King Jr. “This whole dispersed economy gives opportunity to regions of the country, the continent, that have been disadvantaged by geography.  “If we work regionally,” he said, “I think we have a heck of a lot better chance.”

Yet one Canadian premier, John F. Hamm of Nova Scotia, warned his colleagues to temper their enthusiasm about high-tech jobs. He made note of the various Internet company failures, as well as layoffs at big name computer companies.  “This industry, I believe, will never be like it was before,” Hamm said.

Another premier, Roger D. Grimes of Newfoundland and Labrador, suggested the governors and premiers resurrect plans to offer more educational exchanges between the two nations. By working together, he said, the region could better educate its future high-tech workers.  The pledge to jointly promote the region's “knowledge industry” was the final highlight of the three-day conference at the Water's Edge Resort. On Monday, leaders passed resolutions to reduce mercury and greenhouse gas emissions, and agreed to continue working together to ensure the region has an adequate supply of electricity.

Leaders from both New England and Canada hailed their 26th annual meeting as a success. They will meet next year in Quebec City.

The premier of Quebec, Premier Bernard Landry, the co-chairman of the conference, will remain in Connecticut for a two-day trade mission. Rowland will join Landry today in Hartford for a meeting with 300 business people.

Members of the Canadian press questioned Tuesday whether Landry's support of a sovereign nation of Quebec — the first public mention of the contentious issue — might dissuade Connecticut business leaders from investing in the province. But Rowland said he did not believe the political situation in Quebec would have much affect, adding that it would be a business decision.

Just asking about Quebec's separatist debate did not appear to sit well with Landry's staff. The premier's press secretary later chastised the reporter for asking the question at the conference.  This year's conference marked the largest turnout for the organization. In addition to the governors, premiers and their staff, numerous lobbyists filled the meeting room.

A laundry list of energy companies was among the group's sponsors, including El Paso Energy Service Co., Dominion, Enron Corp., Northeast Utilities, Duke Energy and United Illuminating.  The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation was one of the two major sponsors, while the tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan tribe also donated funds for the conference.

Rowland attributed the large number of energy company sponsors this year to the fact that most New England states are opening up their electric power markets to competition. He said he would like to see even more power companies become interested in New England, creating more opportunities for customers to purchase electricity at a lower price.