Posts Tagged ‘Donna Nelson’

As interim legislative hearings and ERCOT workshops grapple with the drought’s anticipated stresses for Texas electric generation and reliability, Sen.Kirk Watson (D-Austin), is calling on the Texas Public Utility Commission to give solar energy a push.

“You stated that your highest priority as chair of the PUC is to prevent rolling outages,”Watson wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to PUC Chair Donna Nelson, mentioning her testimony last week before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.

“Drought-proof solar power that can be available at the times of peak demand is one way to avoid rolling outages,” his letter continued. It noted that Nelson mentioned the importance of wind energy and the state’s CREZ (Competitive Renewable Energy Zones) lines in reducing the state’s reliance on water.

Nelson has opposed rulemaking to promote solar energy generation as directed in a bill passed by the Texas Legislature in 2005 directing the PUC to establish a non-wind renewable energy target of 500 megawatts. Nelson, however, has said that Senate Bill 20 by Sen.Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) during that special session was not mandatory.

During a PUC meeting in December 2010, Nelson said she believed the PUC needed more direct guidance from the legislature during the spring 2011 session before moving forward.

“It’s called a target,” she said, “and everyone knows a target is not mandatory. It would be my preference if we waited – forever.” When a proposed rule on the matter surfaced again last summer, the commission tabled it.

In his letter, Watson took issue with Nelson’s argument that the PUC lacks legislative authority.

“Moving forward on the 500 megawatt non-wind renewable energy rule is an act that lies fully within your authority and that requires no further action or direction from the legislature,” Watson wrote. “It would boost investment in solar power right away, at a time when any potential cost to consumers can be mitigated by federal investment tax incentives in place through 2016. Not only would this action be seen as a wise and prudent step for ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) grid reliability, but it would be a simple and bold display of the leadership that our state desperately needs.”

See Sen. Watson’s letter below.

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Perry Appointees Smitherman, Nelson, Anderson protect consumers from energy efficiency

There is a disturbing trend emerging in Texas. A once successful consumer-oriented program is floundering because of a deficit of perspective behind the dais at the PUC.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas proposed adopting an update to the state’s energy efficiency program that would cap the amount of money utilities could spend on programs that reduce the energy bills for homes and businesses.

Under the rule, utility expenditures on energy efficiency would be limited to one tenth of one cent per kilowatt-hour. That’s $0.001, which would amount to around a dollar a month for the average home. It’s worth pointing out that there are no cost caps for other energy resources, just the cheapest one.

This bears repeating: the PUC does not want utilities to spend more money to fund programs that make Texas homes more energy efficient and reduce their utility bills.

During today’s hearing, it was abundantly clear that Governor Perry’s appointees to the commission have folded to industry pressure and adopted the bizarre world view that energy efficiency costs consumers too much money. As evidence, in addition to only considering utility industry estimates on the cost of future efficiency resources, they frequently alluded to a report released this week by the conservative and industry-friendly Texas Public Policy Foundation which made unsubstantiated claims that the consumer benefits of energy efficiency programs could not only be less than currently estimated, but actually negative (page 3). (A more detailed critique of their report is coming).

At a workshop earlier this month, the commissioners only allowed industry representatives to present information. No consumer advocates, environmental groups, no academics were allowed to present and even the comments by ACEEE seem to have been ignored.

It’s now time for the Legislature to be the grownups in the room (more…)

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