Category Archives: Lower Rates for Customers LLC

Solar Dublin High School groundbreaking tomorrow

Dublin gets the jump on the rest of Georgia again: Dublin High School will get a megawatt of solar electricity through a lease agreement with a private company using local government bonds to get around Georgia’s special financing problem.

Kenny Burgamy reported for for Thursday, Solar Plant To Be Located at Dublin High,

Dublin High School of Dublin City Schools will soon implement 1 megawatt of solar energy.

The 4,000 panel solar power plant will be the largest in Central Georgia and is expected to save the school 40 percent in energy costs.

Dublin City Schools Superintendent Chuck Ledbetter told 13WMAZ, “The facility will be built and owned by private business and the school system will lease the solar power plant, saving us money in energy costs.”

The original plan was developed more than 15-months ago by German based MAGE SOLAR, which has a plant located in Laurens County.

The story has been carried by GPB by Athens Banner-Herald via AP.

This installation is similar to but slightly different from Continue reading

Softbank’s Son to install solar in Japan: watch out, Georgia Power!

The same Masayoshi Son who shook up Japan’s Internet market and is about to do the same in the U.S. is moving to modify Japan’s power market from nuclear to solar. Watch out, Georgia Power and Southern Company! If you don’t get a move on, Son-san will eat your lunch, too.

Mariko Yasu wrote for Bloomberg Businessweek 23 June 2011, Softbank’s CEO Wants a Solar-Powered Japan,

Masayoshi Son Billionaire Masayoshi Son made a fortune taking on Japan’s phone monopoly. Now he aims to shake up its power utilities after the worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. The 53-year-old chief executive officer of Softbank says he will build solar farms to generate electricity, with support from at least 33 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. He’s asking for access to transmission networks owned by the 10 regional utilities and an agreement that they buy his electricity. No other company has secured unlimited access to the those transmission networks. The utilities would not comment. Japan’s main business organization, the Keidanren, called for “careful analysis” before any drastic change in the power system took place.

If Japan ever felt ready to back Son’s ambitious plan, this is the moment. Radiation has spread across at least 600 square kilometers (230 square miles) in the northeast since the Mar. 11 earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. Outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in May he will rethink a plan to increase atomic power to 50 percent of the nation’s energy output from 30 percent. Renewable energy already accounts for 10 percent, according to Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. Son wants to see that tripled by 2020. “The question is how this nation is going to survive after cutting nuclear power,” he said at a government panel meeting on June 12.

Complacent Georgia Power and SO, you maybe don’t think he can do it? NTT probably thought that, too:

Continue reading

What Georgia Power is afraid of: GaSU and Dr. Smith; and you

So what is Georgia Power afraid of that made their CEO Paul Bowers double down on old-style baseload? Competition, that’s what! What could be more scary in the power-monopoly state of the 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act?

GaSU sun On one side, Georgia Power faces GaSU and its 80 or 90 MW solar plant proposal. Walter C. Jones wrote for OnlineAthens 24 September 2012, Proposed solar company could stir up Georgia’s utility structure,

A proposal from a start-up business promises to lower electricity rates by rebating profits to customers if given a chance to compete as Georgia Power Co.’s “mirror image.”

GaSU fb profile image To proceed with its long-range plan of developing 2 gigawatts of solar power, the start-up, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., wants to start by building an 80-megawatt “solar farm” near Milledgeville as soon as it gets a green light from the Georgia Public Service Commission. GaSU filed its request last week, and as of Monday, it’s still too fresh for public evaluation.

So radical is the proposal that spokespersons for Georgia Power and the Georgia Solar Energy Association said they still were evaluating it and could not comment.

Groups that normally advocate for customers also are staying quiet.

GaSU executives recognize such a big change won’t come easily.

Continue reading

Southern Company’s three-legged nuclear regulatory-capture stool

The failed EDF nuke project at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland makes it clearer why Southern Company (SO) was the first company to get a nuclear permit in 30 years: it was the only one big enough and monopolistic enough to pull it off. Even then it’s such a bet-the-farm risk that even “great, big company” SO only dared to deploy its great big huge scale equipment with the regulatory capture triple-whammy of a stealth tax on Georgia Power bills, PSC approval of cost overruns, and an $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee:

  1. a legislated stealth tax in the form of a rate hike on Georgia Power customers for power they won’t get for years if ever. If you’re a Georgia Power customer, look on your bill for Nuclear Construct Cost Recovery Rider. You’ll find it adds about 5% on top of your Current Service Subtotal. Georgia is one of only a handful of states where such a Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) charge is legal thanks to our regulatory-captured legislature. Doubling down on bad energy bets, Southern Company is also trying to use CWIP to build a coal plant in Mississippi.
  2. A captive Public Service Commission that rubber-stamps costs for Plant Vogtle. In case there was any doubt as to the PSC’s role in legitimizing those new nukes, the very next day Fitch reaffirmed Southern Company’s bond ratings.

    Southern Company’s regulated utility subsidiaries derive predictable cash flows from low-risk utility businesses, enjoy relatively favorable regulatory framework in their service territories, and exhibit limited commodity price risks due to the ability to recover fuel and purchased power through separate cost trackers.

    Translation: Georgia Power customers subsidize SO’s bonds and SO shareholders’ stock dividends. The PSC also approved cost overruns being passed on to Georgia Power customers, and those nukes are already over $400 or $900 million, depending on who you ask. What do you expect when 4 out of 5 Public Service Commissioners apparently took 70% of their campaign contributions from utilities they regulate or their employees or their law firms, and the fifth commissioner took about 20% from such sources? Hm, there’s an election going on right now!
  3. An $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee. Even that’s not good enough for SO and Georgia Power: SO is asking for less down payment.

And what if even one of that three-legged regulatory capture stool’s legs went away? Continue reading

Fixing the illusion of certainty in Georgia Power’s decision-making

Why is it so hard to get a company like Georgia Power or The Southern Company to get on with solar and wind power for clean energy, for national energy independence, and, most importantly to such corporations, for their own profit? Why instead do they keep investing in coal and natural gas and wasting our tax and customer dollars on nuclear financial boondoggles? Why did Cobb EMC back new coal plants until they had their nose rubbed in national shame about corruption and do nothing about solar until their shareholders revolted and changed a majority of their board? We don’t even need to wait for that forensic audit the new Cobb EMC board wants to get the big picture. Such companies consider what they’re used to to be low risk, and anything new to be risky. Why are they so stodgy, and how do we change that?

These companies have many decades of experience with coal and natural gas, so they consider them less financially risky. (Details like neighbors dying disproportionately from cancer cost a little bit to buy up property, but that’s nothing compared to readily predictable profits.) Even nuclear such companies consider not risky to them, since they’ve got the federal government and their own customers guaranteeing all the financial risk through Construction Work in Progress charges on their bills for power they’re not even receiving from the new nukes and agreement from Georgia PSC that cost overruns like those caused by concrete sinking into the dirt can be passed on to the customers.

Neal Stephenson wrote for World Policy Journal September 2011, Innovation Starvation,

The illusion of eliminating uncertainty from corporate decision-making is not merely a question of management style or personal preference. In the legal environment that has developed around publicly traded corporations, managers are strongly discouraged from shouldering any risks that they know about—or, in the opinion of some future jury, should have known about—even if they have a hunch that the gamble might pay off in the long run. There is no such thing as “long run” in industries driven by the next quarterly report. The possibility of some innovation making money is just that—a mere possibility that will not have time to materialize before the subpoenas from minority shareholder lawsuits begin to roll in.

But if the old ways turn out to be suddenly risky, change can come. Funny how Cobb EMC changed its tune after subpeonas started raining down for its former CEO Dwight Brown. Sure, he got off on a technicality, but it turns out Cobb EMC shareholders didn’t like Continue reading

Dr. Sidney Smith speaks about solar tonight in Savannah

Received Tuesday. -jsq

Savannah, Ga.— The Coastal Group Sierra Club is sponsoring a presentation by Dr. Sydney Smith, owner of a solar farm in Bulloch County and co-founder of Lower Rates for Customers, which is currently providing solar power to a business in Savannah and looking to expand, selling its solar power below Georgia Power’s rates.

Although Georgia’s solar potential is enormous, Georgia is one of four states that does not allow energy to be purchased from private suppliers. Learn how Smith is challenging the law and Georgia Power to pave the way for lower rates and green energy.

The presentation begins at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 19 at the First Presbyterian Church, 520 Washington Ave., in Savannah.

We’re just ripe for solar power –Cobb EMC

We already saw that private investment is funding a 100 acre 10 MW solar farm with Cobb EMC as a customer. What does that mean for Cobb EMC’s direction? How big is Cobb EMC, anyway? And what does all this mean for Georgia Power, and for solar power in Georgia and all the jobs it can produce? What does it mean for everyone running for the Georgia legislature?

Chip Nelson, CEO of Cobb EMCKristi E. Swartz wrote for the AJC 16 April 2012, Solar project could be a catalyst for more if policies allow it,

“I always thought solar power was something further out for Georgia. We just weren’t in the right time,” said Chip Nelson, chief executive officer of Cobb EMC. “The way things have been moving in the utility industry, particularly the last two or three years, I find that we’re just ripe for it.”

Ripe indeed! Coal is dead. Nuclear is going down. 30 MW solar farm near Austin Solar will eat the lunch of utilities that don’t start generating it. It’s time for utilities to get out in front and generate their own solar power. Austin Energy continues to show the way in Texas with a 30 MW solar farm. Now Cobb EMC can do the same for Georgia.

Nelson isn’t some fresh outsider: he’s a Cobb EMC lifer. According to Patty Rasmussen in Georgia Trend February 2012, Power Players: Taking Over At Cobb EMC,

Nelson worked for Cobb EMC for 37 years, most recently serving as chief operations officer. He stepped in as interim CEO in February 2010 and decided to apply for the full-time position.

And Cobb EMC is not small. According to Kim Isaza in 20 July 2011 New Cobb EMC chief Nelson ready to ‘turn page’ on past costly litigation, divisiveness,

Continue reading

30 Megawatt solar plant opens near Austin

While Georgia Power continues to block solar deployment in Georgia, Austin Energy forges ahead in Texas with a utility-scale solar plant.

Here’s their PR, Austin Energy Activates 30 MW Solar Farm,

AUSTIN, Texas , Jan. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Austin Energy along with Austin City Mayor Lee Leffingwell , and Village of Webberville Mayor Hector Gonzales today announced the activation of a 30 megawatt (MW) solar power plant located within the Village of Webberville, Texas . The activation of the power plant marks the first utility-scale solar deployment for Austin Energy and helps bring the utility one step closer to achieving a 35% renewable energy mix by 2020. It is the largest active solar project of any public power utility in the country, the largest active project in Texas and among the largest of all operating solar projects in America. The project was activated on December 20, 2011

The key was a PPA:

The utility-scale solar project was made possible through a 25-year solar power purchase agreement in which Austin Energy will purchase the energy at a fixed rate along with the renewable energy credits.
In Georgia, PPAs can be made with municipal governments, universities, companies, or even individuals, if SB 401 passes.

An opportunity for EMCs: Continue reading

Why CWIP is a bad idea

Iowa is rejecting CWIP, and Georgia can, too. Here’s why.

Herman K. Trabish wrote for Green Tech Media 22 February 2012, The Nuclear Industry’s Answer to Its Marketplace Woes: Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) financing shifts the risks of nuclear energy to utility ratepayers,

A sign of the nuclear industry’s difficult situation in the aftermath of Fukushima is a proposal before the Iowa legislature
“Construction Work in Progress was intended to circumvent the core consumer protection of the regulatory decision-making process,”
that would allow utility MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, to build a new nuclear facility in the state using Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) financing (also called advanced cost recovery).

“Investment in nuclear power is the antithesis of the kind of investments you would want to make under the current uncertain conditions,” explained nuclear industry authority Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. “They cannot raise the capital to build these plants in normal markets under the normal regulatory structures.”

CWIP would allow the utility to raise the money necessary to build a nuclear power plant by billing ratepayers in advance of and during construction.

“Construction Work in Progress was intended to circumvent the core consumer protection of the regulatory decision-making process,” Cooper explained. “It exposes ratepayers to all the risk.” The nuclear industry’s answer to its post-Fukushima challenges, he said, “is to simply rip out the heart of consumer protection and turn the logic of capital markets on their head.”

And the Iowa Utilities Board staff agreed with Cooper and recommended against CWIP.
His message to policymakers is simple, Cooper said. “This is an investment you would not make with your own money. Therefore, you should not make it with the ratepayers’ money.”
Meanwhile, in Georgia: Continue reading

What we can learn from no nukes and solartopia of 30 years ago

Why were only 12% of the projected 1000 nuclear plants built in the U.S. by the year 2000? Because of the no nukes movement started in Seabrook, New Hampshire in 1977. And because New Hampshire banned CWIP. Here in Georgia in 2012 we can cut to the chase and do what they did that worked.

Harvey Wasserman wrote for The Free Press 13 May 2007, How creative mass non-violence beat a nuke and launched the global green power movement,

Thirty years ago this month, in the small seacoast town of Seabrook, New Hampshire, a force of mass non-violent green advocacy collided with the nuke establishment.

A definitive victory over corporate power was won. And the global grassroots “No Nukes” movement emerged as one of the most important and effective in human history.

It still writes the bottom line on atomic energy and global warming. All today’s green energy battles can be dated to May, 13, 1977, when 550 Clamshell Alliance protestors walked victoriously free after thirteen days of media-saturated imprisonment. Not a single US reactor ordered since that day has been completed.

How effective?
Richard Nixon had pledged to build 1000 nukes in the US by the year 2000. But the industry peaked at less than 120. Today, just over a hundred operate. No US reactor ordered since 1974 has been completed. The Seabrook demonstrations—which extended to civil disobedience actions on Wall Street—were key to keeping nearly 880 US reactors unbuilt.
The only new nukes ordered since then are the ones Georgia Power wants to build at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River, for which Georgia Power customers are already getting billed Construction Work in Progress (CWIP).

Thirty years later, some things haven’t changed: Continue reading