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New math for utilities: sell less, make more

Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor
Five states have adopted ‘decoupling’ plans, offering electric-power companies incentives to conserve energy.

…under an innovative deal with state regulators in March, Idaho Power gets paid for its plants and equipment and boosts profits by winning incentive payments for reducing electric demand.

It’s an idea that appears to be catching on as legislatures fret about global warming and utilities scramble to meet rising demand without the increasing hassle and cost of building new power plants. Idaho is among 13 states whose regulators have either adopted or proposed measures in the past year to decouple utility profits from electricity production. Decoupling is advancing even faster for natural-gas utilities, with 25 states either adopting or proposing decoupling plans in recent years.

“This wave toward ‘decoupling’ is clearly gathering momentum,” says Martin Kushler of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in Washington. “More states seem to be calling every week to find out about this.”

Although California pioneered the idea 25 years ago – and strengthened incentives and penalties last month – interest is picking up again because of global warming, experts say. The main idea is that by rearranging the incentive structure, regulators can give utilities clear incentives to push energy efficiency and conservation without hurting their bottom lines.
(2 October 2007)

Phoenix rates will rise to cover costs

Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic
Higher fuel prices and power-plant outages this summer will cost Salt River Project residential customers about $4 to $5 a month, the utility announced Monday.

The purchased-power price increase, which begins Nov. 1, averages 4.7 percent across all SRP customer categories. Residential customers’ hikes will be held at 4 percent, but many non-residential customers will pay more.

Residential customers will see their monthly winter bills rise an average of $4.42, to $79.13, according to the utility. The average summer bill will rise $4.83, to $165.52.

SRP is applying the increase unevenly on the seasons to prevent a large summer hit when customers already are paying more for electricity, said Aidan McSheffrey, manager of corporate pricing for SRP.
(2 October 2007)
Contributor ‘corrientempe’ writes:
For us in the Phoenix area, the summer bills are our biggest hit; for example, just to keep a modest medium-sized home at 80 degrees on 110 degree days, typically costs around $300 per each summer month. And summers here start early in May and aren’t really over until mid-October.

Also, this hike is no surprise, 3 of our 4 energy facilities that support the area depend mostly on NG. The 4th is Palo Verde Nuclear plant which has been under expansion activities for months, along with the problems mentioned in the article, and some additional regulatory oversight requirements within the past couple years (ref: article accessed at ). Desert living doesn’t look so good, but the housing industry here is still building MacMansions anyway.

L.A. County calling for lights-out hour

Susannah Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times
Coordinating with San Francisco’s plan, officials are urging Angelenos to agree to a voluntary blackout one day next month to help conserve energy.

Following San Francisco’s lead, Los Angeles County and city officials are urging people, businesses and government to switch off nonessential lights for one hour next month to save energy.

Led by Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke and City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, the proposed effort asks Angelenos to simultaneously go dark between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, as San Franciscans do the same. Local officials are expected to vote on the plan next week.

At the original event in Sydney, Australia, in March, 2.2 million people cut the lights, causing a 10% drop in electricity use. The so-called Earth Hour reduced 25 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking nearly 49,000 cars off the road for 60 minutes, organizers said.

“It’s a great opportunity to conserve,” Burke said, “a great [symbol] of people coming together.”

Although San Francisco’s energy-saving event has been in the works for six months, with cooperation from city officials and the chamber of commerce to black out the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid and Alcatraz, among other landmarks, Los Angeles officials hope to get the word out in a matter of weeks.
(29 September 2007)

‘Smart’ meters coming to B.C.

Scott Simpson, Vancouver Sun
Campbell hopes incentives will lower energy use with measure-by-moment technology

“Smart” electricity meters that give customers moment-by-moment information about household power consumption will be mandatory in all new British Columbia homes and buildings beginning next year, Premier Gordon Campbell said Friday.

Campbell said B.C. will introduce legislation next spring to make energy conservation one of the most powerful tools in shaping the government’s plans to effect substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

He said that within five years, all 1.7 million existing homes and businesses in B.C. will be retrofitted with the meters — which can both track and manage electricity consumption.
(29 September 2007)