That was the overwhelming message from dozens of solar installers, biofuels developers, renewable energy lobbyists and regular citizens who testified Tuesday before the
Only three people in the packed
The PRC is considering revisions to a rule approved late last year that regulates the costs to public utility rate payers of adding renewable energy. This so-called reasonable cost-threshold caps the costs to utilities and their customers of adding renewable energy. Currently it is set at 3 percent of a utility's total revenues.
The rule sought to define how the costs are calculated, but a fight has ensued once again over the matter.
Shortly after two new PRC commissioners were sworn into office and less than a month after the rule was approved,
The costs of providing electricity from fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas has increased an average of more than 6 percent a year, yet the cost cap on renewable energy is set at 3 percent, Sadewic argued. "We have stacked the deck against renewable energy," he said.
One argument for changing the costs calculations for renewable energy is that solar and wind both supply energy intermittently since it can't yet be stored at a utility scale. When solar and wind systems aren't producing energy, utilities have to use traditional coal and gas to make up the difference. But Michel said utilities plan for this intermittancy up front in their costs. "Every time someone turns on a light or a station goes out due to lightning strike, the energy needs and supply fluctuates," he said. "Companies know that and plan for it. It doesn't cost them more."
The commission also is considering a proposal to reduce the amount of solar energy utilities must use as part of the state-mandated renewable energy portfolio standard. Currently, investor-owned utilities such as Public Service Company of
One proposal has been to let utilities pick the least expensive renewable energy technology in order to keep costs low for customers. But solar advocates worry that will decimate the fledgling solar industry in the state. Solar energy is still more expensive than wind energy, though the costs have declined steadily over the last decade.
Among those who spoke against reducing the solar requirement was
Only audience members who had not yet filed written comments with the PRC were allowed to speak, and that led to some heated exchanges with those who wanted to address the commissioners.
The commission received 1,400 comments from
While the nitty-gritty details of the proposed changes to the renewable energy rules are arduous and technical, the outcome is critical to what happens with renewable energy development in
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