Capital Energy: Utility-overcharge charge

June 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

By Scott Waldman and David Giambusso

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PRICEY: Utility customers were overcharged about $250 million over the last five years as part of a state-imposed surcharge on energy bills, according to a member of the Public Service Commission. In 2009, New York imposed the so-called 18-a energy surcharge on ratepayers and ordered utilities to collect the money. Since then, $2.9 billion has been collected from from ratepayers from the “temporary” tax. But none of it actually went to energy conservation or energy saving programs, Public Service Commissioner Diane Burman said Thursday. Instead, the money went to the state’s general fund.

“What I find disturbing is we are having to revisit just how awful the 2009 law was and the devastating effects the collections can have on New Yorkers,” she said at the P.S.C.’s monthly meeting. “We are now first addressing that in some cases the collections may have been significantly over collected to the tune of close to $250 million dollars.”


  • Reports: 53,000 shutoffs this year for unpaid utility bills
  • Capital Energy: Longer pipeline from Penn.; Biden in New York City
  • Capital Energy: State meets greens; Indian Point’s tax breaks end


AARP REPORTS SPIKE IN SHUTOFFS: As part of a push for the creation of a Utility Consumer Advocate Office, AARP of New York and the Public Utility Law Project released reports Thursday saying that 53,000 customers across the state have had their utilities shut off this year and there are $740 million in unpaid bills.

– UCA won’t help, argues Heather C. Briccetti president and C.E.O. of the Business Council of New York State and Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate in an op-ed posted on The group says lowering energy taxes is a better way to save money.

COAL TO GAS: The P.S.C. has approved a repowering plan for a former coal-burning plant in Western New York. The P.S.C. voted unanimously on Thursday to approve the planned repowering of the Dunkirk power plant. The facility will still retain its ability to burn coal, but will largely rely on natural gas to produce 435 megawatts of power. That’s enough to power 400,000 homes. The aging Dunkirk facility had been slated for closure, but its loss would eliminate a significant chunk of the city’s annual budget. Governor Andrew Cuomo traveled to the facility to announce the re-powering agreement in December and local elected officials called it a “Christmas miracle.”

11 MAPS TO EXPLAIN IT ALL: At Vox, Brad Plumer offers up 11 maps that explain the U.S. energy system, including nuclear power usage, coal mining and the surge of natural gas.

WASHINGTON’S OIL TRAIN STRATEGY: Washington governor Jay Inslee seems to have read Cuomo’s strategy on how to handle oil trains, since he’s borrowing generously from it in crafting his own approach.


DRUG GANGS WITH TANKS BLOCK MEXICAN SHALE BOOM: That’s the irresistible news from Bloomberg’s Nacha Cattan and Adam Williams. There is quite a challenge facing Mexico as it attempts to replicate the kind of shale bonanza taking place in Texas, they write. As thousands of troops battle a recent surge of violence by drug traffickers and fuel thieves, lawmakers 450 miles away in Mexico City are preparing rules to allow foreign companies to drill for the first time since 1938. Drilling in Mexico would seem a natural next move for the thousands of wildcatters who have brought a boom to Texas, yet until the violence abates that’s not likely to happen.

IT’S ALMOST ENERGY WEEK! New York City will be filled with energy geeks, industry execs and journalists next week as it hosts a week of panels, events and shin-digs surrounding the ever evolving world of energy. The week is the brainchild of EnerKnol (a.k.a. the Energy Solutions Forum). The opening ceremony will be hosted by Con Edison on June 16 at its Irving Place headquarters. A full roster of events is available here:

– Glens Falls looking for some solar money: The Warren County city will hit up the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for money to put a solar farm on property it owns on Upper Sherman Avenue in Queensbury, the Post-Star reports.

– $421K raised for East Harlem explosion victims. The Daily News reports an effort led by N.Y.C. first lady Chirlane McCray to raise money for victims of the March gas explosion has brought in $421,000. Con Edison, which was blamed for the gas leak, donated $100,000.

FIREFIGHTING FOAM DONATION: The state has received a donation of 3,000 gallons of firefighting foam to prepare emergency responders for crude oil train fires. Wyeth Labs/Pfizer Pharmaceutical donated the foam, which is worth $105,000, on Thursday. The foam was given to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and will be provided to local fire departments.

BUFFALO HAZ-MAT FINES MOUNTING: Buffalo is facing more than $100,000 in fines because of its mishandling of hazardous materials that put city employees and neighborhood residents at risk of everything from mercury poisoning to chemical explosions, Dan Telvock reports for the Investigative Post.

TRITIUM AT INDIAN POINT: In the New York Times, Andrew Revkin wonders what it means now that two monitoring wells at the Indian Point nuclear power plant detected a spike in levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It has raised new questions about the aging infrastructure at the complex.

CANADA TURNS UP HEAT ON KEYSTONE: Our neighbors to the north are (very politely) ratcheting up pressure on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline which would connect Alberta oil producers to the Gulf coast, Bloomberg reports. “(Canadian) Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird traveled to New York this week, arguing in media interviews and at an energy conference that Obama has unfairly entangled the $5.4 billion pipeline with U.S. politics. According to Oliver,Canada’s intention is is to keep the issue alive with the U.S. public and business.”

ENERGY COMPANY DIVIDE: Energy companies are split over a fracking compromise being floated by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Russell Gold and Amy Harder report for the Wall Street Journal. Hickenlooper’s plan, which would need approval from the Legislature, would give communities the explicit power to write their own rules on such issues as how close drilling rigs can be to houses. But it would prohibit local governments from banning fracking outright, which some towns already have tried to do, and which would be authorized under several proposed ballot measures to amend the state Constitution. Some companies that are drilling in the state support the plan, because they worry about losing big investments in Colorado if an amendment passes. But most large oil companies are dead-set against it because they fear any deal could embolden opposition to fracking across the nation. “The industry is having a terrible time with this issue,” said Fred Julander, a longtime energy executive in Denver. “People willing to live with it are those with the most money in the game; for others, opposing it is a matter of principle.”

TESLA SHARES PATENTS: Tesla Motors Inc on Thursday said it would allow others to use its intellectual property in hopes of speeding up development of electric cars by all manufacturers, Reuters reports.

–Here’s why that’s not a crazy idea, Timothy Lee writes in Vox.

SINGAPORE FLOATS A SOLAR FARM: The Republic of Singapore, which is smaller than New York City, is auditioning 10 designs for a giant floating solar farm the country hopes will generate 3.3 to 4 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. has the report.

– Speaking of Asian island nations boosting solar, Japan doubled its domestic shipments of solar panels last year, Bloomberg reports.

“Local shipments rose to 8,546 megawatts in the year ended March 31, from 3,809 megawatts a year ago, the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Assocation said on its website.”

– Solar returns declining, but not the investment, according to a report by Bloomberg’s Stefan Nicola and Marc Roca. “Pension fund managers are investing more in solar energy, undeterred by declining returns because the industry is considered a safe alternative to traditional securities such as government bonds.”

FORCED POOLING FIGHT: Forced pooling is quickly becoming the next big fight in fracking, Zoë Schlanger reports for Newsweek. That’s when landowners who refuse to sign leases, but are surrounded by leased acres, are forced to permit drilling. The issue of forced pooling is popping up in statehouses and courthouses across the country. In West Virginia, a bill to expand the state’s 1931 forced pooling code to include fracking recently died in the Legislature for the third time in three years. In North Carolina, a study group charged with crafting the state’s fracking laws recommended that landowners be forcibly pooled if at least 90 percent of their neighbors have already signed fracking leases. Ohio’s 1965 law has already been quietly used for fracking since 2011, and applications to forcibly pool are increasing along with shale drilling. In Ohio, the state will consider a forced pooling application after just 65 percent of landowners have signed on. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has received 27 applications since 2011 from drilling companies to force-pool large tracts of land.

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– Natural gas picks up (a little), according to a report in the Binary Tribune.

“Front month natural gas futures, due in July, added 0.44% at the New York Mercantile Exchange to trade for $4.528 per million British thermal units at 9:08 GMT. Prices ranged from $4.520 to $4.534 per mBtu. (Wednesday) the contract dropped 0.49%, and so far this week natural gas futures have lost more than 4%.”

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