Power companies are cautious about the Democratic Party’s clean energy ambitions


Utility update

Democrats want to exclude carbon emissions from the US grid.But represents thousands of smaller groups Electric utility Be wary of being drafted into the army during the campaign.

The Democratic-led U.S. Congress approved a $3.5 trillion budget last week. frame It will include a “clean power payment plan,” which will reward utilities that sell more zero-carbon electricity and punish those that sell less. The goal is to drive 80% of the electricity sold by utility companies from clean energy sources by 2030, compared to about 40% now.

The two industry associations together represent the majority of the country Public utilities However, people are concerned about the cost of such plans, which complicates their passage.

Greening the grid is essential for reducing the U.S. emission of greenhouse gasesClimate experts say that the deployment of solar, wind, battery and nuclear technologies, as well as the possible capture of emissions from fossil fuel generators, will clean up a quarter of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions.

But Desmarie Waterhouse, vice president of government relations for the American Public Power Association, told the Financial Times that achieving this goal through the Clean Power Payment Program (CEPP) “may be too ambitious.” About 1,400 municipal utility companies are members of her association.

“There is a certain degree of tension [among members] Waterhouse said: “Can we still make electricity affordable and reliable, and must complete such a huge transformation in a very, very short time.” “Even if all this money will be invested in utilities to help them achieve Target.”

Questions have also arisen from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents approximately 900 cooperative-owned utility companies and provides services to 42 million people. CEO Jim Matheson wrote to congressional leaders last week warning of the burden of clean energy tasks.

“We believe that reaching 80% by 2030 or zero by 2035 is a realistic timetable,” said Louis Finkel, the cooperative’s senior vice president of government relations. He responded to Waterhouse by saying: “In our view, these timelines are too aggressive and will jeopardize reliability and affordability.”

Joe Biden hopes that the power sector will be completely carbon-free by 2035. The president initially proposed a national “Clean Power Standard“This will require utility companies to sell a certain amount of zero-carbon electricity, a concept that has been tried in states such as New York and California.

A bar chart showing the number of utility companies owned by investors is a minority of U.S. electricity suppliers...

But legislating through the budget reconciliation process-this allows Democrats to promote a bill in a balanced way Divided into The US Senate without Republican support-restricts any policy to measures to raise or spend funds. This makes CEPP the main proposal.

“The overall structure is very simple,” said Lindsay Walter, deputy director of the Third Road Climate and Energy Project of the think tank. “If utility companies reach their goal of selling more and more clean energy shares, they will be paid. No matter how many megawatt hours they have not reached that goal, they will have to pay.”

The sales percentage bar chart shows...but supplies most of the country's electricity

Most utilities are municipal or cooperative, but the largest share of U.S. power is sold by public utility companies owned by investors, which are usually public companies. The IOU contacted by the Financial Times expressed a cautious interest in the payment plan.

Victoria Sullivan, director of public policy at Duke Energy, an investor-owned utility company that sells electricity in six U.S. states, said: “The concept of paying in isolation to achieve transformation makes sense.” “But like any Like federal policy, details determine success or failure. There are many details that we haven’t seen yet.”

How the clean energy payment plan will change the financial status of the IOU will depend on the structure of the payment and the extent to which it affects the “IOU”.Interest rate basis“-The value of the assets that the regulator allows the utility company to receive in return.

Paul Patterson, an analyst at Glenrock Associates, said: “Accounting is really important in this regard.” “Utilities make money based on the actual investment. If the investment itself is offset, then their interest rate base will not grow so fast. .”

Emily Fisher, senior vice president of clean energy at the Edison Institute of Electricity, an IOU trade organization, said that although the CEPP timetable is “challenging” and “arbitrary,” large utility companies are “cautiously optimistic and interested in participating in the details.”

“We have the ability to raise funds to make progress on many of these goals in ways that municipal utilities and cooperative utilities do not,” she said. “And I think clear policy signals about where we are going will only help us raise funds and deploy.”

Move to one Clean power generation portfolio For some public utility companies, this will be a bigger undertaking than others. The combination of Chicago-based utility and power generation company Exelon has achieved approximately 60% zero carbon emissions due to its massive nuclear power plant. At Georgia-based Southern Corporation (its assets include the largest coal-fired power plant in the United States), clean energy accounts for 32% of total assets.

CEPP will be part of a two-pronged approach to reducing emissions from the power sector, while providing new tax credits for investment in renewable energy power generation projects and investments. Transmission line Bring cleaner electricity to the market.

“We are on the verge of the most important climate action in our history,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. letter To colleagues last week. “I don’t believe we have the luxury of failure.”

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