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Industry Briefs

Energy efficiency continues to make a dent in the national energy markets, with more states than ever formally measuring the annual impact of utility driven energy savings programs, according to two reports from the independent nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Twenty-four states have implemented energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) in the past six years, following the lead of Texas and Vermont, and 13 of the 19 states with EERS policies in place for two years or longer achieved 100% or more of their goals; three states reached 90%; and the remaining three achieved 80%, according to ACEEE's first report, "Energy Efficiency Resource Standards: A Progress Report on State Energy Saving Targets." The second report documents how utilities are planning to increase their efforts to hit these higher energy saving levels. Six states with reportedly the largest and most successful efficiency programs -- California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Vermont -- are highlighted in some detail in terms of their ongoing and planned programs. Another six states among the next tier are also highlighted -- Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Chesapeake Appalachia, NiSource Inc. and Columbia Energy Group have agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed in May 2010 by landowners in Southwest Virginia who alleged that they were cheated out of millions in natural gas royalty payments. The companies did not admit "any wrongdoing, fault, violation of law or liability of any kind," according to the proposed settlement, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Three similar cases filed last year against CNX Gas Co. and two others against EQT Production Co. are still pending (see Daily GPI, March 16). The plaintiffs, who are small landowners primarily from Buchanan, Dickenson and surrounding counties in the Utica and Devonian shale plays, had alleged that the companies violated Virginia's Gas and Oil Act of 1990 (see Daily GPI, July 12, 2010; June 30, 2010; June 21, 2010).

The California Public Utilities Commission approved $24 million annually for natural gas utility research and development (R&D) during fiscal year 2011-2012, endorsing the recommendation of the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research program. Since the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the budget ceiling of $24 million has been in effect. For the coming fiscal year, the allocation of the $24 million will change, with a new increment of $1 million being assigned to pipeline safety R&D. The bulk of the R&D dollars ($16 million), however, continue to be concentrated on energy efficiency (industrial, commercial, residential and transportation) and clean energy alternatives to conventional fossil resources and technology.

The municipal utility for San Antonio, TX, CPS Energy, plans to temporarily shut three natural gas-fired generation units starting in October and to stay offline most of the winter for maintenance or repairs. A report Thursday erroneously reported that CPS planned to mothball the three units, which collectively represent 847 MW, at its VH Braunig gas-fired generation complex in Bexar County, TX. Separately, CPS has added four small simple-cycle gas-fired peaking units to its power generation portfolio. They can take care of peak demands when other baseload units are offline The public-sector utility also has already announced that it plans to retire by 2018 its 871 MW JT Deely coal-fired power plant to avoid the need to invest $3 billion in upgraded environmental controls to comply with stepped up federal emissions rules.

California regulators have agreed to allow Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) to rework three qualifying facility (QF) power contracts involving small natural gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) generation plants, reflecting reduced savings for consumers over the remaining 10 years of the QF deals. Two of the plants are in Yuba City, CA (Yuba Cogen and Greenleaf 1), representing 49 MW and 49.5 MW capacities, respectively; the third facility, KES Kingsburg, is 34.5 MW plant in Kingsburg, CA. Once set at $26 million, the projected savings over the next 10 years is now estimated at $14 million, or $1.4 million/year, PG&E told the California Public Utilities Commission, which approved the changes. Under the amended contracts, the three QF facilities will be converted to what the CPUC designates as "utility prescheduled facilities," allowing PG&E to schedule the resources only when it is economic to do so.

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