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PUCO March 28, 2007 Order

Below are 3 items on the PUCO decision on Marcy 28, 2007 on Net Metering, Interconnection, Advanced Metering, Demand Response, Standby Rates and a Renewable Portfolio Standard:

1) Public Utilities Commission of Ohio News Release and Order - go to Click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter case number 05-1500-EL-COI. 
2) Office of Consumers' Counsel News Release
3) Cleveland Plain Dealer article "Decision Eases Way for Green Energy"

See background to the PUCO case [CLICK HERE].

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio News Release

PUCO adopts recommendations regarding provisions of the
Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005

COLUMBUS, OHIO (March 28, 2007) ? The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today adopted recommendations regarding Ohio?s interest in the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). The recommendations address the areas of net metering, advanced metering infrastructure and demand response, interconnection, stand-by rates and renewable energy portfolio standards.

?The EPAct 2005 provided us with an opportunity to explore important issues as we work to promote advanced energy initiatives in Ohio,? PUCO Chairman Alan R. Schriber stated. ?The recommendations we have adopted today not only address the requirements of EPAct 2005, but also identify opportunities for Ohio to adapt to the evolving energy environment and expand upon Ohio?s comprehensive energy strategy.?

The approved recommendations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Institute a voluntary stakeholder process to consider an advanced energy portfolio standard for Ohio.
  • Expand the technologies allowed for net metering and revise the rules regarding customer credits for interconnection.
  • Require Ohio?s electric distribution companies to file within 30 days reports which address the impacts of distributed generation on their transmission and distribution systems, a copy of sections of their tariffs that include daily time sensitive rates, and a comprehensive list of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technologies and corresponding costs.
  • Revise the interconnection rules to ensure a standardized process in Ohio and a broader multi-state region for interconnection service customers, and have the review process for customer-owned distribution be based on the level of generation.
  • Direct PUCO staff to develop a checklist and a standard application for interconnection.
  • Conduct a workshop to discuss the issue of statewide pooling of stand-by power.

Some of the recommendations adopted can be accomplished under the Commission?s jurisdiction through rule changes of Chapters 4901:1-12, 4901:1-22 and 4901:1-10 of the Ohio Administrative Code. Copies of the new amended and rescinded rules will be filed with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, the Legislative Service Commission and the Secretary of State. Additionally, Ohio electric utility companies must file within 60 days revised copies of their tariffs to comply with the rule changes.

The Commission initiated a proceeding on Dec. 14, 2005 to review the Commission?s actions regarding provisions of the EPAct 2005, which amends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and requires state regulatory agencies to consider and make a determination regarding net metering, smart metering, cogeneration, small power production purchase and sale requirements, and interconnection.

The PUCO hosted a series of four technical conferences for interested persons to learn more about the topics of the Commission?s review. Technical conferences were held at the Commission on the topics of net metering and fuel diversity, distributed generation and interconnection, the sale of stand-by power and smart metering and demand response.

The PUCO received comments from a variety of interested parties including Ohio?s electric distribution utilities, consumer groups, energy marketers, industrial energy users and manufacturing associations, environmental councils, alternative energy corporations, farming associations, universities and state and federal agencies.

PUCO staff submitted a report outlining recommendations to the commission on Aug. 28, 2006. These recommendations were developed considering the statements and recommendations presented in the technical conferences and outlined in comments filed in the case docket.

A copy of today?s Commission order is available at Click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter case number 05-1500-EL-COI. 

PUCO decision on renewable power and smart meters is a victory for Ohio
Consumers' Counsel

Columbus, Ohio  March 28, 2007  In a victory for the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), a decision today by state regulators will help remove some obstacles that have prevented more Ohio residents and businesses from receiving pricing options and generating renewable electricity. While more must be done, the OCC said the decision is a significant step forward.

The OCC made recommendations during a year-long Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) proceeding that would develop more rate options for customers based on when they use their power. The optional rates would more accurately reflect the real-time market price of electricity, which can rise and fall according to demand. Cost savings would occur if a customer was able to shift energy usage into low-priced periods, for example late at night. The OCC also wanted the door to be opened wider for consumers who wish to generate some of their own electricity.

"This victory for the OCC and consumers means progress toward allowing Ohioans to be able to produce some of their own power through, for example, wind turbines or solar panels. Even when power is produced in small amounts, it promotes reliability and can help lower all of our bills," Migden-Ostrander said. "As we look to Ohio's energy future, we must use more renewable sources to produce our electricity. In the long term, our state could enjoy the benefits of greater energy independence, increased economic development and reasonable electric prices if we embrace renewable projects and use our power more efficiently."

The PUCO decision will simplify and standardize rules regarding how consumers producing their own power are able to connect to the local utilities' system. That interconnection is vital in order to allow those homes and businesses to receive the remainder of their power from the utility. This also would benefit those customers by allowing them to receive credits on their electric bills for power they are able to provide to the broader electric grid. Rules involving this process, known as net metering, also were clarified and improved.

The OCC hopes the PUCO decision sets the groundwork for more action to be taken.

"This decision needs to be a beginning, not an end. We advocate that residential consumers have new technology available to give them advanced time-based pricing options. This would empower them to reduce their usage when the market price of electricity is very high. The optional rates could produce savings for customers and increase electric reliability for the utility," said Migden- Ostrander. "Many issues must be resolved by policymakers and stakeholders, including the need for an alternative energy portfolio standard, which would require a percentage of a utility's power to come from a renewable source."

The OCC has developed a Diversified Energy Portfolio proposal that would include a multitude of energy resources that can provide residents and businesses an affordable and environmentally sound energy future. The proposal includes an alternative energy portfolio standard. Information about the OCC's proposal and its Smart Energy fact sheets can be found on its website at .

Decision eases way for using green energy

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Thursday, March 29, 2007
John Funk

Connecting home and business solar panels, wind generators and other alternative energy sources to utility distribution networks will soon be easier.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Wednesday took the first steps to streamline interconnection and metering rules that alternative power advocates and consumer groups have sought for years.

"It would be a fantasy to think we would ever be energy independent," PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber said. "But in order to begin thinking in the right direction, programs such as this certainly don't hurt and, in many ways, will help."

The new "distributive generation" rules would:

Cut down on the administrative red tape some utilities require of homeowners and small businesses trying to generate some of their own power while still connected to the utility's system.

Require utilities to adjust the accounts annually of customers who generate some of their own power.

Under existing "net metering" rules, consumers who generate power in excess of what they use receive credits - but the utilities customarily do the bookkeeping monthly, "zeroing out" any accumulated credits.

Solar generators typically rack up credits in the summer months, while wind generators accumulate credits during the winter.

The new rule would allow an annual adjustment - though still not require a utility to credit more than what a customer actually used.

Allow owners of alternative generation to avoid paying costly utility "standby rates" when home or business generators are shut down. Instead, the consumers could either make prior arrangements to buy from a third party or agree to pay wholesale market rates.

Alternative energy advocates have complained that standby rates were so high that they wiped out any savings created by self generation. Utilities countered that having to maintain available power just in case it might be needed was costly.

Require utilities to tell the commission within 30 days what it would cost them to install advanced meters in homes and businesses. Such meters, now used by some industrial customers, would allow consumers to avoid expensive rates by reducing their consumption during times of peak system demand.

There are expensive, competing advanced metering technologies available. The PUCO wants to adopt one system statewide and is considering requiring the utilities to pay for some of the cost of such a system.

American Electric Power spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said the Columbus-based utility "certainly supports the commission's initiative for appropriate efficiency and pricing options" in distributive generation.

FirstEnergy Corp. spokeswoman Ellen Raines said the company had no immediate comment.

What Wednesday's order does not do is create an "advanced energy portfolio standard" that the PUCO's staff had recommended.

Adopted by more than 20 states, portfolio standards require utilities to supply a certain percentage of their power from so-called "green" sources such as wind or solar.

The PUCO is calling for utilities to voluntarily begin meeting with staff and alternative energy advocates to design rules for such a standard in Ohio.

Kim Wissman, deputy director of the agency's Utilities Department, said the staff made the recommendation in order to start the discussion.

"There's not enough evidence to determine what portfolio standard would be effective in the state, or do-able," she said.

Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said she was generally happy with the order. "The commission has made progress," she said.

Her agency will continue to push for the portfolio standard, however.

"The commission has left the door open for further discussion on other issues very critical to developing alternative energy in Ohio," she said. "We plan to proceed."