New Poll Shows Alabama Voters Overwhelmingly Support Expanding Renewable Energy

A recent statewide poll found that 75% of registered Alabama voters support the expansion of renewable energy in the state. Support for more renewable energy is consistent regardless of party affiliation, geographic location, or race.

When asked about the energy currently being used in Alabama, 46% of poll respondents said that we are not using enough renewable energy. The poll also indicated that there is potential for even higher levels of support for renewable energy once voters learn more about the industry; 31% of respondents said they are not sure if there is enough renewable energy in Alabama.

“Expanding renewable energy would mean more jobs and a healthier environment for our state,” said Tammy Herrington, Executive Director of Conservation Alabama Foundation. “This poll confirms that regardless of demographics or political preferences, Alabamians see the potential and want to act on it.”

“Alabama has lagged its neighbors on renewable energy,” said Daniel Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Energy Alabama. “But the people of Alabama want better and expect their leaders do more.”

“As we’ve seen with the increasing demand from Alabama business leaders who want more clean energy options, making solar and other renewables more widely available would provide major benefits for Alabamians,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Birmingham office. “By enacting policies that clear the way for homegrown clean energy investments, Alabama can create local jobs and build on economic development opportunities that other Southern states are benefiting from as a result of their own investments.”

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, Inc., between April 9 and 11. Across the state, 625 registered Alabama voters were contacted via both landline and cell phone. The renewable energy questions on the poll were paid for by Conservation Alabama Foundation, Energy Alabama, and Southern Environmental Law Center, and the full results can be viewed at conservationalabamafoundation.org/poll.

Energy Alabama, Center for Biological Diversity, and Appalachian Voices Call for Inspector General Investigation into TVA’s Membership in Utility Air Regulatory Group

Energy Alabama, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Appalachian Voices are calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to open an investigation into TVA’s membership in and use of ratepayer dollars for the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) and other unincorporated trade groups including the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG), and Utility Water Act Group (UWAG).

To view the full document calling for the investigation, click here.

In a letter to the TVA OIG, advocates are voicing serious concerns about the use of ratepayer dollars for use in litigation and/or lobbying by UARG and its sister organizations. Any such activities would be in direct violation of TVA’s board-approved policy, which stated, “These organizations will not lobby on behalf of TVA or represent TVA in litigation without specific authorization to do so”.

TVA has repeatedly claimed the dues paid to UARG and related groups have not been used for litigation or lobbying. TVA’s own records demonstrate that its 2017 UARG dues were substantially higher than what UARG claimed went to technical expenses. TVA paid $462,967 to UARG in 2017, almost double the $265,721 UARG claimed was spent on technical expenses.

A reasonable observer can only conclude the difference of TVA’s dues were in fact spent on lobbying and/or litigation, which UARG described as “legal” expenses. TVA either gave permission to use ratepayer money for legal expenses or UARG broke its agreement with TVA.

In light of the facts outlined above, TVA appears to be in direct violation of the policy adopted by the TVA Board of Directors on November 10, 2016.

Therefore, TVA either provided specific authorization to UARG to lobby or litigate on its behalf, while refusing to disclose such authorization to the public, or TVA has violated its Board of Directors’ directive.

“What troubles us the most is that TVA forced its customers to make political speech by taking money from their utility bills and using it for DC-based lawyers,” said Daniel Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Energy Alabama. “Most Alabamians don’t like an arm of the federal government taking their money meant to keep the lights on in order to sue another arm of the federal government.”

“UARG and its secretive affiliates sue the federal government on behalf of polluters with the sole goal of weakening bedrock environmental protections,” said Howard Crystal, Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.  “It’s appalling that TVA customers are being forced to subsidize these dirty efforts through their rate payments, which put utility profits above the public interest.”

TVA’s stated mission is to improve the quality of life throughout the Tennessee Valley through the integrated management of the region’s resources. This mission makes no provision for using ratepayer money to fund lobbying and/or litigation activities in the pursuit of regulatory rollbacks.

Energy Alabama Signs On To Public Comments About TVA 2019 Draft IRP

Energy Alabama has signed on to public comments on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) draft 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (draft IRP) and accompanying draft Environmental Impact Statement. The comments were developed in conjunction with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) Tennessee Environmental Council, Gasp, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Harpeth Conservancy, Alabama Rivers Alliance, and Protect Our Aquifer (collectively referred to below as “Conservation Groups”).

The way TVA provides electricity has far-reaching effects on the Tennessee Valley, the Southeast region, and beyond. The results presented in the draft IRP highlight that—no matter what the future holds—a strategy that promotes and leverages distributed energy resources (DER), including energy efficiency, demand-response, distributed solar, and storage will best achieve TVA’s statutory mandate to provide electricity at the lowest system cost, as well as its mission to improve the quality of life in the Valley through the integrated management of the region’s resources.

Although the study confirms that DER is competitive with, and preferable to, a traditional supply-side approach, we Conservation Groups believe that, as presented, the draft IRP underestimates the potential for DER to contribute to the future of the Valley’s grid.

To read the Conservation Groups’ full public comments, click here.

Additionally, Energy Alabama has submitted independent comments regarding non-technical and process concerns. The full comments are available here, and can be summarized at a high level with the following bullet points:

  1. Non-disclosure agreements for IRPWG members stifle discussion and are unnecessary
  2. The IRPWG needs actual power to influence the IRP
  3. TVA should refrain from changing programs during an IRP
  4. TVA should have explicitly shown the IRPGW material changes between the 2015 IRP and the 2019 draft IRP
  5. TVA should pursue a distributed IRP with all possible speed

To read Energy Alabama’s complete independent comments, click here.

Energy Alabama Submits Comments on Volkswagen Beneficiary Mitigation Plan

Energy Alabama, in conjunction with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Gasp, Inc., has submitted public comments on the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) draft Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, Beneficiary Mitigation Plan. The draft plan was posted on ADECA’s website on December 27, 2018, and discussed at a public hearing on January 15, 2019.

Our comments can be viewed in full here.

The mitigation trust offers a great opportunity for Alabama to make meaningful advances toward the electrification of its transportation system. As outlined in our comments, we commend ADECA for proposing to spend the maximum allowable percentage of its mitigation trust fund allotment on electric vehicle charging stations, and we recommend that Alabama spend the remainder of its funding on electric transit and school buses, as well as electric airport ground support equipment.

In addition, we recommend that Alabama prioritize funding for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by air pollution. Finally, we recommend that ADECA provide 100 percent funding for government-owned projects, maximize DERA funding, clarify how projects will be selected, and require emissions reduction information to be made publicly available.

To read the full comments, click here.

Energy Alabama Recommendations for Huntsville Utilities Electric Fixed Fee Increase

The following recommendations regarding Huntsville Utilities proposed electric fixed fee increase were delivered to the Huntsville City Council in person.

On Sept. 17, 2018, we submitted an Open Records Request to Huntsville Utilities, to which they have failed to respond. On Sept 26, Huntsville Utilities representatives promised to have documents returned by end of day on Oct. 1. As of this letter on Oct. 4, Energy Alabama still has not received a response to the open letter request. Huntsville Utilities has only provided two additional charts from last week’s public meeting.

Energy Alabama opposes fixed fees because:

  • Fixed fees hurt low-income customers and apartment dwellers most
  • Fixed fees discourage energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Fixed fees do not align the costs of the grid to who is causing the cost of the grid
  • Grid costs are primarily driven by peak demand such as hot summer days and cold winter mornings. Fixed fees encourage people to inadvertently make this problem worse.

In response, Energy Alabama makes the following recommendations:

  1. Increase public notice and participation.
    • HSV Utilities provided less than two weeks’ notice of the first public meeting, which was advertised poorly and, consequently, poorly attended.
  2. Delay the final City Council vote currently scheduled for Oct. 11, 2018.
    • HSV Utilities has requested less than one month between the first public notice and the proposed final vote by the City Council.
    • No vote should be taken until all requested documents have been released to the public and ample time has been given to study such material.
  3. Decline the increase to fixed fees for the reasons stated above.
  4. Retain the inclining block rate for residential customers.
    • Inclined block rates charge customers more money with increased usage. This encourages energy conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy use.
  5. Remove the declining block rate for small commercial customers.
    • Declining block rates charge customers less money as their usage increases. This discourages energy conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy.
  6. If additional revenue is still needed after the above recommendation have been met, Huntsville City Council should only approve an increase to the energy charge, not the fixed charge, and require HSV Utilities to pilot a “time of use” rate when smart meters are deployed in the Huntsville/Madison County area
    • Huntsville Utilities’ costs are in large part driven by consumption during times of congestion. If customers are allowed to choose rates that avoid consumption during these times, they save money and the whole system saves money.

 

Read the full letter: Energy Alabama Recommendations to Huntsville City Council