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Nevada PUC reopens solar net metering; Peabody files reorganization plan


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Nevada PUC reopens solar net metering; Peabody files reorganization plan

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Nev. PUC reopens solar net metering in northern Nevada

Nevada utility regulators took an unusual step toward reversing their prior decision-making on net energy metering, or NEM, of rooftop solar customers by reopening NEM to customers in Sierra Pacific Power Co.'s service territory. The Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 22 ordered the reopening starting Jan. 1, 2017, of 6 MW of installed capacity for rooftop solar systems under prior net energy metering terms and rates for customers of the NV Energy Inc. subsidiary in northern Nevada who wish to install new solar systems.

Destruction of house haunts Energy Transfer's huge Rover gas project

The Energy Transfer Partners LP's Rover pipeline project faces a possible delay in its permitting and construction schedule after the developer knocked down a house of potential historic significance near the proposed route. Despite the complication, Energy Transfer anticipated FERC would issue a certificate order shortly, according to spokeswoman Vicki Granado. Height Securities analyst Katie Bays said a quick approval might not happen.

Top 10 coal events of 2016

The past year has been a turbulent one for coal. Some large mines showed the lowest production levels in years, while the federal election and a turnaround in metallurgical coal prices injected new hope into the ailing industry. S&P Global Market Intelligence has compiled a list of what we think are the top 10 most significant news events of 2016, in no particular order.

Peabody lays out plan to emerge from bankruptcy early Q2'17

Peabody Energy Corp. moved one step closer to emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the company filed a plan of reorganization and disclosure statement with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Dec. 22. The proposed plan provides for a new capital structure that will significantly reduce the company's pre-filing debt levels by more than $5 billion.


* Massachusetts' Attorney General wants regulators to investigate and explain why ratepayers in the state are paying more for energy than the rest of New England even as utility companies' allowed profits continue to rise. State Attorney General Maura Healey in a Dec. 19 letter called on the Department of Public Utilities, or DPU, to launch a "comprehensive and public review of utilities' allowed profits and to bring more clarity and openness to the rate-setting process.

* Portland General Electric Co. is seeking to amend the site certificate of its Carty Generating Station in Morrow County, Ore., to increase the total nominal capacity of the facility to 1,360 MW from from 900 MW. The company's plan calls for increasing the nominal capacity of an approved but yet-to-be constructed Catry unit 2 to 530 MW from 450 MW, adding a 330-MW natural gas-fired unit and a 50-MW photovoltaic solar unit, according to a notice published by the Oregon Department of Energy.

* The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved the proposed $2.4 billion merger of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. and Empire District Electric Co. With the receipt of the final required regulatory approval, the companies expect to close the deal Jan. 1, 2017.

* TransAlta Corp. has agreed to terminate its 122-MW Mississauga cogeneration facility's existing contract with the Ontario Electricity Financial Corp. on Dec. 31, 2016, and replace it with a new nonutility generator enhanced dispatch contract with the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator on Jan. 1, 2017. The new contract provides TransAlta fixed monthly payments until Dec. 31, 2018, with no delivery obligations.

* In its annual review of demand response and advanced metering, FERC staff noted a slight uptick in the the contribution of demand response programs in meeting peak demand in the organized wholesale energy markets, thanks in part to strides made in the PJM Interconnection LLC, New York ISO and ISO New England Inc.

* SolarCity Corp. secured a nonrecourse cash equity financing of $241 million to fund 26,000 home residential systems and 19 commercial and industrial solar projects in 16 states, according to a news release. Franklin Park Investments-managed Sammons Renewable Energy led the equity portion of the transaction.

* Ontario will keep its moratorium on offshore wind development until "all the potential impacts are fully understood," The Toronto Star reported, citing a statement from Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray.

* Separately, Windstream Energy Inc. won C$25 million in damages against the Ontario government under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The company had sought up to C$568 million in damages against the government for canceling its planned offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario.

* Southern Power Co. has acquired the 174-MW Salt Fork and 126-MW Tyler Bluff wind facilities in Texas from EDF Renewable Energy for an undisclosed sum. The addition of these facilities grows the Southern Co. subsidiary's wholesale renewable portfolio to more than 3,000 MW, according to a company statement.

* Expenditures for the Site C dam and generator project totaled C$1.3 billion as of Sept. 30, according to BC Hydro and Power Authority's first annual progress report on Site C construction. The report, filed with the British Columbia Utilities Commission, indicated that the proposed 1,098-MW project is on track for both schedule and budget. Site C is forecast to cost C$8.34 billion when it is completed in 2024.

Natural gas/midstream

* The developer of the Plaquemines LNG export terminal will invest $8.5 billion in the Louisiana project, which is expected to send an official application to FERC after the new year. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Venture Global LNG executives announced the price tag in a Dec. 21 statement that lauded the project's creation of 250 direct jobs.

* The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold a lease sale of more than 48 million acres offshore Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi for oil and gas exploration and development. The agency will livestream the lease sale on March 22, 2017, according to a news release.

* Separately, BOEM released its final environmental impact statement, which analyzed the potential effects of oil and gas development in federal submerged lands of Cook Inlet, off Alaska's southcentral coast, according to a news release.

* For the expanding roster of companies vying to export LNG from North America, 2017 will be a year of watching domestic policy and demand shifts overseas to see whether and when the glutted market will have room for the volumes of U.S. and Canadian LNG proposed by developers.


* Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week ended Dec. 17 increased by 2.5% year over year to 87,219 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads. Meanwhile, year-to-date coal rail traffic is down 21% through the week.

* Alpha Natural Resources Inc. applied for a waste discharge permit at a preparation plant in Wyoming County, W.Va. The permit would allow for the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into 7,625 linear feet of streams and 0.344 acres of emergent wetland on tributaries of the Right Fork of Big Branch.


* Next-day power markets were varied around the country Thursday, Dec. 22, as traders looked to mostly softer load outlooks for the end of the week and the upcoming Christmas holiday. Traders also looked to natural gas for price direction at the power markets Thursday. Surging almost 28 cents in the prior session following a string of losses, front-month January 2017 gas futures settled Thursday at $3.538/MMBtu, down just 0.4 cent following a volatile day of trade after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a larger-than-expected 209-Bcf pull from storage for the week ended Dec. 16.

* After ending the prior session down a scant 0.4 cent at $3.538/MMBtu, January 2017 natural gas futures showed an upside bias overnight ahead of the Friday, Dec. 23, open, as traders considered the recent storage data that outlined an impressive pull from stocks alongside revisions to weather forecasts that called for seasonable conditions across key heating regions.

* Price action for power dailies could be choppy in the week's closing session Friday, Dec. 23, as fluctuating demand forecasts through and coming off the Christmas Day holiday combine with the recent volatility in natural gas. Deals may be covered in a variety of revised packages Friday since the markets will be closed Dec. 26 for the Christmas holiday.

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New from RRA

* On Dec. 22, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, by a split vote, approved a default service plan, known as DSP VIII, for Duquesne Light Co. that covers the period June 1, 2017, through May 31, 2021.

* With the closing of the Pepco Holdings LLC acquisition, the Exelon Corp. shares are among the top performers of the RRA utility group thus far in 2016; year-to-date, the shares are up 27% versus a rise of 17% by the RRA companies.


"Massachusetts customers should not be paying millions more towards utility profits than customers in neighboring states," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in calling for state regulators to investigate utilities' allowed rate of return on common equity. "As the ratepayer advocate for the state, we must ensure best practices and a transparent process that is understandable to the public."

The day ahead

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. equity markets. To view more SNL equity market indexes, click here. To view more SNL Energy commodities prices, click here.

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