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POLITICO New York Energy: Con Ed storage test; NYC says water in schools is safe

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

Good morning! Only POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive an enhanced version of this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York energy policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access. Thank you for reading.

CON ED’S STORAGE TEST — Energy Storage Report’s Jason Deign: “Consolidated Edison is planning to test a residential storage-based virtual power plant (VPP) concept, Energy Storage Report has learned. The investor-owned utility, which serves New York City and Westchester County … is hoping to launch a pilot scheme this summer, said Griffin Reilly, project manager for the Con Ed Clean VPP concept. Initially, the project will test how much New Yorkers might be willing to pay on a subscription basis for grid resiliency services, essentially backup power, provided through a battery system installed on their premises. Customers will not have to pay the upfront cost of the system because Con Ed will own it and reserve the right to sell the aggregated output of many such systems on the wholesale or distribution markets.”

NYC: SCHOOL WATER IS SAFE — POLITICO New York’s Eliza Shapiro: Amid growing water contamination crises in Michigan, the upstate village of Hoosick Falls and now Newark, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is seeking to reassure parents about the quality of the water in the city's public schools. The Department of Education is sending home letters with all public school students today with new information about lead poisoning, including the fact that lead poisoning among children has fallen by 80 percent since 2002. The administration is also creating a web portal through which parents can check the results of lead testing at individual schools."

U.S. TO CHARGE IRANIAN HACKERS IN NY DAM ATTACK — Reuters: “The Obama administration is expected to blame Iranian hackers as soon as Thursday for a coordinated campaign of cyber attacks in 2012 and 2013 on a suburban New York City dam and several other targets, possibly including multiple U.S. banks, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters. In one of the largest foreign cyber attack cases since 2014 when the United States charged five Chinese military hackers, the U.S. Justice Department has prepared an indictment against about a half-dozen Iranians, said four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The charges, related to unlawful access to computers and other alleged crimes, were expected to be announced publicly by U.S. officials as soon as Thursday morning at a news conference in Washington, the sources said.”


--With summer approaching, National Grid held work safety demonstrations for reporters, the Albany Times Union reports.

--Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 112,000 energy efficiency projects have been initiated in New York since 2012.

--Natural gas companies have stepped up their lobbying in Albany after Cuomo’s fracking ban, according to a report by the Public Accountability Initiative.

--William “Bill” Flaherty, the longtime local regional executive for National Grid in Albany, is taking a similar position for the utility in Rhode Island, the Albany Times Union reports.

--Tompkins County approved a program that would allow it to draw 63 percent of its power from a hydroelectric facility in Waterloo.

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INQUIRY FINDS SNYDER ADMINISTRATION IGNORED FLINT WARNINGS — The New York Times: "An independent panel investigating the Flint water crisis laid blame directly on Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, concluding that inept state employees in charge of supervising water quality and state-appointed emergency managers ignored mounting problems with the city water supply and stubbornly disregarded signs of widespread contamination. The task force, which described the effects of the crisis as 'long-lasting,' also concluded that environmental injustice had contributed to the government’s slow-footed response to complaints from Flint residents about the foul and discolored water that was making them sick."

--Michigan to spend billions in water repairs: Crain’s Detroit Business reports, “Much of Michigan’s water and sewer infrastructure has been neglected for years, threatening public health and is in desperate need of repair, an undertaking that experts say could cost $17.5 billion over the next two decades. That price tag doesn’t include the cost of replacing lead service pipes across the state, a peril exposed by the ongoing water crisis in Flint. How shaky is Michigan’s overall water infrastructure? Consider our faltering network of sewers. In 2013 and 2014, nearly 25 billion gallons of partially treated and untreated storm and sanitary sewage flowed into Michigan’s waterways. How much is that? One billion gallons is enough to fill more than 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

D.C. APPROVES EXELON-PEPCO MERGER — The Washington Post: ”District regulators approved a $6.8 billion merger between Pepco Holdings and Exelon on Wednesday, creating the largest publicly-held utility in the country. The decision marked a surprising turn of events for the deal,which regulators had rejected twice before and which appeared to be on life-support in recent weeks as D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and other city leaders lined up in opposition. The merger means that Pepco will now be absorbed by a company with the largest number of nuclear reactors in the country and widespread operations throughout the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and New England.”

THE MIDWEST FIGHT FOR WIND — The New York Times’ Diane Cardwell: “Up and down the center of the country, winds rip across plains, ridges and plateaus, a belt of unharnessed energy capable of powering millions of customers, with enormous potential to help meet national goals to stem climate change. And because the bulk of the demand is hundreds of miles away, companies are working to build a robust network of high-voltage transmission lines to get the power to the coasts. If only it were that simple. In all, more than 3,100 miles of projects have yet to be built, in need of government approval. One of the most ambitious projects, called the Grain Belt Express from a company called Clean Line Energy Partners, spent six years winning the go-ahead in three of the Midwestern states it would cross, only to hit a dead end in Missouri when state regulators voted 3 to 2 to stop the project.”

SUNEDISON TEETERING ON DEFAULT — Bloomberg: “The clock is ticking for SunEdison Inc. The world’s biggest clean-energy developer has already postponed the release of its 2015 annual report, twice. If it fails to file the report by March 30, SunEdison must reach accommodations with lenders on at least $1.4 billion in loans and credit facilities or face a potential technical default. SunEdison reported total debt of $11.7 billion at the end of September, more than double the amount a year earlier, as it bought up wind and solar developers and projects on six continents. That’s prompted questions about whether it borrowed too much, too fast, and has helped make it the worst-performer on the 104-member WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index in the past year.”

ETHANOL ON THE EDGE OF COLLAPSE — Bloomberg: “The 400-or-so residents of Waltonville, Illinois, have been waiting almost a decade to cash in on the U.S. ethanol boom. Now, that day may never come as a prolonged fuel glut alters the economics of corn for communities across the Midwest. Waltonville had set aside 169 acres — a fifth of the town’s land area — for a distillery to make 132 million gallons a year of the corn-based fuel additive. At the time, government mandates were expanding use of ethanol in gasoline, and the project promised a boost to the local economy, including a new road. Plant builder Ethanex Energy Inc. planned to buy grain from nearby farms and ship ethanol via rail lines running between the Post Office and two churches. But the property remains idle. Ethanex went bankrupt in 2008, along with many others across the Midwest — like Verasun Energy Corp. — that bet the wrong way on higher corn costs just as the recession sent fuel prices into a nosedive.”

TESLA TO FOCUS ON SMALLER HOME BATTERIES — The Los Angeles Times’ Samantha Masunaga: “When it comes to batteries, homeowners apparently don’t need as much energy storage as Tesla Motors thought they did. Tesla Motors says it will concentrate only on developing its 7-kilowatt-hour Daily Powerwall battery, which is intended for everyday use but also has backup power capabilities. Last April, the Palo Alto-based company announced it would produce two batteries: the $3,500 Tesla Powerwall, intended to store 10 kilowatt-hours of backup power, and the smaller, $3,000 Daily Powerwall battery. The batteries make the most sense for homeowners with solar panels, since excess energy generated by their systems can be stored for use during the night or on cloudy days. That backup power option would allow connected appliances, lights or computers to run during outages.”

SOLAR INCENTIVES EXPIRING IN MULTIPLE STATES — The Associated Press: “Thousands of homeowners and small businesses in New Mexico — the second sunniest state in the nation — have invested nearly a quarter billion dollars in roof-top solar and related labor thanks to a program fueled by tax credits. Supporters say the investment has paid off. A record number of solar panels went up in 2015 and job growth within the industry jumped by more than 18 percent, signaling new economic opportunities for the struggling state. But the plug will be pulled this year since lawmakers concerned about a state budget crisis did not approve a measure that would have extended the popular incentive through 2024. With the 10-percent tax credit now expiring at the end of the year, New Mexico joins other states where credits and other incentives have started to disappear.”

ANOTHER COLORADO ENERGY COMPANY FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY — The Denver Post: “Denver's Emerald Oil Inc. has joined the ranks of other struggling Colorado energy companies in seeking bankruptcy protection. Publicly-traded Emerald announced Wednesday that it filed Chapter 11 paperwork with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware and that it was pursuing a sale to Latium Enterprises Inc. Emerald's filing follows a string of bankruptcies for Denver-area energy companies as the price of oil has dropped. Craig Energy, Escalera Resources and American Eagle all filed bankruptcy in the past six months. Last week, Denver-based oil driller Venoco Inc. sought bankruptcy protection, listing $1 billion in debt.”

LNG FAILURES COULD BOOST LNG MARKET — Bloomberg: “The demise of LNG projects such as Woodside Petroleum Ltd.’s planned $40 billion Browse facility due to a plunge in energy prices is probably what will lift the market out of its current rut. Buyers now have the advantage as U.S. exports add to a surge in shipments from Australia, exacerbating a global glut. The oversupply and the slide in energy prices the past two years have discouraged developers from committing to new liquefied natural gas projects.”

SOLAR FLIGHT SET TO RESUME — The Daily Mail: "It has a rather lofty goal — completing an entire round-the-world flight using just the power of the sun. But the Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered aircraft was left stranded on the ground in Hawaii last summer after suffering battery problems. Now its pilots have announced they hope to get airborne again next month after repairing damage caused to the aircraft by high temperatures in the tropics. The flight was halted around 12,400 miles (1,955km) into the epic 21,747 mile (34,998km) journey. With spring bringing longer hours of sunlight in the northern Hemisphere, the team will take off from close to Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu to head towards Phoenix."


--Oil takes a hit: Rumors of the decline in oil supply were exaggerated, the Wall Street Journal reports. Oil took its biggest hit in a month on Wednesday.

“Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled down $1.66, or 4%, at $39.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the worst percentage loss since Feb. 23. Brent, the global benchmark, lost $1.32, or 3.2%, to $40.47 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas decline continues: The Journal reports there is too much supply.

“Futures for April delivery settled down 6.9 cents, or 3.7%, at $1.794 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gas has now fallen in three of four sessions.”

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