- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) has been pushing legislation to revamp the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, E&E Daily reports, hoping to eliminate requirements that utilities purchase power from small renewable and cogeneration units.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week revealed a new subtitle of its Energy Efficiency and Accountability measures, and it included language which mirrored a proposal BHE made at a Senate hearing last month.
- To get the language through into a final senate bill, however, BHE will have to square off with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who was reportedly angered by the company's proposal, saying it would allow it too much market power in the Pacific Northwest, where it also owns rail lines and generators.
Sen. Cantwell lambasted the proposal to do away with requirements supporting small renewable generators angered at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month, but now similar language has appeared in proposed House legislation.
In May, BHE Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Vice President Jonathan Weisgall proposed at a hearing that utilities participating in California's new Energy Imbalance Market should be able to avoid requirements that they purchase power from small generation assets labeled qualified facilities under the law. Utilities participating in regional markets are already exempted from purchasing from QFs, but those not in a competitive market are required to do so.
The language in the House proposal, E&E Daily points out, would clarify that generators 20 MW or smaller have access to markets and would not need the PURPA requirement.
Weisgall told the committee in prepared testimony that the mandatory purchase obligation "can cause operating inefficiencies and reliability issues for the host utility, which has no control over where the QFs are sited or integrated into its system."
"Many QFs are 'undispatchable' and might lead to over-generation conditions or inefficient use of
baseload units that are forced to cut back operations to accommodate unscheduled QF purchases," he said.
Those comments brought a swift response from Cantwell, who said she was concerned that removing the QF requirement would diminish competition for central power stations, many of which BHE owns in the Pacific Northwest.
“I just see you making money coming and going on the repeal of the PURPA language," she said. "The Pacific Northwest is not going to support another cooked up scheme from California ISO about energy markets."
The House proposal does not mention the California Energy Imbalance Market, which opened late last year to a series of price spikes and led federal regulators to investigate the new market. But in April the California ISO said it had identified the issue, explaining that a failure to recognize capacity held by PacifiCorp led to apparent shortages and subsequent price spikes.