How The GA Passed Energy Efficiency w/o Passing HB 179

Filed in Delaware by on July 1, 2014

This is awesome, just the kind of stuff I love.

You will no doubt recall, through the writings of Cassandra and others, that Delaware utilities currently cannot offer their customers consumer conservation programs that would save the consumer money and reduce energy usage.

You also know that a bill designed to permit utilities to offer these programs was buried in the Senate Energy Committee, where it had languished for over a year under the watchful eye of SEU founder and Senator Harris McDowell.

Which brings us to last night, and, for that matter, this morning. At 3:21:05 am, to be  precise.

No, Sen. McDowell did not relent, nor did he release HB 179 from committee.

So, how did this get done? Well, it just so happens that a Sunset Committee bill revising the operations of the Strategic Energy Utility (SEU) had passed the Senate back on June 17 by unanimous vote, but had not yet been worked in the House.

Last night, it passed the House, but with an amendment that, in effect, delivers the consumer conservation programs enumerated in HB 179.

It’s all in House Amendment 2 to SB 150.   If this amendment can’t be defined as sheer genius, then it at least deserves the extreme cleverosity label. Wonder how many lawyers pored over this one…

You see, it was nowhere near as simple as just grafting HB 179 onto SB 150. HB 179 amends Title 26 of the Delaware Code, while SB 150 amends Title 29 of the Delaware Code. The Delaware Constitution prohibits the enactment of a bill when the bill’s title does not comport with the body of the bill. And you can’t amend the title of a bill to, say, change Title 29 to Title 26.  And, proponents of these programs didn’t want them to be subject to the whims and caprices of the SEU. And the title of SB 150 is/was: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO SUSTAINABLE ENERGY UTILITY.

Here’s how HA 2 addresses this conundrum. When permitting the delivery of these programs, the amendment states that they can be delivered ‘in collaboration with the Sustainable Energy Utility as described herein’.

The amendment then creates an advisory council to recommend  ‘candidate energy efficiency, and reduction, and emission-reducing fuel-switching program elements that are cost-effective, reliable, and feasible, including financing mechanisms’. What about the SEU, you may ask. The SEU indeed has members on this council. 2 out of 13, to be exact.  In other words, the amendment does relate to the Sustainable Energy Utility in that the SEU still has minimal impact on what programs will be approved. Here is the amendment’s synopsis:

This amendment addresses the expansion of cost-effective energy programs under the direction of an advisory council composed of members of the Sustainable Energy Utility and others. The SEU will collaborate with affected energy providers on a common marketing platform for these programs.

Further, this amendment will reduce average customer energy bills and will create local jobs by driving investments in energy efficiency that displace more expensive energy supply purchases. Energy efficiency investments create in-state jobs, lower energy bills for Delaware consumers and businesses, prevent dollars from being sent across borders, encourage the development of skilled energy professionals and labor force in Delaware, stimulate innovation, and cause a reinvestment of Delaware dollars in Delaware. Efficiency investments lead to substantial environmental and health benefits from reduced air pollution, make homes healthier and more comfortable, increase grid reliability, decrease vulnerability to energy price spikes, increase energy security, and boost the economy.

If the second paragraph of that amendment synopsis looks familiar, it should. It’s pretty much verbatim from the synopsis of HB 179.

Here are the House and Senate roll calls on SB 150. Yes, Sen. McDowell voted yes.

Did I mention that I love stuff like this? I love stuff like this!

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  1. kavips says:

    Thanks for catching this… Btw, You’re up awfully early…..

    You have just explained why some of Delaware Code is so convoluted… I’ve wondered why sometimes it isn’t simple… I now see It was most likely done at points in the past to get around a blockage…. it was like an “ahhhhh” moment…..

  2. cassandra m says:

    This is very cool. Scratching my head on why Heffernan, Keeley, Ramone and Smyk could possibly vote NO on this.

  3. I can sorta figure out Heffernan and Keeley. Both have ED’s in common with Harris. Maybe, knowing that the bill would pass, they just did it to express solidarity with him. Ramone and Smyk, I don’t know.

  4. Thanks ElSom!

    Here’s how the Sierra Club called it on twitter last night:

    #HB150 with HA2 passed the Senate! #DEJune30 #GovDE #energyefficiency #justintime

    McDowell says he “negotiated with Secretary @Collin_OMara & made the bill a lot better”, he’s doing this as a “sendoff” to O’Mara #DEJune30

  5. Also, there is no report filed for Monday’s activities. Some of the votes from Monday are entered onto the June 26 report and the stuff after midnight is on a 7/01 report but that’s it. Have you ever seen that before?

  6. No. Kinda thought that either there’d be both June 30 and July 1 entries, or it’d all be under July 1. They are, however, two distinct and different sessions.

    The General Assembly goes into Special Session around midnight on June 30/July 1. It’s primarily a parliamentary procedure to enable the respective bodies to call themselves back into session should they so desire. Otherwise, only the Governor could do so.

  7. yeah, that is why it is bad that they skipped the report for 6/30/14. The 7/1 report is only actions taken after 147th was closed out.

  8. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    I know too little about this subject so please indulge the basic question:

    I do not understand the nature of the opposition to consumer conservation intended to reduce energy usage. Is DP&L driving this? If so, why? I thought that reducing consumption helped DP&L minimize capital costs for infrastructure and ongoing maintenance costs.

    Enlightenment appreciated.

  9. The only real opposition was from Sen. Harris McDowell, who was the founder of the Strategic Energy Utility (SEU). The SEU had basically been the ‘only game in town’ when it came to consumer energy savings, and they screwed things up badly. It was almost impossible to audit the SEU because investigators found the papers to be in disarray.

    Support for HB 179 was across the board, from both for-profit and not-for-profit providers, and especially from progressive legislators–except for McDowell. There really wasn’t a logical argument to make against the bill.

    Problem was that McDowell was the chair of the Senate committee that considered the bill, and he wouldn’t even allow the committee to consider it.

    Hence, the need for a work-around.

  10. Get this. There’s even MORE to the story. According to people who were in the Senate last night, even after McDowell had agreed to changes to SB 150, he had no intention of allowing the bill to come to the floor.

    Other senators, including Colin Bonini, of all people, asked why SB 150 wasn’t being considered.

    Then, a galvanizing event occurred. Collin O’Mara, who was and is highly respected by environmentalists in the legislature, was called to the floor for a final tribute as he prepares to leave office. It was pretty emotional.

    At that point, in plain view of all in the Senate, Senators Blevins, McBride, Poore, and Townsend surrounded Harris, and engaged in fervent dialogue about relenting.

    Harris finally gave in, stated that he had negotiated on the bill, and hadn’t gotten everything he wanted, but he wouldn’t stand in the way.

    Pretty amazing stuff.

  11. AMAZING indeed!

    I hope you cover this story on air tomorrow.

  12. Another Mike says:

    I have been in Harris McDowell’s district for I don’t know how many years, and I have never felt represented by him on anything. He’s been in office for almost 40 years. Time for him to go.

  13. Natalie Treat says:

    Thanks, El Somnambulo, for all your great insights. What a story indeed! Way to go, Delaware. We are cheering you across the country today.

  14. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Ditto on the thanks.

  15. kavips says:

    “In 2014, Delaware’s per capita efficiency investments are about $5.65, compared to a 12 state regional average of $50.36, with leading states budgeting more than twice that amount. ,,,

    Nuff said…. we need a first district nick-name for its Tammany Hall.