Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) announced today an enhanced commitment to environmental leadership that includes the following goals to be achieved by 2020: $30 billion in loans and investments in support of a “greener” economy, $100 million in community grants for grassroots environmental initiatives, and a 40% increase in the company’s energy efficiency.
“Our commitment to the environment reflects our belief that Wells Fargo’s responsibility as a corporation goes beyond its mission of helping customers succeed financially. We also have a major role to play in promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life of the communities we serve,” said Chairman, President and CEO John Stumpf. “By bringing our talents and resources to these efforts, we seek to work jointly with businesses and communities in protecting and preserving this planet and its precious resources for future generations.”
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The following article from SEIA is so important a message that we have included it in its entirety in this blog. It will take the will of the people of this country to stand up for what is right and what is worthy of our generation for the good of the generations to come after us.
Today, SEIA’s President and CEO Rhone Resch testified before Congress. The hearing was meant to highlight issues pertaining to federal tax policy and the commercialization of renewable energy technology.
In his testimony, Rhone told our story – since the ITC was enacted, we’ve created over 100,000 jobs; the deployment of solar has increased seven-fold; and costs for consumers continue to fall. Things are heading in the right direction.
Yet this rational, fact-based narrative did not sit well with some members of the committee. Specifically, Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD), Chairman Energy and Environment Subcommittee, attacked solar relentlessly. Citing erroneous data that grossly overstates the cost of solar, Harris stated:
“Who is going to pay that difference for an inefficient delivery of a, of an electric, of electric generation to my seniors and my veterans and my schools. My school system has got to pay three times as much for power. They don’t have as much for books, for teachers, who is going to pay it?”
Ironically, a solar company testifying on the same panel noted how excited school officials and students were to install a solar system to power their school.
In my time in Washington, DC, I have attended hundreds of Congressional hearings. I have staffed Members of Congress and testified myself. Rarely have I seen this sort of inaccurate and vitriol hurled at an invited witness. Congressman Harris clearly did not want to hear the facts.
Rhone handled the situation as a professional, calmly defended our industry and worked to set the record straight.
But this is yet another vivid example of what we are up against. Congressman Harris is not alone in his desire to see our industry whither on the vine. Despite the fact that every other energy industry has received decades of support, there is a growing and vocal contingent in Congress that wants to kill solar. We ignore this at our own peril.
So what can you do?
We need you to get involved.
I implore you to get involved with our Grassroots Advocacy Network.
And we need you to get involved with SolarPAC so we can support federal candidates – both Republicans and Democrats – who support solar.
Finally, please forward this message to your coworkers.
Now more than ever, we need to band together as an industry. I hope I can count on your support.
B. Manning Feraci
SEIA VP, Legislative Affairs
“In the interests of producing the best possible solution to a complex issue, a bill (HB3526/SB3296) that would affect property assessments for solar businesses is being postponed.,” said Jason Mumpower, chief of staff in the state Comptroller’s office. “While there has been a good discussion during this session about how solar businesses should be assessed, it is not advisable to seek a quick resolution of the concerns that have been raised during the session’s waning days.
“In fact, legislation enacted in haste through the technical corrections bill two years ago created the problem we now have, which is that the law currently requires solar businesses to be assessed at a rate deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General. It is our belief that without corrective action, the law will be challenged and solar businesses could end up being assessed at 100 percent of their value, as opposed to the much reduced percentage of value we suggest to provide an incentive to the solar industry. We want to work with the industry over the summer in hopes of achieving the broadest consensus we can about the best way to move forward.”
As all of you have heard, the Tennessee legislature is contemplating a change in the tax rate for solar installations. Without the change in state law, the machinery and equipment used to make electricity at a “certified green energy production facility” is assessed at its salvage value. It applies to any facility used to make electricity off premises using clean energy technology including solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen technology. Both houses of the legislature have introduced bills that would change the taxation raising the tax to a third of total installed costs based on the “immediate economic value” of such a facility.
The bill has been amended since the March hearing to phase in the increased taxation by 2016. The amended bill was due in the Finance, Ways and Means committees of the House and Senate in Nashville this week. The amendment followed some different definitions of what solar arrays might be affected.
“This bill will take from 10 to 20 percent of the revenue generated by the systems to pay the tax,” said Steve Johnson, the founder and president ofLightWave Solar Electric LLC. LightWave designed and installed the Agricenter array.
Carl Hartley, the attorney for the Tennessee Solar Industry Association, contends the legal opinions don’t mean the classification should be scrapped entirely. “I think that the constitutional issue is a tactic,” he said.
“We’re confusing the entire conversation. This is not an exemption. This is a reduction in the value for property tax purposes,” he said of the existing law before addressing the proposed change.
“We are trying to develop alternative forms of energy in this state. We are trying to encourage industry to locate here. We are trying to encourage manufacturing to locate here. … This knocks that in the head and moves it to a higher tax base.”
Tennessee is not the only state where a tax on solar systems has been an issue, take Virginia where delegate Terry Kilgore – who recently received national attention for his proposal to give families a tax break for literally shooting deceased relatives’ remains into the heavens as a way to bolster Virginia’s commercial space industry – also included a provision allowing utilities to charge a so-called standby charge to each residential net-metering customer with a generation facility sized between 10 and 20 kW. It didn’t take long for Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest utility, to submit its proposal for a monthly standby charge for its net-metering customers with photovoltaic (PV) systems. Arguing that the utility is required to provide the same distribution infrastructure for PV system operators as it does for other electricity consumers, Dominion petitioned the regulatory body to sign off on a fee structure late last July. On Nov. 23, regulators gave their assent for Dominion to begin charging $4.19 per kW per month for assessing the fee. Dominion is a for-profit power company.
Here in Tennessee our non-profit TVA distributors in the forseeable future will have to face the need to transform their distribution system to meet future demands of the impact of the electric car and in managing distributed energy from intermittent sources. We are not ready today to attack the issue but we must being considering what changes will be needed and who will pay for these changes.
Two electric distributors appeared on the Solar Electric Power Association’s Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings for 2011.
#2 in Watts per Customer: Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corp. in GA
#3 in Watts per Customer: Fayetteville Public Utilities in TN
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The new facilities suggest solar energy’s potential, but consumer demand must increase before solar energy companies can begin to add many jobs, said Rupy Sawhney, an engineering professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
His report at the Solar Solutions Conference showed that the capacity of Tennessee companies to provide solar energy products is 10 times the current demand.
“The supply chain seems not to be the issue,” Sawhney said.
The professor’s report said that for demand to increase, consumers must be better educated on the benefits of solar energy, government incentives must increase and installation costs must drop.
In the last five months, the average cost of 24 installation projects co-funded by the Tennessee Solar Institute was $5.30 per watt. The Department of Energy’s goal is to reduce the installation cost to $1 to $1.50 per watt by 2020. That reduction could spur consumer interest in solar energy.
Industry members see another obstacle in a bill being considered in the Legislature to increase the appraised value of solar property for tax purposes from .5 percent to 33 percent of the original cost.
The resulting tax increase would deter consumers and companies alike from installing solar energy farms on properties they own, some say.
For Dean Solon, president and CEO of Portland, Tenn.-based Shoals Technologies Group, one big problem is that the U.S. lacks a clear solar energy policy. He said consumers won’t add solar energy because there is no guarantee that local utilities will buy the electricity from them at a high enough price to make the investment worthwhile.
“Do you want to spend $20,000 putting a photovoltaic system on your house when you don’t know if the local utility is going to pay you for the power?” Solon said.
Perhaps the biggest hindrance is continuing fallout from the controversy over Solyndra, which went bankrupt in September after getting more than $500 million in federal loans. It was the first alternative energy company to receive a loan guarantee under a stimulus program from the Obama administration.
Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama for his ties to the California-based solar company.
Solon said the hubbub over Solyndra raised doubts about the viability of solar companies and the number of new installations dropped significantly.
“Solar is like a political ping pong ball — you have the conservatives on one side and the liberals on the other,” Solon said. “And the industry is suffering over that stupidity.”
Tennessee’s growing solar market garnered attention at the 2012 Solar Solutions Conference, hosted by theTennessee Valley Authority (TVA) andTennessee Solar Institute (TSI), which convened at the Memphis Cook Convention Center this week in Memphis, Tennessee (US).
“Worldwide investment in solar energy grew by more than a third last year, hitting $137 billion, and Tennessee companies are earning a healthy piece of this burgeoning business,” said John Sanseverino, Ph.D., program director of the Tennessee Solar Institute. “Tennessee now has 180 for-profit companies in the solar sector, including 33 new companies that have set up shop since 2008.”
The Solar Solutions Conference brought together more than 500 people, including industry and government leaders from across the country, to discuss the future of solar energy. Since 2008, Tennessee has gone from less than a tenth of a megawatt of solar photovoltaic capacity, to more than 27MW of solar power installed.
Construction is to start soon on a solar park estimated to cost about $30 million that will supply a big chunk of power to Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant.
The solar park, believed to be the state’s biggest at 9.5 megawatts, will go on a tract adjacent to the factory, said Patrik Mayer, executive vice president of finance and information technology for VW in Chattanooga. Mayer said Phoenix Solar and Silicon Ranch offered the best proposal of several that VW reviewed. He projected that similar-sized solar parks cost about $30 million, and plans are to pay Silicon Ranch a fixed price per kilowatt hour to run it, he said.
The power generated by the solar park will go to the plant and not onto the EPB or TVA grids, “It goes directly into VW,” Mayer said.
Chris Davis, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Solar Institute, said the solar park “is very large for Tennessee. It’s one of the bigger ones in the Southeast.”
LED lighting leader Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE), delivers another industry first with a barrier-breaking 254 lumen-per-watt white R&D power LED. A standard incandescent light bulb produces 16 lumens per watt. In the near future expect to buy LED lamps that will use 6% of the electricity of the standard bulb. That means that a standard 60 watt bulb can be replaced with a 4 watt LED and produce the same amount of light. Lighting now uses 11% of the total energy used in our homes. So in a few years lighting will be low cost to use. Maybe more expensive to purchase the higher cost LED lamps, but it will save energy and money in the long run.