Archive for Global

Arizona leads states in per-capita solar energy

The report notes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have enacted effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.


Arizona leads the nation in per-capita solar energy, according to a report released Thursday.

Following Arizona, in descending order, are: Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

The details are in a report titled “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center. The organization — online: www.EnvironmentAmerica.org — is a public interest group that advocates for strong environmental policy.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” Rob Sargent, energy program director with Environment America, said in a news release. “The progress of these states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Being a leader in pollution-free solar energy means setting big goals and backing them up with good policies.”

The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have enacted effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.

Reference: http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20130725/BUSINESS/130725020/Arizona-leads-states-per-capita-solar-energy-report-says

US Utility Business Model Woes

Jennifer Runyon is managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Jennifer Runyon, managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, had a three minute conversation with Dr. Stephen Chu, former Energy Secretary that emphasized the need for electric generators and distributors to change their business model to reflect the addition of renewables, particularly solar PV, as a significant addition to the energy mix. Chu feels that utilities ought to own solar panels and energy storage systems that they put on their customers’ roofs and in their garages. He said if utilities could outfit homeowners with solar panels and a 5-kW battery system, they could continue selling that customer power just as they do now. The utility would own the system, maintain the system and the customer would have no out-of-pocket expenses for it other than continuing to buy power at the same rate or at perhaps an even lower rate. This would nicely fit into the TVA distributors future business model for distributed solar installations while preserving the distributor’s mission of providing their customer base with high quality, reliable electric power.

When it’s just a quarter or a half of one percent of a utility’s customers that have their own PV and are selling their solar power to the grid at the retail rate, the utility doesn’t care. But energy storage and PV panel costs are dropping, and once that percentage of utility customers’ that are zeroing out their bill goes to 5, 10 or 15 percent then “it’s a big deal” said Chu.

Chu said he told utilities that PV and energy storage is going to come and they should “form a new business model” NOW so that what today is a potential revenue loss, could become an area of growth for them in the future. Plus, he said this model would eventually lead to a more stable grid for us all.

TSEA’s suggested micro-investment model suggested for TVA would complement the distributor’s suggested model, supplying solar energy at the most affordable prices with ownership of large solar farms in the hands of the ratepayer investors. The TSEA model avoids having to loan money from banks; instead, it will earn interest on the monies deposited in investments increasing the income the ratepayer investors make. The question is whether TVA and its distributors will accept these business model changes.

Runyon’s article

Solar Industry Calls for Market Driven Approach to TVA Solar Programs

Wall Street Journal June 25, 2013

KNOXVILLE, TN–(Marketwired – Jun 25, 2013) – TenneSEIA, the state business association representing the solar industry, responded to the closure of TVA’s solar programs today by publically urging the authority to abandon the practice of setting arbitrary calendar year caps on solar installations and instead, adopt a market driven model that decreases incentives based on the amount of solar installed and incorporates the value of solar energy into the budgeting process. TenneSEIA hopes to resolve these issues prior to the TVA Board of Directors voting on the 2014 budget at its August 22(nd) meeting in Knoxville.

“Consumer demand for solar energy has grown faster than TVA’s ability to adjust, therefore leaving the market underserved, restricting the investment of private capital and creating unnecessary uncertainty for businesses,” said Gil Hough, president of TenneSEIA. “TenneSEIA is committed to working with TVA to create a fair and market driven approach to solar energy development in the Valley.”

TenneSEIA quickly sprang into action to work with TVA after the April 24(th) program closure announcement.

original article

Barack Obama puts solar at forefront of ‘assault’ on climate change

President Barack Obama today put solar at the forefront of a national strategy to cut carbon emissions in the United States as part of a “coordinated assault on a changing climate”.

The US president’s two-step climate action plan, launched at Georgetown University in Washington DC, includes regulatory efforts to curb emissions from fossil fuel power stations and to increase the use of clean energy.
“This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy, using less dirty energy, using more clean energy wasting less energy throughout our economy,” said Obama.
“Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution those plants can pump into our air… for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe and it needs to stop.”

original article

MAJOR FUNDING Through Micro-Investments

The new July/August issue of Solar Today contains an article by TSEAs Technical Director offering a new idea for a solar program within TVA. Micro-investments allow anyone to invest in a project because the cost of a single share is affordable. A recent micro-investment concept was developed by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in creating economic and social development for the poor. A similar concept, savings bonds, was used in the United States and other countries to finance costs for World War I and World War II. During World War II, half the U.S. population purchased approximately $186 billion in savings bonds. This investment accounted for nearly three-quarters of total federal spending from 1941 to 1945 — all from families whose average wage was $50 per week.

The Tennessee Solar Energy Association (TSEA), an ASES chapter, has as its mission the promotion of the widespread use of solar energy in the state of Tennessee. Unlike most states, Tennessee is served entirely by electric distribution companies who purchase power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TSEA will use the concept of micro-investment to provide opportunities to all ratepayers to invest in solar projects in Tennessee. The success of our endeavors in Tennessee will mean that the concept can easily be duplicated in other states.

Financing solar projects through micro-investments offers many advantages. First, consumers and businesses would neither have to finance nor build their own solar projects on their properties. This eliminates three barriers they often face: (a) unsuitable properties for solar because of trees or rooftop alignments; (b) building permits and grid interconnections; and (c) large financial investments with long payback periods. Second, by opening investment opportunities for all ratepayers, a micro-investment plan should attract customers who otherwise would or could not have considered their own solar projects. Third, micro-financing can be used for large solar projects to benefit entire communities, taking advantage of the lower overall costs of large-scale projects. Finally, micro-investments would provide large sums to utilities and other solar companies who might otherwise not be able to finance a solar project.

Proving the Model at TVA
In the Tennessee Valley, TVA is a closed system in which all 155 distributors buy power from TVA, making it an ideal utility for studying this micro-investment model. Moreover, as a federal power authority, TVA plays an important role in the Tennessee Valley as the regional stewardship agency and supplier of public power. TSEA envisions that TVA would establish a micro-investment program, achieving even greater economies of scale than the individual distributors could achieve.

A 2012 Hart Research survey, funded by the Solar Energy Industries Association, found that 92 percent of voters “believe it is important for the United States to develop and use solar power.” TVA, serving 9 million people in the Tennessee Valley, can play a large role in finding the relationship between how much the public says it wants solar energy and how much the public is willing to invest.

TVA’s aging coal-fired plants are more than 50 years old and are depleting TVA funds to meet increasingly strict air-quality standards. As a result, the TVA has little funding available for solar energy. Although TVA has a renewable energy program known as Green Power Providers, which provides long-term power purchase agreements, the program has not produced a bankable level of funding that has resulted in loss of jobs and statewide solar installers to look elsewhere for work. The small amount of funds allocated for the program were absorbed in the first trimester of this year.

As a federal authority, TVA is in an ideal position to undertake a micro-investment program. Under the TVA charter, the president can direct the U.S. Department of Energy to provide support and resources as requested by the TVA board, which is directed to make studies “in the application of electric power and a better balanced development of the resources of the region” (Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, Section 10). Furthermore, TVA pays no property tax, has a plethora of sites where large solar installations can be located, knows where in its power system to best locate large solar farms to provide the greatest ROI, has the staff to manage the program, can handle the procurement actions and can set aside a percentage of the installations for local installers. Thus TVA can avoid all the soft costs that ordinarily burden solar purchasers. In addition, its purchasing power, backed by the aggregated micro-investments, will produce the lowest cost through competitive bidding.

I suggest to all our members and readers of this column to join ASES and help promote solar energy in their region.

Read the article and the entire Solar Today magazine

Outlook: Solar Panels for 36 Cents Isn’t As Low As You Think

The global PV industry’s recent past has seen wafer, cell, and module suppliers at the mercy of an inhospitable supply-demand imbalance throughout the global market. With supply consistently 200% of demand annually, c-Si module prices have fallen approximately 70% in two years. One positive externality of this cutthroat pricing is that manufacturing costs have fallen in line with pricing declines. This is mostly because pricing for key inputs further up the value chain has also fallen as a result of overcapacity and consequent margin evaporation.

Back in 2009/10, industry roadmaps were targeting $1.00/W module costs as a medium-term goal. With best-in-class Chinese producers approaching costs of $0.50/W in 2013, yesterday’s goals are no longer relevant today. However, as noted, the majority of cost reduction over the last two years has been driven by declines in consumables prices. This state of affairs has left both manufacturers and their customers with considerable uncertainty, and there is currently little consensus on what is a realistic goal for the module supply chain to set for itself over the next three to five years. This 112-page report on the latest in c-Si PV wafer, cell, module, and materials technology is the most recent analysis from GTM Research’s flagship supply-side practice, and aims to provide a competitive outlook on the leading technology and cost trends through 2017 across the global PV supply chain. The report explores existing and innovative technology advancements in ingot growth, wafer slicing, cell processing, and module assembly, as well as their impacts on efficiencies and manufacturing costs.

This article was taken verbatim from this site

TVA Cuts Back on Bellefonte Nuclear Plant While Residential demand spurs U.S. solar installations in 1Q13

The nation now exceeds 8.5 GW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, of which 7.9 GW is PV. Solar nearly made up half (48 percent) of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S in 1Q13. Meanwhile in an effort to revive the stalled build at the Bellefonte nuclear power plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority is trimming the project’s budget by 64 percent and cutting 530 jobs at the facility, The budget for Bellefonte is being cut from $182 million to $66 million. According to the AP, the massive cutbacks call the entire future of the project into question.
The cutbacks come on top of a spate of bad news for the nuclear industry, culminating in the announcement last week that Southern California Edison was permanently closing the long-troubled San Onofre nuclear plant.

U.S. solar energy installations totaled 723 megawatts (MW) from January through March, a 33 percent increase from a year ago and the solar sector’s best-ever first-quarter performance. Residential solar installations rose 53 percent year-on-year to 164 MW, with the utility segment more than doubling to 318 MW. Third-party-owned solar residential systems made up two-thirds of all residential PV installations in California (exceeding non-residential for the first time), and 86 percent of them in Arizona. Residential solar has managed to expand, at times well into double-digits, for 12 of the past 13 quarters. The only top-tier residential market to shrink in 1Q13 was Arizona, which fell 9%. Average PV system costs were $3.37/W, a 24 percent drop over the past year, though that’s about 10 percent higher than the previous quarter because of fewer utility-scale projects coming online. Residential systems fell about 16 percent Y/Y (2 percent Q/Q) to $4.93/W, non-residential also fell 16 percent Y/Y (8 percent Q/Q) to $3.92/W, and utility system prices declined 26 percent Y/Y but only 6 percent Q/Q to $1.12/W. Note that there’s an especially wide range of installed PV prices by state, anywhere between $3-8/W.

Risks to distributed generation of solar PV are threefold, say SEIA and GTM Research:
Net metering revisited. As distributed generation expands, utilities are seeking to revise, cap, and even remove net metering. This will take different forms in different regions — and varying degrees of resistance or acceptance — but it will have major implications everywhere.
Utility electricity rate structures. How utilities set up their tariff structures, incorporating time-of-use pricing and fixed or volumetric charges, will have a significant impact on the economics of solar energy systems. “While net metering is currently a more public battleground, we anticipate that rate structures will soon follow behind,” they say in the report.
Who’s going to pay for it? Distributed generation could require more than $48 billion of investments from now through 2017 — far exceeding what’s been provided to date. There will be a need for new sources of capital, new financing models (think REITs and MLPs, and crowdfunding and community solar), and new investors in existing structures (tax equity). “Project finance could serve as a significant bottleneck to growth over the next four years,” they write.

original articles here and here

Why Master Limited Partnerships are a Lousy Policy for Solar, Wind, and Taxpayers

SLevy comment: This post is to present the rationale for not including renewables in the Master Limited Partnership legislation. So we have both pro- and con- arguments on proposed legislation so that you, the reader, can provide your opinion as to whether our federal legislature representatives in both houses should or should not support the MLP parity act. Send in your comments and we will post them on our site.

Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) operate like publicly traded corporations, with publicly traded stock, but don’t pay income taxes. Most folks who’ve touted expanding MLPs to include renewable energy projects see this move as “leveling the playing field.” And it will. It will allow big energy corporations to avoid paying taxes on their renewable energy projects just like they do for pipelines. First, there are many powerful, regulated industries that would love a bite at this apple, like the existing electric and gas utilities. The cost to taxpayers from letting these hogs get to the trough is likely much, much larger than the opportunity for renewable energy. These big industries – with huge lobbying budgets – are not likely to miss the opportunity.

But even more important, the extension of MLPs to renewable energy is likely to reinforce centralized, corporate control of the energy system. Right now, renewable energy – particularly solar – is transforming the energy system. It’s turning energy consumers into producers, re-routing energy dollars back into community economies, and giving cities and towns more control over their energy future. Half or more of new solar power in the U.S. is being put on the rooftops of homes and small businesses. New community solar policies (like one just adopted in Minnesota!) are giving even more Americans a chance to have skin in the energy game and share in the profits of a transition to renewable energy.

The average American isn’t going to be a shareholder of a Master Limited Partnership, but they probably will pay a share of phantom taxes in their electric and gas rates if MLPs are expanded to other energy industries. Even if Congress miraculously limits the MLP expansion to just the renewable energy industry, subsidiaries of most of the large corporations in the energy business (Shell, BP, Exxon) are building wind and solar projects. These subsidiaries would certainly be reorganized as MLPs, giving them a tax advantaged opportunity to crowd out competitors (like community solar or other distributed generation) AND make larger profits off their renewable energy business.

John Farrell authored the original article

Utilities weigh getting into solar installation business

Some U.S. utilities are looking at getting into the solar rooftop business as the installations are creating an increasing threat to their business model.
The Wall Street Journal reported companies such as American Electric Power co. and Southern Co. are looking at making the move.
Arizona Public Service Co. has only a rooftop program for government and schools. Salt River Project has built a large solar system and allowed people to buy into it instead of getting rooftop solar.

original article

update: An appropriate quote from an article in the Forbes article: “The electric utility business model is broken. Rather than burn the Earth in political battles over net metering, we should be reimagining the regulatory compact between utilities and ratepayers and regulators.” to which I say Amen.

Master Limited Partnership Parity Act – What It’s All About

In the race to capture the economic benefits of the growing clean energy sector, the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act would provide an opportunity for U.S. businesses to mobilize private capital and better compete. It would provide the same tax treatment for investments in clean energy and fossil fuels . Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the bipartisan bill today with original co-sponsors Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Gibson (R-NY), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) co-sponsored companion legislation in the House.

“We applaud this bipartisan group of co-sponsors on the introduction of the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act,” says Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program. “Our research indicates that nations with consistent, transparent clean energy policies do better in attracting private investment.”

If approved by Congress, this tool could lower financing costs for clean energy projects, some by as much as 50 percent, according to Recycled Energy Development, a waste energy power producer. The market value of the master limited partnerships has grown to about $370 billion The bill is supported by clean energy businesses (PDF), labor and environmental groups, and policy organizations.
A master limited partnership is a business structure that has the tax advantages of a partnership but whose ownership equity can be traded as easily as public stock. Energy projects qualifying as a master limited partnership have access to low-cost capital and liquid investment opportunities as well as a relatively high rate of return for investors. Master limited partnerships have existed since 1981 and are available to investors in fossil-fuel extraction and pipeline projects.

By expanding the list of qualifying projects to include solar, wind, geothermal, and other clean energy and transmission technologies, renewable-power projects could access new financing markets, thereby increasing investment and deployment of these clean technologies.

original article