Archive for Political

Natural Resources Defense Council calls for compensation for customers with solar PV

NRDC

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the U.S. utility industry’s trade group are jointly calling for a new rate structure to account for customers that generate their own power with rooftop solar systems. “We need the grid and need to improve it in ways that support clean energy and distributed resources,” says Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy at the NRDC in New York. Owners of rooftop solar panels “must provide reasonable cost-based compensation for the utility services they use,” says both groups. In exchange, utilities must simplify the process of connecting systems to the grid and compensate owners “fairly for the services they provide.”

Under the current policy, known as net metering, utilities must purchase excess electricity generated by customers’ solar panels. Both groups want that policy to continue, with a new mechanism that would cover utilities’ fixed costs. Still, they agree that changes to utility rate structures would improve energy-efficiency programs and expand rooftop solar. They recommend allowing utilities to recover the costs of maintaining and improving the grid in a way that’s not tied to the amount of electricity they deliver to consumers.

“We want regulators to decouple grid charges from volumetric consumption,” Greene said. “Then the utilities can’t use net metering as an excuse for the high fixed-cost charges they want.”

Comment from S. Levy:
It is my personal belief that ratepayers are going to be supplied by smart metering in the near future. As a result of smart metering, the electric utility industry will begin setting different rates based on their peak loads during the day and evening hours. The purpose being to lower the peak demand that occurs between the hours of 5 pm and 9 pm. So, they will charge the consumer more during the peak hours to reduce the peak load and with it, the resources to produce and deliver that higher power level.

It’s all about demand charge management and that demand charge management can result in a 10 percent to 20 percent bill savings. That is if the homeowner controls the use of high wattage appliances and home electric heating and cooling of the home and their water heater. Automation is available today that can control these energy users.

******DO NOT INSTALL SOLAR PV ON YOUR SIDE OF THE ELECTRIC METER WITHOUT CONTACTING YOUR DISTRIBUTOR**************

Sniper attack on power grid

A recently revealed criminal attack upon a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) substations has given lawmakers pause and turned the subject not just to cybersecurity for electric power infrastructure, but physical security.
The Wall Street Journal reported a previously unpublicized 52-minute assault by snipers on PG&E’s Metcalf transmission substation. The assailants fired some 100 bullets into the substation, which knocked 17 transformers out of service.
PG&E was able to stave off a loss of service by diverting to other T&D assets, but utility workers had to spend 27 days repairing the shooters’ damage to the substation area.
The FBI, which is serving as lead agency on the investigation, does not believe the attack was an act of international terrorism. Jon Wellinghoff, who led FERC at the time, said he believed the incident was domestic terror.

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Every Four Minutes, Another American Home or Business Goes Solar

Obama_in_Georgetown-200x150This was the quote from the President’s State of the Union address this past week. He then suggested, as he has before, that we divert tax breaks from fossil fuel industries to fund more development of “fuels of the future.” Even Forbes stated that the shift in supports “While that policy makes some sense, it needs to be pegged to commodity prices..” There has been a split in the Republican Congress members from a solid wall against renewables, to one where many of the party are now supporting wind, solar and biomass. Expect the final version of the Agriculture bill to contain substantial support for biomass as an energy source. We do need more research into future solar development. We need to concentrate on supporting increases in conversion efficiency for solar PV.

We need the Federal Government to fund a more automated solar foundry in the Gigawatt class which would demonstrate producing solar panels for less than $0.30 per watt. We need to automate the installation of racking and solar panel mounting for solar plants. We have produced panels with 30% and higher efficiencies, but the cost was prohibitive. Focussing on higher efficiency along with a massive production facility will result in lower panel cost in large scale manufacturing. The windpower from Texas can be sent to TVA region for about four cents per kilowatt-hour according to recent testimony before the TVA resources council. Solar has to aim for that same price.

New Farm Bill Preserves Core Clean Energy Programs

After three years of stops and starts, debate and negotiations, the Congressional Farm Bill Conference Committee has released a compromise bill between the House and the Senate that includes mandatory funding for a downsized Energy Title, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

If passed by Congress, the funding for REAP and BCAP in the compromise would ensure the popular programs will continue to support diverse technologies for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives in farm communities across the nation. REAP offers grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects owned by farmers, ranchers, rural small businesses and rural electric co-ops. BCAP provides incentives to jump start sustainable energy crops that also provide conservation benefits.

“While the overall Energy Title funding has been reduced, this compromise provides the certainty for renewed growth in rural energy projects under both REAP and BCAP,” Olsen said. The bill announced late Monday by the Farm Bill Conference Committee includes $881 million for Energy Title programs over ten years.

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Clean Energy Policy: Outlook for 2014

Pew Charitable Trust has a division on Clean Energy led by Phyllis Catano. At the end of this past year Pew gave their clean energy report in the form of a webinar including published presentations by three top tier organizations represented by representatives including Phyllis Cuttino, director, Pew clean energy program, Pat Bousliman of Elmendorf Ryan, Ethan Zindler of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

You can find the presentations at: http://www.pewenvironment.org/uploadedFiles/PEG/
Publications/Other_Resource/CEBN-End-of-Year-Webinar.pdf

Our website had 62,670 hits in December 2013

For solar businesses, if you want exposure then join us as we are growing our readership which doubled this past year.

Minn. Judge: Solar Beats Natural Gas for Utility Procurement

In what is being called an unprecedented decision, solar energy went head-to-head with natural gas in a competitive evaluation for utility resource planning — and solar came out on top.

Xcel Energy demonstrated need for 150 MW of new electricity generation by 2017 (and possibly 500 MW by 2019. Office of Administrative Hearings (ALJ) to look at several proposals to decide “the most reasonable and prudent strategy” to meet Xcel’s needs. Three of the five proposals received dealt with natural gas as the energy source, one offered solar in a rather unique way.

The solar project encompasses roughly 20 different commercial-sized sites (2-10 MW) adding up to 100 MW, sized to offset roughly 20 percent of the existing load at each respective substation. The cost for the 100 MW project was $250 million. Using computer models, the ALJ’s administrative law judge Eric Lipman compared each proposal against each other, gauging cost savings, fuel consumption, pollutants emitted, and other factors, and then added a number of contingencies for mandated CO2 reductions, market pricing fluctuations for each energy source, and both short- and long-term demand projections — as well as the mandated RPS and solar carve-out. Lipman also added criteria to be “compatible with protecting the natural and socioeconomic environments, including human health.”

Lipman decreed that in the short-term “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel’s ratepayers is drawn from selecting Geronimo’s solar energy proposal.” When properly analyzed under either a LCOE or strategist modeling, the solar submission was the lowest cost resource proposed.

Responding to the ruling, Xcel issued a statement saying it appreciates the work of the ALJ toward resource acquisitions but it “disagree[s] with some of the findings and recommendation,” and the company pledged to file a complete response once exceptions are filed with the commission.

PUC decision

Will Rural America Continue REAPing Renewable Energy Rewards?

Barn_Caldwell_Idaho
Based on a tally of 2013 REAP announcements, the total awards for the Southeastern states approaches $5 million in grants, leveraging more than $15 million in private dollars. These investments include solar photovoltaic installations, energy efficiency equipment, geothermal, and biomass projects.
Energy efficiency awards were particularly notable this year, with diverse projects including irrigation, lighting, agricultural curing and drying, and diesel engines being replaced with electric motors.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdown of 2013 REAP grant awards for our region (rounded down to the nearest thousand):
FL > $354,000
GA > $1,400,000
NC > $1,417,000
SC > $584,000
TN > $1,224,000

Original article

Obama Commits U.S. Federal Government To 20% Renewable Energy Target By 2020

Obama_in_Georgetown
President Barack Obama has issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. federal government to pursue a goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The document also instructs all federal agencies to take specific steps to better manage building performance, enhance energy efficiency and reduce energy waste.

The missive represents a follow-through on the president’s plan to counter climate change, announced in June. It directs agencies to achieve the renewable energy consumption target through a number of approved actions. The actions, in order of priority, are the following:

Installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities and retain renewable energy certificates;
Contracting for energy that includes the installation of a renewable energy project on-site at a federal facility or off-site and the retention of renewable energy certificates for the term of the contract;
Purchasing electricity and corresponding renewable energy certificates; and
Purchasing renewable energy certificates.
The memorandum sets a number of interim targets for renewable energy usage up to the ultimate 20% by 2020 goal. The first of these is a 10% target for 2015.

More information

Original Presidential Memorandum

Utility Of The Future Or Future Of The Utility?

Today's distributor financial modelimpact of distirbuted solar on utility revenue

Electric power industry’s traditional revenue collection model, which is based on a fixed tariff applied to volumetric consumption, is showing signs of erosion due to customer self-generation at a time of tepid to non-existent demand growth. The challenge of distributed energy resources (DERs) could not have come at a worse time for the industry – just as massive investments are needed to upgrade and modernize an aging infrastructure, it is facing the prospects of a growing number of consumers buying fewer kWhs and paying even less for the privilege of being connected to the grid under prevailing laws. This is especially true for the distributors of TVA power who are prevented by contract from generating electricity. The only alternative for TVA distributors to improve their distribution system is to charge the heck out of their customers. TVA needs to give their distributors some latitude in creating new ways of generating new sources of revenue. That will require some changes in their contract to allow them to have their own distributed solar programs. Are there any other alternatives?

Where will the funds for distribution system come from

original article