NetZeroMax.com

Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

Duke Energy-Backed Bill Takes Aim at Solar in North Carolina

by Jan Lee (May 31, 2017) www.triplepundit.com

Duke Energy, America’s largest utility company, made a surprising announcement earlier this year. In its February filing to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the company declared the cost of solar unaffordable in the state.

The argument went like this: Federal law requires electric utility companies to buy back the power generated by renewable energy at a price set by the local utilities commission (called the “avoided” costs). In North Carolina, that rate is set every two years.

But with natural gas prices dropping, Duke claimed the cost of solar became too high to justify. The company estimated the cost discrepancy amounted to as much as $80 million a year or $1 billion over the course of completed contracts.

For the residential customer, that equates to about $20 more a year in utility bills, Duke further claimed.

Not surprisingly, local solar developers, such as Strata Solar, disagreed and challenged Duke’s computations.

Now, a handful of North Carolina state representatives have come up with an answer, and it has the enthusiastic support of Duke Energy.

North Carolina House Bill 909, otherwise known as the Sound Energy and Renewables Policy Act, would force independent clean-energy startups into a cumbersome bidding process controlled by the state’s utility company. The bill would set an artificial ceiling of 400 megawatts for each of the next five years.

The renewables sector in North Carolina estimates it would have access to more than 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy projects each year without the legislation.

The North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance is opposing the bill. Chris Carmody, executive director of the trade association, said the bill would make it unaffordable for small solar providers to compete with Duke, which does offer solar energy to its customers.

“[It] would allow Duke to eliminate all competition,” Carmody told Southeastern Energy News.

Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union) said he sponsored the bill because of what he calls “stagnation” in communications between stakeholders in the state’s clean-energy industry, big and small.

But a number of critics see Duke Energy as the winner – and the instigator of the bill.

Although Duke Energy doesn’t agree, it has a history of objecting to the large number of solar farms in North Carolina, which it reportedly attributes to North Carolina’s adherence to the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Carmody says the concept of a privately-established bidding process was supported (and some say proposed) by Duke until last February when the company suddenly backed out.

Duke Energy isn’t the only large utility company to take issue with PURPA, which requires companies to “pay back” homeowners that can generate electricity on their own property, such as with a wind or solar installation. In Montana, Colorado and even California, utility companies, solar installers and often consumers are locked in debates over a federal law that makes small solar installations possible. To the large-scale utility company, that “avoided” cost is lost revenue. To the solar installer, it means a foot in the door in a utility industry once only operated by large companies like PG&E and Duke Energy.

Solar installers call Duke’s efforts to limit new projects under PURPA illegal. Last year the company got into hot water with state regulators when it stopped hooking up small solar projects to its grid. Installers accused the company of preventing the construction of new projects and blocking consumers from having solar energy.

Duke denied the charges, saying that it would “do what we need to maintain the reliability and resiliency and the quality of the power on our grid.”

Bill 909 would not only reduce the number of solar installation companies in North Carolina, but it would also shrink avoided costs for utility companies. Current revisions of the House bill also cut the size of projects that could qualify under PURPA in North Carolina, a step that some clean-energy advocates like John Wilson of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy say would “reconstruct [PURPA} as a barrier to participation in energy generation by independent companies.”

And this may not be the end of arguments over PURPA, a law that was created in the 1970s in recognition of a budding renewables industry.

Oregon, Utah, Montana and other state utility commissions face pressure from utility companies that want new rates, contract lengths and other considerations when it comes to utility markets that they don’t necessarily control.

As consumers have become more educated about PURPA, what is often called an obscure federal law with big clout, utility companies like Duke Energy are looking for ways to protect profits in an industry that once had few regional competitors.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Florida Plays Catch Up on Solar Energy Playing Field

by Rachel Iacovone (March 10, 2017) www.news.wgcu.org

Florida is looking toward solar energy as a solution — not only for its energy problems but for its economic issues as well. Though it is the third most populous state, it currently ranks fifth in the nation on solar energy yields. Florida Power and Light hopes to change this, with plans to add three solar sites by 2018 and eight more in the coming years.

Despite its moniker, the “Sunshine State” Florida is not using its solar energy opportunities as much as one might expect.

Florida’s 400 megawatts of solar energy last year pales in comparison to California’s 18,000 and so do the Sunshine State’s 8,200 solar industry jobs when compared to California, which boasts more than 100,000 solar-related jobs.

With Florida making the short list of most populated states alongside California, clean energy proponents, as well as Florida Power and Light, hope to catch up to solar states. FPL spokesperson Alys Daly recently talked about the state’s current solar situation on WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.

“Right now, our solar is in line with the country’s, which is about 1 percent,” Daly said. “That’s not including the last three plants that we built over on the west coast of Florida, and that’s not including the eight new plants that we’re developing. While the national average is about 1 percent for solar, the rest of their generation is made up of much more oil and coal where ours is clean, natural gas and nuclear.”

FPL has 11 active solar sites. It plans to bring another three online by 2018 and eight more in the future.

Industry experts attribute FPL’s current ability to expand the state’s solar industry to the sharply declining price of solar energy over the years.

Twenty-five years ago, solar energy cost $90 dollars per watt. Now, the price has dropped to $3, and Americans can afford to invest in solar, though Daly says it’s more cost effective to wait on FPL’s expansion rather than invest in personal roof units.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Utah’s Decision On Solar Rates Leaves People In Limbo

by Judy Fahys (Dec 22, 2016) kuer.org

Snow’s been swept from the roof of a Davis County home where workmen mount supports for new solar panels. Aaron Gray manages quality control, and he loves what he does. But a piece of Gray’s heart is back where he used to work: Las Vegas. His wife and two sons still live there.

“It’s hard — it’s hard to be away from my family,” he says. “I mean those two little guys are my life, along with my wife, and she takes the sole burden of raising those two boys while I’m gone.”

This time last year Solar City began laying off most of its Nevada workforce. The new rates brought rooftop solar investments to a standstill. Gray’s job was one of the casualties when the market collapsed.

“It was tough,” he says. “It’s — I mean it’s not a good way to roll into the holidays. You’re not knowing where the next move is going to be.”

Gray won’t move his family here because he’s worried this job could disappear too. That’s because Rocky Mountain Power has asked to restructure its rates for Utah customers with rooftop panels.

Now Gray’s worried that Utah’s booming solar industry might screech to a halt like Nevada’s did. And he’s in good company.

Thousands of solar industry jobs evaporated in Nevada when utility regulators ended net metering. That was last year, and now Utah’s economy is bracing for a final decision on rooftop solar rates here and the impacts it might have.

Paul Murphy is the spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, a sister company of NV Energy and the utility behind Nevada’s rate rewrite.

“This is an issue that’s facing every utility in the country.”

Murphy says rooftop solar customers enjoy subsidies of about $400 a year from traditional residential customers. And, with projections of rapid growth, the subsidy would add up to around $667 million dollars over the next two decades.

“People talk about being fair and I think the issue is about fairness,” he says. “Is it fair to force others to pay for their neighbors’ rooftop solar panels?”

Rocky Mountain Power recognizes that its customers want clean energy. It secures power from large-scale arrays in southern Utah and offers it through a subscriber-solar program.

“If the goal is to have clean energy,” says Murphy, “the most economical way to add solar energy to the system is to go to big, big solar farms.

“Which you have,” a reporter says.

“Which we have,” Murphy says.

It’s a classic power struggle: rooftop solar companies fighting for traction in terrain where a competitor had a monopoly for decades. Similar battles are happening in half the states in the country.

“I think all eyes are upon Utah now the same way all eyes were upon Nevada,” says Austin Perea, a solar-industry analyst with GTM Research in Boston.

“Last year Nevada installed nearly 90 megawatts of solar,” he says. “This past quarter, they installed just over 1 megawatt on the residential side. So, it basically cratered the market.”

Perea hints that Nevada’s become a cautionary tale for other states – partly because it had more solar jobs per capita last year than any other state, nearly 9,000.

Utah ranked tenth on that list — with around 2,700 jobs — and looked primed to boom. But, lots of people want to know if Utah’s solar industry will keep growing so fast. Much depends on what Utah utility regulators ultimately decide.

Sarah Wright, director of the non-profit Utah Clean Energy, is one of the organizations that urged regulators to reject Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to start the new rates this month. She and some staffers were stuffing envelopes late on a Friday afternoon two weeks ago when the PSC announced the rates are suspended – but only temporarily.

“This is a reprieve,” she says, noting that Utah’s rooftop rates won’t be settled until August or later. “The problem is that the proposal that Rocky Mountain Power put on the table for net-metering customers would have dramatically hurt customers going forward and the industry.”

Rocky Mountain Power is talking with the solar industry and advocacy groups like Wright’s about a possible compromise.

“Our goal,” says Wright, “is to see a proposal go forward that works for all customers and allows the solar industry to thrive.”

While negotiations continue, the future for solar workers like Gray remains uncertain.

“It’s very much the same feeling to be in limbo of what the decision is going to be by the PSC here.”

Meanwhile, he’ll keep making that six-hour drive to see his family in Las Vegas every other weekend.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Arizona regulators vote to stop net metering for solar

By Ryan Randazzo, (Dec. 20, 2016) www.azcentral.com

Arizona utility regulators voted Tuesday to end the system of net metering, where homeowners with solar panels get retail credits for power they send to the grid, and instead reduce the amount utilities pay homeowners for rooftop solar power.

The five Arizona Corporation Commission members approved a judge’s recommendation with some amendments after a full day of discourse and hours of public comments on Monday, mostly from solar advocates.

The Corporation Commission began the proceeding in 2014, and hundreds of comments were filed, including those submitted by solar companies, mines, consumer advocates, utilities, merchant power plants and other groups with a stake in the decision.

Commission Chairman Doug Little and Commissioners Bob Stump, Robert Burns, Tom Forese and Andy Tobin all seemed comfortable with changes to net metering, though they debated details of how to compensate homeowners for the power. The final vote was 4-1 with Burns opposed.

“I think we’ve accomplished something pretty historic today,” Little said during his vote. “While I will tell you that perhaps the decision we’ve come to today is not a perfect decision, it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Through net metering, each kilowatt-hour from solar panels that goes to the grid is credited on monthly bills. The credits roll over month to month and offset the electricity that homeowners draw from the utility at night or when their panels are not making enough electricity to serve their needs. 

Because each kilowatt-hour of credit offsets a kilowatt-hour homeowners otherwise would purchase, it is worth the retail price of electricity, about 10 to 14 cents each, depending on a utility customer’s rate plan.

That will be substantially less than the retail price of electricity, officials agree. To prevent a shock to the industry, the regulators seemed to agree on a different calculation for rate cases that are pending, such as that for Arizona Public Service Co.

Representatives from Vote Solar and the Alliance for Solar Choice estimated the changes would mean a 30 percent reduction in what utilities pay solar customers for their electricity, though some parties to the case disagreed with that figure.

The pending rate cases will use a “resource comparison proxy” that will pay solar customers a rate based on what utilities are paying for solar energy from large solar power plants. Those wholesale rates are also below the retail rate solar customers get for their power today.

The commissioners agreed they didn’t want to reduce the payment more than 10 percent in a given year, though the initial drop-off from net metering to the new calculation could be more than that.

Solar customers still will be able to use power from their panels on site, and avoid buying that energy from their utility. The savings they get from “self-consumption” isn’t affected by the changes, only the compensation they get for sending excess power to the grid.

The new compensation rates for excess solar power won’t be used until those utilities go through a rate case.

The decision also will not affect customers who already have installed solar, but will apply only to those who install it once the order takes effect at utilities under the purview of the Corporation Commission. Commissioners agreed to the so-called “grandfathering” provision to preserve net metering for existing solar panels for 20 years from the date they were connected to the grid.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

How much are rooftop solar panels worth? Arizona utility regulators to decide

by David Wichner – Arizona Daily Star (Dec, 10, 2016) www.tuscon.com

AZ-Solar 04

After years of debate, Arizona utility regulators finally appear ready to decide a long-burning question: What is solar energy generated on customers’ rooftops really worth?

The Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to decide the issue on Dec. 19, when it will consider proposals to change rates for rooftop solar customers including controversial cuts to credits solar customers get for the excess power they generate.

And that could have a major impact on the cost and adoption of rooftop solar in territories of state-regulated utilities including Tucson Electric Power Co. and the biggest state-regulated utility, Arizona Public Service Co.

Under the process, known as net metering, solar customers are credited monthly at the full retail rate for excess power — for TEP about 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Any credits left at the end of the billing year are credited at each utility’s comparable cost for wholesale power, for TEP about 2.5 cents per kwh.

While solar companies and advocates want to keep the full retail credit rate, TEP has proposed cutting the net-metering credit rate from the retail rate to the cost of power from its most recent utility-scale solar farm, about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, reasoning it is a similar resource.

APS has proposed a rate not much more than the avoided cost of fueling conventional power plants, about 3 cents per kwh.

In a ruling in late October, a Corporation Commission administrative law judge said regulators should scrap the current system of reimbursing customers with rooftop solar at the full retail rate for power.

For the near future, Judge Teena Jibilian said, new credit rates for solar customers should be based on short-term studies based on costs avoided by rooftop solar, or on the cost of power from large, utility-scale solar farms.

The cost studies would be based on a rolling five-year examination of the benefits and costs of rooftop solar, potentially eliminating from consideration long-term benefits including reduced pollution and public-health costs.

That riled solar advocates, who insist long-term societal benefits of solar including lessening the need for new fossil-fuel power plants and reduction of health risks should be fully counted.

The judge’s recommendation, will form the basis for the Dec. 19 hearing, but the full Corporation Commission has final say and can reject or modify the proposal.

For its part, TEP agrees with most of the judge’s decision but has sought clarification on several issues, company spokesman Joe Barrios said.

The company wants it made clear that “banking” of solar energy credits — allowing one month’s excess production to be credited toward the next month — would end under the new rules.

In commission filings, TEP said it prefers the solar-farm cost proxy for setting solar export rates over the avoided-cost methodology, but that the commission should clarify that utilities could use either.

CHILLING EFFECT

Any cuts to net-metering rates would reduce the advantages of solar and extend the financial payback period for such systems by years.

In fact, the prospect of fewer solar benefits has caused many customers to balk at installing their own panels, especially since the utilities have been telling customers changes are on the way.

Kevin Koch, owner of the local solar installation firm Technicians for Sustainability, said his business has been down since TEP filed to change net-metering policy effective June 1, 2015.

The matter was put off along with other utilities’ net-metering change requests, to await the outcome of the value-of-solar proceeding, but TEP’s notices that net-metering rates could change chilled the market, Koch said.

“That created a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the marketplace,” he said.

TEP didn’t see much of a drop off overall, however.

This year through November, TEP counted 3,019 rooftop solar installations tied to its grid, compared with 3,199 in all of 2015, and 1,937 in 2014.

The uncertainty isn’t limited to TEP.

William Rood was interested in installing solar on his SaddleBrooke home when he found that his power company, Trico Electric Cooperative, was proposing changes including new demand charges and lower net-metering rates for rooftop solar customers.

With Trico’s help he calculated that the proposed new credit rate of 7.7 cents per kwh would extend his payback period more than two years. Still, Rood decided it was worth it.

In October he spent about $20,000 to install a 6.36-kilowatt photovoltaic system that offsets most of his power usage.

“I decided to go ahead with it because it was the right thing to do,” said Rood, a retired newspaper reporter and editor.

Rood may have avoided the new rates after all.

In a pending rate settlement with the Corporation Commission’s utilities staff, the Trico net-metering changes would apply to customers who applied to install their systems after May 31. All prior customers would be grandfathered under the old rate system.

But in a recommended order issued last week, a Corporation Commission administrative law judge recommended that the new rules should apply to Trico customers who apply to install solar after the effective date of the new rates, likely early next year.

The judge in the value of solar case also has recommended that all solar customers be grandfathered under current retail credit rates until each utilities’ new rates are approved.

Though the matter isn’t settled, Rood said he’s glad regulators are rejecting the idea of retroactive changes.

“The grandfathering thing, I think, is just patently unfair,” he said.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

As rooftop solar costs drop, utility attempts to raise barriers may not work

by Mary Ellen Klas (Nov. 12, 2016) www.miamiherald.com

rooftop-solar-05

Florida’s utility industry steered more than $20 million of their profits into a failed constitutional amendment to impose new barriers to the expansion of rooftop solar energy generation, but developers say that as the cost of installing solar panels drops, the state could quickly become a leader in private solar energy expansion no matter what the energy giants do.

The Florida Solar Energy Industry Association estimates that over the next five years, Florida homeowners, businesses and utilities are projected to take advantage of the falling prices and install 2,315 megawatts of solar electric capacity — 19 times more than the amount of solar installed in the last five years.

“Solar prices are in free-fall, and no one knows where the bottom is,” said Chris Delp, an attorney with the Tampa law office of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick.

Large companies, such as Elon Musk’s Solar City, are offering zero down, low-interest loans, and people can also cut their expenses by deducting 30 percent of their costs under a federal Investment Tax Credit program that was extended last year, he said. “The economics are just going to make these regulatory barriers irrelevant. Florida’s utilities could work with customers to roll out solar or they could work to rule it out.”

What approach will Florida’s investor-owned utilities take?

Will they encourage homeowners and businesses to install their own solar systems — as utilities in Georgia, California, New York and dozens of others states have done — or will they ask regulators to stifle rooftop solar expansion, as they attempted to do with Amendment 1, so that they can control the development of solar themselves and limit the hit to their bottom line?

According to the Florida Public Service Commission’s 10-year site plan, utilities plan to increase their solar generation, but solar will make up only a tiny fraction of all energy generation supplied by the regulated utilities in the next 10 years. Gulf Power has announced it will add up to 500 megawatts of solar power to its fleet by 2024 and Florida Power & Light has asked the PSC for permission to add 1,200 megawatts over the next four years as part of a settlement agreement to raise its electric rates.

Florida ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, according to SEIA, but is only 14th for cumulative solar capacity that is installed. That could change, Delp said, if the emerging interest in solar installation in Florida, fueled by the drops in prices, results in more people installing their own electricity generation, circumventing utilities.

“I don’t think this was their intent, but what the utilities did with Amendment 1 was bring the discussion of solar energy development in Florida to the forefront,” said Delp, who is working with a company building a 30-megawatt private solar farm in Leesburg. “It’s now a kitchen table issue. There is awareness that there is a lack of solar in Florida and that we lag behind so many other states.”

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article.

Solar Panel Installations Soar as Prices Fall to an All-Time Low

by Mike White (Sep 24, 2016) www.trendintech.com

rooftop-solar-05

More and more people are opting to have solar panels installed in their homes, offices, and other buildings as they recognize the potential savings and environmental benefits there are to be made.  It’s because of this rise in demand that firms have been able to sell them cheaper than ever before and are now at an all-time low, allowing, even more, people to reap the benefits.

There are two separate Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory Reports that offer a detailed analysis of the lowering prices in solar panels. The first is called Tracking the Sun IX and is centered around installed pricing trends in the rooftop solar market and the second is entitled Utility-Scale Solar 2015 and focuses on large-scale solar farms that deal with bulk power supplies.  Both reports show a significant fall in prices in installed solar technologies since 2010.

costcomparisondollarperwatt 975 × 361 moduleprice 896 × 358

The installed price of solar technologies takes into consideration everything that is needed to get the solar system running effectively such as the panels, electronics, and hardware.  Estimates suggest that the cost of solar installation has fallen consistently at around 5 percent per year since 2012.  Even though both commercial and residential solar installation prices fell there is still a huge difference in the price they both pay comparably.  When looking at residential systems, the cost ranges between $3.30 and $5.00 per watt, while commercial users pay between $1.60 and $2.60 per watt approximately.

According to the reports, the price of solar power purchase agreements (PPA’s) has also fallen to below $50 per megawatt-hour in four out of the five areas that were examined. Currently, the cost of electricity is around $30-$40 per megawatt-hour, so the gap is closing in between the two.  Also, with the extension of the federal renewable energy investment tax credit to run until 2019, this should push solar sales even further and will force prices down to match.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Can Existing Homes Achieve Net Zero?

by Brent Sauser

img_2329

Is it possible to convert a 23 year old tract home, built in Orlando Florida, to achieve Net Zero?  Granted, not all 23 year old tract homes are created equal.  But in our specific case we can state without hesitation . . . OUR 23 YEAR OLD HOME HAS ACHIEVED NET ZERO!  How do we know this you ask?  We have proof.

After implementing a three-year plan to reduce our overall electrical consumption, we had a 7.5kW solar array installed on our roof.  The net-metered array was activated on September 9, 2015.  Since then we have tracked our daily solar production.  These are the results:

  •   Total time elapsed:  12 months
  •   Total solar production on-site:  9,375kWh
  •   Average monthly solar production:  780kWh
  •   Average monthly power consumption:  668kWh
  •   Daily average kWh (net) use from utility:  ZERO
  •   Extra solar kWh produced on site and “banked” with utility:  1,363kWh.  That means we are not only a Net Zero home, but we are Net Positive.  We produced more energy than we consumed on site.
  •   Total electrical utility costs for the year:  $126 (Minimum monthly charge to utility = $10.47.  This charge is for net meter hook-up to utility.)
  •   Total estimated yearly savings:  $2,500

Being net-metered means that we are still linked to the local power utility.  We produce electrical power while the sun shines and feed the excess power back to the utility.  At night and early morning hours we rely on the local power utility for our electrical needs.  So, we are NOT off the power grid, but rely on the grid for when the sun is down or on excessively cloudy days.

DSCN4988

We become Net Zero when the excess power we produce during the day exceeds the utility power we use at night and early morning.  In our case we were able to produce enough excess power to cover the difference and have 1,363kWh left over, to our credit.

Our goal was to lower our monthly expenses and in the process put $2,500 back in our pockets.  We are overjoyed with our decision to go Net Zero and will continue to monitor our daily production.   We are confident next year’s results will be similar.

DSCN4989

Sometimes the hardest part of any journey is taking the first step.  We have proof it IS possible to retrofit existing homes to achieve Net Zero.   Isn’t it time you find out for yourself what it will take to achieve Net Zero for your home?

Regardless of Fierce Opposition, Rooftop Solar Is Unstoppable

by Javier Sierra (Aug 4, 2016) www.huffingtonpost.com

Arizona Solar 05

As the Spanish saying goes, the sun is the poor man’s blanket. And thanks to technology, it’s also our heating system, air conditioner, refrigerator and a shinning spot that lights up our clean energy future.

The solar industry is the fastest growing sector of the US economy. It currently employs more than 200,000 workers, thousands of them Latinos, and double that of the coal mining industry. And for us Latinos, solar energy is a three-fold blessing.

“Since I had my rooftop solar panels installed last year, I spend less than half of what I used to pay for dirty energy,” says Oscar Medina, a client of Solar City in Tucson, AZ. “It not only keeps my home cool in the Arizona desert, it also allows me to avoid using power from dirty coal.”

And one of those thousands of Latino solar workers is Roberto “Bobby” Rosthenhousler, another Tucson resident, whose mother is from Los Mochis, Mexico. He enthusiastically supports solar.

Arizona Solar 04

“If you are Latino, this is a good choice,” says Bobby, who installs panels for Net Zero Solar. “As long as the sun is there, we are going to have a job. I want to be a pioneer because there is only room to improve in this industry.”

But dark clouds loom over solar —the backlash of public utilities. In the last four years, the explosive growth of rooftop solar has turned it into a severe threat to an archaic system based on a monopolistic model that heavily depends on dirty energy.

Take Arizona utility Tucson Electric Power (TEP), which owns, at least partly, four coal-burning plants, including the San Juan Generating Station in Northern New Mexico.

TEP is due to review its energy plan for the next few years, which presents it with the opportunity to drop at least a large part of its coal fleet and expand its clean, renewable energy portfolio. Alas, TEP plans to stick with the dirty coal plant, hike rates for its customers and damage Arizona’s growing rooftop solar industry with new fees on solar customers such as Oscar.

Arizona Solar 02

Utilities across the country justify these rate hikes by arguing that rooftop solar clients continue relying on the electric grid without contributing their fair share to its maintenance. Study after study, however, indicates that rooftop solar reduces the stress and wear of the grid by using it less often. Furthermore, it limits the construction of expensive, dirty plants, thus substantially reducing coal pollution and the climate change it triggers.

These abusive practices may paint a bleak future for the rooftop solar industry. The clean energy progress, however, is unstoppable. A Cambridge University study indicates that photovoltaic solar panels will soon be more competitive than any fossil fuel energy. And this scares the living lights out of the energy dinosaurs.

“They need to let other environmentally friendly companies come in and provide a service that would especially benefit working-class families,” says Oscar. “It’s clear that utilities need to stop the pollution that makes people sick, especially us Latinos.”

Arizona Solar 01

“My four-year-old is autistic,” says Bobby. “And that’s one other reason I went into clean energy. I worry about all those chemicals in the air affect my child. This is something I can give back to him.”

No matter how hard the utilities try, you can’t block the sun with an umbrella.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Florida Utilities Determined To Mislead Voters

YES ON 1?  UH . . . NO!

July 15th, 2016 by Steve Hanley (solarlove.org)

Rooftop solar power in Florida is under assault. A ballot initiative sponsored by the Floridians For Solar Choice would have prevented the state government or utility companies from imposing “barriers to supplying local solar electricity.” If passed, it would have allowed homeowners to install rooftop solar systems with few upfront costs. It would also have allowed shopping centers to install solar panels on their roofs and sell the electricity to their commercial tenants. Unfortunately, that amendment failed to gather enough signatures to qualify to be on the ballot in November.

Florida solar ballot intitiative

But the state’s utility companies have come up with a ballot proposal that sounds similar to the one Floridians For Solar Choice was promoting. Entitled “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” it guarantees consumers “the right to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use.” So far, so good. Then it adds what seems like an afterthought. “[C]onsumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.”

That last language leaves it up to the state’s public utilities commission to decide such issues as whether local utilities can assess monthly “grid charges” to people with rooftop solar systems and whether utility companies need to compensate them for excess electricity fed back into the grid. Similar provisions imposed by utilities in Nevada essentially put the rooftop solar industry out of business. SolarCity decided to shut down its operations in the state, a move that put more than 500 people out of work.

The Miami Herald castigates the initiative with this headline: Florida’s solar amendment designed to mislead voters. The Florida Supreme Court approved the utility backed ballot initiative, now rebranded as “Yes On 1 For The Sun, by one vote. Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in a scathing dissent, “Let the pro-solar energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”

We like to think that the benefits of solar power are self evident and that solar is about to sweep away old fashioned generating facilities with their noxious fumes and toxic emissions. But as the chart above put together by the Energy and Policy Institute demonstrates, powerful interests — including the Koch Brothers == have deep pockets and are willing to spend millions to protect what they perceive as their God given right to pollute the environment just as long as it is profitable to do so.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Big Data Center Company Sues Nevada Regulators, Utility Over Solar Deal

by Katie Fehrenbacher (July 14, 2016) FORTUNE.COM

AZ-Solar 04

It’s the latest dispute in Nevada over solar.

The owner of some of the world’s largest data centers has sued Nevada regulators and that state’s utility over a solar energy deal that it says led to it being overcharged.

Las Vegas-based data center operator Switch filed a lawsuit this week that alleges that its agreement to buy solar power, partly brokered by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission and utility NV Energy, was unfair, overpriced, and that employees of the state regulator acted inappropriately. The suit, which asks for $30 million in damages, claims fraud, negligence, and conspiracy.

The lawsuit is the latest dispute that has emerged involving solar energy in Nevada, a state with ample sunshine that was an early clean energy supporter.

As companies and residents in Nevada increasingly install solar panels, and sometimes unplug from the power grid, the state regulator and NV Energy are trying to figure out how to manage. The utility and the regulator have repeatedly clashed with both companies selling solar panels and customers buying solar panels.

NV Energy is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Switch, along with some of the world’s largest Internet companies like Google GOOG -0.15% and Apple AAPL -0.01% , have increasingly sought to buy solar and wind power to operate data centers as a way to manage energy costs and be more environmentally friendly.

Switch, which has two massive data centers in Nevada, says it started trying to buy solar power from NV Energy in 2011. Its data centers, which sell services to eBay, Zappos and Cisco, are power-hungry facilities that are filled with computers.

Switch says NV Energy ignored its requests to buy solar power, prompting it to file an application in 2014 to disconnect from the grid so that it could seek solar power from other sources like First Solar FLSR 0.00% .

In the summer of 2015, Switch says the Nevada Public Utilities Commission denied its application to leave the grid. The regulator found that because Switch was such a large power customer, leaving the grid would financially hurt NV Energy and force it to raise rates and thus harm other power customers.

Instead, regulators said that Switch could buy solar power for a higher price through a deal with First Solar, but with NV Energy as the middleman. Switch says it agreed to the deal because it felt like it had no other options, and because an important federal solar subsidy was set to expire by the end of the year that would have driven up solar prices even more (the federal subsidy ended up getting extended).

First Solar is now installing 180 megawatts of solar panels as part of a deal to sell the power to Switch. That’s enough energy to run close to 30,000 average American homes.

Following Switch’s solar deal, the regulator later allowed several large Las Vegas casinos to disconnect from the power grid, with the agreement that the casinos would have to pay hefty fees to NV Energy to leave.

Switch says the solar deal it agreed to was an unlawful attempt to “retain Switch as a customer of the monopoly NV Energy.” Switch also says that the NPUC’s attorney, Carolyn Tanner, acted inappropriately by discussing the case on social media using a pseudonym.

The NPUC said it has yet to receive service of the complaint and therefore has no comment at this time.

NV Energy said in a statement:

“Switch is a very important customer to NV Energy, and given how far we thought we had come over the past two and a half years of working with their team on a variety of issues and opportunities, we are surprised and disappointed with this turn of events. If we are eventually served with the complaint, we will vigorously defend our company and our employees from baseless claims.”

This isn’t the first time a company has accused the NPUC and NV Energy of colluding.

Late last year, regulators approved a plan to increase the fees and lower the rates that solar customers earn for generating electricity. The new rate structure makes roof-installed solar panels uneconomical in the state, according to solar companies, some of which stopped doing business in Nevada.

Following the solar roof rate change, solar companies like SolarCity SCTY 1.58% and SunRun RUN -1.17% accused the NPUC of being in the pocket of NV Energy. NPUC Chairman Paul Thomsen denied the accusation in an interview with Fortune.

Solar companies and solar customers are turning to other venues to fight the regulator’s decisions.

A ballot measure, dubbed the Energy Choice Initiative, if approved would enable companies to buy power on the open market rather than only through the utility. That measure will be voted on in November.

Another ballot measure would ask voters if they want to restore the more favorable solar rates. That measure is being contested in the state Supreme Court, but also made it onto the ballot in November.

Lawsuits have been pointed at all parties over the solar roof rate change. In March a solar group filed a lawsuit against the NPUC seeking to overturn the new solar rates. Earlier this year solar customers filed a class action lawsuit against NV Energy, alleging the utility provided false information to the state’s regulator. And another solar customer sued SolarCity accusing it of failing to disclose information about the potential rate change.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy

by Erin Pierce (June 16, 2016) renewableenergyworld.com

Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy – Renewable Energy World

rooftop solar 01

The solar industry is changing rapidly as it experiences unprecedented growth. Here are 6 facts that may surprise you about this increasingly popular source of power.

6.   Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth — 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.

5.   The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. On the first page of its April 26, 1954 issue, The New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

4.   The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology. In the 1950s, the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. The Vanguard 1 — the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells — remains the oldest manmade satellite in orbit — logging more than 6 billion miles.

3.   Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world and is positioned to become the second.

2.   As prices continue to fall, solar energy is increasingly becoming an economical energy choice for American homeowners and businesses. Still, the biggest hurdle to affordable solar energy remains the soft costs — like permitting, zoning and hooking a solar system up to the power gird. On average, local permitting and inspection processes add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system and can take up to six months to complete. The SunShot Initiative’s soft costs program works to make it faster and cheaper for families and businesses to go solar.

1.   California’s Mojave Desert is home to Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant. It uses concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to focus 173,500 heliostats, each containing two mirrors, onto boilers located in three power towers. The plant, which came online in 2014, has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). CSP technology is unique in that it allows for solar energy to be stored for use after the sun sets — a key focus for our recent research and development efforts — which addresses some of the concerns over delivering solar power when and where it is needed most.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Solar Hits Millionth Installation In The U.S. – Faster Growth Ahead

by Michael McDonald (May 12, 2016) yahoo.com; oilprice.com

DSCN4986

In February, the millionth solar installation was completed in the United States. That momentous number has taken forty years to arrive. Fortunately for renewable energy advocates everywhere, the next million installations will likely take a lot less than forty years. At the end of 2015, the U.S. solar market had a total capacity of 27 gigawatts.

While that number may sound like a lot, in reality it’s only 1 percent of the overall electrical mix of the country. Given that, solar still has a long way to go before it becomes a major energy production source in the U.S. Conversely, solar power also has a long potential growth runway ahead of it.

Solar power installations are expected to grow 119 percent in 2016, or roughly 16 GW of additional installed base. That compares to 7.3 GW installed in 2015. By 2020, the U.S. could have 100 GW of installed capacity and an annual growth installation rate of 20GW. On the whole then, solar still seems to have years of growth ahead of it.

Solar’s growth is changing the economics of the conventional utility industry. Now that more than a million households have solar panels, grid managers are set to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional power plants by 1,400 MW starting in 2019, according to industry consultants ICF. That amount represents the power capacity consumed by roughly 800,000 households.

While it sounds extreme to call conventional electrical generation a business in secular decline or even at risk of being disrupted, there might be more truth in either of those arguments than many investors would like to believe. The cuts to the conventional grid due to solar represent more than $2B in lost revenue. Adding to generation woes, environmental rules are becoming tougher and tougher with no sign of turning back, and wholesale power prices are being driven largely by the price of natural gas. The current minor rebound in natural gas and oil prices notwithstanding, there is still a glut of both commodities, and that is especially true for U.S. natural gas. Against this backdrop then, it’s little wonder that electrical wholesalers seem to be struggling. Revenue from electricity sales fell 1.3 percent to $388 billion in 2015.

Yet it’s too soon for either environmentalists or solar business owners to begin celebrating. An industry with almost $400 billion in annual revenues is still very much a lion in a cage match with a solar mouse. Utilities can call on political power and the ability to effectively arbitrage prices based on peak usage throughout the day (though storage batteries are increasingly undermining this latter tool). In addition, there is nothing to stop major energy companies from entering the solar business on their own either in the rooftop segment or with a distributed grid model. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, utilities and generation firms still command the lion’s share of capital in the industry. It is well within the capacity of utility firms to buy part or all of various new technology companies thus giving themselves a call option on changes in the industry.

Utility companies have many tools at their disposal to help deal with the changing environment if they accept that the environment is changing and choose to adapt. After all, mammals were a lot smaller than dinosaurs, yet the former survived the changing environment of the Ice Age as the latter died in droves. Utilities could learn a thing or two from that historical analogy.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Solar Energy War: Utilities Set Their Sights on Rooftop Solar

by Travis Hoium (April 24, 2016) The Motley Fool www.fool.com

FREIBURG IM BREISGAU, GERMANY - MARCH 23: Solar panels stand on the roof of the Sun Ship part of the Freiburg Solar Settlement on March 23, 2012 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. The Solar Settlement is an ensemble of 59 homes and a commercial building created from sustainable materials generating 445 kW, per year from its solar panels. The photovoltaic roofs produce more energy than consumed by the settlement and whose supplementary income largely compensates its low additional costs. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)

Slowly but surely, utilities are eating away at the revolution taking place in rooftop solar. Nevada eliminated net metering altogether, California and Hawaii reduced net metering credits for customers, and utilities across the country are starting to increase base fees and challenge net metering to reduce the savings solar provides.

The result is effectively a war between residential solar companies and the utilities they’re trying to disrupt. And where your solar investments are positioned in this battle could tell you a lot about their future.

Why the battle over net metering is taking place
The core disagreement between utilities and solar companies is over the price homeowners are credited for solar electricity they export to the grid. The solar energy that’s produced and consumed at a home isn’t in question — it’s only what’s exported that matters.

As the rules stand today, in most states customers are credited with their full retail rate, known as net metering. If the rate you pay for electricity is $0.12 per kWh, you would get a $0.12-per-kWh credit for the electricity exported to the grid. Companies like SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY), Sunrun (NASDAQ:RUN), and SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) love this structure because they can sell electricity to homeowners for less than their retail rate (in this example, $0.12 per kWh), offering savings to go solar. 

solar farm 04But utilities argue that they can buy solar electricity from large solar farms at a more cost-effective rate than homeowners can. And that makes sense. NV Energy, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B), was behind Nevada’s massive cut in net metering and its numbers show the problem for rooftop solar. The utility has signed contracts in the last two years with First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) and SunPower to buy solar energy for $0.039 per kWh and $0.046 per kWh, respectively — far below what you would pay for solar on your roof. So, why should it then be happy buying solar energy from customers for $0.114 per kWh, which is the latest retail rate for electricity? And why should regulators force the utility to buy that more expensive solar energy? 

That’s the picture if you’re looking at the system as a whole. And it’s hard to argue that the utility doesn’t have a point that it can procure solar energy more effectively than homeowners. But that doesn’t take into account other system benefits, like locally created supply, reduced need for transmission lines, reduction in demand during peak summer air condition hours or choices in energy, something that’s new to the industry.  

Does choice in energy matter?
One thing residential solar companies would argue is that choice in energy matters. If a customer wants to generate their own electricity they should be able to. And that’s true.

But what can’t go overlooked is that solar systems are still reliant on the grid for reliable operation of a home, and net metering, in one form or another, is the only way to make rooftop solar truly economical until batteries that allow 100% self consumption are an economical option.

Customers have the choice to go solar, but in most cases they’re also reliant on compensation from the grid to make their solar choice work. And that tension between choice and compensation is the battle between solar companies and utilities today.

Community solar could solve all of these problems
rooftop solar 03What could solve this problem is if customers begin getting the choice to buy solar energy from a community solar farm. These are larger solar installations that could leveraging the lower cost that scale provides, but it would still sell energy directly by customers, just like a rooftop solar system. Think of it as owning a small piece of a solar farm for yourself. And the utility would be able to accurately predict energy production and costs, making for more predictability on the grid.

I think community solar will end up being a win-win-win for customers, solar companies, and utilities in the long term, but they’re relatively new to the industry right now. Keep an eye on this as a structure going forward as a way to balance everyone’s interests.

Where do you stand in the solar war?
I don’t write any of this to take sides in rooftop solar vs. utilities, but rather to lay out the position different companies have in this battle. Utilities are often seen as the bad guys, trying to kill off a threatening innovation like rooftop solar. But there’s a logical reason to think that utilities could actually help bring more solar energy to the grid more cost effectively than rooftop solar companies can. And that’s one of their best arguments for utilities against net metering. If your goal is more solar energy production and not more energy choice, you may lean to the utility side of the argument.

But rooftop solar companies also have a good point that they bring choice to a market that’s never had choice before. I just wouldn’t expect them to win the argument that net metering will make sense forever given the low-cost solar alternatives and potential cost shift to non-solar customers in high-penetration markets.

When investing in solar, it’s important to know where your company stands as the industry changes in the long term. And if you’re counting on net metering to fuel your company’s business model — as SolarCity and Sunrun are — you may want to reconsider how sustainable that model is. Utilities across the country are chipping away at net metering, and that may not be good for the disruptive rooftop solar market.

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

San Diego County Nears Solar Threshold

by Consumer Bob (April 5, 2016)  www.nbcsandiego.com

Rental Solar 01

San Diego has one of the highest concentrations of home solar customers in the country. But while the number of solar companies is growing, there are changes coming that could take money out of your pocket.

By one estimate, the average neighborhood solar project runs around $24,000.

Houses along Interstate 15 in Scripps Ranch and in the East County make up the epicenter of San Diego’s solar universe.

“The industry is growing by leaps and bounds to the tune of 30 to 50 percent growth per year,” said Daniel Sullivan with Sullivan Solar Power.

He estimates there are now more than 200 companies offering solar in the county.

In March, during what is normally one of the slowest times of the year, San Diego County saw the second highest number of installations ever.

One reason for the rush? San Diego County is about to reach its 5 percent solar threshold. At the current installation rate, that’s about 60 days out according to Sullivan.

Until recently, that would have been the end of net metering, or the point where San Diego Gas & Electric credits solar customers for their excess electricity.

The Public Utilities Commission extended net metering until at least 2019, but it did agree with power companies to add new fees once the 5 percent cap is reached.

“Those that go solar after the cap is hit are going to pay probably around $200 more per year on their annual electricity bills than if they’d gone solar beforehand,” Sullivan said.

There will also be a one-time installation fee of about $150. 

If you want to take advantage of the savings, expect some delay. 

“We have to get the permits, we have to secure the equipment and that time line can be roughly 30 days,” said Sullivan.

 He predicts San Diego will reach its net metering cap by late May or early June, San Diego Gas & Electric is predicting mid-summer.  

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

solar panels 02

Will SRP ever see the light on solar energy?

by Nick Brown (March 25, 2016) www.azcentral.com

Viewpoints: Salt River Project, the nation’s largest public electrical utility, only gets about 5 percent of its power from renewable sources. That’s not nearly enough.

solar panels 02

Salt River Project  has a rich history of providing dependable and affordable electricity to its ratepayers, which number nearly one million accounts and about two million people in metro Phoenix.

The nation’s largest public electrical utility, SRP’s electrical district ended 2014 with a $40 million surplus on just under $3 billion in revenues. Fiscal responsibility, high quality customer service, dependable electrical service and overall sound management are hallmarks of the utility.

Yet, SRP’s progress toward renewable energy deployment is poor.  Only 5.7 percent of its power is generated by renewable energy sources, according to the utility’s own website.  By comparison, 23.8 percent of PG&E’s power is from renewable sources, 21.6 percent of SoCal Ed’s, and 23 percent of Austin Energy’s.  By capitalizing on Arizona’s abundant solar energy, SRP can become a leader in clean energy.

The district must become more innovative and more supportive of rooftop and utility-scale solar energy.   Several policies and projects will result in a greener SRP, including:

Get rid of the rooftop solar tax

Roll back the E-27 rooftop solar tariff that has taken away the solar option for ratepayers and crippled the solar industry in the SRP service area.  In February 2015, SRP implemented a demand charge for new solar customers that lacks a technical basis, and that drove 2,200 solar jobs out of Arizona last year.

This knee jerk reaction to the solar boom has turned out to be bad for SRP customers who want to use clean energy, bad for Arizona’s solar industry and awful for the state’s reputation among businesses that are looking for friendly places to locate innovative enterprises.

Developing SRP rate plans should be done through an even-handed, unhurried, transparent fact finding process that considers multiple studies, expert opinions and public input.

These things didn’t happen last year, and unlike rate making processes of the Arizona Corporation Commission, SRP’s deliberations rarely include any of these features.

SRP decisions should include these ideas:

  • Develop a pricing plan that incentivizes solar rooftops to face west

  • Solarize select areas of the canals

  • Build solar farms at Apache Lake and Canyon Lake

  • Couple demand reduction with solar energy

  • Develop a microgrid project

  • Develop thermal energy systems in commercial centers

SRP will continue to develop and purchase energy from regional wind farms, solar farms, hydroelectric facilities, biomass plants, and geothermal plants.  It will continue to subsidize energy audits, LED lighting, home insulation and time-of-day use plans.

Continued success of these programs, in conjunction with initiatives such as those outlined above, will maintain the financial strength of the SRP Electric District, reduce exposure to fuel price increases, reduce SRP’s greenhouse gas emissions, provide cleaner air and water for Arizona, and provide ratepayers and our grandchildren the lowest cost electricity over the long term.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

solar panels 01

Net Metering: Who Pays for Energy Subsidies?

It’s looking like the battle lines have been drawn.   Power utility companies are fighting back by demanding to pay wholesale rates, instead of retail rates,  for power produced by roof-top solar net-meter customers.  Not only do roof-top solar energy producers currently pay the same monthly fees and taxes as non-solar customers, but now the power company giants insist roof-top solar producers pay more . . . . much more, $50 per month on top of the other fees and taxes.  Why $50?  Why not $75 or $100? I mean, if we are going to be forced back to the 20th century to sustain the mighty energy monopolies why not go all the way and crush the renewable energy movement altogether!  How much insanity does it take to turn our backs on renewable energy technology that has been proven to benefit the environment, reduce CO2 emissions, and that is renewable and sustainable?  What will be our destiny? Will we be permitted to continue our renewable energy revolution, or will short sighted politicians enforce solar energy obstacles (see recent Nevada legislation) that result in the total return to fossil fuels . . . all in the name of the almighty dollar?  Perhaps the following news article can shed more dollar driven evidence to where the lines are being drawn.    (by Brent Sauaer)

By Earl. J. Ritchie (University  of Houston Lecturer) March 16, 2016 forbes.com

net meter 03net meter 01

A huge controversy has arisen in California and other states over the way solar electrical generation is subsidized by net metering, or the way in which people who produce solar energy – usually through rooftop panels – are reimbursed for the energy they generate and send back to the electric grid. Proposed or already approved reductions have been greeted by public protests, lawsuits and even a proposed amendment to the national Energy Policy Modernization Act, which would limit the ability of states to reduce subsidies.

The fight pits solar rooftop owners and the solar industry against utility companies and free marketers.

The issue

Forty-three states have mandatory net metering plans. Most net metering plans in the United States require utility companies to buy back excess electricity generated from distributed (residential and business) solar installations at the retail cost of electricity.

With the slightest bit of thought you will recognize that this is not a valid business model. No business can cover the cost of operation and profit necessary while buying their product at the same price that they sell it. In the case of utility companies, they must provide billing, support services, grid maintenance and other operational functions. For the amount of electricity provided by net metering, these costs are not covered. Typically, unrecovered costs are transferred to customers who do not have solar installations by raising electricity rates.

This is not a problem as long as the fraction of feed-in energy is small. Once solar capacity becomes a significant portion of electricity generated, as has happened in California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii, there is a free-for-all over who will pay these unrecovered costs.

The California example

California has by far the largest amount of solar generating capacity in the United States, representing over half of total U.S. installed solar capacity. The combination of government incentives and the decreasing costs of solar photovoltaic panels has made solar installations highly profitable, resulting in explosive growth of solar installations and the industry that markets, finances and installs the equipment.

Since solar electricity now represents 7.5% of California supply and is expected to continue to grow, the subsidy is no longer a trivial issue. A heated controversy began as a result of requests in 2015 by the major publicly traded utilities, Southern California Edison , Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, to be compensated for unrecovered costs of net metering by additional fees and lowering the price they pay for net metered electricity. The solar industry and green power advocates responded with vociferous objections, with one spokesman calling it a “war on solar.”

In a 2016 decision generally regarded as a victory for the solar industry, the California Public Utilities Commission retained net metering at retail cost but imposed certain fees on residential solar installations. To some extent, the Commission kicked the can down the road by indicating that they will reconsider net metering in 2019.

The bigger picture

Net metering applies to rooftop solar, which represents about one third of U.S. solar capacity. The issue of subsidizing renewable energy is much broader: utility scale generation is roughly twice the size of rooftop solar, and subsidy considerations also apply to wind power and other renewables. In addition, it is a worldwide issue. The U.S. only represents about 10% of installed solar photovoltaic capacity; the largest capacities are in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Public discussion often focuses on economic analyses, which are typically slanted to the viewpoints of the authors. Analyses by utility companies tend to focus on the cost of providing generation; analyses by solar advocates often include imputed environmental benefit and avoided cost of transmission and other generation facilities. Although pro-solar analyses may conclude that solar is currently economic, the IEA reports that only 4% of solar installations in 2014 were economic without subsidy. This means continued growth of solar in at least the near-term will be dependent upon subsidies.

How much should the subsidy be?

There is no reason net metering credits need necessarily be at full retail cost. Some international jurisdictions value credits below retail cost. A recent “value of solar” calculation by the Minnesota Public Utility Commission places the value above retail cost, largely on the basis on the value of avoided carbon emissions. Ideally, subsidies should be no higher than is necessary to achieve the desired utilization. As solar costs decrease, subsidies should also decrease.

The drafters of net metering legislation recognized the limitations discussed here and often included reductions when caps on the amount generated are reached. This has not prevented the beneficiaries of subsidies from complaining when they are reduced.

Who pays?

There is strong public support for alternative energy development and renewable energy incentives. This does not answer the question as to what the form and amount of incentives should be. Net metering at full retail cost transfers the cost to utility customers who do not install solar. Other forms of incentive, such as tax credits, are paid by state or local governments out of general tax revenue.

Even if the imputed environmental benefits and avoided costs of future fossil fuel power plants are taken at face value, someone has to pay the up-front cost of new solar installations if solar capacity is to grow at the rate that solar advocates desire. It has been well demonstrated that the number of homeowners and businesses willing to install solar drops dramatically if subsidies are reduced. For example, when the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted to reduce net metering credits, the solar installation companies SolarCity, Vivant and SunRun announced they would pull out of the state. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the changes were quoted as saying they would never have invested in their PV systems had they known Nevada’s net metering program would be scaled back.

So, who is to pay? Will you and I pay through general taxes? Will utility customers pay through higher rates? At present, the utility companies would have solar users pay through lower credits. The solar companies would have utility customers and the general public pay. Free marketers would eliminate subsidies and have no one pay. As the late Sen. Russell B. Long said, ”Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

net meter 02

WHY BIG RETAILERS ARE GOING SOLAR

By Katie Fehrenbacher (March 8, 2016) fortune.com

IKEA 05IKEA 07

It’s about economics, not just environmentalism.

Years ago, big retailers and tech companies installed solar panels as a way to take an environmental stance. But these days it’s often an economic choice that is fueled by the promise of lower and less volatile energy costs.

On Tuesday, Whole Foods WFM 1.43% said that it planned a huge project to cover nearly one-fourth of its stores with solar panels. After construction is complete, Whole Foods says it could be among the top 25 biggest commercial U.S. solar suppliers alongside Walmart WMT -0.01% , Walgreens WBA 1.04% , and Target TGT 0.81% .

According to a report last year by the Solar Energy Industry Association: “While solar has long been viewed as an environmentally responsible energy choice, businesses now deploy solar because it is a smart fiscal choice as well.”

Whole Foods’ global sustainability leader, Kathy Loftus, said in a statement that the move was about “lower energy costs,” among other goals. Whole Food’s global energy coordinator, Aaron Daly, told Fortune that the solar project is about “environmental stewardship while saving money and reducing the power price volatility for our stores.”

Another report from SEIA found that in every quarter in 2015, the average cost of solar systems for commercial businesses dropped steadily. Across 2015, the cost of solar systems for commercial businesses slid by an average of 10% to a low of around $2 per watt by the end the year.

Whole Foods is working with solar panel suppliers NRG NRG -2.72% and SolarCity SCTY 4.86% to cover its stores in solar. These companies, which build solar projects for homes and businesses in huge numbers, can provide Whole Foods and others with attractive deals that potentially make solar cheaper than a typical monthly utility bill. These solar deals also fix the rate that companies pay for solar power over time so companies can hedge against a spike in grid prices.

Add in attractive state and federal incentives, and solar looks like a good deal. That is particularly true in California, which is expected to be home to a third of the solar installations for commercial companies and community solar farms next year.

Overall, U.S. solar is growing rapidly. Last year, the U.S. built more solar power than natural gas power for the first time ever.

Indeed, SEIA’s list of the top 25 commercial solar companies reads like a who’s who of the Fortune 500 including Walmart, Apple AAPL -0.20% , Intel INTC 1.01% , Costco COST 1.28% , and General Motors GM 0.46% .

Don’t expect the trend to reverse. There are still ample ways to reduce the cost of solar for commercial companies.

In contrast to the really cheap solar deals that utilities are doing, commercial companies are still facing hurdles with so-called soft costs, or the added costs of everything that isn’t hardware like marketing, software, and paper work. The soft costs edge up the total cost of commercial solar. But solar companies expect to be able to reduce these soft costs for commercial solar deployments, too, through new algorithms, use of data and even new startups.

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

UTAH Senate Approves Bill Critics Say Hurts Solar Growth, Favors Power Utility

by Robert Gehrke – The Salt Lake Tribune (March 4, 2016)

Utah 01

The Utah Senate approved legislation Friday, that would make significant changes to the way electricity rates are calculated — a move that opponents contend would devastate Utah’s rooftop solar industry and mean major increases in electricity bills.

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said his intent was to have the Legislature set policy that would benefit Utahns and use money more effectively to clean up the air.

“We need to be able to move to solutions that are environmentally friendly,” Adams said. “If we’re going to spend those monies, we ought to be doing it to protect the air quality we need.”

Adams’ SB115, third substitute, would do the following:

•  Would allow Rocky Mountain Power to use $10 million from customers for the utility’s “Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan,” to fund charging stations for electric cars, research on clean-coal technology and alternative energy programs

•  Would eliminate a solar-power incentive program for residential and large-scale solar users

•  Would allow the utility to recoup 100 percent of the cost of buying power, as opposed to the current 70 percent level

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, called SB115 an attempt to “judge shop,” because Rocky Mountain Power recognizes it can’t get the rate increases it wants through the normal path of the Public Service Commission.

“This is a powerful utility saying, ‘You know what, we don’t think we’re going to like what’s coming down the track [with the PSC] … we want to short-circuit it because we want a different result,’ ” Dabakis said.

Adams said he thinks the bill would actually keep energy prices down because Rocky Mountain Power wouldn’t have to pay retail rates to buy solar power produced by rooftop arrays and can instead buy cheaper watts from other sources, and the money saved can go to other clean energy.

“We’re stopping that so rates should actually go down, and we’re redirecting that money … into clean fuel vehicles, at least part of it,” Adams said.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said there is a disparity now where most of the subsidies go toward renewable energy that provides minimal benefit, while the coal industry — a major business in his central Utah district — struggles.

“Think about the jobs that [have] been lost in the coal business as well,” Hinkins said. “The poor people, the ones who can afford it, don’t need tax credits — they have no benefits. … The only ones that can afford [solar] are the businesses and rich people.”

South Jordan resident Michael Acton invested $22,000 to put solar panels on his roof, in part because the ability to sell electricity back to Rocky Mountain Power allowed him to recoup part of the cost on his utility bills. Acton fears the bill would change how much he and others would be credited for any excess power they produce, leaving it up to the utility to decide how much they’ll be paid.

“It made financial sense to me. The other reason is I wanted to be more self-sufficient,” he said. “It’s going to affect my investment. It’s going to affect all these solar companies out there. There are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs lost.”

Tom Mills, who works for Alpenglow Solar, a Utah solar company, said a similar bill in Nevada has been devastating for the solar industry, and he fears Rocky Mountain Power will hike fees so high that “it won’t be cost effective and basically nobody can put in solar” until battery technology evolves.

“You’ll see the solar industry dry up here just like it did in Nevada,” said Mills. “Overall, what they’re doing is they’re circumventing the Utah Public Service Commission. Every item that is in that bill would normally be brought to the Public Service Commission for review,” Mills said.

Adams said those concerns were really based on “hearsay” and not based on the reality in the bill.

“The only effect on the solar industry that I know of is there’s a lottery that’s held [to receive a subsidy] that affects a very, very small number of users,” Adams said.

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

Tessla Gigafactory Progress

by Brent Sauser

 With the recent power struggle (pun intended) between Elon Musk and the solar industry versus Warren Buffet and the Nevada power utility going in favor of the power utility monopoly, the question is what happens next?  Since the decision came down a few months ago for folks with roof top solar to pay their “fair share” to support the power grid infrastructure, as well as getting slapped with a substantial reduction in the power sold back to the utility through net-metering, it appears for the recent future any progress in solar applications in Nevada have been placed on an indefinite hold.   In fact, thousands employed in the Nevada solar industry are being laid off or transferred to other more solar friendly states to work. Will others states follow the example of Nevada?

With over 340 clear, sunny days a year in Nevada, leave it to those with a  20th century mentality to demand what, for them, is the mother’s milk of life . . . . more MONEY!  It’s money above and beyond common sense; money at the expense of those who bought into the solar option based on rules that changed because of a threat to profits.  I guess if that’s all that matters, you can never have enough, even when that means screwing with the good faith of those who spent their retirement money to help the environment and feel a bit of freedom from producing their own power.  Instead of embracing the future, Nevada turned it’s back to the environment and renewable energy in favor of a monopoly that is whining because solar is cutting into the bottom line.   And, leave it to them to cry foul when the solar industry packs up and leaves.  They claim the solar industry backed the decision, but did so with a gun to their heads (figuratively speaking, of course).  Leaving came as a total surprise to them.   REALLY!  When given the sorry option of supporting the changes or a moratorium on future solar installations would occur . . . what would you do?

This caused me to wonder about the progress of the Tessla Gigafactory in Nevada.  It is progressing well as can be seen in the attached videos.  I’d have to think that because of this new anti-solar legislation that Elon Musk will have to work extra hard to assure that the gigafactory is operable 100% off the grid.  That way it will be exempt from the pushing and pulling of the public power utility.  For that matter, the homes in Nevada with roof top solar can add storage batteries to capture the power that would otherwise be net-metered back to the utility.  If their system is large enough to be a Net Zero installation there should be enough production capability to go off-grid without too much creature comfort sacrifice.

Politicians and greedy billionaires can slow down the renewable energy revolution, but they will never kill it.  Common sense will prevail.  As a roof-top solar owner, I am deeply interested in this phase in which we find ourselves.  Will we return to the 19th and 20th centuries to preserve old, archaic business models, or look to a future that embraces sustainable and renewable energy resources.  Considering the growing turmoil in the world, that decision may be made for us whether we like it or not!

Nevada Solar-Law Author Concerned as Solar Companies Flee

NEVADA TAKES A GIANT STEP BACK INTO THE DARK AGES and is shocked with the outcome!

by Chris Martin (BloombergBusiness) January 11, 2016

Nevada 01

Patricia Farley, lead author of a bill authorizing Nevada regulators to revise state solar policies, didn’t expect the new rules to prompt two major solar companies to cut jobs and leave the state.

“I’m absolutely concerned,” Farley, a Republican state senator from Nevada’s 8th District, said in a phone interview Monday.

The legislation was passed in March, and had the blessing of the solar industry and the state’s utilities, she said. It gave the Nevada Public Utilities Commission authority to create a new class of utility customers that use solar panels to generate power. It also granted the PUC the right to increase fees for these customers’ usage of the power grid.

The commissioners in late December voted to increase a fixed monthly fee for solar customers by about 40 percent and reduced the amount customers get paid for excess power they sell to the grid. It also made these changes retroactive.

Job Cuts

The solar industry balked at the changes. SolarCity Corp. announced last week plans to fire 550 field and support staff in Nevada and Sunrun Inc. followed a day later with “hundreds” more job cuts.

“I’ll have to take a look at the numbers,” Farley said. “I have to assume that the PUC would do the right thing. People who already had solar relied on the old rate structure. They should have a remedy.”

The industry last week sought to halt the new fees and to force regulators to reconsider their decision. The PUC plans to hear the first request at a hearing in Carson City Wednesday, and solar industry supporters and workers plan to protest the new rates at a rally there and in Las Vegas.

The issue is playing out across the U.S. as surging demand for rooftop solar panels eats into utilities’ revenue. Regulators are grappling with how to balance desires for cleaner energy and customer choice with utilities that say customers who go solar aren’t paying for their use of the electric grid.

“There is significant cost-shifting with solar that needs to be addressed,” Farley said. “SolarCity and Sunrun were at the table and agreed that the best place for that is at the PUC. That’s still the case.”

SolarCity Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said his company agreed to support the law because utilities were about to reach the state’s self-imposed limit on rooftop solar installations and sales would have stopped without a compromise to lift it. He expects the PUC to reconsider the ruling as the ramifications became more clear.

“We literally had a gun against our head to support it,” Rive said in an interview Monday.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Enphase plug-and-play solar energy storage system to begin pilot program

by Lynda Delacey (October 29, 2015) GizMag.com

Enphase Battery 01

An interesting new player is set to enter the emerging home energy storage arena in the shape of the Enphase Home Energy Solution. Enphase is billed as the world’s first integrated system that allows home users to store, monitor and manage their rooftop-generated solar electricity, while controlling their overall electricity consumption. The new product will be piloted in Australia from December 2015.

The system, (which was clearly named by engineers) provides a modular AC battery array and a networking hub that connects to a cloud-based monitoring app.

“Every other solution on the market that we know of is essentially just a battery,” Enphase Energy’s Asia-Pacific managing director, Nathan Dunn, told Gizmag. “This means you’d have to add additional components to convert the power supply to AC, and additional software to monitor the battery usage. All of that requires a lot of complex engineering. We’re offering a complete solution that can be essentially a plug and play exercise.”

The wall-mountable Enphase AC Battery measures just 390 x 325 x 220 mm (16 x 13 x 9 in) and weighs 25 kg (55 lbs). Each battery incorporates a bidirectional microinverter and provides 1.2 kW hours of energy and 275W/500W power output. It has an ambient temperature range of -20°C to 45°C (-4° to 113° F) and a limited warranty (> 80% capacity) for up to 10 years or 7300 cycles.

“We’ve partnered with ELIIY Power, a Japanese battery provider to develop a battery based on Lithium Iron Phosphate chemistry,” said Dunn. “This is an incredibly safe technology with a prismatic cell format that is very resilient to high temperatures and trauma events.”

According to Enphase, a hypothetical home user with a PV array may choose to install the system in three stages.

Stage one: Install Enphase Envoy-S Metered, the networking hub of the system. This device – around the size of an iPad – will send you information via the company’s MyEnlighten app. You can then start obsessing over how much energy your PV system is generating (and when), and how much energy your household is drawing from both your PV system and the grid throughout the day. This shows you how many storage batteries you may need.

Enphase Battery 03

Stage two: Start with two or three Enphase AC Batteries and have them installed in series to start building towards the battery capacity you need.

Enphase Battery 01

Stage three: The system will automatically start optimising your PV energy usage – shifting it to batteries when you’re generating more power than you use, and drawing electricity back from the batteries during peak usage periods. You can then start mixing things up – change your habits, or add more batteries and solar panels – to find ways to further reduce your electricity bill.

Enphase Battery 02

Enphase has announced pricing for the battery at AUD$1,150 (US$817) per kilowatt hour for volume purchases by direct customers in the Australian market, with a margin to be applied by partners.

There’s no denying that solar energy isn’t a cheap prospect yet, but with storage and efficiency still the industry’s biggest stumbling blocks, it will be interesting to see how the system goes on the market.

CLICK HERE to access the original article.

What Will the Year 2016 Bring?

by Brent Sauser

2016 01

2015 is quickly coming to an end and we are left with more questions than answers.

  1.  Will the debate over human influenced global climate change continue to divide a world?
  2.  Will politics over human influenced climate change continue to dominate the conversation instead of common sense?
  3.   Will we waste more time pointing fingers and name calling those on both sides of the issue?
  4.  Will the growing movement toward renewable systems slow down, speed up, or stay the same due to recent legislation by Congress to extend the 30% solar tax rebate program beyond 2016?
  5.  Will more people come to the realization that it makes good common sense to lower our overall power consumption and decide to go solar to offset what power we do consume?

These and more questions face us as we transition from 2015 to 2016.  It is anticipated that because of the recent solar tax rebate extension by Congress, the total number of solar installations will increase over 2015, but not to the levels projected when 2016 ended the tax rebate program.  Now that the solar rebate program extends through 2020, the forecast is indicating a moderate increase of solar installations each year.

It is a fact that in many parts of the USA power parity has already occurred.  Just check out costs per kWh in San Diego and Hawaii.  Going solar already makes good common sense . . . . . dollars and cents!   We installed a 7.5 kW roof top solar array in early September.  Last month we paid $10.44 for our power bill.   That is the minimum amount we pay and reflects the fee for net meter hook up as well as taxes.  Our bill also indicated a 97kWh surplus that the utility has “banked” in our favor.  What did you pay on your power bill last month?

Do the math . . . .  we paid $24,000 for our 7.5kW solar array.  The 30% federal tax rebate brings that total amount down to $16,800.   Our Enphase microinverters and Axitec solar panels are warranted for 25 years.   Assuming our system achieves Net Zero . . . . our total investment remains $16,800 over the 25 years.  Those who decide to stay on grid power will, in contrast, pay over $26,000 over the same period of time, and that is without taking into consideration rate increases.  So, you decide which makes more sense, staying on grid power or going solar.  Putting close to $200 back in my pocket each month is no small thing.  And here’s the good news; we managed to do all this in a 20 year old home with an eastern orientation.  I promise, it can be done.  It takes a lot of planning, research, along with a bit of lifestyle adaptation to make it work, but it works.

Let the politicians and intellectuals point fingers all they want.  All I know is I’m saving close to $200 every month on money I’m not spending on power bills.  That really adds up over time.  If you can’t afford to pay for a solar array outright, there are low interest loans increasingly available throughout the USA.  Check it out.

If this is the time of year to make resolutions I hope you will consider moving to a more Net Zero life style.  I wish you not only a happy new year, but a sustainable new year too.

be the change

Smart Meters: FACT vs. FICTION

by Greg Miller, Senior Tech. Analyst (Wall St. Daily)

SmartMeter

If you think we live in a connected world, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

By the time the Internet of Things (IoT) gets up to speed, just about everything will be connected to the web – systems, networks, devices, homes, appliances… you name it.

The upside here? Greater streamlining and functionality, as well as bigger savings.

But there’s a downside, too – one we’ve previously highlighted: security concerns.

One of the most controversial IoT devices is also one of the first – smart meters.

These meters – whether for water, gas, or electricity – hold the compelling promise of both reducing energy demand and saving millions of dollars for consumers. With electric meters, for example, consumers could ease demand for the fuels needed to produce electricity.

But in many cities, these meters, particularly the electric ones, have met with opposition.

So what’s the truth here?

Smart Meters: Friend or Foe?

To be blunt, many of the concerns and fears over smart meters are downright farcical. For example…

Smart Meters Make You Sick: Yes, some people really believe this. It’s entirely baseless.

However, it’s not uncommon for such fears to accompany new technologies. Remember when cellphones were supposed to give you brain cancer? They didn’t – and they don’t.

Some early smart meters used public spectrum similar to Wi-Fi, but almost all of them now use the same frequencies as your smartphone. So if you have a smartphone and don’t get sick from it, the same theory applies to your smart meter when it reports data back to the utility – it’s that simple.

Similarly, there was a remarkable phenomenon once known as Wind Turbine Syndrome – people said the windmills were making them sick.

But when Simon Chapman, a public health professor in Australia, looked into it, he found that not a single complaint had been lodged by people on land where the turbines were actually located when they received rent from the turbine company.

It turns out that the “cure” was money! So if people think smart meters are making them ill, the cure is for them to save money.

Smart Meters Are Harmful to Wildlife: Another claim that’s devoid of evidence. Unless you believe we should tear down every cell tower over a specific concern about smart meters, it’s unwarranted.

Smart Meters Are Dangerous: Specifically, this refers to the fear that electric meters are prone to catch fire. Well, one now-discontinued model in particular was allegedly responsible for an unusual number of fires.

But there are also fires associated with standard meters. After all, whenever you have electricity, there’s a fire risk. But a properly installed, modern smart meter that meets National Electric Safety Code standards doesn’t have any hazards that old-school meters don’t already have.

Smart Meters Infringe Civil Liberties: This one does have some factual merit – but only a little. You see, these meters not only report how much water, gas, or electricity you consume, but when.

They also report this data much more efficiently, easily, and immediately. The concern is that authorities might use the data to snoop on people or sell the information to other parties.

It’s true that law enforcement has used electric data in the past in order to identify indoor marijuana-growing operations. But on balance, this is a minor concern, easily remedied with legislation.

In fact, smart meters can actually increase your privacy. Under the old system, whenever a utility employee walks onto your property to take a reading, you can’t stop him.

How’s that for an invasion of privacy? With smart meters, human readers become unnecessary and utilities won’t be on your property unless there’s a malfunction.

Smart Meters Are Inaccurate: Some smart meter opponents claim that the new meters are woefully inaccurate and, far from saving consumers money, actually lead to higher electric bills.

There was indeed an issue with this several years ago. But today’s smart meters are really quite accurate. In fact, if they were as inaccurate as opponents say, they wouldn’t have privacy concerns!

Even if a consumer ends up with a “lemon” smart meter, there’s an easy way to guard against overbilling: Simply keep your old bills!

Electric usage doesn’t change much from one year to another unless there are big temperature differences. You should compare new bills to old ones and ask about any usage or billing discrepancies.

The real concern with smart meters isn’t overbilling, though. It’s that they might not save consumers as much money as they should!

But it’s still better than the old school method…

We’re All Getting a Raw Deal

For years now, consumers have gotten a raw deal from utilities. That’s because they’ve tended to be charged a flat rate per kilowatt hour – with that rate based on the utilities’ average cost of producing or buying the power.

But there’s no such thing as an “average cost.”

As you know, electricity tends to be more expensive during the day when there’s greater demand from businesses. By contrast, it’s cheaper at night. In fact, sometimes the nighttime cost of energy even becomes negative.

Unlike businesses, though, home consumers use most of their electricity at night. That means they should pay less per kilowatt hour than business customers. Smart meters make that possible.

But even in areas where utilities have introduced time-of-day pricing, they haven’t shared the full benefits with homeowners. Why? Two reasons…

First, much of a utility’s costs lie not in producing or buying the power, but in the electricity grid that gets it to customers. That cost is more or less fixed and it’s higher for homes than for businesses per unit of power sold.

Second, utilities aren’t installing all these expensive smart meters with the idea of losing money!

Your Smart Meter Checklist

So if you have a smart meter now or if your utility proposes installing them, here are the real questions you should ask:

  • Who’s installing the meters? Can you be sure that the utility’s employees or contractors are competent? And will a senior electrician sign off on each installation before turning the power on?
  • Who checks meters for accuracy? Is there a tester independent of both the utility and manufacturer? Do utilities have an easy way for new smart meter customers to dispute their bills, or will customers have to Twitter-shame them every time they’re wrong?
  • Who gets usage information? Does the law prohibit utilities from selling the information to third parties? Does law enforcement need a warrant to get it? How will utilities try to prevent hacking and improper use of the information by third parties?
  • How much of a discount will homeowners get for nighttime electricity use? The appropriate amount will vary depending on where you live and how your utility gets its power, but the discount should be substantial – a real long-term saving if you schedule big electricity usage for off-peak hours. If the utility doesn’t have time-of-day pricing, why not?
  • How will these meters work with self-generated electricity? I’ve warned before that utilities are starting to feel a big challenge from solar power and they’re changing how they bill consumers to discourage further solar development.

With smart meters, utilities should pay daytime rates for the power they buy from solar homes, but only charge nighttime rates when the home is taking power off of the grid.

If you get proper answers to these questions, you should welcome smart meters. You’ll probably save some money and you’ll help lower the amount of resources dedicated to electricity generation.

If you don’t get satisfactory answers, then it’s fair to ask what the utility is hiding and what’s actually in it for you.

How Much Was Your Power Bill?

by Brent Sauser

IMG_1275

I know this will sound like bragging, but we paid $11.08 for our electric bill last month.   That’s right . . . . $11.08!  Our total billable power consumption was only 5kWh.  The cost for that power was only 55 cents, but then you add the mandatory taxes and net meter hook-up fees and you get to $11.08.  Can’t get much lower than that per month while still being connected to the power grid.  Hey . . . I’ll take it. 

As we are moving into the fall and winter seasons the sun is at a lower angle in the sky and the days are shorter, which means less time for direct sunlight on the solar panels.  My daily records show fewer kWhs per day than in the summer months, which is understandable.  However, in like manner our overall power consumption is reduced by cooler temperatures.  Less A/C time means lower power consumption.  So, even though the sun is at a lower angle  and there is less of it,  power consumption has decreased as well. 

We are using Enphase micro-inverters that enable us to monitor each solar panel individually.  We are only into month #4 in the Net Zero process and look forward to see how our energy consumption balances with our energy consumption during the cooler months of the year. 

DSCN4989

Which State Is the Most Energy Efficient?

by Kasey Panetta (Editor of ECN)

October 23, 2015

Energy efficiency is a hot button issue in the United States, and every year the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) releases a survey of all 50 states (plus D.C. and three territories) ranking them in order from most efficient to least efficient. Considering savings from 2014 the electricity efficiency programs totaled about 25.7 million MWh, this survey highlights what states are succeeding and which states aren’t keeping up.

The states are all ranked on a 50-point scale. They’re awarded points across six major policy areas: utility-sector energy efficiency, building energy codes, transportation efficiency, state-led initiatives, combined heat and power and appliance and equipment standards. They also take a look at which states have showcased the most improvement over the past year. This year, states can add points for areas like energy savings–up to six points for electricity savings and three for natural gas–and they also increased the importance of transportation when it comes to efficiency. States could earn a total of 10 points for their transportation category. Most importantly, the survey looks at how policies are shaping efficiency since good policies means good changes.

The scorecards break all the aspect of the point-system down on a state-by-state basis. It looks at things like if emergency vehicles are electric, the adoption and enforcement of building codes, or emissions programs.

So what state is the most efficient? This year the honor goes to Massachusetts followed by California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, New York and a 10th place tie between Minnesota and Illinois.

Like middle school, the ACEEE also gives awards for most improved: California, Maryland, Illinois, Washington D.C., and Texas. All of these states enacted efficiency-friendly policies like California’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases, Illinois and Texas adopted the newest building energy codes, and D.C. got props for it’s Sustainable Energy Utility Program.

The lowest ranking states have a lot of work to do. In last place is North Dakota, preceded by Wyoming, South Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi. New Mexico dropped the farthest from last year’s rankings because it failed to adopt building energy requirements past the 2009 standards. In viewing the scorecards, many of the states that struggle are merely maintaining their energy efficiency. They’re being outpaced by states that are actively working to improve and implement better plans.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

State Ranking Energy Efficiency 2015

SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY! Register Now

FOR ALL MY FRIENDS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA:

      I will be teaching a class at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, in October called:  SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY!  The details and link to register is below. 

NOTE:  Under this Rollins program you must be 50+ of age to register.

      Chances are you aren’t a stock holder in Duke Energy.  I’m not either.  So, why are we paying high power bills as if we were stockholders, doing little to conserve energy and put money back in your pocket?  This class will cover numerous ways to take back control of your power bill.  And . . . who isn’t interested in ways to save money?  Please register.  You won’t regret it.  

  • CLASS:  SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY!
    INSTRUCTOR: D. Brent Sauser, AIA, LEED AP
    DESCRIPTION: This class will answer the questions:
        Does “going green” really matter?
        What does sustainability mean?
        How did we get to where we are today?
        What is and isn’t working around the world?
        How does conserving energy save money?
        What are some affordable ways to conserve energy?
             We will review how renewable technologies are contributing to help satisfy the increasing power demands without depleting our non-renewable resources.  We will discuss how each of us can benefit by going green.  We will discover energy saving products, materials, and systems that will reduce energy consumption, and lower our monthly energy bill. The student will leave with a greater awareness regarding sustainability and how to save money by saving energy. Students are encouraged to check out the website: www.NetZeroMax.com for low cost energy saving suggestions and current renewable energy information.  
    DATES AND TIME: Thursdays, October 1, 8, 15, & 22 from noon to 1:30pm
    LOCATION: Bush 212 on Rollins College main campus
    WHO:  Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning STARS (RCLL STARS)
    WHAT: Seniors ages 50+ taking non-credit courses. No tests or finals!
    COST: $65 a course.
    This link takes you to where can register for Save Energy, Save Money!   http://www.rollins.edu/evening/rollins-center-lifelong-learning/senior-courses.html
  • WEBSITE: www.rollins.edu/rcll  
    CONTACT: lifelonglearning@rollins.edu

PV Solar Is a Bargain

by Brent Sauser

Solar Photo 15

Biting the bullet to go solar can be a big decision.  Not too many people have that kind of money to invest all at once.  Yet, today there are numerous ways to finance a PV solar system if you are lacking the total funds up front. 

Once that investment has been paid you can enjoy the benefit of your own private power plant for the next 25 to 30 years  . . . . without any additional costs.  Meanwhile, your power utility continues to raise your electrical rates on a regular basis.  Over the course of 20 years it is conceivable that you will pay up to twice as much for utility power versus having your own PV solar array.  

DSCN4516

The Sauser household is in the process of having a 7.5kW roof top solar array installed.  We have managed to reduce our monthly kWh consumption to be covered by a 7.5kW PV system.  We should be able to generate enough power to satisfy our monthly electrical needs.  On paper, we believe we can achieve Net Zero in our humble 3-bedroom home.  The future of Net Zero is in the ability to retrofit existing homes to come as close to Net Zero as possible.  The transition of our home to Net Zero will serve as the primary case study for my next book:  Retrofit to Net Zero. 

Residential solar installs post largest quarterly growth ever!

By Lucas Mearian – Computerworld (June 9, 2015)

 Analysts expect a 24% increase in solar power this year!

rooftop-solar-installation 01

Residential installations of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels in the U.S. led the solar power market in the first quarter of this year, posting a record sequential 11% growth rate. That’s the largest such uptick in history.

Residential systems were up 76%, compared with the first quarter of 2014, according to a U.S. Solar Market Insight report released today.

In all, the U.S. solar market saw just over 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of capacity installed in the first quarter, according to the report. It was the sixth consecutive quarter that solar power capacity in the U.S. grew by more than 1GW.

“We forecast that PV installations will reach 7.9GW in 2015, up 27% over 2014,” the report stated.

Residential solar installation costs dropped to $3.46 per watt of installed capacity this quarter, which represents a 2.2% reduction over last quarter and a 10% reduction over the first quarter of 2014.

Residential Solar Graph

The U.S. Solar Market Insight report is a quarterly publication from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA); it’s based on data collected from almost 200 utilities, state agencies, installers and manufacturers.

Collectively, more than 51% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar in Q1, 2015. In the first quarter, the residential and utility PV market segments each added more capacity than the natural gas industry brought on line, the report said.

New installations of solar power capacity surpassed those of wind and coal for the second year in a row, accounting for 32% of all new electrical capacity, according to a a report released earlier this year by GTM and the SEIA.

One of the factors spurring growth in solar power is the expiration of the federal government’s solar investment tax credit (ITC). That measure, passed in 2008, offered a 30% tax credit for residential and business installations. When it expires in 2016, the tax credit will drop to a more permanent 10%.

Even so, the first quarter of any year tends to be slow for solar installations due to inclement weather in the north as well as for business accounting and tax reasons. That seasonal slowdown was seen in both the commercial and utility solar markets this year, both of which were down quarter-over-quarter from the last quarter of 2014.

Non-residential solar installations saw a 24% sequential downturn and a 3% downturn compared with the first quarter of 2014.

“The non-residential market continues to struggle from longstanding barriers to customer origination and project finance, and it remains more sensitive to state incentive reductions than residential solar,” the report said.

The double-digit growth in residential solar systems was particularly notable because nearly one-fourth of the residential solar installations have now come on line without any state incentives. That compares with 2012, when only 2% of residential solar power growth came on line without state incentives.

The uptick in residential solar — sans state incentives — is due to a trend with solar power reaching price parity with other forms of energy due to net energy metering and the leasing of third-party-owned systems. Net metering allows PV users to sell back any unused power to utilities.

“The residential juggernaut will continue to roll on, while the non-residential market will pick up, particularly in California and New York. And the utility-scale pipeline has reached unprecedented levels ahead of the looming federal Investment Tax Credit expiration,” the report stated. “We anticipate another record year for solar in the U.S. in every market segment.”

Residential Solar Graph 02

Deutsche Bank analysts believes the cost to finance solar installations will also drop from 7.9% last year to about 5.4% this year. Financing for installations is expected to stabilize at around 6.5% by 2019.

Amit Ronen, director of George Washington University’s Solar Institute, was a key Congressional staffer behind the 2008 ITC legislation. Along with the ITC law, one of the driving forces behind adoption of solar power and the ensuing reduction of costs, he said, has been the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative. That effort helps fund research, manufacturing and market creation. SunShot has a goal for solar energy to reach price parity with conventional power sources by 2020.

“They say they’re about 60% of the way there because [of solar] panel prices…. They’ve come down 80% over the past five years,” Ronen said in an interview late last year.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

NetZeroMax.com Passes 2 Million Site “HITS”! WOW!

by Brent Sauser

NetZeroMax logo 4

July of 2012 seems a long time ago.  Back then NetZeroMax.com launched somewhere behind the distant moon of Triton, with very little interest or website attention.  But, sure as the rising sun, each new article brought a few more interested people and subscribers.  It took close to 18 months to achieve our first 1,000 subscribers.  Today we are grateful to the over 14,500 subscribers who keep coming back to read from the over 200 “green” articles on the website.  NetZeroMax.com now appears throughout the internet by links and cross-links, and can be found listed under numerous sustainable design and energy saving topics.

Celebrate 03

Eclipsing 2,000,000 site “HITS” is no small accomplishment and we are very thankful for those who found NetZeroMax.com and keep coming back for more interesting Net Zero information.  Our website is no longer hiding behind some distant moon, but in clear site for so many to see and enjoy.  Perhaps, most importantly, those who visit will continue to learn about how easy it is to take Save Energy 1affordable steps toward becoming Net Zero themselves.  I’m pleased to report that we have managed to lower our power bill by $50 per month, and are taking steps to improve upon that by adding a TruTankless electric water heater this summer, and a 7kW roof top solar array in April of 2016.  Saving energy saves money! 

There is so much more to do before the 30% Federal Tax Rebates end at the conclusion of 2016!  We must make plans NOW to assure that when the door closes we are NOT on the outside looking in . . . and paying higher energy prices to offset those who took advantage of the rebate.  Time is running out. 

Let’s get going!

Thank you 01

Solar Power Battle Puts Hawaii at Forefront of Worldwide Changes

By Diane Cardwell (April 18, 2015) The New York Times – Energy & Environment

 Hawaii Solar 01

HONOLULU — Allan Akamine has looked all around the winding, palm tree-lined cul-de-sacs of his suburban neighborhood in Mililani here on Oahu and, with an equal mix of frustration and bemusement, seen roof after roof bearing solar panels.

Mr. Akamine, 61, a manager for a cable company, has wanted nothing more than to lower his $600 to $700 monthly electric bill with a solar system of his own. But for 18 months or so, the state’s biggest utility barred him and thousands of other customers from getting one, citing concerns that power generated by rooftop systems was overwhelming its ability to handle it.

Only under strict orders from state energy officials did the utility, the Hawaiian Electric Company, recently rush to approve the lengthy backlog of solar applications, including Mr. Akamine’s.

Hawaii Solar 04

It is the latest chapter in a closely watched battle that has put this state at the forefront of a global upheaval in the power business. Rooftop systems now sit atop roughly 12 percent of Hawaii’s homes, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, by far the highest proportion in the nation.

“Hawaii is a postcard from the future,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

Hawaii Solar 07

Other states and countries, including California, Arizona, Japan and Germany, are struggling to adapt to the growing popularity of making electricity at home, which puts new pressures on old infrastructure like circuits and power lines and cuts into electric company revenue.

As a result, many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

The shift in the electric business is no less profound than those that upended the telecommunications and cable industries in recent decades. It is already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.

Hawaii Solar 05

The issue is not merely academic, electrical engineers say.

In solar-rich areas of California and Arizona, as well as in Hawaii, all that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts.

“Hawaii’s case is not isolated,” said Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the smart grid program at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical association. “When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there’s going to be problems.”

Hawaii 04

The economic threat also has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group, has been warning its members of the economic perils of high levels of rooftop solar since at least 2012, and the companies are responding. In February, the Salt River Project, a large utility in Arizona, approved charges that could add about $50 to a typical monthly bill for new solar customers, while last year in Wisconsin, where rooftop solar is still relatively rare, regulators approved fees that would add $182 a year for the average solar customer.

In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity.

Hawaii 05

The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. But after a study showed that with some upgrades the system could handle much more solar than the company had assumed, the state’s public utilities commission ordered the utility to begin installations or prove why it could not.

It was but one sign of the agency’s growing impatience with what it considers the utility’s failure to adapt its business model to the changing market.

NREL 03

Hawaiian Electric is scrambling to accede to that demand, approving thousands of applications in recent weeks. But it is under pressure on other fronts as well. NextEra Energy, based in Florida, is awaiting approval to buy it, while other islands it serves are exploring defecting to form their own cooperative power companies.

It is also upgrading its circuits and meters to better regulate the flow of electricity. Rooftop solar makes far more power than any other single source, said Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, but the utility can neither control nor predict the output.

Hawaii Solar 02

“At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don’t keep that balance things go unstable,” he said, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility’s main control room. But the rooftop systems are “essentially invisible to us,” he said, “because they sit behind a customer’s meter and we don’t have a means to directly measure them.”

For customers, such explanations offer little comfort as they continue to pay among the highest electric rates in the country and still face an uncertain solar future.

Hawaii Solar 06

“I went through all this trouble to get my electric bill down, and I am still waiting,” said Joyce Villegas, 88, who signed her contract for a system in August 2013 but was only recently approved and is waiting for the installation to be completed.

Mr. Akamine expressed resignation over the roughly $12,000 he could have saved, but wondered about the delay. “Why did it take forceful urging from the local public utility commission to open up more permits?” he asked.

Installers — who saw their fast-growing businesses slow to a trickle — are also frustrated with the pace. For those who can afford it, said James Whitcomb, chief executive of Haleakala Solar, which he started in 1977, the answer may lie in a more radical solution: Avoid the utility and its grid altogether.

Hawaii Solar 03

Customers are increasingly asking about the batteries that he often puts in along with the solar panels, allowing them to store the power they generate during the day for use at night. It is more expensive, but it breaks consumer reliance on the utility’s network of power lines.

“I’ve actually taken people right off the grid,” he said, including a couple who got tired of waiting for Hawaiian Electric to approve their solar system and expressed no interest in returning to utility service. “The lumbering big utilities that are so used to taking three months to study this and then six months to do that — what they don’t understand is that things are moving at the speed of business. Like with digital photography — this is inevitable.”

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Photo credits: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

What Is Net-Zero?

By www.invisionzerohome.com

solar house 02

The U.S. Department of Energy defines a net-zero energy home as one that uses about 60 to 70 percent less energy than a conventional home, with the balance of its energy needs supplied by renewable technologies.

Essentially, it is a home that sustains itself – energy wise. That doesn’t mean that it is “off the grid.” Actually, it may use some energy from the local utility. But a net-zero energy home generates the bulk of its own energy and makes enough extra energy to sell it back to the utility through “net metering,” offsetting the amount purchased.

Because of the energy-efficient products used in a net-zero energy home and because it requires so little energy from the utility companies, net-zero energy homes also have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Many net-zero energy homes also use building materials made from renewable resources – for even greater sustainability.

DSCN4086

Truly smart meters will speak a language that people understand ($$$)

by Michael Graham Richard (January 29, 2015 – TreeHugger.com)

rainforest 01

A few years ago, smart meters and the smart grid were hot ideas in the media. Even the president of the United States extolled their virtues in a 2009 speech, saying that they would help average people save energy and cut their utility bills. While the number of smart meters installed since then has mushroomed:

rainforest 02

With 50 million US homes now having one, about 43% of the total number of households, the expected changes in behavior and energy savings haven’t quite yet blown anyone away. That’s probably in good part because having a smart meter on the side of your house and getting a slightly more detailed bill isn’t enough to make people change their habits.

The random person on the street probably only have a vague idea of what a kWh is, and most people seem to think that they don’t have too much impact on their energy consumption; you just get a bill periodically, pay it, and that’s the extent of your thinking about electricity.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Smart meters are a foundational block to get us to the next level, but they are not sufficient in themselves. What we need is a system that speaks a language that the average person can understand, and convey the information in such a way that energy isn’t just an afterthought.

rainforest 03

The first thing to do is to translate less intuitive figures like kWh into how much money the electricity use is actually costing you. Above you can see some examples of readouts from the Rainforest Automation energy monitoring unit (pictured at the top of this post).

The second thing is to make the feedback real-time. If you clearly see on a monitor in your living room that you’re spending X number of dollars per hour right now, and then turn off a few lights and lower the A/C and see that number drop, you get powerful feedback that immediately rewards you and encourages you to pick up good habits. This doesn’t happen when you only get a bill weeks later.

It’s a phenomenon that was quite common with early hybrid cars. Drivers for the first time had a big screen showing them their real-time MPG, historical data in easy-to-understand graphs, etc. This feature alone probably saved a lot of gas just by teaching drivers how to be more fuel efficient. The hybrid drivetrain was just an added bonus, which led me to believe that prominent fuel economy feedback should be in all cars.

Part of the reason why it works is that it’s fun. Call if “gamification” if you want, but to many people it’s satisfying to try to do better than you’ve done in the past and optimize your fuel economy or energy use, as long as there’s an easy way to see how you’re doing (doing it blind isn’t nearly as fun).

rainforest 04

A way to push this even further is to have people prepay for their energy (just like they pay for their fuel before driving off, rather than being invoice later). You then see the amount of money in your account drop as you use energy, until you get an automated reminder that you need to top up your account. This approach has been tried in the Phoenix region and in parts of Texas, and results are very promising: “A 2010 study on M-Power found not only that consumers loved it, but that it saved them 12 percent on energy bills, on average.”

So our meters aren’t quite smart yet, but we know how to get there.

Let’s get moving.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

rainforest 05

Salt Lake City Studies Net Metering for Solar Energy

By Amy Jol O’Donoghue (KSL.com – January 19, 2015)

 solar house 02 

The Public Service Commission is going to launch a study to determine a full range of costs and benefits if Rocky Mountain Power were to charge a net metering fee for residents who are also plugged into rooftop solar systems.

Before it embarks on that study, the utility company, solar power advocates and a host of others get to weigh in on what types of costs and benefits are examined as part of that analysis.

In a meeting Monday at the Public Service Commission offices, groups such as Utah Clean Energy, Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy, the utility company and Utah Office of Consumer Services mapped out of tentative schedule for the process that will unfold before the commission in the coming months.

“We really want to have a robust and transparent analysis that fully evaluates all the benefits that solar brings to Utah, as well as the costs,” said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy.

At issue is an order issued in late August by the commission that rejected an initial attempt by PacifiCorp to charge an extra monthly fee of $4.65 a month to solar customers for what the utility company said was to help cover its fixed costs of delivering energy to households.

Critics of the controversial proposal called it a “sun tax” and asserted it would discourage the transition to clean energy.

In its ruling rejecting the fee, the commission said it could not justify the fee without further analysis, directing instead that a “better course” would be for the utility company and other parties to gather and analyze information on the fee and present those results and recommendations in future hearings.

Net metering allows electricity customers who wish to supply their own electricity from the grid from on-site generation to pay for only the “net” energy they obtain from the utility.

Alternatively, if the customer’s system generates excess electricity, it is exported to the grid. The customer then gets a credit for those kilowatt hours of generated electricity — much like rollover minutes accumulate on a cellphone bill that can be used to cushion averages in the future.

The fee would have impacted 2,500 households in Utah.

Solar advocates want any decision on an imposition of a net metering fee to take into account the “offsets” that come when residential households are plugged into renewable energy that is absent of carbon emissions and the corresponding health impacts, as well as other considerations.

Conversely, the utility company wants to make sure its costs of still having to have infrastructure in place such as substations and lines are appropriately part of the analysis, as well as what shifted costs might be to non-solar customers.

PacifiCorp is already engaged in a “load study” in which energy consumption and output is being examined for 62 solar sites.

DSCN2714

Initiative could dramatically increase solar power production in Florida

by Mike Salinero – The Tampa Tribune (Updated – January 18, 2015)

solar roof top system 01

Florida may be known as the Sunshine State, but you wouldn’t know it from the state’s ranking at No. 13 for solar energy production.

Proponents of the so-called Solar Choice ballot initiative say they can reverse this by challenging the control major utility companies hold over electricity sales in Florida. The initiative, if passed as an amendment to the state Constitution, would supersede a state law allowing only investor-owned utilities to sell electricity.

“It’s the first glimmer of hope for the widespread use of solar power and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime,” said Scott McIntyre, chief executive officer of Solar Energy Management, based in Tampa and St. Petersburg, and president of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy. “It’s going to kick off the solar industry in the state of Florida.”

An unlikely coalition of conservatives, liberals, environmentalists and business people are pushing the initiative, which needs 680,000 petition signatures to get on the November 2016 ballot.

McIntyre, a Republican, said the initiative will promote free markets, a conservative principle. Once anyone can sell electricity, he said, it will spur the sale of solar-powered systems, eventually lowering the cost of solar- and utility-produced electricity.

Here’s how it would work: A homeowner who wants to install solar, but can’t afford the up-front costs, can instead “buy” the electricity produced by the solar arrays from the company that installed them. Proponents say the electricity will be cheaper than power from the utility company. Once the solar panels are paid off, the resident owns the power source, ensuring low utility bills for a decade or more.

“You’re actually paying less at the end of the month and you’re getting solar service over the longer term,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “That solar system is providing you clean power, and your bill is going to be stable from then on.”

For environmental groups, the initiative is another way to incrementally reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Electric power plants powered by these fossil fuels are the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Frank Jackalone, Florida staff director for the Sierra Club, said the environmental group hasn’t taken an official position on the ballot initiative and won’t until the club’s executives can review the ballot language. But Jackalone, who is based in St. Petersburg, said he supports Solar Choice in principle because the initiative will benefit consumers and the environment.

“This is going to make a lot of people and businesses energy-independent,” Jackalone said. “And it’s going to move us away from those dirty fossil fuel plants.”

Members of Floridians for Solar Choice say they’re ready for an expensive fight against well-funded utility companies with political clout. The group is buoyed by internal polls showing that more than 70 percent of Floridians support the concept of third-party solar energy sales.

“It’s a David and Goliath battle, but (the initiative) is enormously popular,” Smith said. “The utilities are going to have to spend a bunch of money to convince people that they don’t want it.”

But getting the required 60 percent of the vote necessary to amend the state Constitution is a high bar, particularly on an issue that doesn’t yet motivate voters.

That bar was too high in the November General Election for the medical marijuana initiative, which failed with more than 57 percent of the vote. Solar Choice proponents are hoping for an outcome closer to the 75 percent who approved the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, providing a dedicated source of revenue for land and water conservation.

Spokesmen for the three major utilities that serve the Tampa Bay area would not say where they stand on the solar measure.

“We continue to review the language and have not made a decision how we may support the proposed language,” Duke Energy spokesman Sterling Ivey said in an email. “But key components for us are that any state energy policy is fair and beneficial for all customers.”

TECO Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs, also via email, said the initiative is “likely the first of many energy proposals that will emerge over the next few months.”

“TECO Energy will evaluate the proposals and support the ones that are fair and beneficial to all customers,” Jacobs said.

A spokeswoman for Florida Power & Light Co. declined comment.

If the utilities oppose the initiative, proponents are likely to point to the industry’s missteps and public concern over their influence.

The concern dates to 2006, when the Legislature passed a law allowing utilities to collect money up-front for nuclear power projects. Progress Energy used the law to start collecting the costs of a repair job on the Crystal River nuclear plant and for the startup costs on a new plant in Levy County.

The repair job was botched, Duke Energy bought Progress Energy in July 2012, and the following February the Crystal River Plant was closed.

Later in 2013, Duke Energy announced it was abandoning the Levy County plant due to changes in the energy market.

Fallout from the two failed nuclear plants became an issue in the 2014 governor and cabinet races. The Public Service Commission made Duke Energy return $54 million collected for the Levy County plant.

But soon after, the commission cut energy-efficiency targets for the utilities by 90 percent and scrapped the state’s solar rebate program. Both actions were at the request of the power companies.

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Smith, with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The utility monopolies are not accountable, and they only have their shareholders in mind.”

Floridians for Solar Choice, on the Web at fl solarchoice.org, has to collect petition signatures in two phases.

First, it needs 68,000 signatures to have the initiative language reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.

If the court approves, the group has to collect another 612,000 signatures by Feb. 1, 2016, to put the initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that year.

CLICK HERE to read the actual article.

Price of Electricity Hit Record High in U.S. in 2014

by Terence P. Jeffrey (CNSNEWS.COM) January 16, 2015

Even as gasoline prices plummeted and the overall energy price index calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics declined, electricity prices bucked the trend in the United States in 2014.

Data released today by the BLS indicates that the electricity price indexes hit all-time highs for the month of December and for the year. 2014 was the most-expensive year ever for electricity in the United States.

The annual price index for electricity, published by BLS today, was 208.020. That was up from 200.750 in 2013.

 ANNUAL ELECTRICITY PRICE INDEX-2013-2014-PHOTO

The seasonally adjusted electricity price index for the month of December was 210.151, according to the BLS. That sets an all-time record for the seasonally adjusted monthly electricity price index. The previous high was 209.341 in March of this year. In December 2013, the seasonally adjusted electricity price index was 203.740.

The average price for a kilowatt hour of electricity in the United States was 13.5 cents in December. That is the highest average price for KWH of electricity in the month of December since the BLS started recording the December monthly price for a KWH in 1978. In December 2013, the average price for a KWH was 13.1 cents.

The average price for a KWH of electricity tends to hit its annual peak in the summer months, decline in the fall, hit its nadir in the winter and rise in the spring. In 2014, the average price for a KWH hit a record high for that particular month in each month of the year. In June, July and August of this year the average price of a KWH hit 14.3 cents—its all-time high for any months on record.

 AVERAGE MONTHLY PRICE FOR KWH-2011-2014-PHOTO

By contrast, the overall Consumer Price Index declined by 0.4 percent in December with particular help from the decline in the price of gasoline.

“The gasoline index continued to fall sharply, declining 9.4 percent and leading to the decrease in the seasonally adjusted all items index,” said the BLS in its press release on the CPI. “The fuel oil index also fell sharply, and the energy index posted its largest one-month decline since December 2008, although the indexes for natural gas and for electricity both increased.”

The BLS’s price indexes measure relative change in prices against a baseline of 100. The annual electricity price index exceeded 100 between 1983 and 1984, when it rose from 98.9 to 105.3. In the past two decades, the price of electricity in the United States has roughly doubled.

Rising electricity prices have not always been the norm in the United States. In 1913, the BLS annual electricity price index was 45.5. By 1946, it had dropped to 26.6. In 1974, it was still only 44.1—less than it had been six decades before in 1913.

The net production of electricity in the United States peaked in 2007, according to data published by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. That year, the United States generated 4,156,745 million KWH of electricity.

In 2013, that latest full year on record, the United States generated 4,058,209 million KWH of electricity—or about 2.4 percent less electricity than in 2007

The latest data from the Energy Information Administration, published in December, includes electricity generation numbers through the first nine months (January through September) of 2014. In those nine months of 2014, more electricity was generated (3,117,501 million KWH) than in the first nine months of 2013 (3,077,418 million KWH) or 2012 (3,095,504 million KWH), but less than in the first nine months of 2007 (3,166,614 million KWH).

The composition of the sources of electricity generation also changed between 2007–when the nation produced its peak volume of electricity–and 2014.

In the first nine months of 2007, the U.S. produced more electricity with coal (1,523,714 million KWH) than in the first nine months of 2014 (1,231,795 million KWH).

The U.S. also produced more electricity in the first nine months of 2007 with nuclear power (607,846 million KWH) and petroleum (53,802 million KWH) than it did in the first nine months of 2014, when it produced 596,174 million KWH and 24,953 million KWH from those source respectively.

By contrast the U.S. produced more electricity in the first nine months of 2014 than it did in the first nine months of 2007 by means of natural gas (844,743 million KWH to 688,035 million KWH), conventional hydroelectric (200,614 million KWH to 199,261 million KWH), wood (31,668 million KWH to 28,729 million KWH), waste (14,499 million KWH to 12,723 million KWH), geothermal power (12,170 million KWH to 10,967 million KWH), solar (14,271 million  KWH to 532 million KWH), and wind (133,495 million KWH to 23,522 million KWH).

In the first nine months of 2014, solar power equaled about 0.46 percent of total electricity generation. Wind power equaled about 4.3 percent of total electricity production.

CLICK HERE to read the actual article. 

Power Utilities Scramble to Reinvent Themselves amid Trend to Energy Independence

By Brent Sauser

Blockbuster


I grew up learning how to type on a typewriter in 8th grade and later proudly Typewriterwearing the newest pocket (simple function) calculator from Sears for my college calculus class.  I recall being so excited about upgrading my 386 computer to a 40 megabyte internal hard drive with my very own floppy disk drive.  On weekends I would take my children to Hollywood Video or Blockbuster to pick out some VHS tape movies.  Those were the days! 

The relentless forward momentum from Technology has made a tremendous impact on our lives that is undeniable. Atari 1200 Many companies have embraced this technological transition and continue to thrive.  Others, like the antiquated typewriter and Blockbuster business model, didn’t or couldn’t evolve.  They, along with too many others who didn’t recognize the winds of change, remain a dusty footnote to the 20th Century. 

Some have come “on board” early and have embraced the movement with new, creative, and innovative products, services, and ways to do business in the 21st Century.  However, the major utilities, and in particular power utilities, remain Power Grid 03steadfast to the obsolete business practices that made them the protected monopoly that they are, but could risk losing significant revenues and market share if they don’t adapt to the energy conserving trends of its customers.  The majority of major reports recently conducted indicate that the movement toward energy reduction and independence is growing, which has a direct impact on utility grid power consumption.  The trend is DOWN, not up.  Less power demand, less revenues!  Gone are the days of simply serving as the local power supply of raw energy from the grid, and the single source for electrical power. 

All across the USA many of the power utility’s customers are turning to alternative, renewable energy sources for their power.  They are taking solar clipart 12advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Credit as well as other State credits to install energy generating or energy saving products.  Reports detail the potential revenue losses the power utilities can suffer . . . IF they do not adapt to the trend and reinvent themselves to remain viable in the 21st Century.  Two excellent examples of technology adaptation are 3M and IBM.  Take a minute to review their origins and how they have adapted to the trends of the times.  IBM has gone from a manufacturer of business machines to a worldwide company selling services. Power utility companies are now faced with that same challenge. Will they go the way of Blockbuster and WANG, or adapt like IBM?  These next few years will be very telling. 

 Please CLICK HERE to access an excellent summary report from Accenture IKEA 03regarding the future of the power utility companies and what they must do to adapt to the energy conservation trend.  This is a very exciting time to be alive and witness this revolutionary transition to renewable energy resources and energy independence.  You know it’s real when “Goliath” is forced to recognize the need to change.  We are winning this battle one Net Zero building at a time.  Onward and upward!

Solar Power Prices to be on Par with Coal & Oil Within Two Years!

Lucas Mearian (Computerworld-Nov. 18, 2014)

NREL 03

The cost of roof-top solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices for common coal or oil-powered generation in just two years, and the technology to produce it will only get cheaper.

The prediction, made by Deutsche Bank’s leading solar industry analyst, Vishal Shah, is part of a report on Vivint Solar, the nation’s second-biggest solar panel installer.  Shah believes Vivint Solar is doing so well that it will double its sales each year for the next two years. 

graph 02

The sharp decline in solar energy costs is the result of increased economies of scale leading to cheaper photovoltaic panels, new leasing models and declining installation costs.  Today, only 10 states boast solar energy costs that are on par with those of conventional electricity generation methods, such as coal-fired power plants.  Those states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, new Mexico, and Vermont. 

Last year, those states using solar power accounted for about 90% of U.S. installations.  But, by 2016, Deutsche expects solar energy to reach price parity in all 50 states. 

Graph 01

Currently, the U.S. has 16GW of installed solar capacity, with nearly 5GW of solar capacity added last year alone, according to Deutsche.  One of the factors spurring growth is the expiration of the federal government’s solar investment tax credit (ITC).  That measure, passed in 2008, offered a 30% tax credit for residential  and business installations.  When it expires in 2016, the tax credit will drop to a more permanent 10%. 

“Consequently, we expect to see a big rush of new installations ahead of the 2016 ITC expiration,” Shah stated in his research document.  Deutsche said solar system prices in the U.S. are expected to decline from just under $3 per watt today, to under $2.50 per watt over the next 18 months, leading to a further decline in the price per kilowatt-hour of solar to 9-14 cents, “driving further acceleration in solar shipments.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire article by Lucas Mearian.

DOES GOING SOLAR MAKE CENTS?

by Brent Sauser

cost of solar 01

LET’S DO THE MATH

1.    Average home uses 1,000 kWh of energy a month, or 33.33 kWh per day.

2.    Local Utility energy costs $0.11 per kWh.

Local utility energy costs over 20 years: 

$0.11 per/kWh X 1,000 kWh per/mo X 12 mo X 20 years = $26,400

6 kW solar panel installation cost over 20 years:

24 panel installation at $12,000 (after tax credit) = $12,000

VARIABLES:solar house 02

1.    Utility Power:  Rising Utility Costs

2     Solar Installation:  25 Year Warranty

Seems to me going solar not only makes sense . . . . it makes dollars and cents!  Time to take advantage of the 30% tax credit before that “carrot” becomes the “stick”.  I much rather put money back in my pocket than pay a monthly consumption tax and higher energy costs.  How about you?ROI Photo 1

Utah Commission Rejects Proposed fee for Solar Homes

By Matt Canham and Brian Maffly (The Salt Lake Tribune)

August 29, 2014

Utahns with rooftop solar panels won’t face a new fee from Rocky Mountain Power after the Utah Public Service Commission ruled Friday that the utility company failed to prove such a charge is “just and reasonable.”

But this contentious debate pitting the state’s largest electric company against environmental groups isn’t going away. The Commission is open to revisiting the issue as long as Rocky Mountain Power can provide some hard data proving these customers should be treated differently than others who just use less energy than the average family.

Renewable energy advocates hailed the ruling as a major victory.

“What a bright day for Utah’s future,” said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy. “This order protects energy choice in Utah, and recognizes the potential solar has to benefit all Utahns.”

Rocky Mountain Power framed the ruling as a minor setback in on an issue that’s far from being settled.

“It is a little disappointing that the commission did not take at least an interim step,” said Dave Eskelsen, a spokesman for the power company. “We understand that emotions are running high. We look forward to participating in the accumulation of more information.”

This high-profile fight has far more to do with Utah’s energy future than the dollars and cents at stake today. Rocky Mountain Power wanted to levy a $4.65 per month fee for “net meter” customers, a group of early solar adopters who number about 2,700. If the fee was implemented, it would raise just $150,000 the first year.

At the same time, the commission did approve a small rate increase for all residential customers that is expected to net the company $35 million in the next year. That 1.9 percent rate increase, which goes into effect on Monday, means the average energy bill will go up $1.76 per month. The commission also approved another general rate increase for Sept. 2015 that would add another 73 cents per month to the average bill.

Nevertheless, the number of homes with solar panels is growing and Rocky Mountain Power argued in a contentious two-day hearing last month that these customers are not paying their fair share of the utility’s fixed costs to maintain the power system. Eskelsen said that fixed costs could be as high as $30 per month and that the proposed fee was only $4.65 because that was in line with what the Utah Division of Public Utilities and the Office of Consumer Services, both government entities, would support.

Groups including HEAL Utah and the Alliance for Social Choice questioned Rocky Mountain’s motives, suggesting the power company is trying to dissuade people from going solar to protect its business model and that utilities are using the state as a test case.

NEWS ALERT! EPA Calls for 30% Cuts in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants

by Brent Sauser

warning 01

WHAT’S GOING ON!?  As of today the EPA is announcing a 30% cut in the greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants by 2030.  In addition, the EPA will require states to cut their “carbon intensity” (tons of carbon per megawatt of electricity, not simply overall tons of carbon).  Other carbon reducing measures accompany this action that vary from state to state.

carrot-with-stickSo . . . we are witnessing the end of the incentive “Carrot” phase and the beginning of the punitive “Stick” phase of American life.  Our current administration is working overtime to fulfill their campaign promise to “put coal out of business”.  Not good news to those employed in the coal industry in Kentucky or West Virginia.  They will feel the worst of it.  But the administration’s “War on Coal” will have a ripple effect on us all.  We can expect to feel the impact by more unemployment, slowing of the economic recovery, and higher utility energy prices. 

It is the latter I am most concerned about.  We cannot ignore the imminent carrot-with-stick 02reality of increasing energy prices. Regardless of the reason, we need to plan now to reduce or eliminate our dependence on utility power.  Better to do so while the Carrot is still in front of us.  However, on January 1, 2017 . . . the 30% federal incentives for renewable energy expire, and then what?  Will another Carrot (incentive) take its place, or will we experience, like those in Kentucky and West Virginia, the sharp pain of the “Stick”.  Who knows? 

Save Energy 1What IS known is that we can still take full advantage of the 30% federal incentive for implementing renewable energy technology into existing and new construction.  As we do, the impact from today’s EPA decision (and other similar decisions) will have less effect on our lives and wallets.  Becoming energy independent is more possible today than you might think.  Even if you don’t achieve a total Net Zero result, the power you are generating on-site means less dependency on the utility energy grid.  You become more insulated from increasing energy costs, which means money back in your wallet. 

warningThe choice is pretty simple:  We can ignore these warnings and remain at the whim of the utility companies, or take more control of our lives by reducing our dependency on the power grid.  We need to begin our planning process to assure our on-site renewable energy installation is in place and functional prior to the end of 2016.  As for me . . . that’s my plan!  How about you?

CLICK HERE to read the news article from Politico.

ELECTRICITY PRICES RISING!

By Brent Sauser

warningPart of the mission of NetZeroMax.com is to provide useful information that might influence prospective builders to make the decision to go Net Zero. Included is sounding a warning voice to all those willing to hear. In that context permit me to share with you what may be already too obvious . . . ELECTRICITY PRICES ARE RISING while the price per KWH for solar energy is decreasing. But, don’t take my word for it. I invite you to read the following article by Terence P. Jeffrey of CNSNEWS.com (dated April 16, 2014):

(CNSNews.com) – The average price for a kilowatt hour (KWH) of electricity hit a March record of 13.5 cents, according data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was up about 5.5 percent from 12.8 cents per KWH in March 2013.

The relative price of electricity in the United States tends to rise in spring, peak in summer, and decline in fall. Last year, after the price of a KWH averaged 12.8 cents in March, it rose to an all-time high of 13.7 cents in June, July, August and September.

If the prevailing trend holds, the average price of a KWH would hit a new record this summer.

The BLS’s seasonally adjusted electricity price index rose to 209.341 this March, the highest it has ever been, up 10.537 points—or 5.3 percent–from 198.804 in March 2013.

Electricity AVERAGE PRICE OF KWH-MARCH-PHOTO-1

In its press release on the Consumer Price Index, BLS noted that the overall energy index declined in March, driven by declining gasoline and fuel oil indexes, despite increases in natural gas and electricity.

”The energy index fell 0.1 percent in March after a 0.5 percent decline in February,” said BLS. “The gasoline index declined 1.7 percent in March, the same decline as in February. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 5.1 percent in March).

“The fuel oil index also declined, falling 2.9 percent after rising 4.1 percent the previous month,” said BLS. “In contrast, the index for natural gas rose sharply, increasing 7.5 percent, its largest one-month increase since October 2005. It has increased 15.3 percent over the last three months.

“The electricity index also increased, rising 1.1 percent,” said BLS. ”Over the last 12 months, the energy index has increased 0.4 percent, with the natural gas index rising 16.4 percent, the electricity index increasing 5.3 percent, and the fuel oil index advancing 2.1 percent. These increases more than offset a 4.7 percent decline in the gasoline index.”

ELECTRICITY PRICE INDEX-1913-2013-1

Historically, rising electricity prices have not been inevitable in the United States. The BLS’s annual electricity price index—which goes back a century—shows that electricity prices generally declined in the United States between 1913 and the end of World War II.  They then held relatively steady for about two decades before beginning to escalate in the late 1960s.

CLICK HERE for the original article.

WordPress SEO