Solar Net Metering Ends in Cali

Net metering in California is ending and solar customers are not happy. The billing arrangement that allows solar owners full retail credit for the energy they put back on the grid (aka net metering) is ending so consumers and businesses who wait until summer to install their solar systems will miss out on the program.

“The upcoming changes for solar producers will undoubtedly create an unprecedented demand,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power. “Property owners Sullivan Solar Power Home installationthat wait until June to sign up to go solar may miss their chance to receive the full retail credit that current solar producers receive.”

As explained by Sullivan, net energy metering will end once a certain amount of solar is installed in each utility territory, and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) will be the first utility to reach its cap. Anyone that installs solar before the cap is hit will receive full retail credit for energy they produce, and will be grandfathered in for 20-years. Once net metering ends, new homes and businesses that install solar will receive less credit for the energy they produce.

“The period for going solar under the current net metering rules could end for SDG&E customers by December or even earlier, depending on how many people install solar this year,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). According to President Obama during his SOTU speech on Tuesday, today more solar energy is installed in the U.S. each week than in the entirety of 2008. Continue reading

IRENA & ADFD Fund 5 Renewable Energy Projects

Five renewable projects in developing countries have been awarded USD 57 million in concessional loans by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). The projects have a combined total capacity of 35 megawatts and will bring power to more than 200,000 people in rural communities. The loans will go to projects located in Argentina, Cuba, Iran, Mauritania and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

IRENA Renewable Energy cycle 2 fundingRenewable energy offers the prospect of clean, affordable power to the 1.3 billion people currently off the electricity grid,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at a press conference during IRENA’s fifth Assembly. “While renewable energy resources are abundant in many communities suffering from energy poverty, finance is still a key challenge for deployment. That is why the partnership between IRENA and ADFD is so important as a pioneering effort.”

According to IRENA, this is the second loan cycle of seven, which together will commit USD 350 million over seven years to the deployment of renewable energy in developing countries, with a total project value of an estimated USD 800 million. Projects approved for funding in the second loan cycle include solar, hydro, hybrid (wind and solar) and geothermal energy. The organization said the projects selected represent a mix of renewable energy sources, are innovative, potentially replicable or scalable, and will improve energy access.

“As part of its mandate to work on projects with a profound impact on the economies of developing countries, ADFD has collaborated with IRENA to support the renewable energy sector as a tool for economic and social development,” said Mr. Adel Abdulla Al Hosani, director of pperations department in ADFD. “Towards this priority, we are keen to support the economic development and deployment of sustainable energy projects in countries with immense clean energy potential, but lacking necessary financial resources and project management expertise.”

The IRENA/ADFD Project Facility pioneers the support of renewable energy as a viable and sustainable focus for foreign development assistance that offers long-term social and economic benefits to developing countries.

President Touts Domestic Energy in SOTU

sotu15“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” said President Barack Obama in the first few minutes of his 2015 State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet,” said Obama. “And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

President Obama also hit on climate change in his address, noting that “over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.”

Responding to the president’s address, Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe said they are excited to see President Obama focusing on climate change and said that the United States “has an opportunity to lead the world in reducing atmospheric carbon by investing in science.”

“The United States also has a chance to be the world leader in alternative fuels,” said Monroe. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has been successful in moving our cars and trucks away from fossil fuels. If President Obama wants to reduce emissions today he should put this policy back on track and support cleaner, domestic biofuels.”

Solar Jobs Increase Again in 2014

Outpacing the growth of the U.S. economy as a whole by 20 percent, the solar industry added another 31,000 jobs in 2014. The Solar Foundation (TSF) released the Solar Census Report late last week and found that total employment in the solar sector is 173,807 workers. Key findings included:

  • Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 20.9% to 210,060 solar workers.
  • One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. since Census 2013 was created by the solar industry – representing 1.3% of all new jobs.
  • Of the 173,807 solar workers in the United States, approximately 157,500 are 100% dedicated to solar activities.
  • Wages paid to solar workers remain competitive with similar industries and provide many living-wage opportunities.
  • The installation sector remains the single largest source of domestic employment growth, more than doubling in size since 2010.
  • Solar workers are increasingly diverse. Demographic groups such as Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and African American, along with women and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces now represent a larger percentage of the solar workforce than was observed in Census 2013.

Solar energy is becoming an increasingly important part of America’s future – and this Infographic-National-Solar-Jobs-Census-2014-194x300new report offers additional proof of that,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Not only is solar helping to power more and more homes, businesses, schools and government buildings, but it’s also helping to power the U.S. economy in a very significant way – and, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our enormous potential.

Resch noted that the growth is due, in part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). He added that the policies are paying huge dividends for the economy and the environment.

“Today, the U.S. has an estimated 20.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million homes in the United States – or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey – with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015 and 2016,” continued Resch. “This is going to help to create even more new jobs. What’s more, solar helped to offset an estimated 20 million metric tons of harmful CO2 emissions in 2014—the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off U.S. highways or saving 2.1 billion gallons of gasoline. We applaud The Solar Foundation for its hard work in putting together this comprehensive report, which helps to highlight the growing importance of solar energy to America and our future.”

Are Solar Investments Better Than Stocks?

Investing in a 5 kilowatt solar system may be a better investment than investing in a stock market index fund according to a new report, “Going Solar in America: A Guide for Homeowners Considering Solar PV in America’s 50 Largest Cities,” released by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded study finds that solar is a “real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment.”

The first Going Solar in America report ranked America’s 50 largest cities by the financial value rooftop solar offers residential customers. According to the authors’ calculations, a financed solar PV system can be a better investment than Going Solar in America reportthe S&P 500 in 46 of the 50 cities. The report fins that many homeowners are unaware of solar PV’s value because they don’t have a personal point of reference of understanding how much it will cost them.

The second report provides actionable information to homeowners as a follow-up to these rankings. The guide includes descriptions of the policy and incentive options available to homeowners considering solar and information on how to get started. Among topics addressed are solar PV technology, financing options (loans, leases and power purchase agreements), and net metering and “value of solar” tariffs.

“We wanted to first draw attention to the financial value that solar offers today and then have a resource available to assist homeowners who are interested in taking the next step,” said Autumn Proudlove, co-author of the Going Solar in America reports.

Jim Kennerly, lead author and project manager of the Going solar reports notes that the upfront costs of a typical size solar PV system, not factoring into tax credits and other financing options, is about the same as the upfront cost of buying a 2015 Toyota Corolla. “Given that a car’s upfront cost does not include ongoing gas and maintenance costs, it really shows that going solar right now is a great financial value, no matter who you are, or where you live.”

Clean Energy Investments Jump

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), clean energy investment rose for the first time in three years in 2014. New funds for wind, solar, biofuels and other low-carbon energy technologies gained 16 percent to $310 billion last year. It was the first growth since 2011, erasing the impact of lower solar-panel prices and falling subsides in the U.S. and Europe that hurt the industry in previous years.

The study reported that clean energy benefited from a number of trends that will be difficult to replicate in 2015. For example, with China’s commitment to renewables, funding increased 32 percent. In addition, a record $19.4 billion was committed to offshore wind projects during the year.

BNEF Trends in Renewable Energy ReportThe industry benefited from a number of trends that will be challenging to replicate this year. Funding surged because of a 32 percent expansion in China’s commitment to renewables, as well as a record $19.4 billion committed to offshore wind projects that were years in the making. And prior to the major drop in gas prices, investments were on the rise for electric vehicle development.

“Healthy investment in clean energy may surprise some commentators, who have been predicting trouble for renewables as a result of the oil price collapse,” said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board of the London-based researcher. “Our answer is that 2014 was too early to see any noticeable effect on investment. The impact of cheaper crude will be felt much more in road transport than in electricity generation.”

However, the BNEF, there may be trouble on the horizon for electric cars and offshore wind but even with lower oil prices, they predict installations for solar and wind power to grow about 10 percent in 2015. BNEF says the findings ease concerns that the oil price rout that began in the middle of last year would lead to a sharp reduction in funds for low-carbon energy, which is more costly than fossil fuels.

“This increase in renewable energy investment demonstrates the resilience of the sector in the face of tumbling oil prices,” said Ben Warren, head of environmental finance at the consulting firm EY. “This trend is set to continue as technology around renewables becomes more affordable. The increasing role that renewable energy plays in emerging markets will also help ensure sustainable growth for the sector.”

 

Groups Petition Hawai’ian Utility for Solar Support

A coalition of community groups have petitioned the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission in support of renewable energy such as solar. The group is calling for a completion of the state’s renewable energy goals before it considers approving the purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries by Florida-based NextEra Energy. The coalition includes Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawai‘i PV Coalition, Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association and The Alliance for Solar Choice.

Solar panels dot the rooftops of homes in Salt Lake on Oahu, Hawaiʻi. Photo Credit: MATT MALLAMS / EARTHJUSTICE

Solar panels dot the rooftops of homes in Salt Lake on Oahu, Hawaiʻi. Photo Credit: MATT MALLAMS / EARTHJUSTICE

NextEra’s proposal to buy Hawaiian Electric for $4.3 billion was announced in early December and will require various approvals, including by the PUC. The merger application to the PUC has not yet been filed.

“Our purpose is to make sure the horse is in front of the cart,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation. “As clean energy stakeholders, we share the joint interest in making sure we complete planning for Hawai‘i’s energy future now. We don’t want to put the discussions on the back-burner and then have to start over after the merger proceeding is finished.”

“Hawai‘i customers deserve an energy roadmap to ensure we’re acting in the best interest of the public, like having access to cheaper and cleaner power, before engaging in a long and complicated merger process,” said Leslie Cole-Brooks, executive director of the Hawai‘i Solar Association.

Over the past several years, the Commission has demanded that Hawaiian Electric focus on establishing a roadmap for a sustainable, customer-focused electric grid that serves the best interests of the state and people of Hawai‘i.

The petition states that the Commission’s numerous orders, together with enactments by the state legislature, have identified specific issues and mandated specific next steps necessary to articulate “the vision, business strategies, and regulatory policy changes required to align the [Hawaiian Electric]’s business model with customers’ interests and the state’s public policy goals.” Continue reading

Participate in “Shout Out for Solar” Day

Shout Out for Solar Day” is taking place on Friday, January 16, 2015 on Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues. The event coincides with the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 41st anniversary as well as the release of The Solar Foundation’s “National Solar Jobs Census” report on Thursday, January 15.

“With the U.S. solar energy industry coming off a record-shattering year, next week’s ‘Shout Out For Solar’ Day is the perfect time for Americans to voice their support for increased development of solar resources nationwide,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “In a short period of time, solar has become a true American success story, benefiting both National Shout out for Solar Daythe U.S. economy and our environment, and we need to be shouting that news from every rooftop.”

According to estimates, the U.S. now has more than 20 GW of installed solar capacity, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million America homes – or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey – with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015-16. SEIA says the growth is being spurred, in part, by the affordability of solar. According to SEIA/GTM Research, national blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010.

“By any measurement, these policies [net metering] are paying huge dividends for both the economy and environment,” Resch continued. “Yet despite all of the progress we’ve made, solar faces an uncertain future in Washington and in some state capitals. It’s more important than ever for the voices of our supporters to be heard.”

Anyone can participate in the event. Pictures can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #GoSolar. Supporters can download and print signs for their pictures here. SEIA is also hosting a Thunderclap, which will send out coordinated Tweets and Facebook posts from hundreds of supporters on January 16.

SunEdison & Omnigrid Bring Solar to India

SunEdison and Omnigrid Micropower Company Pvt. Ltd. have signed a framework agreement to develop 5,000 rural projects, representing 250 megawatts (MW) of electricity, throughout India over the next three to five years. Nearly 400 million people in India have no access to electricity. For those who do, the options are fossil fuel-based and expensive. To bring more reliable power to the country, SunEdison and Omnigrid will build upon the 36 kW micro power plants OMC Power has already put in place with the goal of bringing affordable renewable electricity to 10 million people.

“There are approximately 1.5 billion people that do not have access to electricity and another 1.5 billion people that don’t have reliable, 24/7 electricity. What is most exciting about this partnership is that SunEdison is embarking on its purpose of transforming lives in a very big way,” said Ahmad Chatila, President and Chief Executive Officer of SunEdison. “Solar solar electricity in Indiaelectricity costs have come down dramatically and continue to come down, thus making it a better choice than conventional fossil sources. We don’t have to make a false choice between cost and clean power any more. While a 1 gigawatt (GW) coal power plant can take 3 to 4 years to be developed and constructed, and a nuclear power plant of similar capacity can take 5 to 10 years, a solar photovoltaic power plant can be developed and built in less than a year and can compete on costs.”

SunEdison and OMC Power say they have developed a ready-to-scale solution that will provide reliable electricity for many poor communities. The companies explains their partnership leverages the expertise of each company, including technical know-how, local and telecom knowledge from OMC and project development and financing expertise from SunEdison. SunEdison and OMC have an offering that can help telecommunication organizations meet their regulatory requirements and provide energy to local communities while still going off-grid.

The co-founders of OMC Power, Anil Raj and Rohit Chandra, added, “Our Renewable Energy Services Company model is a proven and commercially viable approach which provides an immediate and substantial improvement in the quality of life in energy-deprived areas, while stimulating economic growth and prosperity. Our agreement with SunEdison is a huge step forward both for our company and for the people of rural India.”

California Governor Outlines Energy Goals

cal-gov-brown-2015Sworn in for his second, second term as Governor of the state of California on Monday, Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. outlined three energy-related goals he would like to see the state accomplish within the next 15 years.

“First, increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources,” said Gov. Brown in his inaugural address. “Two – and even more difficult – reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; three, double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.”

He continued: We must also reduce the relentless release of methane, black carbon and other potent pollutants across industries. And we must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon. All of this is a very tall order. It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities.

I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.

Brown was sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term as California governor this week, with his second and third terms separated by over 30 years.

Solar Tariff Ups Solar Costs, Hurts Consumers

A final decision has been made by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding solar tariffs on solar parts assembled in China using components from a third country. The decision created a Separate Rates Group that will be subject to an AD tariff of 52.13 percent and a CVD tariff of 38.72 percent. For example, Yingli will be subject to a combined AD/CVD rate of 29.18 percent.

CASE-logo“We are deeply disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to accept such a broadly defined scope for this ruling, and to levy harsh, protectionist tariffs,” said Robert Petrina, managing director of Yingli Green Energy Americas. “It’s well known that our customers, partners, and other stakeholders represent the majority of the solar industry and U.S. jobs. We will continue our vigorous defense on their behalf with the hope that national efforts to increase solar power’s cost-competiveness are not derailed further.”

According to the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) this ruling will not only increase the cost of solar imports but will also adversely affect U.S. solar manufacturers. For example, following the announcement Hemlock Semiconductor announced it will close down its plant in Clarksville, Tennessee where the company produced silicon for solar panels. The company cited the ruling as a factor in its decision to close down U.S. production. CASE also says the decision will affect Georgia-based Suniva company.

“Imposing unilateral tariffs on all solar modules assembled in China, including those with solar cells produced in the U.S., Taiwan or any third country, will undercut the growth of American solar jobs and hurt our domestic solar industry,” said Jigar Shah, CASE president.

“Suniva, based in Norcross, Georgia, is America’s leading solar manufacturer. But the Department of Commerce’s decision to broaden the scope of the case may put American companies like Suniva in the bizarre position of paying severe import duties on a product (PV cells) they manufactured in America when those cells are assembled into modules in China,” continued Jigar. “More drastically, Hemlock Semiconductor announced that it plans to close its Clarksville, Tennessee manufacturing plant due to ‘ongoing challenges presented by global trade disputes.’ Over $1.2 billion of investment and 50 jobs will be lost, in addition to the 400 jobs already lost to layoffs in 2013 as a result of the initial 2012 tariffs.”

Jigar said that due to the global threat of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emission, it makes no sense to impose tariffs on solar imports. He urges the U.S and Chinese governments to negotiate free and fair trade in the global solar industry.

NY Gov Andrew Cuomo Bans Fracking

There is big news coming out of New York today with the announcement that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned hydraulic fracking in the state. The news came on the heels of a study that was released concluding that fracking could pose, “significant public health risks.”

The Sierra Club applauds Governor Cuomo for recognizing what the science has made consistently clear: fracking is a hazard to human health that endangers communities wherever it is allowed,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. By banning fracking, Frack off GasholesGovernor Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby. Today’s decision will shake the foundations of our nation’s flawed energy policy, and we can only expect that it will give strength to activists nationwide who are fighting fracking in dozens of states and hundreds of cities and counties.

Yet while Governor Cuomo banned fracking, the state didn’t steam ahead with previous commitments to renewable energy. The Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees voted to approve only a fraction of the renewable energy projects promised by the governor, bringing just 122 megawatts of new solar projects online and falling short of the 280 megawatts of renewable energy the governor committed to this year.

Brune added, “The Sierra Club also extends heartfelt congratulations to all of the passionate anti-fracking activists in New York who were relentless in telling the truth about the dangers of fracking, persevered years of opposition from the oil and gas lobby, and ultimately prevailed. All we need now is for New York to bring wind, solar, and energy efficiency to full potential so we can leave dirty fuels in the ground and move quickly to clean energy prosperity.”

South Carolina Adds Solar Net Metering

As 2014 comes to a close, South Carolina became the 44th state to institute net metering. The news comes on the heels of the announcement that New York has set a significant net metering cap expansion. The New York Public Service Commission agreed to double the allowable rooftop solar capacity for solar net metering. The solar market has already created 5,000 jobs in New York.

Net metering allows solar customers to get credit on their utility bills at the retail rate for any excess power their rooftop solar installations send back to the grid. Utilities sell this clean energy to neighboring customers for the full retail value. In South Carolina, Duke and SCE&G agreed to full retail rate net metering and to not seek any solar-specific charges until 2021.

Alliance for solar choice logoIn a recent South Carolina poll, 73 percent of respondents across political party lines said they want to see more solar growth, and a strong majority of South Carolinians (more than 75%) agreed that rooftop solar is an important part of providing choice and competition in electricity.

“Repeated expansions and the addition of a 44th net metering state demonstrate the strength and fairness of solar net metering,” said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun. “The public wants more rooftop solar, and they support net metering as the policy that drives solar growth.”

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) says they were instrumental in the wins and this year have delivered seven net metering expansions including cap increases in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont. The utilities have failed to achieve any net metering retractions.

ET Solar Collaborates on Israel Project

ET Solutions AG (subsidiary of ET Solar) has been selected to provide services for a 40 MWp PV power plant in Israel. The solar project is located in Kibbutz Ketura, approximately 45 km north of Eilat, and will be built in a desert land of 600,000 square meters. This new solar power facility is expected to generate over 70,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy per year.

ET Solar logoOther project partners include G-Systems and Elmor. Arava Power and EDF Energies Nouvelles Israel jointly own the solar farm.

ET Solar is providing project management, electrical design and plant layout, purchasing, quality control, construction supervision and commissioning services. In addition, the company will also serve as the maintenance service provider, and Arava Power will offer the operation services.

“This project is our largest solar power plant in the Middle East up to now, it is also an important demonstration of our comprehensive solar energy solutions to effectively deliver clean, affordable and reliable solar energy in local market,” said Dennis She, president and CEO of ET Solar. “We are delighted to extend and deepen our collaboration with EDF-EN and Arava Power, to make this utility-scale project a reality after completing a 7.8 MWp solar power plant in Israel early this year.”

Students Learn About the Power of the Sun

Green Power EMC has released an updated curriculum and enhanced in-class learning laboratory featuring solar power. The program was developed by schools participating in their SunPower for Schools partnership program. The curriculum provides solar arrays on school grounds and software for use in the classroom that when used together allow students to monitor real-time data on solar energy production. Currently, 35 middle and high schools in EMC service territories around Georgia are participating in the program.

The program supports STEM standards (science, technology, engineering and math) and includes 57 lesson plans that cover four main areas for middle and high school students: physical science, physics and chemistry; math; life science, biology Array-Sun-Power_rszand environmental science; and earth science. Additional lesson plans are being developed for other subjects and grade levels as well.

“This professionally developed curriculum and upgraded hardware and software not only help students learn about solar energy but also provide a hands-on laboratory to apply math and science standards taught in Georgia schools,” said Green Power EMC President Jeff Pratt. “In addition, we created the curriculum as an off-the-shelf program that teachers can use with a minimum of preparation.”

The new curriculum was developed by the University of West Georgia in partnership with Green Power EMC and was reviewed this summer in a teacher’s workshop in Savannah to test and evaluate the program. Forty-four middle and high school teachers participated in the three-day seminar and provided feedback that is being incorporated into the curriculum. It will be utilized during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Pratt said Green Power EMC and the EMCs in Georgia who own the renewable energy cooperative hope to further enhance the program in the near future to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for Georgia’s students. “We’re excited to have developed a curriculum that is like no other in the state,” said Pratt. “We expect that teacher and student feedback received during this first year of implementation will allow us to make it even better in future years.”