PACE Calls for Fair Solar in Louisiana

The Louisiana Public Service Commission has released a draft report that the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) says sheds “significant light” on the inequities caused by the state’s treatment of distributed solar generation. The report finds that the state’s current public subsidy for solar power is unsustainable but also that the net metering requirement for utilities is shifting considerable grid costs from solar customers to non-solar customers.

PACE is calling this “unfair” and wants the state to change its treatment of distributed solar. They cite several important conclusions found in the report:

  • More than $2 million in grid costs are being shifted to non-solar customers in Louisiana. This could grow to $31.4 million by 2020.
  • Costs associated with net metering in Louisiana far outweigh the benefits. The negative cost is already $89 million and is estimated to rise to between $125 million and $488 million.
  • Net metering customers have incomes on average 35% higher than non-solar customers, meaning the state’s net metering policy is shifting grid costs from those with more money to those with less.
  • Louisiana’s net metering policy could cause power customers to pay as much as $809 million more if it is left unchanged.
  • Louisiana’s taxpayer subsidy to solar customers has grown from an originally estimated half a million dollars annually to $42 million per year, making it one of the most generous in the nation.

PACE logoIn Louisiana, as in many other states, regulatory policy allows a small group of customers to use the power grid as a battery backup when they are unable to rely on their solar rooftop systems. However, PACE notes that these customers are unwilling to help pay for the cost of maintaining a reliable electricity grid in Louisiana. While solar is a valuable resource, says PACE, everyone should pay their fair share for the use of the power grid. Right now, as the report clearly shows, those costs are being shifted to less affluent non-solar customers, which is both unfair and unsustainable.

How to incorporate solar energy in way that is fair and benefits all electricity consumers is becoming a hot button issue around the country. For example, Arizona and New Mexico, fees for solar users have been viewed as solutions to this issue while Hawaii has recently lowered net metering rates. PACE is calling on Louisiana to review other states’ policies as a guide to create fairness.

FPL to Power Miami ePrix

Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) will be powering the electric vehicles (EVs) racing for first place with solar power. The inaugural event will take place in downtown Miami on March 14, 2015. Formula E is a new FIA single-seater championship and the first fully-electric race car series. It kicked off in Bejing last September and ends this June featuring 10 teams, each with two drivers, racing on city streets. The racing series was developed to showcase R&D and excitement around EVs and the Miami ePrix marks the first U.S. appearance of the series.

“Our partnership with Formula E and the Miami ePrix is another example of our commitment to advancing zero-emissions solar energy and the use of electric vehicles in Florida,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “By the end of 2016 we Formula E racing series in Buenos Aireswill triple the energy we are able to produce from the sun, furthering our mission to provide low-cost, reliable and clean energy to our 4.7 million customers.”

“It’s an honor for us to have been selected as one of the 10 founding Formula E teams for the inaugural season,” said Michael Andretti, chairman and CEO of Andretti Sports Marketing who participated in the announcement. “I look forward to bringing this exciting series to North America and joining an impressive field of competitors at the upcoming race in Miami.”

During the announcement, electric race cars were charged with power generated from the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, one of three solar power plants operated by FPL. Earlier this year, FPL announced plans to install more than 1 million solar panels at three additional solar power plants by the end of 2016. When combined with other community projects, FPL will triple its solar capacity, which currently totals approximately 110 megawatts.

“The Formula E Miami ePrix is all about sharing our passion for electric vehicles,” added Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings. “The race series is exciting, it’s entertaining, and we hope it will turn the world’s attention to the potential electric vehicles have to change the way we power transportation. We are pleased to partner with FPL – a company that shares our vision for powering the future with affordable, clean energy.”

Solar Plant Opens in Northern Cape Province

Abengoa and state-owned financier, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), together with KaXu Community Trust have launched a 100 MW solar plant – KaXu Solar One – near the town of Pofadder (Northern Cape Province). The new solar facility will power 80,000 homes in South Africa. The Department of Energy of South Africa awarded Abengoa the project. The power will be sold to the utility Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Representatives of the South African government, IDC and Abengoa during the grand opening of Kaxu Solar One.

Representatives of the South African government, IDC and Abengoa during the grand opening of Kaxu Solar One.

Minister of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel, officially inaugurated the solar power plant. He was accompanied by Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr. Bulelani Magwanishe, Premier of the Northern Cape, Silvia Lucas, executives of Abengoa and IDC and representatives of the local community.

Manuel Sanchez Ortega, Vice President and CEO of Abengoa, said of the project, “We are proud of the role we are playing to help South Africa meet its ongoing energy demands. This project will leave a legacy that will benefit the community of Pofadder, Northern Cape and the entire country. This would not have been possible without the leadership of the South African Department of Energy.”

KaXu Solar One, the first Solar Thermal Electricity (STE) power plant in South Africa, incorporates a storage system that enables production of 100 MW for 2.5 hours after sunset or before dawn. The project will result in approximately USD 891 million direct and indirect investment inflows to South Africa, generate approximately USD 516 million in taxes over the next 20 years.

Fadiel Farao, the Chairperson of the KaXu Community Trust, said KaXu Solar One will be a catalyst for economic development in the Khai Ma municipality in the Northern Cape. “The project has stimulated the local economy and will go a long way toward helping to generate much-needed economic opportunities for people in this area.” KaXu Community Trust is comprised of members of the local community.

Abengoa is building in the region Khi Solar One, a 50MW solar plant using tower technology and has already started the construction of a third project, Xina Solar One, a 100 MW parabolic trough plant. Xina Solar One will shape with KaXu Solar One the largest solar platform in sub-Saharan Africa.

W. Virginia Gov – Don’t Put Solar in the Dark

Solar supporters from across the country are calling on West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to veto House Bill 2201 – a bill that could jeopardize the future of rooftop solar in the state by rewriting net metering policies.

Solar advocates from Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK) claim that utilities, such as American Electomblinheadshottric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy, are deceiving legislators about the language in HB 2201. Should the Gov sign the bill, TUSK said he would “saddle” hundreds of West Virginia families, churches and businesses, that have invested private funds in rooftop solar with new fees. This is happening, said TUSK, at the same time as two utilities – Mon Power and Potomac Edison – are raising rates.

“The utilities are fighting tooth and nail to eliminate competition while also raising rates for their customers,” said Barry Goldwater Jr., spokesperson for TUSK. “When will it be enough? These monopolies are hurting consumers and West Virginia’s economy by increasing rates and pushing new fees through HB 2201.”

TUSK logoThe net metering fight has been underway for some time and TUSK said that to date, hundreds of consumers have written to their legislators in support of rooftop solar.  TUSK said this particular “attack” uses deceptive language in HB 2201 to impose punitive fees – retroactively and going forward – on West Virginians. The organizations said thousands of West Virginia voters continue to stand strong for choice and competition in the energy market and continue to flood the Governor’s office with letters asking him to preserve net metering and energy choice..

“SEIA doesn’t object to investigating the costs and benefits of net energy metering, but we do object to the assumption that any potential cost shift from a net metering customer to other customers is unjustified,” adds Rhone Resch, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) president and CEO, who notes that the legislation needs to be revised before becoming law. Continue reading

Sungevity Launches Solar Program in NC

Sungevity has launched a new solution for homeowners to own their own rooftop solar systems in North Carolina. Whereas in other states solar leasing is an option, North Carolina law requires homeowners to own the source of renewable energy on their property.

In an effort to equip North Carolina residents with the ease and affordability of the Sungevity solar experience, the company has partnered with solar energy investment platform Mosaic to create a loan product specifically designed for state residents. The 20-year loan is structured to help residents take advantage of both the 35 percent state income tax credit and the 30 percent federal renewable tax credit for solar customers. The entire process is facilitated via Sungevity’s online platform, where North Carolina homeowners can access estimated energy savings specific to their homes via the company’s proprietary iQuote technology.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 1.36.28 PM“Sungevity has always focused on making the solar experience simple and satisfying for our customers. That’s why we crafted a solution that allows North Carolina homeowners to experience the benefits of solar without the hassle or a high upfront payment,” said Andrew Birch, Sungevity’s chief executive officer. “Sungevity is proud to serve North Carolina as we continue to expand across the country to give more people a better choice in how they power their homes.”

According to Sungevity, its entry into the state also extends the company’s long-time partnership with North Carolina-based Lowe’s — where Sungevity solar solutions will be available to residents throughout Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Sungevity is also partnering with Sierra Club and CREDO in North Carolina, and for every installation purchased through these partners, Sungevity will also provide $750 to the respective organization as part of Sungevity.org, the company’s cause marketing initiative.

Sun Edison & GRID Alternatives “RISE”

SunEdison and its SunEdison Foundation has announced a $5 million solar/funding contribution to GRID Alternatives to launch a two-year initiative called RISE to connect the solar industry’s demand for skilled workers with communities that need jobs. Building on the successful 2014 SunEdison and GRID Alternatives partnership to bring more women into the solar industry, the RISE initiative will provide underserved communities with solar job training and job placement through GRID Alternatives’ workforce development program.

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

This partnership is making solar more accessible for everyone in America. For lower income families, that means lower electricity bills, more money for necessities, and the opportunity to receive valuable job training,” said Ahmad Chatila, president and chief executive officer of SunEdison. “I’m very proud that with this contribution, SunEdison is truly helping the people who need it most.”

The RISE initiative will provide hands-on training and real-world solar installation experience to over 4,000 people across the country. In addition, the initiative will connect job trainees with solar companies looking for skilled workers. As part of the initiative, GRID Alternatives through its SolarCorps program will provide 40 individuals with one-year paid fellowships in GRID Alternatives’ offices around the country. In addition, SunEdison employees will donate over 2,000 hours of their time installing solar systems for low-income families and supporting job-readiness for trainees.

“The solar industry is adding jobs at a rate of more than 20% year over year,” added Erica Mackie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GRID Alternatives. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect an industry that needs good people with people that need good jobs, and that’s just what this partnership is doing.”

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives will also be working with the White House to help President Obama meet his goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar capacity on federally assisted housing in a way that provides job training opportunities to the residents of those communities.

NREL: Biodiesel Leads Biofuels Growth in US

renewenergydatabookThe latest numbers from the federal government shows biodiesel was the leader in growth among biofuels in the United States. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book showed good gains for many of the renewable energy industries, while energy consumption from petroleum actually slumped, despite an overall increase in the amount of energy consumed.

United States overall energy consumption grew to 97.3 quadrillion Btu in 2013, a 2.4% increase from 2012. Energy consumption from coal and renewables grew slightly, while consumption from petroleum and natural gas fell slightly.

Biodiesel was the fastest growing biofuel type, with production increasing by 64% in the United States and 17% globally, from a relatively small base.

Renewable electricity [including hydropower and biopower] grew to nearly 15% of total installed capacity and 13% of total electricity generation in the United States in 2013. Installed renewable electricity capacity exceeded 171 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, generating 534 TWh.

[S]olar electricity was the fastest growing electricity generation technology, with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66% from the previous year.

[W]ind electricity generation increased 20% in 2013, while wind electricity capacity grew 1.8%.

The report also found that in 2013, renewable electricity accounted for more than 61 percent of all new electricity capacity installations in the United States. By comparison, renewable electricity captured 4 percent of new capacity additions in 2004 and 57 percent in 2008.

Globally, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) are among the fastest growing renewable electricity technologies— between 2000 and 2013, solar electricity generation worldwide increased by a factor of nearly 68.

First Solar, Apple Strike Bright Power Deal

A bright power deal was struck this week when Apple committed $848 million to purchase clean energy from First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project in Monterey County, Calif. Apple will receive electricity from 130 MW AC of the solar project under a 25-year power First Solar logopurchase agreement (PPA), the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user according to First Solar.

“Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” said Joe Kishkill, chief commercial officer for First Solar. “Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California. Over time, the renewable energy from California Flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact.”

Construction of the 2,900-acre California Flats Solar Project is expected to begin in mid-2015 and to be completed by the end of 2016. The output of the remaining 150 MW of the project will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under a separate long-term PPA, and the project is fully subscribed between the Apple and PG&E PPAs.

EIA: Ethanol, Biodiesel, Renewables to Grow in 2015

The latest government numbers show the amount of ethanol and biodiesel, as well as energy produced from wind and solar will increase in 2015. The latest Short-Term Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows growth for the biofuels, while total renewables used for electricity and heat generation will grow by 3.8 percent this year.
EIA11feb2015
Ethanol production averaged 933,000 bbl/d in 2014, and EIA expects it to average 938,000 bbl/d in 2015 and 936,000 bbl/d in 2016. Biodiesel production averaged an estimated 80,000 bbl/d in 2014 and is forecast to average 84,000 bbl/d in both 2015 and 2016.

In 2013, the electricity generation shares were 6.6% and 6.2% from hydropower and nonhydropower renewables, respectively. Wind is the largest source of nonhydropower renewable generation, and it is projected to contribute 5.2% of total electricity generation in 2016. Wind capacity, which grew by 7.7% in 2014, is forecast to increase by 16.1% in 2015 and by another 6.5% in 2016. Because wind is starting from a much larger base than solar, even though the growth rate is lower, the absolute amount of the increase in capacity is more than twice that of solar: 15 GW of wind versus 6 GW of utility-scale solar between 2014 and 2016.

EIA expects continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation, which is projected to average almost 80 gigawatthours (GWh) per day in 2016. Despite this growth, solar power averages only 0.7% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016.

DOE Commits $13M in Community Solar Funds

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated $13 million in funding as part of the Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) program. The funds are designed to aid communities in reducing market and policy barriers to solar deployment and also recognize communities for taking solar initiatives. The DOE believes the program will make it faster, cheaper and easier for Americans to install affordable solar energy systems and spur solar development.

SPARC funding will establish a national recognition and technical assistance program for local governments to help them more effectively and efficiently deploy solar energy. Funding recipients will establish and administer a national recognition program and also SPARC iconprovide technical assistance and share best practices with communities seeking national recognition for cutting red tape and improving local solar market conditions.

Once the program is established, says DOE, communities that participate in SPARC will gain access to a network of nationally recognized leaders and receive expert assistance and national distinction while supporting local efforts to spur solar market growth and deploy solar energy faster and cheaper. Find more information about this funding opportunity, including application requirements.

This funding opportunity builds on the work of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative to support innovative, locally-driven solutions for cutting the “soft costs” of solar energy—often caused by delays in permitting, inspection, and interconnection—to build markets that support solar businesses, lower costs for consumers, and increase solar deployment. This announcement comes on the heels of DOE’s $59 million funding announcement to support solar energy acceleration and $14 million commitment to help communities develop multi-year solar deployment plans to install solar electricity in homes, businesses, and communities.