Posts tagged: Solar Revolution
title=”American pushing a car. The car symbolizing the status quo of energy & utilities.” src=”http://www.wholesolarpower.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Pushing-utilities-300×199.jpg” alt=”American pushing a car. The car symbolizing the status quo of energy & utilities.” width=”300″ height=”199″ />
Old 'energy' America is out of gas.
The renewable energy revolution and, specifically, the solar revolution, is on a charge like never before… full charge. It’s a trumpets- blaring kind of charge. The status quo, aka utility companies, are having a difficult time adapting and adopting to the surge in demand. Most likely with the onset of higher energy costs, nuclear meltdown and awareness on price decreases in solar. The adoption rate has occurred at such a high level that LA Department of Water & Power (LADWP), released a statement explaining how they are changing their solar rebate policy because:
A) The demand has overextended their fiscal budgeting by almost 300%, and;
B) Citing safety concerns since they don’t have the bandwidth to inspect more than 80% of the installs in a timely fashion.
SB 1 passed in 2006 (coined “The Million Solar Roofs Bill”), requires state municipal utilities to create their own solar rebate program for their utility ratepayers, among other mandated components & enforcement directives through 2016. The utility companies across the country have typically lobbied against pro-solar legislation, like SB1, so there is natural skepticism as to LADPW motive of “temporarily” suspending their rebate program. LADPW isn’t the first utility to maneuver this direction, other utilities in pro solar states like Colorado & Florida have take similar evasive action, too. Regardless, of honest vs. dishonest intentions, the one powerful statement this is making is that Solar ubiquity in America Is for real! Demand/solar adoption rates are increasing, and supply is really the biggest threat to getting the pricing to the sweet spot of making adoption as mainstream as super sizing your french fries.
Pricing at All Time Low
Since 2008, WholeSolar has been bringing solar buyers together to increase their buying power. The result is lower wholesale pricing. It’s like “Groupon” for solar. Pricing has dropped extensively since 2008, but frankly there has never been a better time to buy solar than right now – even if all the utilities who are mandated by State approved rebate programs, revolted. Literally, at the publication of this post we have negotiated unheard of pricing on behalf of the WholeSolar buying group. Consumers, are eating this up, given that solar, typically returns that cost within a 6-7 years of savings. More importantly, the home owners “cost-of-doing-nothing” is staggering. Nobody knows where pricing will go later this year and on into 2012. Even, with a pricing flux, the fact is that more states are going to be passing bills like SB1, and the momentum of the energy revolution in America is going to continue. The solar surge has the momentum that is going to help recharge the economy, and not be stopped by a utility lobby, or a presidential election, unless they want to be on the wrong side of history.
With pricing being at this level of a low & demand increasing to an all time high, utilities like LADPW are going to be forced to seriously review their rebate programs, refine them and meet the demand. Currently, LADPW is budgeted $30 million for 2011 rebate programs, and has confirmed requests for $112 million and we just started the 2nd quarter of the year! Granted, this reveals that LADPW, most likely under budgeted their rebate program to barely meet the law of the California. But, it tells a terrific legislative success story, and more importantly paints a great economic picture of how solar adoption is slowly changing the way Utilities do business.
This is one of the rare times I have read something and immediately want to share it with the Solar Tribe. I debated whether to blog along the same lines and work in quotes, but in the final analysis, this says it all for
me. So, without further ado, the following email was received today from Solar Nation:
Voters of California won a big one for climate and clean energy on Tuesday when they decisively beat back Big Fossil’s attempt to mold state laws to its liking. The infamous proposition 23, the attempt by out-of-state oil
80% (of Americans) want federal subsidies shifted from fossil fuels to solar
companies and others to sideline California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, went down to a convincing 61-39 defeat at the ballot box.
This is not just significant, this is HUGE. In an election cycle in which private corporations – including many foreign companies – shoveled money at candidates who could be counted on to be compliant with their corporate agendas, Golden State voters saw through the misinformation of the prop. 23 campaign and voted accordingly. And that sent the message to the rest of the country that, in a state where voters understand and care about such issues, polluting industries don’t automatically get their own way. Not only that, but this is a state where the success or failure of energy and environmental legislation has a way of getting exported to many other states. That’s how critical this particular battle was.
If their chiropractors are OK with it, Californian voters should twist around and pat themselves on the back for that one.
The story with that state’s proposition 26 is a little more complex. Also backed by Big Oil, its passage means that certain environmental fees will be reclassified as taxes, meaning that they will require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to be imposed. This makes it politically more difficult to, for instance, charge polluters and raise funds for the benefit of clean energy, water and air. However, a senior Administration official said on Wednesday that this will only apply to laws passed from next year on; since the threatened Global Warming Solutions Act – AB32 – was passed in 2006, it should not be affected.
Why It Matters
The voting results on prop. 23 matter, and not just for California. Many of the freshman class of newly elected U.S. Congresspersons are fond of pointing at Democrats’ embrace of green causes as a factor in their poor Election Day showing. But here are some recent findings from a Kelton Research survey of solar/climate issues:
- 94% of Americans polled believe it’s important to develop and use solar power;
- 80% want federal subsidies shifted from fossil fuels to solar;
- 70-80% want the Government to tackle climate change;
- 49% would pay more for clean, reliable solar energy.
The implication is that the California ballot initiative results, not to mention the results of many of the statewide and U.S. races in that state, fairly well reflect the mood of the country on these matters. And that means that the 112th Congress should think very carefully before nullifying the progress made, to this point, on clean energy legislation around the country.
Assuming, of course, they’re paying attention.
Special thanks for Solar Nation
class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-759″ />By now, most of us know that the demand for solar continued to rise during the recession. Demand continues to grow throughout the world. A couple of days ago, the SEIA published The US Solar Industry Year in Review 2009. The opening sentence of the report stated: “Despite the Great Recession of 2009, the U.S. solar energy industry grew— both in new installations and employment.” Reuters reported that the “industry surged on incentives.” In February, Todd Woody provided details of how California and New York utilities are playing a key role in solar growth in the New York Times Green Inc. blog. “Over the past few weeks, some 1,300 megawatts’ worth of distributed solar deals and initiatives have been announced or approved. At peak output, that is the equivalent of a big nuclear power plant” wrote Woody. Yes, it’s only one big nuclear power plant, certainly not “As Big As Coal” which needs to be the rallying cry of the Solar Revolution, but, nonetheless, in the midst of the financial meltdown, it’s something.
So, OK, we are moving in the right direction over the last several weeks…but we’ve got a long way to go. There is so much do to on so many levels. As much credit as some will give to the utilities, the truth remains that the Solar Revolution is a grassroots cause. The efforts of the cause as a whole depend on each and every one of us doing what we can to educate and promote the beneits…even the imperitive…of creating solar As Big As Oil. We cannot settle for less. Along these lines, in order to be most effective, we’ve all got to understand the magnatude of unresolved issues that stand in the way of our goal.
In the Solar Industry Magazine (April 2010, Volume 3, Number 3~it is only available via “deadtree media”) that I recently receved, Michael Coddington, Kate Anderson and Benjamin Kropski did a great job of summarizing a New York City case study assessing grid-level effects of distributed photovoltaics. The article identifies many of the technical issues that stand in the way of rapidly connecting distributive PV to the utility networks. On the front page of the same Solar Industry issue, Bob Powell presents a look at utility-scale financing components. I highly recommend these two front page articles. The NYC Study article describes that utilities use two types of electrical distribution systems. By far the most common is these is the simpler radial system, which is designed for electricity to go just one-way. In such a distribution system, a lot of hardware and software is devoted to detecting and protecting against “reverse power flow,” which is “indicative of an upstream supply feeder fault.” Needless to say, this is not good from a net metering and feed-in-tariff point-of-view. The article also discusses the problems caused by the highly variable nature of solar energy supply and the importance of the development of solutions that will make this source of energy more reliable (such as battery technology or eventually a national or worldwide smartgrid). The front page companion piece reminds us that regulators and legistlators are driving the utilities to do the right thng, “either through mandates such as enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPS)…or via less formal expectations that a utility has in response to climate change.” Failure to meet RPS standards will hit the utilities where it hurts them most: earnings. The challenge for the utility becomes how to finance all the change required to achieve the RPS. There is so much great information is these two Solar Industry Magazine articles.
There was also a separate blog by Tom Raftery in the greenmonk blog. First, I want to say, that this blog is one great example of what we each can do to do our part for the Solar Revolution. Tom’s catchy sub-heading says “green from the bottom up; sustainable from the top down.” On April 16, Tom writes about “Are Utility Companies Ready for Full Smart Grids?” Tom takes a look at the IT angle to the new way of doing business. He also has a video interviw with Chris King, the Chief Regulatory Officer of eMeter. Tom writes that he commonly asks “What is a Smart Grid? Almost all the interviewees talk about an infrastructure capable of full end-to-end, two-way communications. That is, communication from utilities down to the appliance level in-home, and from appliances back up to utilities.” Tom probes the challenges that smart grid poses to IT, appliance development and, probably most importantly, consumer education.
So, with this kind of perspective, how are we doing so far with our Big as Oil goal? Well, in a recent Greentechmedia research article titled “Can the U.S. or California Institute a Feed-In Tariff?” Eric Wesoff writes that the RPS in California has failed. “And the U.S. solar market remains thwarted by tight financing, fragmented policies, and spotty permitting, as well as restrictive access to public lands. Arguably, policy trumps technology in matters of energy, and the U.S. has a long way to go in developing a favorable energy and solar policy.” Wescoff’s article covers an April 14 presentation made by Ted Ko of the FIT Coalition. “California’s renewable energy piece was 14 percent of the energy mix in 2003,” cited Ko in his speech to the Silicon Valley Photovoltaics Society, “and actually dropped down to 13 percent in 2008. Further, he asserts that there is little chance that will California achieve its goal of 20 percent in 2010 and 33 percent in 2020.”
The answer, according to Ko, is getting a feed-in tariff imposed in California and in the U.S. Ko defined the feed-in tariff as a predefined, pre-approved PPA between renewable energy generators and utilities. He called it “the most effective policy in the world for getting cost-effective renewable energy online. It’s simple, fair and effective.”
As they say, “the Devil’s in the details.” There are so many details to research and understand. We need to continue to feed one another with newly developing information and ideas. Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are great communication tools for this. So are invididual, company and public blogs. Write your own; subscribe to this one and others. WholeSolar will be starting a blog list. Let’s all share what we’re discovering and believing. Find a solar or renewable energy meetup group in your area. If you can’t find one, start one. Please be a part of Vote Solar and other similar organizations, where our numbers create “power to change power.” And please encourage other to join you in signing the Solar Bill of Rights. Most importantly, take action (if you have not yet) and increase your action (if you have).