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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Sep 1, 2011

PACE Financing Takes a Step Forward in Court

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/pace-financing-takes-step-forward-court/

With a ruling that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) must do a formal rulemaking on its 2010 decision to torpedo the innovative local finance tool for energy efficiency and clean energy retrofits, a federal judge gave Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing new life.

Earlier this year, it looked as if prospects were bleak for PACE in 2011, with some progress on Commercial PACE and a new director at advocacy organization PACENOW, but agonizingly slow steps on federal legislation and litigation. 

Today’s ruling means FHFA has to start over, but it does not overturn the agency’s 2010 advisory against PACE, leaving the program in limbo until the formal rulemaking is complete.  Here’s hoping PACE finally wins through, a great tool for saving energy and creating jobs at the local level.

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Clean Local Energy for Kentucky
Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Aug 31, 2011

Clean, Local Power for Kentucky

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/clean-local-power-kentucky/

In August 2011, ILSR Senior Researcher John Farrell gave this presentation to a group of rural utilities and environmental organizations in Kentucky.  The slides illustrate the enormous renewable energy potential in Kentucky and the cost-effectiveness of clean, local power in meeting the state’s electricity and economic needs. Clean Local Power for Kentucky View more presentations… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 1 Comment | Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Why ‘Market-based” is a Poor Criteria for Good Solar Policy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/why-market-based-poor-criteria-good-solar-policy/

Updated 8/26/11 and 9/1/11

Many renewable energy advocates argue that the market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) is a more cost-effective tool for incentivizing solar power than a feed-in tariff (or CLEAN contract) set in a regulatory proceeding. 

Really?

This chart illustrates the installed cost of solar in New Jersey from 2006 to 2011 (as reported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Tracking the Sun III and converted to levelized cost) in green, the New Jersey SREC spot market price in red, and the German feed-in tariff price (constant exchange rate, adjusted for NJ solar insolation) for rooftop solar projects 30 kilowatts and smaller in blue. (Update 9/1: the previous chart showing solar cost in $ per Watt is here).

Does a “market-based” policy do a better job of matching the actual cost of solar? 

This comes to mind: “one of these things is not like the other…”

Update 8/26: I should add that the German feed-in tariff is the only source of revenue for solar projects, whereas the SREC in New Jersey comes in addition to the federal 30% tax credit and accelerated depreciation (and net metering).  Since the two federal incentives (and net metering values) have not changed, the fact that the SREC value is rising against the tide of falling solar prices is even more absurd.

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Article filed under Broadband | Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Aug 18, 2011

ILSR Releases New Report: Learning from Burlington Telecom

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/ilsr-releases-new-report-learning-burlington-telecom/

Burlington Telecom, a publicly owned broadband network in Vermont, transitioned from a hopeful star of the community broadband movement to the first example used by those opposed to government investing in the infrastructure of the 21st century. Continue reading

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Article, Resource filed under Broadband | Written by Christopher | No Comments | Updated on Aug 18, 2011

Learning from Burlington Telecom: Some Lessons for Community Networks

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/learning-burlington-telecom-some-lessons-community-networks/
In little more than a year, Burlington Telecom went from being a hopeful star of the community fiber network movement to an albatross around its neck. The controversies surrounding it have encouraged cable and telephone companies to use it as Exhibit A in their case against communities going into the telecommunications business. However, most of those criticizing Burlington Telecom have very little understanding of what went wrong and how it happened. Examining what actually happened helps to explain how these problems may be avoided, as the vast majority of existing community networks have already done.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 6 Comments | Updated on Aug 18, 2011

In Wind Power, is Bigger Better?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/wind-power-bigger-better/

Update October 2012: The 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report shows weak, but consistent economies of scale in wind power projects. It seems obvious: every extra turbine in a wind farm comes at a lower incremental cost, making the biggest wind power projects the most cost effective per kilowatt of capacity. If you bet $20 on… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 1 Comment | Updated on Aug 18, 2011

U.S. Could Get 20% of Its Power from Solar on Transmission Line Right-of-Way

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/us-could-get-20-its-power-solar-transmission-line-right-way/

Ontario Hydro transmission line forest cutUpdate 8/23/11: While solar can be built right under high voltage transmission lines, it can’t necessarily interconnect right at the tower.  Thus, this piece should be read as an analysis of land use rather than easy interconnection.

What if the U.S. could get 20 percent of its power from solar, near transmission lines, and without covering virgin desert?

It can.  Transmission right-of-way corridors, vast swaths of vegetation-free landscape to protect high-voltage power lines, could provide enough space for over 600,000 megawatts of solar PV.  These arrays could provide enough electricity to meet 20% of the country’s electric needs.

It starts with the federal Government Accountability Office, which estimates there are 155,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the United States (defined as lines 230 kilovolts and higher).  According to at least two major utilities (Duke Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority), such power lines require a minimum of 150 feet of right-of-way, land generally cleared of all significant vegetation that might come in contact with the power lines.

That’s 4,400 square miles of already developed (or denuded) land for solar power, right under existing grid infrastructure. 

Of course, the power lines themselves cause some shading, as may nearby trees (although the New York Public Service Commission, and likely other PSCs, has height limits on nearby trees that would minimize shading on the actual right-of-way).  To be conservative, we’ll assume that half of transmission line right-of-way is unsuitable for solar. 

That leaves 2,200 square miles of available land for solar.  With approximately 275 megawatts (MW) able to be installed per square mile, over 600,000 MW of solar could occupy the available right-of-way, providing enough electricity (over 720 billion kilowatt-hours) to supply 20 percent of U.S. power demands (note: we used the average annual solar insolation in Cincinnati as a proxy for the U.S. as a whole).

Making big strides toward a renewable energy future doesn’t require massive, remote solar projects, but can use existing infrastructure or land to generate significant portions of our electricity demand.  Transmission right-of-way, providing 20% of U.S. electricity from solar, is just one piece of the puzzle, with another 20% possible using existing rooftops and a solar potential of nearly 100% from solar on highway right-of-way.  Solar can help achieve a 100% clean – and local – energy future.

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Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | 1 Comment | Updated on Aug 17, 2011

Study Finds Local Businesses Key to Income Growth

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/study-finds-local-businesses-key-income-growth/

The results of a new study suggest that the key to reversing the long-term trend of stagnating incomes in the U.S. lies in nurturing small, locally owned businesses and limiting further expansion and market consolidation by large corporations. Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Aug 17, 2011

Challenges Ahead: Brown’s 12,000 MW Local Renewables Target

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/challenges-ahead-browns-12000-mw-local-renewables-target/

Commentary by Al Weinrub, August 10, 2011

jerryBrown_3477Jerry Brown led off his conference of 250 high level renewable energy stakeholders July 25-26, 2011 by calling for a “more secure, more sustainable, more American” energy system. The conference was organized to help chart the path to 12,000 MW of local renewable power by 2020, as called for by the Governor.

Key to achieving the 12,000 megawatts will be overcoming significant obstacles, among them being bureaucratic approval and permitting barriers, grid integration and interconnect difficulties, and finding appropriate amounts of investment capital. And, of course, building political consensus.

The conference started off with a bang as the governor, referring to some of these obstacles, blatantly asserted that “some kind of opposition you have to crush.”

With that auspicious beginning, and after the Governor and press cameras had departed, two intensive days of deliberation began. The by-invitation-only participants consisted of about 50% renewable industry representatives and consultants, 25% government personnel (the governor’s staff, energy agency commissioners and staff, a few legislators, and county and regional agency representatives), and the remainder representing  investor-owned and municipal utilities, a few unions, financial institutions, environmentalists, and a smattering of decentralized/distributed generation advocates.

There seemed to be a great deal of consensus at the conference about the need to streamline renewable energy project approvals across the plethora of government agencies that are often involved, and also about the need for utilities to be more forthcoming about technical data required by project developers. There was much less consensus, however, about what kind of projects would be developed, where, and by whom.

In fact, the main contention at the conference was between those who emphasized least cost of energy as the main criteria for decentralized generation projects and those who stressed other values, such as local economic development, jobs, equity, community health, and the like. The conflict was framed in many ways, but emerged most directly between those parties who advocated for large projects (5 – 20 MW) through a renewable auction mechanism (RAM and those who advocated for community-scale projects (0 -5 MW) promoted through a feed-in tariff mechanism.

Not surprisingly, the utilities and big developers like Recurrent Energy were pushing the least-cost criteria, calling for the 12,000 MW to be developed as larger 10 -20 MW ground-mounted solar PV projects close to transmission substations and selected through a RAM program. Surprisingly, they were joined by The Utility Reform Network (TURN), which argued that this approach would result in the least cost of energy and hence best protection of ratepayers.

The other side included the Los Angeles Business Council, the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the Clean Coalition, the Local Clean Energy Alliance, Solar Done Right, and other long-time decentralized generation advocates who called for the 12,000 MW to be developed as smaller-scale projects in urbanized areas where economic recovery, jobs, equity, and health are key goals. These parties argued for a comprehensive feed-in tariff program that would promote this type of local renewable development. They also argued against the prevailing assumption that larger scale projects are less expensive, pointing not only to rapidly declining prices for solar PV installations, but to a fuller set of socio-economic costs and benefits, which the big players conveniently ignored.

Amidst the palpable jubilation of the renewable energy industry over Brown’s commitment to local renewable energy, the Governor’s conference revealed emerging battle lines over how that 12,000 MW target will be deployed. Will California’s “local” renewable energy projects primarily represent the interests of the big industry players or the interests of local communities?

This is a question for which the stakes are high; whether California will go down the old road (simply calling it something new) or whether it will take a qualitatively different approach. If the representation of invitees at this conference is indicative of the Governor’s leanings, there is reason for concern, if not alarm. Despite Brown’s campaign platform of more democracy and more local control, there was very little community present at this conference.

A political battle over who will benefit from decentralized/distributed generation of renewable energy is shaping up. This is a battle for which our communities will need to mobilize if we are not to be first marginalized and then regarded as an opposition to be crushed.

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