Democratic Energy Media Roundup – week of March 16, 2015

Date: 20 Mar 2015 | posted in: Energy | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

This week in Democratic Energy:

  • West Virginia governor signs bill slamming brakes on solar development
  • Wal-mart’s support of a new North Carolina law should give regulators pause
  • California could produce five times their energy needs from solar


Utility titan plays harder as industry evolves by Bill Loveless, USA Today

Of course Fanning says he doesn’t see utilities becoming obsolete in the near future, but he ignores…

The idea may seem far-fetched given our reliance on massive systems of transmission lines and central power plants that deliver electricity to our homes and businesses.

But with the rapid spread of solar panels on residential and business roofs across the country, and the potential for breakthroughs in microgrids, storage systems and other technologies, the business model for electric utilities is coming under scrutiny like never before.

Zombie Attacks on Rooftop Solar by Michael Brune, EcoWatch

In the past, I have compared big, polluting fossil fuel companies to zombies. Now I feel bad. Upon reflection, I believe I may have been a little unfair—to zombies.

While we agree with the big picture of how third party ownership simplifies the process and encourages solar development, federal and state governments should be able to set a floor for clean energy.

Want to learn more about third party ownership? Check out these articles and resources!


APPA: Federal regulators should leave distributed solar power alone by Barry Cassell, GenerationHub

“APPA believes that decisions about solar power generation and deployment should be made at the local or state level, with a transparent discussion of the costs and benefits compared to other generation sources,” the association said. “Community solar projects can often provide a more affordable and reliable option than rooftop solar. APPA will continue to educate federal policy makers about the impact of federal regulations and incentives on local decisions about solar power generation, and discourage federal mandates or one-size-fits-all proposals.”

Congress debates distributed solar ahead of new legislation

“With the rise of distributed generation and smart grid technologies, Americans are gaining more control over how they use and consume electricity but, as a result, the grid must be even more closely integrated. Innovation and new technologies, such as commercially viable storage, are clearly necessary to assist in this transformation,” said Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), in her opening remarks.

“The reliability of our nation’s grid is therefore paramount, and the impact of policy directives must be seriously considered – not dismissed as somehow anti-environment or anti-future.”

Democratic Energy Across the Nation


Critics question SRP’s solar-energy payments by Ryan Randazzo, AZ Central

Several critics of Salt River Project’s recent decision to charge higher fees to solar customers accused the public utility of “profiting” from the solar power it gets from rooftops and sells to other customers.

Several of the people who attended SRP’s public meetings on the rate changes asked for a full accounting of the surplus power SRP gets from rooftop solar.

A New Front Opens Up in the Arizona Solar Battle by National Law Review

SolarCity alleges SRP’s new pricing scheme is an improper effort by SRP to eliminate potential competition to maintain SRP’s monopoly in the retail electric market in its service territory, to slow or reverse the gains made by the distributed solar industry and to force consumers residing within SRP’s service territory to purchase all of their electricity from SRP by making self-generation economically unfeasible.


Solar in California’s urban areas could provide 5 times the power the state needs by Lucas Mearian, ComputerWorld

The research showed that by using areas around existing infrastructure and brownfields, California could substantially [increase] how much energy it gets from solar, without converting natural habitat and causing harm — and without moving the installations to remote locations. The researchers found that using small- and utility-scale solar power in and around developed areas could generate up to 15,000 terawatt-hours (trillion watt hours) of energy a year using photovoltaic technology, and 6,000 terrawatt-hours of energy a year using concentrating solar power technology.

Study: Solar PV in the Built Environment Could Power California Nearly 5 Times Over: New research shows the technical potential for solar on California’s buildings and used lands is enormous. by Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media

“Comparing the realized, generation-based potential of solar energy technologies to the state of California’s total energy consumption further underscores the value of solar. The quantity of energy that could be produced solely within the built environment (that is, ‘compatible’; conferring the least land-use or land-cover change) exceeds the energy needed to meet the state’s total energy consumption,” write Rebecca Hernandez, Madison Hoffacker and Christopher Field.

Our Cities Could Become High-Density Solar Power Plants by Alissa Walker, Gizmodo

The idea of turning our cities into large-scale energy production centers doesn’t sound that radical, but it’s drastically different from the way power is delivered to our homes. For the most part, utility companies treat solar energy the same as other location-specific energy sources like hydroelectric plants or wind farms, so the majority of solar collection happens on dedicated land far, far away from cities.

The Stanford study, which was published in this month’s Nature Climate Change, turns this traditional utility model on its head. Looking at California, the current leader in solar energy production, researchers estimate that investing in a combination of both photovoltaic power (the typical solar panel) and concentrating solar power (how a plant like Ivanpah, the world’s largest, works) in cities alone would not only be more efficient, it would generate enough to supply the state with all its power needs—at least three times over.


Are Residents With Solar Panels ‘Makers’ Or ‘Takers’? by Brian Dowling, Hartford Courant

“The cost shifting, which the utilities and others have brought to the table — they are promoting as if it is a given,” said Joel Gordes, president of Environmental Energy Solutions, an energy consultancy. “Let me assure you it is not. Net metering payments are not subsidies, not cost-shifting. They are compensation for the products that residents are selling back to the utilities.”

Northeast Solar Groups Unite For Policy Push by Brian Dowling, Hartford Courant


It’s tea party versus tea party on solar energy proposal by John Kennedy, Post on Politics

A proposed ballot initiative to encourage solar energy use in Florida drew some attention when it was unveiled in January by having tea party activists among its leaders.


Hawaii is On Course to Go 100% Renewable by 2040 by Ari Phillips, Think Progress

“We are on the leading edge of the 21st century renewable energy transformation,” Chris Lee (D), Sponsor of the House version of the bill, HB 623, and chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee, told ThinkProgress. Lee said he’s been pushing for a 100 percent RPS bill for three years, but that this is the first year there’s been overwhelming support to move forward.


Iowa bill would require debatable safety feature on home solar by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

“This is something that’s coming from the utility behemoths through the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers),” said Barry Shear, the president and owner of Eagle Point Solar in Dubuque. “They’re the ones pushing this.”

“It’s a well-designed play to talk safety, but it’s really designed to be a barrier to solar,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a staff attorney in Des Moines with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Would Iowa legislation make rooftop solar safer, or just block its growth? by Robert Walton, Utility Dive


Coal Is Dying: So What Should Sen. McConnell Really Do for Miners by Andrew Winston, Huffington Post

Does Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell truly care about coal miners? In his latest attempt to fight all movement toward a clean economy – in theory to protect those workers – McConnell wrote an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader where he encouraged the states to rebel against federal clean power regulations. He feared, he said, that the regulations would throw “countless” coal miners out of work.

As the senior Senator from Kentucky, McConnell should absolutely worry about the coal industry. But the end of coal as an important global commodity is coming – not in the next few years, but it’s coming fast. So the Senator is wasting his energies trying to stop progress and should instead help those who will be hurt by the shift.


Louisiana solar industry moves against unethical net metering study by Greentech Lead

Louisiana has some of the highest bills in the region and if monopoly utilities have their way in coming months, Louisianans will soon become completely captive to these bills, without the right to self-generate their own energy on their own private property for their own use.


The value of power: Solar goes sky-high in Maine by Tux Turkel, Press Herald

Broad use of energy from the sun offers long-term benefits for the state, says an analysis for the Public Utilities Commission. Will the finding influence the debate over subsidies?


Solar panels spur fights between homeowners, property associations by Jacob Barker, St Louis Today

Trustees say the family can mount the panels in the back of the house, but Barnes says that will only expose them to two or three hours of sunlight a day. The lawyers got involved, and Barnes began walking door-to-door to gather signatures of support within the roughly 180-home neighborhood.

“We’re just one of many families across St. Louis and Missouri fighting this battle,”


Solar Energy Moving Forward in Minnesota by KEYC

“It’s time to start thinking about some new choices, particularly for a region like ours where we don’t have any fossil fuel sources. Money we spend on fossil fuels leaves the region.”

Even though people in the area may not be using solar energy just yet, Minnesota could be switching on the light towards producing and keeping energy in-state.

Coleman says, “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring energy production into the state of Minnesota rather than buying it out of state.”

New York:

Community Net Metering Proposal Brings Solar Within Reach by Whitney Files, Triple Pundit

This program is an exciting step forward for advocates of renewable energy in New York, as the proposal may allow community members who haven’t yet been able to install or afford solar PV to get in on the action. Through the New York community net metering proposal, renters would have the ability to buy into a shared renewable system, bypassing their landlords. And for the responsible landlord who wants to go solar, shared renewables can provide a framework to share the costs and benefits of a solar PV system with their tenants.

North Carolina:

When the backers of a solar bill include Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Volvo, you have a good reason to be skeptical…

Third party solar sales are a conservative’s dream by Lee Brinson, Citizen-Times

Do we want to be remembered as a society that knowingly and willfully subjected its inhabitants to deadly sources of power, when we have an opportunity to move in a better direction costing us less?

Hopefully, N.C. legislators will support these measures this session to the people’s advantage rather than the utility companies.

North Carolina Bill Would Launch Opportunity for Third-Party-Owned Solar by Julia Pyper, GreenTech Media

House Bill 245, dubbed The Energy Freedom Act, would for the first time allow property owners in North Carolina to buy electricity directly from a renewable energy company, bypassing their utility.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. John Szoka (R), cites the need to diversify North Carolina’s energy resources, provide greater energy security and reliability through the development of distributed energy resources, and to encourage private investment in new generating facilities and ancillary businesses.

Under the law, renewable energy projects owned or operated by a third party would be eligible to participate in net metering arrangements through the public utilities.

Bill allowing renewable-power sales direct to N.C. consumers could be a boon for solar by John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal

While he as still drafting the “Energy Freedom Act,” Szoka said he expected the legislation would be limited to sales to government offices, not-for profit organizations and military bases. His thinking was that it would save taxpayers and nonprofits money and could be a step toward more general “third-party sales” from renewable-energy project owners to customers.

Solar energy use on the rise in NC, WRAL


New governor praises Hillsboro for citywide focus on solar energy, Hillsboro Tribune

“Solar energy investments will create good local jobs, diversify the energy system, reduce global warming pollution and produce energy where it is used,” her letter read. “By partnering with the Northwest Solar Communities initiative, your community has brought together local government, utilities and stakeholders in order to create a jurisdiction that is ‘Open for Solar Business.’

“The city of Hillsboro serves as an inspiration to Oregon, and I thank you and your community for taking the actions necessary to make solar deployment a reality, thereby clearing a path so that others may follow.”


Solar panel campaign kicks off in South Fayette by David Mayernik Jr., TribLive

Through the solarize Web site, those interested in solar power can access information such as how to finance installation of solar panels and receive solar installation quotes.

The campaign aims to reduce complexity, decrease costs through competitive pricing and connect residents with reputable installers.

The organization hopes to work with libraries, homeowner associations and community organizations over the next 20 weeks in South Fayette to spread the word about solar power.


New Solar Deal, like everything else in Texas, is Big by RP Siegel, Just Means

To say that we’ve seen a broad range of responses from public utilities to the “onslaught” of rooftop solar would be an understatement. On the one hand, you have the Florida Public Service Commission voting to gut their energy efficiency program and terminate all solar rebate programs, eliciting  a surprising response from, by all people, the Tea Party. They say the state needs more solar, not less. The battle down there in “the Sunshine State” has led to some unusual alliances, like the Christian Coalition joining hands with Greenpeace, and the Libertarian Party linking up with Sierra Club. It stems primarily from the extraordinary influence wielded by the major power companies in the state.

Over in Texas, on the other hand, the local utility in Dallas has taken more of an “if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em” approach. Here, you’ll find MP2 Energy in a partnership with Solar City to help facilitate the rapid spread of solar power. Solar City, if you’ll recall, is also participating in a joint venture with Tesla Motors on batteries for energy storage that can be integrated with solar generation.

SolarCity Bringing “Full Net Metering” To Texas (This Is Big) by James Ayre, Clean Technica

West Virginia

West Virginia Governor Approves Previously Vetoed Bill, PV Magazine

The bill Gov. Tomblin signed on March 12, however, includes only minor revisions compared to the one he vetoed on Feb. 24. As previously, it requires the Public Service Commission “to prohibit cross-subsidization” through net metering, conduct a general investigation into net metering rules and caps the amount of customer generating capacity eligible for net metering at no more than 3% of total utility peak demand.

West Virgina Governor Signs Restrictive Net Metering Bill by Leon Kaye, Clean Technica

Governor’s Tomblin approval of the bill is a huge setback for the state’s nascent solar industry, which was already on the ropes after the legislature and governor repealed West Virginia’s Alternative Renewable Energy Portfolio Act. The state capital, Charleston, had been the focus of aggressive lobbying by anti-clean energy companies including American Electric Power, which even lied about H.B. 2201’s financial impacts to a state senate committee.


Report: Wisconsin utilities lead in fighting solar energy by Mike Ivey, The Capital Times

Once considered a Midwestern leader in clean energy development, Wisconsin is now referenced as one state where electric utilities with the backing of regulators are putting up financial roadblocks against the solar industry.


Sell off the power dinosaurs by Arthur Anderson, Hamilton Spectator