Democratic Energy Media Roundup – week of March 27, 2015

Date: 30 Mar 2015 | posted in: Energy | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

This week in Democratic Energy:

  • Why homeowners may want to think twice before leasing solar panels
  • How Germany’s solar success shines — even through solar eclipse
  • New Solar ownership program could be key to distributed local energy surge
  • Find out which Texas city is set to completely embrace clean power!

Featured Stories

Leased solar panels can complicate — or kill — a home sale: Nationwide, residential solar installations are booming, up by 50% per year since 2012. But leased panels can cause problems when it’s time to sell a home.
by Kenneth R. Harney, LA Times

Some would-be buyers balk when they learn that they’ll need to qualify on credit to take over your solar lease payments for the next 15 to 17 years. Others say they like the house but won’t sign a contract unless you buy out the remaining lease payment stream — $15,000 or $20,000 or more — because they’re worried that the solar equipment will become obsolete or won’t save as much on electricity bills as advertised.

Local electricity could meet half our needs by 2050
by the Realising Transition Pathways Consortium Project

Co-Leader of the Realising Transition Pathways Consortium, Professor Peter Pearson from Cardiff University added: “This report imaginatively explores an electricity future of a kind that none of us has experienced. It illustrates one of the ways in which the UK might seek to achieve the low carbon transition envisaged in the Climate Change Act 2008.” 

Sunnova Offers Solar Ownership Program to US Residential Customers
by Meg Cichon, Renewable Energy World

Residential solar financing company Sunnova announced today that it is now offering what it calls an EZ Own program, which is like a cross between a solar loan and lease. Essentially, customers will be able to make monthly payments for their home solar system with no money down — all through Sunnova itself rather than a bank. Sunnova will also provide a service warranty package.

Lifting state limits on local power 
by John Farrell, Clean Technica

States should make sure their limits on local power reflect actual technical limitations of the grid, and not just utility interests in protecting market share.”

Solar Energy Squad Goes After “Un-American Electric Power”
by Christopher DeMorro, CleanTechnica

The conventional energy industry has been using its paid-for politicians and long-embedded advantages to try and prevent homeowners and businesses from embracing solar power. This has put solar advocates on the defensive for a long time, but in response to American Electric Power’s (AEP) recent anti-solar campaign, advocates for clean energy are hitting back. Hard.

Public Power Communities Shine the Light on Innovation: Public power utilities, which are owned by the communities they serve, have an inherent interest in helping those communities to innovate and prosper.
by Mark Crawford, Area Development

In Texas, solar installations are showing up all over Austin, according to Carlos Cordova, a spokesperson with public power provider Austin Energy. “The growing distributed solar footprint on thousands of Austin-area homes, public facilities, and commercial properties is clear evidence of the partnerships between Austin Energy and our customers.”

 The trend, he says, has been positive not just for those distributed-generation users but also the local economy. “Incentive programs have helped our customers by sharing the cost of installing solar systems and spurred the development of the clean energy industry in our region,” Cordova observes. “Solar Austin, a local nonprofit group, estimates that Austin Energy’s solar programs have created more than 600 clean-energy jobs in our area. The solar program has helped spur the development of the solar and clean-tech industry by creating green-collar and professional jobs and attracting other related solar companies and investment.”

Solar Eclipse: German power net survives solar eclipse
Deutche Welle

Germany has more installed solar power capacity than any other nation. That led to worries that Friday morning’s solar eclipse might destabilize the power network. Network operators prepared carefully for the event.

Dirk Biermann, an engineer at electricity network operator 50Hertz, said the eclipse was a “stress test” for the Energiewende – the country’s gradual, massive shift toward renewable energies. The network engineers wanted to show that it’s possible to deal successfully with large-scale fluctuations in renewable energy input, whether from sudden increases and decreases in solar energy or in wind power.

Are Solar-Powered Homes Jacking Up Everyone Else’s Electric Bills? (“No!”)
Solar power is cheaper than ever—but utilities are trying to discourage people from using it.
by Tim McDonnell, Mother Jones

John Farrell, a program director at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argues that to succeed down the line, utilities will have to act more like grid managers, connecting power from a host of sources (much like data flowing into a server from many places) and investing in technology that helps consumers use power more efficiently. “There’s no outcome 10 or 20 years from now that looks anything like what utilities have been before,” Farrell says. “It’s going to happen anyway, and you just have to choose whether you’re gonna like it or not.”

Democratic Energy Across the Nation


TEP Wants to Reduce Solar Energy Buy-Back Rates
by Zachary Ziegler, Arizona Public Radio

Solar advocates claim the proposal is unfair to solar customers because it will allow the rate to fluctuate year-to-year. TEP reassesses the rate it pays solar electricity providers on an annual basis.

TEP seeks reduced net metering benefits for new home solar customers
by Tony Davis, Tucson News

“They claim rooftop solar customers are costing TEP . . . In fact, the opposite is true,” said Millis, program coordinator for the club’s Grand Canyon chapter. “Rooftop solar customers are investing millions in TEP infrastructure. They build power plants on their roofs — they are small power plants, but that’s one less power plant that TEP doesn’t have to build. It’s saving TEP money, every time somebody goes solar.”

“We’re deeply disappointed in TEP. Tucson expects more from TEP,” Millis said in a telephone interview.


A Utility Business Model That Embraces Efficiency and Solar Without Sacrificing Revenue?
by James Mandel, Ph.D and Martha Campbell, Rocky Mountain Institute

While the utilities and individual customers would do well, the community would see tremendous gains. If 60 percent of the Fort Collins residential market segment participated in a basic package and 10 percent chose to upgrade to additional services (things like energy-efficient windows that might come at a cost premium but deliver great energy savings), Fort Collins’s greenhouse gas emissions could drop by more than a half-million metric tons per year. These reductions would achieve 32 percent of what RMI showed was possible across all sectors (electricity, buildings, and transportation) in the Stepping Up report. It would also help customers access 195 MW of distributed-renewable generation capacity by 2030.


State looks to ramp up renewable energy
by Hugh Bailey, Stamford Advocate


Industry group backs 2016 ballot initiative for ‘solar choice’ in Florida
by Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel


Georgia likely to permit third-party lending for solar panels
by Ray Henry, Associated Press

Power companies have dropped their opposition after getting several concessions. For starters, Dudgeon’s bill does not touch the monopoly system. It puts size limits on solar installations and makes sure an existing utility cannot be held legally responsible for problems caused by another company’s equipment. Utility companies also get a say over safety standards.


Utilities’ Anti-Solar Campaign and Misinformation Debunked by Gabe Elsner

David Owens, Executive Vice President at Edison Electric Institute, claimed on-the-record with the Post, “It’s not about profits; it’s about protecting customers.” But as documents revealed by the Washington Post story show, these efforts are part of a coordinated campaign to maximize utility profits, not protect ratepayers. Owens’ presentation to EEI’s Board stated, “How do you grow earnings in this environment?” in reference to the increase in distributed solar.

Utilities make their money by building big, new infrastructure projects and then sending ratepayers the bill. This is exactly why utilities want to eliminate policies that encourage homeowners and businesses to go solar.

Hawaii’s Alternate Energy acquires Honolulu solar firm Risource Energy
by Duane Shimogawa, Pacific Business News

 He noted that the rooftop solar photovoltaic slowdown, which has been attributed to Hawaiian Electric’s change in interconnection rules in 2013, has restricted homeowners from investing in solar that has led to the closure of several PV contractors in Hawaii.

“At [Alternate Energy] we’re doing what we can to ensure that employees and customers of our green industry are taken care of,” Kawamura said.


Area energy co-op expands into solar: Panels available to subscribers
by Pam Eggemeier, Sauk Valley News

The driving force behind the co-op’s foray into green energy was the people who own the co-op – its members. 

“We had a lot of interest in solar from our members, and that was the main reason we decided to do this,” said Kyle Buros, the co-op’s senior vice president and assistant general manager. 

Its 75 employees now service 26,500 accounts in the four counties, with some members subscribing to multiple offerings that include electric, natural gas, broadband and solar.


Is solar worth $0.33 per kWh? Inside Maine’s valuation debate: A study finds solar has great value, concerning the state’s utilities
by Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

“The current electricity rate is about $0.13 per kWh and clearly the value of solar is well in excess of that even if environmental and other societal benefits are left out,” he said.

Legislators are also likely to consider expanding the current 660 KW limit on net metered systems to 1 MW or 2 MW, an augmenting Maine’s net metered community solar programs, Voorhess speculated.

“This study shows solar is a much better value than people think,” said Maine House of Representatives Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon (D).


County leads state in solar energy as projects progressing
by CJ Lovelace, Herald Mail Media

Julie Pippel, director of the county Division of Environmental Management, said the solar array is the first of several scheduled for construction through 2016 on county-owned sites that could produce up to 25 megawatts of “green” power.

“We’re hoping to have, by the end of the calendar year, 4 to 6 megawatts complete and online,” she said Thursday.

The projects will add to the county’s state-leading solar portfolio.

County officials in 2012 agreed to a public-private partnership with EPG Solar, which would finance, install and own the panels on up to 130 acres at landfills and other county-owned locations.

New York

New York’s Energy Revolution includes Victories for Environmental Justice
by Raya Salter, Natural Resources Defense Council

 REV’s objective is to revolutionize the New York state electricity system in ways that is already setting precedent across the country, in states like Maryland and others, where regulators are also beginning “utility of the future” proceedings.

North Carolina

St. Eugene is going green; Asheville church to install solar panels

“The Church’s teaching on social justice asks us to get involved in issues that affect us all,” Cahill said. “Parishioners are looking for ways to do this. Our project lets us show stewardship and responsibility for our environment along with other Churches and Synagogues who have already installed Solar Panels.”


OSPIRG students are pushing Oregon to go solar
by Anna Lieberman, Daily Emerald

“Sometimes Oregon isn’t as green as you perceive it from the outside,” Fusco said. “But this is a great way to make Oregon the green state that it is and that it can be.”

New Beaverton schools will include $5 million in solar panels
by Eric Apalategui, Beaverton Valley Times


Why rooftop solar is disruptive to utilities – and the grid
by Seth Blumsack, “The Conversation”

Large-scale solar power plants will continue to get built. But it is in the many millions of rooftops (and in the future, building facades) where the real potential for solar energy as a disruptive technology is taking shape. By installing solar panels, a consumer pays the utility less and, for the first time, becomes an energy producer rather than a consumer only.



Texas city pulls plug on fossil fuels with shift to solar
by Christopher Martin, Bloomberg Business

[Georgetown- population 50,000] will be the first city to completely embrace clean power in the state, which is the biggest U.S. producer and user of natural gas. More will follow as municipalities seek to insulate themselves from unpredictable prices for fossil fuels, said Paul Gaynor, SunEdison’s executive vice president of North America. Burlington, Vermont, made a similar move with its purchase of a hydroelectric plant last year.


Vermont has a chance to reset renewable energy
by Rep. Rebecca Ellis, Waterbury Record

In aggressively promoting distributed renewable generation, Vermont is following both national and global trends. On the electric grid, distributed generation looks a lot like efficiency. Because demand is met locally, utilities do not need to reach out to the grid for supply.


Homeowners’ Payments at Stake in Olympia Solar Debate
by Christopher Dunagan, Investigate West


The necessity of Badger-Coulee is the question
by John Dunn Mauston, LaCrosse Tribune

 New York State is moving toward a better and brighter energy future while Wisconsin clings to the past.

A view from Wisconsin on fixed charges and utility-solar troubles: data is the key to determining solar’s true value.
by Tyler Huebner and Brad Klein , Utility Dive

In Wisconsin, all three utilities argued that customers with solar panels are not paying their fair share of the utilities’ fixed costs, and therefore every single customer should see their monthly connection fee go up from $9-$10 per month to $16-$25 per month.

Raising the monthly connection fee hurts low-using energy customers, who, as the National Consumer Law Center found, are often low-income, minorities, fixed-income, apartment dwellers, and senior citizens.

Let’s put Wisconsin’s level of solar adoption in perspective compared with the dramatic fixed charge increases requested.

West Virginia

AEP seeks to stifle WV energy freedom 
by Bill Howley, Charleston Daily Mail

This fight over the right of West Virginians to produce their own energy impacts solar and non-solar customers alike. More locally-produced energy on the electric grid benefits everyone. The Public Service Commission should ignore AEP’s self-interested arguments, preserve economic competition in the state, and protect utility customers from unfair penalties that only benefit power company profits.

More Democratic Energy News

Community Solar: Key Considerations in Designing a Successful Program: In the first of a series of articles, Adam Capage of 3Degrees addresses ownership and siting of community solar programs.
by Adam Capage, GreenTech Media

Top 10 Cities Embracing Solar Energy—Did Your City Make the List?
by Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch 

France Mandates New Roofs Must Be Covered in Solar Panels or Plants
by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch

Why This Tea Party Leader Is Seeing Green on Solar Energy
by diane toomey, Environment 360

My foray into becoming a strong advocate for decentralized energy began with a fight with a government-created monopoly in Georgia, Georgia Power. I believed that they had far too much power. They received permission that would allow them to bill me, a utility customer, in advance for two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in south Georgia that might never come online. Then I found out that there were massive [construction] cost overruns predicted on these two nuclear reactors. So, to add insult to injury, not only was I paying in advance for nuclear reactors that I may never see the benefit of because I could move out of state or drop dead or whatever, I was also paying for the cost overruns and [Georgia Power was] making a guaranteed profit off of the cost overruns. So it was a fight with a government-created monopoly that led me to do a lot of research into decentralized energy. Now, I support all decentralized energy.

Power Grid of the Future: Distributed Generation Led by a ‘Civic’ Energy Sector
by Roman Kilisek, Breaking Energy

“What would our energy system look like if the move to a low-carbon society wasn’t left to governments and big energy companies but was instead led by civil society?” – asks Dr. Stephen Hall, a Research Fellow in energy economics and policy at the University of Leeds (UK). Hall is co-author of a new report titled “Distributing Power – A Transition to a Civic Energy Future”. The idea here is that “communities, citizens and local authorities together can form a “civic” energy sector that could revolutionise the way” electricity is generated, transported and consumed.

The Utility of the Future – Panel Discussion
Energy Collective

The electric power sector is poised for transformative changes. The growing penetration of distributed energy resources, including distributed generation such as solar PV or fuel cells, electric vehicles, stationary batteries, and demand response, could remake electricity markets, power system operations, and utility business models alike. Regulators, utilities, and new technology companies are now positioning themselves for a new era of electricity innovation. What will the utility sector of the future look like? Who will deliver electricity services a decade or two from now? Who is best positioned to grow market share and capture new market opportunities? Will energy consumers benefit from a more distributed power system?

As Solar Power Spreads, Diverse Users Fight Utility Attempts To Penalize It
by Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports