Net Metering a Cost to Utilities, or a Benefit?

Date: 11 Apr 2012 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 1 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Update: A third-party study of net metering in California also found that solar customers provide more benefit than cost to the utility Utilities often claim that allowing customers to run their meter backward (by generating electricity on-site, e.g. from rooftop solar) can affect their bottom line because these customers don’t pay enough to cover the cost … Read More

States Scream at Feds for Preempting, Then Preempt Cities

Date: 28 Mar 2012 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Here at muninetworks.org, we continually see instances of state government preempting rights of local government to make their own decisions on broadband. It was no surprise to us to read Josh Goodman’s recent Stateline.org article, GOP Legislatures Try to Limit Local Government’s Power. Goodman takes a look at a disturbing trend in the relationships between local … Read More

Minnesota Electricity Could Be 100% Renewable, 100% Local

Date: 13 Mar 2012 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

A new report released today by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research shows that Minnesota can meet 100% of its electricity needs with in-state wind and solar power, and (with ample energy efficiency investments) at a comparable cost to its existing electricity supply. The notion that solar and wind energy cannot be the mainstay of … Read More

Solar Gets Cheaper, but Not Equally

Date: 13 Dec 2011 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In January, I plotted the size of state solar markets against their average installed cost and found surprisingly little correlation.  When Lawrence Berkeley Labs put out their 2011 version of Tracking the Sun (IV), it was possible to update the chart, which I did in two stages. The first chart simply overlays the 2010 average installed … Read More

Public Solar Often a No-Go With Fed’s Favor for Solar Tax Incentives

Date: 3 Nov 2011 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 3 Facebooktwitterredditmail

You’re a city manager hoping to cut electricity costs at sewage treatment plant, a school administrator looking to power schools with solar, or a state park official needing an off-grid solar array for a remote ranger station. 

But unlike any private home or business, you can’t get 50% off using the federal tax incentives for solar (a 30% tax credit and ~20% from accelerated depreciation).  That’s because the federal government’s energy policies all use the tax code, and your organization is tax exempt.

What about a public-private partnership?  The private entity puts up some money and gets the tax benefits, and the public entity only has to pay half.  It can work, if you’re lucky, although a good portion of those tax benefits (half, in recent years) pass through to that private entity for their return on investment, not changing the price of your solar array.

But the legal niceties also matter.  One common option is a lease, where the public entity leases the solar panels from the private one.  One big problem: the IRS doesn’t allow the private entity to collect the 30% tax credit if they lease to a public entity. 

The cash grant program in lieu of the tax credit allowed leasing, but it expires in December.  Furthermore, it disallowed depreciation of the solar array, equivalent to 20% off.

Another clever arrangement is a power purchase agreement (PPA), where the third-party owns the solar array and simply sells the power to the school or city.  The third-party can claim both the tax credit and depreciation, but if you live in a state with a regulated utility market (and no retail competition), your utility might slap you with a lawsuit for violating their right to exclusive retail service.

The following chart illustrates the financial challenge for public entities created by using the tax code to support solar. 

Chart of public sector options for solar purchase and federal incentives lost

Even with a lot of legal creativity, the public sector is often stymied in accessing both federal solar incentives.  The result is that private sector solar projects always get a lower cost of solar, because the public sector can only access federal incentives through (costly) partnerships with third parties.

Using the tax code for solar (instead of cash grants, production-based incentives, or CLEAN Contracts) is bad for the solar business, bad for taxpayers and bad for ratepayers.  It’s time to change course, and let the public sector go solar, too.

Read More

Watch: Sun Power Minnesota

Date: 19 Oct 2011 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

This is a presentation given to the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society in October 2011.  With costs dropping rapidly and value rising, solar can make enormous contributions to Minnesota’s electricity system and economy.  That’s the spirit of this presentation ILSR Senior Researcher John Farrell gave last week to the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society on the potential for … Read More

More Cost-Effective Solar from CLEAN Contracts than Solar REC Markets

Date: 18 Oct 2011 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States, Press Release | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The low risk and transparency of CLEAN Contract Programs can provide states with more solar at a lower cost than solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) programs, says a new report released last week.  Produced by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), CLEAN v. SREC: Finding the More Cost-Effective Solar Policy finds that an otherwise identical solar … Read More

Keeping Energy Dollars in Minnesota

Date: 28 Sep 2011 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

I gave a presentation last night to a public forum hosted by Think Again MN on maximizing the economic returns from the state’s clean energy resources.  I was joined by Lynn Hinkle of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (and former union labor representative) and George Crocker from the North American Water Office (and passionate community organizer).  The whole video is below, with my presentation starting around 24:00.

To view just the slide show of my presentation, click below:

Read More

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10