“I have known Roy Phillips, founder of REP Energy, Inc., for over eight years. Roy demonstrates a consistent and excellent knowledge of the solar and construction industries, and always operates with integrity and quality on every project.”
– Dave Metcalf, Regional Manager, Kyocera Solar, Inc.
If the world is serious about halting the worst effects of global warming, the renewable energy industry will require $12.1 trillion of investment over the next quarter century, or about 75 percent more than current projections show for its growth.
That’s the conclusion of a report setting out the scale of the challenge facing policymakers as they look for ways to implement the Paris Agreement that in December set a framework for more than 195 nations to rein in greenhouse gases.
The findings from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmentalists, show that wind parks, solar farms and other alternatives to fossil fuels are already on course to get $6.9 trillion over the next 25 years through private investment spurred on by government support mechanisms. Another $5.2 trillion is needed to reach the United Nations goal of holding warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) set out in the climate agreement.
“The clean energy industry could make a very significant contribution to achieving the lofty ambitions expressed by the Paris Agreement,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a London-based research group. “To do so, investment volume is going to need to more than double, and do so in the next three to five years. That sort of increase will not be delivered by business as usual. Closing the gap is both a challenge and an opportunity for investors.”
The required expenditure averages about $484 billion a year over the period, compared with business-as-usual levels of $276 billion, according to Bloomberg calculations. Renewables attracted a record $329 billion of investment in 2015, BNEF estimates.
While the figures are large, they’re not as eye-watering as the International Energy Agency’s projection that it will cost $13.5 trillion between now and 2030 for countries to implement their Paris pledges, and that an extra $3 billion on top of that will help meet the temperature target. Those figures aren’t just limited to renewables: they also include energy efficiency measures.
Envoys from 195 nations sealed the first deal to fight climate change that binds all countries to cut or limit greenhouse gases at a United Nations summit in Paris last month. They agreed to hold temperatures to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
“Policymakers worldwide need to provide stable, long- lasting policies that will unleash far bigger capital flows,” said Sue Reid, vice-president of climate and clean energy at Ceres, a nonprofit group. “The Paris agreement sent a powerful signal, creating tremendous momentum for policymakers and investors to take actions to accelerate renewable energy growth at the levels needed.”
The biggest federal policy development of the year for renewables plays out on Congress’ last day of work in 2015.
By Stephen Lacey
December 18, 2015
Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed a spending package today that includes multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies.
The pair of bills, which included tax extenders and $1.1 trillion in funding to keep the government running for the next year, passed hours before lawmakers adjourned for the holidays.
“May the force be with you,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, urging her fellow Senators to vote in favor of the package shortly after the House approved the bills.
The force was certainly with renewables.
Under the legislation, the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022.
The 2.3-cent Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind will also be extended through next year. Projects that begin construction in 2017 will see a 20 percent reduction in the incentive. The PTC will then drop 20 percent each year through 2020.
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Also included were geothermal, landfill gas, marine energy and incremental hydro, which will each get a one-year PTC extension. Those technologies will also qualify for a 30 percent ITC, if developers choose. In addition, the bill expanded grants for energy and water efficiency.
Business groups and analysts say the extensions will support tens of billions of dollars in new investment and hundreds of thousands of new jobs throughout the U.S.
“There’s no way to overstate this — the extension of the solar ITC is the most important policy development for U.S. solar in almost a decade,” said MJ Shiao, GTM’s director of solar research.
According to GTM Research, the ITC extension will help spur nearly 100 cumulative gigawatts of solar installations by 2020, resulting in $130 billion in total investment. More than $40 billion of investment will be “directly attributable to the passage of the extension,” said Shiao.
The American Wind Energy Association expects similar growth. The group did not issue precise figures, but said the PTC extension would support tens of gigawatts of new wind projects through 2020.
The legislation also lifts a 40-year ban on exports of crude oil produced in the U.S. In exchange for lifting the ban, Democrats pushed for multi-year extensions of renewable energy tax credits and demanded that Republicans strip out any riders that would weaken environmental laws.
Both sides got what they wanted.
However, Pelosi publicly worried yesterday that she didn’t have enough votes to support the bill. Many Democrats expressed concern about the oil export ban tradeoff, saying it would increase subsidies to fossil fuels and boost carbon emissions.
Congressional leaders and the White House lobbied hard to convince the Democratic base that the bill would be a win for the environment.
“While lifting the oil export ban remains atrocious policy, the wind and solar tax credits in the Omnibus will eliminate around 10 times more carbon pollution than the exports of oil will add,” wrote Pelosi in a letter to lawmakers.
Katherine Hamilton, a partner with 38 North Solutions, called the bill “sausage-making at its most intense.”
“The product should be palatable for most parties in clean energy. Extensions for renewables and efficiency tax credits were key sweeteners. In addition, clean energy R&D funding, land and water conservation funds, and clean energy funds were included in the deal,” she said.
Other independent analysts found that the deal would be a net positive for the climate. Although emissions would increase slightly because of increased drilling activity, they would be easily offset by increasing renewable energy development and decreased coal consumption.
“Our bottom line: Extension of the tax credits will do far more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years than lifting the export ban will do to increase them. While this post offers no judgment of the budget deal as a whole, the deal, if passed, looks like a win for climate,” wrote Council on Foreign Relations fellows Michael Levi and Varun Sivaram.
The tax credit extensions cap a big month for renewable energy policy.
In early December, world leaders agreed to a framework for lowering global greenhouse gas emissions — a deal that will leverage hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment for clean technologies.
And earlier this week, California regulators issued a new proposal on net metering that would preserve the retail rate paid to rooftop solar systems. The new rules — combined with the continued federal tax credit — will ensure strong activity in the top solar state.
National groups will now likely reset their sights on local battles around the U.S., said Hamilton.
“The renewable energy industries can turn their focus to state and local policies, siting and permitting issues, and compliance strategies for the Clean Power Plan,” she said.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law today.
On June 24th, the Master Limited Partnership (MLP) Parity Act was reintroduced in both the House and Senate. U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX-02) and Mike Thompson (D-CA-05) put forth this bipartisan legislation to level the playing field by giving investors in renewable energy projects access to a decades-old corporate structure whose tax advantage is currently available only to investors in fossil fuel-based energy projects.
This bill would provide an important modification to the federal tax code that would release private capital by helping additional energy-generation and renewable fuel companies form master limited partnerships, which combine the funding advantages of corporations and the tax advantages of partnerships. Solar energy companies would be among the biggest beneficiaries of this extension.
“Renewable energy technologies have made tremendous progress in the last several decades, and they deserve the same shot at success in the market as traditional energy projects,” Senator Coons said. “By updating the tax code, the bipartisan Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act levels the playing field for all domestic energy sources — renewable and non-renewable – to support the all-of-the-above energy strategy we need to power our country for generations to come. This practical, market-driven solution will unleash private capital and create jobs, and that’s why it has earned broad support from Republicans and Democrats in Congress as well as academics, outside experts, business leaders and investors.”
Private capital is the strongest way to grow solar energy production in the U.S. and such renewable energies should certainly enjoy the same legislative incentives that exist for oil and gas ventures. When taxed at the individual investor level, a solar business with the MLP structure would have more financial flexibility and a lower cost of capital. Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America and this proposal would go a long way to support this clean, affordable source of energy.
The Congressional calendar remains uncertain entering the fall; however, the MLP Parity Act has broad support from the business community as well as the legislature. The bill was previously introduced in 2013 and hopes have been high since that time that the language may find its way into a comprehensive tax reform effort often cited as a priority of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees. While comprehensive reform appears stalled for the foreseeable future, smaller energy-focused tax packages (including solar investment tax credit extension) are currently being discussed.
SEMI maintains an advocacy team in Washington, D.C., focused on building support for solar/PV legislation such as the MLP Parity Act. As these initiatives move forward, SEMI will remain a vocal supporter of a level playing field for U.S. solar companies.
A controversial proposal to raise electricity rates for most Californians would “give a really big break” to the state’s wealthiest communities, top utilities regulator Mike Florio said.
Southern California Edison and other utility companies are pushing major changes that would raise prices for those who use the least and lower prices for those who use the most. Critics have slammed the proposal, saying it would harm low-income households and reduce the incentive for high-income households to invest in solar and energy efficiency.
Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric have defended their proposal, arguing that current rates unfairly penalize high-usage customers. Their planhas the backing of Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.
Florio, who also serves on the five-member commission, sees things differently.
Under Florio’s alternate proposal, electricity rates would still rise for low-usage customers and drop for high-usage customers. But neither change would be as dramatic as utility companies have proposed.
“I see it as only a very minor difference from that which we have today,” said Russ Garwacki, Edison’s director of pricing design and research.
The Desert Sun discussed the potential changes this week with Florio and Garwacki. Here’s a breakdown of what they had to say about four of the most important issues being debated: fairness, fixed charges, time-varying rates and impacts on conservation and solar.
Edison’s residential customers currently pay for electricity in four tiers, with rates rising as energy users cross the threshold into each tier. The first block of energy doesn’t cost very much, per unit of energy; the second block is more expensive. The third block costs even more, and the fourth block costs the most.
The difference between the first and fourth tiers is stark. Under Edison’s current rates, energy use in the fourth tier costs more than twice as much as energy use in the first tier.
Utility officials say that difference is fundamentally unfair.
High-usage customers, they argue, are paying more than their fair share to maintain the electric grid, while low-usage customers are paying less than their fair share. Edison estimates that its high-usage customers are “subsidizing” its low-usage customers by more than $600 million per year.
Under commission president Picker’s proposal, the number of tiers would eventually be reduced from four to two, with a price difference of just 20 percent between the two tiers.
“When we start talking about rate fairness, I think that’s something that’s universally acknowledged as a good thing — customers should pay their fair share,” Garwacki said. “They shouldn’t pay subsidies.”
California’s current rates are a product of the 2001 energy crisis, which saw rolling blackouts cripple the state and the utility industry teeter on the brink of collapse. To keep Edison and other utility companies afloat, state officials approved huge rate increases — in such a way that high-usage customers would permanently bear the brunt of any new costs going forward.
Today, that crisis-driven rate structure is outdated, Garwacki said. Over the past 15 years, he said, high-usage customers have paid more than their fair share for grid maintenance, clean energy, and other changes that have nothing to do with the energy crisis.
“Once somebody gets a subsidy, most people don’t want to give it up,” Garwacki said. “That’s why some people will say the bill impacts are unfair as a result of this proposed decision.”
Florio agrees there’s too big a gap between what high-usage customers and low-usage customers pay. He just thinks Edison’s plan is much too extreme.
Picker’s proposal would raise rates for 85 to 90 percent of Californians, often by as much as $15 to $20 per month, Florio said. That plan wouldn’t increase the utilities’ revenue because some customers would save money. But almost all of the savings, Florio said, would go to the highest-usage customers — who also tend to be the wealthiest.
“The current rates do need to change, but this is a very dramatic shift,” Florio said. “It’s really going have a negative impact on a lot of people.”
Under Florio’s proposal, the number of tiers would drop from four to three. Electricity use in the third tier would ultimately cost about 77 percent more than electricity use in the first tier.
“We should protect small users, who tend to be lower-income,” Florio said.
Garwacki pushed back against that argument, noting that about a third of Edison’s customers are enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program, which provides discounts for low-income customers. He also said many high-usage customers are large families with little room to cut back.
“It’s no secret that as households have more occupants, that drives a lot of the electricity that they use,” Garwacki said. “It’s a bit of a misnomer to think that just because a customer is high-usage that that necessarily means they’re high-income.”
Asked to respond to that argument, Florio pointed to a well-established link between income and energy use.
“I’ve looked at where those largest users live, and it’s the rich communities around the state. It’s not the middle class, as the utilities have tried to spin it,” he said.
Conservation and solar
Critics charge that the utilities’ plan would discourage conservation, energy efficiency and rooftop solar. That’s because it would make electricity less expensive for those who use the most — in other words, critics say, the people who can most afford to invest in efficiency and solar.
Rooftop solar systems could take two to four years longer to pay for themselves under Picker’s proposed changes, according to the California Solar Energy Industries Association. Similarly, investments in energy efficiency would take longer to pay off for some customers.
Edison officials say their proposal would have little to no impact on energy efficiency and solar.
Even under Picker’s proposal, Garwacki said, California would still have some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. Rooftop solar prices, he noted, continue to drop, and Edison will still offer incentives to buy energy-efficient air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances.
While the changes might result in slightly less incentive for high-usage customers to conserve, they would also increase the incentive for low-income customers to use less energy, Garwacki said.
“It’s important that all customers receive a fair price signal, so they can make a fair and correct energy-efficiency investment,” he said. “You have low-income customers who have no incentive to conserve.”
Florio doesn’t buy that argument. The utilities’ proposal, he said, “reflects their longstanding ambivalence about energy efficiency,” and is motivated in part by a fear of “solar companies taking away their business.”
It’s important to balance the need for conservation and solar with fairness for high-usage customers, Florio said. But he believes the utilities’ proposal strikes the wrong balance.
“Based on my experience, it just seemed like three tiers, each a third higher than the other, was a kind of place that was a good compromise,” Florio said. “There’s no science to that. It’s a judgment call.”
Ratepayer advocates have also criticized the utilities’ proposal to add a fixed monthly charge of $10, or $5 for low-income customers enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program.
The fixed charges, they’ve argued, would essentially be a regressive tax, hitting low-usage customers the hardest. Solar advocates, meanwhile, see the fixed charges as a thinly veiled attempt by Edison and other utilities to bring in some money from solar customers.
“If you can get people to pay you just to be your customer, that’s a pretty good deal,” Florio said. “Any business I know would love to have that.”
Utilities officials have dismissed that argument. Solar customers, they say, benefit from being connected to the grid, even though they don’t pay much for its upkeep. Hence the need for fixed charges.
“It’s important that customers who choose to install solar do so knowing what the true costs and benefits are,” Garwacki said.
Edison has estimated actual fixed costs at about $30 per month, but it’s only proposed to charge $10. All other customer classes, Garwacki noted — including businesses — pay some kind of fixed charge.
“It’s very strange that we would single out residential customers, and say that it doesn’t make sense for this group of customers,” he said.
Commission president Picker has proposed phasing in the $10 fixed charge over the next few years. Edison officials have criticized that plan, saying the charges should take effect immediately.
Florio’s proposal would reject fixed charges, instead implementing a $10 minimum bill for most customers, or $5 for California Alternate Rates for Energy customers. The fact that utilities have criticized his proposal, he said, is a sign that their intentions aren’t pure.
“If all they wanted was to collect some money from people who have no or very low usage, a minimum bill would satisfy them,” Florio said. “That’s why I think it’s pretty clear there are other motivations at work.”
Rate tiers and fixed charges are one conversation. “Time-of-use” rates are another conversation entirely.
The idea behind time-varying electricity rates is simple: The cost of electricity changes depending on the time of day and time of year, so we should pay more — or less — depending on when we use energy.
Proponents say time-varying rates would help reduce our dependence on climate-altering fossil fuels. That’s because when demand is highest, Edison and other utilities are forced to buy expensive electricity from “peaker” power plants that wouldn’t otherwise be needed. Those plants are generally inefficient, spewing more air pollutants and planet-warming greenhouse gases than most energy sources.
By charging more for electricity when demand has traditionally been highest, utilities could reduce “peak demand,” limiting the need for peaker plants, proponents say.
Time-varying rates would also give consumers “another way to save,” Florio said, allowing them to reduce their bills by moving energy-intensive activities from peak times to non-peak times.
“You can’t expect people to move everything, but there are things that people can do to save money,” he said. “If you just go ahead and build another plant to meet that peak demand, everybody’s got to pay for it.”
The Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group, is worried default time-of-use rates would have unintended consequences. For instance, the group has argued, the new rates could make electricity much more expensive during the summer, hitting desert residents hard during air conditioning season.
Florio said he’s concerned about impacts on desert residents, which is why his proposal doesn’t implement default time-of-use rates for several years.
“I expect we’re going to be doing a lot of analysis between now and 2019,” he said. “If we see that there are going to be adverse impacts, we’ll need to deal with that.”
Southern California Edison officials are somewhat ambivalent about default time-of-use rates.
While the company supports prodding residential customers toward time-varying rates, the transition should be gradual, Garwacki said. Edison doesn’t think customers should be automatically enrolled in the new rates, although that seems like a foregone conclusion now.
What happens next?
It’s unclear how soon the public utilities commission will choose between the dueling electricity rate proposals. The five-member panel could vote as soon as its June 25 meeting in San Francisco.
While Picker’s position is clear, Florio said he doesn’t know how the other three commissioners — Carla Peterman, Liane Randolph and Catherine Sandoval — will vote. It’s possible, he said, that he or Picker will modify their proposals to win support.
“It takes three votes. I’ve said how I would do it if I were king, but I’m not,” Florio said. “I think there will be other options floated, and it’ll take some time to sort this out.”
Sammy Roth writes about energy and water for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (760) 778-4622 and @Sammy_Roth.
Have an opinion?
Members of the public can tell the California Public Utilities Commission what they think of proposed rate changes by emailing the commission’s public advisor, Karen Miller, at email@example.com. They can also send mail to: CPUC Public Advisor, 505 Van Ness Ave., Room 2103, San Francisco, CA 94102.
Source: California Public Utilities Commission
By the numbers
Right now, Southern California Edison customers pay for electricity in four tiers. Here are the rates:
•Tier 1: 14.9 cents per kilowatt-hour
•Tier 2: 19.3 cents per kWh (30 percent higher than Tier 1)
•Tier 3: 27.9 cents per kWh (87 percent higher than Tier 1)
•Tier 4: 31.9 cents per kWh (114 percent higher than Tier 1)
Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, has proposed collapsing the number of tiers from four to two. Under his plan, electricity use in Tier 2 would cost 20 percent more than electricity use in Tier 1, although actual rates have yet to be determined.
Mike Florio, another member of the public utilities commission, has proposed a three-tiered rate structure. Under his plan, electricity use in Tier 2 would cost 33 percent more than electricity use in Tier 1, and electricity use in Tier 3 would cost 77 percent more than electricity use in Tier 1.
With almost no public attention, the California Legislature took a significant step yesterday (May 28) that could help corporations and universities make a complete transition to renewable energy. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve SB 286 with a major amendment requiring that all power sold under the bill to be 100 percent renewable.
Overall, the bill would allow large electricity users to contract with independent power providers through the state’s Direct Access (DA) program, circumventing their local utilities, for an additional statewide total of 8,000 GWh of all-renewable power.
The text of the amended bill isn’t out yet, and I will post it as soon as it’s available. But the staff analysis published online today summarized the new amendment this way: “Require that all additional DA service be from renewable sources as defined in the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) program.”
What does this really mean? No, it isn’t a complete game-changer. But yes, it will be an important addition to the state’s overall strategy. Consider that the extra 8,000 GWh would lead to greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to a 2 percent rise in the RPS, while renewables now comprise about 24 percent of the statewide power mix. Democratic leaders will need all the help they can get to reach their new goal of 50 percent by 2030.
Yesterday’s decision reflects complex legislative maneuvering. The Appropriations vote moved the bill off the committee’s suspense file and sent it to the Senate floor for a full vote. The suspense file is essentially a legislative black hole, in which the fate of all bills in the file is decided by the Senate leadership before the meeting with zero transparency. It’s the proverbial smoke-filled back room. Whether this process is good or bad is not my point here. But the decision to drastically amend SB 286 suggests that the bill was carefully evaluated by the Committee chair, Sen. Ricardo Lara, and his close ally, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, according to its potential impact on de León’s top legislative priority this year: SB 350, his landmark bill on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Their apparent conclusion was that any new Direct Access should give the maximum boost to SB 350 — i.e. by being all-renewable. The bill’s author, Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), had no choice but to go along.
The switch to 100 percent marks a sharp turnaround for Hertzberg. He introduced SB 286 in February as a mostly brown-power bill, supported by a conventional brown-power alliance of industry groups that simply want cheap electricity with only the legal minimum of renewables. It was a largely Republican, pro-deregulation coalition very similar to the backers of the state’s big deregulatory leap in the late 1990s — which crash-landed in the power crisis of 2000-01. The additional power sold under the bill’s initial version would only have to comply with the state’s RPS, which currently mandates about 24 percent renewables. Then in early May, Hertzberg raised the bar to 51 percent renewables after he ran into opposition in the Senate Energy Committee. The new move to 100 percent risks alienating some of the bill’s industry supporters, some of whom quickly indicated that they are unhappy and may withdraw their backing.
So the bill’s politics have changed along with its substance. A much greener support coalition needs to be organized to help push the bill through the remaining Senate and Assembly votes and to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it. This effort will be a key test of California’s clean-energy companies as well as the environmental organizationsthat have doggedly pushed the state’s tech firms to go green. Until now, California firms that have seen the light on renewables have found it surprisingly hard to green their in-state power sources, as I have written here and here. But if the amended SB 286 can become law, these firms can become real drivers of the state’s clean-energy transition. They will be able to demonstrate their environmental leadership where it counts most — at home in California.
California is the best state in the country if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $15,000, only those from middle- to upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. A novel initiative is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help disadvantaged communities see the sun in a different light.
Using money raised by the government to help fight global warming, the Grid Alternativesproject aims to get polluting companies to pay for putting solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the plan is to use the cap-and-trade money raised by the state from companies who have to pay per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The cost to the disadvantaged families: nothing.
Grid Alternatives has been made project manager of the $162 million Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) project, the country’s first dedicated solar repayment system for low-income families. They want to install solar arrays to over 1,600 homes by the end of next year. Using job-training programs and donations from solar companies, they aim to keep the costs as low as possible. Whilst it is totally free for the families getting them installed on their houses, they do ask that the families either offer to feed the crew, or help them install the panels.
The state government in California will use $14.7 million raised through the cap-and-trade system, aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, to use toward installing solar arrays. In total, the cap-and-trade system has totted up to an impressive $1.6 billion.
By ploughing at least 10% of this money back into solar, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving lower income families money, whilst also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help cut energy emissions in the state even further.
Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in California that is classed as disadvantaged is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. Grid Alternatives predicts that it could save individual families up to $1,000 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essentials such as food. The sun sets on the initiative in 2021, so if you’re living in the state, you might want to jump on board soon.
May 9, 2015, by Paul GipeMay 30th Danish wind pioneers are gathering at the Tvind school in northwest Jutland to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the start of construction for the world’s oldest operating wind turbine–Tvindkraft.[more]
May 17, 2015, by Karl-Friedrich LenzIt would work exactly like the successful solar tariff, with one small change. There would be a cap on the fossil fuel electricity bought under the system. That cap would be calculated from the already existing goals for renewable. Look at the renewable goal, subtract that from 100 percent, and you get the cap for fossil fuel under the feed-in tariff.
May 8, 2015, by Alan SimpsonFormer parliamentarian Alan Simpson bemoans the paucity of serious debates of public paucity in the recent British election concluded today. Beginning in Churchillian tones, he laments “What infuriated me most about this general election was that never has so much been missed by so many.”[more]
April 30, 2015, by Craig MorrisSo the auction has just resulted in a large group of losers, a higher price than with feed-in tariffs, and a two-year postponement of the roughly 150 megawatts just awarded.
April 29, 2015, by Craig MorrisIn a nutshell, the UK overpays wind power in particular because big utilities with big expectations for returns run the show, whereas new players and communities have largely driven the German wind sector up to now – and they were more interested in getting the transition moving than in increasing their personal profits.
May 18, 2015, by Voice of America”There’s nothing that can make up for a feed-in tariff that’s in the single digits,” said Daniel Potash, chief of party at the Private Financing Advisory Network for Asia program, under the U.S. Agency for International Development.
May 16, 2015, by Chetan ChauhanGermany was one of the first countries to allow grid-connected solar rooftops by the way of feed in tariff, which meant that people got more money for the green power they generated than the power they consumed.
May 12, 2015,Under the current setup, companies with end consumers make a monthly contribution towards the feed-in tariff which is set in US dollars and paid in Turkish lira at the exchange rate on the day of settlement.
May 11, 2015, by Craig MorrisHere, we see that the price of a completely installed solar array has been and continues to be considerably cheaper in Germany than in the US. The gap seems to have been around two dollars all along. Now that the price in Germany has fallen to two dollars, solar is now twice as expensive in the US as it is in Germany.
May 11, 2015,They spoke at a seminar styled ‘Feed-in Tariff (FIT) regulations: promotion and development of renewable energy in Bangladesh’, co-organised by the Dhaka University’s Institute of Energy, The Asia Foundation and Australian Aid.
May 7, 2015,The ‘Removal of Barriers to Energy Efficiency and Conservation in Buildings in Mauritius’ project is a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-implemented, Global Environment Facility (GEF)-financed project . . . Feed-in-Tariff for small scale producers of electricity and the setting up of the EEMO.
May 7, 2015, by Verity RatcliffeCairo has therefore decided to introduce feed-in tariffs for renewable energy projects. Under the new system, private companies will receive a fixed tariff for the power they produce from renewable resources.
May 4, 2015, by Piotr MrowiecWhile the EU countries are witnessing a retreat from feed-in tariffs, Poland is for the first time in history introducing feed-in tariffs to support its renewable energy sector.
April 30, 2015, by Karl-Friedrich LenzSo I noted with interest the failure of the first test case for the auction model. The auction price turned out to be above what the current feed-in tariff is, as this article at PV Magazine explains. Those first 154.97 MW will be built at €0.917per kWh, which is higher than the current €0.0902 of the feed-in tariff.
May 13, 2015, by Paul GipeAs part of our continuing exploration of the Nissan Leaf’s range, we took a one-day get-a-way and drove up to scenic Kernville deep in the heart of the southern Sierra Nevada.[more]
May 12, 2015, by Paul GipeWe had about a dozen cars, so there’s a dozen drivers there. Leafs, MiEV, two BMWi3s, a Ford, Rav 4, and a Tesla. There was quite a line up of vehicles–the Tesla attracting the most attention naturally.[more]
May 18, 2015, by Craig MorrisThis month, construction of the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm was completed. In the next few months, three 3 MW Enercon wind turbines are expected to start power production. A comparison with a recent German committee project is illustrative.
May 11, 2015, by Craig MorrisA few weeks ago, 360 German citizens completed and 82.3 MW wind farm consisting of 24 wind turbines. The project even included a transformer station, which the community project financed completely on its own.
March 18, 2015,In Germany, citizen cooperatives have long been investing in the production of renewable energies and some are now looking at how to buy back the energy grid from the energy companies. They failed to do so in Berlin, but have succeeded in Hamburg, creating a new business model that many other countries would like to emulate.
Marin Clean Energy officials are highlighting the joint power authority’s efforts to stimulate the creation of local renewable energy projects and local jobs as the authority celebrates its fifth year and the opening of its new San Rafael headquarters.
“Survival of the agency is no longer at issue,” said Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly, a Marin Clean Energy board member. “The debate has changed; now it’s about continuing to meet goals and benchmarks that we set for ourselves.”
Marin Clean Energy is the first successful attempt in California to launch a new, public model for providing electricity to residents. It was founded to jump-start the use of renewable energy sources by stimulating demand; it offers customers the opportunity to buy electricity that is supplied by 50 to 100 percent renewable sources. It competes with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as a retailer of electricity, but PG&E continues to maintain power lines and other electrical power infrastructure.
Marin Clean Energy serves about 137,500 customers in Marin County, the city of Richmond and the unincorporated areas of Napa County. It is adding the cities of San Pablo, Benicia and El Cerrito and expects to have a total of about 165,000 members by the end of this month.
Marin Supervisor Kate Sears, who heads Marin Clean Energy’s board of directors, said “we are extremely proud to announce that 10 new local projects will be providing service for our customers.”
Sears said that since Marin Clean Energy began serving customers it has generated more than 2,400 California jobs. She said Marin Clean Energy’s new solar projects will create more than 750,000 union work hours in just 12 months.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said, “I’m especially excited about the new clean energy production that is now under construction here locally. That has always been one of the better parts of the promise of Marin Clean Energy, and it’s happening now.”
The agency has its naysayers, however. Jim Phelps of Novato, who has worked as a consultant to the electric and petrochemical industries, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, which represents PG&E’s electrical workers, have hammered MCE for its use of renewable energy certificates, typically referred to as RECs. RECs are tradable commodities that certify that 1 megawatt-hour of electricity has been generated from an eligible renewable energy resource.
Critics of the use of RECs assert that they are priced too low to effectively stimulate the creation of new, renewable energy production. Marin Clean Energy and others who use RECs acknowledge their shortcomings but say they are currently the only game in town.
Projects announced Thursday will produce about 63,000 megawatt hours per year, sufficient energy to meet the average electricity consumption of about 10,400 Marin Clean Energy residential customers, said Jamie Tuckey, a Marin Clean Energy spokeswoman.
In most cases, Marin Clean Energy has encouraged development of the projects by agreeing to purchase a certain amount of electricity at a specified price over the next 20 to 25 years. The largest project, 30,000 megawatt hours per year, is being financed by Waste Management and will convert landfill gas at Redwood Landfill in Novato to energy. The project is scheduled to begin generating energy this year and the contract is for 20 years.
The second-largest project, 19,800 megawatt hours per year, is slated to go online this year on land in Richmond that Marin Clean Energy will lease from Chevron. Marin Clean Energy is investing $125,000 from its local renewable development fund to help cover predevelopment costs for this project. Marin Clean Energy has an agreement to purchase the project from developer Stion in its seventh year.
Four of the projects will be in Novato, and one will be in Larkspur. The Larkspur project, 600 megawatt hours per year, will be a rooftop solar project.
Connolly said that since Marin Clean Energy began serving customers it has doubled the amount of renewable energy purchased for homes and businesses in its region, reduced greenhouse emissions by 59,421 tons, sourced green power from more than 30 California suppliers and saved customers more than $5.9 million in energy supply costs last year alone.
Marin Clean Energy, which has 23 full-time employees, celebrated its service anniversary with a party at its new headquarters at 1125 Tamalpais Ave. in San Rafael. It has moved from a 2,188-square-foot space to offices with 10,710 square feet. The meeting room in the new headquarters is named after former Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan, one of Marin Clean Energy’s founders who died of a sudden heart attack in 2011.
Connolly said Marin Clean Energy would not exist today if not for McGlashan’s “passionate dedication and leadership.”
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Salazar’s list of energy wins is long. He launched what has been called a “renewable energy revolution”. He prioritized offshore renewable energy development, issuing the first-ever offshore wind leases in federal waters. He advocated for a new model of conservation, which furthered the nation’s goal of energy independence. He authorized 34 solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands for a total 10,400 MW — enough to power more than 3 million homes and oversaw solar energy development in the West. His aggressive push for the most rigorous oil and gas safety and reforms in U.S. history ultimately led to more drilling in the Gulf, paving the way to energy independence. President Obama gives Salazar much of the credit for his role in successful efforts to expand responsible development of domestic energy resources.
Even before becoming Secretary, as a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Salazar helped lead the passage of the 2005 and 2007 Energy Policy Acts — one of the most significant and comprehensive energy bills in decades. The 2007 Farm Bill which Salazar also helped lead included key energy provisions.
______________________________ Salazar’s list of energy wins is long. He launched what has been called a “renewable energy revolution”.
Obviously, no one knows for sure what will happen, but there are theories.
“In the short-term, the impact will be minimal, but only due to the uncertainty around who the administration will pick to fill his role,” said Jason Rodriguez, CEO and director of research at Zpryme. “However, we expect his successor to be another champion of renewable energy and the advancement of the nation’s electric grid.”
Despite his positivity, Rodriguez does admit that Salazar’s successor may have an uphill battle when it comes to advancing renewable energy projects.
“His successor will not have the same momentum or mandate to push along renewable energy projects,” said Rodriguez. “Salazar had the stimulus funds on his side. So the next Secretary of Interior will have to tread carefully and strategically with the projects and proposals they wish to get behind.”
“I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier…,” Salazar said in a statement. “I look forward to helping my successor in a seamless transition in the months ahead,” he added.
Who Salazar’s successor will be has been the subject of much speculation. The contenders range from outgoing Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and former New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, Bill Ritter, former Governor of Colorado, and Director of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management John Berry.
“All of the potential candidates will be a great champion of renewable energy and the smart grid, but Governor Gregoire or former Governor Ritter are probably the strongest candidates when it comes to being able to execute multiple large-scale projects at a very high level,” said Rodriguez. “Their experience in running a state government will serve them well as Secretary of the Interior.”
Despite Salazar’s rapidly approaching retirement, the hard work hasn’t stopped.
Under Salazar’s direction, the Interior recently designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development.
“This project is a key milestone in our work to spur smart development of solar and wind energy on public lands across the West,” Secretary Salazar said in a statement. “Arizona has huge potential when it comes to building a clean energy economy… we continue to work closely with states, local communities, tribes, industry, conservation and other groups to reduce potential resource conflicts and expedite appropriate projects that will generate jobs and investment in rural communities.”
Salazar resigns amidst rumors that Energy Secretary Stephen Chu also plans to leave, and follows the departure of the Environmental Protection Agency’s top administrator Lisa Jackson.
US Well Behind in Solar, Wind, Biogas, & Geothermal Development
Germany has 20 Times More Solar per Capita than the USA: Italy 14 Times More
Denmark has Nearly 5 Times More Wind per Capita than the USA
Australian Solar PV Development has caught up with that in California
Ontario Rivals California in Solar per Capita
In his stirring acceptance speech, re-elected President Barack Obama noted that climate change would be on the agenda in his second administration–despite its marked absence during the campaign.
Obama then tried to unify a divided country by closing with a popular American rallying cry of how the US “is the greatest nation on earth” and our best days as a nation are yet to come.
Considering the resounding defeat of the fossil-fuel industry’s propaganda campaign against President Obama, and his new found interest in climate change, just where does the US rank relative to its development of renewable energy?
Yes, the US has more installed renewable energy generating capacity than many other countries. But the US is also a large country and is one of the world’s most populous. Yet, relative to its population, the US is well behind in the development of its solar, wind, biogas, and geothermal energy compared to that in many other countries.
What prompted the following comparison of renewable energy development per capita, was the surprising announcement by Renewables International that the Czech Republic had reached the threshold of 2,000 MW of installed solar photovoltaic (solar PV) capacity. This development had been preceded earlier this year by the unexpected success of solar PV in Great Britain where 1,300 MW had been installed due to their wildly popular feed-in tariff. And then this week came reports that Australia, another unknown market for solar PV, had surpassed 2,000 MW of installed capacity.
These events call into question just what the renewable industry and, more importantly, what the American renewable trade press call a success.
Consider for example, the news from Australia. If estimates of installed capacity by mid-year are correct, Australia will have caught up with California in total installed solar PV and will substantially have surpassed California in solar PV installed per capita (0.8 kW per capita vs. 0.5 kW per capita). This is nothing short of remarkable.
A combination of conditions makes these events seem so unlikely. Australia is dominated by the fossil-fuel industry: the country is a major exporter of coal, mostly to Asia. Britain is notably cloudy, wet, and windy and the ruling conservative coalition has a penchant for fossil fuels and nuclear over renewables. And if one was to believe all the dire trade news, solar PV in the Czech Republic was dead–and buried.
In looking at selected markets for solar PV worldwide, the accomplishments of several countries stand out relative to the US. Most well known are Germany and Italy.
Up to mid-2012, Germany had installed 20 times more solar PV capacity per capita than the entire US; Italy had installed 14 times more per capita.
The solar industry in the US is on track to have its best year ever as huge new central-station solar power plants are coming on line. Analysts expect the US to install 3,500 MW of new solar PV this year. Even so, Germany will install twice as much at a fraction of the cost as the US, and Italy will install far more than the US on a population adjusted basis.
While Italy remains second fiddle to Germany in total installations worldwide, growth of new solar PV installations continued robustly with nearly 2,500 MW installed in the first half of 2012. If growth continues at this pace, Italy could install as much if not more solar PV capacity in absolute terms as the US this year.
Due to falling hardware prices, feed-in tariffs have been cut dramatically in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Greece, and France. These countries all have substantial fleets of PV systems already in operation, and more capacity is continuing to be installed despite the lower tariffs.
The Czech Republic, the poster child for government reaction to stop a booming solar sector, has nine times more solar PV capacity than the US and, as noted, will exceed 2,000 MW of total installed capacity by the end of 2012.
Spain, similarly afflicted with a reactionary attempt to rein in massive solar PV development, still has five time more solar PV per capita as the US.
But, it’s the Australian market that has taken analysts by surprise. With its federal system, each state, as well as the capital territory have their own solar policy, making it difficult for the trade press to follow the pace of development.
The Australian solar boom has been powered by a mix of policies among the different states: feed-in tariffs, capital subsidies, and net metering. Some jurisdictions have used feed-in tariffs in combination with capital subsidies. No one should be surprised that a boom was the result.
The Czech Republic, Spain, Greece, and Australia all have installed more solar PV capacity per capita than the one-time green powerhouse of California.
New Jersey has installed almost twice as much solar PV capacity per capita as California. Despite New Jersey’s success, recent American press reports continue to label California as a “green leader”. Could regional bias be at work? What makes California “greener” than New Jersey in reference to solar PV?
And in the “great white north,” the province of Ontario, Canada has installed as much solar PV per capita as California after only a few short years of Ontario’s troubled feed-in tariff program.
Another unsung success story is solar PV in France, a country more associated with nuclear power than with solar energy. France has installed almost as much solar PV per capita as California. In 2012, France has nearly doubled total installed solar PV capacity from 1,500 MW to nearly 3,000 MW by mid-year. Is pro-nuclear France greener than anti-nuclear California?
Admittedly, new contracts have ground to a halt in France after the previous government of Nicolas Sarkozy effectively strangled new solar development. Despite President Sarkozy’s attempt to kill the solar industry, there is a substantial backlog of projects–more than 1,500 MW–that will come on line in the coming months. Thus, France will continue to rival California in solar PV capacity per capita well into 2013 and possibly beyond.
One of the most surprising successes has been Denmark. In less than one year, Denmark has installed nearly 100 MW of solar PV through a traditional subsidy program. The rapid growth of solar in Denmark has surprised everyone, including the Danes. While small in absolute terms, Denmark has leapt ahead of the US in solar PV per capita after only a few months even though the US has been developing solar energy for decades.
Last week Denmark’s minister of energy introduced new legislation that may extend solar PV development further. In what appears to be a net-generation feed-in tariff, the minister proposes that Denmark pay DKK 1.30 ($0.22 USD) per kWh for excess generation from solar PV systems less than 6 kW. The bulk of self-generation will offset the Danish retail price of electricity, the highest in Europe. This could extend Denmark’s solar boom.
Among the markets selected, the US leads only China in solar PV capacity per capita.
The US fares better in wind than in solar PV, but it still lags many countries particular the true leader in wind: Denmark.
When California faltered in the late 1980s after the first tax-credit driven “wind rush”, Denmark–and Northern Europe in general–picked up the mantle of leadership in wind energy development both in absolute terms and in capacity per capita.
Denmark operates nearly five times more wind capacity per capita than the US and a majority of that is owned by its own citizens.
Spain has installed more than three times as much wind capacity per capita as the US.
Installations per capita in France are behind those in the US. Nevertheless, wind in both countries face similar obstacles. As in the US, an unstable policy environment in France threatens continued growth of wind energy.
Wind was seen as a threat to incumbent state-generator Electricité de France (EDF), consequently former President Sarkozy place onerous new restrictions on wind development. Only 250 MW of new wind capacity was installed in France by mid-year, half of that typically installed.
The new government of Francois Hollande has yet to put their stamp on renewable energy policy and instead have deferred action until a “national debate” on energy is completed. If Hollande chooses a rapid development path, France could surpass the US in installed capacity per capita. If Hollande doesn’t take corrective action soon, France will likely miss its 2020 renewable targets.
Though the US has the most installed geothermal generating capacity in the world, it still substantially trails many countries in capacity per capita.
Iceland remains in a class by itself with nearly 200 times more geothermal capacity per capita than the US.
New Zealand, one of geothermal energy’s pioneers, remains a leader with 14 times more geothermal per capita than the US.
Biogas remains the renewable energy technology most under appreciated in the US.
Industry analysts and renewable policy advocates alike often overlook biogas because the technology isn’t seen as “sexy” as solar PV or wind. Yet in Germany, biogas alone will generate more than 20 TWh this year. That’s as much as all of Germany’s famed solar PV produced in 2011.
With the exception of dairy farmers in New England and the Midwest, there has been very little development of biogas generation in the US compared to Europe in either absolute terms or in capacity per capita.
German farmers operate nearly 200 times more biogas capacity per capita as American farmers. Austria operates 60 times more biogas capacity per capita as the US.
In conclusion, the US lags many of its peers internationally in the development of renewable energy technologies.
While the boom in US solar PV installations in 2012 is good news for the American renewable industry, the development of geothermal and biogas remain stalled relative to the success seen in other countries. Worse, the failure of Congress to extend the federal tax-credit for wind energy has caused the market for wind in 2013 to collapse.
Rather than leading renewable energy development, the US is in danger of slipping further behind its peers.
As President-elect Obama weighs how best to tackle climate change in his second term, and as Congress grapples with the budget and “entitlements”, maybe now is the opportune time for the nation to consider sweeping revision of its renewable energy policies that go well beyond traditional tax subsidies and Renewable Portfolio Standards. It could well be the time for the US to consider a comprehensive suite of policies that have worked so well elsewhere.
These policies, for example, can be found in Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act. This law grants all renewable generators the right to connect to the grid, the right to be paid for their electricity, and–most importantly–spells out how much they will be paid and for how long.
Most of the jurisdictions leading in renewable energy development worldwide incorporate these principles within their renewable energy policy in one form or another. Maybe it is time for the US to do so as well.
This feed-in tariff news update is sponsored by the , An Environmental Trust, and the David Blittersdorf Family Foundation in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.