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PG&E penalized $1.4B for deadly pipeline blast

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014 – 12:13 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014 – 3:35 pm

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California regulatory judges recommended a $1.4 billion penalty on Tuesday — the largest safety-related levy ever against a public utility in the state — for a fiery 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in a suburban San Francisco neighborhood.

The California Public Utilities Commission said the figure reached by two administrative law judges over the San Bruno pipeline explosion reflected nearly 3,800 violations of state and federal law, regulations and standards by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in the operation of its gas pipelines.

The penalty is meant to “send a strong message to PG&E, and all other pipeline operators, that they must comply with mandated federal and state pipeline safety requirements, or face severe consequences,” Timothy J. Sullivan, one of the two judges, wrote in the order.

The largest share — $950 million — of the penalty is a fine to be paid directly to the state. That amount drew objections from city officials in San Bruno, the utility and a private ratepayers-advocacy group that the overall penalty should be focused on spending for the safe operation of the aging pipeline network.

“We are accountable and fully accept that a penalty is appropriate,” the utility said in a statement.

Asked whether PG&E would appeal, utility spokesman Greg Snapper said, “We’re reviewing the decision and believe that any penalty should go toward pipeline safety.”

The recommended penalty requires approval by members of the state utility board. PG&E and other parties in the case have 30 days to lodge an appeal.

The commission previously ordered PG&E to pay $635 million for pipeline modernization in the wake of the Sept. 9, 2010, blast in the suburb of San Francisco. The explosion destroyed more than three dozen homes and was California’s deadliest utility disaster in decades.

The blast occurred when a 30-inch natural-gas transmission line installed in 1956 ruptured. At the time, survivors described the heat of the blast burning the back of their necks like a blowtorch as they ran away.

The $1.4 billion penalty also includes $400 million for pipeline improvements, and about $50 million to enhance pipeline safety. PG&E cannot recover any of the money from customers, including the earlier $635 million penalty, although a ratepayers’ group called The Utility Reform Network maintained PG&E could raise rates in other rate cases to indirectly offset the penalty.

Sending $950 million to the state’s general fund, with no strings attached, means it could be spent in any way the governor and Legislature see fit, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

The public utility commission staff recommended in July that the utility pay at least $300 million in fines.

San Bruno city officials were just beginning to study Tuesday’s decision but on first read believed the overall judgment fell short of what was needed to ensure PG&E upgraded pipeline safety as much as necessary, city manager Connie Jackson said.

The penalty was historic in terms of financial charges levied against utilities on safety violations, said Britt Strottman, a lawyer for San Bruno. However, “a lot of the utilities do not cause the same amount of devastation and destruction that was a result of the PG&E explosion in San Bruno,” Strottman said.

A 2011 investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded the rupture occurred in a weak weld in a pipeline that PG&E records had shown as being smooth and unwelded. Among other safety failings, PG&E let 95 minutes go by before shutting off the natural gas that was fueling the fire, the federal investigators said.

That same 2011 federal investigation also faulted what it called the California Public Utilities Commission’s weak oversight of the utility, which serves customers in the northern two-thirds of California.

The San Bruno blast prompted congressional hearings on pipeline safety and recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and other government bodies that utilities intensify their oversight of decades-old natural gas lines.

This year, federal prosecutors separately indicted PG&E on 27 counts alleging the utility violated pipeline safety requirements.

PG&E faces additional fines of more than $1 billion if convicted of the federal charges, which are separate from the state financial penalties. PG&E has pleaded not guilty to the counts.

Separately, PG&E was hit with about 160 lawsuits from people who lost family members, suffered injuries or had property damage.


AP writers Garance Burke and Donald Thompson contributed to this report.

AB 2145 Dead

AB 2145 Got Kicked to the Curb!

We are thrilled to report that AB 2145 has officially died, failing to make it off the Senate Floor when the final gavel of the 2014 legislative session came to rest just after 3:00 am Saturday morning.

 

This has been an intense and hard-fought battle and its outcome represents a significant victory for CCA in California and in Sacramento, where in a grand twist of irony, AB 2145 put CCA on the legislative map.

Huge thanks go out to the Statewide Coalition, Californians for Energy Choice, which sponsored the www.no2145.org campaign and fought the bill all the way to its demise.  And thanks to CREDO, Marin Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power and the hundreds of local governments and organizations who signed-on, wrote letters, sent e-mails, and placed phone calls along the way.  The grassroots effort was nothing short of inspiring. Thank you one and all!

 

But We Must Remain Vigilant…

While we can now take a breath and return to the business of expanding CCA around the State (and country), it’s reasonable to assume the utilities and their unions aren’t going away quietly. In addition, there are aspects of CCA that remain troublesome– most notably the cost recovery surcharge/PCIA fees and ongoing utility cost shifting. We will be strategizing in the coming weeks about the 2015 legislative session and what it may bring, including the potential to go on the offensive and sponsor our own bill. We will certainly keep you posted as this and other strategies are developed.

Next Steps 

In addition to preparing for the 2015 legislative session, there is much to do on the electrical union/labor front.  CCA is too often painted as anti-labor without any facts to support that claim.  LEAN plans to sponsor a University of CA authored CCA Labor & Economic Impact Study that takes a deeper look into the issue.  In addition, we will support any effort that creates a set of “guiding principles” regarding the use of union labor and project labor agreements.  We will not, however, support legislative mandates or regulatory reqirements that make CCA operations more onerous or make it harder to compete in the California energy market.
In addition, there are a slew of regional CCA workshops upcoming in Northern California including the Business for Clean Energy workshop onOctober 23.  Discussions are also underway for a statewide CCA conference in early 2015, so stay tuned and let us know if you want to co-sponsor or be part of the planning commitee.
How Can You Help? 
There are several ways you can stay engaged and be part of the solution:
1) Share this email with other interested folks and encourage them to join our news list at www.LEANenergyus.org
2) Complete a brief education survey and let us know if you want to host a workshop or CCA study session in your community by CLICKING HERE
3) Consider a supporting membership in LEAN Energy to further our CCA efforts and,
4) Consider sponsorship of the CCA Labor & Economic Impact Study, the 2015 Statewide CCA conference, and/or a CCA educational webinar series.
THANK YOU so much for your support and participation. We look forward to working in partnership to advance Community Choice Energy for all Californians.
Shawn Marshall
Executive Director, LEAN Energy US415-786-9118 (cell)/415-888-8007 (office)

shawnmarshall@leanenergyus.org

LEAN Energy US is committed to the accelerated expansion and competitive success of clean energy CCA nationwide. As a member organization, LEAN (Local Energy Aggregation Network) serves a national network of community leaders, local governments, consumers, advocacy organizations, power suppliers and developers working toward the protection and establishment of CCAs in their States and cities. To learn more, please visit us atwww.LEANenergyus.org.

AB 2145 DEAD

 

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Assembly Bill 2145, the proposed law aimed at crushing Community Choice Energy programs in California, is officially dead. When Senator Steinberg brought down the gavel this morning at 3:00 a.m. with no vote from legislators for AB 2145, the bill died. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Steven Bradford, was unable to find a colleague to manage his bill on the senate side.
 
The victory over extremely powerful corporate forces in Sacramento resulted from the uprising of governments, businesses, and clean energy advocates from San Diego to Del Norte County. A statewide coalition, Californians for Energy Choice, fought the bill to the bitter end.
 
Community Choice energy is the most powerful tool to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the local level. Large utilities have repeatedly tried to stop it. Pacific Gas & Electric spent nearly $50 million in 2010 pushing Proposition 16 that would have ended Community Choice in California. Voters roundly defeated this statewide ballot measure.
 
The Climate Protection Campaign played a central role in raising awareness and educating the public about the perils of AB 2145, which originally would have turned Community Choice law on its head and made the large corporate utilities the default service providers in the State.
 
“Regarding Community Choice, you know you are on to something good when the corporate utilities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to stop it, said Ann Hancock, Executive Director of the Climate Protection Campaign. She added, “We recognized immediately the serious threat that AB 2145 posed, so we acted, and it has paid off. We are now very eager to continue helping to develop clean energy Community Choice programs across the State.”
 
More information: www.no2145.org andwww.climateprotection.org
Contact: Woody Hastings, 310-968-2757,woody@climateprotection.org
Ann Hancock, 415-298-1224ann@climateprotection.org

California’s AB 2145 Threatens Community Choice Aggregates

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The second of California’s community choice aggregates (CCA) was launched amidst state legislation (AB 2145) that could restrict further competition with established utilities.

Sonoma Clean Power opened on on May 1, 2014, “with lower rates than PG&E and greater levels of safe, clean energy.” Marin Clean Energy has been in business since 2010.

There are other community choice aggregates being formed in San Diego, San Luis Obispo, the Bay Area, and other parts of California.

Up until now, local governments that wished to form a community choice aggregate could count on enrolling the residents of their districts. They would have the option of opting out and staying with their old utility.

AB 2145 would make it necessary for every would-be customer of the CCA to make a positive declaration before they can be enrolled.

According to an online petition, that you can access here, it is a “poison pill” designed to limit a CCA’s ability to viably exist at the local level.

“Sounds fine until you realize that very few people opt-in to anything new and thus this bill guts the very provision of Community Energy law that assures a successful launch: All-In on Day One … plus opt-out at any time to return to the Investor-Owned Utility,” said Lane Sharman, Co-founder of the San Diego Energy District Foundation, in a press release.

“AB 2145 would completely gut the ability of California communities to viably launch CCA programs that can compete on a level playing field with investor owned utilities. This bill is anti-consumer, anti-competition, and anti-environment,” said Shawn Marshall of LEAN Energy, in the Bay area.

Ann Hancock, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Protection, the organization that helped launch Sonoma Clean Power, stated that “Community Choice is the most powerful solution local governments have to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This bill would steal that solution from cities and counties throughout the State.”

Al Weinrub, coordinator of the Bay Area’s Local Clean Energy Alliance said, “There are emerging Community Choice programs all over California that have the potential to put thousands of people to work building local clean energy resources, and thereby enable us to shut down fossil fuel power plants that are polluting the air and lungs of our lowest income communities. AB 2145 would halt these clean energy programs dead in their tracks.”

Sierra Club’s Andrew Christie, who is working to establish a Community Choice program in San Luis Obispo County, said, “If AB 2145 passes, community choice will be replaced with zero choice. There will be no chance of establishing local, public energy programs that would incentivize a local green energy economy.”

AB 2145 opponents include several local governments around the state; Sierra Club California; The Utility Reform Network; 350.org Bay Area, Santa Barbara and San Diego chapters; LEAN Energy U.S.; Local Clean Energy Alliance; the California Public Utility Commission’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates; the California State Association of Counties; the League of California Cities; Communities for a Better Environment; CLEAN Coalition; Retail Energy Supply Association; Alliance for Retail Energy Markets; Marin Clean Energy; Sonoma Clean Power; World Wildlife Fund US; and the California Solar Energy Industries Association.

This bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Appropriations.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletterelectric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.800px-California_State_Assembly_room_p1080879

Study: Solar ‘Net Metering’ To Provide Over $92 Million in Benefits to California Ratepayers, Electrical Grid

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 15, 2013 – A study released today by the Vote Solar Initiative finds that net-metered rooftop solar will provide more than $92 million in annual benefits to  ratepayers of California’s three investor-owned utilities.  Net metering is a program that provides rooftop solar customers with utility bill credits for the surplus clean energy that their solar systems feed onto the electric grid. Net metering has been a key driver of the rapid expansion of solar across California’s rooftops, with two-thirds of home solar installations now occurring in low and median income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 California Solar Initiative report.

The study comes as the state’s investor-owned utilities– Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric– increasingly criticize net metering, which reduces their ability to justify the capital investment infrastructure projects that earn them a guaranteed profit.

The study was commissioned by the Vote Solar Initiative and was authored by consultant and former California Public Utilities Commission advisor Tom Beach of Crossborder Energy. Using a CPUC-approved economic model and data from solar customers, the study assesses the overall impacts of net metering to ratepayers in territories covered by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric.

It finds that the financial benefits of net metered power outweigh the costs, with a total net benefit value of more than $92 million annually by the time the state’s net metering program is fully subscribed. Benefits include: savings on expensive and polluting conventional power; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines, as net metered solar’s surplus energy is sent to the grid locally; and savings on the cost of meeting carbon reduction and renewable energy requirements.

“When someone decides to put solar panels on their roof, they not only generate clean power, but also reduce strain on the electric grid while offering financial benefits to all ratepayers,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of The Vote Solar Initiative. “We’ve got a long way to go in revamping an antiquated energy grid and growing California’s clean economy, and net metering is critical to those efforts.”

In addition to the bill-saving ratepayer benefits outlined in the study, solar provides environmental, public health and economic benefits. Thanks to policies like net metering, California is home to a fast-maturing solar industry, which now employs over 43,000 Californians and has attracted over $10 billion in private investment.

“It’s crystal clear that the way we produce and consume electricity needs to evolve,” said Daniel Kammen, University of California Berkeley Distinguished Professor in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), and Professor of Public Policy in the Goldman School of Public Policy. “The good news is that net metering is doing what it was designed to do—accelerating solar adoption while reducing our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels and kick-starting one of the most promising job-creating industries of the 21st Century.  Solar produces energy at the times of highest cost to the utilities, so with the right market incentives, it is a simple ‘win-win-win’ for ratepayers, utilities, and the environment.”

Solar adoption has helped school districts and other public agencies survive steep budget cuts, with savings from solar installations freeing up funds to retain teachers, educational programs, and important government services. Over the next 30 years, schools and public agencies will save more than $2.5 billion on energy bills via net-metered solar systems.

“Bill savings from solar projects coupled with efficiency are important at a time when schools have been forced to cut budgets and grow classroom sizes.  Net metering helps taxpayer-funded institutions operate more efficiently by allowing schools to use these utility savings for other purposes such as books, supplies and teachers,” said Anna Ferrera, Executive Director of the School Energy Coalition.  “Not to mention the added benefit of having our students witness the clean and natural resources that can power their classrooms and computers.”

A link to the full Crossborder Energy study and a Vote Solar summary fact sheet with infographics is available here

CASE Statement on ITC Critical Circumstances Decision

WASHINGTON, DC – November 7, 2012 – We are pleased that the ITC has determined that there were no critical circumstances, and thus no reason to apply the tariffs retroactively. This means that tariffs will not apply to modules made with Chinese cells that were imported into the U.S. during the period of the investigation. As several witnesses testified at the ITC’s hearing in October, those adversely affected by retroactivity would have been small- and medium-sized U.S. solar businesses that functioned as direct importers and were caught in the middle of SolarWorld’s protectionist case.

Now that both Commerce and the ITC have ruled, we will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the U.S. and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution. Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today’s interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition. Going forward, we must avoid a repeat of the SolarWorld saga, as the growth of the solar industry here, in Europe, and around the world is too important to be upended by one company’s self-serving crusade.

About CASE: The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), a coalition of American solar companies representing 97% to 98% of the U.S. solar industry jobs, believes free trade and industry competition are critical to making solar electricity affordable for everyone. CASE is united in its commitment to creating jobs through the growth and development of the American solar industry. For more information about CASE, please visit: http://coalition4affordablesolar.org/

FERC slams Barclays with $470 million fine

By Travis Mitchell

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday proposed a $470 million fine against British bank Barclays as punishment for allegedly manipulating California energy markets from 2006 to 2008.

The Order also calls for $18 million in fines for four individual Barclays traders involved in the scandal, which FERC called a “highly coordinated and discussed” scheme to manipulate the western U.S. power market over 35 months. Total losses to market participants were pegged at nearly $140 million.

More specifically, the Order outlines that, “Barclays generally began by assembling substantial physical index positions in the opposite direction of its fixed-for-floating financial swap positions. Barclays flattened those physical index positions in the next-day fixed-price physical markets in a manner designed to move the daily index settlement up if it was buying and down if it was selling.”

The bank has 30 days to defend itself against the accusations and the penalty. If the penalty holds, it’s another huge financial blow for the bank, which was just recently fined $450 million for its involvement in the Libor interest rate setting scandal.

In a statement released Thursday, Barclays admitted no wrongdoing.

“We have cooperated fully with the FERC investigation, which relates to trading activity that occurred several years ago. We intend to vigorously defend this matter,” the bank said.

This is the latest push by FERC to crack down on energy market manipulation in California. Back in September the Commission launched an investigation into allegations that JPMorgan skimmed $80 million off inflated profits in the state. FERC has taken similar action against Deutsche Bank.

 

Presidential Candidates Reiterate Energy Stances At Final Debate

by SI Staff

Solar power and renewable energy made cameo appearances at the third and final debate between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

As was the case at early debates, both candidates professed their commitment to U.S. energy independence and the use of renewable energy. However, they continued to disagree about the appropriate role of government investment in renewable energy technologies.

When asked about the future role of the U.S. on the global stage, Obama called for the continued development of both domestic oil and gas and “clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020.”

“We’re going to have North American energy independence,” Romney agreed, in response to the same question. “We’re going to do it by taking full advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear and our renewables.”

Although the candidates discussed Chinese trade conflicts, the issue of the solar trade war – and the recent tariffs applied to Chinese solar products by the U.S. Department of Commerce – did not specifically come up.

Obama warned that the U.S. may lose out to China in the renewable energy sector if the country does not prioritize certain investments. “If we’re not making investments in education and basic research, which is not something that the private sector is doing at a sufficient pace right now and has never done, then we will lose the lead in things like clean energy technology,” he said.

On the topic of investments designed to make the U.S. globally competitive, Romney reiterated his support for government-funded basic research, but drew a distinction between these types of investments and support provided to private companies.

“This is not research, Mr. President,” Romney said, criticizing Obama for his administration’s investments in clean energy firms. “These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company … Providing funding to universities and think tanks, great. But investing in companies? Absolutely not – that’s the wrong way to go.”

Solar consolidation: Hit the reset button

By:  Charles W. Thurston

ndustry analysts were in agreement at the SPI 2012 conference, held on Thursday, that the solar industry is set for major consolidation over the next 1 year to 18 months. “The reset button needs to be hit; but tremendous value will be unlocked by it,” reckoned Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy.

General solar photovoltaic panels

The solar consolidation period is still not over.

One of a group of panelists considering the potential impact of mergers and acquisitions, Arno characterized the solar industry as being in a peculiar situation of “profitless prosperity” now, so the coming wave of consolidation “should be a welcome thing which we accept as part of the growing pains of an industry that will survive.”

The panelists suggested that while the upstream manufacturing portion of the industry – including photovoltaic module manufacturers – would be hardest hit, consolidation seemed to be just as inevitable downstream for projects and utilities. “It’s going to be a rough consolidation period and for PV panel makers it will be brutal, but at some point we will bottom out and then we will have something akin to Solar 2.0, as we did with Internet 2.0,” said Jesse Pichel, the principle of CleanTech LLC and moderator of the SPI discussion session, referring to the consolidation and subsequent strengthening of the Internet industry.

“I predict a politically-driven consolidation among (upstream) Chinese companies, with more diversified industrial companies acquiring upstream solar manufacturers,” said Angiolo Laviziano, a co-founder and board member of Mainstream Energy Corp.

Peter Xie, president of GCL-Poly Solar Energy Power System Integration, echoed that prediction, narrowing the likely group of solar acquirers in China to state-owned enterprises, which would have the balance sheet strength to restructure the acquired companies, as well as a mandate to save jobs. Such an outcome would not necessarily translate into a rash of new global solar players, however, since “the state-owned companies are behind in the move out of China and into the international markets,” he cautioned. In a more global context, Xie added, “I see a lot of technology companies in talks with larger companies now.”

A union of upstream components manufacturers and U.S. distributors also was noted as likely. “I see opportunistic acquisitions by upstream companies of distributors for more of a guaranteed customer base,” reckoned Laviziano.

The ranks of U.S. solar project developers, which Harris estimated at 700 today, will also see consolidation, he said. “It’s hard to go through all the paces of developing a project today if you only have 10 megawatts under your belt.” One potential set of acquirers for development companies may be financial institutions seeking to enter the market, suggested Laviziano.

Furthermore, within the residential and small commercial rooftop segment of the industry, consolidation is anticipated. “There could be some consolidation of the U.S. residential and commercial lease/PPA market where there is a complementary fit with another type of solar company,” stated Kennedy.

Downstream U.S. consolidation also was broadly predicted by the analysts. Several suggested utilities will be forced to enter the rooftop installation business as they find themselves increasingly competing with solar companies to power homes and big-box businesses. Indeed, Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity, said, “The question five years from now may be why solar companies aren’t buying utilities. The tail may yet wag the dog.”

On the other hand, there could be some dis-aggregation within the U.S. residential rooftop segment, said Lavisiano, stating, “There could be dis-aggregation in residential resulting from the door-to-door sales business model, wherein they sell aggressively and know what they can offer.”

The consolidation wave seems imminent, the analysts say, but first-half 2012 merger and acquisition statistics point to a moderate year for deals thus far. According to a recent report by Mercom Capital Group, “There were 14 M&A transactions in Q2 2012 amounting to $325 million with only six of the 14 disclosing transaction amounts. There were no blockbuster M&A deals this quarter. Instead, most were small strategic transactions with a number of them being acquisitions of business divisions for synergistic reasons.”

Mercom also noted that “in some cases, acquisitions were of ‘sick’ companies getting rid of non-strategic businesses and assets. The largest disclosed M&A transaction was the acquisition of Zhejiang Topoint Photovoltaic, a Chinese mono- and polycrystalline maker, for $276 million by Guangxi Beisheng Pharmaceutical in an asset restructuring plan.”

Related News:

India accuses US of “ruining” domestic PV industry

20. August 2012 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

ndia’s Centre for Science and Technology (CSE) has launched a scathing attack on U.S. photovoltaic manufacturers, claiming they are “ruining” India’s domestic photovoltaic manufacturing industry by taking advantage of the US$30 billion Fast Start Finance Fund.

First Solar thin film photovoltaic modules cadmium telluride

First Solar’s thin film modules have been heavily used in indian photovoltaic projects.

First Solar

According to the center’s researchers, which are reviewing the first phase of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), 80% of India’s photovoltaic manufacturing capacity is in a state of “forced closure and debt restructuring”, because Indian project developers are placing their equipment orders with U.S. manufacturers.

Currently, the JNNSM requires all crystalline photovoltaic projects to use domestically manufactured products. However, thin film projects may procure their equipment from other regions; a loophole, says the CSE, being exploited by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The center claims they have been offering rates of interest as low as 3% and long repayment schedules of up to 18 years to Indian project developers under the fund – designed to enable developing countries tackle climate change – if they purchase thin film panels from U.S. companies. In comparison, it says Indian banks are offering interest rates of around 14%.

“This has skewed the market completely in favour of thin-film panels imported from US despite the fact that thin-film has lower efficiency when compared to crystalline panels,” says the center in a statement released, adding, “Close to 60 per cent of the panels installed in India are thin-film type even though only 14 per cent of global capacity is thin-film.”

CSE goes on to quote the U.S. Department of State’s report on U.S. Fast start climate financing between 2010 and 2011, which reportedly shows that $248.3 million was awarded by Ex-Im Bank and OPIC for grid-connected photovoltaic plants in India. “The major beneficiaries in this case have been American producers such as First Solar and the now bankrupt Abound Solar,” it says.

Furthermore, the center claims the US is “fudging” its data on fast start finance. “When giving loans as aid, only the difference of the rate of interest between the ‘soft’ loan and a commercial loan is counted as aid. However, in this case, the US has counted the entire loan sum as aid under fast start finance. If a fair counting would have been done, the fast start financing amount shown by the US would be reduced to a fraction,” continues the statement. The U.S. says it has contributed $5.1 billion to the fund to date.

Outwith the fund, Ex-Im announced in July that it had authorized two loans worth US$57.3 million to support the development of 3 photovoltaic power plants in India, which will use First Solar thin film modules.

In a statement announcing the loans, Ex-Im Bank chairman and president, Fred Hochberg said the bank will be supporting India’s green-energy push. “These important transactions will finance the purchase of American products and services and support jobs in our innovative renewable-energy sector.”

Overall, the bank says it has provided $500 million for the financing of solar projects in India. Its goal is to “promote both the bank’s financial products, but also facilitate the purchase of U.S. goods and services.”

Developing countries

In 2009, the Copenhagen Accord agreed to establish Fast Start Finance, a US$30 billion fund contributed to by developed countries for developing countries to support the implementation of climate change measures between 2010 and 2012.

“Fast start financing was supposed to benefit the developing country recipient. Instead, the US has managed to turn it into a game where funds registered as climate funding is given out as loans to projects that promise to buy equipment made in the US thereby benefiting themselves while knocking out the Indian manufacturing competition that doesn’t have the same government backing,” states Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general.

Referring to the ongoing U.S.-Sino trade dispute over solar cells, Kushal Yadav, head of CSE’s Renewable Energy team adds, “Interestingly, the US government has put anti-dumping duties on solar equipment imported from China because of the alleged subsidies that China is giving to its solar manufacturers. However, the US is engaging in a similar practice in India by subsidising loans for buying American equipment!”

In the U.S. Department of State’s report, the funding transactions between 2010 and 2011 for India’s solar market include:

  • $719,985 awarded to Astonfield Renewables Private Limited from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a feasibility study for 2 photovoltaic plants in India. “The projects will serve as some of the first solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in India deploying U.S. thin film technology.”
  • $14.8 million from OPIC for the development, construction and operation of a 5 MW photovoltaic power generation facility in Gujarat. “The facility investor is a leading solar energy provider from the United States that will use advanced U.S. power generation technology in this plant in India.”
  • A loan totaling $84.3 million from Ex-Im Bank to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Dahanu Solar project located in the village of Dhursar, in India’s Rajasthan State. “The financing will support the export of thin film, photovoltaic solar modules produced by First Solar.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized a loan of $18.9 million to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Tatith Solar project located in Gujarat. “The project will utilize polycrystalline solar cells produced by Solarworld Industries America, LP.”
  • A financial guarantee from Ex-Im worth $18 million to finance photovoltaic modules for the Acme solar power plant to be located in Gujarat. “The Acme plant will utilize thin film technology photovoltaic modules supplied by First Solar of Tempe Arizona.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized loan of $15.8 million to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Azure Solar Plant project located in Rajasthan. “The photovoltaic farm will … consist of thin film technology photovoltaic panels supplied by First Solar of Tempe, Arizona.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized guarantee of $9.2 million to finance thin film, photovoltaic modules and related equipment to Punj Lloyd Solar Power Ltd. of India for a photovoltaic project located in Rajasthan. “The solar modules for the project will be produced by Abound Solar, Inc. at its Colorado facility.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized loan to Universal Solar System of India for $3.7 million to finance a photovoltaic power plant to be located in Gujarat. “The financing will support the sale of electrical inverters supplied by SMA America, LLC, of California as well as solar modules produced by Abound Solar Inc. at its Colorado facility.”
  • $30 million from OPIC for financing the development, implementation and operation of a 120 MW monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic module manufacturing facility located in Hyderabad.