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Be Alerted: ALEC Prioritizes Renewable Energy For Next Year; What about Indiana? November 6, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:

So what will Indiana state legislators who belong to ALEC do here in Indiana during the 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly. They can’t repeal an RPS that Indiana doesn’t have. In 2010, state legislators did enact something called the Indiana Voluntary Clean Energy Portfolio Standard (InVCEPS). But really people since this was such a do nothing piece of state legislation why would they bother to repeal it, especially since InVCEPS was combined with other things in SB 251 the electric utilities really wanted.

Laura Ann Arnold

SustainableBusiness.com News

Regardless of who wins today’s elections, conservative groups and their fossil fuel industry backers will keep working to crush the renewable energy industry. They will be greatly assisted, of course, if more Republicans win elections on the state and federal levels.
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the notorious right-wing group that develops model legislation, which legislators then introduce across the country, is launching an all-out effort to repeal state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) through model legislation, the “Electricity Freedom Act.”

They plan to make repealing state RPSs a “high priority” for the coming year.

The bill is written and funded by an ALEC task force consisting of representatives from major oil, gas and power companies, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Koch, and Shell.
As most of you know, these standards – in place in 29 states and Wash DC – require utilities to source a certain percentage of their energy from renewables by a target date. The percentage varies depending on the state. The RPS is among the most important methods for increasing the share of renewable energy in the US.
ALEC says it opposes the concept of RPS because it is essentially a tax on consumers and mandates some energy sources over others.

The bill says that wind and solar power are expensive and unreliable, and that forcing utilities to use renewables threatens electric grid reliability and will increase the cost of doing business through rate increases or higher taxes.

“Forcing business, industry, and ratepayers to use renewable energy through a government mandate will increase the cost of doing business and push companies to do business with other states or nations, thereby decreasing American competitiveness,” the bill states.
ALEC points to studies that claim electric rates will rise up to 37% by 2025 in Minnesota, for example, because of its RPS. Who conducted the study? ALEC’s right-wing sister organization, American Tradition Institute. Earlier this year, a memo uncovered that group’s planned national PR campaign to turn public opinion against renewable energy.

This line of logic is false.

Studies find that state RPSs have not significantly affected electricity rates between 2000-2010. Instead, these policies lead to cleaner air, economic development, a more resilient electrical grid and greater resource diversity, which reduces risk to consumers by not relying on any one energy source.

Actually, states with RPS report the costs of renewable energy are dropping. In its annual report on the impact of Michigan’s RPS (which voters may raise today), the Michigan Public Service Commission said wind energy was almost a third cheaper than buying electricity from a new coal plant. Utility Xcel got a similar deal in Colorado.

ALEC’s uses faulty assumptions. That “coal and natural gas prices will be very low and stable over time, and they don’t count any environmental benefit to society from renewables,” Richard Caperton from the Center for American Progress told Midwest Energy News.

Minnesota’s largest utilities say they would add wind power regardless of the state’s mandate, reports Midwest Energy News.
Although ALEC has lost a slew of corporate supporters this past year after they were finally exposed, 2000 state lawmakers remain members. Among the raft of right-wing legislation ALEC is responsible for are the voter suppression laws that have taken hold across the country this year.

ALEC anti-environmental agenda includes dismantling state Renewable Portfolio Standards, pressuring the EPA to designate palm oil as a renewable fuel, pushing for loopholes in disclosure of natural gas fracking chemicals, and killing regional climate cap-and-trade pacts, along with eliminating clean air and water regulations, and even trying to turn public lands over to corporations.

ALEC’s goal is “to do one thing, and that’s to maximize the profits of fossil fuel industry and eliminate renewables from competition. I don’t see where the freedom is in that,” warns Doug Klopp of Common Cause. Advocates of renewable energy should be worried.

Read ALEC Exposed: Warming Up to Climate Change
Read ALEC Exposed: A Nationwide Blueprint for the Rightwing Takeover
Visit ALECexposed.org to learn more and find ALEC-influenced bills in your state:

Read ALEC’s Electricity Freedom Act:

Website: www.midwestenergynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Electricity-Freedom-Act-New.pdf

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Governor Christie Signs Legislation To Rescue New Jersey Solar, SREC Markets; Where are Indiana political candidates on renewable energy? July 29, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Blog Readers:

This article was sent to me by Jeff Peterson with 360 SunSolutions in Ft. Wayne. His comment to me was “Chris Christie gets it!!!!!!”. The relevant question now is do the Indiana gubernatorial candidates Mike Pence and John Gregg “get it” when it comes to renewable energy development in our state. Although personally I believe feed-in tariffs (FITs) are a better policy than an RPS and SREC’s, let’s have this conversation with our candidates for Governor.

Here is one upcoming opportunity:

10th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management presented by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce

August 28-29, 2012

The Westin Indianapolis

We are pleased announce the participation of Indiana gubernatorial candidates Congressman Mike Pence and John Gregg, former Indiana Speaker of the House.

Hear the candidates’ views on the future of Indiana’s energy environment as they bookend this important conference. Pence will address the audience and take questions during the opening general session on August 28, while Gregg will speak at the closing luncheon on August 29.

Governor Christie did not do this alone in New Jersey. He also had the support of state legislators. What about this year’s candidates for the Indiana General Assembly do they “get it”? As you encounter these candidates for public office you need to ask them about their views on renewable energy and distributed generation. If you do have an opportunity to talk to candidates, please share these conversations with us.

The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce affords an opportunity to meet and talk to central Indiana candidates for the Indiana General Assembly as follows:

HobNob

Thursday, September 6, 2012; 5-8 pm

Indiana Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN

Register at www.IndyChamber.com

For more insight into this recent action in New Jersey, please see http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/07/24/574531/bucking-the-gop-trend-new-jersey-governor-chris-christie-signs-bill-to-strengthen-the-states-solar-industry/.

Laura Ann Arnold

by Solar Industry (SI) staff on Tuesday 24 July 2012

Original article: http://www.solarindustrymag.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.10799


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed into law legislation that many say will revitalize the state’s strong but vulnerable solar energy market.

The legislation accelerates the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for solar energy and reduces solar alternative compliance payments (SACPs).

The bill was passed by the New Jersey State Assembly and State Senate in May and June, respectively.

SACPs set a ceiling on the market price of solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), which suppliers and providers of electricity are required to purchase in an amount that satisfies the annual RPS requirement. The Division of Rate Counsel estimates that the law will save ratepayers approximately $1.076 billion over the next 15 years as compared to the current solar subsidy schedule, according to Christie’s office.

Demand for SRECs is set by the RPS. Under the legislation, the 15-year RPS schedule is changed from a fixed megawatt requirement each year to a percentage of overall energy usage in New Jersey, ensuring that the level of solar obligation rises and falls with overall energy demand, which can vary due to economic factors.

Under the new law, utilities will be required to obtain 2.05% of their electricity sales from solar by 2014 – a mandate that will be ramped up on a tiered basis to 4.10% by 2028.

The new legislation gives the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) the authority to review all proposed grid-supply solar projects, except for a limited amount (80 MW a year) for energy years 2014-2016. It also creates a sub-program to incentivize the development of solar projects on landfills and brownfields, and lowers costs for participating schools and government entities through net-metering aggregation.

When signing the bill, Christie expressed his support for renewable energy development in the state.

“Since my time running for office, I made it clear that my administration would be unrivaled in our aggressive support for the development of renewable sources of energy in New Jersey,” Christie said in a statement. “Renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth and the creation of good-paying jobs for the people of our state.”

“The bill I am signing today furthers these goals and will help us remain a national leader in the solar energy industry as we continue to promote innovative approaches to solar development, like developing landfills and other unusable lands and transforming them into sources of usable clean energy, all while holding down costs for families and businesses,” he added.

Industry reaction to the legislation has generally been positive. According to Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Rhone Resch, the new law is exactly what was needed to save the New Jersey solar market.

“New Jersey is the second-largest market in the U.S. for solar energy; however, additional market growth was threatened,” Resch explained in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Christie and our champions in the state legislature – in particular, Sen. [Bob] Smith, Senate President [Stephen M.] Sweeney, and Assemblyman [Upendra] Chivukula, New Jersey’s solar industry will now continue to provide jobs, investment and energy security for years to come.”

However, the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association said the legislation doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the New Jersey solar market will be saved.

“Although the legislation is expected to avert the current crisis, it left undone an equally important task – preventing a recurrence of the crisis,” MSEIA President Dennis Wilson said in a statement. “The sponsors of the legislation and the governor worked long and hard to craft this bill, and we are grateful for their strong commitment to keeping the Jersey solar industry alive. But this legislation only solves half the problem. We still need to solve the other half.”

“It is necessary now for the legislature, the administration and the BPU to take up the task of ensuring that the solar market does not return to severe oversupply in the near future,” added Lyle Rawlings, MSEIA’s vice president for New Jersey. “In order to do this, acceleration of the RPS must be matched by responsible management, and that means controlling the pace of construction of solar power. New Jersey’s solar industry must live within a budget.”

MSEIA and several partners are currently funding a study to provide solid evidence that the cost of solar power has dropped below the actual value of the power delivered to the grid. In other words, New Jersey ratepayers – even those who do not participate in solar projects directly – save money from every solar kilowatt-hour produced. Under these circumstances, MSEIA believes that the state should double its solar goal to 10 GW of solar generation in 10 years.

New Jersey installed more solar capacity in the first quarter of this year than any other state and led the nation in solar installations on commercial and industrial properties in 2011, according to Christie’s office. The state currently has over 800 MW in installed solar energy capacity and another 600 MW of solar in various stages of installation.

More details on the legislation can be found here.

Photo credit: Office of Gov. Chris Christie/Tim Larsen

Joint CESA/State-Federal RPS Collaborative Webinar 3/30/12: Solar Thermal Trends, Performance-Based Incentives, and RPS March 23, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Uncategorized.
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Dear Blog Readers:

I have participated in several webinars by this group as well as attending a couple of their conferences. I would highly recommend. Although this webinar addresses solar thermal, I will bet there will be information presented that will be transferrable to CHP and geothermal systems. Just guessing though on that. I am signed up!

Laura Ann Arnold

Click this link to register: Joint CESA/State-Federal RPS Collaborative Webinar: Solar Thermal Trends, Performance-Based Incentives, and RPS.

March 30, 2012

1:00pm — 2:30pm Eastern Daylight Time

In recent years, more states have instituted incentives and programs to encourage solar thermal energy installations. Additional states are considering doing this, either through a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), through a clean energy fund, or with a utility-based program. One important consideration has been whether and how to link any incentives to the performance of the systems.

This webinar will feature three presentations looking at solar thermal from different vantage points. Les Nelson of the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials will summarize market and costs trends for solar thermal technologies. James Critchfield will discuss US EPA’s initiative to work with stakeholders to create a US Heat Meter Standard, which will set requirements for the instrumentation and application of equipment used to measure the energy generation of thermal energy systems. Sam Watson of the North Carolina Utilities Commission will describe his state’s experiences with including solar thermal in its RPS, and will provide lessons learned.

Time will be allotted for Q&A from the audience. The webinar will be hosted by CESA Senior Advisor Warren Leon.

Speakers:

• James Critchfield, Director for Clean Energy Market Transformation at U.S. EPA

• Les Nelson, Director of Solar Heating & Cooling Programs for the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials

• Sam Watson, General Counsel of the North Carolina Utilities Commission

This event is supported by The Energy Foundation, Clean Energy States Alliance, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The webinar is free to attend, but regstration is required.

MI Public Service Commission: Renewables Less Expensive than Coal, Spark Economy February 23, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Uncategorized.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

CONTACT: Heather Kevnick (517) 333-1606 or mieibc@mieibc.org

www.mieibc.org

Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/MIEIBC

Follow us on Twitter @MI_EIBC
New report shows renewable energy standard creates jobs; utilities on track to meet RES

LANSING – A Michigan Public Service Commission report shows Michigan’s renewable energy standard is directly sparking Michigan’s economy, generating $100 million in investments, spurring manufacturing and business growth, and creating jobs, the Energy Innovation Business Council said today. The report also shows that renewable energy now costs less than coal.

Read the full report at http://www.michigan.gov/mpsc.

“Michigan manufacturers and businesses see firsthand how a renewable energy standard drives economic growth, innovation, investments and job creation, and this report validates the need for a strong renewable energy standard,” said Jeff Metts, CEO of Astraeus Wind, a manufacturing company based in Eaton Rapids. “Other states are aggressively pursuing strategies to grow their renewable energy and manufacturing sectors. Michigan must roll up our sleeves and aggressively position ourselves to compete for new opportunities and jobs, or get left behind.”

The MPSC report on the RES enacted in 2008 included the following highlights:

  • Michigan’s current RES generated more than $100 million in investments on advanced energy projects between 2008-2011, many of them directly impacting Michigan businesses and workers
  • All renewable energy sources cost significantly less than coal per megawatt/hour, with renewables costing an average of $91.19/MWh, lower than the $133/MWh for a new coal plant.
  • Michigan is on track to meet the current renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2015

The MPSC report went on to say: “Michigan has the potential to become a regional leader in development and manufacturing of renewable energy systems, building on the state’s engineering expertise, modernized machining, and investment in renewable energy in coming years. It appears that the Michigan incentive REC (renewable energy credits) provision in the standard is meeting its intended purpose to encourage developers to maximize the amount of Michigan equipment and labor.”

Additionally, Mlive.com reported Feb. 16 that Consumers Energy significantly lowered its renewable energy charge from $2.50 to only 65 cents a month because renewable energy costs continue to decrease.

While the MPSC report says Michigan is on track to meet the RES by 2015, only around 3.6 percent of Michigan’s electricity currently comes from renewables. In comparison, 21 percent of Iowa’s electricity already comes from renewables. In addition, neighboring Midwest states such as Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota have renewable energy standards higher than Michigan’s.

“Michigan’s renewable energy sector is providing solid financial, social and ecological values for Michigan because of our renewable energy standard. Michigan utilities that are investing in advanced energy such as wind and solar deserve full credit for embracing the future and creating new economic opportunities,” said Rich Vander Veen, president of Mackinaw Power in Lowell. “The MPSC report shows a renewable energy standard establishes energy security and makes good economic sense for Michigan businesses and ratepayers. New wind farms are providing solid income to local communities and landowners, and this helps protect family farms for future generations.”

“Michigan’s advanced energy manufacturing companies are retooling, our workers are retraining and we are rebuilding our economy, thanks to positive programs such as our renewable energy standard,” said EIBC President Ed Clemente. “Michigan is showing the world that we are once again a great place for innovation, entrepreneurship and manufacturing. The MPSC report demonstrates how advanced and renewable energy can diversify our economy, bring new opportunities for business and move us forward.”

Earlier this month, the EIBC released a study showing Michigan’s advanced energy manufacturing sector – solar, wind, advanced energy storage and batteries, and biomass – generates $5 billion a year in economic activity and supports 20,500 jobs a year. The study is one of the first of its kind in the nation because it used real-world manufacturing data.

About the Energy Innovation Business Council

Global, national and statewide demand for clean, renewable sources of energy continues to grow – and Michigan has the resources to become a significant contributor to this growing new energy economy.

The Energy Innovation Business Council is a trade organization made up of Michigan companies and businesses that are at the forefront of this important sector. Our members are engaged in clean energy manufacturing and other areas of the new energy economy that is creating opportunities and jobs for Michigan.

Launched in 2012 as a voluntary membership organization, EIBC is excited to invite all Michigan businesses interested in the clean energy economy to join the council. Together, EIBC can be an even stronger advocate for clean energy innovation, entrepreneurship, opportunities and jobs.

The EIBC aims to diversify and accelerate the growth of Michigan’s energy sector and create partnerships to expand business opportunities, secure access to capital, engage the public and policymakers, advocate and build consensus for policy, and advance energy innovation with the goal of generating jobs and economic development.

Website: www.mieibc.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MIEIBC

Twitter: http://twitter.com/mi_eibc

Michigan Public Service Commission

Report on the implementation of the P.A. 295 renewable energy standard

and the cost-effectiveness of the energy standards

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MPSC REPORT

  • Michigan’s current RES generated more than $100 million in investments on advanced energy projects between 2008-2011. (p. 18)
  • All renewable energy sources cost significantly less than coal per megawatt/hour, with renewables costing an average of $91.19/MWh, lower than the $133/MWh for a new coal plant. (p. 22, p. 25-26)
    • The actual cost of renewable energy contracts submitted to the MPSC to date shows a downward pricing trend. This was the case as of the filing of this report in February 2011 and continues to be the case as the two most recent contracts approved by the MPSC for new wind capacity have levelized costs of $61-$64/MWh. (p.24)
    • Based on contract pricing trends, MPSC anticipates that the cost of renewable energy will continue to decline. (p. 26)
  • Michigan is on track to meet the current renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2015. (p.28)
    • By the next MPSC biennial review in 2013, electric providers will have made significant progress toward securing all the renewable energy necessary for compliance with the Act.  (p. 9)
    • Progress toward the first compliance year in 2012 and the 10 percent renewable energy standard in 2015 is going smoothly. (p. 28)
  • A benefit of the additional investment, manufacturing, installation, administration and development of clean and renewable energy has been job creation. (p. 18)

“Michigan has the potential to become a regional leader in development and manufacturing of renewable energy systems, building on the state’s engineering expertise, modernized machining, and investment in renewable energy in coming years. It appears that the Michigan incentive REC (renewable energy credits) provision in the standard is meeting its intended purpose to encourage developers to maximize the amount of Michigan equipment and labor.” MPSC report, 2/15/2012, p. 20.

New renewable capacity by technology type

Includes all renewable energy contracts approved by the MPSC from 2009 – 2011. Includes 12 MW of Solar that will come online through 2015. (Source: Electric provider contract approval filings.)

Solyndra Was Banking on Energy Bill, E-Mails Show – Amy Harder – NationalJournal.com; What does this mean for Indiana? October 6, 2011

Posted by Laura Arnold in Federal energy legislation, Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Uncategorized.
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Solyndra Was Banking on Energy Bill, E-Mails Show – Amy Harder – NationalJournal.com.

Solyndra could still be in business had Congress passed a comprehensive energy bill last year, recently released e-mails indicate.

A May 2010 e-mail exchange between senior Energy Department advisers Matt Rogers and Rod O’Connor show Solyndra’s executives were “counting on” Congress passing an energy bill that would have included major policies promoting renewable energy nationwide.

Click link above for the entire story.

Are you tired of the Solyndra stories? What are you doing to change the focus of the news media to a more positive outlook for solar and renewable energy? Share your ideas with the other blog readers.

P.S. National news reporters are looking for “blood in the water” in Indiana and want to know if Abound Solar will be the next Solyndra.

Consumers Energy in Michigan expands program to buy back solar power; How does it compare to NIPSCO FIT available in NW Indiana? August 24, 2011

Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Voluntary Clean Energy Portfolio Standard Program.
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Dear Readers:
I thought this information about Consumer’s Energy about their Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP) in Michigan might be of interest to you.  Consumer’s Energy is merely adding an additional 3 MW to this program so it is dwarfed by Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s (NIPSCO) recently approved feed-in tariff (FIT) which is capped at 30 MW. It looks to me like NIPSCO’s FIT outshines this program offered by Consumers Energy. 
I don’t claim to be an expert on this program offered by Consumers Energy. But if you are interested in the details please see the information about a public meeting on August 30, 2011 in Lansing, Michigan. Don’t worry there is also an option to participate via an On-Line Broadcast. EARP Public Mtg Info
It is interesting to note that this EARP is designed to meet Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This is the same concept I recently recommended in my written comments for IDEA to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) concerning the proposed rulemaking to implement Indiana’s Voluntary Clean Energy Portfolio Standard (IN VCEPS) created by SEA 251. See Letter to Beth Krogel Roads_IURC RM #11-05_IDEA Comments_15Aug2011 Interesting don’t you think? Maybe my idea isn’t that crazy afterall.
Laura Ann Arnold
Original article: http://www.detnews.com/article/20110816/BIZ/108160400/1361/Consumers-Energy-expands-program-to-buy-back-solar-power

Last Updated: August 16. 2011  10:27AM

Melissa Burden/ The Detroit News

Consumers Energy is rolling out another round of its popular program to buy  renewable energy generated by solar systems owned by its customers, the  Jackson-based company said Tuesday.

The utility’s Experimental Advanced  Renewable Program has added 2 megawatts of electricity through solar panels on  roofs and in yards at 102 locations across the state. Following recent Michigan  Public Service Commission approval, the program is creating an additional 3  megawatts, Consumers Energy said in a news release.

Utility customers pay for solar installations on their own and enter into  15-year contracts with Consumers Energy to sell energy created via the systems  back to the utility, said Dan Bishop, a Consumers Energy spokesman. Consumers  Energy provides electric service in 61 counties in the Lower Peninsula.

Through this round of the program, however, customers will be paid less per  kilowatt hour of electricity generated, down from about 40 to 50 cents per  kilowatt hour to a high of 25.9 kilowatt hour for the first 125 kilowatts sold,  according to Bishop and Consumers Energy.

Customer applications will be  accepted near the end of August. More information about the program is available  at www.consumersenergy.com/EARP .

mburden@detnews.com

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110816/BIZ/108160400/Consumers-Energy-expands-program-to-buy-back-solar-power#ixzz1VTrgXvxL

For more information about this entire case before the MPSC see: http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/viewcase.php?casenum=16543

On July 26, 2011, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued an Order in MPSC Case No. U-16543 that approved Consumers Energy Company’s plan to expand the Experimental Advanced RenewableProgram (EARP).  The EARP provides for the long term purchase of renewable energy generated by customer-owned solar photovoltaic generators. Installation of EARP Phase 1 and Phase 2 generators were recently completed at 102 locations and provide approximately 2 MW of direct current (DC) solar nameplate capacity.

Consumers Energy plans to solicit applications and begin accepting applications for Phase 3 of the EARP near the end of August. Phase 3 will award approximately 250 kW of contracts for non-residential capacity in the fourth quarter of 2011.  Phase 4 will award approximately 125 kW of contracts for residential capacity in the first quarter of 2012. The program expansion, occurring in 18 or more phases, will be  Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the EARP and is expected to add 3 MW of additional customer-owned solar generation capacity to the Company’s renewable energy portfolio. This new program will feature a standard offer price of between $0.20 and $0.26 per kWh.

Colorado’s PV Industry Threatened by Xcel Energy February 23, 2011

Posted by Laura Arnold in Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Uncategorized.
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Original article: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/02/colorados-pv-industry-threatened-by-xcel-energy?cmpid=SolarNL-Tuesday-February22-2011
By Blake Jones, Namaste Solar   |   February 21, 2011   |   22 Comments
Colorado, USA — Last week Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest investor-owned utility (IOU) with over 90% of the state’s PV market, announced catastrophic changes to its “Solar*Rewards” customer-sited PV incentive program.

The immediate result is that sales activity in Xcel’s customer-sited PV market has come to a grinding halt. Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards program will not accept new project applications until the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) addresses the issue.  Unfortunately, Xcel’s actions parallel those taken by Colorado’s other IOU and second largest utility, Black Hills Energy, which took similar actions last October that have effectively killed its portion of the state’s PV market.  In the meantime, until this issue is resolved by the CPUC, local solar companies only have previously-approved projects, if any, to sustain them while the future of Colorado’s solar industry and customer-sited PV market hangs in the balance.  

Prior to the unexpected announcement, incentive levels for the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program had been set according to capacity-based tiers that Xcel published – and updated daily – on its website (see snapshot below — more info in sidebar at end of the article).  Modeled after the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the capacity-based tiers were established in 2009 with the intention of providing a road map of how the solar incentives would decline over time, thereby providing critically important transparency and visibility. 

Solar companies used this information to plan their business operations and communicate to potential solar customers.  Last Wednesday, Xcel Energy detoured from this road map with their unexpected, unilateral announcement.  It was equivalent to immediately skipping over the remaining five steps that collectively represented over 36 MW in just one of the four Solar*Rewards incentive categories (first table in sidebar below).

Why is Xcel Energy doing this?  In its press release, it claims that, “The changes are prompted by the decline in solar panel costs and increasing subsidization from government programs. Together, these developments have reduced the level of Xcel Energy incentives needed to support customer participation in Solar*Rewards.”  Indeed, solar panel costs have declined over 50% in the past 2-3 years, but it’s unclear what government programs Xcel is referring to that are increasing their subsidization.

Either way, the decreasing cost of installing solar has allowed the incentive levels to be reduced proportionately over the same time period, in keeping with the program’s original outline.  As future cost reductions were realized, the capacity-based tiers should have allowed for a smooth transition, allowing demand and cost reductions to drive the decrease in incentives.  Demand would only be sustained if costs continued to decline – that’s part of the beauty of such a system – so it’s unclear why Xcel Energy felt the need to accelerate the incentive reductions and ignore their own previous road map to the detriment of the local solar industry.

Xcel Energy’s actions threaten to reverse the progress that Colorado has made since the Solar*Rewards program was launched five years ago as a result of a voter-approved Renewable Energy Standard (RES).  Colorado’s RES is one of the best in the country (30% by 2020) and Colorado has been among the top five PV markets in the U.S. for many years.  Since its launch in 2006, the Solar*Rewards program helped create over 5,300 local solar jobs at over 400+ companies that have collectively installed more than 70 MW of customer-sited PV systems (see graph below). 

If Xcel’s actions are approved by the CPUC, I predict that over 50-75% of these jobs will be lost by the end of this year, causing Colorado to lose valuable solar industry infrastructure that took five years to build.

According to the press release, Xcel Energy predicts that over 59 MW of PV systems will be installed in 2011.  Despite the information provided, it’s difficult to discern how much of this is customer-sited and how much is utility-scale.  For example, the 59 MW likely contains a single 30+ MW utility-scale PV project in southern Colorado that SunPower and Iberdrola have been contracted to install.  Xcel seems to claim that the existing backlog of approved, but not-yet-installed, customer-sited projects totals over 6 MW and that over 10 MW of customer-sited solar will be sold in 2011, but I personally don’t see how that can happen at their proposed incentive levels. 

This unilateral move by Xcel Energy is a departure from the expectations of Colorado’s voters, explicit in 2004’s voter-approved ballot initiative, in which they states that the RES and solar incentive program should contribute to building a sustainable solar industry in Colorado. Businesses depend on transparent, stable, long-term policies to make hiring and investment decisions, and this move undermines the previously-established capacity-based tiers that Xcel Energy created and obtained approval for from the CPUC.  

With the national and international spotlight that President Obama put on the Colorado solar marketplace in 2008 (when he signed the historic American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at the site of a 100 kW PV system in Denver), this is an embarrassment to our state that might spoil Colorado’s “New Energy Economy” success story.  Xcel’s regrettable and surprising act demonstrates the urgent need for a reformed incentive program that will help build a sustainable solar industry, and in Colorado’s case, I strongly believe that this requires that the incentive program be independent from Xcel Energy’s and Black Hills Energy’s control.

The solar industry will be organizing a protest to Xcel Energy’s actions on the steps of the state capital in Denver next Friday, February 25, at 12:00 p.m.  Please join us there to express your support. This is not just about Colorado – it’s also about stopping a national precedent from being set by two Colorado utilities that have pulled the plug on a growing solar industry.  For more information or to get involved, please contact the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA) at www.coseia.org.


Sidebar: Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards Program

More info at this link.

Snapshots of three of the four incentive categories

  • Small – Customer-Owned (<10 kW)
  • Small – Third Party Developer (<10 kW)
  • Medium – Tier 1 (10-100 kW)

 Snapshot of the just the tiers:

Small — Customer-Owned (<10 kW)
Step Upfront Price
per watt DC
MW in step MW Confirmed MW Remaining
in Step
Date Step Began
1 $1.50 0.5 0.518378 -.018378 10/25/09
2 $1.00 1 1.042552 -.042552 11/11/09
3 85¢ 1 1.028433 -.028433 12/2/09
4 70¢ 1 1.048483 -.048483 12/31/09
5 55¢ 1 1.006607 -0.006607 3/18/10
6 45¢ 3 3.051158 -0.051158 5/14/10
7*(current) 35¢ 4 1.786143 2.213857 10/14/10
8 25¢ 4   4  
9 15¢ 4   4  
10 10¢ 8   8  
11 10   10  
12 10   10  
           

 

Small — Third Party Developer (<10 kW)
Step Price per
kWh generated
MW in step MW Confirmed MW Remaining
in Step
Date Step Began
1 11¢ 3 3.0323 -0.0323 starting price
2 2 2.082185 -0.082185 9/08/10
3 1 1.006397  -0.006397 12/23/10
4* (currentl level) 1 0.365708 0.634292 01/26/11
5 1   1  
6 3.5¢ 2   2  
7 2.5¢ 4   4  
8 4   4  
9 8   8  
10 .05¢ 8   8  
11 .05¢ 10   10  
12 .01¢ 10   10  
             

The information and views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on its Web site and other publications.

Readying to Hit the Ground Running After Recess, Reid Says RES Alive September 5, 2010

Posted by Laura Arnold in Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).
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Energy legislation that would include a renewable electricity standard (RES) “absolutely” remains a possibility for this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), said this week.

The statements, coming as the Senator turned his attention to his annual energy conference in his home state of Nevada next week, were welcomed by the wind energy industry and its advocates, which prior to the August recess reached a far different conclusion from Reid about the ability of an RES to pass. Reid contended that an RES does not have the necessary 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, but wind energy advocates insisted that it does.

However, any gap between vote tallies appears to be narrowing. In his comments to reporters this week, Reid said two Republicans have expressed interest in an RES. While Reid did not name those Senators, Sam Brownback (Kan.) is one Republican who has publicly endorsed a 15% RES in recent weeks.

In a statement in early August, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Denise Bode said, “There is tremendous bipartisan support for the renewable electricity standard, and we’re encouraged that Senate leadership is open to revisiting the bill in September. In recent days several Senators, including Republicans, made strong arguments for new policy to bring stability and continued growth to the American wind energy industry. That should come as no surprise. The RES has the greatest job-creation and job-protection potential of any energy policy Congress can consider this year. We are advancing our discussions with RES supporters in both parties to keep our industry competitive and to build a thriving clean energy manufacturing industry.”

This week, AWEA issued the following statement from Bode in response to Reid voicing confidence on the Senate energy bill:

“Today’s statement by Senator Reid that he sees more bipartisan support for a renewable electricity standard is a sure sign energy legislation is still very much in play. A recent Op-Ed by Senator Mark Udall and letter signed by labor, leading utilities, renewable energy trade associations, and most of the environmental community shows momentum is building throughout the nation. There is every reason the Senate can pass energy legislation with an RES.”

Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on September 13, but its working days are fewer this fall because of the election year.