Category: Commercial Solar

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04/08/14

  11:26:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 866 words  
Categories: LADWP, Commercial Solar, Feed-in Tariff

2Q14 LADWP FiT Progress Report

Yesterday we provided a recap of the results from the third tranche of LADWP’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT).  Today we are going to look at the status of the program overall, based on the newly instituted FiT Dashboard found on DWP’s FiT website.

Credit where its Due

We are often critical of issues with utilities, whether its undue roadblocks to installing solar or outright hostility to the entire concept of net metering.  So it is equally important to give credit where it is due, and the introduction of the solar “Dashboards” that are now featured at the DWP website is a great step forward in transparency and one that deserves to be widely imitated by DWP’s peers.  Here is how DWP explains the purpose of their FiT Dashboard:

LADWP is implementing the largest FiT program of any municipal utility in the nation. As it goes through growing pains, we continually work to improve the experience of customers and businesses who participate in it. The goal is to achieve the target level of solar energy, catalyze the solar industry and create jobs, and streamline the process to increase efficiency. This Dashboard outlines the issues, actions taken, and plans for improvement. The graphs show the current and targeted FiT processing timelines, schedule, and status of projects from each allocation.

The data discussed below is from the Dashboard update as of April 7, 2014.

FiT Processing Durations

While the complete flow chart for LA’s FiT program is more than a shade Byzantine, the Dashboard highlights processing times associated with three key bottlenecks in that flow: the initial Technical Screening that takes place when a project application is first submitted, the interconnection study which determines the cost for the proposed project to tie into DWP’s grid, and contract execution for the PPA between the project developer and DWP.  For each of these milestones, DWP has a goal of completing the work in four weeks.  In each case, DWP is missing those targets by a lot.

As of this writing, DWP is taking, on average, 6 weeks to complete the initial technical screening, 12 weeks (3x the goal) to complete the interconnection study and 14 weeks (3.5x the goal) to execute the contract!  Unfortunately, the Dashboard does not reveal how much of that delay reflects internal DWP processing times versus delays caused by the developer—breaking these delays down to reveal how that works out would be an important modification to the Dashboard.

While we can understand how incomplete applications and general, technical complexity could add delays to the first two milestones, we are baffled by the 14 weeks of delay in executing the contracts.  These are standard form contracts which, at least according to the program guidelines, are not subject to negotiation.  What could possibly cause a three-and-a-half month delay in getting those contracts signed?  Alas, the Dashboard does not reveal an answer to that question.

FiT Active Project Status

Which brings us to the status of all project applications in the queue.  Here’s DWP’s chart (click for larger):

FiT Active Project Status

The chart shows all 22 applications from the third tranche in the initial technical review as would be expected.  Shockingly, there are still 13 projects from the first tranche, over a year ago, that are still hung-up in that initial review!

Missing from this chart is the number of projects that are designated as cancelled.  By our count, there are 47 projects that made it through the lottery but have been cancelled for whatever reason.  (The most likely reason would be due to learning that the cost to interconnect to DWP’s grid—the major wild card in the whole process—turned out to be too expensive.  However, according to the data, only 21 of those 47 projects ever had the interconnection study completed, which means the majority of the cancellations had to be due to other, unreported, reasons.)

Seven projects from the first tranche are still waiting for the interconnection study to complete along with 37 from the second tranche.  Thirty-four projects, 17 each from the first two tranches, are undergoing the mysterious contract review process.  Only 9 projects have managed to get contracts executed and just two, both from the first tranche, have been commissioned.  (The blue bars represent projects from the demonstration phase.)

That’s a lot of solar in the pipeline—hopefully DWP can get the cancellation rate down and the completion rate up in the coming months.

Issues and Actions

Again to its credit, the Dashboard acknowledges that the program’s overall status is: “Needs Improvement” and steps are underway to improve the process.  Perhaps the most significant development is that DWP has assigned seven additional engineers to help work through this backlog.  But the Dashboard makes clear that to get to target goals, DWP needs to climb a very steep hill: “To achieve target turn-around schedule, staff must complete 10 interconnection studies per week over the next 7 weeks and 10 contracts per week over the next 10 weeks.”

Bottom line - DWP is working on a big and complex program and the performance to date has been less than desired, but the institutional attitude seems better than expected. Hopefully DWP will be able to deliver on its targets in the next 10 weeks. 

Of course, DWP looks positively stellar compared to the FiT performance of its neighbors, a topic we will return to tomorrow.

04/01/14

  08:56:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 248 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar

Solar on Sale!

Commercial Solar: Step-by-StepNo fooling! We are offering Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step (the Kindle version) for 60% off the list price starting today and for the next seven days!

That means you can download the book for just $1.99!  But you have to act fast to get this great deal because the price goes back up next week!

What’s that you say, you don’t own a Kindle?  Well, there’s a Kindle app for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone), for Android devices, and a downloadable app for both PCs (get it here) & Macs (ditto)!  This is a great way to read a book, super convenient for folks who travel, and you can even take it with you to show to prospective clients!

So don’t miss this chance to own the most popular book on Commercial Solar ever written!  See for yourself why reviewers have said:

“Whether you’re a potential solar customer interested in how to go solar or a commercial solar sales professional, this is a must read.”

And:

“This book is written for the commercial building owner or facilities manager thinking about Solar Photovoltaic installation. It is very informative and covers all the aspects involved in a commercial solar project. [An] engaging and humorous read.”

And:

“Jim Jenal’s guide to commercial solar is a thorough, quick, and easy read. The text is manage-ably dense with information, but chatty and easy to understand. Jim knows what he’s talking about, which is nice for those of us who do not.”

Don’t delay, download your copy now!

03/31/14

  05:47:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 347 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Events, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Non-profit solar

Nominate a Solar Champion!

White House website for Champions of Change

In the “How cool is this?” department we have learned that the White House is seeking nominations for their Champions of Change program, but this time specifically related to Solar Deployment!  Here are the details…

According to the White House website:

The White House Champions of Change program regularly highlights ordinary Americans from across the country who are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. To celebrate the breadth of individuals who are taking action on solar deployment, we will honor “Champions of Change” to lift up entrepreneurs, innovators, legislators, affordable housing owners, community leaders, and others who are accelerating deployment. 

We are asking you to help us identify standout local leaders and businesses by nominating a Champion of Change for Deployment of Solar in the Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Sectors by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 4. These champions can include:  

  • Community leaders working to bolster solar adoption; including participants in DOE’s “Rooftop Solar Challenge,” through which 22 teams are working to advance deployment;
     
  • Business leaders promoting solar procurement (building supply chains and smaller organizations that provide information about the benefits of solar);
     
  • Companies and non-profits training veterans for solar jobs;
     
  • Multifamily housing owners, home builders/associations and organizers promoting onsite solar generation on our rooftops, and organizations providing innovative financing mechanisms to developers and homeowners;
     
  • Utility leaders seizing solar energy’s potential by supporting and facilitating solar deployment, including through community solar; and
     
  • Organizations working to help consumers navigate the regulations and paperwork necessary to install solar in their communities.

Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose ‘Solar Deployment’ in the “Theme of Service” field of the nomination form).

Nominate a Solar Deployment Champion of Change

This is a great opportunity to help give some well deserved recognition to your favorite hero in the effort to build a clean, sustainable future.  You can submit more than one nomination, but the deadline is this Friday at 5 p.m. (and that’s Eastern time, so 2 p.m. here on the left coast).  So don’t hesitate, get those nominations in now!

03/28/14

  11:33:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1129 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Non-profit solar, Energy Storage, Net Metering

Net Metering Gets 20-Year Reprieve

CPUC LogoWhen Governor Brown signed AB327 last October, one thing was clear: net metering as we presently know it was going to go away, we just didn’t know how soon. Now, thanks to a ruling yesterday by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), we know: 20 years.  Here’s the scoop.

Background

Around the country, utilities have been pushing hard against net metering—the tariff under which solar customers receive credit for surplus energy production (say during the day when no one is home or on a weekend when a commercial facility is dormant) that offsets energy consumed from the grid (for example, at night).  The solar customer’s bill reflects the “netting out” of those two quantities (total energy exported versus total energy imported from the grid) and the customer only pays for the difference.  If the solar customer is a net energy producer (quite rare), the utility has to cut the customer a check for the surplus.  (Unless you are an LADWP customer, sorry.)  Last year’s bill sought to end the squabbling and provide certainty to solar customers.

CPUC’s Ruling

Under the law, the CPUC is required to devise a replacement for the current net metering arrangement, but yesterday’s ruling does not disclose what that will be.  Instead, the ruling establishes a sundown provision for customers who are either currently, or will become net metering customers under the current rules before July 1, 2017 (at which time the present net metering rules will be closed to new participants).

Solar system owners will be entitled to operate their systems under the net metering rules for a full 20 years from the year in which they interconnect their system.  That, decided the CPUC, will provide sufficient time for solar customers to recoup their investment.  However, solar customers can transition to the new rules, whatever those may turn out to be, sooner at the customer’s election.  The year of interconnection is determined by the date on the Permission to Operate letter received from the utility, and the twenty-year term ends on the last day of the twentieth year.

System Modifications

What happens to systems that are modified after July 1, 2017?  Does the new portion of the system get its own 20-year net metering extension or is it simply subsumed into the term for the original system?  The CPUC split this into two possible scenarios: repairs or modifications that did not increase system capacity by more than 10% of the original design will operate under the original 20-year term, neither resetting or ending it.  But system changes beyond the 10% limit will either have to be metered separately, or the entire system will have to be transitioned to the new tariff structure.

Change of Ownership or Location

The next question to be resolved was what happens if the system is sold or relocated?  After all, many solar customers purchase systems expecting it to increase the value of their home—but if the sale eliminates the net metering agreement, that added value could be lost.  The utilities, of course, disdained any such concerns, arguing that the net metering term should be tied to the original owner only.

Fortunately, the CPUC sided again with solar system owners. Thus, systems will remain under net metering for the full twenty-year term, regardless of changes in ownership, as long as the system remains at the original location.  However, if the system is physically moved to a new location, the CPUC deems that to be a new interconnection and the old net metering agreement would no longer apply.

Energy Storage Systems

The decision yesterday also took an important step in addressing the impact of adding energy storage systems to an existing solar system operating under the twenty-year net metering rule.  The CPUC ruled that “to the extent that energy storage systems are considered an addition or enhancement to a renewable electrical generation facility utilizing a NEM tariff, we find that they should be treated in the same way, and subject to the same transition period, as the underlying renewable generation system to which they are connected.”

IOU Reporting

The July 1, 2017 deadline is an absolute cutoff, but the actual end of new net metering agreements can actually be reached sooner if the utility in question has reached its “net metering cap.” The CPUC previously set the cap at 5% of the utility’s “non-coincident aggregate peak load.”  To allow perspective solar customers to know if their utility is going to hit that peak before the July 1, 2017 deadline, the CPUC ordered the three IOUs to report to the Commission (and on the utility’s website), on a monthly basis, their progress toward that cap.

Required Disclosures

Finally, the ruling addressed whether solar installers should be required to provide prospective clients with disclosures about the ruling, specifically as to the duration and limitations on existing net metering agreements.  According to the decision, IREC and SEIA opposed such a requirement on the grounds that it exceeds the authority of the CPUC.  As a legal matter, that may well be true, but SEIA’s position strikes a sour note.  Frankly, the solar industry is in serious need of mandated, standardized disclosures on everything from system components, warranties, energy yield, true costs, etc., to say nothing of issues surrounding the changes to net metering.  SEIA should be producing model documents for its member installer companies to use and drafting model legislation to mandate their use.

In any event, the CPUC punted the requirement issue for installers, saying:

Solar installers have a legal [citing Business & Professions Code § 17500] and ethical responsibility to disclose to their customers the terms that will apply to renewable distributed generation systems for the foreseeable future, including the applicable tariffs as well as the timing and terms for transition to a successor tariff. Such disclosures provide customers with the information that they need to make educated decisions about their future electric service. Because of this, we expect solar installers to provide honest and complete disclosures on the NEM transition, and we encourage customers to report to the appropriate authorities any misleading or fraudulent information that may be provided to them. At the same time, we require the large IOUs to post information on the NEM transition clearly on their Web sites along with other information about NEM terms, eligibility, and progress towards the statutorily mandated transition trigger level.

Of course B&P section 17500 is entirely generic and provides no guidance as to what disclosures solar companies should provide to their potential clients.  Clearly this is an area that requires legislation and California, as the most mature solar market in the country, should be leading the way here. 

As for Run on Sun, we will revise our Return on Investment materials to reflect a 20-year window instead of the 25-year model we have used previously.  Hopefully that will provide clients with a more accurate estimate of their true ROI.

03/18/14

  09:10:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 463 words  
Categories: SCE/CSI Rebates, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar

The (Rebate) Party's Over - SCE Imposes Residential Wait List

SCE logoThe folks running the CSI rebate program over at SCE (alas, dear Bruce, we barely knew ye) announced yesterday the imposition of a wait list for all residential solar rebates. In an email received at 1:53 p.m. on March 17th with the subject line, “CSI Waitlist Notification", we were informed as follows:

Dear CSI Solar Community:

Update on CSI Program Status

The remaining funds in SCE’s California Solar Initiative (CSI) Residential Incentive Program continue to be reserved at a higher than usual pace. Although California Solar Statistics shows just over a million dollars in Remaining Funds, the presence of “Remaining Funds” for a given Program does not mean that all those funds are available as incentives for available projects. Consequently, SCE will be establishing a wait list sooner than anticipated in an effort to ensure there is no oversubscription of the remaining funds. The Waitlist will become effective end of day on Monday March 17, 2014.

All new residential applications received after 7:00pm PST on Monday, March 17, 2014 will be placed onto the Wait List. SCE will continuously monitor the remaining incentive funds and review the highest waitlisted application as funding becomes available. Applications that do not have all required and correct documentation will be suspended and given 14 days to submit the requested information. If the documentation is not submitted correctly within the suspension period, the application will be cancelled and removed from the waitlist. All suspension timelines will be strictly enforced. Additionally, wait list projects may still have an opportunity to receive an incentive if previously reserved projects are cancelled out of the CSI Program. Please note waitlist projects will be reserved in the order received and are not guaranteed an incentive.

SCE has recently requested permission from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to shift some nonresidential incentive funds into the residential incentive budget. If approved by the CPUC, SCE will be able to allocate more megawatts and therefore more incentive dollars for CSI residential projects.

If you have any questions please call the CSI Helpline at (866)584-7436.

Sincerely,

CSI Program Administrator
Southern California Edison

Who waits until mere hours before a deadline to announce the deadline?  Why not simply announce it after the fact and be done with the drama?

So what does this mean?  It means that as of now, residential CSI rebates in SCE territory are no longer guaranteed.  Of course, at 20¢/Watt they were nearly gone for a while now, but this makes it official.  Presumably non-residential rebates are still available, but it sounds like SCE will ask the CPUC for permission to tap that piggy bank and shift some or all of those funds to the residential program.

If you are a commercial, or more significantly, non-profit entity considering going solar, you better act quickly before those moneys disappear as well.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
In addition, Run on Sun offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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