Every now and then you come across a news item that leaves you scratching your head - “What were they thinking?” you wonder. That was our reaction to a NY Times article reporting that giant retailer Costco is removing its already installed charging stations for Electric Vehicles (EVs). Really? Now they are doing this? Just as modern, capable EVs (and plug-in hybrids or PHEVs) become widely available, they are removing their charging stations? How does that make any sense?
Costco had originally installed its chargers back during the original EV boom that was documented in Who Killed the Electric Car. That boom ended when the California Air Resources Board caved on their EV mandate and GM - which had only leased, not sold its EV-1 vehicles - recalled them from their drivers and sent them to the scrap pile (despite howls of protest). But all of that took place years ago. So why remove the chargers now?
According to Costco management, the chargers were not being used enough to justify keeping them. Now part of that might be due to the age of the chargers which makes them a poor match for today’s EVs. Yet, the California Energy Commission has a program in place to help pay for upgrading old chargers - like the ones at Costco - with state-of-the-art models that are perfectly matched to the new round of EVs. “Not interested,” said Costco. According to the article:
Mr. Hoover [the general manager for Costco in northern California] said that E.V. charging was “very inefficient and not productive” for the retailer. “The bottom line is that there are a lot of other ways to be green,” he said. “We have five million members in the region, and just a handful of people are using these devices.”
Mr. Hoover said the company was aware of the state-funded upgrade program, but did not see a compelling reason to take advantage of it.
“Why should we have anybody spend money on a program that nobody’s thought through?” he said.
Hoover’s dismissive attitude was reflected in the comments - particularly the comments “highlighted” by NY Times editorial staff - that were shockingly ill-informed. Here’s one example:
Isn’t it enough the public has to subsidize the purchase of these slow-moving boondoggles, must we continue to coddle them throughout their entire (mercifully, short) lifespans? Calling them “green", btw, is laughable, as if the electricity coming through these chargers was generated by pixies using fairy dust. In the unlikely event these fadcars ever became popular, they’d add to the stress on our already over-burdened electric grid.
As we have noted before, we don’t believe in electricity produced by “fairy dust” - but we do believe that EVs, when combined with solar power systems - provide a way to have an incredibly cleaner driving system than what most of us are using today. And numerous studies have demonstrated that for EVs charging at night, they will impose no burden at all on the grid. Indeed, as the grid gets “smarter” EVs have the potential to help even out demand by providing power back to the grid.
The good folks over at Plug In America have launched a letter writing campaign to try and reverse Costco’s curious decision. We encourage you to check it out.
UPDATE - As of October 6th, our Representative, Adam Schiff, is now also a co-sponsor of this bill, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 39. Way to go, Rep. Schiff! What about your Member of Congress?
Given its potential impact on the residential solar market, the PACE Assessment Protection Act of 2011 is a very big deal. Thanks to the folks over at Open Congress, you can now track the status of that bill with a handy widget that we have added after the jump.
Here is the current status of the bill, HR 2599:
The widget will update automatically as the bill progresses (we hope!) through Congress. Of course, one way to ensure that it does pass, is for YOU to contact your representative and urge them to co-sponsor the bill and vote for it when it comes up. This really should be a no-brainer: enacting a law that will make it easier for homeowners to finance solar power installations and other energy efficiency retrofits on their homes by paying for them through their property taxes. This allows for a much lower overall project cost to the homeowner than they would receive through either a traditional home equity loan or lease payments. (Uh, ok, so maybe that calls to mind two groups who might not be big fans of PACE financing, but apart from those special interests, who else could say nay?)
When you contact your member of the House, please drop us a comment and let us know - it would be great to see a large collection of comments reflecting people taking action to get this legislation passed.
UPDATE: Former President Bill Clinton sat down with Judy Woodruff of PBS to extoll the virtues of PACE: “the closest thing to a Free Lunch that we have in this country." The report also shows President Obama’s support for a PACE program - but can it get through Congress?
H.R. 2599 - the PACE Assessment Protection Act of 2011 - is picking up the pace and now has 22 co-sponsors - 13 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Given the general climate in the House (where no one denies that things are getting hotter), this outbreak of bipartisanship is nothing short of remarkable. We will name names after the jump.
We noticed before that furniture giant IKEA was installing solar at six stores in the U.S., but we had no idea that their ambition was so grand. “The direction of travel for us is 100 percent renewable,” said chief sustainability officer, Steve Howard. “We’re likely to hit 70 to 80 percent by 2015." Wow!
As a starting point - well beyond those six U.S. stores - IKEA is installing 39,000 solar panels on its stores in the UK as well as purchasing a 12.3 MW wind farm in the Scottish countryside. Those two steps alone will cover 30% of IKEA’s UK electricity consumption. Altogether, IKEA owns 67 wind turbines (in the UK, Denmark, Germany & France) with a combined generation capacity of 127 MW.
So why is IKEA making this investment in renewable energy sources? That’s easy - to save money, just like any other company. According to Howard, in the past, IKEA has been subjected to electricity price spikes that cost the company $1.7 billion (USD) per year. By purchasing renewable energy sources, IKEA is able to avoid those spikes and lock-in its energy costs for the next two decades.
The lesson for U. S. companies (and particularly those in sunny SoCal) should be clear - solar is an investment that will pay handsomely to the bottom line while making the world a cleaner, healthier place. Independence, after all, is such an American value!
We just received word that LADWP has gotten approval to relaunch their residential Solar Incentive Program (SIP) starting September 1, 2011. Here is their just issued press release in full:
«climate change» csi enphase «enphase energy» evs «feed-in tariff» fit «jim jenal» ladwp pace pg&e pwp «run on sun» sce seia «solar power» «solar rebates» solarcity sunpower «westridge school for girls»