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).
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!
As we close out the merry, maddening month of March, we thought we would share with you the best pair of ads we’ve seen in a long time. No, they have nothing to do with solar, per se, but they do both feature plug-in hybrid cars, so implicitly they cry out for solar.
But what drew us to them is the difference in attitude these two ads demonstrate: the “make your own luck” view versus the “make the world a better place” one. Perhaps the world needs both types, but it seems pretty clear to us that one type is in too short supply, whereas the other, not so much.
Here’s the first ad, from Cadillac:
And here’s the second, from Ford:
So here’s the question: which one would you want to be?
When 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Run on Sun Founder and CEO, Jim Jenal was a recent guest on the Energy Show, hosted by Barry Cinnamon and available over at Renewable Energy World. Barry is the former head of Westinghouse Solar and now runs Cinnamon Solar up in Silicon Valley. His Energy Show airs on both radio station KLIV and as part of Barry’s regular column, Listen Up, over at REWorld.
In the interview (listen to it here), Jim talks about a variety of subjects of concern to the solar industry—here’s how Barry described it:
The solar industry is growing fast, just like many other cost effective, transformational industries. And like many other industries, we have our share of great players, as well as some not-so-great. Jim isn’t afraid to “out” some of the entities that, for lack of a better term, aren’t doing the solar industry any good. That’s why his blog is such a great read.
We talked about some of these challenges, the bad as well as the good. Like LADWPs incompetence in delaying customer interconnections for months on end (compare that to PG&E’s recent eight day turnaround, including snail mail, on customer interconnections). Or the way some companies sell solar to customers (often retired) at two or three times the market rate (would you buy a rooftop system for $10+/Watt?).
There are lots of good stories, too — like the improved reliability of rooftop systems, hiring patterns of veterans in the solar industry, and new hardware that is both less expensive and safer. So please tune into this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World for some candid anecdotes about the solar industry, courtesy of Jim Jenal.
So head on over to Barry’s post and give a listen to his cool interview with our boss, Jim Jenal.
Unemployment is a continuing problem in California but for one group of our neighbors it is stubbornly higher still. That group is our recent veterans—folks who volunteered to fight in our wars but when they muster out are finding anything but a grateful and welcoming work environment. Now the folks at The Solar Foundation and Operation Free are trying to highlight a potential bright spot for veteran employment: the solar industry.
First some background. According to a Washington Post article, as of last October the unemployment rate for post 9/11 vets stood at 10 percent whereas the overall U.S. unemployment rate was 7.2%. The Post story cites numerous factors driving those numbers, including the depressingly high number of disabled vets, but one reason that could be addressed by nothing more than concerted action is this: lack of civilian work experience. Think of it, many young vets went directly from school to service with no stops in the civilian work world. They may be long on life experiences, but still very short on job experience.
According to the joint report issued by The Solar Foundation and Operation Free titled, Veterans in Solar, those numbers are even more stark when you focus on vets under the age of 24. For that group, as of last December, a whopping 16% were unemployed. Not much of a “thank you” for your service.
The solar industry, by comparison, has been a source of hope. Out of an estimated workforce of roughly 143,000 people, the solar industry employs 13,192 veterans or 9.2% (this contrasts with vets making up just 7.6% of U.S. workers overall). These jobs are distributed throughout the industry as illustrated by this chart:
Clearly, while veterans are able to work in a wide variety of positions throughout the entire solar industry, installation provides the easiest entre to the field.
The folks at The Solar Foundation and Operation Free are committed to not only documenting the role of veterans in the solar industry, but in facilitating their involvement in ever growing numbers. One such example of their plans to aid veterans is the “creation of a skills transfer tool designed to help employers easily match skills obtained by veterans with those that are sought by leading solar companies.”
Here at Run on Sun, we like to think of ourselves as a “leading solar company,” and we would like to take part in this worthwhile effort. So here is our commitment: On every commercial project that we install going forward, we will hire one or more veterans to work side-by-side with our NABCEP certified team, thereby giving those veterans the opportunity to learn the skills needed to participate in this industry from some of solar’s best.