We just came across this great video (h/t VoteSolar) and we just had to share. While this is about the struggle over net-metering in Arizona, you could readily insert the name of the utility of your choice - PG&E immediately comes to mind - and it would apply with just as much force. Check this out:
The line about the utility being a shark is pretty good, too!
The good folks over at the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) are all too aware of the threat facing the solar industry from utility attacks and they are fighting back - with facts about the industry and its importance. Here’s our take.
Nowhere is the solar industry more vital than right here in California. Indeed, if California were its own country, it would rank 7th in installed solar capacity worldwide, higher than our overall economic rank of ninth in the world.
To help mobilize our supporters, SEIA sent out a press release with some important facts and with some useful action items. (If you are in a hurry, just skip to the Action Items!)
First, here’s the presser:
It’s official: for the third year in a row, solar is the fastest growing energy source in America. Released today, the SEIA and GTM Research report U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year-in-Review reveals that the U.S. solar market grew by 76% in 2012.
But what does that mean for California?
California continues to lead the U.S. in solar energy installations thanks to declining system prices and the state’s “net metering” policy that gives customers fair credit on their bills for the electricity they generate. California was responsible for nearly one-third of the nation’s solar installations last year. More than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar was added to the state’s power grid in 2012, a 44 percent increase over 2011. This is the first time any state eclipsed the 1,000 MW mark.
More than 40,000 Californians are currently employed in the solar industry, many in positions related to the installation and maintenance of net-metered residential and commercial solar systems.
The good news doesn’t end there:
- Solar creates jobs: Every second of the work day, more than two solar panels are installed by a solar worker on American soil. Today, solar employs 119,000 total workers in the U.S.
- Solar powers homes: There is now more than 7.7 gigawatts of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S., enough to power more than 1.2 million American households.
- Solar drives our economy: In 2012, new U.S. solar installations were valued at $11.5 billion – more than double the $5.5 billion value of installations in 2010.
This is the effect of smart policy, innovation, and competition.
So what can we expect from solar in California in 2013? The industry can continue its rapid growth if policies like net metering are protected, allowing new developments to flourish in the state. Unfortunately, as solar gets cheaper and more accessible, many utility companies see it as a threat to their 100-year old business model. Some California utilities claim that distributed solar generation shifts costs to other customers, when in reality a recent study showed that it provides net benefits to lower all customers’ costs by more than $92 million.
We’re fighting back. Allowing customers to net meter is critical to making solar an economically-viable option for most homeowners.
So here are two things to do RIGHT NOW:
Join our Thunderclap, so that we can all say with one voice that we Fight for #SolarInsight!
Sign this petition today and call on the California Public Utility Commission to protect California’s 40,000 solar jobs and leading solar energy industry.
More will be needed over time to preserve the industry we have all worked so hard to build - but please, add your voice to the mix. Thanks!
Amidst the continuing sturm und drang between the solar industry and the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs), we came across this interesting piece over at REWorld documenting some revealing observations by Duke Energy’s CEO, Jim Rogers. Duke - the nation’s largest utility owner, sees the writing on the wall and is not sanguine about what it portends:
“It is obviously a potential threat to us over the long term and an opportunity in the short term… If the cost of solar panels keeps coming down, installation costs come down and if they combine solar with battery technology and a power management system, then we have someone just using us for backup,” Rogers said.
Rogers’ observation comes at a time when the conventional energy industry is facing “anemic” growth in power demand - due to increased efforts at energy efficiency and the growing impact of consumer-owned generation. Since IOUs make a guaranteed return on investment in building, mostly, added power generation capacity, if there is no need for additional capacity, there is no basis for future returns. Not a promising prognosis for an industry that has grown accustomed to those sweet, sweet guaranteed returns.
And that, in a nutshell, is the IOUs’ dilemma - as renewables become ever more cost-effective, and particularly once intelligent storage solutions become a part of standard solar offerings, the justification for the guaranteed existence of IOUs becomes weaker and weaker. Contrast this with the municipal utility model which is owned by the city in which it is based and which exists for the benefit of its residents. If their preference is for distributed generation, then the muni’s goal should be to facilitate the adoption of such systems. Since its customers are also its owners, the interests are aligned.
But not so with IOUs who exist to make a profit for their shareholders and those interests are not necessarily aligned with those of the monopoly-provided customers they “serve". Not surprisingly, it is the IOUs leading the charge against net metering and questioning the “fairness” of local solar power.
Which raises the question: Can we as a society afford to have IOUs anymore? In an era of carbon-driven climate change, are IOUs a dinosaur determined to fight their extinction to the bitter end, even if they take th rest of us with them?
At Run on Sun we are big fans of data, and more specifically, taking data in an appropriate way and using it to gain real insights. We have followed that path to analyze everything from a solar eclipse with a solar array, to finding Outliers and Oddities in the CSI data. So we were thrilled to see someone take real live data and use it to rebut an annoyingly panicked article that ran yesterday in the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ piece, titled California Girds for Electricity Woes, reads like an uncritical regurgitation of a PG&E press release - and we all know where PG&E stands on solar! In it we are told that California’s power grid is facing a “looming electricity crisis that could be brought on by its growing reliance on wind and solar power." Really? Who knew that California was so reliant, given that all renewables make up a small portion of the overall grid supply. But PG&E is clearly waging its war on many fronts, and this is just the latest assault.
Riding to the rescue of reason is Arno Harris who published a wonderful piece titled, Chicken Little and the “Crisis” of Grid Reliability. Using actual data from grid operations in California, Mr. Harris demonstrates quite convincingly that while the peak load on February 27, 2013 was 29.5 GW, the grid operator had between 32 and 38 GW of generating resources available throughout the day - not exactly a crisis. Moreover, the data also shows that “intermittent” energy sources - such as solar and wind - accounted for a peak of 2.3 GW or less than 8% of the peak load and just over 10% of the minimum demand that the grid operator had to satisfy during the day.
To be sure, as the percentage of renewables grows over time, grid operation will become more complex, and Mr. Harris readily acknowledges that. But he points to the example of Germany - which has balanced as much as 50% of its peak demand coming from solar - as an example that with the proper planning, massive penetration by solar and other renewables can, and must, be managed. Or as he puts it:
It’s not magic - it’s actually pretty logical and straightforward. And the benefit Germany gets is tremendous: a high proportion of 100% clean electricity with solid reliability.
The article is well worth reading - he has enough really cool graphs to warm the hearts of data geeks everywhere - and it serves as an excellent counter-point to the Journal’s alarmist blather. Give it a read.
This has been an unusually busy week for Run on Sun in the news, driving record website traffic and even a quote in one of the Nation’s most influential newspapers.
The week kicked off with the announcement of new team member Sarah Dara which was one of our most “retweeted” stories ever.
Then we took to task Ms. Helen Burt from PG&E over her declaration of war against the solar industry. What had been a largely unnoticed story suddenly got some significant, and deserved, attention with reporters in London (Nilima Choudhury writing over at PV-Tech.org - PG&E Accused of Declaring War on Solar) and New Hampshire (James Montgomery for RenewableEnergyWorld.com - Net Metering Debate Rages on Despite Calls for Calm) picking up the story.
Finally, Founder & CEO Jim Jenal was quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal in an article by Cassandra Sweet discussing the growing trend of residential solar leasing (subscription required - but a Google search for “Jenal Wall Street Journal” may be more successful).
In the article, Jenal points out that despite the trend toward residential leasing, such arrangements are typically not great investments for the solar customer who pays longer for the system under a lease, but owns nothing at the end. “Our sense is that the leasing deals are a good arrangement for the financing people, they’re not as great an arrangement for the end customer,” he said.
To which we can only add - hey, LA Times, get with the program!
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