Category: "SEIA"

11/08/11

  10:58:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 649 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar Tax Incentives, SEIA

Join Your Voice to 1603 Extension

We previously wrote about how Congress could help grow the economy by extending the section 1603 Treasury Grant Program. Now there is a Coalition being formed to help get solar companies to sign on to a letter to Congress. Run on Sun is a signatory and we encourage our fellow solar participants to do so as well.

First some background.  The section 1603 Treasury Grant program allows commercial solar power system owners to receive the 30% federal investment tax credit in the form of a grant.  This has two grant advantages: first, not every commercial operation has a “tax appetite” that is big enough to fully utilize a tax credit of that size.  The grant solves that by not being tied to the particular tax position of the receiving commercial owner.  (Sadly, the grant program is not open to non-profit or government owners.)  Second, because the grant is issued by the Treasury upon completion of the project, the 30% payment is received sooner than would the corresponding tax credit.

Unfortunately, the 1603 grant program is scheduled to expire at the end of this year - which is where the Coalition comes in.  Organized by the folks at SEIA, the Coalition has a short letter that will be sent to members of Congress (the text of the letter is reproduced below and a pdf version is attached).

We urge all solar companies and organizations related to this field to join Run on Sun in signing on to the letter.

You can do so by following this link to the SEIA site
The deadline to participate is November 23.

Here is the letter in full:

TEXT OF THE COALITION LETTER:

Dear ________,

The undersigned companies, small businesses and organizations are writing to ask that you extend the highly effective Section 1603 Treasury Program before it expires on December 31, 2011. Extension of this program will create jobs, spur economic growth and promote private sector development of energy technologies.

The Internal Revenue Code provides a host of tax incentives designed to spur the development and use of domestic energy sources and technologies. Project developers commonly monetize these tax incentives by partnering with tax equity investors who have the liquidity and tax liability to utilize the credits.

The 2008 economic crisis and the economy’s subsequent downturn drastically reduced the availability of tax equity, severely limiting the financing available for energy projects. The Section 1603 Treasury Program, which was enacted in 2009 and extended in 2010, allows energy developers to receive a federal grant in lieu of taking an existing energy tax incentive they are otherwise entitled to claim. This is simply a change to the timing of when an energy incentive can be claimed. This change in timing, however, provides the liquidity needed for the further development of domestic energy projects.

The 1603 Treasury Program has been a resounding success. Since its enactment, the program has leveraged over $21.5 billion in private sector investment to support over 22,000 projects utilizing a wide range of energy technologies in all 50 states. This has resulted in thousands of new American jobs. The 1603 Treasury Program is an efficient finance mechanism that allows taxpayers and small businesses to maximize the return and value of existing energy tax incentives, and is technology neutral so it encourages the development of a wide variety of domestic energy technologies.

Lastly, there remains a need for the 1603 Treasury Program. The tax equity market modestly improved in 2010, but still has not recovered to pre-recession activity. A July 2011 survey of the major tax equity investors by the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance estimates expiration of the program would shrink the total financing available for energy projects by 52 percent in 2012. This would stifle job creation and severely restrict the market’s ability to leverage private sector capital to finance new domestic energy projects.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. We look forward to working constructively with you to meet the nation’s economic and energy policy goals.

Sincerely,

[Companies and organizations in alphabetical order]

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11/07/11

  04:30:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 823 words  
Categories: SEIA

Jim Jenal - SEIA Board Member? (With your help, yes!) - UPDATED!

UPDATE (11/7) - We just heard from the SEIA Nominating Committee that my application for candidacy has been approved and I am now officially a candidate for the SEIA Board of Directors.  So now the fun begins - with 1,100 member companies I have some work to do in getting the news about my qualifications (and my wonderful supporters) out between now and the voting deadline on the 22nd.  Please help spread the word and please continue to add your comments below.  Thanks!


The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) announced at this year’s Solar Power International conference that it would open up its Board of Directors to include five members elected from the organization’s rank and file membership.  After some thought - and consultation with some colleagues in the industry - I have formally submitted my statement of qualifications to seek a seat on the SEIA Board.

Here are some key excerpts from the candidacy form that I submitted today:

Why Do You want to be on the SEIA Board?

I am running for the SEIA Board to advance the interests of the many small businesses involved in solar.  We face a great many challenges that are particularly taxing to small businesses, and I would seek to advocate policies such as:

  • Enabling PACE and similar financing vehicles for residential and commercial customers.  (In particular, I would be pushing for passage of HR 2599.)
  • Eliminating unnecessary obstacles to solar, particularly discordant and inconsistent permitting practices.
  • Smarter control over rebate programs – including cost caps – to discourage gougers and to help the public get the greatest benefit from their investment in solar while eliminating the “now you see it, now you don’t” nature of many rebate programs.
  • Advocate for the implementation of a sustainable Feed-in Tariff.
  • Encourage greater self-policing on the part of the industry itself consistent with the Solar Bill of Rights.

What Strengths & Expertise Would You Bring to the Board?

My diverse resume uniquely qualifies me to represent my constituency on the SEIA Board.  Trained as a scientist, I have a deep appreciation for, and understanding of, the technology that drives our industry.  During my 13 years as a lawyer at the national law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, I honed my skills in advocacy and broadened my understanding of the regulatory and policy-making processes.  My ten years of working in non-profits – as a teacher and as the Director of Clean Air programs in Los Angeles for a statewide environmental group – gave me the ability to explain complicated concepts simply and directly and to represent a constituency that was often otherwise ignored.

Describe Your Involvement in the Solar Industry

Since 2006 I have been the organizing force behind my company, Run on Sun.  In that role, I have overseen all aspects of our development as a company – including managing the process by which all three principals of the company became NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installers.  We devoted the resources to achieving that certification to demonstrate our long term commitment to this industry and to doing things right.

I have worked as a consultant, assisting our local utility in issues regarding assessing the performance of existing solar power systems and solar best practices.  For example, we responded to the utility’s RFP for a methodology to assess the performance of solar power systems that had been installed years ago but never verified in the field.  Our proposed methodology won the RFP and we assessed dozens of systems for the utility.

For the past two years I have authored the Founder’s Blog on our website, and have written more than 160 articles on many aspects of the solar industry.

How have You been Involved in Advancing the Solar Market?

As a strong voice on behalf of the solar industry, my blog advocates for informed policies,  and advises consumers about new products and services or problematic developments at local utility rebate programs.  I have also been a strong advocate for the SEIA Solar Bill of Rights, and I believe that as an industry we need to do a better job in policing our own.  In addition to the blog, I am also heavily engaged in other social media outlets such as Twitter (more than 9,000 followers), Facebook, Linkedin and Klout.  I am a well-regarded solar advocate on all of those diverse fora.

Drawing on my advocacy skills, I have also spoken publicly at a host of events related to solar from city or utility sponsored solar fairs, to school assemblies to presentations before public entities including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council and the Pasadena City Council.

I would really appreciate it if any of my readers would care to endorse my candidacy by adding a comment below.  SEIA will vet the submitted nominations between now and the 8th of November with the balloting to open on November 9th and the results to be announced on November 23.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this and I welcome your support.

10/16/11

  10:30:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 381 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SEIA, SPI 2011

SPI2011: See You in Dallas!

Solar Power International 2011 starts next week in Dallas and we will be there, thanks to our friends at Enphase Energy. If you are going to be there as well, we hope you will stop by the Enphase booth and say hi!

 

Here’s how this came about - as readers of this blog probably know, we have attended the Solar Power conference every year since entering the business back in 2006.  However, this year the show has moved out of California - a certainly reasonable decision given the size of solar markets in other states - but given the added expense, we were sadly resigned to giving it a pass.  Then, out of the blue, we were contacted by the folks at Enphase who invited us to participate with them in demonstrating how quick and easy their new M215 line is to install.  So, along with five other installers from around the country, we will be spending time at the Enphase booth - #1331 - on Tuesday and Thursday morning helping to spread the word about the value of Enphase micro-inverters.

(Full disclosure: this is the first time that Run on Sun has received any stipend or other consideration from Enphase and everything we have ever written about them and their products was done without any inducement of any kind.  The stipend in this case is to merely cover our expenses in attending the conference.)

As always, we are really looking forward to attending the show as it is a great way for us to see what innovative products are coming (it was the 2008 show that introduced us to Enphase), touch base with all of our suppliers (who will all be there) and generally get recharged from the collective energy exuded by thousands of other believers in the value of renewable energy in general and solar power in particular.  It should be a wonderful show - and will hopefully help to generate some positive press about the solar industry at a time when it desperately needs it.

So if you are attending the show, feel free to reach out via the SPI online social app or just come by the Enphase booth - #1331 on the main floor - on Tuesday or Thursday morning.  I’ll be the good-looking guy with the beard, sporting Run on Sun livery!  Hope to see you in Dallas!

10/12/11

  02:49:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 518 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar Tax Incentives, SEIA

Congress: Extend the Solar Grant Program!

Hard on the heels of our posting about the importance of proper solar policies, the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) today released a report showing the potential for additional job growth in the solar industry simply by extending the section 1603 Treasury Grant program.  This is an important policy development and Congress should extend the program through 2016.

The Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program

First some background - the section 1603 Treasury Grant Program (TGP) is an alternative to the 30% investment tax credit for solar.  The tax credit allows a commercial client to receive a credit on their income taxes for 30% of the cost of installing a solar power system.  However, not all potential clients can use a tax credit of that size (or at all) since their taxable income may not be that great.  Moreover, in many commercial transactions, financial partners are often brought in to support the project through a power purchase agreement and again, the revenue may not be sufficient to make the tax credit attractive.

The TGP simplifies that process by allowing commercial clients to apply directly to the treasury for a grant of 30% of the system cost, regardless of their tax appetite.  Moreover, the grant can be applied for upon project commissioning, meaning the payment is received possibly well in advance of receiving the corresponding tax benefit.

Advantages of Extending the TGP

The SEIA report - prepared for them by EuPD Research - outlines several significant advantages from extending the TGP.  In particular:

One-Year Extension

A one-year extension of the 1603 Treasury Program through 2012 would have the greatest impact on economic activity in 2012 and 2013, as well as enable growth through 2016 as projects complete construction and come online.

  • An additional 37,000 jobs would be supported by the solar energy industry in 2012, a 12% increase over baseline.
  • The additional cumulative capacity installed (2012-2016) would be about 2,000 megawatts over baseline, enough to power 400,000 homes.

Two-Year Extension

A two-year extension of the TGP commence construction deadline through 2013, would yield 1,000 additional jobs in the solar energy industry in 2013, a 16% increase over baseline, and would result in 3,600 megawatts of cumulative additional capacity installed from 2012 through 2016.

Five-Year Extension

A five-year extension of the TGP to coincide with the term of the investment tax credit would support an additional 114,000 jobs in the solar energy industry in 2015, a 32% increase over baseline, and would result in 7,300 megawatts of cumulative additional capacity installed from 2012-2016. A predictable five year policy framework will generate an environment that fosters industry growth larger than the potential year-to-year extensions and would create sustained momentum for the industry.

Here is what that would mean graphically:

EuPD graph showing employment growth based on extension of the TGP

Sadly, what should be a straight-forward policy decision that produces good, American jobs, reduces pollution and increases domestic energy production will no doubt face a stiff fight in Congress this Fall.

Still, as the industry prepares to meet at the annual Solar Power International Conference in Dallas next week, it is time for solar advocates to lace up their work boots and push back against those who would gut our industry just as we are starting to make a real difference - and isn’t making a difference why we got into this business in the first place?

10/06/11

  02:09:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 509 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar Rebates, SEIA

DOE Loan Guarantees - A Smart Bet

Does the Solyndra failure mean, as some would assert, that the entire DoE loan guarantee program is a scam that puts taxpayer dollars at undue risk?  Hardly.  The vast majority of the projects approved under the program present very little risk to taxpayers. So why don’t people know that?

We came across a couple of items today that seem to put this in some perspective.  The first was a story on NPR that outlined Republican opposition to the loan program even though 16 of the 28 projects that it supported already have in place long-term energy sales contracts - making them nearly risk free.  Nevertheless, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fl), now opposes the program entirely (although he backed it when it originated during the Bush Administration) and he believes that we simply “cannot compete with the Chinese” in solar panels and wind turbines.

Here’s the entire story - it is worth a listen:

By way of contrast, the second piece that came to our attention today is from Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).  Resch was sending out an update to the SEIA membership - Run on Sun is a proud SEIA member - sharing with them a blog post he received from Dan Pfeiffer, Communications Director at the White House.  Drawing a clear distinction from Rep. Stearns, Pfeiffer cited Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s admonition over this past weekend:

The United States faces a choice today: Will we sit on the sidelines and fall behind or will we play to win the clean energy race? Some say this is a race America can’t win. They’re ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat… Others say this is a race America shouldn’t even be in. They say we can’t afford to invest in clean energy. I say we can’t afford not to.

It’s not enough for our country to invent clean energy technologies – we have to make them and use them too. Invented in America, made in America, and sold around the world – that’s how we’ll create good jobs and lead in the 21st century.

Secretary Chu is absolutely right and it should be a matter of pride for all Americans that we not only compete, but that we win this competition.  After all, Solyndra notwithstanding, we are competing successfully right now.  Consider:

  • America’s solar industry accounts for approximately 100,000 jobs right now - despite intermittant rebate programs and lots of bad press.
  • The U.S. is a net global exporter of solar technology with $5.6 billion in exports and an overall positive trade balance of $1.8 billion.
  • We have enjoyed such positive results despite other governments providing far more lucrative incentives to their renewable energy industries than what the U.S. industry has received.  Indeed, China alone has offered its solar manufacturers $30 billion in government financing - vastly exceeding the total U.S. investment.

The solution to our problems is not to throw up our hands in despair and slink from the playing field.  Rather, it is time to redouble our efforts and make the sort of investments that will really help our manufacturers - and installers, thank you - thrive.

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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.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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