Kokomo-based Green Alternatives Inc. (GAI) wins EDGE award

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   May 21, 2017  /   Posted in 2017 Indiana General Assembly, Net Metering, solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Green Alternatives Inc., based at Inventrek in Kokomo, wins state award

KOKOMO – A local business was recently recognized with an Economic Development and Growth Through Entrepreneurship award – a distinction given to small businesses.

Green Alternatives Inc., the recipient of the award, sells and installs solar panel equipment at residences and businesses in Kokomo and surrounding areas. It’s based out of the Inventrek business incubator on East Firmin Street.

Each business presented with an EDGE award has received assistance from the Indiana Small Business Development Center, which supports 10 regional offices across the state and provides entrepreneurs with guidance and resources on how to start and grow a business, according to a press release from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

“We find working with ISBDC very beneficial,” said Green Alternatives President Chris Rohaly. “And so I think the more we take advantage of them, the more it helped us in our growth, and I think they recognized that.”

Working closely with ISBDC gave Green Alternatives a number of advantages, said Rohaly, including detailed market searches and gathering demographic data. That helps them with their marketing, he said, to ensure that they are presenting themselves in a way that “resonates” with the market.

Lita Rouser, a business advisor for ISBDC, said Green Alternatives was given their award for their growth and their “ability to carve out a place in the market.”

“Solar power is newer, and we admire the dedication that that takes, and the focus, and we thought Green Alternatives was the perfect business to recognize,” said Rouser.

“In a market that is just now beginning to understand solar and the need for it, and adapt it, Green Alternatives is, we think, doing a marvelous job at getting out there and educating people and introducing this market to solar energy.”

Rohaly noted that he wasn’t aware they were even being considered for the award. Once he was notified that they had won, he said it was “very encouraging.”

“Especially in a business that’s really not got an established market, you sometimes wonder why you push, or whether or not your pushing is going to bear fruit,” he said.

Green Alternatives was formed in 2008, but took several years before it became a full-time job. Over that span of time, they built up a client base, reaching a state where they could “do (the business) justice.”

Over the years, Rohaly has noted that the reception to solar power has, in general, become more positive and less skeptical.

 The award comes at around the same time that Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation that will eliminate net metering for solar customers by 2047. Net metering allows electric customers to sell excess electricity generated by their solar, wind or hydroelectric systems to their company.

Existing customers are “grandfathered” in, and may take advantage of net metering until 2047. For that reason, Rohaly expects to see an uptick in customers until Dec. 31, 2017, when the grandfathering deadline passes.

After that, he said, it’s hard to predict what this legislation will do to business. Using data from Nevada and California, which have changed net metering laws akin to Indiana, he said, he’s noted those states have experienced a drop in permit trends for solar energy.

Because of this, Rohaly says Green Alternatives will have to be especially careful with their finances in the future, and may have to diversify into comparable markets and explore business partnerships. His employees, he said, have skills that could translate well into other trades.

This comes during a time when, Rohaly claims, residential clients have been a growing trend.

“Solar is a technology and not a fuel, and so over time … technology gets better and cheaper at the same time. So prices are dropping, and at the same time, the opposing force is that conventional energy costs go up,” Rohaly said.

Over the next months, Rohaly said he hopes to have a better idea of what the future of his business will look like, but for now, he suspects they will have to be “well-run” and “creative.”


Cody Neuenschwander can be reached at 765-454-8570 or by email at cody@kokomotribune.com

Crane Naval Solar Facility Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   May 20, 2017  /   Posted in Duke Energy, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Crane and Duke Energy open new solar operation

Pictured left to right: Melody Birmingham-Byrd, President of Duke Energy Indiana; Timothy A. Craddock, commanding officer, NSA Crane; Suzanne Crouch, Lt. Governor of Indiana; and John Kliem, executive director of the Department of the Navy's (DON’s) Resilient Energy Program Office

Department of the Navy

Resilient Energy Program Office (REPO)

Naval Support Activity Crane

Crane solar power plant

ribbon-cutting ceremony

May 18, 2017

Commander Timothy A. Craddock, Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity Crane:

"With roughly 76,000 solar panels stretched across 145 acres, this solar project is quite a impressive achievement and stands as our monument to our enduring relationship with the state of Indiana and our energy partners. Through this endeavor, we are providing and promoting energy sustainability and bringing renewable energy options to the installation and neighboring communities."

Remarks of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch:

Good Morning! What a pleasure it is to be with you today to celebrate the opening of what is and will be an example of the success that can be achieved through commitment and collaboration.

I would like to thank some key players in this collaboration who are here today: John Kliem with the Department of the Navy, Melody Birmingham-Byrd with Duke Energy, Commander Timothy Craddock with Naval Support Activity Crane and all those involved for their commitment in seeing this to fruition.

One of our countries great innovators, Henry Ford once said: "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

And Gov. Holcomb and I believe that whole-heartedly.

Through partnership, commitment to community and a focus on future development – this new facility is truly the sum of those parts.

This project would not have been possible without real partnership: The innovation to bring federal, commercial and state agencies together to drive toward a common objective that is mutually beneficial.

And the benefit is always best when it is shared with our partnering community:  By providing renewable energy to Hoosiers, Naval Support Activity Crane and its Navy and Army commands, we are able to diversify our sources of energy while also caring for our environment.

From today forward this project will serve as a catalyst for future energy infrastructure projects for the Navy as well as bringing greater energy management to our state, spurring innovation and growth.

We definitely have a lot to celebrate.

I want to thank you for inviting me to share this great day with you.

In closing, I want to tell you what an honor it is to serve as your Lt. Governor.

But more importantly…I want to express my unrelenting commitment to installations, the men and women who serve our state, our nation, and their families.

Our strong military…and strong military communities are the future of the economic development and strength of our great state and our great nation.

May God bless you… May God Bless the great State of Indiana…and may God bless the United States of America.


Prepared remarks by Melody Birmingham-Byrd

President, Duke Energy Indiana

Thank you for that introduction. It’s an exciting day, both for the Department of the Navy and for Duke Energy, as we dedicate this new Crane solar power plant to serve our customers with safe, clean, renewable solar energy.

It’s an honor to partner with the Department of the Navy and Naval Support Activity Crane to bring this new solar power plant to life here in southern Indiana. These organizations have been wonderful partners to help us build, operate and maintain this facility which can generate 17 megawatts of energy for our customers – enough to supply the power needs for nearly 7,000 average residential homes.

Our customers tell us, time and again, that they want a cleaner energy future. To adapt to this future, Duke Energy continues to change the way we produce power in cleaner, more flexible ways to meet customer demand. The transition to a cleaner energy future is well underway, here in Indiana and across the nation.

We’re committed to delivering safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy to our customers. To do that, we are building a bridge to a clean energy future by using a balanced energy mix.

This approach integrates clean and renewable resources, like solar, wind, and hydropower, which are constantly replenished, with traditional energy sources, like coal and natural gas, that help us deliver affordable and reliable power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

By the year 2030, Duke Energy has committed to reducing our carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels across our six-state service area which includes portions of the Carolinas, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Since 2005, we have already reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by 29 percent. We will continue our trend of retiring our older coal-fired generating stations and replacing them with cleaner, state-of-the-art natural gas-fired units, as well as adding more renewable energy sources to our diversified energy mix.

The future of energy is changing, and we’re changing with it. In Indiana, we’re investing around $1.4 billion over the next seven years to enhance our systems to provide the reliability our customers expect.

These investments will give us the ability to re-route power and accelerate restorations through new grid technologies. We will improve the grid’s resilience against cyberattacks and physical threats through enhanced system intelligence programs. We will invest in smart meters, communications technologies and upgraded systems to improve outage detection and better manage new grid devices.

We are also working hand-in-hand with the Battery Innovation Center, located here at Crane, to find efficient and cost-effective ways to store large amounts of electric energy on a commercial scale, making it easier to integrate renewable energy into our grid operations.

All of this, and more, is concrete evidence of Duke Energy’s commitment to sustainability. In 2016, for the 11th consecutive year, Duke Energy was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America. Our company was also named Organization of the Year in 2016 by the Electric Utility Industry Sustainable Supply Chain Alliance.

It’s clear that Duke Energy and the Department of the Navy share many of the same philosophies and goals about doing business in a responsible and sustainable way. We will look for more opportunities that make sense to partner with our friends here at Crane and other military installations in Indiana to expand and improve the energy security for our nation.

Thank you.


Cropped Crane photo

Attending he Ribbon-cutting ceremony pictured left to right: Laura Ann Arnold, President of Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance (IndianaDG); Stan Pinegar, Vice President of Duke Energy Indiana; and Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition (CAC).

Lt. Gov and Duke employees

MO PSC orders “inclining block”electric rates

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   May 19, 2017  /   Posted in Duke Energy, Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Uncategorized  /   No Comments

electric meter-e1495133723295

New electricity rate in Missouri expected to benefit efficiency and renewables

A key step to saving energy, efficiency advocates say, is to reward customers for using less by offering them a lower rate.

Earlier this month, the Missouri Public Service Commission ordered Kansas City Power & Light to begin using an “inclining block” rate system starting on May 28 — tying the rate customers pay for electricity to their overall usage. The two-tiered policy essentially provides a small savings for modest use of energy and imposes a small penalty on customers who use larger amounts.

The rate structure, versions of which are in use by utilities in Minnesota, Colorado and other states, is also likely to improve the economics of efficiency upgrades and renewable energy, according to one clean-energy promoter.

“We think this is a good first victory,” said Andrew Linhares, an attorney with Renew Missouri. “We presented expert testimony and made our case, and the company did as well. We think this is a really encouraging sign that the commission is into sound rate policy.”

Linhares indicated that Renew Missouri and the Sierra Club, which partnered in bringing the issue up in the rate case, will likely seek to further modify the new rate structure in future rate hearings.

The new rate structure will be in effect only from June through September, setting the per-kilowatt-hour charge at 12.9 cents for each of the first 600 kilowatt hours per month, and 14.9 cents for each kilowatt hour beyond that threshold.

Although the price differential is fairly modest, it signals a broader shift in the approach to ratemaking, away from a flat or declining-block rate system that encourages — or at least does not discourage — consumption, and towards a system that rewards conservation. The rate schedule in effect during the eight cooler months of the year remains mostly intact, with three different rates that fall as consumption increases.

Because the first 600 monthly kilowatt hours will become slightly cheaper – by about $3 a month – Linhares said that the new system will have the effect of boosting the economics of both rooftop solar arrays and investment in greater energy efficiency. Payback times for those investments will be shorter than they are now, he predicted.

Linhares called the initial differential “slight,” and said that it likely would reduce consumption by about .1 percent. A larger differential, of course, likely would lead to a greater reduction.

“We would hope to see that ramp up over coming rate cases,” Linhares said.

KCP&L, in an emailed statement, indicated there might be some resistance from utilities.

“While we appreciate the Commission’s perspective on block rates and the view that it might encourage additional utilization of our energy efficiency programs, we believe a block rate structure penalizes customers who choose to use more energy to appropriately meet their individual heating or cooling comfort levels.”

Other states have adopted the inclining-block approach to rates, some in the last couple years, others decades ago. Overall energy consumption tends to fall as a result, said Jim Lazar, a senior advisor at the Regulatory Assistance Project, a non-profit with a clean-energy mission.

In a calculation he did for a 2013 publication, Lazar studied the experience of a municipal utility in southern California that replaced its flat rate with inclining blocks: 7 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 500 kilowatt hours, 10 cents for each of the next 500 kilowatt hours, and 14 cents for any kilowatt hour thereafter.

Customers whose consumption remained within the lowest block actually used slightly more energy after the lower bottom-rate went into effect. The two groups that were subjected to the higher rates cut back on their use. Several years into the new rate system, after customers had had time to change their habits and to invest in more-efficient technology, Lazar wrote that overall energy use had fallen by 8.6 percent.

Xcel Energy instituted inclining block rates for its 1.1 million Colorado customers in 2010. Initially, the rate for each of the first 500 kilowatt hours was 4.6 cents. Beyond that threshold, the rate nearly doubled to 9 cents.

Those rates have risen a bit, to 5.5 cents and 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour making the differential a bit less, but still substantial. The tiered rate structure seems to have had a significant impact on electricity use. Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said consumption dropped in each of the first four summers when the rate was in effect, by 2.2 percent during the summer of 2010 to 4.5 percent in the summer of 2013.

Minnesota Power instituted a three-block rate structure about 30 years ago, then modified it to a five-block system in 2009, and now is looking to simplify matters by telescoping the five into two blocks. The utility analyzed the results in 2013 through 2015, and concluded that energy use had in fact declined, but a spokeswoman said it wasn’t clear whether it was due to declining-block rates or some other factor.

In Missouri, Linhares said that Missouri’s major utilities have looked at various rate structures as part of their integrated resource plans and energy-efficiency potential studies.

“They show huge potential savings,” he said. “We can spend a million on energy efficiency to capture 1 percent annual savings per year, but we can also do these very, very cheap changes in rate design to achieve big energy savings.”


Please compare the inclining block rates referenced above with the "declining block" electric rates for two Indiana electric utilities:

Kansas City Power & Light

First 600 kWh...........................................12.9 cents per kWh

Each kilowatt hour >600 ..........................14.9 cents per kWh

Duke Energy Indiana

RATE RS−SCHEDULE FOR RESIDENTIAL AND FARM ELECTRIC SERVICE
Issued: December 30, 2015 Effective: January 1, 2016

Availability
Available for all residential purposes and farm operations through one meter to individual customers whose maximum load requirements do not exceed 75 kilowatts.
Character of Service
Alternating current, sixty Hertz, single phase at a voltage of approximately 120/240 volts three-wire, or
120/208 volts three-wire as designated by the Company.

Rate*
Connection Charge ........................................... $9.40
First 300 kWh .................................................. $0.092945 per kWh
Next 700 kWh....................................................$0.054178 per kWh
Over 1000 kWh .................................................$0.044464 per kWh


 

Indianapolis Power and Light

RATE RS
RESIDENTIAL SERVICE

RATE:
The sum of the Customer Charge and Energy Charge shown hereafter plus the Standard Contract Riders shown hereafter in the Standard Contract Riders Applicable section.
Customer Charge
For bills of 0-325 KWH per month $11.25 per month
For bills over 325 KWH per month $17.00 per month
Energy Charge
First 500 KWH ....................... 9.0886¢ net per KWH
Over 500 KWH ........................6.9951¢ net per KWH

With electric heating and/or water heating
over 1000 KWH......................  5.7348¢ net per KWH


 

 

 

Grant Smith for CAC: SB 309 a consumer cost and choice issue

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   May 18, 2017  /   Posted in 2017 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Net Metering, solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Home

In response to Governor Holcomb signing Senate Bill 309 (rooftop solar), I understand that utility companies will continue to invest in solar and that jobs will be created in the state.  But the recent debate at the State House is really a consumer cost issue. Why can’t you have both –utility sponsored solar, as well as a competitive marketplace providing consumer choice?  As it stands now, the utilities are moving quickly to control their side and the ratepayer side of the electric meter: the State House killed energy efficiency goals requiring utilities to save energy, the IURC keeps approving increases in the flat monthly charge on our bills, and 309 allows for additional charges to solar customers.  Utility sponsored solar programs - although necessary - will be more expensive given their high rates of return and charging for depreciation and maintenance.  For individuals who want to net meter, taking out a loan at 4% interest is a lot cheaper than being charged 11% (standard Indiana utility return on equity).  Moreover, a competitive marketplace for community solar would tend to keep costs under control rather than having a monopoly with no competition charging essentially extortionist rates. (The IURC has done little to prevent utilities from doing what they want.) As such, the state should be supporting third party financing (meaning no money down for the ratepayer) with competitive bidding processes, along with utility-sponsored solar programs (particularly in low-income areas with ratepayer support). Once Indiana's electric utilities are finished with their attack on ratepayer control of their own utility bills, there will be little customer benefit for solar (or energy efficiency measures for that matter), eliminating ratepayer incentive to do these things.  No matter what actions ratepayers take, electric utilities will simply charge us more in some other area, eliminating any savings we may have realized.  This goes for small and large commercial and industrial facilities as well.

Indiana will have solar power. The question is who will benefit and why do we have to do everything under the monopoly utilities’ thumbs?  From a cost perspective as state policy stands now, the utilities will benefit by far the most with the passage of Senate Bill  309.  We should allow both utilities and the market to work here, not just the monopoly utility industry.  Ratepayers should have a chance to save money by reducing their electric usage, not be punished every time we decide to invest in our homes and businesses to reduce our electric demand - which, incidentally, also benefits the electric system as a whole, i.e. all ratepayers.

The unspoken energy policy in Indiana seems to be: Ratepayers aren’t allowed to reduce their utility bills, and utility companies can extract as much wealth as they possibly can from Hoosiers regardless of the consequences.

We need an electric system that serves the economy; not an economy that serves the utility industry.

 

Sincerely,

 

Grant Smith

Board Chair, Citizens Action Coalition

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling


 

IndianaDG Note: This has been submitted to numerous newspapers in Indiana.

As utility solar grows in Virginia, so do tensions with rooftop installers

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   May 18, 2017  /   Posted in Net Metering, solar, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Uncategorized  /   No Comments

As utility solar grows in Virginia, so do tensions with rooftop installers

Advocates for small solar say Virginia’s progress on utility scale solar has been largely at the expense of rooftop and community-owned installations.

While Dominion Energy is moving to boost its solar installations, which its independent contractors can also profit from, small solar advocates contend very little is being done for consumers by either the utility or state policymakers.

“Every bit of solar is good. But what we’re starting to hear from people we work with is that utility-scale solar is growing at the expense of rooftop solar,” said Aaron Sutch, who heads the VA-SUN chapter of the Community Power Network.

Sutch says the lack of progress on rooftop solar shows that Dominion is not respecting what he argues should be the responsibilities that come with being a monopoly electricity provider.

Irene Leach, a professor of consumer studies at Virginia Tech, says beyond a narrow pilot program, utilities in Virginia “have been promised (by lawmakers) they won’t have to address” boosting small solar.

In fact, there are growing concerns within the industry that their position will be further weakened.

At an April 5 meeting of the Virginia Renewable Energy Alliance (VA-REA), Francis Hodsoll of SolUnesco, a project developer who markets projects to Dominion, suggested there are dilutions looming in 2018 to Dominion’s net metering policy, which benefits small system owners.

“Utilities are 100% committed to making changes on net metering,” he said.

‘We’re trying to make both work’

Net metering credits owners of small solar systems interconnected with utilities at the retail rate for any electricity they don’t use. Those kilowatts are pushed out to the local distribution grid and help meet the electricity needs of nearby ratepayers.

Sutch vowed to deploy VA-SUN’s and other networks to defend the current net metering benefit.

Hodsoll is credited by many for being among the few solar advocates responsible for getting Dominion to participate in a consensus-building group approach moderated by Mark Rubin of Virginia Commonwealth University. While Dominion agreed to a few provisions to boost multi-megawatt systems it could buy and profit from, it has stood firm in the group’s deliberations against community solar, rooftop solar and most other forms of distributed generation.

“Last year we discovered some things that weren’t going to work (including proposals for rooftop solar),” Hodsoll said. “We’re approaching the two markets separately. We’re not going to trade one for the other. We’re trying to make both work.”

At a presentation Hodsoll gave May 11 at the Solar Power Southeast conference in Atlanta, he appealed to all solar advocates: “We’re so much better off unified than divided. We in the industry need to overcome these differences.”

‘We don’t exist to serve a corporate monopoly’

The bleak outlook for distributed generation is leading many small solar advocates to retool their outreach programs and beef up grassroots support from their networks.

One such step is the recasting of a loose-knit collaborative effort into the “Distributed Solar Alliance,” whose lead organizer is Secure Futures LLC in Staunton. Secure Futures plans on reaching out to the networks maintained by VA-SUN, the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to continue growing support.

Sutch and other advocates say the job-creating benefit of installing small solar systems (compared to utility-scale projects) has not been embraced by the Rubin group, Dominion and Virginia’s General Assembly.

“Our electric utilities exist to serve us. We don’t exist to serve a corporate monopoly as if they were our overlords,” Sutch said. “Rooftop solar benefits all Virginians by creating local jobs and allowing consumers to control and choose how they get their energy.”

The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found of the 260,077 solar jobs in 2016, approximately 69 percent focused primarily on the residential and commercial markets segment, while 31 percent were focused on utility-scale development.

Another participant in the Rubin group is Karen Schaufeld, a wealthy farmer in Leesburg, Virginia who owns a 466-kilowatt solar system. Along with a lobbyist, she helped convince the group to persuade this year’s General Assembly to pass legislation authorizing wineries and farms such as hers to build sizable solar systems that can earn net metering credits. Owners also earn a credit for the additional capacity they make available to Dominion.

The Rubin group also secured support and ultimately the passage of a first-ever pilot program for utility-run community solar systems. Clean energy advocates are quick to criticize that real “community solar” systems deserved to be owned by homeowners and small businesses that join it, not by utilities.

Schaufeld defended the Rubin group’s work for enabling more renewables generally. In the group’s first year, that meant identifying economic models for market segments that Dominion would support.

“We’re in for a long-haul process,” Schaufeld said. “There were certain things that we felt we could get and break the logjam  … to get solar and renewable energy a larger share of the energy picture in Virginia. It’s not like we care more about one versus the other.”

Distributed Solar Alliance

Hodsoll, who represents the regional chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) at Rubin group meetings, said the group held a combined 56 in-person meetings and conference calls in 2016 to draft proposals for this year’s six-week General Assembly, which ended in late February.

Each of the Rubin group participants has signed a non-disclosure agreement; while critics have called for more transparency from the group.

Karen Torrent, who recently joined Secure Futures to help develop projects financed by power purchase agreements, agreed that any effort to grow solar generally represents a step forward. But the Rubin group’s closed-door approach with Dominion riles her and other leaders of the emerging Distributed Solar Alliance.

The Alliance plans to formally launch its outreach efforts on or around May 23 in Richmond. On the same day, utility-scale developers from around the country are meeting, also in Richmond, to discuss building on their recent gains.

“Seventy percent, maybe 90 percent, of distributed solar energy (providers) in Virginia are either renouncing their (MDV-SEIA) membership or are on their way to,” Torrent said, adding that she’s “not picking a fight” with them, just capturing the will of the Virginia members.

Hodsoll acknowledged “We have not done a great job in the past (for distributed energy). Hopefully (the new Distributed Solar Alliance) will be helpful going forward.”

Short of issuing a request for proposals for a single, large solar system, virtually all large- and small-scale renewable energy advocates agree that Dominion has done very little on its own to deploy solar energy. If Dominion’s corporate customers, such as Microsoft, hadn’t demanded wind-or solar-generated electricity in 2016, the utility scale solar market would still be facing a bleak outlook.

Hodsoll said Dominion has “bought up (solar) projects to protect themselves. They agreed to pursue (the initial) 500 megawatts of solar in the public interest because they were forced (by lawmakers) to agree to that.”

As for the future for distributed energy, that’s tough to predict, Hodsoll said. “Utilities don’t really want it. You’ve got Southeast states that are keeping tight control over the utility franchises. But a lot of people do want it. How that all plays out, stay tuned.”

 

 

Copyright 2013 IndianaDG