Throwing Shade: Indiana one of the worst for fostering rooftop solar power

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 27, 2016  /   Posted in Net Metering, Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Throwing Shade

REPORT: SUNNY STATES' POLICIES BLOCK ROOFTOP SOLAR

Download the full report: Throwing Shade: 10 Sunny States Blocking Distributed Solar Development.

Executive Summary

In order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it’s clear that a rapid shift to a 100 percent renewable energy system is needed by mid-century – a move supported by leading climate scientists, industry experts, religious groups, justice organizations and environmentalists alike. Distributed solar energy plays a unique and critical role in creating a renewable energy future that stems climate change, promotes social justice and protects biodiversity, yet the expansion of this market in the United States relies in large part on state policies that determine whether solar panels are accessible and affordable. The 10 states with the best policy landscapes for supporting solar market growth, highlighted in a recent report by Environment America, have been driving the solar energy boom. In fact the installed solar capacity in these states accounts for 86 percent of the total for the United States. Unfortunately the vast majority of states are lacking the fundamental policies that would encourage solar market development; even worse, many are actively preventing it through policy barriers and restrictions. More than half of all states with key distributed solar policies in place saw efforts to weaken or eliminate those policies in 2015.

For this report, we analyze and highlight 10 states that are blocking distributed solar potential through overtly lacking and destructive distributed solar policy. These 10 states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — account for more than 35 percent of the total rooftop solar photovoltaic technical potential in the contiguous United States, but only 6 percent of total installed distributed solar capacity, according to a March 2016 report released by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. All of these states have significant barriers in place to distributed solar development and have earned an overall policy grade of “F” in our analysis. We based these grades on a thorough review of the presence, or absence, and strength of key distributed solar policies, and, combined with the overall rooftop solar photovoltaic technical potential rankings by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), identified the states that would benefit most from improvements to their distributed solar policy landscapes.

Throwing Shade

Of the 10 states highlighted in this report:

  • Seven are lacking mandatory renewable portfolio standards (RPS), policies that are key to creating a safe market for investing in rooftop solar. The three states with mandatory RPSs in place — Michigan, Texas, and Wisconsin — have already met their low targets and have not taken steps to update their policies, so these RPSs are doing nothing to bolster the solar industry at this point. In fact Texas met its incredibly unambitious goal of 10,000 MW 15 years ahead of schedule and is unlikely to update this goal anytime soon.
  • Three lack mandatory statewide net-metering policies, possibly the most important policy model in place in the United States that allows for solar customers to connect with the grid. Only three other states in the country can say the same.
  • Only three allow for third-party ownership of solar panels — a financing model that has fostered a distributed solar boom across the United States by allowing for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford solar panels outright to be able to install them on their property.
  • None have community solar programs in place, which are a key policy to encourage access to distributed solar resources and ensure community resiliency.
  • Nine lack strong interconnection laws, making the process of installing solar panels harder for homeowners, business owners and third-party companies alike.
  • Five don’t have any solar-access laws that protect home and business owners from local restrictions on solar panel installations due to issues such as neighborhood aesthetics.

All 10 of these states are bad actors in the distributed solar policy game, but two in particular stand out as the worst: Florida and Texas. These two states fall in the top 3 for rooftop solar photovoltaic technical potential, just after California. Both Florida and Texas could feasibly have some of the best markets in the country for distributed solar growth; they make up more than 16 percent of the total technical potential for the contiguous United States. Because of bad policy landscapes, however, these states currently only account for 2.7 percent of the total installed distributed PV capacity in the United States.

Conclusion: State policy landscapes that prevent the expansion of the distributed solar market threaten the swift transition from fossil fuels to a fully renewable energy system that’s needed to stave off the worst impacts of climate change and protect the health of communities and the planet. All 50 states should make improvements to their renewable energy policies in one way or another, but the 10 states identified as the top offenders when it comes to blocking distributed solar can have a significant impact on distributed solar progress — and therefore on environmental health, energy security and the climate crisis — by following the recommendations outlined in this report.

 

Download the full report: Throwing Shade: 10 Sunny States Blocking Distributed Solar Development.

 

INDIANAPOLIS — A new report by a conservation group says Indiana has one of the nation's worst regulatory atmospheres for fostering the development of the rooftop solar power industry.

Tuesday's report from the Center for Biological Diversity ranks Indiana among 10 states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, which essentially discourage solar-rooftop development.

Indiana and the nine other states received an "F'' in the nonprofit group's assessment of policies and regulations that could help boost their solar-rooftop industries.

Report author Greer Ryan says those 10 states' weak or nonexistent policies mean their distributed solar markets "have never been given a chance to shine."

The Center for Biological Diversity says Indiana needs to make several changes, including strengthening its billing mechanism for crediting solar power system owners for electricity they add to the grid.

Bill introduced in Ohio Senate would extend freeze on renewable-energy standards

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 26, 2016  /   Posted in Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), solar, Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

Bill introduced in Ohio Senate would extend freeze on renewable-energy standards

wyandot-solar-farm-osu-extensionjpg-ca1ab2c4fe947f2d_large.jpg

Peter Krouse, cleveland.comBy Peter Krouse, cleveland.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 26, 2016 at 8:34 AM, updated April 26, 2016 at 10:11 AM

Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, introduced a bill on Monday that would extend a freeze on the state's renewable energy standards for another three years.

After lifting the freeze in 2019, Senate Bill 320 would phase in renewable energy goals in three-year increments through 2028. Utilities would be required to obtain 5.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources in 2022, 8.5 percent in 2025 and 11.5 percent in 2028. Starting in 2029, the goal would be 12.5 percent.

If the freeze is allowed to expire, utilities would be required to meet th 12.5 percent goal by 2027.

Seitz said in a telephone interview Monday evening that he expects debate over  Senate Bill 320 to be contentious and that believes the bill will probably pass along partisan lines.

Seitz said an extension of the freeze is necessary because of uncertainty over proposed federal regulations in President Obama's Clean Power Plan, which has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He said he wants to make sure mandates in the federal plan are in sync with those of the state.

If it wasn't for the Clean Power Plan, Seitz said, he would not want to see the state's renewable-energy standards frozen any longer.

The renewable-energy standards were first put in place in 2008 during the administration of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. They required investor-owned utilities in the state to procure 25 percent of their electricity from alternative energy sources by 2025 with half of that amount coming from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The Republican-controlled legislature, however, with the approval of Gov. John Kasich, froze the standards for two years beginning in 2014. They will revert back into place at the end of this year unless the legislature takes action.

Expect opponents of the bill to argue that it would further harm efforts to develop wind and solar power in Ohio and the jobs that go along with the industry.

Harnessing wind and solar power in Ohio

Harnessing wind and solar power in Ohio

Harnessing the wind and sun: Ohio can do better

Seitz floated a draft of Senate Bill 320 prior its being introduced, and 19 companies associated with a group called Ohio Advanced Energy Economy urged the senator to allow the standards to be restored, according to an Associated Press article.

"The legislature has a clear choice. It can create a business-friendly environment to attract investment in advanced energy or Ohio can keep the door shut on billions of dollars of benefits," said Ted Ford, CEO of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, according to the AP

In freezing the standards in 2014, the legislature also created the Energy Mandates Study Committee, headed by two Ohio Republicans, State Rep. Kristina Roegner and State Sen. Troy Balderson. The committee recommended extending the freeze indefinitely, but Kasich said he would not go for that.

NIPSCO Settlement with Indiana Wind Farms Wins OK from FERC

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 26, 2016  /   Posted in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Uncategorized  /   No Comments

NIPSCO Settlement with Indiana Wind Farms Wins OK

By Amanda Durish Cook

FERC approved an uncontested partial settlement between Northern Indiana Public Service Co. and the owners of seven Indiana wind farms that contend the utility overcharged them for transmission upgrades.

NIPSCO - FERC - Indiana wind farms - Meadow Lake Wind Farm (Meadow Lake Wind Farm)
Meadow Lake Wind Farm Source: Meadow Lake Wind Farm

The April 21 order (EL14-66-003) resolves issues related to NIPSCO’s 138-kV transmission upgrade funded by the Meadow Lake and Fowler Ridge wind farms. Under the settlement, the utility will pay $400,000 to Meadow Lake and $450,000 to Fowler Ridge to withdraw their complaint.

E.ON Climate & Renewables North America filed the original complaint against NIPSCO in 2014, objecting to the multiplier rate used in two transmission upgrade agreements with its Pioneer Trail and Settlers Trail wind. FERC later that year ruled that the multiplier was unreasonable and instructed the two companies to enter into settlement proceedings to determine a new rate (EL14-66).

Meadow Lake and Fowler Ridge filed a similar action after the ruling, arguing that NIPSCO charged their facilities and seven other wind farms $35.8 million to cover 35 years of operating costs on top of the $50.4 million to build transmission. (See NIPSCO Blows Back at Wind Farm Complaints.)

FERC’s acceptance of the partial settlement also closes out Meadow Lake and Fowler Ridge’s request for rehearing in E.ON’s complaint (EL14-66-002).

Institutional Investors Are Walking Away From Ohio Utility Companies That Insist on Coal

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 25, 2016  /   Posted in AES, American Electric Power (AEP)  /   No Comments
High detailed vector map - Ohio

Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis

Accelerating the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy
April 22, 2016 

Institutional Investors Are Walking Away From Ohio Utility Companies That Insist on Coal

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Divestment From One Fund Alone

Utilities in Ohio and West Virginia clinging stubbornly to coal-fired power plants for electricity generation are finding the strategy backfiring in a way they might not have anticipated.

Some of the world’s biggest investors are saying no thank you to enterprises so deeply—and dangerously—attached to coal. They include Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, or GPFG, which last week announced its first round of divestiture from such holdings. Among the companies on Norway’s divestment list are three utilities operating in Ohio: FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, and AES, the parent company of Dayton Power and Light. Each of them has received or is seeking ratepayer bailouts to keep aging and increasingly costly coal-fired power plants alive, a strategy seen as badly out of step with the times.

The pension fund’s skepticism has now officially cost these utilities hundreds of million of dollars in financial backing. GPFG divested $115 million from stocks and bonds in FirstEnergy, $172 million from stocks and bonds in AEP and its subsidiary Appalachian Power Company, and $46 million from stock in AES.

Big as those numbers are, the full impact of GPFG’s action is even bigger. It is one of the most influential investors in the world, and other institutional investors are following its lead, including German insurance giant Allianz, French insurance company Axa, and huge public pension funds in California and New York.

Collectively, managers at these funds are divesting broadly from coal—GPFG’s model precludes holdings that use coal-fired power to generate 30 percent or more of their electricity and companies that derive 30 percent or more of their income from coal mining.

Managers of these funds, which control hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth, will simply no longer bet on an industry in structural decline.

While Norway’s precedent-setting move is based in part on environmental and moral principals, it is also informed by the reality that coal is the poorest-performing investment sector in the world.  Investors are up against a blunt, hard financial reality that is reflected by some of the largest investment fund in the world having lost confidence in coal.

FIRSTENERGY, AEP, AND DAYTON POWER AND LIGHT HAVE ALL FILED DOCUMENTS WITH THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION SHOWING THAT THEY ARE LOSING MONEY BY RUNNING COAL-FIRED PLANTS THAT CAN’T COMPETE WITH LOWER-COST POWER FROM NATURAL GAS AND RENEWABLES.

Their path for survival involves persuading the PUCO that customers should bail them out and pay extra for power from those plants. Our utility experts here at IEEFA estimate that the FirstEnergy bailout alone will cost Ohioans an extra $4 billion above market prices in the next eight years. The Ohio Consumers’  Counsel has come to a similar conclusion.

The PUCO approved FirstEnergy’s and AEP’s proposals last month, but customers and competitors are currently challenging them at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and will likely also go to the Ohio Supreme Court. Dayton Power and Light is asking the PUCO to approve their proposal by the end of this year.

Both FirstEnergy and AEP have also gone to great lengths in West Virginia to keep their uneconomic coal-fired plants in operation by shifting them from deregulated subsidiaries into the regulated rate base.

This strategy ignores a fact that managers at funds like GPFG grasp: that coal-fired electricity cannot compete and that no profits can be gleaned where none exist.

GPFG’s divestments allow it to reinvest in companies if they change their strategic direction to lessen their reliance on coal-fired power.  GPFG’s simple premise is that diversification of supply of energy for electricity is the most prudent financial and environmentally course to take.

Insistence by Ohio utilities to keep their coal-fired plants running by depending on ratepayer bailouts not only prove s to be a costly burden to customers, but costs the companies too in their inability to  attract and keep institutional investors.

Sandy Buchanan is IEEFA’s executive director.

INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY ECONOMICS AND FINANCIAL ANALYSIS (IEEFA)

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