Energy freedom in W.Va. starts with power purchase agreements

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 11, 2019  /   Posted in solar, third party power purchase agreement (PPA)  /   No Comments

W Va Mayor

West Virginia Mayor Scott Rogers

Energy freedom in W.Va. starts with power purchase agreements

The increasing number of electricity rate hikes across West Virginia is a growing concern for our state’s economy. Just this year, Appalachian Power Co. requested a revenue increase that would raise its customer’s bills by a whopping 11 percent. The burdens of such rate hikes often fall hardest on hard-working West Virginians. Couple this with cyclical costs and the “boom and bust” cycles that influence energy commodities trading and you have a recipe for economic hardship throughout our community.

However, our energy system is going through significant technological change and the old model of centralized power is becoming outdated. The reality is, distributed renewable energy resources like solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass offer increasingly affordable alternatives to traditional modes of power production. Solar Power Purchase Agreements are a powerful instrument for change in our energy markets and offer the promise of lower energy costs.

As a state we should encourage diversity in our energy markets by providing families, businesses, communities and institutions with affordable energy options through power purchase agreements. The time is now for the people to encourage and challenge their lawmakers to move forward with this innovative policy option. The benefits are many, including attracting large employers and investments, encouraging entrepreneurship, expanding our state and local tax bases, and creating well-paying jobs in expanding economic sectors.

Third-party financing models such as power purchase agreements have been extensively used by commercial businesses and tax-exempt institutions like schools, churches and municipalities, providing consumers access to affordable energy with little to zero upfront cost and immediate savings. Further, these agreements allow the developer to qualify for a 30 percent federal energy investment tax credit, allowing those savings to be passed on to the end user in the form of a lower energy bill. These agreements benefit the end user, the developer, our state, and maybe more importantly, our environment through the decreased reliance on carbon-based fuels.

The state of West Virginia by legalizing third party financing for distributed energy resources will allow our electric utility customers to insulate themselves from future rate hikes in an often uncertain world. Let’s use this policy option to create new jobs, encourage innovative investment, and let the world know what a wonderful place West Virginia is to live work, and play. That’s why we (the city of Charles Town) have joined West Virginians for Energy Freedom, a coalition of your neighbors, organizations in your community, local businesses, and officials who believe West Virginians should have the right to take control of where their energy comes from. Visit wv4ef.org to find out more and join the fight for energy freedom in West Virginia.

Scott Rogers is the Mayor of Charles Town and an advocate for renewable energy.

Scott Rogers is the Mayor of Charles Town and an advocate for renewable energy.

Please Participate in 2019 Third House Meetings

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 09, 2019  /   Posted in 2019 Indiana General Assembly, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

State House Rotunda

Indiana Third House Meetings provide a forum for community members to discuss pending legislation in the Indiana General Assembly with their elected representatives. Some meetings are sponsored by local groups such as a Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, etc.

IndianaDG has downloaded this information to make it easier for you to print and share with others.

ACLU 2019 Third House Meetings_as of 2019-01-09

The ACLU of Indiana is gathering and posting information about these Third House meetings across the State of Indiana during the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Please see https://www.aclu-in.org/en/resources/advocacy/third-house-meetings

Please list is not necessarily a comprehensive list of any and/or all such meetings with Indiana state legislators but it is a pretty good start. If you are aware of other such meetings in your community, please tell us by emailing: Laura.Arnold@IndianaDG.net.

We also would like to know if you attend a Third House meeting in your community and whether this is any discussion about energy and utility issues affecting renewable energy and distributed generation.

 

Solar industry urges SC legislature to pass broad energy market reform bill

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 09, 2019  /   Posted in solar, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)  /   No Comments

South Carolina flag

Solar industry urges South Carolina legislature to pass broad energy market reform bill

The solar industry is urging South Carolina’s legislature to pass a broad new bill that would reform the state’s energy market, creating jobs, expanding solar deployment and lowering some of the highest home energy bills in the U.S.

“We developed this bill because the energy market in South Carolina needs to be modernized,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This legislation will lead to lower electric bills for consumers and many new jobs. South Carolinians deserve the economic benefits that an expanded clean energy portfolio will provide the state. We urge the Legislature to pass this bill in the upcoming session.”

If approved, this legislation (Senate Bill 332—sponsored by Senator Tom Davis, R-Beaufort) would:

  • Require the Public Service Commission to initiate a new proceeding to review and approve rates and terms provided to large-scale solar facilities, streamlining the process and ensuring contract terms are reasonable for such projects
  • Allow large energy consumers, such as industrial manufacturers, to contract directly with a renewable energy supplier to more easily realize savings from solar
  • Remove arbitrary caps on home solar projects
  • Establish a “Consumer Bill of Rights” to protect energy consumers from discriminatory charges, ensuring that energy rates are fair and transparent
  • Establish a neighborhood community solar program designed to expand solar access to low-income customers

“South Carolinians have made it clear that they want more solar energy freedom,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition. “As we look towards our state’s energy future, this legislation enables more independently funded, affordable, clean energy solutions, like rooftop solar, and will protect the thousands of jobs that come with it.”

“More competition in the energy sector drives down energy costs, reduces bills for ratepayers, and creates jobs and investments in South Carolina,” said Steffanie Dohn, director of government relations for the SC Solar Business Alliance. “By passing this legislation, lawmakers can help ratepayers, create jobs and continue to grow our economy – a win-win-win.”

Solar energy use has soared in the state over the past two years as solar generation has become more competitive with traditional resources. South Carolina now has more than 616 MW of solar capacity, making it the 18th biggest solar state. The state added 1,000 solar jobs in 2016, and the industry now employs nearly 2,900 workers. However, solar installations and jobs have slowed in 2018. This bill will make solar more accessible to homes and businesses, spurring its growth.

The new Clean Energy Access Act comes on the heels of a statewide poll conducted by Benchmark Research, a South Carolina polling firm that shows statistically unanimous voter support (95%) for providing utility customers the choice to install solar panels on their homes and businesses to reduce reliance on their utility.

“I am excited to see Republican-led legislation kick off the effort to bring more clean energy to South Carolina,” said Thad Culley, southeast director at Vote Solar. “Families and businesses deserve the right to save money and decide how and from where they get their electricity, and polling shows that voters overwhelmingly agree. This clean energy legislation will give customers that choice while helping families save money and keeping local, good-paying jobs in the state. In South Carolina’s changing energy landscape, the needs of the people and the economy should be front and center.”

Other key findings in the poll, conducted between December 8-11, show that a large majority of voters would support a new law that gives consumers more choices in where they buy power and allow consumers to choose their energy supplier. Nearly three in four voters believe they would be able to find a better deal on their energy bill if utilities had to compete with other suppliers of energy.

More detail about the bill is available at http://www2.seia.org/e/139231/-2019-Energy-Bill-Overview-pdf/2fvm9c/300815276?h=fmY3THQM_LJDQJiltvVbb5MhYiC15vZ2z9PB-cU600A.

News item from SEIA and Vote Solar. Updated on January 9.

New solar array will serve Noble REMC in Indiana

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 07, 2019  /   Posted in solar, Wabash Valley Power Association (WVPA)  /   No Comments
Solar panels

Solar panels have been installed at a new array at the corner of S.R. 3 and C.R. 70 just south of LaOtto in DeKalb County. The field is being built by Wabash Valley Power, but will connect into lines owned by Noble REMC and the power can be distributed to its customers.

New solar array will serve Noble REMC

By Steve Garbacz sgarbacz@kpcmedia.com, Dec 21, 2018

LAOTTO — When the sun is shining, the electricity will be flowing.

In a diversifying energy market, Noble REMC and its customers will be one beneficiary of a new solar field currently being constructed just south of LaOtto.

If you’ve driven along S.R. 3 recently, you may have noticed crews putting up dozens of metal frames at the southeast corner with C.R. 70 in DeKalb County. This week, installers have been starting to add the recognizable mirror-like panels to those frames, all tilted slightly upward toward the southern sky.

The 1-megawatt solar array is being built by Wabash Valley Power, a nonprofit whole power producer which provides energy to numerous utilities in the region through its co-op solar program. Wabash Valley Power provides electricity to Noble REMC, which serves customers in Noble and DeKalb counties and other surrounding areas.

Construction started earlier this month and is advancing quickly, with the new solar array expected to be connected and generating power by spring, said Noble REMC communications specialist Kelly Lynch.

Noble REMC surveys its customers and interest in renewable energy sources has been rising. Cost for individuals to generate renewable energy themselves can be high between installation of equipment and ongoing maintenance, so having a major power generator invest in the infrastructure and add that renewable energy to its portfolio is one way to bring green energy to households.

“We’re listening to our members and how they want to see energy change,” Lynch said. “This gives them an option to go green without having to make that huge investment.”

Wabash Valley Power already has five solar arrays operational in three states and a few more under construction. Those current arrays generate 1.7 megawatts of power, so DeKalb County’s 1-megawatt field will add notably to its growing renewable pool.

“Arrays in multiple locations give members the best opportunity for capturing the most sun due to weather diversity, and allows the arrays to produce the most electricity collectively,” said Andrew Horstman, project manager for Wabash Valley. “It may be raining on the arrays in Indiana, but the sun may be shining in Missouri or Illinois.”

The power from the solar array will hook into Noble REMC lines, but through Wabash Valley, it can be distributed to REMCs in Noble, DeKalb, LaGrange and Steuben counties as well as 20 other Midwest co-ops.

Having the array located just off the highway allows Noble REMC to show people where their electric comes from as it continues to grow and diversify its energy sources.

“It’s cool to just be able to visualize solar energy,” Lynch said. “We have this program, but now we can show people exactly where they’re getting it from.”

The array was engineered by Solential Energy and is being put in by Indianapolis-based Bee Solar.

Mike Robinson of Bee Solar said the array consists of 3,648 individual solar panels installed on the racks. Those will generate about 1.2 megawatts of direct current energy, but when that’s transformed to alternating current — the type of electricity that is used for transmission — it totals 1 megawatt.

That power will go into the grid to be used where its needed, but if it were hooked up directly, a 1-megawatt field could power about 75-125 households depending on usage, Robinson said.

He said the 8-acre plot is a good size for a utility that’s taking early steps into renewable power generation.

“This is a fair-sized field for Indiana,” Robinson said. “This one here is a good entry level for the REMC to get a feel for what’s going on.”

Solar panels function by catching sunlight in the individual panels, which excites membranes in the glassy structures. Electrons get excited during the process and then are captured as current and then transformed into usable power for delivery, Kevin Burns of Solential explained.

The panels are angled up at about 30 degrees and facing south, which maximizes the amount of sunlight they will capture throughout the day based on the latitude of the field on the Earth, Burns said. Some solar arrays have the ability to rotate to follow the sun, but the LaOtto field was designed as a stationary set.

And yes, Burns said, solar panels still work even when the sun isn’t blaring. On Thursday, with an overcast sky and on-and-off drizzle, the solar panels would still generate electricity, just not as much.

“We’re probably going to get 50 percent of our power with how cloudy it is right now. You can still get a very good subset of power output on a cloudy day,” Burns said.

One other interesting aspect of the project is that once construction is complete, wildflowers will be planted at the site to not only beautify the 8-acre plot but also give a place where pollinating insects likes bees can thrive.

Planting wildflowers reducing the amount of maintenance needed for mowing. By not having to run gas-powered mowers, that’s another way the solar field helps reduce carbon output while providing an environmental benefit to the area.

“We are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels at the same time as creating a habitat for pollinators,” Robinson said.

For more information about the Co-op Solar program, visit nobleremc.comor powermoves.com/solar.


 

Solential is an IndianaDG business member.

Florida Lawmaker Again Files Bill That Would Help Break Monopoly-Solar Stranglehold

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 07, 2019  /   Posted in Duke Energy, solar, third party power purchase agreement (PPA)  /   No Comments

Florida State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez

Florida State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez

Florida Lawmaker Again Files Bill That Would Help Break Monopoly-Solar Stranglehold

In most states, it's legal for property owners to sell home-generated solar power to others, including tenants. This is usually called a "power-purchase agreement" — your landlord, for example, might put some solar panels on top of your apartment building and charge a dirt-cheap rate to buy power from her or him, instead of from the local power company.

But thanks to a state law that favors the state's ultrapowerful energy oligopoly, Florida remains one of the last four states where this sort of relationship is basically illegal. According to state Statute 366.02, almost anyone who sells power in Florida is considered a "public utility" and subject to the same rules as a major, multibillion-dollar energy conglomerate.

State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez on Thursday filed a bill that would, if enacted, finally legalize power-purchase agreements across Florida — it would exempt "a property owner who owns and operates a renewable energy source device... with a capacity of up to 2.5 megawatts on his or her property and who produces and provides or sells renewable energy from that device to users located on the property" from the state's public utility laws.

The bill does not legalize full-scale solar leasing from companies, which also remains illegal in Florida. Instead landlords would need to fully "own and operate" their own solar-panel rigs.

"Florida is far behind its potential when it comes to solar energy and for some time now, the main reason for that is politics," Rodriguez messaged New Times. "Simply put, the big utilities use their political muscle to maintain outdated monopolies."

Despite the United Nations saying the globe needs to hit zero total carbon emissions by the year 2050, Rodriguez's bill keeps failing in Tallahassee: He filed slightly different versions during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Both bills died in committee.

It's not exactly a secret why: Florida's regulated energy monopolies — Tampa Electric, Duke Energy, and Florida Power and Light (which just bought Florida's fourth major company, Gulf Power) — clearly see increased home-solar adoption as a threat to their business models. Power-purchasing agreements were infamously at the heart of 2016's battle over Amendment 1, the fraudulent amendment that the state energy monopolies designed to trick voters into giving away some of their rights to home-installed solar panels.

That fight began because an actual grassroots group, Floridians for Solar Choice, was trying to get signatures for a petition that would have legalized power-purchasing agreements. Then a second group, called Consumers for Smart Solar, magically showed up and began canvassing for a different, allegedly pro-solar amendment. But Consumers for Smart Solar was actually funded by power companies. Sal Nuzzo, a vice president of the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, was reportedly caught on tape admitting the measure was "an incredibly savvy maneuver”designed to "completely negate" solar-energy proponents' efforts. That measure failed.

But since then, efforts to increase local access to solar panels in Florida have also seemingly stalled. In 2014, Floridians for Solar Choice released a white-paper describing how Florida's energy laws are designed to keep home-installed solar panels as expensive as possible. The group wrote that state law Section 366.02 needs to be rewritten or abolished:

At present, according to Section 366.02, Florida Statutes, any private entity selling electricity in Florida is considered to be a “public utility” subject to regulation by the Florida Public Service Commission. In practice, this prevents the use of power purchase agreements (PPAs), a financing strategy used in many other states. Under a PPA, a developer installs a solar PV system on a property and sells the electricity generated by the system to the property owner. This sale generally takes the form of a long-term contract, which provides both the solar developer with a predictable income stream and the property owner with a fixed price for electricity. In many markets, this electricity price is lower than the retail rate of electricity offered by utilities, which provides a powerful financial incentive for participation

But at present Tallahassee appears to have no appetite for doing this. And Florida's energy monopolies have vastly increased the number of solar-energy farms they plan to build in coming years. (FPL is also developing its own "shared solar" program, reportedly set to launch in 2019.) Of course, the amount of solar power companies such as FPL plan to generate remains far lower than the power produced by carbon-emitting natural gas.

"The legislation I am again advocating for is aimed at increasing competition in the production and distribution of solar energy," Rodriguez says. "There is an extremely broad coalition in support of this, from the business community, to local governments, to of course environmental groups. The only opponents are big utilities."

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