Bloomington (IN) program to subsidize solar panels for 12 low-income households

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 30, 2019  /   Posted in solar  /   No Comments

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This house on 13th Street is one of the four houses that had a rooftop solar panel system installed this past fall through Indiana Solar for All, ISFA. The nonprofit program's goal is to increase accessibility to renewable energy for lower-income residents.  STEVEN LIN

Bloomington program to subsidize solar panels for 12 low-income households


When Tora Knapp went to a meeting to learn about solar panels, she and her husband knew it was out of their budget.

The couple then heard about Indiana Solar for All, or ISFA, a program that helps provide solar panels for low and moderate income families in Monroe and surrounding counties. They applied.

Soon enough, a crew of volunteers were at the Knapp house installing ten solar panels over two days.

“All the volunteers were on the roof and we kind of stood back and said, ‘Holy cow, this is actually working,’” said Ryan Zaricki, owner of Whole Sun Designs, the company that works with ISFA to provide panels.

After providing eight families with solar panels, four of which were installed last fall and the rest of which will be installed this spring, ISFA is accepting applications for 12 more recipients this coming year.

“The purpose of the organization is two-fold,” said Anne Hedin, volunteer treasurer and media coordinator for ISFA. “It’s to help families with a low income lower their utility bill and at the same time get as much solar up as possible.”

The program, through the local nonprofit Center for Sustainable Living, receives money from city initiative Solarize Bloomington. The initiative is run by the city and nonprofit program Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network.

Through ISFA, residents who receive 80 percent or less of the median income of their county are qualified to apply to receive solar panels. Those who are chosen will work with ISFA on an individual basis to determine whether they will receive panels at a free or reduced price depending on how much households can contribute.

Recipients of panels are chosen partly based on if they fit certain requirements and if they can give back to the organization, Hedin said.

Some recipients volunteer installing panels, while others fundraise, use social media to outreach  and work in project management.

The recipients helped complete each of the households’ installations, even if their own home would not receive panels until the following season, Hedin said. They have formed a tight-knit group.

“We’re really lucky with the eight families that have come together,” Knapp said. “Even though we had never put panels together.”

Along with providing the panels, Whole Sun Designs teaches the recipients how to install them and oversees the whole process.

Knapp said she and her husband enjoyed learning more about electricity and teaching their two teenagers about it as well. She said they have already seen a difference in their utility bill after having the panels for just a few months.

“We can look up there and say we put these up there and we know how they’re wired into the house,” Knapp said.

The application for the 2019 ISFA program closes Jan. 31.

Tim Phelps: A conservative case for supporting clean energy in Indiana

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 26, 2019  /   Posted in Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), solar, Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

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Tim Phelps: A conservative case for supporting clean energy

January 25, 2019

 

The Northern Indiana Public Service Co. turned heads last year with the stunning announcement that it would phase out its remaining coal-fired power plants by 2028 and shift to investments in wind and solar energy along with better storage and equipment.

If you’re looking for the piece where a conservative decries government mandates and increased costs for consumers, this isn’t it.

In the announcement, the regulated utility calculated that the move would save consumers $4 billion over the next 30 years—and the best part for conservatives is, the government didn’t make NIPSCO do it.

The utility simply decided it was in its economic interest to retire outdated energy technology and switch to cutting-edge renewable-energy sources, which have fallen drastically in price over the past decade.

For years, conservatives have supported an “all-of-the-above” energy policy as a way to support home-grown energy and lower energy costs. In the NIPSCO instance, as determined by a competitive bidding process, Indiana-made renewables came out cheaper than fossil fuels. [emphasis added]

That’s a good thing, and it isn’t happening just in Indiana. The investment banking firm Lazard recently released updated Levelized Cost of Energy projections and once again found that utility-scale wind and solar was the cheapest form of energy—without government subsidies.

That’s one reason energy giant Exxon recently inked a 12-year deal to produce oil in West Texas using solar and wind power—the largest-ever renewable contract signed by an oil company.

These private-sector success stories—nationally and in our state—deserve robust praise because they showcase the free market working exactly as it should. That is why conservatives should support efforts like NIPSCO’s to use free-market ideas to lower costs, instead of clinging to the old model.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called the shift to clean energy “the Uberization of electricity,” drawing a comparison to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft that disrupted the century-old, highly regulated taxicab industry by empowering both consumers and drivers.

This shift isn’t going to happen overnight. After all, coal and other fossil fuels remain an integral part of our state’s economy and for decades have helped Indiana achieve the competitive advantage of lower energy costs. But in the coming decades, as wind and solar energy become even more financially advantageous, we have a responsibility to clear away unnecessary government regulations that often litter the path to private-sector success.

To paraphrase the late economist Milton Friedman, governments never learn: Only people do.

We Hoosiers are the kind of people who understand that industry can’t innovate if it’s suffocating under layers of protectionist red tape. Ratepayers across Indiana deserve options that will lower their bills and bolster our economy. Thanks to NIPSCO for setting a trend that other utilities in our state should strongly consider following.•

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Phelps is executive director of the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy.

 

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.

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