No summer doldrums here. According to last week’s market report from SEIA and GTM Research, the U.S. is now on track to install three times more solar installed this year than just three years ago. There is already enough solar on American rooftops and lands to power more than 3.2 million homes – and that number is rising daily. In other words, the sun has been working hard . . . and so have we. Here’s a quick update of recent developments.
East Coast rising
California may think it’s all-that-and-a-bag-of-sunchips
New York is fundamentally re-imagining its grid with distributed generation at the center. After a 5 year campaign, NY Sun, a $1 billion / 3 gigawatt solar program, was finally approved. The NY Public Service Commission is now leading an effort, called ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV) to restructure the utility business model to harness the benefits of DG.
Georgia is defying the coal-state narrative by launching 900 MW of solar by 2016, all below avoided cost.
Massachusetts came close to a long-term policy compromise that would have completely removed net metering caps, but instead passed a bill that provided short-term relief and set up multiple study/workshop processes.
Vermont raised the state’s net metering cap from 4% of utility peak load to a whopping 15% … and did so with the support of the state’s utilities. Awesome.
It’s exciting to be a part of so much change. What a great time to be alive, eh?
What’s all this mean? Means it’s time for a party. If you can make your way to Brooklyn on September 18th, we invite you to join us at Equinox East – a celebration of thesuccesses and a fundraiser to support efforts for more. Mark Ruffalo, everyone’s favorite green superhero, will join us as we honor Richard Kauffman for his visionarly leadership in New York. Brewery Ommegang and Four Roses Bourbon have come through with kind donations — it promises to be a good time.
Rates and Net Energy Metering
The revolution will not be monopolized. Across the country, monopoly utilities have been trying to make it harder for energy users to generate their own power with solar by adding fees and reducing the value of solar generation. Or trying to, anyway. Over the past several months, we’ve jumped into net metering and rate proceedings to protect rooftop solar rights in Colorado (+1), Louisiana, Arizona, and Wisconsin among others.
We often say that one person’s decision to go solar reduces costs and provides benefits for everyone. Know who else is making that case? The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, which released a study showing that net metered solar results in net benefits for all ratepayers – to the tune of $174 million for systems installed between 2014 and 2016. It’s a blockbuster study, and deserves to be read widely. We helped Las Vegas solar supporters deliver thousands of petition signatures urging the Commission to keep those benefits shining.
It is customers that are driving solar growth, and we’re going to continue to fight for their right to go solar and get fair value from their investments.
Running a grid with high levels of renewables will require some changes. In the Spring, we hosted a webinar with Jim Lazar of RAP that outlines the basic paradigm of how to achieve this goal while maximizing environmental benefits and minimizing costs. We are working on multiple fronts, from expanding balancing areas, to enabling grid-edge tools like storage. In California, the Public Utilities Commission issued a decision that will make it significantly easier for energy customers to pair their solar system with an energy storage device. And we’ve also intervened a regulatory docket with the hopes of harnessing the latent capacity of electric vehicles to help with the grid integration problem.
In Southern California, we’re still working on bringing SDG&E around to the clean energy solution.
GroupEnergy is a new effort of ours to lower costs and build scale by helping homeowners pool their group buying power. We have several projects underway — but one that we are really excited about is with the City of Chicago. Seems the Windy City is really into solar — participation to date is DOUBLE the initial program goals, and it’s been getting a lot of local press!
Our Shared Solar work scored some base hits in helping solar work for those who don’t have a suitable rooftop of their own. Aggregate net metering (which allows a single customer to see bill saving benefits across multiple electric meters) is now a reality for all three investor owned utilities in California — a helpful advance while we are still working on implementing last year’s shared solar bill, SB 43, at the California Public Utilities Commission.
We pushed for new shared solar programs in Connecticut and New York – and the progress and support garnered over the course of our 2014 campaigns will help get us across the finish line in the years ahead.
Florida has a lot of solar potential — it even says so right on the license plates. So when Florida Power and Light proposed a half-baked shared solar program, we made the case to the regulators that the Sunshine State deserves better. Watch the video and see if you agree.
We are playing a similar role in Colorado — we’ve intervened on the proposed SolarConnect program to make sure the Centennial State gets a worthy program.
Rebirth of residential PACE
Once given up for dead, residential PACE clean energy financing programs are making a comeback in California. With the establishment of a state loss reserve program, on August 5 CaliforniaFIRST launched in 17 counties and 142 cities in California. They join Renovate America, Sonoma County, and mPower in Placer County (who’ve done over $300 million in clean energy upgrades so far!) to just about blanket the state in coverage.
On August 12, Los Angeles County voted to go forward with residential PACE clean energy finance program and San Francisco is planning its own shortly.
Financing is a key piece of the puzzle for reducing costs and growing scale in solar markets — over the years we’ve worked hard on PACE, enabling 3rd party PPAs, and other solutions. We’ll continue to work on providing effective programs.
Solar cheaper than alternatives
Over the past year, we’ve seen an explosion of states where solar is cheaper . . . yes, cheaper . . . than building new fossil or nuclear plants – Georgia, Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Texas, California, Colorado, to name a few. A recent solar contract with the city of Palo Alto’s municipal utility for 25 MW of PV came in at $68.72/MWh over a 27-year term. See if you can find someone who will offer the same building new fossil generation.
So if you see policymakers, reporters, or in-laws (not you, Maddie and Jim) repeating that zombie lie about solar being too expensive, feel free to share some of those links to reality.
America! We can do this!