How Climate Scientists Know
They arrive at the same answer over and over again because ice has no ideology, it just melts. From YaleClimateConnections via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
FRIDAY WORLD, May 26:
They arrive at the same answer over and over again because ice has no ideology, it just melts. From YaleClimateConnections via YouTube
There are all kinds of good reasons to fight to turn back climate change – and NO good reasons not to. From ONgov via YouTube
This is about how SunShot backed an online marketplace that streamlines the buying and selling of solar. It is also about what will be lost if the Energy Department pulls its support for New Energy. From U.S. Department of Energy/SunShot via YouTube
Barack Obama on food and climate change: ‘We can still act and it won’t be too late’; The former president addresses the greatest challenges facing the world, and what we can do about them
Barak Obama, May 25, 2017 (UK Guardian)
(Editor’s Note: President Obama’s essay is worth reading in its entirety)
“During the course of my presidency, I made climate change a top priority, because I believe that, for all the challenges that we face, this is the one that will define the contours of this century…No nation, whether it’s large or small, rich or poor, will be immune from the impacts…We are already experiencing it…Our changing climate is already making it more difficult to produce food, and we’ve already seen shrinking yields and spiking food prices that, in some cases, are leading to political instability. And when most of the world’s poor work in agriculture, the stark imbalances that we’ve worked so hard to close between developed and developing countries will be even tougher to close. The cost will be borne by people in poor nations that are least equipped to handle it…[T]he good news is that there are steps we can take that will make a difference…The path to a sustainable food future will require unleashing the creative power of our best scientists, and engineers and entrepreneurs, backed by public and private investment, to deploy new innovations in climate-smart agriculture. Better seeds, better storage, crops that grow with less water, crops that grow in harsher climates…” click here for more
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017
May 2017 (International Renewable Energy Agency)
“…Jobs in renewables excluding large hydropower increased by 2.8%, to reach 8.3 million in 2016. China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable energy jobs [according to Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017]. The shift to Asia continued, with 62% of the global total located in the continent…Solar photovoltaic (PV) power was the largest employer, with 3.1 million jobs, up 12% from 2015. The growth came mainly from China, the United States and India, whereas jobs decreased for the first time in Japan, and continued to decline in the European Union. New wind power installations in the United States, Germany, India and Brazil, meanwhile, contributed to the increase in global wind employment by 7%, to reach 1.2 million jobs…Liquid biofuels (1.7 million jobs), solid biomass (0.7 million) and biogas (0.3 million) were also major employers, with jobs concentrated in feedstock supply. Brazil, China, the United States and India were key bioenergy job markets…” click here for more
2 Solar Power Records In 2 Days In India
Saurabh Mahapatra, May 25, 2017 (Cleantechies via Cleantechnica)
“Two marathon competitive auctions for a cumulative solar power capacity of 750 megawatts yielded new record-low solar tariff bids in India this month…[Both auctions for solar power capacity offered at the Bhadla solar power park in the western state of Rajasthan] beat the previous lowest tariff bid of Rs 3.15/kWh (4.9¢/kWh)…The first auction, for 250 megawatts, received at least 14 bids in the range of Rs 2.62/kWh (4.1¢/kWh) and Rs 3.59/kWh (5.6¢/kWh). South Africa’s Phelan Energy and India-based Avaada Energy secured 50 megawatts and 100 megawatts at Rs 2.62/kWh (4.1¢/kWh) while SoftBank-backed SB Cleantech won rights to develop 100 megawatts at Rs 2.63/kWh (4.1¢/kWh)…These bids were 9.2% lower than the previous lowest solar power tariff in India…Within two days, the record of Rs 2.62/kWh (4.1¢/kWh) was shattered…Acme Cleantech Solutions secured 200 megawatts at Rs 2.44/kWh (3.8¢/kWh) while SB Cleantech won rights to develop 300 megawatts at Rs 2.45/kWh (3.8¢/kWh)…” click here for more
Chinese company offers free wind energy training to former US coal miners
Jacob Snyder, May 25, 2017 (WISTV)
“…[Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer Goldwind Americas, looking for workers to take permanent jobs on the Wyoming wind farms they supply, is planning] a free training program for one of the United States' fastest-growing jobs: the wind farm technician. The program is aimed at former coal miners who are having trouble finding work, as well as professionals from other industries. It's called ‘Goldwind Works,’ and will begin next month with a series of informational seminars and safety training at a wind farm in Montana…Goldwind Americas has an agreement to supply nearly 850 wind turbines to a site in Wyoming, where the state's first coal mine opened a century ago. After construction is finished, up to 200 workers will be needed to work at the plant…The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the national employment for miners and geological engineers will grow by 6 percent over the next decade, while those working in wind energy will enjoy a growth rate of 108 percent.” click here for more
Scientists just published an entire study refuting Scott Pruitt on climate change
Chris Mooney, May 24, 2017 (Washington Post)
“In a sign of growing tensions between scientists and the Trump administration, researchers published a scientific paper…conceived and written as an explicit refutation to an assertion by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt about climate change…[It tests Pruitt’s claim that data shows warming has leveled “over the past two decades” and refutes it. After reviewing temperature trends contained in three satellite data sets going back to 1979, the paper concludes that the data sets show a global warming trend — and that Pruitt was incorrect…The study wades into an ongoing and highly fraught debate over how to interpret the temperature records of the planet’s lower atmosphere, or troposphere, provided by polar orbiting satellites…[T]he new study finds that all of the three satellite data sets — kept by Remote Sensing Systems, the Center for Satellite Applications and Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Alabama at Huntsville — show a long-term warming trend in the middle to upper part of the troposphere…” click here for more
Report: Solar jobs grow 17 times faster than US economy; Cost of solar energy comes down dramatically
Matt Egan, May 24, 2017 (CNNMoney via CentralIllinoisProud)
“…Solar employment expanded last year 17 times faster than the total U.S. economy…Overall, more than 260,000 people work in the solar industry, up by 24 percent from 2015…[According to a new report, the] solar business has benefited from the falling cost of solar energy and generous federal tax credits that make it more affordable for businesses and homeowners to install solar panels…Awareness is also up as Americans concerned about climate change look for cleaner energy options…Most solar workers are in the installation business…Other leading jobs include manufacturing, project development, sales and research-and-development…Men have most of the jobs in solar, but that is starting to change, especially in the sales business. Women now hold 28 percent of solar jobs, up from 19 percent in 2013…” click here for more
Wind energy's watershed moment; U.S. cumulative wind and hydro energy capacity, 1900-2016
Amy Harder, May 25, 2017 (Axios)
“…[Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke said high penetrations of wind do not threaten the reliability of the grid and is “very comfortable” with getting over a third of his utility’s power from wind. He was answering] questions appeared aimed at preemptively rebutting an Energy Department study examining the reliability of the U.S. electric grid in a way that the administration has presented as favoring fossil fuels and nuclear power over intermittent sources like wind and solar…Xcel Energy is one of the more forward-thinking power companies…[and daily balances] wind with natural gas, hydropower and other sources of electricity. It has a goal to achieve 35% wind in its mix by 2021, [up from today’s] 17%. Coal still dominates its mix at 37%...” click here for more
New Incentives To Grow Battery Energy Storage GTM: Policy study focuses on energy storage incentives in Hawaii and Maryland
Danielle Ola, 22 May 2017 (Energy Storage News)
“…[California’s Self-Generation Incentive Programme (SGIP) will boost energy storage but] new bills from Hawaii and Maryland provide insights on how state storage incentives are moving beyond the Golden State…Hawaii is already an ideal market for solar-plus-storage projects; with its rural Island grid connectivity issues and high penetration of solar and equally high electricity rates. Therefore, there is definitely market demand for storage incentives…[Its proposed] incentives increase IRR between 110 basis points and 140 basis points with a net present value by almost US$1,000 for a typical residential customer…Secondly, Maryland’s SB 758 earmarks US$750,000 annually in tax credits for behind-the-meter energy storage systems, which could amount to 150 residential or 10 commercial systems (or a mix of both)…[It] would really establish Maryland’s energy storage market, with the state most well-known for its community solar efforts…” click here for more
As the solar industry matures, business gets a little more complicated; While solar got a much-needed boost when Congress extended the 30% ITC, state policy changes are slowing down growth in the residential market
Herman K. Trabish, October 6, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, the new administration in Washington has provoked a completely new look at the role of states in the future of New Energy.
The solar industry is quickly maturing and moving with unprecedented speed into the mainstream energy world. But while business is getting better, it’s not getting any easier. Growth in the residential solar market continues to slow. Solar got a much-needed boost when Congress extended the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) at the end of 2015, but state-level policy changes are impeding the market. Reducing solar’s net energy metering (NEM) and other incentives have damaged thriving solar markets like Hawaii and Nevada. California policy changes are fundamental to the slowed growth, setting the stage for potential implications as similar policy changes continue to be debated in many other states.
California’s eventual transition to time-of-use rates as part of its NEM 2.0 proceeding is one major policy change. Explaining how rates can vary by times of the day and how they will affect the return on new systems complicate the rooftop solar sales discussion with homeowners. Such complications also make it difficult to set the right price for loans and leases. “The more there has to be policy in the sales pitch to the homeowner, the more complicated it becomes," said GTM Research Senior Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman. Complications could be harder to overcome if potential new customers are no longer the more easily convinced early adopters, Honeyman added. The addressable market in sunny California is still big but the “low hanging fruit” may have already been picked… click here for more
Solar split: How a new petition is dividing rooftop and utility-scale installers in SEIA; Rooftop installers want a bigger voice in the trade group, but stress unity is still the priority
Herman K. Trabish, October 12, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, the contending factions have not resolved but have set aside their differences and formed a working relationship.
An emerging movement in the solar industry is calling for rooftop installers to get a bigger voice in the sector’s largest trade group, and threatening trouble if they are denied. Small solar installers within the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) started the turmoil by demanding their policy priorities be considered on equal footing with those of larger, utility-scale developers, whose deep pocketbooks give them leverage within the group. The demands show how diverging policy priorities could pull factions of the solar industry apart, but leaders on both side of the debate insisted to Utility Dive they recognize the importance of keeping the industry unified and are reaching out to those who feel under-represented.
The split has been aggravated by a significant cost difference between utility-scale and DG solar. At the core of the SEIA dissension is a simple but deep failure by DG installers and utility-scale developers to understand how interdependent they are, Shah said. SEIA is a diverse association with diverse interests and its biggest challenge is getting its members to explicitly recognize that every member of the industry helps every other member, said VP Dan Whitten. How the solar industry resolves its internal divides is sure to have an impact on the entire utility sector. SEIA's Kraemer added that rate design and net metering policy fights are symptoms of larger questions about the right utility business model for the future and how to properly compensate utilities for commodity sales and infrastructure investments... click here for more
Big Sky solar: On the long, hard road to net metering reform in Montana; Years of legislative wrangling have yielded little, but recent closed-door policy talks could point a way forward
Herman K. Trabish, October 13, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The Montana settlement, like many the New Energy industries and utilities have made in recent months, is partial and tentative but represents work in the right direction.
After more than a year of contentious discussions between legislators, utility leaders and the solar industry, Montana lawmakers formed a special legislative committee — the Energy and Technology Interim Committee (ETIC) — to address how to encourage distributed solar growth without putting stress on the utility system or shifting costs to the rest of the customer base. In forming the ETIC, legislative leaders asked Northwestern Energy (NWE) and Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to work together. When they submitted widely divergent cost-benefit analyses of net metering in Montana, the ETIC asked the MPSC staff, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the Legislative Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) to review the analyses.
The ETIC process five proposed bills. Amid the political turmoil, NWE CEO Bob Rowe decided to take the initiative. The Community Sustainable Energy Workshops he convened were not to deal with net metering specifically, but to engage stakeholders. As the group worked on designs for pilot projects Rowe said he would take on, the workshops turned into an opportunity for the renewables advocates to learn more about utility concerns and for the utility to learn those of renewables advocates. None of the participants interviewed by Utility Dive fully endorsed the idea that the workshops specifically advanced the ETIC process. But each said that collaboration had contributed to understanding between the utility and renewables advocates… click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
The 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard
David Ribeiro, Tyler Bailey, Ariel Drehobl, Jen King, Stefen Samarripas, Mary Shoemaker, Shruti Vaidyanathan, Weston Berg, and Fernando Castro-Alvarez, May 2017
(American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy)
Energy efficiency is one of the least expensive, most abundant, and most underused resources for local economic and community development. Saving energy can make communities more resilient while also protecting human health and the environment. Energy efficiency investments also save money for households and businesses, catalyze local reinvestment, and create local jobs.
Local governments around the United States can influence energy use in their communities in many ways: through land use and zoning laws, building codes, public finance, transportation investment, economic and workforce development, and in many cases the provision of water and energy. Local and metropolitan energy efficiency initiatives give visible benefits to residents, directly improving the communities where they live and work.
The 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard compiles information on local policies and actions to advance energy efficiency, comparing cities across five policy areas. This third edition of the City Scorecard ranks 51 large cities, the same as in our previous edition. 1 To reflect the current and near-future policy environment, the City Scorecard considers implemented policies and those that have been adopted but are just beginning to be implemented. The resulting scores identify cities that are excelling and those that have room for improvement. We provide examples throughout the report of best practices used by leading cities. As a result, the Scorecard serves as a road map for local governments aiming to improve their cities’ energy efficiency.
The 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard compares cities across five policy areas:
• Local government operations
• Community-wide initiatives
• Buildings policies
• Energy and water utilities
• Transportation policies
Boston earned the top spot for the third City Scorecard in a row. It received 84.5 out of a possible 100 points, an improvement of 2.5 from its 2015 score. As in the 2015 edition, Boston scored well in all policy areas and excelled in buildings policies and energy and water utilities. The city continues to implement its building energy benchmarking requirements, enforce the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code, and partner with its energy utilities through Renew Boston. The utilities serving the city have made substantial investments in electricity and natural gas efficiency programs and offer comprehensive lowincome and multifamily programs.
Joining Boston at the top of the rankings are New York and Seattle, followed by Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon in a fourth-place tie. All have wide-ranging efficiency policies and programs. Los Angeles entered the top five (and the top ten) for the first time. Los Angeles’s 25-point improvement in this edition paired with its 20-point improvement in the 2015 City Scorecard fueled its rise into the top five.
Rounding out the top tier are Austin, Chicago, and Washington, DC, followed by Denver and San Francisco in a ninth-place tie. These cities, each of them a repeat top-ten performer, continue to demonstrate their commitment to efficiency.
Los Angeles, San Diego, Kansas City, and Phoenix are the most-improved cities compared with the last edition, with all showing double-digit scoring improvements. All these cities have made real strides in efficiency. For example, Los Angeles’s Existing Building Energy and Water Efficiency (EBEWE) program consists of energy audit, retrofit, and benchmarking requirements for commercial and residential buildings, as well as water efficiency measures. San Diego is another good example. The city’s Climate Action Plan established goals to reduce energy use by 15% per housing unit in 20% of all such units and to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15% by 2020.
Thirty-two cities improved their scores, many with significant point increases. In addition to the four most-improved municipalities, seven others improved their scores by at least 10 points. These cities are Austin, Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Raleigh, and Portland. Several of the 11 cities with double-digit improvement are currently ranked between 11th and 20th overall. If they maintain their momentum, they may reshuffle the top-ten rankings in future City Scorecards.
Cities have taken positive steps since the 2015 edition, especially for buildings policies. Eight cities have adopted benchmarking and transparency policies since the last edition, and several have either updated their building energy codes or advocated for the state to do so. More cities have also established community-wide goals to save energy and/or reduce their GHG emissions, and a growing number are on track to achieve these goals. Thirty-five cities in the 2017 edition have either energy or climate goals, whereas only 30 had such goals in 2015.
Leaders in efficiency in local government operations are Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and Washington, DC. All have set policies to increase efficiency in city government, procurement, and asset management.
The top-scoring cities in community-wide initiatives are Austin, Minneapolis, Portland, and Washington, DC. They have efficiency-related goals for the whole community and strategies to mitigate urban heat islands. They also have policies or programs to plan for future efficient distributed energy systems.
Leading cities in buildings policies include Boston, Austin, Los Angeles, and New York. These cities have adopted or advocated for stringent building energy codes, devoted resources to building code compliance, established requirements and incentives for efficient buildings, and increased the availability of information on energy use in buildings.
The leading cities in the energy utilities area are Boston and Providence. The energy efficiency programs of the utilities serving these cities offer high levels of savings and reach underserved markets, including low-income and multifamily households. Austin, Boston, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and San Diego are the leading cities in tackling efficiency in their water systems and water uses. Ratepayers in these cities have access to efficiency programs designed to save water and energy simultaneously.
Finally, cities with the top transportation policies scores include Portland and New York. Their initiatives include location efficiency strategies, shifts to efficient modes of transportation, transit investments, efficient vehicles and vehicle infrastructure, and energyefficient freight transport.
All cities, even the highest scorers, have significant room for improvement. Boston was the only city to earn at least 80 points. Only 18 cities earned over half of the possible 100 points. All 51 cities can improve their efficiency initiatives to increase their scores.
While cities can improve across all policy areas, cities have the most room for growth in transportation policies. In most policy areas, at least one or two cities earned more than 90% of the available points. In transportation policies, however, only two cities earned more than 70% of the available points…
Strategies For Improving Efficiency
As noted above, every city we analyzed has considerable room for improvement. We offer the following recommendations for cities that want to improve their energy efficiency and their ranking in the City Scorecard.
Adopt energy savings targets. Develop and codify energy efficiency goals for public and private-sector energy savings. Goals to reduce energy use, both community-wide and in government operations, can lay the foundation for further policy activity (Chapters 2 and 3).
Lead by example by improving efficiency in local government operations and facilities. Integrate energy efficiency into the day-to-day activities of local government. Adopt policies and programs to save energy in public-sector buildings and fleets and in standard practices such as procurement (Chapter 2).
Actively manage, track, and communicate energy performance, and enable broader access to energy use information. Tracking and reporting progress toward goals will reveal opportunities for improving energy plans, such as revising time lines, targets, or program strategies. Work with utilities to improve local government access to energy use data to better manage progress toward goals. Help increase energy data available to residents and businesses to encourage them to take their own efficiency actions (Chapters 2, 3, and 5).
Adopt policies to improve efficiency in new and existing buildings. To improve the efficiency of new buildings, ensure that building energy code enforcement and compliance activities are effective and well funded. If the city has authority under state law, adopt more stringent building energy codes; if not, advocate for the state to do so. To improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, provide incentives for efficient buildings, require energy audits, and implement energy performance requirements for certain building types. Encourage better integration of energy information into local real estate markets by requiring energy benchmarking, rating, and transparency (Chapter 4).
Partner with energy and water utilities to expand access to energy efficiency programs. Because utilities are the primary funders and administrators of efficiency programs in most places, partner with them to develop and administer an energy-saving strategy, plan, or agreement. As part of this, work with utilities to design energy efficiency programs to reach historically underserved markets such as low-income and multifamily households (Chapter 5).
Decrease transportation energy use through location-efficient development and improved access to additional travel modes. Use location-efficient zoning and integrate transportation and land use planning so residents can access major destinations via energy-efficient transportation. Expand transportation choices for residents, including those in low-income or affordable housing. Use complete streets policies and car- and bicycle-sharing programs to encourage a switch from driving to other modes of transportation.2 Create neighborhoods that support safe, automobile-independent activities (Chapter 6).
How To Tell Kids About Climate Change Climate change predictions can be scary for kids. What can you say?
Kirsten Clark, May 22, 2017 (Louisville Courier-Journal via USA Today)
“…Climate change — as well as other environmental issues like deforestation and wildlife extinction — have the potential to be scary for children. The implications of climate change can contribute to stress, depression and anxiety for everyone, but especially for kids…[Experts say parents should approach these topics in several ways. First, encourage actions like a recycling and help] them brainstorm ways to have a larger-scale impact…Talk about animals to get them] talking more and learning more about environmental issues…Be in nature to allow them to see they’re also a part of the natural cycle and what they] do affects the environment…[Examine daily habits and learn from the] kids...[They often care more] than adults do…” click here for more
California Takes A New Look At Wind California is falling behind in producing wind power
Danielle Osborne Mills, May 22, 2017 (Sacramento Bee)
“American renewable energy was born in California…[But] California is at risk of falling behind…[It has fallen to fourth in installed wind capacity behind] Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma…[T]his is a bad time to fall behind…California’s leadership has been clear in its direction to the state’s energy agencies and utilities. In 2015, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León led the passage of a law requiring [50% renewables by 2030 and a 40% cut in] greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030…Agencies are devoting significant resources to the development of an all-encompassing planning process…[New renewable energy investment is needed] and a diverse set of technologies from a larger geographic footprint will reduce ratepayer costs…[A] new bill also authored by de León, Senate Bill 100, proposes moving the 50 percent target up to 2026 and eventually hitting 100 percent clean energy by 2045…” click here for more
Mercedes Benz Goes Solar – With Batteries Mercedes-Benz and Vivint Solar partner to compete with Tesla in home energy
Robert Ferris, 18 May 2017 (CNBC)
“Mercedes-Benz is partnering with U.S.-based Vivint Solar to compete with Tesla and similar companies in residential solar energy and storage…[Beginning in Q2, Mercedes-Benz Energy will offer] its 2.5 kilowatt-hour energy storage batteries with Vivint's rooftop solar to make a combined product for [California] homeowners…[A] similar program has already been successful in Europe…Costs will vary depending on the system, but a fully installed 2.5 kWh battery system, when paired with a solar energy system will cost about $5,000…A 20 kWh home energy storage system — made of several connected batteries —will cost about $13,000 fully installed…The offering includes the complete package: batteries, inverter, all required technical components, professional installation, permitting, system design and consultation with Vivint Solar. The installation of the entire system, including the solar panels and the battery, typically takes one to two days, once permits are secured…[Tesla] has touted the benefits of selling energy storage batteries with solar panels…” click here for more
Bringing the Benefits of Solar Energy to Low-Income Consumers A Guide for States & Municipalities
Bentham Paulos, May 2017 (Paulos Analysis)
The declining cost of solar energy is creating opportunities for all Americans to save money on their energy bills. And no one benefits from energy savings more than low income consumers, who pay a much higher portion of their income for energy than middle- and high-income consumers.
But being poor creates barriers to accessing solar power and its economic benefits. Low income consumers lack sufficient savings that can be used to buy solar systems, and they may have low credit scores or a lack of credit history that may impede their ability to finance a system. They are often renters, or live in multifamily housing, without ownership of their roof.
Many programs and policies that encourage solar deployment rely on leveraging public dollars with private investment, where a small contribution of public funding can trigger a larger contribution from the market. A 30 percent tax credit on a solar investment, for example, is matched by a 70 percent investment by a homeowner. But low-income consumers are less able or likely to respond to this kind of offer, so some policy incentives fail to reach low-income populations. One alternative is to provide a greater portion of public funding directed toward low-income consumers, but that means limited public budgets don’t yield as much private investment or as many solar projects.
Policymakers have been trying a range of approaches to bring solar to low-income consumers. This guide surveys the field and recent studies to give a sense of what is being tried, and what could be tried. It examines what has and hasn’t been working, and what factors determine whether a given policy or program might work in a given circumstance.
There are many existing government programs and policies aimed at reducing poverty, providing housing, and promoting clean energy. These provide a strong starting point for how to bring the benefits of solar power to low-income households. But there are also many new and emerging ideas, including government policies and programs, new business approaches, and philanthropic and volunteer initiatives.
Summary of solutions, by category
Much of the activity around low-income solar access has been aimed at financing to solve the first-cost barrier that low-income households face. Financing ideas either adapt existing techniques or develop new approaches. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Pay As You Save (PAYS), and third-party ownership arrangements are just a few of the many financing ideas discussed in this paper.
There are also many government policies and programs that are being adapted or created for low-income solar to make it more affordable. Some of these are compensation mechanisms, which allow customers to capture the full value of their solar investment. The most common examples are net metering for solar generators located on the customer’s side of the meter, and virtual net metering, which enables community solar by tracking output from off-site generation. Compensation mechanisms are distinct from direct incentives, whereby government policies provide explicit financial or other inducements.
Energy assistance programs are also starting to see the value of low-cost solar as a way to reduce energy burdens, often in combination with energy efficiency measures. The LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) are starting to include solar as cost-saving measures. Many states have existing utility rate discount or bill payment programs that could harness solar to generate savings for consumers
While much attention focuses on solar’s direct benefits to low-income customers by reducing energy bills, solar can also provide indirect help by cutting costs for low-income support services. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), especially, is starting to use solar to improve energy security for the millions of low-income Americans it serves, while saving taxpayers some of the $5 billion HUD spends annually on utility bills. By installing solar technologies, shelters, food kitchens, churches, and service organizations of all kinds could redirect energy savings toward their primary mission.
Summary of recommendations
This guide is primarily for policymakers interested in bringing the benefits of solar to low-income consumers and communities. While this guide makes some policy and program recommendations, it recognizes that not all policymakers face the same constraints, policy environments, stakeholders, economics, and opportunities.
To be helpful to all readers, regardless of their specific situation, the guide suggests some design principles for developing a successful low-income solar program. It highlights some options that seem especially relevant, universal, or promising; and it describes a simple segmentation of audiences—homeowner, tenant, and support service—and the implications of reaching each of them. Finally, the guide presents several scenarios that may apply to states in certain situations.
Of course, the recommendations presented in this guide may not be best in any given circumstance. The lengthy discussion of other solutions is intended to help guide possible alternative actions.
In short, successful low-income policies and programs share some design principles: they are tailored to low-income consumers; they are cost-effective and financially sustainable; they have measurable results; and they are flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions and new learning.
The guide offers several suggestions for policies and programs that seek to expand solar to low-income consumers:
• Leverage existing state energy policy to support low-income solar deployment, such as by adapting net metering, portfolio standards, and financial incentives for renewables.
• Incorporate solar into low-income energy efficiency programs to reduce implementation costs and provide deeper savings for households with very high energy burdens.
• Adapt existing housing and anti-poverty programs to include solar, such as LIHEAP and WAP, public housing, and economic development incentives.
• Set up a financial vehicle that can develop, test, and deploy innovative financial strategies and provide leadership and technical expertise to other agencies.
• Promote volunteerism to provide low-cost solar to low-income communities, such as new solar homes built by Habitat for Humanity—and reinforce it through supportive incentives and policies.
• Partner with trusted allies in reaching out to low-income communities to ensure greater buy-in and program enrollment.
• Ensure any low-income solar policies and programs will actually provide tangible benefits to low-income households and communities.
In choosing which policy approaches to take, it may first be useful to consider the specific solar consumer you are trying to assist, and the current policy and market environment.
Not all low-income solar customers are the same. They face different challenges and may need different solutions or different combinations of solutions to overcome them. For example, low-income homeowners can see clear benefits from owning solar systems, but may face first-cost hurdles. Tenants of apartment buildings may not be able to own a rooftop system, but they may be able to benefit from a flexible community solar program. Low income housing landlords may be able to benefit from tax credits, energy savings, and increase in property value from going solar but may be unwilling to share those savings with tenants. Groups that provide support to low-income communities face their own hurdles and opportunities. As nonprofit or governmental agencies, they may enjoy low-cost financing, but may not be able to access tax credits and other incentives.
The very definition of “low-income” varies widely, from one government agency or jurisdiction or program to another. Some programs, for example, include all households earning less than 60–80 percent of the area median income as low income, while others use income relative to the federal poverty level. Definitions can have a significant impact on program design and implementation. Being consistent with other programs may be important, or it may be helpful to target particular customer segments within the low-income customer class. “Moderate-income” households may best be served by different programs and policies tailored to fit their needs. This guide largely avoids these definitional complications to provide general guidance that can be adapted to specific situations.
Lastly, to help inform programmatic options, the guide presents a few sample scenarios that state and local agencies may face when thinking about low-income solar program development. These scenarios vary by the state policy environment for renewables, the type of audience to be reached, energy costs, and other low-income energy policies.
The Plan To Beat Climate Change A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising. A chat with Paul Hawken about his ambitious new effort to “map, measure, and model” global warming solutions.
David Roberts, May 10, 2017 (VOX)
“…[The looming dangers of climate change are clear but] what about solutions?...[Paul Hawken, whose Natural Capitalism was called by President Clinton one of the five most important books in the world, has laid out] the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research…[Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed Reverse Global Warming] is basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential…It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention…” click here for more
Ready For The Offshore Wind Boom Massachusetts prepares for wind energy; The state aims to harness the strong, steady winds off its coast.
Jan Ellen Spiegel, May 22, 2017 (Yale Climate Connections)
“Off-shore wind energy is common in Europe. It’s never taken off in the U.S…[But Massachusetts] will soon request competitive bids for off-shore wind development – at sites 14 miles or more from Martha’s Vineyard…To encourage development, the state built a marine terminal to receive, construct, and repair wind turbines, which are too big for most ports…To make sure the state also uses the clean wind energy, Massachusetts passed new legislation that requires the purchase of 1,600 megawatts of wind-powered electricity per year within the next decade…Bidding for the first projects will start this year…[The first commercial-scale off-shore wind projects should be up and running] within four or five years.” click here for more
Solar Research Faces Trump Cuts Trump’s budget expected to massively slash research on renewable energy — and ‘clean coal’
Chris Mooney, May 18, 2017 (Washington Post)
“The Trump administration is expected to propose massive cuts to federal government research on wind and solar energy next week…The department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which funds research on advanced vehicles as well as other aspects of clean energy, would face a roughly 70 percent [proposed] cut in 2018, carving about $1.45 billion from its $2.09 billion 2017 budget…The consequences of the proposed cuts could be wide ranging, potentially undermining the office’s SunShot Initiative, which has worked to drive down the costs of large-scale solar energy, which now runs about 7 cents per kilowatt hour. A goal of reaching 3 cents per kilowatt hour for large-scale solar electricity had been set for 2030…The cuts are far from becoming a reality. In recent budget negotiations, Congress funded Energy Department programs roughly on par with 2016 levels, rather than follow a Trump administration proposal to slash them deeply …” click here for more