NewEnergyNews: 03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015/


Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.



  • TTTA Wednesday-ORIGINAL REPORTING: The IRA And The New Energy Boom
  • TTTA Wednesday-ORIGINAL REPORTING: The IRA And the EV Revolution

  • Weekend Video: Coming Ocean Current Collapse Could Up Climate Crisis
  • Weekend Video: Impacts Of The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current Collapse
  • Weekend Video: More Facts On The AMOC

    WEEKEND VIDEOS, July 15-16:

  • Weekend Video: The Truth About China And The Climate Crisis
  • Weekend Video: Florida Insurance At The Climate Crisis Storm’s Eye
  • Weekend Video: The 9-1-1 On Rooftop Solar

    WEEKEND VIDEOS, July 8-9:

  • Weekend Video: Bill Nye Science Guy On The Climate Crisis
  • Weekend Video: The Changes Causing The Crisis
  • Weekend Video: A “Massive Global Solar Boom” Now

    WEEKEND VIDEOS, July 1-2:

  • The Global New Energy Boom Accelerates
  • Ukraine Faces The Climate Crisis While Fighting To Survive
  • Texas Heat And Politics Of Denial
  • --------------------------


    Founding Editor Herman K. Trabish



    WEEKEND VIDEOS, June 17-18

  • Fixing The Power System
  • The Energy Storage Solution
  • New Energy Equity With Community Solar
  • Weekend Video: The Way Wind Can Help Win Wars
  • Weekend Video: New Support For Hydropower
  • Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart




      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • WEEKEND VIDEOS, August 24-26:
  • Happy One-Year Birthday, Inflation Reduction Act
  • The Virtual Power Plant Boom, Part 1
  • The Virtual Power Plant Boom, Part 2

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015


    A State-Level Comparison of Processes and Timelines for Distributed Photovoltaic Interconnection in the United States

    K. Ardani, C. Davidson, R. Margolis, and E. Nobler, January 2015 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

    Executive Summary

    This report presents results from an analysis of distributed photovoltaic (PV) interconnection and deployment processes in the United States. Using data from more than 30,000 residential (up to 10 kilowatts) and small commercial (10–50 kilowatts) PV systems installed from 2012 to 2014, we assess the range in project completion timelines nationally (across 87 utilities in 16 states) and in five states with active solar markets (Arizona, California, New Jersey, New York, and Colorado). We evaluate the number of business days required for:

    1. Applying for and receiving utility interconnection review and approval

    2. Constructing the PV system

    3. Passing a final local jurisdiction building permit inspection and submitting paperwork for permission to operate (PTO, the final authorization for system operation) to the utility

    4. Receiving PTO from the utility.

    We also assess the portion of projects that required 20 business days (approximately 1 month) or more for either the utility interconnection application review and approval or PTO process. The threshold of 20 business days may indicate a project or process delay, because interconnection timeframe requirements typically mandate that each application and PTO process be completed within 15–20 business days (unless that application requires supplemental review or a detailed impact study).

    Finally—for California, New Jersey, New York, and Colorado—we compare actual timelines to state-level timeframe requirements for utility interconnection application review and approval and PTO. All projects sampled meet the system-size eligibility criteria for simplified or fast-track review in these states. However, we cannot determine from the data whether a PV system received utility approval for simplified or fast-track processing, thus precluding an assessment of which projects required detailed study. Owing to the large range in data values, we report the median number of business days throughout. Our key findings include the following:

    • Total Days for Utility Interconnection: Across all system sizes analyzed, the median timeline for the full PV interconnection process is 53 days, from the date a PV installer submits an interconnection application to the utility to the date the installer receives the utility’s PTO. For the residential sample of U.S. projects (up to 10 kilowatts (kW), the median number of total days is 52. Generally, larger projects require additional time for utility studies and approvals as well as more time for construction. This is reflected in our data, which show a median period of 62 total days for small commercial installations (10–50 kW).

    • Utility Interconnection Application Review and Approval: Application review and approval required the most time of any single process examined in this analysis: a median of 18 days for the full sample. Approximately 44% of residential and 50% of small commercial projects sampled took 20 days or more. For this subset of installations, the median number of days to complete the application process was 38 days for the residential sector and 39 days for the small commercial sector. 1 This indicates that projects fall into one of two categories: (a) projects that move through the process well below the typical regulated timeframes (10–15 business days), or (b) projects with significant delays (i.e., delays were typically 2–3 weeks beyond the requirement).

    • PV Construction: For the residential and small commercial samples, the median number of PV construction days was 2 and 4, respectively. These numbers are in line with reasonable expectations for onsite completion of an installation. Intuitively, longer installation times for small commercial systems make sense because installation labor requirements generally increase with increasing system size (although not linearly) and electrical system complexity.

    • Final Building Inspection and PTO Paperwork Submittal to Utility: The median number of days to complete the final local jurisdiction building inspection for projects in our sample was 4 days. This process includes the physical inspection of the completed PV installation for compliance with all building and fire codes in the jurisdiction (typically 1 day or a fraction of 1 day) as well as the time required for the PV installer to schedule and arrange the inspection and send all paperwork for final authorization to the utility. This result indicates that the final building inspection and paperwork submittal process is not a major bottleneck for systems up to 50 kW.

    • Utility PTO (final authorization for system operation): For the residential sample, the median number of PTO days was 10. Median PTO days were slightly higher for small commercial projects, at 12 days. Approximately 17% of residential and 25% of small commercial projects sampled took 20 days or more. For this subset of installations, the median number of days to complete the final authorization process was 28 days for the residential sector and 29 days for the small commercial sector.

    • State-Level Findings: Our state-by-state analysis indicates that more stringent regulations limiting the timeframe for utility application review and approval and PTO may reduce project length significantly. The potential impact of more stringent regulations is illustrated by New York, where the median process times for these two steps are roughly 40%–50% below the national level. This same analysis, however, also suggests that such regulations do not limit process timeframes for all installations to the targets specified. Even when limiting the analysis to project sizes eligible for simplified or fast-track review, we find that interconnection process delays are common and can range from days to several weeks.


    TEXAS TOWN GOES 100% NEW ENERGY TO SAVE $$$ Texas city opts for 100% renewable energy – to save cash, not the planet; Georgetown, Texas decision not about going green: ‘I’m probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find,’ says city official

    Tom Dart, 29 March 2015 (The Guardian)

    “…Georgetown, a community of about 50,000 people some 25 miles north of Austin…[will] become the first city in the Lone Star State to be powered by 100% renewable energy…[I]n Georgetown, the city utility company has a monopoly…When its staff examined their options last year, they discovered something that seemed remarkable, especially in Texas: renewable energy was cheaper than non-renewable. And so last month city officials finalised a deal with SunEdison, a giant multinational solar energy company. It means that by January 2017, all electricity within the city’s service area will come from wind and solar power…In 2014, the city signed a 20-year agreement with EDF for wind power from a forthcoming project near Amarillo. Taking the renewable elements up to 100%, SunEdison will build plants in west Texas that will provide Georgetown with 150 megawatts of solar power in a deal running from 2016 or 2017 to 2041. With consistent and reliable production the goal, the combination takes into account that wind farms generate most of their energy in the evenings, after the sun has set…[T]hey are getting the security of a fixed rate plan that will be similar to the current cost of about 9.6 cents per kilowatt-hour and will protect them against the impact of fluctuations in the price of fossil fuels…” click here for more

    LOW COST SOLAR OPPORTUNITIES The Innovation That Lets Low-Income People Profit From the Solar Energy Boom A Colorado community solar farm is likely the first of many that lets people buy cheaper, greener electricity.

    Kristine Wong, March 30, 2015 (TakePart)

    “Thanks to net metering—a practice that lets homeowners sell excess electricity generated by solar panels to utilities—Americans in more than 45 states enjoy cheaper and carbon-free power…Yet one group has missed out on the solar bonanza: Low-income families, who are more likely to rent or live in multifamily housing where net metering isn’t available…[But] the United States’ first utility-built community solar farm [from Colorado’s Grand Valley Power] hopes to plug the roofless [in Grand Junction, a mainly rural, low-income area,] into the green-energy boom… Residents will be able to…[save] an estimated $50 to $75 on their monthly utility bill..The solar farm is likely to be the first of many if state legislation encouraging their construction is approved…

    …[Six to 10 families, still being selected, based on demonstrated need] must pay a $30 monthly fee to access the grid. They also must pay two cents per kilowatt-hour for the amount of electricity consumed, which is a steal compared to the 11 cents per kilowatt-hour Grand Valley Power normally charges…Each family will sign a four-year contract, which is renewable if they continue to qualify for the program…To keep costs down, GRID Alternatives negotiated agreements with SunEdison, Enphase Energy, and IronRidge to supply solar panels and other components at a discount. And local organizations Atlasta Solar and Alpine Bank made donations to the project…Legislation now before the Colorado legislature could encourage the spread of community solar farms by letting utilities count them toward a mandate that they obtain 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020…” click here for more

    RESILIENCE MICROGRIDS TO BOOM Community Resilience Microgrids; Utility and Third-Party Public Purpose Microgrids: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    1Q 2015 (Navigant Research) “…[T]his report seeks to provide market estimates centered on recent programs and projects specifically linked to resilience in communities in light of recent natural disasters and technology mishaps. Some microgrids may serve multiple purposes, ranging from increasing reliability to renewables integration as well as economic optimization. That is the beauty of this flexible distributed energy resources (DER) networking platform…Despite the obstacles, the [Community Resilience Microgrids (CRM)] market still represents opportunity. While implementation revenue is expected to start out at $162.9 million in 2015, the market is projected to reach $1.4 billion by 2024 under a base scenario. Though the United States leads in terms of policy and technology innovation, the Asia Pacific region is expected to capture the largest market share due to government programs in place in Japan and China. By 2024, this region is projected to represent roughly half of the total CRM market…” click here for more

    Monday, March 30, 2015


    Beyond Integration; Three dynamics reshaping renewables and the grid

    Felicity Jones, et. al., March 2015 (DNV GL)

    Executive Summary

    In the Renewables Sector: Challenges

    Policymakers and system operators place diverging demands on renewables Renewables developers are pulled in different directions. On the one hand, they must please policymakers: twothirds of respondents list politicians and policymakers in their top three most vital players in the transition to a renewables-based electricity system, and qualitative data stresses that securing political will depends on affordability. On the other hand, in a high renewables future, developers must also engage with the increasing challenges of system operation.

    In the Renewables Sector: Recommendations

    A convergence of metrics – led by policymakers New economic metrics will converge the needs of policymakers and system operators. Greater reliance on whole-system assessments of power system costs will allow a more representative picture of the affordability of decisions to be taken. The metric of market value, which encompasses revenue as well as cost, at a system level, will better converge developer incentives with the needs of system operators. Examples of implementing this include:

    ■ Gradually exposing developers to stronger market signals on the timing and location of generation.

    ■ Opening up ancillary services markets to renewables and other enabling technologies.

    ■ Considering market value and system costs when planning technology mixes.

    In the Power Sector: Challenges

    Developers Feel Uplifted By Opportunities And System Operators Feel Weighed Down By Challenges

    Our survey shows that developers, independent power producers (IPPs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are relishing the opportunities brought by the move towards a high renewables system, while system operators and utilities identify themselves as being challenged by the transition. But the opportunities spotted by project developers, OEMs and IPPs to drive change can only be realized with the support, expertise and investment of utilities and network owners and operators

    In the Power Sector: Recommendations

    A rebalancing of rules – led by system operators and regulators, with developers’ support New rules will rebalance the opportunities and challenges for developers and system operators. Grid code refinement to maximise the capabilities of renewables can often deliver substantial system benefit at minimal cost.

    This should be done carefully: a heavyhanded regulatory approach should be avoided, and market-based solutions – including the new metric of market value – remain an equally important part of the solution.

    Examples of implementing this include:

    ■ Amending grid codes to make the most of sophisticated converter functionality of renewables.

    ■ Updating regulation to allow more innovative approaches, such as microgrids.

    ■ Increasing the emphasis on stakeholder engagement in the regulation of system operators.

    In the Energy Sector: Challenges

    The energy trilemma cannot be easily solved within current boundaries Qualitative data hints that the electricity sector needs to become more interconnected with the wider energy system and with information and communications. Current high interest in energy storage, which 66% of respondents select as a top three lever for a high renewables future, is an example of the increasingly blurry lines between power, transport and heat.

    Meanwhile, respondents’ emphasis on smart grids underscores the role for IT in helping to manage the variability of renewables.

    In the Energy Sector: Recommendations

    An expansion of horizons – led by the electricity business, with new entrants While policymakers often see energy in the holistic sense, industry thinking can still be too siloed, focused on the electricity sector. An expansion of horizons is needed, to go beyond old silos and into the ‘internet of energy’, where smarter, real-time operational controls are used to coordinate input from distributed sources of supply and demand, which span power, transport and heat. Examples of implementing this include:

    > ■ Seizing the opportunities of ‘subsector arbitrage’ with heat and transport.

    ■ Partnering and upskilling in consumer engagement to stay relevant.

    ■ Defining a minimal set of specifications for smart energy systems.

    Beyond integration

    For each of these three dynamics, the solutions for a high renewables future demand a change in the way we think about the ‘integration’ of new technology. Ad-hoc changes to existing systems must give way to genuine systemic thinking, albeit that this systemic thinking should have a pragmatic flavour. We are prompted to take a broader view and to adopt more collaborative approaches as we move into an exciting electric future.

    We need to go beyond old metrics, beyond old rules and beyond old silos. In short: beyond integration.


    THE SPECIAL TERROR OF CLIMATE CHANGE FOR WOMEN Lefty Lawmaker Warns: Climate Change Makes Women Prostitutes; Without food, they'll do anything to survive, Dem says

    Cheryl Chumley, March 27, 2015 (WND)

    “Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., one of the most liberal members of Congress, issued a dire warning this week about the consequences of failing to properly address climate change: It’ll make women prostitutes, she said…[T]o counter this scenario, she pressed House colleagues to vote for her resolution, recognizing the threat and emphasizing the need to take immediate steps to fight global warming…[W]omen with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy and poor reproductive health…[What are needed are] more gender-specific climate change policies and regulations…In mid-2013, [Lee] introduced House Concurrent Resolution 36, saying the exact same…[but] was roundly mocked in the media…[She expressed frustration at] the failure of media to see the clear danger she was outlining…” click here for more

    FLA COURT TO REVIEW SOLAR FREEDOM MEASURE Florida Supreme Court To Review Solar Energy Ballot Initiative

    Kyle Swenson, March 30, 2015 (Broward Palm Beach New Times)

    “…Backers of [the statewide push to get a solar power proposal on the 2016 ballot have] secured enough initial signatures to send the proposal to the Florida Supreme Court. It's an important first step for backers of the proposal, which seeks to cut-out Florida's powerful utility companies from the solar equation. Considering the opposition the utilities have mounted against efforts to set up a progressive policy for sun power in the Sunshine State, many solar industry folks feel the ballot is the state's best shot…If the highest court OKs the language, the ballot's backers will need to hit the road and gather an additional 600,000 signatures before February 2016…Under this proposal, a homeowner who can't front the cost for their own solar instillation could have a company set one up on their property, then buy the electricity their home unit is producing from the company until the instillation is paid off…[This] basically removes the utilities from the process…” click here for more

    THE CALIFORNIA PEOPLES’ UTILITY? Petition Effort Underway to Replace Private Electric Companies with State Utility; Backers of an initiative to create public utility have been given permission to start the signature gathering process.

    Paige Austin, March 17, 2015 Pacific Palisades Patch

    The California Electrical Utility District Act, which will become a state-wide ballot measure for the 2016 election if adequate validated signatures are collected by September 10, would create a statewide publicly owned utility. The Electric Utility District, to be governed and operated by an elected Board made up of Directors from its 11 wards, would replace Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and the state’s other investor owned utilities. Municipal utilities like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District could participate or work with statewide utility. Former SMUD Rate Advisory Board Member Ben Davis, who leads the effort, said the new entity would lower costs to electricity consumers and create other economic benefits by removing regulatory complexities and shareholder profit considerations. It will create a substantial change in state and local finances, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimate. Davis said public utilities have 15% lower rates on average nationally than privately owned utilities. SMUD’s rates, he added, average 25% lower than California’s IOU rates. click here for more

    Saturday, March 28, 2015

    Jon Stewart On Climate Change In Florida And California

    What's more inappropriate -- the jokes in this about genitalia or the responses to climate change the jokes describe? From Comedy Central

    A Place Where Global Warming Is Cold

    The Achilles heel of the climate system presents a new enigma. Don’t miss the last line. From greenman3610 via YouTube

    Energy Everywhere

    The newest entry in the Department of Energy’s Energy Literacy series. From U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube

    Friday, March 27, 2015


    Drought Draught: it's the taste of climate change

    Tim Martin, March 27, 2015 (The Age)

    "Australia is facing a crisis, headed towards a future where beer will be decidedly average and climate change will literally leave us with a bad taste in our mouths. A time when artificial supplements are the norm and water restrictions a way of life…The 'Save the Ales' campaign, running as part of Earth Hour 2015, is encouraging beer drinkers across Australia to go out and celebrate Earth Hour with the Aussie beers that they love, before it's too late’…Drought Draught will be an extremely well-brewed but average-tasting beer that lacks the flavours and complexities which Australians love and expect…[because it will be made] poor quality barley and hops combined with artificial supplements because ‘real ingredients will be cost-prohibitive or simply unavailable due to climate change-induced drought’…” click here for more

    WORLD WIND GREW 42% IN 2014

    World Wind Energy Market Update 2015; International Wind Energy Development: 2015–2019

    1Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “After a dismal 2013, when worldwide wind power installations fell by 20%, the wind energy industry rebounded strongly in 2014. Installations grew by 42% year-over-year in 2014 to 51.2 GW of wind power and cumulative installed capacity climbed to 372 GW. Market growth was largely supported by a policy-driven acceleration of installations in three key countries: China, Germany, and the United States...Asia’s extraordinary growth helped it pass Europe as the region with the most cumulative capacity. The continent hosts 37.3% of all the wind power capacity, 1.5 percentage points more than Europe…[Europe] accounted for 23.7% of 2014 global installations…All the countries tracked except Argentina installed more turbines than in 2013. The Americas represented 22.1% of global new installations…China again held the title of the world’s largest annual market with 23.3 GW of new wind power installed in 2014. Germany remained a distant second with 5.1 GW, followed by the United States with 4.9 GW…Brazil almost tripled new installations, adding 2.8 GW in 2014, enough to make it the fourth-largest market…Penetration of wind power in the world’s electricity supply reached 3.4% in 2014…” click here for more


    How Canada Could Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy

    Katie Valentine, March 23, 2015 (ThinkProgress via Solar Energy)

    “Canada can be a world leader in emissions reductions and renewable energy use, but only if its federal government decides to take climate change seriously, according to [Acting on Climate Change,a new report by 70 Canadian academics on]…Canada’s potential to shift its electricity production to renewable sources and cut its emissions…[T]he country could get 100 percent of its electricity from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, and hydropower by 2035 and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050…[if the federal government implements] a nationwide price on carbon and eliminate[s] subsidies to Canada’s fossil fuel industry — particularly, its tar sands industry…” click here for more


    Air Liquide starts up biofuel plant in Germany

    Rob Cockerill, March 24, 2015 (Gas World)

    "Air Liquide has announced the start-up of a new biofuel plant in Germany as part of the bioliqTM project in partnership with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)… The bioliq™ pilot plant aims at demonstrating the feasibility of a process to produce high-quality sulfur-free fuel from residual biomass…These ‘second generation’ biofuels are produced using the inedible part of plants (wood waste, straw), without any impact on the food chain, as opposed to ‘first-generation’ biofuels produced from the oil, sugar or starch contained in plants like oilseeds, beetroot or cereals…Air Liquide provided key technologies for the pyrolysis of biomass and gas synthesis, as well as the oxygen supply needed for the gasification process…[A]pproximately 7 kg of straw can produce one litre of fuel…[T]he next step is to optimise the process in order to ramp-up production and prepare for future commercialisation.” click here for more

    Thursday, March 26, 2015


    Why climate change is the public policy problem from hell

    Ryan Cooper, March 25, 2015 (The Week)

    “…Several scientific developments have come to light [n the last several months], any of which on their own should have inspired massive action around the globe. But because the projected effects are so complicated and far in the future, the political impact has been nil…[The latest study of] Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, the system of currents of which the Gulf Stream…appears to be weakening rapidly, which may explain the shocking cold measured in the ocean south of Greenland — perhaps the only part of the entire world that experienced record cold last winter…The massive melting happening on Greenland is a likely explanation…

    “Meanwhile, California is experiencing the opposite problem: extreme heat and drought. Its water storage is system is down to perhaps three years' supply if the drought doesn't break…All this comes on the heels of two studies just in the last couple months projecting massively accelerated melting of Antarctica over the coming decades. All told, something like 20 feet of sea level rise due to Antarctic melting is now likely locked in…But these studies have had precisely zero impact on the political discourse. Instead, climate denier Ted Cruz has announced he is running for president, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott has banned use of the phrase "climate change" among state employees…[N]obody is changing public policy to attack the root cause of all this — carbon dioxide emissions…” click here for more


    Scheduled 2015 capacity additions mostly wind and natural gas; retirements mostly coal

    March 10, 2015 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

    “In 2015, electric generating companies expect to add more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale generating capacity to the power grid. The additions are dominated by wind (9.8 GW), natural gas (6.3 GW), and solar (2.2 GW), which combine to make up 91% of total additions. Because different types of generating capacity have very different utilization rates, with nuclear plants and natural gas combined-cycle generators having utilization factors three to five times those of wind and solar generators, capacity measures alone do not directly show how much generation is actually provided…Nearly 16 GW of generating capacity is expected to retire in 2015, 81% of which (12.9 GW) is coal-fired generation…The addition of more natural gas, solar, and wind generating capacity follows the pattern of the past several years…Wind additions are largely found in the Plains states…Utility-scale solar additions of systems with at least one megawatt of capacity are dominated by two states—California (1.2 GW) and North Carolina (0.4 GW)…Natural gas additions are spread throughout the country, but Texas is adding more than double any other state (1.7 GW, 27% of total natural gas additions)…Generator retirements are heavily composed of coal-fired generation, with nearly 13 GW expected to be retired in 2015…” click here for more


    Solar sails set course for a new journey into renewable energy; Perry Carroll of The Solar Cloth Company explains why his flexible solar sail panels can generate energy not only at on sea but on millions of spaces on land

    Shane Hickey, 22 March 2015 (The Guardian)

    “…Solar Cloth Company makes lightweight, flexible solar panels which can be rolled and fitted onto curved and flexible structures such as domes or coverings for agricultural land, as well as on the roofs of buildings unable to sustain the weight of glass panels…The company uses thin film photovoltaics (TFPV), which are viewed as the second generation of solar technology. TFPV is light enough to be placed on plastics…[The company’s] panels are about 20% the weight of standard panels…[They] produce 15% less power than the current generation of panels and they cost twice as much. But the company hopes to open up new markets by emphasising the weight difference and the flexibility of the plastic roll, which open up new possibilities for siting solar cells. For instance, the cells can be bonded onto structural fabrics of buildings…The rolls of TFPV can be fitted on top of a building over a few days, allowing for millions of square metres of space on structures to be converted to solar…The company also intends to concentrate on fitting the panels on awnings in car parks, where the energy can then be fed directly into an electric car parked underneath…So far the company [valued at £7.5m] has received £700,000 worth of orders…” click here for more


    Outside Partnerships Drive Profit and Revenue for Building Materials Firms; External engagements better correlate with increased revenues and earnings, relative to R&D spending, according to Lux Research's analysis of 50 large building materials companies

    March 25, 2015 (Lux Research)

    “Building and construction materials companies, beset by cyclical revenue growth and low profitability over the past decade, benefit more from partnerships and acquisitions than from increased R&D spending…Such external engagement was better correlated with earnings growth, relative to R&D spending, in an analysis of 50 large building materials companies…Insulation manufacturers are desperately trying to escape commoditization…Cement alone lacks a positive outlier…[and] the sector is going through a period of consolidation… Small innovative companies represent ready-made opportunities to identify and expand into technological or business model white spaces. Good examples include more efficient air handling systems for a tighter building envelope, new modeling and fabrication tools, and niche products in commoditized segments such as interior paints.” click here for more

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015


    Showdown at the PSC: Inside the battles for Florida's energy future; Utilities and environmentalists are feuding about how to quantify solar and efficiency

    Herman K. Trabish, December 14, 2014 (Utility Dive)

    Last month, Florida regulators terminated the state’s solar rebate program and rolled back its energy efficiency goals after a heated debate between utilities and renewables advocates.

    Impacts of the two separate rulings could be radically different. The first could create a new solar industry in the state. The second could squelch efforts to bring more efficiency to utility customers.

    Last July, the Public Service Commission reconsidered the goals of the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act (FEECA) in proceedings required by law every five years. It announced its decisions Nov. 25.

    Commissioners largely decided in favor of Florida Power and Light (FPL), the state’s dominant electricity provider, and the other important utilities, Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Company.

    Interveners against their positions included Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), the Environmental Defense Fund and Florida’s Office of Public Counsel.

    Solar moves ahead

    Both utilities and interveners embraced the PSC’s solar ruling. They agreed the $2 per watt solar rebate program was flawed. In terminating it as of December 31, 2015, the commission set in motion a new process.

    “They ordered a workshop to discuss how to effectively implement solar policy,” explained VoteSolar Florida Regional Manager Justin Hoysradt.

    In response to 7,000 letters of support during the hearing, Commissioner Eduardo Balbis led the commission to unanimous approval of Florida’s “extremely important” existing net metering policy and “a workshop to thoroughly address the solar issues.”

    The intent, Hoysradt said, is to complete the workshop “prior to the termination of the rebate program so the solar industry and other stakeholders would have a smooth transition to new policies.” Expanded third party ownership of solar, community solar, and virtual net metering are expected to be taken up.

    “That is an adult conversation Florida hasn’t had in a long time,” Hoysradt said. “It is super-critical the workshop be what the commission described — transparent and open to the public and to all stakeholders to participate and provide input. I am cautiously optimistic that if it is, it should result in good solar policy.”

    Several interveners agreed with the utilities’ contention the rebates were not cost-effective.

    “The rebates were set too high and the utilities did not adjust them as the installed price of solar dropped,” Hoyradt explained. “The program could have been more cost-effective and benefitted more people if the utilities listened to stakeholder input. That is what this workshop is intended to correct.”

    The energy efficiency feud

    Despite some agreement on solar, exchanges between FPL and SACE during and after the energy efficiency proceedings made the Capulets and Montagues look like kissing cousins.

    “We were amazed at how aggressive the utilities were in reducing their commitments to energy efficiency,” explained SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith. “It was a difficult and hostile proceeding because they had no interest in advancing meaningful goals.”

    In its decision, the commission affirmed FPL’s Rate Impact Measure (RIM) cost-effectiveness test of energy efficiency. “This approach has served FPL's customers well for decades — FPL has achieved significant cumulative DSM savings while keeping electric rates low,” the regulators' decision reads.

    The PSC also found the Total Resource Cost (TRC) test used in 2009 to set FPL's goals caused too great a ratepayer impact. “This recent history supports turning away from 2009's failed experiment and returning to the fundamental rate impact and resource need considerations that have supported this Commission's successful implementation of FEECA over decades,” regulators wrote.

    Many expert interveners did not think the commission’s assessment was adequate. SACE experts Natalie Mims and George Cavros stressed the wider use of the TRC test across the U.S. and noted its use is supported by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    The debate over methods

    “The TRC is an improvement on the RIM, but it is still not necessarily right,” said Pace Energy and Climate Center Executive Director Karl Rabago who, as a former utility executive and Texas regulator, is a nationally-recognized expert witness.

    “With RIM, which the utilities call the ‘no-losers’ test, and we always called the ‘hardly any winners’ test, you reject anything that moves the revenue requirement needle upwards in the short term, regardless of whether it helps in the mid or long term,” Rabago explained. “It says that only the user may invest in energy efficiency improvements that have upfront costs, and that other ratepayers can never enjoy the benefit of paying a little more on rates today to get rate savings in the future.”

    TRC is particularly counter-productive for utilities, Rabago added, because it ends up reducing electricity sales.

    “FPL claimed in this docket that all the cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities have been captured and more are not needed because their load demand is down,” Smith said. “In another docket, they say they need to build new gas plants and a pipeline and want ratepayers to pay for fracking.”

    The utility, Smith added, “is an arrogant monopoly institution that has captured the PSC. It is arrogantly out of control and taking advantage of a broken system where there is not a functioning regulatory body to oversee them.”

    “SACE was dissatisfied with our proposal but we didn’t think what they proposed was realistic and achievable at the rates we have now,” FPL Director of Public Affairs Mark Bubriski said. “We would love if the discussion inside the hearing room and outside the hearing room was based on facts and not sound bites and talking points.”

    Is there a way forward?

    But, Bubriski said, FPL would not be willing to participate in an energy efficiency workshop like the one proposed by the commission for solar. “This is actually exactly the purpose of the PSC’s DSM goals process,” he said. “We are always open to participating in a constructive discussion, but we are not sure that replicating the PSC’s extremely thorough process with some other format would make sense.”

    Despite Hoysradt’s hopes for the solar workshop, Bubriski disdained such a forum for energy efficiency. “It’s great to talk philosophy, but a truly serious discussion requires the knowledge of how specific programs impact specific types of customers in an individual utility’s territory," he said. "This is what occurs in the PSC’s process.”

    FPL also ruled out reconsideration of energy efficiency goals for Florida sooner than the statutorily-mandated five years. “The result of the analyses would actually be nearly the same if conducted in quicker succession,” according to Bubriski. Given the preparation time and the costs to ratepayers and taxpayers, he added, “It’s just not practical to conduct the formal goal-setting process more frequently.”

    Bubriski had no other constructive suggestion to resolve the hostile atmosphere with SACE or move the debate over energy efficiency test methodologies forward. “We go behind closed doors and they pretend to be constructive and then they go out and bash us,” he said. “You can only be stabbed in the back so many times.”

    Another workshop?

    Just before the Florida PSC affirmed FPL’s method for valuing energy efficiencies, Synapse Energy Economics released Benefit-Cost Analysis For Distributed Energy Resources. It reported that, far from being a settled question, “The benefit cost analysis techniques that have been used for many years for evaluating energy efficiency resources are undergoing change.”

    Through the National Efficiency Screening Project, “energy efficiency experts have been working to improve the efficiency screening practices in several states,” the study reported. The RIM test should not be used, Synapse concluded, “because it suffers from several fundamental flaws.” And, it added, regulators in New York and other states have found the TRC test “is too narrowly defined and does not account for a sufficient range of benefits.”

    Synapse recommended using a Societal Cost test as the primary basis for evaluation, with a Utility Cost test to supplement it. Both are tests that found no significant place in the Florida debate.

    “The contested case approach has its merits, but when non-utility parties lose confidence in the fairness of the process, regulators can provide valuable leadership,” Rabago said. “Honest, open discussion in transparent workshop proceedings might help in Florida now.”


    CALIFORNIA IS 1ST STATE TO GET 5% POWER FROM BIG SOLAR California first state to generate more than 5% of electricity from utility-scale solar

    Allen McFarland, March 24, 2015 Energy Information Administration

    California is the first state to get over 5% of its annual utility-scale electricity generation from utility-scale solar power, according to EIA's Electric Power Monthly. Its 1 MW or bigger solar plants generated a record 9.9 million MWh of electricity in 2014, up 6.1 million MWh over 2013. Thanks to nearly 1,900 MW of new utility-scale solar capacity, California's 2014 utility-scale solar output was three times more second place Arizona and more than all other states combined. The state's total installed utility-scale solar capacity was 5,400 MW at the end of 2014. California solar rebates and net-metering policies have grown over 2,300 MW of additional rooftop and distributed solar by the end of 2014, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. Because California's solar production largely coincides with high demand periods, it was able to replace 83% of the 46% drop in hydroelectric generation lost to the drought. click here for more

    FEDS GREENLIGHT VIRGINIA OCEAN WIND Virginia gets country's first wind energy research lease in federal waters

    Tamara Dietrich, March 25, 2015 Daily Press

    “Virginia is the first state in the country to secure a wind energy research lease to build and operate turbines in federal waters, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced…The agreement with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will enable Dominion Virginia Power to move forward with its plans to erect a pair of 6-megawatt test turbines on the Outer Continental Shelf, about 24 nautical miles east of the Virginia Beach shoreline…The turbines are intended as a demonstration project that, if successful, could mean Dominion will develop an adjacent 113,000-acre Wind Energy Area to generate enough electricity to power 700,000 homes…Environmentalists have long approved of McAuliffe's support for wind energy and, following the announcement, said they were ‘thrilled’ with the progress…The two test turbines could be in place by 2017, generating enough electricity to power about 3,000 homes. Dominion says if it determines it's cost-effective to do so, it will then develop the Wind Energy Area…” click here for more

    FLA SOLAR INITIATIVE ADVANCES Solar Ballot Initiative Is a Step Closer to Supreme Court Review; Demonstrates Strong Statewide Support Garnering Necessary Signatures in Just Two Months

    March 24, 2015 (Floridians for Solar Choice)

    “Just over two months after launching a constitutional amendment ballot initiative to place solar choice on the 2016 ballot…72,000 petition signatures have been verified by Florida’s Division of Elections. This number will continue to increase and the verification clears the way for a legal review of Floridians for Solar Choice’s petition language by the Florida Supreme Court…Once the ballot’s wording gains Supreme Court approval, the campaign will need to collect and have the Division of Elections verify an additional [683,149] signatures…by February 1, 2016 in order to place the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot…The ballot proposal - designed to expand solar choice by removing barriers that limit solar ownership models - is gaining wide support through a diverse coalition of more than two dozen businesses, conservative groups, faith communities, clean energy and environmental organizations. Florida remains one of only five states where current law expressly denies citizens and businesses the freedom to buy solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility or government-owned electric utility… Registered voters in Florida are urged to sign the petition here.” click here for more

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015


    Guest reporter Emma Bailey profiles a giant in the New Energy world.

    Elon Musk: The “Green” Movement’s Leading Innovator

    Elon Musk is no ordinary car company executive. The CEO of Tesla Motors is spreading his innovative spirit into a number of projects, all of which share a common goal: to advance renewable energy technologies in an effort to create a more sustainable lifestyle in the coming years.

    Tesla, the electric car company based in California, is Musk’s most well-known venture and also the most developed. While other automobile companies in America and abroad continue to favor gas-powered cars or hybrid models, Tesla is completely devoted to Musk’s vision for a zero-emission vehicle.

    Tesla’s shining star, the Model S, which has been on sale in the United States since 2012, achieves that vision at a high price tag. It is powered by innovative battery technology and can be recharged through a home outlet or at special Tesla charging stations across America. In the spirit of meeting the growing demand for electric vehicles, Tesla has introduced a new vehicle, the Gen 3, which is scheduled to be released in 2016 and is expected to be more affordable than the Model S.

    With Tesla, Musk has spearheaded the electric car revolution in the United States. If his plan succeeds and Tesla is able to produce more models at lower prices, then it will become more feasible for American consumers to embrace electric cars and the sustainability benefits that they provide. In addition, Tesla’s recent success has pushed other auto brands to make their own moves into the electric market. Nissan and Ford both have fully electric cars in their fleets, which is a positive sign for the green movement.

    But Musk’s advancement in environmental technology does not end with sporty electric sedans. In a recent Tesla earnings call, the CEO revealed that the company is working on an innovative battery pack that could one day power entire homes. Few details are known at this time, but production is expected to begin soon. If Tesla is able to manufacture household battery storage units, then it could provide a compelling greener solution for homeowners who want an alternative to their traditional energy provider’s direct energy rates.

    In recent years, Musk’s green goals have expanded beyond this planet. He is the founder and CEO of SpaceX, a space transport company with the goal of reducing the cost of space travel. One of SpaceX’s current major projects is the launch of a new observatory that will capture information about weather outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Musk hopes that the data the observatory obtains will shed critical information about climate change trends, allowing governments and organizations to better plan their sustainability initiatives.

    Musk is also one of the chief people behind the SolarCity program. It has forged partnerships with governments and companies to improve and distribute solar-powered infrastructure across the United States. Musk’s heavy involvement in SolarCity shows how devoted he is to creating clean, sustainable, and renewable energy sources.

    The Hyperloop project may be the boldest one in Musk’s current portfolio. Currently, the Hyperloop is little more than a concept, but it has the potential to revolutionize the mass transport industry and contribute to a sustainable future. Musk wants to build an alternative to trains that will transport pressurized capsules at high speeds through underground tunnels. Musk has plans to begin developing a demo version of the Hyperloop, with hopes of creating a full version that will connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    There is no guarantee that any of Elon Musk’s new projects will ever reach the level of success that Tesla Motors is enjoying, but one thing is abundantly clear: when it comes to green, sustainable technologies, Musk has no shortage of innovative ideas.


    SOLAR BRINGS JOBS With increased demand for solar power, green job opportunities return

    Fabian Graber, March 23, 2015 (Richmond Confidential)

    “…[The] first solar electric system in the [historic Atchison Village in Richmond, CA, is being installed. It] will produce clean energy and reduce energy bills for the house owners…by $9,300 over the system’s lifetime, and prevent 30 tons of greenhouse gas emissions…But homeowners are not the only ones who benefit from solar installations on their roofs. The growing demand for solar energy in California is creating new jobs at a fast rate…According to [The Solar Foundation’s] California Solar Job Census of 2014, the state]…added an estimated 54 percent more capacity compared to 2013. Statewide employment in the solar industry grew by 15.8 percent in 2014, which represents almost 7,500 new jobs…[J] ob growth rate in the business is more than ten times higher than the overall job growth rate in California of 1.5 percent…For this year, the Solar Foundation expects an even higher number, some 9,400 solar workers—a term that includes a wide range of sectors, from installation, manufacturing, project development to sales and distribution—to be added to the job market…” click here for more

    WIND POWERING MONTANA Wind is driving energy development in Montana

    Jeff L. Fox, March 23, 2015 (Missoulian)

    “Wind energy contributed significantly more new electricity to power the nation than any other resource last year, according to recently released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)…[T]he trend will continue in 2015…[with] 9.8 gigawatts of wind energy to be developed nationwide…[In Montana, wind] has been leading new electric energy development for the past 10 years…[Since] passage of the 15% renewables by 2015 mandate in 2005, 60%] of the new energy capacity constructed in Montana for in-state use and for export has been wind energy. The 665 megawatts of wind energy development has meant 1.4 billion in economic investment, more than $2 million in annual lease payment to landowners, hundreds of construction and permanent jobs, and tens of millions in property taxes to state and local governments…[and it has not negatively impacted] in-state consumer electric rates, as [an exhaustive 2014 study of the state’s RPS by the] bipartisan interim legislative committee found…[Montana] wind development is not slowing…” click here for more

    GLOBAL PRE-PAID METERING TO TRIPLE Prepaid Metering; Meters, Software, and Services: Opportunities, Challenges, and Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    1Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “The market for prepaid electric metering is steadily gaining ground due to smart metering technology, as well as growing acceptance of the idea of prepaying for services. Smart meters and the accompanying advanced infrastructure can enable utilities to offer prepay as an option. However, some regulators have not allowed this payment method because they see risks to vulnerable customers, such as the elderly or those on low incomes. Other customers prefer prepaying for electricity since it helps them better manage their budgets and, in some cases, reduce their energy consumption…In a few markets, like Great Britain, South Africa, and some countries in Asia Pacific, the existing prepaid meters and payment systems have been accepted and adoption is expected to grow…According to Navigant Research, the global installed base of prepaid metering customers is expected to grow from 31.7 million in 2014 to 85.2 million in 2024…” click here for more

    Monday, March 23, 2015


    How power companies can get to Utility 2.0 and beyond; A new report provides a roadmap for utilities' changing business models

    Herman K. Trabish, December 11, 2014 (Utility Dive)

    From integrating more distributed generation to pushing electric vehicle chargers and home energy advising, 2014 has seen a number of utilities making big changes to their business models.

    Now a new report from a storied environmental and economic development think tank warns that in coming years, if power companies do not do more to change their business models, they could go the way of the land line phone provider.

    The core principles that are key to the utility of the future “do not align with current financial incentives for most investor-owned utilities (or the typical business practices of most utilities; private, public, or cooperative),” according to "Beyond Utility 2.0 to Energy Democracy," a report by John Farrell of theInstitute for Local Self-Reliance.

    But, the report goes on, “the principles are indifferent to the economic opportunity. That is, they can be implemented with utility control of the grid and its benefits or with a massively decentralized and democratized electricity economy.” In other words, utilities don’t have to go away if they understand what is coming and respond to it.

    The grid and Utility 2.0

    “The grid is a valuable network,” Farrell said. A veteran of regulatory proceedings in Minnesota, Farrell was the driving force behind a stakeholder process that included Xcel Energy and produced that state’s Value of Solar methodology. One of solar’s key values is to grid operations, the methodology shows.

    The dilemma utilities find themselves in is not entirely of their own making, the paper reports. Much of the cause is the 130-year-old system. Policymakers send “mixed incentives” that ask utilities to meet increasing mandates for renewable energy and energy efficiency through a business model that only rewards increased electricity sales and rate based transmission and generation infrastructure. Regulators who judge utility planning often do so with inadequate information about alternatives. Yet utility executives who fail to navigate through all this to a profit are condemned and dismissed.

    “Utility 2.0 is designed to solve many of these problems, properly aligning financial incentives with the outcomes most participants want from the electricity system,” the paper promises.

    The 4 core Utility 2.0 principles of the paper are:

    Reduced energy consumption through energy efficiencies

    Reduced carbon emissions through a transition from fossil fuels to renewables

    Grid efficiency via a two-way, networked smart grid that uses demand response, local generation, and local resources

    Grid flexibility to integrate large quantities of distributed and utility-scale renewables This can mean a lot of different things, Farrell said. It depends on a utility’s ability to innovate and adapt. “For some utilities, it is a funeral dirge. The way they have operated for 100 years won’t make sense anymore. It they can’t adapt,” Farrell said, “this will be a land line-cell phone problem for them.”

    The opportunity for utilities

    “$364 billion in annual U.S. electricity sales is up for grabs, Farrell added. “It is available to utilities who make the transition and provide the services people will need.” Farrell mentioned things like smart phone apps to manage energy services and other ways to process and manage energy system information. He also mentioned distribution system advances that make it more of a 2-way, networked, transactional system. ”There are so many ways utilities could profit from this,” he said.

    One vertically integrated utility might sell off its transmission system and just sell energy services. Another might sell off its power generation assets and operate a distribution system “and be the ultimate smart grid.”

    The goal of the paper is to describe this moment of transformation, Farrell said, not to dictate to utility execs how to take advantage of it.

    The are 2 common themes in the structural changes needed:

    Planning for generation or a transmission/distribution system that recognizes the potentials of local and regional level resources like rooftop solar, energy storage, electric vehicles, and non-capital measures like controllable, smart appliances.

    Independent, neutral operation of the distribution system so that informed but unbiased planning can be done.

    Early expressions

    The paper provides analysis of early expressions of the Utility 2.0 idea in New York, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont.

    The New York REV process is "an excellent articulation of what the grid should look like to accomplish those principles," Farrell said. Where the process falls short is "the recognition of the economic opportunity."

    Vermont is closest to having in place principles of integrated planning and rules for distributed generation and energy efficiency. "What they haven’t done strikingly is adopt any of the structural change in the New York REV process," he explained.

    “They have made a lot of big steps but they don’t have a distribution marketplace where anybody could participate,” Farrell said, “where it is all transactional and transparent, like an eBay for electricity. You shop for the services you need and bid and everybody sees the numbers.”

    The shift to Energy Democracy

    Utilities have to think about making the grid useful for 21st century technology because there are two more principles that make the next utility business model into a model of "Energy Democracy," Farrell said. Because local communities have carried the burden of the old model, “we want a semblance of local control and equitable access. ” The report explains that "Energy Democracy" shares the four tenets of the Utility 2.0 model — reduced energy consumption, reduced carbon pollution, grid efficiency and grid flexibility — but adds those two values to the mix:

    Local control: Individual communities should have the authority to make their own decisions about energy production and consumption, "with weight given to economic benefits not just energy costs."

    Equitable access: Ownership and authority over the grid should be open to all, regardless of material wealth. "Since the resources of a 21st century electricity system (wind and sun) belong to everyone, all residents of a community should share in the wealth generated from them," the report concludes.

    What is coming, Farrell said, is “an interconnected and distributed technology opportunity between smart phones and electric cars and energy storage and super cheap solar 20 years from now that is inevitable,” he said. Whether utilities are dragged kicking and screaming or seize the moment, communities deserve the same opportunity.

    This transition is being driven not just by electricity technologies but also computing technologies, Farrell said. “Revolutions come from the convergence of technologies in a sector and communications technologies. That is what happening here. And there is $364 billion a year at stake.”