Welcome to the
Run on Sun Monthly Newsletter

Run on Sun - the source for Pasadena Solar Power

In this Issue:

January, 2019

Volume: 10 Issue: 1

We're Turning Ten!

Wow - this is the first issue of volume ten of this newsletter!  When we started writing these monthly blurbs back in 2010, we had no idea where the solar industry would go and where we would be within it!

Here are some quick observations, in no particular order:

RoS logo circa 2010

RoS logo circa 2010

  1. Certainly the industry has matured: rebates are a thing of the past, and while the federal tax credit is still around, this is the last year of the full 30% unless Washington gets its act together and extends it, and how likely is that?

  2. We have seen more than our fair share of bad actors and what we like to call "Shortcut Solar" — folks that either don't know enough, or care enough, to do things right.  The industry is starting to respond, and a new, one page disclosure document is now a required part of every solar contract in California.  It doesn't go far enough, but it's a start.

  3. Litigation is on the rise and Founder & CEO Jim Jenal has worked as an expert witness on three cases in the last 18 months.  Sadly, this seems to be a necessary thing until we do better with point number 2!

  4. The hope of a Feed-in Tariff as a means of growing solar really hasn't panned out anywhere, except in LADWP territory, but there the program was dominated by large players.  Other places, like Glendale that designed its program to fail, never got a single applicant.  Pasadena never even launched a program.

  5. Storage is still a wait and see proposition, with equipment being too expensive to pencil out.  The SGIP incentive program was extended, but it remains a nightmare of bureaucracy that largely keeps small companies out of the program.

  6. Software-as-a-Service has become an extremely important part of the industry, with vendors like Energy Toolbase providing cutting edge solutions to project modeling and economic analysis.

  7. The problem of orphaned and/or legacy systems is growing.  As systems installed back when this newsletter began, start to age, the need for maintenance grows.  Often the company that installed the system is no longer around.  Equally often, compatible equipment from a decade (or longer) ago is hard to find.

  8. EVs are becoming more and more common, and with them greater electricity use.  A very significant percentage of our clients today have, or will have soon, an EV.

  9. Solar roofing tiles were a bad idea in 2012, and they are still a bad idea in 2019!

  10. Run on Sun has the smartest, kindest, and all around most attractive clients in the solar industry!  We are in awe of you all!

So that's it, ten thoughts for ten years.  Thanks for being a part of this journey!

“The problem of orphaned and/or legacy systems is growing…”

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Clean Power Alliance is Coming - is that a Good Thing?

The Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) for LA County, Clean Power Alliance (CPA), is set to begin service to SCE customers in 31 cities starting February 1.  As this has just sort of been announced as a fiat accompli with very little information to consumers, we wanted to set the stage for an analysis that we will be publishing that should answer the question - is this a good thing or not?

Clean Power Alliance

Let's start with the basics, what is a CCA? Here's a definition from an EPA website:

Community choice aggregation (CCA), also known as municipal aggregation, are programs that allow local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts from an alternative supplier while still receiving transmission and distribution service from their existing utility provider. CCAs are an attractive option for communities that want more local control over their electricity sources, more green power than is offered by the default utility, and/or lower electricity prices. By aggregating demand, communities gain leverage to negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers and choose greener power sources.

That means that current SCE customers would still receive their service via SCE (including billing) but the energy is actually provided by the CCA, in this case CPA, at one of three rates: "Lean" (which is 36% renewables and lower than SCE), "Clean" (which is 50% renewables and comparable to SCE), and "Green" (which is 100% renewables and higher than SCE).  Different cities can choose for their residents the "default" rate - for example, Arcadia chose Lean, Alhambra chose Clean, and South Pasadena chose Green - but individual consumers can override that default and pick the rate they prefer.  (You can find the present list of cities switching to CPA and their default rates here.)

However, the only portion of the bill affected is the energy charge, which is generally a smaller component than is delivery.  For example, here is a comparison for SCE customers on the Domestic rate for what they pay now compared to under the "Lean" option from CPA:

SCE Domestic vs CPA Rate

So your savings is about 10% on the first 300 or so kWh (or about $5), but if you make it into the highest tier, your savings drops to just 4.5% on the largest usage.   (Interestingly, SCE's delivery rates changed a lot more than what is seen in this shift to CPA's Lean rate.  In particular, the delivery charge for the lowest tier went up by 5.8% as of January 1st, and by 22% for Tier 3 - ouch!)

You can find the complete list of CPA's rates as of this writing, here.

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Pasadena Adopts New Integrated Resource Plan

Pasadena adopts IRP

As 2018 drew to a close, the Pasadena City Council adopted a new Integrated Resource Plan that shows the path forward for the City in the coming years. Not surprisingly, there are some big changes in store as PWP moves away from fossil fuels and toward a greener future. Here's our take...

Where are we now?

We love Pasadena, but it has a long way to go before it becomes as green as we would like it to be.  For example, here is PWP's latest power content label that shows the sources of its electricity, compared to California as a whole:

PWP 2017 Power Content Label

Yikes! 31% of our power overall comes from burning coal - compared to just 4% for the state overall!  

Somewhat surprising is the relatively low amount of natural gas in the mix, given that the Glenarm power plant is now entirely fueled by natural gas.

On the other hand, the City is doing very well in utilizing biomass and waste materials as a fuel source, well ahead of such efforts in the state as a whole.

So it is clear that a great deal of work is yet to be done, and it is the intent of the newly adopted IRP to show the way.

One thing that jumps out of the new plan is that coal is to be eliminated entirely by June of 2027 when existing supply contracts expire, and no new coal contracts will be signed.  Moreover, that plant is scheduled to switch to natural gas by 2025, so coal burning for PWP should end by then.

Distributed Energy Resources

As of the writing of the IRP, there were 1,303 PWP customers who have installed solar power systems at their homes or commercial/non-profit sites.  Collectively, those systems amount to 10.4 MW of installed capacity, with an estimated annual production of 16,600 MWh of energy.  That makes the average installed system size just under 8 kW.

One baffling detail in the planning section of the report: relying on a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis by the Lazard consulting firm, they assert that the LCOE of residential solar (after allowing for the federal tax credit) is from 14.5-24¢/kWh!  Frankly, we aren't sure how they arrived at that number, since our projects generally project an LCOE in the 9-11¢/kWh range.

So more solar is in PWP's future, but they won't be supporting it on homes, schools, or businesses anymore.  Sad.

Other Takeaways...

Here are a couple more takeaways from the 249-page report:

  • The City is planning on installing 122 EV charging stations in the next few years
  • Electric bill increases would range from roughly 2.7% for residential customers, and up to 3.4% for commercial customers

You can find the entire report here: Pasadena's Integrated Resource Plan.

“We love Pasadena, but it has a long way to go before it becomes as green as we would like it to be…”

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