Tag: "utilities"


  08:45:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 500 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar, Ranting

Think Your Solar Investment is Safe? Think Again!

Those of us involved in solar in sunny Southern California generally think that we have it pretty good.  The climate is just about perfect for solar - and by that I mean the political climate, every bit as much as our abundant sunshine.  From the Governor, to the legislature, to the CPUC and the CEC, generally those forces support the growth of not just solar power in general, but distributed, on your own rooftop solar in particular.  But we become complacent at our peril - both to the jobs of those in the industry as well as the investment value of all of those solar installations out there.

A recent story from Columbia, South Carolina brought this peril to mind.  As portions of the state edged closer to the existing 2% cap on net metering installations, the legislature was working on a compromise to lift the cap,  allowing more residents the opportunity to install solar and take advantage of net metering.  The utilities had other ideas - from the Greenville News:

Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.
Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives.


The result of all that lobbying?  The effort to lift the net metering cap was defeated - and local solar companies are going to be laying off employees (if not closing altogether) while affected residents will either have to forego solar, or find it far less financially viable.

Solar Rights AllianceWe delude ourselves if we think that it can’t happen here.  Utility lobbyists are in Sacramento just as they are in Columbia, and the recent forced change to net metering 2.0 in SCE territory is a reminder that our progress is not guaranteed.

Which brings me to the Solar Rights AllianceWe have written about this important organization before, and will do so in the future.  But I wanted to use this post to show how we are putting our money where our mouth is.  Starting today, we are modifying our solar installation contracts to provide an opt-in checkbox for new clients to be signed up for the Solar Rights Alliance, with Run on Sun making a donation in their name to help support the important work of organizing solar clients statewide.

We are never going to be able to match the money coming from the utilities and their allies.  But what we do have is tens of thousands of happy solar owners all across the state.  If we can organize even a fraction of them, we will be able to speak directly to policy makers and let them know that the value of installed solar power systems must be protected.  That is a fight that we need to take on, and the Solar Rights Alliance (along with our wonderful trade association, CALSSA) is key to winning that fight.



  06:15:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 186 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Utilities, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar

Utilities Fighting Back - Same old, same old

New year, same battle.

We have reported for some time about efforts by the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to do what they can to make rooftop solar less attractive, if not kill it outright.  This report from NPR demonstrates how that fight is playing out here in California, and elsewhere.

As we begin the new year, this story is an important reminder that supportive public policy doesn’t just happen, and there are forces arrayed against this industry that would like nothing more than to make rooftop solar - the sort that homes and businesses can use - go away completely.  (Ironically, this is at the same time that utilities are investing ever more in their own solar facilities - such as this one in Colorado, or this one in California - as a hedge against carbon regulations and unpredictable fossil fuel prices.) 

If we are to defend and expand the ability of average home and business owners to lower their bills while reducing their carbon footprint, we will need to be proactive this year in supporting the policies, and politicians, that allow that to happen.


  07:47:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 306 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Utilities, Residential Solar

Will Solar Kill the Utilities?

We have written before about the potential “death spiral” facing utilities and their not so subtle backlash against solar.  That was the subject of an interesting report heard yesterday over at our favorite NPR affiliate, KPCC, h/t Take Two.

The report, by KQED science reporter, Lauren Sommer, provides a mostly balanced view of the issue with the spokesperson from PG&E repeating the “unfairness” meme that the investor owned utilities have been floating for awhile now, offset by the revealing explanation of how the death spiral might work.  It is worth taking a listen (oh, and maybe supporting your local public radio station in the meantime!):

This is a typical utility quote:

The problem, Rubin says [who works on net metering at PG&E], is that solar customers aren’t paying their fair share. “Solar customers really use the grid more intensively than non-solar customers,” he says.

Everyone pays for the grid – building and maintaining the wires and substations – through the price of electricity. By reducing their bills close to zero, Rubin says solar customers avoid paying for power lines they’re still using.

Really?  First, a solar customer who was truly net-zero is making far less use of the grid than their energy-guzzling neighbor next door.  Second, by helping to meet peak demand in the hot summer days, they are reducing the spot energy needs of the utility.  Third, that peak demand energy surplus provided by the solar customer is given a one-to-one offset against energy that they consume in the evening and night.  But in a time-of-use rate structure, the utility is trading their cheapest energy for the most expensive energy produced by the solar customer - if that is unfair to anyone, it is unfair to the solar customer.

As long as the utilities approach this debate from such a disingenuous position, their death spiral will only tighten.



  01:27:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 545 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SEIA, Utilities, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting

SEIA Fighting for California Solar Jobs!

The good folks over at the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) are all too aware of the threat facing the solar industry from utility attacks and they are fighting back - with facts about the industry and its importance. Here’s our take.

We're #1 Nowhere is the solar industry more vital than right here in California. Indeed, if California were its own country, it would rank 7th in installed solar capacity worldwide, higher than our overall economic rank of ninth in the world.

To help mobilize our supporters, SEIA sent out a press release with some important facts and with some useful action items. (If you are in a hurry, just skip to the Action Items!)

First, here’s the presser:

It’s official: for the third year in a row, solar is the fastest growing energy source in America. Released today, the SEIA and GTM Research report U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year-in-Review reveals that the U.S. solar market grew by 76% in 2012.

But what does that mean for California?

California continues to lead the U.S. in solar energy installations thanks to declining system prices and the state’s “net metering” policy that gives customers fair credit on their bills for the electricity they generate. California was responsible for nearly one-third of the nation’s solar installations last year. More than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar was added to the state’s power grid in 2012, a 44 percent increase over 2011.  This is the first time any state eclipsed the 1,000 MW mark.

More than 40,000 Californians are currently employed in the solar industry, many in positions related to the installation and maintenance of net-metered residential and commercial solar systems.

The good news doesn’t end there:

  • Solar creates jobs: Every second of the work day, more than two solar panels are installed by a solar worker on American soil. Today, solar employs 119,000 total workers in the U.S.
  • Solar powers homes: There is now more than 7.7 gigawatts of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S., enough to power more than 1.2 million American households.
  • Solar drives our economy:  In 2012, new U.S. solar installations were valued at $11.5 billion – more than double the $5.5 billion value of installations in 2010.

This is the effect of smart policy, innovation, and competition.

So what can we expect from solar in California in 2013? The industry can continue its rapid growth if policies like net metering are protected, allowing new developments to flourish in the state. Unfortunately, as solar gets cheaper and more accessible, many utility companies see it as a threat to their 100-year old business model. Some California utilities claim that distributed solar generation shifts costs to other customers, when in reality a recent study showed that it provides net benefits to lower all customers’ costs by more than $92 million.

We’re fighting back. Allowing customers to net meter is critical to making solar an economically-viable option for most homeowners.

Action Items

So here are two things to do RIGHT NOW:

Join our Thunderclap, so that we can all say with one voice that we Fight for #SolarInsight!

Sign this petition today and call on the California Public Utility Commission to protect California’s 40,000 solar jobs and leading solar energy industry.

More will be needed over time to preserve the industry we have all worked so hard to build - but please, add your voice to the mix.  Thanks!


Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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