02/10/10

  08:16:16 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 148 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Rebates, Solar News

10 Million Solar Roofs

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced legislation to promote the installation of solar PV (and solar hot water) on 10 million roofs across the United States over the next ten years.  Said Senator Sanders:

At a time when we spend $350 billion importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence. A dramatic expansion of solar power is a clean and economical way to help break our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, improve our geopolitical position, and create good-paying green jobs.

Among the co-sponsors of the legislation is California’s Senator and Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Barbara Boxer.  The legislation seeks to expand upon successful programs in California and elsewhere.

Text of the proposed legislation can be found, here, and a single-page fact sheet is here.

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02/07/10

  09:43:19 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 197 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar News

Raise the Limits on Net Metering - Contact Your CA State Senators to Support AB 510

Net metering agreements between solar system owners and their electric utility require the utility to buy back the excess energy a solar PV system might provide in any given month and credit that surplus against future usage (thus, “netting out” usage over time).  Thanks to the recently passed AB 920, utilities in California must now pay customers for any surplus energy produced after a year.

Unfortunately, under existing law, utilities need not offer any additional net metering agreements once the capacity of all installed PV systems in their territory amounts to 2.5% of the utility’s peak demand.  That cap was established when utilities lacked experience with widespread installation of solar PV systems, but is antiquated and no longer justified.  Today, both PG&E (in the CA Bay Area) and San Diego Gas & Electric are close to reaching those caps.

AB 510 would double the caps to 5%.  This is an important interim step toward eliminating the caps altogether.  The bill, authored by Nancy Skinner from Berkeley, has already passed in the California Assembly and is coming up for a vote this next week in the Senate.  Please click HERE to send your CA State Senator an email urging support for AB 510.

02/04/10

  05:02:03 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 192 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News

Green Leadership Awards

Our friends over at the Los Angeles County Office of Sustainability just sent us an announcement about their annual Green Leadership Awards and they have asked us to spread the word.  So here is there blurb in its entirety:

Just wanted to let you know about the County’s Green Leadership Awards program to recognize outstanding efforts to develop and implement innovative programs and projects to enhance environmental sustainability and stewardship in the County. Applications for individuals and organizations for the 2010 Award program are being accepted now through February 25, 2010. The competition is open to all County of Los Angeles residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, professional and trade associations, communities, and state and local government entities. Please spread the word!

Melinda Barrett
Public Relations Manager 
County Office of Sustainability

From the linked-to Guidelines, here are the eligibility criteria for projects:

  • Nominees must be located in LA County.
  • The project must be implemented, built or currently running.
  • Project or activity must have been initiated within the past three years.
  • The nominee must agree to allow the County to publish a summary of their accomplishments.

So get those applications in now!  The awards ceremony is on April 20.

01/29/10

  07:40:26 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 893 words  
Categories: Solar News, AB 920 Payments, Pasadena Solar, PWP

PWP's AB 920 Notice Raises Questions

As expected, Pasadena Water and Power’s AB 920 notices started to arrive in customer mailboxes this week.  Unfortunately, the notices raised as many questions as they answered.

The notice consists of a letter to the customer, a form for the customer to fill out and return, and a set of “Frequently Asked Questions.”  More about each after the break.

The notice gives some background on the law, informs the customer that there is no deadline for submitting the form, but then points out that:

You will not receive any compensation for net surplus electricity generated prior to PWP’s receipt of your election form.

Frankly, this is just silly.  Since the election form only provides two options - Yes I want to get paid or No I don’t - is there really any mystery what customers want here?  Why should the customer lose one month (or more) of credit while the utility waits to receive an “election” form the outcome of which is a foregone conclusion?  Unfortunately, that is the way the legislature (in its infinite wisdom) wrote the law.  Thus, the lesson for customers is clear - get your forms in TODAY!

PWP goes on to advise customers that the compensation rate is “currently under review by PWP” and that the City Council will conduct a public hearing on the compensation rate sometime this year.  While PWP encourages customers to “attend or submit comments” on the proposed rate structure, apparently they intend to leave it to the customers to monitor the city’s website to determine when that hearing will be held.  Why?  Clearly PWP will have that information and they are requesting contact emails on their AB 920 forms.  So why isn’t PWP promising to notify customers in advance of the hearing so that they can more readily participate?  Question # 1 for our friends at PWP.

What will that compensation structure look like?  PWP is not disclosing anything about its current thinking in this notice.  However, the statute does provide some guidance:

The net surplus electricity compensation valuation shall be established so as to provide the net surplus customer-generator just and reasonable compensation for the value of net surplus electricity, while leaving other ratepayers unaffected. The ratemaking authority shall determine whether the compensation will include, where appropriate justification exists, either or both of the following components:
(i) The value of the electricity itself.
(ii) The value of the renewable attributes of the electricity.
AB 920 - codified at PUC § 2827 (h)(4)(A).

This means that the statute leaves it to the discretion of PWP and the Pasadena City Council to determine what “just and fair compensation” shall mean, and whether it will include the value of the RECs that PWP is receiving.  All the more reason for customers to be involved in this process!

The AB 920 “Net Surplus Electricity Compensation Request Form” is reasonably straight-forward.  If the customer elects Option A to receive compensation under the to be determined compensation structure, they also assign to PWP any associated renewable energy credits that PWP can then use to meet its compliance obligations under the state’s renewable portfolio standard.  This is in accordance with AB 920 itself, and since such credit would be of little value to residential customers, this seems like a fair trade-off.  However, as noted above, the value of those credits should be considered when the compensation rate is established.

Curiously, the Option B choice - “I prefer not to receive compensation for net surplus electricity” - says nothing about PWP’s obligation to carry the credit forward.  In the words of the statute, option B is to choose to “allow the eligible customer-generator to apply the net surplus electricity as a credit for kilowatthours subsequently supplied by the electric utility to the surplus customer-generator.”  Presumably, an election of Option B does not transfer any RECs to the utility.  For customers with very large systems, there may be some benefit in taking this election.

The most puzzling document in the notice mailing has got to be the list of Frequently Asked Questions.  While the majority of this document is not surprising, the last question and answer is startling:

Q. Can I increase the size of my solar PV system to generate more Net Surplus Electricity?
A. No. Eligible systems must be designed to meet no more than 100% of a customer’s historical electric use.

Really?  To the best of our knowledge, there is nothing in AB 920 that imposes such a limitation.  While PWP may elect to cap rebate payments to systems sized at 100% of prior usage, that has nothing to do with compensation requirements to a surplus energy producer under AB 920.  As we understand the law, a customer under an existing net metering agreement who opts for Option A under AB 920, could expand their system so as to increase their surplus energy production and PWP would be obligated to pay them for that additional energy production.  We would hasten to add that this is almost certainly not a cost-effective thing to do as the compensation rate will almost certainly be too low to provide a meaningful rate of return on the added investment.  But that is not at all the same thing as saying that the system must not exceed 100% of the historical usage.  Yet another question for PWP!

We will forward our questions to PWP and post any responses here.  If you have questions about AB 920, please post them to the comments and we will either answer them ourselves, or get you the answers!

01/21/10

  10:23:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 130 words  
Categories: Solar News, AB 920 Payments

AB 920 Notices Due January 31

Under the recently passed modifications to California’s net metering law
(AB 920, Huffman, D-San Rafael), utilities have until the end of this month to send notices to all customers receiving service under a net metering agreement (i.e., solar PV customers) advising them of their options under the law.

In particular, the law provides that customers who produce more energy than they consume in a year now have the option to have the utility cut them a check for the surplus at the end of the year!

As of this writing, we are informed that the utilities are in the process of drafting their notices and we have requested to receive copies as soon as they are approved.  Of course, we will make those available here as soon as we receive them.

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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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