11/22/09

  04:28:41 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 364 words  
Categories: SEIA, Solar News

Solar Bill of Rights - # 8 - The Most Important Right of All

Keeping the best and most important Right for last, SEIA’s Solar Bill of Rights concludes with Right # 8:

8.      Americans have the right, and should expect, the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the most important Solar Right of all if we are to build an industry that is respected and trusted by consumers throughout this country.  This should almost go without saying - and yet, saying it, and living it, is extremely important.

As we have seen time and again, there are many solar installers out there who care way more about making a sale than they do about building a reliable system that will meet the customer’s needs for the next 25 years.  (As you can see here.)

But what does ethical treatment really mean?  We think there are some very important elements that together constitute this Right, including:

  • Systems should be sold to meet the consumer’s needs - not the installer’s revenue requirements.
  • Not all sites are appropriate for solar and installers must tell consumers when their site is just not right.
    • Sometimes that means turning down an available job because the installer knows it will never perform properly.
  • Solar power systems, while technical, are not rocket science and consumers are entitled to have all of their questions answered.
  • Solar power systems should be installed by qualified electricians - not plumbers, roofers or the handyman down-the- block.
    • Installations should make the site look better; solar should not be an eyesore.
    • Installations should work better than advertised.
    • Installations should be safe and reliable for their entire projected lifetime - none of what you see here.
  • Rebate processing is complicated and confusing; installers should bear that burden, not consumers.
  • In all of our dealings with consumers, utilities and inspectors, installers must be scrupulously honest.

These are reasonable requests for consumers (and America in general) to make of the solar industry.  As professionals in a rapidly expanding field, we need to hold ourselves to the highest standards, and hold others in our field accountable when they do not measure up.  Otherwise, all of us will be diminished by the acts of the fly-by-night artists and scammers – and the entire nation will suffer.

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11/19/09

  01:00:31 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 120 words  
Categories: AB 811/PACE/LACEP Funding, Pasadena Solar, PWP

AB 811 - Progress in Pasadena

The attached memo reports on Pasadena’s progress toward becoming part of the LA County AB 811 program.  The good news is that Pasadena appears to be on-track to start funding solar projects under AB 811 by late Spring or early Summer of next year.  We will be keeping a close eye on this program throughout LA County and will provide updates here on the Founder’s Blog.

If you have questions or comments about the AB 811 program, we would love to see them posted here.  If your city has not yet committed to participating, please let us know and we will work with you to provide materials and support that you can use to spur your city council to get with the program!

11/15/09

  09:51:46 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 166 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SEIA, Solar News

Solar Bill of Rights - Right # 7

The last two of the eight Rights in the Solar Bill of Rights once again focus on the rights of consumers.  Here is number Seven:

7.      Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility.

As utilities operate under Renewable Portfolio Standards they are required to purchase increasing amounts of renewable energy.  Utility customers should be allowed to purchase the renewable energy of their choosing, thereby voting with their dollars for the energy source that they prefer.

Some utilities, such as Pasadena Water & Power, have a “Green Energy” option that allows customers to purchase some or all of their electricity from renewables, but it does not allow them to choose solar specifically (and right now that appears to be all wind power).  By allowing consumers a choice, utilities would receive a premium for providing solar energy which can then be used to fund incentives for adding solar, thereby increasing the supply.  It would also let consumers proclaim their desire to avoid using coal-fired electricity.

11/12/09

  04:44:33 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 180 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar News, AB 811/PACE/LACEP Funding, PWP, BWP, GWP

AB 811 is Coming to LA County (and a City Near YOU!) - UPDATE

Assembly Bill 811 authorizes cities and counties to create a funding mechanism for property owners to add solar (or other energy efficiency measures) to their property without any upfront cost.   Instead, the loan is paid back through an assessment on the owner’s property tax bill and is paid back over twenty years.

Los Angeles county is developing an umbrella program to implement an AB 811 project throughout the county.  The initial funding for the program is to come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus bill).  You can follow LA County’s progress by checking out their AB 811 website
UPDATE: (9/14/2011) the AB 811 website is no longer available.  However, in its place you can visit the Energy Upgrade website for information about energy-efficiency rebate programs in LA County.

This is a great opportunity for home owners to add solar with no upfront cost and a low interest loan paid back over twenty years!

Don’t be left out - make sure that your City is signed up to participate in the program.  We anticipate that the first loans will be made available next spring.

11/10/09

  03:47:54 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 347 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SEIA

Solar Bill of Rights - Rights # 4, 5 & 6

The next Rights set forth in SEIA’s Solar Bill of Rights, concern those rights specific to the solar industry itself.  
In particular:

4. The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment.

5. The solar industry has the right to equal access to public lands.

6. The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines.

Let’s take these one at a time…

What does it mean for the solar industry to have a “fair competitive environment” in which to operate?  After all, isn’t solar already heavily subsidized through rebates and tax credits?  It is true that over the past few years, particularly in California, we have seen more favorable treatment for solar than in the past.  And yet, these subsidies are but a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars that the fossil fuel industries have received for decades.

According to Scientific American (citing a study by the Environmental Law Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), between 2002 and 2008, the fossil fuel industry received approximately $72 billion.  In contrast, all renewables received just $29 billion, but more than half of that - $16.8 billion - went to pay for ethanol from corn, a poor environmental choice.  Solar’s share?  Less than $1 billion.

A similar concern arises over access to public lands.  For years, fossil fuel producers have had nearly unfettered access to federal lands with the government getting a very poor return on its investment.  (For example, see this listing of Bush-era actions to open up public lands to the fossil fuel industry.)  For utility scale solar to succeed, access to public lands in an environmentally sensitive way is crucial.

Likewise, to get clean solar energy to the demand centers around the country that need it, the solar industry and others will need to construct, and interconnect into, new, smarter transmission systems.  These too will need access to public lands to make them affordable.

These rights will go a long way to leveling the playing field for the solar industry and hasten the day when a substantial percentage of the nation’s energy can be supplied by clean solar power systems.

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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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