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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jan 5, 2011

An update on PACE financing

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/update-pace-financing/

This update is from an email sent by Renewable Funding’s Cisco DeVries, outlining the hopes for PACE in 2011:

Litigation Moves Forward.  The first Court orders regarding elements of the PACE lawsuits were issued by Judge Claudia Wilken on December 20th.  The orders cover Sonoma County’s request for a preliminary injunction and the Court’s desire for the US Department of Justice to weigh in.  The court has not yet made any decisions on the motions. However, while the judge stated that she was not inclined to require FHFA to affirmatively support PACE at this early stage of the case, she indicated that she was considering whether to order Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to begin a formal rulemaking process regarding PACE. We will certainly pass along any more information as it develops so that the PACE community can be ready to provide detailed comments.  You can also check the www.PACENOW.org website for updates.

Legislation Moves Forward.  While Congress did not take action on the PACE legislation that was introduced in 2010, work is continuing to prepare for the next session.  There are plans for new, bi-partisan, PACE legislation to be introduced early in the year.  Will send another update when this moves forward.

Commercial PACE Moves Forward.  While residential PACE has mostly (but not entirely) been put on hold, a number of jurisdictions are moving forward with commercial programs.  For example, Boulder County recently issued its first bond for commercial PACE and will now be funding the first 29 projects. Sonoma County continues to fund commercial projects and Los Angeles and Washington, DC are just two of the communities planning commercial programs in the new year.  To assist with this effort, the US Department of Energy just released a section of their “Finance Guide” (see chapter 13, drafted by Renewable Funding) to assist communities with designing commercial PACE programs.  Lastly, a report from the Clinton Climate Initiative, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Renewable Funding on existing and planned programs will be out soon.

PACENOW Hires Executive Director. PACENOW hired David Gabrielson as its new Executive Director.  David has extensive experience in public finance at leading firms such as CS First Boston and JP Morgan and is also a town councilman in Bedford, NY, where he worked to establish an energy efficiency and renewable energy financing program using PACE.  He has given the PACENOW website a facelift – check it out.  You can reach him directly at david.pacenow@gmail.com. 

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jan 3, 2011

Failure of 663 MW Stirling solar power plant another blow for centralized solar

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/failure-663-mw-stirling-solar-power-plant-another-blow-centralized-solar/

Southern California Edison recently canceled a 663 MW power purchase agreement for a Stirling dish powered concentrating solar power plant.  It’s the latest blow for centralized solar as the economics have continued to favor decentralized solar.  There were other issues, too:

Stirling and Tessera…also needed millions in equity investments and big honking loans from the government and others.

When modular, decentralized solar PV is easy to finance and less expensive than centralized solar thermal electricity, the decentralized power is going to win.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 22, 2010

Distribute more energy this holiday season

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/distribute-more-energy-holiday-season/

Do you like what you read here?

Support this site with a contribution today

Energy Self-Reliant States is committed to thoughtful analysis of distributed renewable energy technology and policy, to uncover the ways that renewable energy and its economic benefits can be widely spread. I joke that I don’t like to post any original content without a chart, otherwise it’s clear I could have gotten more data. 

Producing this high-quality information takes time, and your support can provides me and my colleagues at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance the time to gather data on the cost effectiveness of solar contracts for schools or the perversity of many renewable energy incentive programs

Right now a family foundation in Minnesota has pledged to match the first $6,000 in contributions this holiday season, so your support can go twice as far.

Please consider supporting our work on distributed renewable energy. Contribute today.

Either way, thanks very much for reading.

Sincerely and happy holidays,

-John Farrell

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 22, 2010

Britain to Abandon RPS & Move to Feed-in Tariffs

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/britain-abandon-rps-move-feed-tariffs/

In a potentially precedent-setting move for the English-speaking world, Great Britain’s ruling coalition proposes abandoning its long-running experiment with so-called “market reforms” of the 1990s. Included in the proposal released by Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary December 16, 2010, is wholesale revision of the country’s Renewable Obligation, the British version of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).

While the renewable targets will remain, the government proposes abandoning the mechanism for reaching the targets, the Renewables Obligation (RO). Instead the coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal parties proposes implementing a system of feed-in tariffs for “low carbon generation”.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 22, 2010

California Launches Compromise Small-Scale Renewable Auction

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/california-launches-compromise-small-scale-renewable-auction/

The California Public Utility Commission officially launched its Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM)* last week, to spur more development in renewable energy projects smaller than 20 megawatts. 

The good and bad news is summarized quite well by the FIT Coalition, with the good news being:

  1. A strong focus on the < 20 MW market segment, also known as Wholesale Distributed Generation if the project connects to the distribution grid.
  2. Recognizes value of “locational benefits,” rewarding projects that site close to load to avoid unnecessary transmission expenditures – “(massive capital expenditures, decade-long build-outs, and significant line and congestion loses)”
  3. Requires utilities to provide specific grid details to help developers select project sites before they commit.

Points 1 and 2 highlight an increasingly recognized issue: meeting the near-term benchmarks in state renewable energy standards may be impossible if states rely on centralized, transmission-dependent projects.  Sub-20-megawatt projects can quickly sum to large quantities of renewable energy, capture most economies of scale, and come online much faster that large, centralized projects.

Point 3 is huge, as well, because it finally addresses a market failure where distributed energy project developers could not get information about grid “sweet spots” for plugging in smaller scale renewable energy without significant infrastructure upgrades.  It’s an issue too rarely discussed, with a rare exception being our 2008 report on Minnesota’s potential to meet its state RPS without significant new high-voltage transmission lines (backed by two state-sponsored studies).

The bad news is that the CPUC missed several opportunities to maximize the potential for distributed generation:

  1. It allows participation by transmission-connected projects, which will not carry the same advantages as distribution-connected projects – “producing energy close to load and avoiding the significant costs, timeframes, and environmental issues associated with transmission.”
  2. It institutes a lop-sided playing field that will favor well-established companies and larger projects.
  3. It perpetuates the high failure rate of solicitation programs: “In general, California’s solicitation-based RPS programs result in more than 95% of the bid capacity to be rejected by the utilities or to be abandoned by developers in the end due to underbidding.”  These rejections lead to enormous stranded development costs, as much as $100 million in one solicitation.

Despite the bad news, it’s a promising “pilot” program that will support 1 gigawatt of distributed renewable energy.   Let’s hope it improves with time.

*And folks suggest feed-in tariff is a lousy policy name…Speaking of which, a number of media stories indicate that this is California’s take on a “feed-in tariff.”  That’s like saying like soccer is Europe’s take on American football.  One is an auction, the other is a standard contract with prices based on the cost of generation. 

Photo credit: alforque on Flickr

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 22, 2010

U.S. Military Sees Great Value in Distributed Renewable Energy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/us-military-sees-great-value-distributed-renewable-energy/

There’s no better illustration of the value of distributed renewable energy than the U.S. military.  In Iraq, the 50,000 U.S. troops (as of August 2010) use 600 million gallons of fuel per year at a cost of dozens of lives of U.S. soldiers who die protecting fuel convoys and financial cost of nearly $27 billion for fuel and security ($45 per gallon!).  New distributed renewable energy systems can help combat brigades reduce fuel consumption, saving lives and money.

One Marine company – Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines – field-tested the Ground Renewable Expeditionary ENergy System (GREENS) system in August 2010 and found that it saved 8 gallons of fuel per day for each of the company’s 150 men.  Complemented with other renewable energy systems, the Marines powered their combat operations center without using the diesel generator for eight days.

The renewable technology that will power Company I costs about $50,000 to $70,000; a single diesel generator costs several thousand dollars. But when it costs hundreds of dollars to get each gallon of traditional fuel to base camps in Afghanistan, the investment is quickly defrayed.”

It takes approximately 200 GREENS (1,600 kilowatts of solar modules with battery storage for 300 Watts of continuous power) to replace a single 60 kilowatt diesel generator, but it saved the Marine company 1,200 gallons of fuel per day.  In Iraq, that fuel would have cost $45 per gallon, including transportation and security costs.  That’s a savings of $54,000 in a single day.  If priced at $70,000 each, the 200 GREENS will pay back in 260 days, less than 9 months. 

If every U.S. company serving in Iraq made use of GREENS, it would reduce fuel consumption by U.S. troops by 25%, saving 146 million gallons of fuel and $6.5 billion per year. 

There are benefits besides saved fuel and money.  Marines appreciated that the solar-powered base systems are quiet, and also don’t require constant refueling.  The no-fuel requirement also benefits security, as 72 U.S. soldiers died protecting convoys in Iraq in 2009.

The military provides a great illustration of the utility and cost-effectiveness of distributed generation, and one that should inform state-side strategies for energy deployment.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 17, 2010

The Fragmentation of American Energy Policy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/fragmentation-american-energy-policy/

Last week was a tough one for distributed solar markets in several states, as a remarkable number of renewable energy incentive programs hit their budget or capacity caps, or are shrinking in scope: San Diego Gas & Electric’s allocation of non-residential solar incentives under the California Solar Initiative ran out. The Los Angeles municipal utility… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 16, 2010

We’re Number 1 – Minnesota Boasts Most Expensive Solar PV in Nation

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/were-number-1-minnesota-boasts-most-expensive-solar-pv-nation/

From page 19 of the brilliant report, Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009 (large pdf).

It’s worth noting that this has nothing to do with the state’s solar resources.  This is the upfront cost to install the modules.  The difference in cost of solar electricity is likely even more severe since many of the least expensive states also have better sun. 

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 16, 2010

A Blueprint for a 100% Renewable Utah

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/blueprint-100-renewable-utah/

The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah just released the eUtah Blueprint illustrating how Utah could reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 95% by 2050 and could meet electricity demand reliably with a combination of wind, solar, geothermal, and compressed air storage (with some natural gas backups).  The report – written by Arjun Makhijani… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 16, 2010

Change in Tax Credit Policy Drives 24% Drop in Residential Solar Price

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/change-tax-credit-policy-drives-24-drop-residential-solar-price/

Update: It’s important to note that this refers to the net installed cost.  In other words, the installed cost dropped because residential solar customers were now getting an uncapped federal tax credit. We wrote in this 2009 report about the perverse problems created by the $2,000 cap on the federal residential solar tax credit.  The… Continue reading