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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 18, 2011

Solar Could Save Minnesota Schools Millions

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/solar-could-save-minnesota-schools-millions/

Currently, Minnesota’s public schools spend approximately $84 million per year on electricity costs, money diverted from the classroom.  But a bill to make clean, local energy accessible now (CLEAN) could help the state’s public schools use solar to zero out their electricity bills and add $193 million per year to their operating budgets.

The proposed bill would create a CLEAN Contract for public entities in Minnesota, requiring local utilities to buy electricity from solar PV systems on public property on a long-term contract and at a price sufficient to offer a small return on investment.  The program mimics the traditional model for utility power development, where the public utilities commission rewards utilities a fixed rate of return on investments in new power generation.  If schools maximize their participation in the new program, and cover their available roofspace with solar PV, the 750 megawatts of power would provide $193 million per year for school budgets, create hundreds of local jobs, and make the schools electricity self-reliant.  

The cost of the program would be negligible: adding less than two-tenths of a cent per kilowatt-hour to customer bills.  

Minnesota’s CLEAN Contract proposal is one of several programs spreading across North America, from Ontario to Vermont to Gainesville, Florida, and one that has ushered in thousands of megawatts of solar across Europe.  In Ontario, the full-scale program has contracted over 2,700 megawatts of renewable energy and is responsible for 43,000 new jobs.  Minnesota’s program is restricted to solar PV on public property, but as this analysis shows, it could still have a significant impact on school budgets without a significant impact on ratepayers. 

For more detail on CLEAN Contracts, read our 2009 report.  For more on CLEAN Contracts in Minnesota, check out Solar Works for Minnesota.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 17, 2011

Solving Solar’s Variability with More Solar

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/solving-solars-variability-more-solar/

The solution to the variability of solar power is more solar. It’s true that individual solar power plants can experience significant variation in power output, especially on days with mixed sun and clouds.  “Output of multi-MW PV plants in the Southwest U.S., for example, are reported to change by more than 70% in five to… Continue reading

Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 16, 2011

John Farrell Talks Distributed, Locally-Owned, and CLEAN Energy Policy on PRN

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/john-farrell-talks-distributed-locally-owned-and-clean-energy-policy-prn/

Yesterday I was on the Political Analysis program of the Progressive Radio Network from 5-6 PM (Central).  Catch the interview with Sandy LeonVest at PRN’s website or click below to listen in:

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 15, 2011

National Association of Counties and League of Cities Ask Congress to Support PACE

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/national-association-counties-and-league-cities-ask-congress-support-pace/

February 9, 2011

Dear Members of Congress:

On behalf of the nation’s counties, cities and towns, we urge Congress to support legislation that clearly affirms the right of state and local governments to exercise liens or assess special taxes or other property obligations to protect and improve housing stock for the public good, including the installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements, by directing federal regulators to enforce underwriting standards that are consistent with guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Energy for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).

As you know, the health and vitality of local economies are essential for reversing the national economic downturn. Despite sizable budget shortfalls, state and local governments, in partnership with the federal government, are working to maintain and improve efficiencies in federal programs that support the services that citizens expect governments to deliver. A further challenge, however, is that traditional mechanisms for local finance and revenue, such as sales and property taxes and bond financing, remain difficult to access. As a result, local governments are developing innovative financing programs, such as PACE, that will help neighborhoods realize community and economic development goals even in challenging fiscal periods.

PACE financing programs help property owners finance renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements – such as energy efficient boilers, upgraded insulation, new windows, and solar installations – to their homes and businesses. The PACE program removes many of the barriers of renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofits that otherwise exist for residential homeowners and businesses, particularly the high upfront cost of making such an investment and the long-term ability to reap the benefits of cost savings. Twenty four states plus the District of Columbia have already passed legislation enabling cities and counties to pursue PACE programs.

PACE is not a loan, but instead is built on traditional tax assessments, which local governments have managed for over 100 years. PACE was not designed to increase the risk of homeowners, business owners, lenders, or the financial system, and operates under stringent rules to ensure a net positive benefit to all parties. When fully implemented, PACE programs can achieve significant energy savings and provide positive benefits to the environment.

Unfortunately, rather than incent original solutions such as PACE, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) determination that PACE energy retrofit lending programs present “significant safety and soundness concerns” effectively shuts the door on an important avenue for financing improvements that would deliver financial and environmental benefits long into the future. This determination is out of step with our nation’s economic recovery agenda and disregards the traditional authority of local governments to utilize the tax code in the best interest of its citizens.

In response to FHFA’s specific concern about the hypothetical risk to the secondary mortgage market involved with PACE homes, as local leaders responsible for investing hundreds of billions in public funds annually, we know well that risk is an inherent part of any investment. However, local governments constantly seek to minimize that risk; in our case, to the taxpayer. We believe that the standards and best practices called for in the Administration’s “Recovery Through Retrofit” report are sufficient to minimize any potential risk posed by the PACE program to both the public and private investments in a PACE home.

The PACE program is an achievement of the intergovernmental partnership to realize national policy goals, namely, reducing energy consumption, that will positively impact the fiscal conditions of every level of government. For these reasons, we encourage you to support legislation that will allow existing PACE programs to continue and encourage additional programs throughout the country. We look forward to working with you to ensure that local governments maintain the traditional authority to utilize the tax code for public benefit.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 15, 2011

This is How to Sell a CLEAN Contract Program

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/how-sell-clean-contract-program/

Vermont’s Standard Offer: The Stories

We want a Vermont powered by clean, homegrown energy that doesn’t create radioactive waste or wreck our planet’s climate, and we want our energy dollars to stay in the state.   The pilot round of the Standard Offer moved us towards that reality.

Now we’ve put together a booklet that highlights six of these projects – from a dairy farm in Troy to a solar farm in Ferrisburgh.

Click below to get the excellent report.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 14, 2011

Electricity Deregulation Burns Ratepayers, Again

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/electricity-deregulation-burns-ratepayers-again/

A new report about electric grid deregulation in Texas shows (yet again) that deregulation of electricity leads to much higher ratepayer costs:

In 2009, the report found 93 percent of Texans served by deregulated electric companies were charged above the national average. By comparison, 81 percent of customers outside deregulation paid less.

A 2007 story in USA Today examined state electricity deregulation policies and also found that they hadn’t ended well for ratepayers:

While average prices rose 21% in regulated states from 2002 to 2006, they leapt 36% in deregulated states where rate caps expired, according to a study by Ken Rose, senior fellow at the Institute of Public Utilities at Michigan State University.

Texas apparently didn’t learn the lesson from its hometown team and deregulation poster boy – Enron – which manipulated California’s deregulated market to precipitate the 2000-01 California electricity crisis.

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Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | 3 Comments | Updated on Feb 11, 2011

The Superbowl Is Over. Now The Real Battle Begins

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/the-superbowl-is-over-now-the-real-battle-begins/

Dear football fan, The Superbowl is over. But the real combat is just beginning.  This time it’s not Packers v. Steelers.  It’s Workers v. Bosses.  And for thousands of workers and millions of fans, this is the game that counts. In the game of football, the rules favor neither side.  And they are enforced.  Each… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 10, 2011

Poor Solar Permitting Rules Increase Residential Solar Prices by Up To 20 Percent

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/poor-solar-permitting-rules-increase-residential-solar-prices-20-percent/

A new report from SunRun recently revealed that permitting can significantly increase the cost of residential solar PV projects, adding as much as 20 percent to total project costs.  One large solar installer in California has two full-time “runners” whose entire job is dedicated to taking solar permit applications to city offices that require an in-person submission.

The problem of permit costs looms ever larger as solar module and installation costs fall, making permitting an even larger portion of project costs.  The adjacent chart illustrates the cost of permitting for residential solar PV, based on the size and cost per Watt of the project.  SunRun found average permitting costs of $2,500 per project.

Fortunately, there are already best-practice standards for solar permitting from the Solar America Board of Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs), and the SunRun report finds that implementing these practices can reduce permitting costs by 75 percent, to around $600.  The following table, taken from the report, details how the savings can be achieved.  The cost savings can be achieved across nearly every category of the permitting process:

For comparison, the following chart illustrates the substantial difference in the portion of project costs related to permitting when best practices are implemented.

 

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Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | 4 Comments | Updated on Feb 4, 2011

Wal-Mart Wants to Colonize New York City: Our Response

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/walmart-wants-colonize-new-york-city-our-response/

An overflow crowd of hundreds turned out yesterday at a New York City Council hearing on the impact Wal-Mart would have if allowed to expand into the city. ILSR’s New Rules Project was invited by the Council to testify as part of the first panel of speakers.  Here’s what we said about the impact Wal-Mart would have on New York. Continue reading

Article filed under The Public Good, The Public Good News | Written by admin | No Comments | Updated on Feb 2, 2011

Overview – The Public Good

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

In the 1930s we expanded the concept of a public good and a public asset to the idea of social insurance, enacting programs like unemployment insurance and social security and in the 1960s health care for the elderly through Medicare. Continue reading