Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pennsylvania Tries to Improve SREC Market With New Legislation

A new bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania State Senate in August intending to improve the declining solar renewable energy credit (SREC) market in the Keystone State. A bill suggesting similar improvement had stalled in the House in 2011 (HB-1580), but Senator Dave Argall (R-29) is trying to kickstart the SREC market through legislation in the Senate. 

This new version of the  Senate Bill includes a:
-new timeline structure for the AEPS growth and decline from now until 2025, including an increase to the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) solar carve-out requirements from 2013-2015.
- change the alternative compliance payment (ACP) to $285/SREC for compliance in years 2013-2019 then reduce the ACP by 2% each subsequent reporting period
- change to eligibility requirements for renewable energy producers, to allow for solar thermal facilities

Notably, however, this version of the Bill no longer includes language to close the market to out-of-state systems, which has historically been what spares an overwhelmed SREC market in the past. So, now two questions remain: 
1) will this watered down senate bill garner the support it needs to become legislation and 
2) if it does, will it be able to improve the SREC market without closing out other states? 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

ITC Makes Decision- Chinese Solar Gets Tariffs

Is this the end of the discussion? The International Trade Commission (ITC) voted unanimously that the imports of solar cells from Chinese manufacturers are harming U.S. solar manufacturers. The ruling will result in tariffs being added to any solar modules that include parts made in China. The ITC, however, did find any critical circumstances in this case, and therefore no tariffs will be applied retroactively.

This issue is far from black and white, as this article in Renewable Energy World, points out. Much like the classic debate of free market vs protectionism, new tariffs or restrictions will make new winners and new losers.

For instance, some US companies that currently import Chinese parts fear that they will shoulder the burden of these new tariffs. As E.L. "Mick" McDaniel, Managing Director of Suntech America said "the continued growth of trade barriers represents a serious challenge to the U.S. solar industry, for American jobs, and for energy consumers globally."

The underlying issue, however, is why the tariffs are even being considered. The ITC, is not reviewing the case simply for a "buy American" policy, but because there is a strong belief that Chinese companies are benefiting from Chinese government subsidies that throw that global solar market out of balance. Without something (like the US government) correcting for those imbalances, some might argue, US companies can't compete. As Gordon Brinser, President of SolarWorld America said, "Commerce's decision raises the industry's chances of reclaiming footing for domestic, sustainable and environmentally sound solar -technology producers and their jobs."

That being said, however, the tariffs would certainly add an additional incentive for American companies to "buy American." Where do you stand on this trade issue? Is this the way to make American solar companies and jobs competitive? Or is there a better way?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

(Oil) Money Can't Buy You Love But Renewable Energy Can Earn It

The fossil fuel industry has spent millions of dollars to keep themselves on the top of the energy game. But Election 2012 proved that money does not buy you happiness- at least for the fossil fuels. According to this article on the Huffington Post, by mid-September, oil, gas and coal companies had spent more than $150 million on campaign ads. In one week alone, Texan oil barons donated $10 million to Governor Romney. At the current rate, by the end of the election- well over $200 million will be spent trying to put pro-fossil fuel politicians in office.

Ohio- Senator Sherrod Brown ran on a record of supporting renewable energy and environmental protections and was re-elected for a second term.
New Mexico- Martin Heinrich- a clean energy advocate, beat out Representative Heather Wilson- a pro- drilling, anti-climate action candidate for a Senate seat.
Virginia- Governor Tim Kaine, with a proven record in favor of clean air and environmental standards, kept his seat despite fossil fuel companies pushing hard (financially) for his opponent.

These advocates might have survived the onslaught from the fossil fuel lobby- but they aren't the only clean energy advocates America put in office on Tuesday.

Steve King and Tom Latham- both from Iowa, Dean Heller from Nevada and Dave Reichart from Washington all won re-election this year and all are big wind power advocates.

So here we are- post election. Pro- clean energy and renewable energy advocates have prevailed. The voters have spoken and a majority want more renewable energy and environmental protection. We can all breath a sigh of relief. But there's no time to rest on our laurels.

Now the real work starts. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Notable Quotable

I'd put my money on solar energy... I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." - Thomas Edison, 1931

just something to think about

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Milwaukee Shines Solar Loans

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a webinar about the Milwaukee Shines Solar Loans Program, where folks with Milwaukee Shines and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association discussed the pilot program implemented through the summer of 2012, lessons learned, and upcoming replication of the opportunity.

Milwaukee has been named a US Department of Energy Solar America City, and in 2012 the city became a part of DOE’s Sunspot rooftop solar program. Through the Sunspot Rooftop Solar Program, Milwaukee has promised to reduce the cost of photovoltaic panels, including the permitting process, financing, net metering and interconnection processes and zoning.

To achieve these ends, Milwaukee introduced the solar purchase program, Solar Power Pack (SPP). The goals of the SPP are to
1) Educate customers
2) Create a lower cost for customers
3) Create more jobs and sales leads for local solar industry
4) Create more business for local industry

Read more after the jump for a full summary of the webinar and additional contact information for further follow up!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Water Food Energy Nexus

how water, food and energy are interconnected in a 4 minute video. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

why we should care about food security

as I'm sure you've noticed, the focus of this blog thus far has primarily been energy. the goal is to share developments in renewable energy markets, policy and research both domestic as well as abroad. but if you take a step back, you can see that the underlying interest in renewable energy is really based in an inherent desire to thrive as a humanity in a sustainable fashion. we see a major solution to that end goal- as renewable energy.

but i'd like to venture away from energy for a second and talk about food security. surprisingly enough, however, i'm not venturing very far. folks focused on the various issues like energy, water conservation, food security, etc are consistently seeing connections in each others work. and as we keep learning it is becoming clear that only by approaching all of these issues can we find sustainable solutions to any one of them.

Rufo Quintavalle writes about this trajectory for food security in his article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled, Food Security 3.0: The environment is the fifth pillar of international food security.

Quintavalle explains that originally food security was thought of simply as "we must produce more food." He calls this Food Security 1.0. Recently, however, the international community acknowledged that food security was actually a more complex issue. They decided that there are actually four pillars to food security, and Quintavalle calls this Food Security 2.0:  1. availability: food must be available 2. accessibility: people must be able to access the available food 3. utilization: people must be able to utilize the food through adequate infrastructure for cooking, cleaning and preparing 4. stability: these things must be true at all times- even through times of crises.

And now a new element is starting to be understood by those focused on food security, a development Quintavalle calls Food Security 3.0. Food security depends on environmental preservation. As land becomes eroded with chemicals and farming, and water becomes scarce- overproduction is threatening the environment. and as much as underproduction threatens humanity, so will a depletion of resources. and thus a new movement to incorporate environmental consideration in food security measures is borne.

as policy makers, voters and global citizens, we can no longer ignore the interconnectedness of our environment, our energy needs and our food security. which means, as someone interested in energy access and environmental stewardship, i just might wander into food security issues a couple more times in the near future. hope you'll follow!