Every year we celebrate and encourage exceptional solar and renewable leadership by giving Solar Champion Awards. Our 2012 winners are…drumroll, please…:
Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Since being appointed to FERC by President Bush (W, not HW), Chairman Wellinghoff has focused the power of his office on building the infrastructure – policy and physical – necessary to support the transition to renewable energy. And who hasn’t seen his great presentations on how electric vehicles can provide revenue to owners and services to the grid? Before FERC, Wellinhoff worked at the state level, and principally on renewable energy. He was the primary architect of Nevada’s RPS. And we worked on some of the largest renewable projects in the country. He’s been a visionary in articulating the vision, and done more than most in helping to bring it to fruition. Thanks, Chairman, for all your hard work.
The Honorable Jennifer Granholm. In her eight years as governor of Michigan, Gov Granholm primed the state to see – and take advantage of – the connection between transitioning to renewable energy and jobs. Her work has build markets and momentum in a state that can really use the help–according to the regulators, new renewables are cheaper than coal in Michigan. And have you seen her show? Check it out on CurrentTV.
Thanks, Governor, for your leadership. It’s not by accident that the citizens of Michigan see the benefits and want more renewable energy, and are taking matters into their own hand to get it.
The 2012 Utility Solar Champion is CPS. San Antonio’s municipal utility has been a leader in transitioning from old school fossil power to new school renewables, and is piloting an innovative manufacturing initiative. CPS took a look at the cost of upgrading its coal fleet to comply with EPA rules (and, incidentally, to stop poisoning its customers) and decided to shut the Deely coal units down by 2015, eighteen years earlier than planned. That’s 851 MW of generation. Whats going to replace it? Instead, they are investing in renewables–wind, and increasingly solar. With a prolonged heat wave straining the grid at exactly the best solar generating times (driving wholesale prices to $3000 MWh in ERCOT), and prolonged drought forcing the shut-down of some fossil generators, and lower prices than ever before in history, solar makes sense. CPS went to bid for 50MW, and liked the prices so much they quadrupled their order to 400 MW.
But that’s not all! They are getting maximum gain out of their 400 MW investment by requiring the winning bidder to also build a local manufacturing facility. It’s an innovative approach that avoids legal pitfalls of local sourcing, and gives all parties what they need. The utility gets solar at a low price, because of the scale (400 MW in this case). The city gets installation jobs–where most of the jobs are in the solar value chain–as well as the manufacturing plant. And prospective manufacturers get a guaranteed off-take agreement, which is the kind of market certainty that gives them what they need to make a big investment in building a new facility.
For thinking big, being bold, and planning smart, we are pleased to award CPS our 2012 Utility Solar Champion Award.
Thanks to all for their leadership and hard work.