Vote Solar Bringing Solar to the Mainstream 2014-10-31T15:35:42Z WordPress Justin Hoysradt <![CDATA[Let’s Get Florida Off the Solar Sidelines]]> 2014-10-29T20:56:20Z 2014-10-29T20:51:54Z PetitionThis Saturday, Florida will take on Georgia in one of the biggest rivalries in college sports. While either team could emerge the football champion, there is no doubt who is winning on solar – and it’s not the Sunshine State.

Last year Georgia was the fastest growing solar state in the nation, while Florida slipped yet again to 18th. The Bulldogs’ home state picked up even more yardage this month with Georgia Power signing contracts for more than 2,800 football fields worth of new solar – all for 30% less than their price of new fossil fuel power plants. That’s right: solar energy for LESS than the cost of traditional power. Georgia is scoring solar touchdowns while Florida sits on the sidelines.

It’s time to put more of our homegrown sunshine to work producing affordable electricity, building a new energy economy, improving energy security and reducing harmful pollution. If you live in Florida, sign our petition and tell state policymakers that we can’t afford to punt on solar. Let’s make the Sunshine State a solar champ!

Go Gators*

* Justin is a proud graduate of the University of Central Florida, but in the spirit of establishing more solar in FL, is willing to concede. #goknights #chargeon

Adam Browning <![CDATA[More solar coming to California]]> 2014-10-31T15:35:42Z 2014-10-29T15:35:17Z  

Over the past few days, Southern California Edison submitted 857 MW worth of new solar PV contracts to the the California Public Utilities Commission for approval (see advice letters 3119-E, 3121-E, and 3120-E)

[EDITED: The day after posting, SCE filed an additional 3 contracts for approval -- advice letters 3124-E, 3125-E, and 3126-E -- totaling an additional 474 MW.  That's a total of 1331 MW over 2 days.  Good times!]

On October 16, 2014, the CPUC approved a 100 MW solar contract for Pacific Gas and Electric.

And Sonoma Clean Power, a community choice aggregator, announced that it will be exceeding 33% renewables after signing several new contracts, including another 20 MW of solar (bringing their total solar procurement to 70 MW).

We have the technology.  All we need to do is use it.

Adam Browning <![CDATA[DOE paper: Keep Calm and Net Meter On]]> 2014-10-30T16:57:02Z 2014-10-25T00:43:20Z The problem is not too much solar.

That might seem self-evident, but that is basically what utilities around the country are arguing — and trying to ‘fix.’  As energy users are increasingly turning to solar to generate their own emission-free power, utilities are responding by trying to get rid of net metering and change rate structures to impose large fixed charges.  The outcome?  Less solar. keep-calm-generator-poster-net-meter-on

We have long argued that the problem is not too much solar, nor is it net metering, the policy that is helping customers in 43 states choose sunshine as their energy source. Rather, it’s a utility business model (and perhaps a regulatory paradigm) that needs updating.

In this vein, The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Program released a useful new document: Rethinking Standby and Fixed Charges: Regulatory and Rate Design Pathways to Deeper Solar PV Cost Reductions. The paper makes a lot of arguments that we’ve been making, with the benefit of having a DOE logo to remove the smell of patchouli oil.  The CliffsNotes are as follows:

  • Utility arguments on cost shifts often contain a lot of horsemalarkey.  Not only do utilities fail to appropriately credit the benefits of solar, but they cherry-pick arguments about cost-shifting to inappropriately discriminate against net-metered solar users.  Common rate design practice is to look at a utility’s cost of serving its customers over one year and divide those costs into two categories: ‘fixed’ long-term investments in infrastructure and the like, and ‘variable’ costs that change according to how much electricity is produced and delivered. This short-term snapshot makes fixed costs appear unavoidable, and – the utilities argue – by reducing their utility bill payments, solar customers are by definition not covering as much of those fixed costs as their non-solar counterparts. But of course individual investment in local generation can reduce the need for both fixed and variable costs over a proper time frame. As the Arizona Residential Utility Customer’s Office noted: “Fixed costs are not fixed forever; every cost is variable given the proper time horizon.” It’s time to start treating distributed generation like it’s going to be around for awhile.
  • Fixed charges have a ‘disproportionately negative and unduly burdensome impact’ on customers who go solar. Instead, a three-pronged approach of 1) decoupling, 2) bare minimum bill that is only assessed if customers buy little to no utility energy, and 3) time-of-use (TOU) rates, phased in gradually to all customers — should keep everything copacetic (that is, both solve for utilities’ revenue requirements and allow solar customers to get appropriate value for their generation) for a long time to come, at least until customer-sided solar reaches ‘significant plurality’ (20-30%) of utility peak load.

It’s really worth a read.

Kevin Armstrong <![CDATA[Solar Shines Bright in the Windy City]]> 2014-10-09T23:26:22Z 2014-10-09T23:15:04Z Last week we wrapped up registration for our fourth group purchase program, Solar Chicago. When we helped launch the program back in July, we were especially excited to see first hand what kind of local demand and savings we could uncover in this untried solar market by pooling the purchasing power of Chicagoans. The answer? Lots. Of both.

All told, more than 2,100 residents around Chicagoland signed up to learn whether solar energy would be a good fit for their home. That’s nearly three times more than the City’s original 750 person registration goal. There is clearly a ton of pent-up demand for solar in the Windy City!

Participants have until October 31st to sign contracts, but even with a few weeks to go, it’s clear that this program will have a meaningful impact on local solar deployment. To date, Chicago homeowners have signed contracts totaling more than 450 kilowatts of new residential solar capacity in just 3 months. We’re hopeful Solar Chicago will meet the half-megawatt mark, enough to more than DOUBLE the total amount of solar previously installed in the region. Amazing progress!

The program also helped tackle soft costs like customer acquisition head on to deliver real savings to participants. By enabling the local solar industry to instead serve customers in bulk, Solar Chicago was able to deliver pricing that is competitive with California, our nation’s most mature solar market.

Solar Chicago has shown that there’s strong interest in clean energy throughout the region. The program has also brought to light some gaps in the local market that local governments and industry can address to improve efficiency, lower costs and clear the way for the solar growth that Illinoisans want. Zoning requirements in dense urban environments, structural upgrades on older buildings, and local permitting rise to the top as issues to be addressed. Once the deadline to sign contracts has passed, Vote Solar will have more details to share on the program outcomes and lessons learned.

We’d like to thank all of our program partners for helping to make Solar Chicago a rousing success: the Environmental Law & Policy Center (local outreach), Juhl Energy and Microgrid Solar (installation team partners), the City of Chicago (lead sponsor), the Villages of Wilmette, Hanover Park, Oak Park, and Franklin Park (additional outreach support), and the World Wildlife Fund (for underwriting the administration cost through an Earth Hour Challenge grant).

Rosalind Jackson <![CDATA[Equinox East: Tons o’ fun at our first east coast fundraiser]]> 2014-10-09T20:10:54Z 2014-10-07T16:14:47Z Our spring Equinox fundraiser in San Francisco is known for being a solar party of epic proportions – so expectations were high as we set out to throw our first ever New York version. Well, let us tell you, the east coast did not disappoint. Check out photos for yourself here.

Hundreds of solar compadres converged in Brooklyn to celebrate sunny progress and support continued success. We were thrilled to be surrounded by the shiny faces of so many of our long-time partners from the region’s industry, environmental and policy community.  We were especially honored to be joined by our solar champion honoree Chairman of Energy & Finance for New York State Richard Kauffman, NY State Senator Kevin Parker and actor Mark Ruffalo – all of whom inspired with their words on the solar revolution that is currently underway.

The fall Equinox is a time to reap the harvest of the year’s hard work, and this party really was an awesome celebration of just that for solar on the east coast. The sun rises in the east, and these days it’s also where some of the most interesting U.S. solar progress is being made.  The Empire State made an historic commitment to develop ten times more solar and is now fundamentally re-imagining its grid to empower customer participation. Massachusetts met its 250 MW solar goal four years early, and promptly upped the ante more than SIX TIMES to 1,600 MW. Connecticut and New York are both looking to expand solar access to renters and others through shared solar. New Jersey is a perennial top contender. And even Georgia is defying the coal-state narrative by embracing 900 MW of solar by 2016, all below the cost of buying new fossil generation. We’ve come a long way and the good cheer from Equinox East will power us on . . .

Now that we’ve finally swept up all the confetti, we wanted to be sure to thank all who helped make our first Equinox East such a success, especially our host committee and generous sponsors: SolarCity, AllEarth Renewables, Clean Energy Collective, Sungevity, SunPower and the Solutions Project. Our beverage sponsors: Brewery Ommegang, Four Roses Bourbon, Greenhook Ginsmiths, and Constellation Wines. And to our band Roosevelt Dime, Oct28 Productions and the Pixie & The Scout for all their help making it such a great evening. With their help, the bar for NYC solar fun has been set high. It’s going to be hard to outdo it next year, but that’s just the kind of challenge Vote Solar’s dedicated team is willing to tackle. Onwards!


Jessica Scott <![CDATA[Colorado PUC Deliberates the Benefits of Net Metering]]> 2014-10-03T14:13:22Z 2014-10-02T22:48:15Z Solar supporters once again packed the house at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission yesterday as Xcel Energy and solar advocates debated the benefits of net metering.  A diverse range of supporters showed up to the panel, including the President of the NAACP Colorado State Conference.  Bryan Hannegan from the National Renewable Energy Lab first framed the conversation by referencing “Methods for Analyzing the Benefits and Costs of  Distributed Photovoltaic Generation to the U.S. Electric Utility System“.

The remaining three hours of the panel centered around deliberation on the calculation methods and economic values of the benefits of net metering in Colorado. On one side, the utility cited assumptions from their last Electric Resource Plan (including a zero value for the cost of carbon), coming up with a value of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Representing the solar industry, Vote Solar’s own Rick Gilliam along with Tom Beach of Crossborder Energy calculated a benefit of 18 cents a kilowatt-hour, more than double that of Xcel.  The solar industry analysis included environmental and societal benefits, such as reducing pollution and creating jobs.

The Commission was able to narrow points of disagreement to a few key areas:

  • The value of pollution emission reductions
  • The value of generation
  • Savings for distribution and transmission systems
  • Societal value

This was the second of three workshops that the PUC is holding to take a close look at this successful crediting arrangement for rooftop solar. The 3rd panel, which is expected to take place before the end of the year, will review net metering policies in other states.  Chairman Epel indicated that a 4th panel may be necessary to address any outstanding issues from the first three panels. This is important stuff for the future of rooftop solar in the Centennial State!

Ashley Malyszka <![CDATA[The sun on our backs: Vote Solar bikes from NYC to DC]]> 2014-10-09T20:10:41Z 2014-10-01T23:13:43Z We love a good adventure, especially for a good cause – so Vote Solar was excited to use our pedal power for solar power! 8 Vote Solar riders joined Climate Ride, a 300 mile bike adventure from NYC to DC, to raise support and awareness for our solar cause. Keep scrolling to see what a great time we had out on the road and hopefully you’ll be inspired to join us next year!

Rosalind Jackson <![CDATA[Study: Net metering would help keep rates low in Mississippi]]> 2014-10-02T20:30:51Z 2014-10-01T17:03:38Z With utilities pushing back against successful net metering programs nationwide, we find ourselves making the case again and again that – contrary to the dominant utility line - rooftop solar delivers real grid benefits to solar customers and non-solar customers alike. Private investment in reliable, local generation reduces the need for expensive and polluting conventional power. It reduces the need for investments in transmission infrastructure. It reduces electricity lost during transportation over power lines, as surplus net metered solar energy flows to the grid and is consumed locally. It saves on the cost of meeting carbon reduction and renewable energy goals. Net metering, which credits families, schools and businesses that go solar, is a simple and fair way to account for those many benefits.

Today we have yet another quantified account of those benefits from the State of Mississippi, one of the few states in the country that doesn’t currently have a net metering program. A report on expected net metering costs and benefits prepared by Synapse for the Mississippi Public Service Commission found that from a Total Resource Cost perspective . . .

solar net metered projects have the potential to provide a net benefit to Mississippi in nearly every scenario and sensitivity analyzed


You can read the study for yourself here. Beyond the cost savings, the study also notes that rooftop solar would displace generation from the state’s peaking resources – namely polluting oil and natural gas combustion turbines. This pollution reduction is especially important for Mississippi’s low-income families and communities of color, who disproportionately bear the public health burden of our fossil energy dependence. The NAACP has an excellent report, called Just Energy, that emphasizes this civil rights shortfalling of our current energy landscape and calls for a more equitable approach through net metering and other clean energy policies. The report ranked Mississippi among the worst states for fair clean energy policies.

This all serves as a good reminder of why net metering programs exist in the first place – to empower consumers to generate their own clean power and to advance the healthier, more resilient energy landscape that the vast majority of Americans want to see. For all these reasons, we urge lawmakers and regulators to stand strong for our successful net metering programs and fair rate design for rooftop solar.

Jessica Scott <![CDATA[Nevada Net Metering Fight Heads to the Legislature]]> 2014-09-29T21:51:31Z 2014-09-29T21:51:31Z The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) recently finalized its recommendation to the Nevada Legislature with respect to the state’s successful net metering program. On September 26, the PUCN voted 2-1 (with Commissioner Wagner dissenting) to recommend that the Legislature modify the state’s net metering statute that currently ensures that Nevada solar customers aren’t subject to discriminatory rates or fees. The PUCN recommendation called the growth of net metered systems “a policy success for Nevada,” but argued that the Legislature should modify the net metering statute to allow the Commission full control in developing “timely and accurate price signals.”

While Vote Solar appreciates the PUCN’s attention to such an important area of energy innovation in the state, there is no fact-based reason that Nevadans who go solar should be singled out and treated differently than other NV Energy customers. If the Legislature does remove the current statutory protections for net metered customers, we believe that will open the door for opponents to make rooftop solar a bad deal for Nevada homes, schools and businesses.

Commissioner Noble also stated that he plans to address the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) petition for a separate rate class for net metering customers with a separate recommendation later this year. Again, we see no reason for policymakers to create that kind of regulatory uncertainty for rooftop solar. The PUCN’s own study found that private investment in solar is a cost-saver for all of Nevada’s energy customers – and that’s before accounting for the many economic, security, and public health benefits of more rooftop solar.

The fate of rooftop solar in Nevada is still to be determined, but one thing is certain: Nevadans overwhelmingly want to harness more of their homegrown sunshine for reliable, affordable electricity. We call on the Legislature to stand up for the Nevadans they serve by protecting net metering, protecting fair rate design, and allowing families, schools and businesses to continue to choose clean energy.

Hannah Masterjohn <![CDATA[Rooftop Solar Financing: Wins, Trends & What Comes Next]]> 2014-09-29T16:11:00Z 2014-09-29T16:03:26Z We hosted a webinar on rooftop solar financing trends. For those of you who missed it, here’s a quick summary.

Brad Klein of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center gave an overview of the recent Iowa Supreme Court case Eagle Point Solar vs. Iowa Utilities Board. This landmark case resulted in a ruling that sets important precedent for solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) in Iowa and elsewhere. The court found that the solar company providing the PPA did not constitute a public utility, thereby clearing the way for PPA financing to be utilized across Iowa. See Brad’s presentation notes here.

Travis Lowder of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory gave an overview of rooftop solar financing trends nationwide. Our takeaways:

  1. Loans = the hot new thing in residential solar, with Mosaic, RGS Solar, Sungage Financial, SunPower, and SolarCity announcing new offerings.
  2. Third party financing is hitting a plateau and can be expected to decrease in market share as loans and other new financing options gain traction. That said, third party financing will remain the preferred option for some customers.
  3. PACE is Not Dead. $300 million CaliforniaFIRST program is operating in 17 counties, and Renovate America and the HERO program have funded over 10,000 residential projects.
  4. SolarCity held 30% of residential market share in 2013, greater than the next 9 competitors combined.

See Travis’ PowerPoint here.

Our attendees asked some great questions. You can read Brad and Travis’ responses here.