Senate Bill to transition California to 100 percent clean energy moves to full assembly

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Advancing to full assembly late last week in California was Senate Bill 100, historic legislation to transition California to 100% clean electricity by 2045, sending it to the full Assembly for a vote. Earlier in the day, advocates delivered more than 38,000 messages and signatures in support of the legislation from a range of stakeholders, including health and environmental advocates, clean energy industries, business communities, and environmental justice organizations.

“On this Fourth of July, as we sing about beautiful, spacious skies, let’s commend the Committee on its visionary decision to clear those skies and power California’s future with 100 percent clean electricity,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy and transportation program director with Environment California. “We applaud Chair Chris Holden and the Committee for acting to create healthier communities today and better lives for our children.”

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“We are excited California is one step further on the path of creating new jobs, cleaning our air and powering our homes, businesses and cars with clean, zero-carbon energy. Reducing carbon emissions and air pollution by transitioning away from fossil fuels is one of the most important actions our country and world must take to avoid the worst consequences of climate change,” said Laura Wisland, senior energy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists.“We appreciate the leadership shown by California legislators to keep our clean energy momentum going strong.”

“This Independence Day Californians can celebrate being one step closer to energy independence and freedom from fossil fuels. As SB 100 moves to the Assembly for a floor vote, we urge all Assembly members to reflect on this historic opportunity to advance renewable energy and leave a cleaner and safer climate for generations to come,” said California Interfaith Power & Light executive director Susan Stephenson.

— Solar Builder magazine

SEPA explores the massive solar, storage opportunity in Massachusetts in new report

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The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and ScottMadden released their latest report in SEPA’s 51st State Perspective series: “Massachusetts: A Great Clean Energy Story – DERs and the Next Chapter,” which explores the potential for Massachusetts to deploy significantly more clean energy.

Massachusetts has been a long leader in the deployment of clean energy and has demonstrated a strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. The Commonwealth’s approach to integrating clean energy has included a combination of policies such as renewable portfolio standards, capacity and generation targets for specific technologies, an energy efficiency resource standard, as well as solar and other incentive programs. Additionally state policy makers have set targets for solar PV, storage, and electric vehicles, resulting in high penetrations of renewables. The SEPA-ScottMadden report summarizes the legislative and regulatory actions that are contributing to further integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) as customers adopt them.

Legislative and other initiatives driving energy market transformation in the state include:

• Policies such as the Green Communities Act of 2008 and the Energy Efficiency Resources Standard, which have contributed to Massachusetts’ position as the leading state in energy efficiency for several consecutive years
• Revenue decoupling in 2008 to promote energy efficiency investments
• Net metering since 1982 and the increase of caps (% capacity in MW) over the years
• The ability for utilities to earn a return on energy efficiency investments

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Compared to other states such as California, Illinois and New York, the Commonwealth’s approach to advancing DERs has been far less aggressive. These states have placed an emphasis on the value that DERs can provide to the distribution grid that goes beyond their renewable characteristics through various proceedings and pilots to more fully integrate and optimize DERs. Whereas Massachusetts’ focus has been on a variety of policies to advance clean energy and reduction of GHG, which has resulted in high penetrations of renewable energy resources, but it has not focused on upgrading infrastructure, deploying AMI, or optimizing DERs in the way that other states have.

While the Commonwealth’s progress to date on advancing clean energy, increasing economic development, and reducing impacts of GHG emissions is quite impressive, questions remain about whether recent legislative and regulatory initiatives will enable innovation to support further DER deployment. The lack of AMI and related customer-side infrastructure, as well as limited rate options, make further DER deployment and integration uncertain.

Co-author Sharon Thomas, Senior Analyst at the Smart Electric Power Alliance, added, “Massachusetts’ nation-leading role in energy efficiency is very impressive. However, demand-side resources are not prominently prioritized in current regulatory and legislative actions. We will have to wait and see if the Commonwealth’s current business models and structures will support continued growth.

“The focus in Massachusetts has been on the integration of clean energy and the reduction of GHG, which has resulted in high penetrations of renewables. To date, however, the same focus has not been placed on upgrading physical infrastructure (e.g., AMI) and changing the utility business model to drive integration and optimization of DERs,” adds Cristin Lyons, partner and energy practice leader at ScottMadden.

— Solar Builder magazine

Groups urge New York State for more low-income solar options

The Million Solar Strong Campaign, a movement of leading industry, environmental, clean energy and community organizations, was joined by Brooklyn Councilman Antonio Reynoso to urge New York State and Governor Cuomo to support more solar for low-income households. The group came together to tour one of the most successful local low-income solar housing developments at The Meekerman in Williamsburg. The recently opened project, which was developed by Dunn Development Corp., demonstrates how well solar can work with affordable housing. The coalition also released a policy roadmap for how to achieve the goal of serving 100,000 low-income New York State households with solar by 2023.

“I am proud to join The Million Solar Strong Campaign in calling upon Governor Cuomo to embrace a bold vision for New York with one million homes powered by solar by 2023, including 100,000 low-income households,” said New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “We can no longer look at environmental justice and social justice as two separate causes with competing interests. It is time that we get rid of that notion and recognize that environmental justice is social justice. The Million Solar Strong Campaign has demonstrated that an investment in solar can have tremendous pay-offs for low-income residents. I urge the Cuomo administration to invest aggressively in solar energy, particularly in low-income communities, to ensure the health of our shared environment.”

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Solar energy can help low-income communities save millions of dollars on electric bills, stabilize utility bill, improve energy and housing affordability, and building an equitable energy economy. Further, a recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report found that nearly half of all residential rooftop solar potential in the U.S. is on the dwellings of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households, representing 320 gigawatts of total solar potential.

“Governor Cuomo must ensure that New York’s transition to clean energy benefits every New Yorker,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Program Director, Low-Income Solar Access, Vote Solar. “Today we’ve seen the compatibility of affordable housing and solar energy, which has proven that solar can translate to tangible benefits for those that want it. We’re calling on Governor Cuomo and his Administration to act with the urgency that our communities deserve and put New York on a path to 100,000 low-income households with solar using the policy steps outlined in the Million Solar Households policy roadmap.”

Four keys in the policy roadmap

● Accessibility and Affordability: Provide opportunities for meaningful benefits through a combination of deep energy cost savings and direct support to overcome financial and other barriers to solar access.
● Community Engagement and Energy Democracy: The critical role of community involvement in the planning and deployment of clean energy is becoming clear. Low-income communities recognize the opportunities inherent in solar deployment and often wish to have more ownership and control in the clean energy future.
● Flexibility and Sustainability: Encourage long-term, competitive market development with flexibility to best serve the low-income market segment over time and as conditions and circumstances change.
● Compatibility and Integration. Solar programs that integrate low-income energy efficiency and workforce development, business opportunities, healthy home programs and other that address the intersection of equity, energy and infrastructure.

New York currently has enough solar to power more than 200,000 households and employs 9,000 workers in the fast-growing solar industry. The coalition has also released a policy roadmap outlining robust policy recommendations to achieve the goal of one million households powered by solar.

— Solar Builder magazine

Duke Energy denied in attempt to raise fixed rates on customers in North Carolina

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Duke Energy had big plans in North Carolina for a $13 billion capital reinvestment plan to modernize the grid and requested a $472 million rate hike to fund it (about 8.5 percent on average). The details of the plan and the increased rates didn’t sound too “modern” to North Carolina regulators who not only denied the request last week but also ordered the utility to refund $60 million in deferred taxes to customers and fined it $70 million for the way it handled coal ash.

Duke also asked to charge utility customers $1.5 billion over five years to close all storage pits holding potentially toxic coal ash. Commissioners said that wouldn’t happen until the utility records the charges in a separate account that the board can scrutinize.

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At $13.8 billion, Duke’s proposal would be one of the single largest capital expenditures by the utility and effectively double its Transmission and Distribution Rate Base – which is a major source of shareholder profits. To put that number in perspective, the cost of Power/Forward is greater than the total state revenue from personal income taxes in 2016. From Vote Solar:

Those rate increases would have come in the form of a fixed charge on customers’ utility bill, which reduces the value proposition of rooftop solar, battery storage, and energy efficiency — critical components of a modern grid. And because high fixed charges render customers powerless to do anything to reduce a major chunk of their bill, they inherently discriminate against low-income and fixed-income customers, whose energy expenditures are a larger proportion of their household budget.

— Solar Builder magazine

California to launch three programs to improve low-income community access to solar

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Right on cue after our Install Inequality feature this week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted three new programs to promote the installation of solar energy to serve customers in disadvantaged communities.

“Transitioning to a clean economy must include all Californians. Targeting solar investments in low income and disadvantaged communities will help ensure that all Californians have access to all the benefits of solar, whether on their roofs or nearby in their neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.

The programs approved include

1) The Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH) program, modeled after the existing Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program, will provide up-front financial incentives toward the installation of solar systems for low income homeowners. The program will be available to low income customers who are resident-owners of single-family homes in disadvantaged communities. The incentives will assist low income customers in overcoming barriers to the installation of solar energy, such as a lack of up-front capital or credit needed to finance solar installation.

2) The Disadvantaged Communities – Green Tariff (DAC-Green Tariff) program will provide a 20 percent bill discount to customers in disadvantaged communities. This will allow customers to choose clean energy options without the need to own their home and without the cost of installing their own solar systems. The program is modeled after the existing Green Tariff portion of the Green Tariff/Shared Renewables Programs. It will be available to customers who meet the income eligibility requirements for the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance programs.

3) The Community Solar Green Tariff program is similar to the DAC Green Tariff program, and will also provide a 20 percent bill discount. This program will allow primarily low income customers in disadvantaged communities to benefit from the development of solar generation projects located in or near their communities. The communities will work with a local non-profit or local government “sponsor” to organize community interest and present siting locations to the utility; the sponsor can also receive an incentive for its efforts.

Both the DAC-SASH and DAC-Green Tariff programs will be funded first through greenhouse gas allowance proceeds. If such funds are exhausted, the programs would be funded through public purpose program funds.

— Solar Builder magazine