February 17, 2017

After Veto Override, Renewable Energy Sourcing Accelerates in Maryland

State lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill to increase the use of renewable energy in the state.

The legislation, which will require utility companies in Maryland to buy more energy from sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams, became law when the Democratic-controlled General Assembly voted to override the Republican governor.

Hogan and GOP lawmakers objected to the cost to consumers. The requirement is expected to make electricity more expensive, but it's not clear by how much.

February 16, 2017

Vermont Cap-and-Trade Bill Looks a Lot Like a Carbon Tax, Observers Say

An energy cap-and-trade bill introduced in the Vermont Senate could potentially add costs to all forms of non-renewable, carbon-based energy in the state. Industry watchers say the bill looks a lot like a carbon tax.

“The cap-and-trade bill … is essentially the carbon tax by another name,” said Matt Cota, director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. “That’s going to draw the most fire coming up in the next few weeks or so.”

Prospects for an explicit carbon tax bill were highly uncertain during the first weeks of the session, but S.66, the cap-and-trade bill introduced last week, may introduce similar requirements.

February 15, 2017

Net Metering Is Under Attack: Here's What You Need to Know

Two states are leading a charge to undermine rooftop solar. If successful, the attack could spread to other states.

Utilities across the country are trying to find ways to undermine rooftop solar, and some states are giving them some help. This month alone, Wyoming's legislature introduced a bill that would effectively ban both wind and solar in the state, including rooftop solar. Indiana's legislature is also considering a bill that would force rooftop solar owners to sell all of their energy production to the utility while buying all of their energy from the utility. 

February 14, 2017

California Weighs Fair Pricing for Distributed, Centralized Energy

Everyone hates paying for something that they don’t use (how many cable channels do you have?). In California, local electricity customers may finally get satisfaction about paying for the transmission grid capacity that they don’t use.

At issue is an obscure pricing mechanism known as Transmission Access Charges. These charges are meant to capture the cost of delivering power to customers, but the fees don’t distinguish between distant or local energy sources. So a customer pays a transmission fee on all the power they consume, whether it was produced next door or 500 miles away.

With this problematic pricing mechanism, the charges don’t decline when a customer’s on-site or nearby power generation increases, even though such distributed power generation doesn’t use the greater transmission system. The fees are substantial, adding as much as 3¢ per kilowatt-hour to the cost of distributed energy. Plus, the more Californians install solar technology and reduce demand for long-distance power transmission, the less these charges make any sense.

February 13, 2017

Senate Bill Aims to Turn Shumlin’s Green-Energy Goal into Mandate

Former Gov. Peter Shumlin envisioned that one day Vermont would get 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources while cutting consumption by a third. Now lawmakers in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee want to make that vision the law.

In 2015, Vermont passed a renewable portfolio standard requiring utilities to get an increasing percentage of energy from renewable sources by 2032, with the eventual goal of reaching 90 percent renewable by 2050.

While the legislation required utilities to have 75 percent renewable energy in their portfolios by 2032, the 90 percent renewable target was kept as an aspirational goal only — not law.

February 10, 2017

Solar Outlook 2017: The Global Market Marches On

According to most analysts 2016 will shake out to be a very good year for solar in terms of deployment and expansion. Installed capacity worldwide will most likely top 70 GW.

In 2016 PV module prices dropped again mostly due a glut of Chinese made modules that entered the market unexpectedly. According to a recent U.S. DOE SunShot report, analysts have reported modules quotes between $.40 and $.50 per watt and some in the industry have seen quotes below $.40 for 2017 delivery. 2016 also saw record low tenders for projects in India, Dubai and Chile.

February 9, 2017

3 Republican Governors Embrace Clean Energy’s Economic Promise

Last month, the U.S. inaugurated a new president who has vowed to abandon the landmark Paris climate agreement and roll back bedrock American environmental protections.

But turn to the states and you’ll find a different story, even in the red states that elected President Trump. In fact, Republican governors in the Midwest are prioritizing economic growth and job creation by accelerating investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the few weeks after the election, leaders in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan have adopted new policies that help tackle climate change and grow the clean energy economy.

February 8, 2017

2017 Outlook: Geothermal Is Trending Upwards

Overall, the 2017 geothermal outlook is positive, based on GEA analysis.

Geothermal is posed to grow by leaps and bounds internationally in the coming years, with rapid growth in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Kenya, all rich in geothermal resources. Major players involve investment banks like JICA and the IADB, who are teaming up with countries with untapped geothermal energy like Chile to diversify their national energy portfolios and meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals of significantly lowering the global output of CO2 in coming decades. Countries like Kenya and Indonesia have set frameworks in place and target goals of geothermal development to be achieved in the coming years, providing a significant portion of electricity as these countries go green.

February 7, 2017

Maine Solar Customers to Receive Lower Bill Credits Starting in 2018

The solar policy battle will now move to the state legislature.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved a measure to roll back retail-rate net metering and move to a buy-all, sell-all arrangement beginning on January 1, 2018.

Under the new rate structure approved Tuesday, distributed solar customers will have to sell 100 percent of the energy they produce to the utility on one rate, and then buy back 100 percent of the energy they need from the utility on another, higher rate.

February 6, 2017

Solar Policy Actions Spiked in 2016, With a Focus on Net Metering

Findings from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s year-end solar report

While solar policy debates have already been raging for several years, the discussion is far from over.

Nearly every single U.S. state took some type of policy action related to distributed solar in 2016, according to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center's (NCCETC) year-end edition of The 50 States of Solar. A total of 212 solar policy actions were taken by states and utilities across the country, which represents 37 more actions than in 2015. These developments occurred in 47 states plus Washington, D.C.

February 5, 2017

Maryland House Overrides Governor to Push Renewable Energy

Senate next to vote on measure vetoed last year, which would increase goals for solar, wind, other clean power sources

Maryland’s House of Delegates on Tuesday overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation that would push the state to get more of its energy from renewable sources.

The 88 to 51 vote split along party lines, with Democratic lawmakers providing more than enough votes for the three-fifths majority needed to override the Republican governor’s veto. 

January 31, 2017

Maryland Senate to Try Veto Override on Renewable Energy

The Maryland Senate is scheduled to try to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a measure to boost the state's renewable energy standards.

The Senate is set to vote Thursday.

It would take a three-fifths vote, or 29 of 47 senators, to override the veto. Last year, senators voted 32-14 along party lines for the measure.

If the Senate overrides the veto, the House of Delegates would still need to override it before the measure could become law.

January 30, 2017

Is a Trump Carbon Tax Possible?

By: Marc Z. Goldgrub, Cleantech Law Partners

            A senior White House official claims that Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the idea of a carbon tax at a White House U.S. business leaders meeting with Trump on Monday, January 23rd. Other executives at the meeting apparently did not lend the idea much support. Outside the meeting though, a range of political and corporate leaders, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Al Gore, Virgin CEO Richard Branson and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, have supported the idea of a carbon tax as a means of combating climate change.

Mass. Legislators Propose 100% Renewable Energy Mandate

Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed legislation that calls for the state to adopt a 100% renewable portfolio standard, according to Environment Massachusetts, a clean energy advocacy group.

Under the legislation, filed by State Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington; Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge; and State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, Massachusetts would be required to achieve 100% renewable electricity generation by 2035, as well as phase out the use of fossil fuels across all sectors, including heating and transportation, by 2050.

January 29, 2017

Minnesota House Republicans Criticize Renewable Energy Initiatives

Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota House are considering killing a solar incentive and taking control of an energy fund they say has little oversight.

The bill would shift money deposited into a renewable energy account to a general energy fund and end the “Made in Minnesota” solar energy

GOP lawmakers want more legislative oversight of the state’s energy funds and pointed toward the low energy production from the solar incentive at a Monday House ways and means committee hearing as a sign of the energy program’s failure. The bill continues an early trend in the session of Republican lawmakers seeking to rein in spending with tighter legislative control. Still, House Democrats said they see the bill as a shift away from a commitment to alternative energy sources that would result in the loss of almost 500 jobs in the state.

January 27, 2017

German Economy Minister Calls for Further Reforms of Renewable Energy Law

Germany must carry on with legislation aimed at capping energy costs and ironing out inefficiencies in its renewable energy expansion, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told an energy industry gathering on Tuesday.

"It is not a matter of how quickly you build renewable power installations but how you integrate them into the energy system at reasonable cost," he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, seeking reelection in September this year, has further reformed its renewable energy act (EEG) this year to cut costs for consumers.

January 26, 2017

Will a Trade War With China Help or Hurt the American Solar Industry? It’s Complicated...

Yet another area of speculation and uncertainty in the Trump era.

The election of Donald Trump raises a lot of questions for the U.S. solar industry. Trump hasn't exactly been supportive of solar energy, but he hasn't made it an explicit target of his ire either.

President Trump's impact on the solar industry could come through trade policy, an area where the president has fairly wide latitude to make rules. If he labels China a currency manipulator, as he has promised, it would give him wide authority to draw up tariffs on Chinese imports, which he has suggested may be as high as 45 percent -- although a 25 percent across-the-board tariff seems to be a more common proposal. Tariffs that high could have a mixed impact on the economy broadly, and could lead to a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

January 25, 2017

Treasury Nominee Backs Existing Phase-Out of the Wind Energy Tax Credit

Is there hope for the solar tax credit too?

Amid the flurry of news leading up to the inauguration of President Trump, Treasury Secretary Nominee Steven Mnuchin said last week that he supports the existing phase-out of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned Mnuchin on his support for leaving the tax incentive as structured, while working on a broader tax reform proposal.

January 23, 2017

The 7 Most Progressive US Cities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Climate change is a global issue, but if we’re going to correct it, action needs to happen on a local level. National-level initiatives have the potential to sway the habits of a larger audience, but they’re also harder and slower to promote. Cities have the power to pass new regulations quickly and adapt plans for their specific needs, meaning they can implement new policies faster and with greater adoption rates. If enough cities do this, it will be like implementing a national-scale initiative—except far more effective.

We need the major cities of the U.S. to make a more concentrated effort to pursue more sustainable energy practices, and part of that means acknowledging and promoting the cities that do.

January 22, 2017

India Solar Prices Set to Drop on Competition, Costs

The price paid for solar power in India at auction is set to fall below last year’s record lows for the South Asia nation, driven by plummeting panel prices, falling interest rates and competition among developers seeking a slice of the country’s renewables market.

Prices could dip lower than the 4.34 rupees (6 cents) a kilowatt-hour offered in auctions held in the state of Rajasthan a year ago, according to at least one developer of solar projects in India.

“This year we will see prices fall below 4 rupees a kilowatt-hour for sure and it will be viable,” said Rahul Munjal, chairman and managing director of Hero Future Energies Pvt, the clean-energy arm of Hero Group, one of India’s largest automakers.

January 20, 2017

Like Clockwork: California Utilities Should Embrace Clean Energy Solutions when Testing TOU Rates

California’s three major utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) — have proposed plans to move Californians to electricity prices that vary with the time of day. Time-of-use pricing (TOU) is critical to aligning our energy use with times when clean, cheap electricity powered by sunshine and wind is already available. TOU works because electricity is cheap when it can be powered by renewable resources and more expensive during times of peak (high) energy demand. As with any shopping, knowing prices empowers people to choose wisely to save money.

January 19, 2017

The States Most Friendly to Rooftop Solar, Ranked

There’s been some jockeying at the top in the latest rankings from Solar Power Rocks.

For those of you sick of those year-end lists of best movies and music, here's a slight change of pace.

Solar research and advocacy group Solar Power Rocks released its 2017 ranking of the states most friendly to rooftop solar Friday, based on a compilation of state renewables policies and incentives. 

Massachusetts retained top honors, shaking off New York and New Jersey, which had split the gold three ways last year. Eleven states earned failing grades, with Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi rounding out the bottom three.

January 18, 2017

New York’s Plan to Bridge From Nuclear Power to Offshore Wind

With the Indian Point closure now set for 2021, the race is on for clean alternatives from Canadian hydro to DERs. Going big into offshore wind comes later.

Quickly moving from one energy source to another takes a lot of planning in advance. Just ask the state of New York.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement to shut down the 2-gigawatt Indian Point nuclear power plant by 2021, several years ahead of schedule. Then, on Tuesday, he announced a grand plan to build 2.4 gigawatts of offshore windby 2030, starting with a 90-megawatt project off the coast of Long Island.

January 17, 2017

IRENA Convenes Legislators Forum to Engage Key Actors in Renewable Energy Policy

Lawmakers from around the world met last week in Abu Dhabi to discuss the policies needed to support the transformation of the global energy system. Held the day before the opening of the seventh Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the 2017 Legislators Forum, “Renewable Energy – the Role of Legislators in Catalyzing Action”, is the second meeting of its kind hosted by the Agency. The Forum facilitates dialogue between lawmakers on the deployment of renewables and critical challenges facing the energy transformation underway in countries around the world, covering areas of policy, legislation, and tools to support legislators.

January 16, 2017

Wind Farms Stall, Solar Grows as Energy Debate Continues in Ohio

Alternative energy advocates cheered a recent decision by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to veto a recent bill that would have weakened the state’s clean energy standards, arguing the move will lead to more investment and jobs in the industry statewide.

But opponents, including residents engaged in a long legal battle over a proposed Champaign County wind farm, said they have seen laws repeatedly shift on the issue and hope to continue the fight.

The debate centers on Ohio House Bill 554, which lawmakers passed late last year and would have made state alternative energy requirements optional for the next two years. But Kasich vetoed it, meaning the state’s older energy standards will now snap back into place.