May 25, 2018

Solar industry Lobbies for Greater Legislative Support in Massachusetts

Clamoring for “long-term stable growth” in their sector, solar industry workers rallied Wednesday for changes that would make it easier and more economical for people to support renewable energy.

After some boom years, employment in the Massachusetts solar industry has dipped, losing about 3,000 jobs in the past two years. The industry now employs 11,500 people in Massachusetts.

“This is still in the early frames of our growth as an industry,” said Zaid Ashai, chairman and CEO of Nexamp, a solar company. He told supporters outside the State House, “It needs to be long-term stable growth.”

May 24, 2018

Ohio Wind-Farm Rules Eased in Proposed State Senate Bill, But Mandates Reduced

There soon may be more wind farms in Ohio.

The Ohio Senate's GOP leadership is making an effort to encourage wind-farm development in the state by eliminating restrictive rules that previous GOP leadership slipped into a budget bill four years ago.

The 2014 changes lengthened the distance a wind turbine can be to an adjoining property line  to 1,125 feet -- rather than to the nearest home on adjacent property -- and ended any further wind project applications in the state.

The Senate is proposing to relax those restrictions. Yet at the same time it is making changes to other state energy laws including those requiring electric companies to sell more energy generated by wind, solar and hydro projects and to develop programs that help customers use less electricity.

May 23, 2018

R.I. Lawmakers Poised to OK Biomass Bill

Foes say a wood burning plant in Johnston would release carbon and potential contaminants.

Despite the objections of environmental groups, the General Assembly is poised to expand a key state renewable energy program in support of a so-called biomass power plant being contemplated in Johnston that would burn wood waste to generate electricity.

The plant is being proposed by North Kingstown-based Green Development, the company that is a lead player in a debate in Rhode Island over the installation of solar arrays in woodlands and farm fields. Green Development has also installed more land-based wind turbines in Rhode Island than any other company, including 10 in Coventry and another seven going up near the Central Landfill in Johnston.

The biomass bill won Senate approval early this month and cleared the House Committee on Corporations on Tuesday. A vote by the full House had yet to be scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesman for Green Development said the company won’t be able to build the biomass plant without the change in law.

“Unless you attach biomass to net metering, the economics simply do not make sense,” said Bill Fischer.

He and others say the bill would help expand Rhode Island’s renewable energy portfolio by offering the same incentives to biomass that wind and solar power already receive.

The legislation would include biomass in the 2011 state net metering law, which allows entities to offset their electric bills through the sale of renewable energy to the power grid.

The change would bring the law in line with the state’s Renewable Energy Standard, which passed in 2004 and includes biomass as a qualifying source. No biomass projects have been developed yet in Rhode Island. National Grid, however, does buy large amounts of biomass power from other parts of New England to meet the annual targets set by the Renewable Energy Standard.

Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall, the Bristol Democrat who introduced the bill in the House, said it makes no sense to purchase biomass power from out of state and not offer incentives to develop it in-state.

“You can’t say that we have a mandate to reach an environmental goal and on the flip side say, ‘We don’t want that to happen,’” Marshall, the senior deputy majority leader, said in an interview.

In written testimony to the legislature, Mark DePasquale, the founder of Green Development, argued that his new plant will use wood waste that would otherwise be thrown away in the Central Landfill and would release methane as it breaks down. (There is a biogas plant at the landfill that burns methane.)

“Rather than throw it away, we would like to process the clean wood in a highly engineered biomass plant to generate steady, baseload power and reduce greenhouse gas production while increasing our energy independence,” he wrote.

But environmental groups that include the Conservation Law Foundation and the Acadia Center counter that burning wood waste will produce carbon emissions and nitrous oxides. They also say that if the plant were to burn other construction or demolition debris, it would release potential contaminants from lead paint and arsenic.

“Expanding use of biomass will increase conventional air pollution by subsidizing a technology — wood burning — that is one of the largest sources of air pollution in the U.S. per megawatt hour of energy produced,” James Bryan McCaffrey, of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, wrote in testimony to the General Assembly.

Johnathan Berard, Rhode Island director of Clean Water Action, wrote in an email, “This legislation would not only undo [Rhode Island’s] long-standing ban on incineration ... but it is clearly a quid pro quo for a prominent campaign donor.”

DePasquale has made more than $30,000 in campaign contributions over the past seven years to state government leaders, including House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Gov. Gina Raimondo.

This is not the first time legislation has been proposed that would help DePasquale’s company.

Under its previous name, Wind Energy Development, it was at the center of a Smith Hill controversy two years ago when the proposed House budget bill included a provision that would have sidestepped a decision by the state Public Utilities Commission and potentially shifted some of the costs to ratepayers for connecting renewable energy to the power grid.

The language in the budget bill was lifted from legislation introduced by then-state Rep. John Carnevale that failed to win passage. Carnevale ended his campaign for reelection after a WPRI story raised questions about whether he resided in the district he represented.

After The Journal wrote about the proposed provision and the way it was designed to help DePasquale’s wind project in Coventry, it was removed from the budget legislation.

The back and forth over biomass is playing out nationally. Last month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency’s determination that biomass is carbon neutral, but opponents of the policy change say it ignores the air pollution caused by burning wood and encourages the felling of trees.

Marshall said that new biomass technology recaptures smoke and burns it to reduce emissions. He also said that the plant in Johnston would only use stumps, wood pallets and other wood waste and not other debris or fresh-cut trees.

The DEM, the state Office of Energy Resources and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers have all taken a neutral position on the legislation.

May 22, 2018

UK: Clean Growth Strategy Slammed by Government Committee as MPs Sound Alarm on Green Finance

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has issued a damning verdict of the government’s approach to clean energy investment in recent years, calling on it to publish an urgent plan to plug looming policy gaps.

And the committee has also issued its withering verdict on the government’s Clean Growth Strategy, a body of work which it said ultimately falls short of its aim and must be rectified with urgent policy decisions.

May 21, 2018

New Jersey Clean Energy Bills Languish on Governor’s Desk

Just over a month ago, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a trio of clean energy bills focusing on sweeping Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) increases along with solar and storage initiatives, reviving an Atlantic City offshore wind farm, and a nuclear bailout.

Known as A3723, the first bill establishes an energy storage goal of 600MW by 2021 and 2GW by 2030 and increases the New Jersey RPS to 35% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. Also, the solar carve-out or solar renewable portfolio standard is increased to 5.1% by 2021 while reducing solar alternative compliance payments (SACP) over future years. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) is further directed to close the existing Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program upon achievement of the 5.1% goal and modifying or replacing the SREC program to encourage further efficient development of solar renewable generating sources. And last, the bill establishes a Community Solar Energy Pilot Program that is set to become permanent no later than 36 months after the NJBPU adopts regulations for the pilot program.

May 18, 2018

Massachusetts Rejects Smart Meter Rollouts, as Competitive Energy Undermines the Business Case

How customers migrating to third-party and municipal electric services have put National Grid, Unitil and Eversource’s AMI plans in question.

Massachusetts regulators see a future in which customers are leaving investor-owned utilities for municipal aggregators and competitive third-party suppliers, and they aren't sure how to fit mass-market smart meter deployments into that future. 

May 17, 2018

India Ready With Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy, Auctions Concept

India’s renewable energy ministry has finalised a policy that aims to promote the development of large hybrid power plants, combining wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Solar and wind resources in India are complementary to each other and the installation of hybrid systems reduces variability, and further optimises the use of land and transmission capacity, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) explains in the document.

May 15, 2018

Regulators Reject Dominion’s 100% Renewable Energy Plan in Virginia

Clean energy advocates called the decision “a victory” for customers and competition in the state.

Virginia regulators have rejected a proposal from Dominion Energy to offer 100 percent renewable energy plans to large electricity customers in the state. 

The decision was praised by clean energy groups and retail suppliers that argued that approving the utility program would effectively eliminate third-party competition. Under current Virginia law, third-party companies can sell 100 percent renewable power directly to customers, unless the customer’s incumbent utility offers a separate 100 percent renewable tariff, like the one Dominion put forward.

May 14, 2018

Taiwan Adds to Offshore Wind’s Eastern Promise

Taiwan is Asia’s No. 2 offshore market, behind China.

Taiwan’s first offshore wind allocation last month could jolt other markets into action as Asia-Pacific nations race to seize manufacturing capacity.

Robert Liew, senior analyst for the Asia-Pacific region at MAKE Consulting, told GTM that government planners in Japan and South Korea might fast-track offshore wind plans following Taiwan’s announcement. 

May 13, 2018

California Regulator OKs Solar Panels Mandate for New Homes

California moved a step closer to requiring solar panels on new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020, the first such mandate nationwide and the state’s latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards,” said Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association. “You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens.”

May 9, 2018

New Bipartisan Legislation Would Repeal Trump’s Solar Tariffs

“I don’t know what good can possibly come as a consequence of stifling the growth of solar power.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would throw out Trump administration tariffs on imported solar products.

"Under this legislation, duties and tariffs would default back to previous rates and would allow companies that imported any affected solar products under this new tariff to receive retroactive reimbursement," according to a press release. 

May 8, 2018

California Energy Regulators Delve Into Threats and Opportunities of ‘Customer Choice’

The CPUC explores potential pitfalls and solutions to utilities losing customers to distributed energy providers, community choice aggregators.

Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission launched an effort to grapple with how the rise of distributed energy resources, third-party energy services business models, and community-choice aggregators were fundamentally altering the state’s energy landscape — for good, or potentially, for ill. 

May 7, 2018

Net Metering Gets a Lifeline in South Carolina

Solar advocates are hopeful they’ll get to keep the policy that has enabled South Carolina’s rooftop solar market to grow.

House representatives in South Carolina passed a measure late Wednesday night that would raise the state's net metering cap from 2 percent to 4 percent, allowing future rooftop solar customers to earn a credit for the excess power they produce. 

May 6, 2018

US DOE Puts Up $14.5 Million for Innovative Geothermal Drilling Tech

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) last week said it is making up to $14.5 million in new funding available to advance geothermal energy development. The Efficient Drilling for Geothermal Energy (EDGE) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) focuses on geothermal drilling in support of accelerating the research and development of innovative geothermal energy technologies in the U.S.

“Advancing research in geothermal drilling technologies will help harness the heat beneath our feet to expand our domestic energy resources,” Daniel Simmons, principal deputy assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said in a statement. “Geothermal is a reliable, baseload renewable energy source with firm and flexible operation, allowing it to provide a range of essential services that contribute to our nation’s grid stability and resiliency.”

May 2, 2018

Is the Middle East’s Solar Market Breakthrough Finally Happening?

A new joint report examines the shifting tide for fuel subsidies and what it means for solar markets.
Solar’s time has (nearly) come in the Middle East.

According to GTM Research's new Global Solar Market Attractiveness Index, the region is home to some of the most attractive markets for new-build solar in the world, and a steady stream of internationally competitive tenders — including more than 8 gigawatts expected in 2018 — has created a sizable pipeline of utility-scale projects in the Gulf, driven prices to record lows and caught the attention of the world.

May 1, 2018

How Solar Scored a ‘Game-Changing’ Victory in Florida

Regulatory approval of Sunrun’s solar lease could signal a turning point for the Sunshine State.

Solar energy has a complex history in the Sunshine State, which made a regulatory win for residential installer Sunrun last week feel like a victory for all Floridian solar advocates.

The Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously last Friday to allow Sunrun to sell its home solar lease product in the state. Up until the petition was granted, households in Florida were unable to lease solar systems due to restrictions on electricity sales from third-party providers.

April 30, 2018

A Regional Grid Helps, Not Hurts Distributed Renewable Energy

NRDC, Vote Solar, a former Colorado Commissioner and others make the case for a regional transmission grid.

We have been hearing concerns that moving to a regional transmission operator to connect the Western U.S. somehow harms the prospects for greater development of distributed energy resources, especially local solar and storage, and could lead to an increase in the use of fossil fuels elsewhere in the region. A careful analysis of the facts shows these concerns are unfounded and that in fact, the opposite is true. A regional grid operator will be beneficial for renewable energy development, including distributed generation, for multiple reasons.

Replacing a highly balkanized and inefficient group of grid operators (see the WECC balancing area map below), many of which rely on outdated and highly polluting power plants, with a fully coordinated regional system operator will make better use of the existing interconnected grid, more efficiently share electricity reserves allowing for the accelerated retirement of unneeded facilities, and give more value to cleaner, renewable power sources. 

April 29, 2018

How Trump Can Beat China Without a Trade War: Make America a Renewable Energy Superpower

So far we have let China dominate renewable energy industries. Why not catch up and take the lead, like we did in the space race?

If I were President Trump’s trusted adviser, this is what I would tell him. 

You can make America great again and beat China. It’s up to you. China is well on its way to becoming the renewable energy superpower of the future. We can still come from behind and take the lead — if you make it a national priority. 

April 27, 2018

Michigan to Replace Net Metering Program with Avoided-Cost Tariff

Michigan utility customers who put surplus electricity they generate back onto the power grid will be paid a lower, avoided-cost rate after June 1.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued an order Wednesday replacing the state’s net metering policy with an avoided-cost tariff based on how much utilities would pay to build the same amount of generation themselves.

Liesl Eichler Clark, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, said the decision will create uncertainty for customers and installers.

April 26, 2018

Critics say Bill to Authorize PACE in Minnesota Contains a Fatal Flaw

Minnesota lawmakers may allow homeowners to finance energy improvements through their property taxes, but critics say the bill is flawed.

A bill allowing local governments to offer residential PACE programs in Minnesota has gained bipartisan support and may likely pass this session.

But critics say the way the legislation prioritizes loans could prevent any residential PACE program from ever getting off the ground.

April 25, 2018

Advocates Seek More Momentum for Massachusetts Offshore Wind

Clean energy advocates say offshore wind is not being taken seriously enough as an option amid discussions of transmission lines and natural gas pipelines.

Coastal Massachusetts is blustery enough that a robust offshore wind system could power a residential and commercial electricity load that is 20 times larger than exists today.

April 24, 2018

Cynthia Nixon Calls for New York to Fully Embrace Renewable Energy by 2050

In her first major environmental proposal, Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for the Democratic nomination, called on New York State to commit to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050, a benchmark that has been something of a Holy Grail for activists concerned about the warming of the planet as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.

Her announcement on Friday came just hours after the governor’s office had issued its own call for increased efficiency targets to right “the devastating effects of climate change.” Both moves seemed calculated to coincide with Earth Day on Sunday, but also as a means of upstaging the other’s initiatives.

April 23, 2018

New Bipartisan Legislation Would Repeal Trump’s Solar Tariffs

“I don’t know what good can possibly come as a consequence of stifling the growth of solar power.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would throw out Trump administration tariffs on imported solar products.

"Under this legislation, duties and tariffs would default back to previous rates and would allow companies that imported any affected solar products under this new tariff to receive retroactive reimbursement," according to a press release. 

April 22, 2018

Mexico Grows as World Leader on Energy Reform and Renewables

Mexico’s liberalized energy markets present huge potential for wind and solar. But how do Mexico’s reforms fit into the wider energy picture?

By the end of 2018, Mexico's oil and gas industry will be completely open to private investment from domestic and foreign companies across the value chain — from oil exploration to gas stations. Since liberalizing its energy markets Mexico has become something of a model for countries that wish to encourage investment, innovation and competition across their energy sectors.

April 20, 2018

Wind Forecast: Doubling Global Capacity by 2027 Will Be a Breeze

MAKE predicts 65 gigawatts more wind per year over the coming decade.

Global wind capacity is set to double by 2027, driven by a rush to capture tax subsidies in the U.S., the rise of emerging markets, and a coming surge for offshore wind.

New projections from MAKE Consulting show wind power additions averaging 65 gigawatts a year from 2018 to 2027, equal to a compound annual growth rate of 4 percent.