Obama Just Picked The Customer’s Side Against The Nevada Utility That’s Trying To Kill Rooftop Solar
Everything that is happening in the solar industry is happening in Nevada right now.
On the one hand, President Obama announced a slew of new incentives and financing mechanisms for renewable energy and efficiency Monday at the 8th annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, hosted by solar champion Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).
But he also seemed to be taking the local utility to task during the speech. On Wednesday, Nevada’s public utility commission (PUC) will decide whether to agree with a proposal by the local utility and implement huge rate increases in solar customers that industry insiders say will completely devastate the residential market in the state.
“We see the trend lines. We see where technology is taking us. We see where consumers want to go,” Obama said Monday. “That, let’s be honest, has some fossil fuel interests pretty nervous, to the point where they are trying to fight renewable energy.”
“Americans spend eight per cent of their disposable income on all forms of energy,” David Crane told me. Crane is the C.E.O. of NRG, the country’s biggest independent power provider; the company operates more than a hundred energy-generation facilities, selling electricity to utilities that, in turn, sell it to customers. Nobody wants that eight-per-cent figure to rise, Crane said, because when energy prices go up the country tends to trip into recession. But plenty of companies, including Crane’s, would like to see a larger slice of that eight per cent. “I’m interested in electric cars, for instance, not just because of the effect on air quality but because I want to take market share away from oil,” Crane said. “It’s a brutal fight for market share.”
Power utilities now face uncertainty of a kind that traditional phone companies faced when cellular technology emerged. A few utilities welcome the challenge; others are resisting it; and the rest are waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
We now have more insights into how the clean-tech economy is doing from this year’s sixth annual US Clean Tech Leadership Index. The index, prepared by Clean Edge, a research and indexing firm founded in 2000, tracks and ranks clean-tech activities in all 50 states and the largest 50 metro areas in the US. It provides a powerful tool for regional comparative research, aggregating industry data, and deep, data-driven analysis of the American clean-energy market.
Hawaii is on its way to having the greenest grid in the nation.
The state legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk this week that moves the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) up to 100 percent by 2045 — which means that all electricity provided by the electric companies will have to come from renewable sources like solar and wind. Nationwide, electricity generation makes up about a third of all carbon emissions.
“We’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100 percent renewable electricity goal,” State Senator Mike Gabbard (D) told ThinkProgress in an email. “Through this process of transformation we can be the model that other states and even nations follow. And we’ll achieve the biggest energy turnaround in the country, going from 90 percent dependence on fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy.”
Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels — oil, natural gas, and coal — will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere. For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum. If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy — as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries.
“In a few years, solar energy plants will deliver the most inexpensive power available in many parts of the world. By 2025, the cost of producing power in central and southern Europe will have declined to between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt hour, and by 2050 to as low as 2 to 4 cents.” These are the main conclusions of a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems commissioned by the German think tank Agora Energiewende. In view of these conclusions, “plans for future power supply systems should therefore be revised worldwide”, says Patrick Graichen, Director of Agora.
After two years of research, the Department of Energy released a report on Thursday estimating how much energy the U.S. could get from wind in the next 35 years. The results were extremely optimistic: under an “ambitious but credible” scenario, America could get 10 percent of its power from wind by 2020; 20 percent by 2030; and 35 percent by 2050, the report said.
In order for this to happen, though, the report acknowledged that “new tools, priorities, and emphases” need to be set in place beyond the wind industry’s own efforts. Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), told ThinkProgress that one of the most important priorities is giving tax benefits to the wind industry.
“A key determinant is having a stable federal tax policy, which as you may know, every form of other energy source has — at least every other fossil fuel-based source of electric generation,” he said. “They have tax benefits, tax support, that are permanent in the tax code. For wind, major tax support is not permanent.”
Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about a grave new threat to operators of America’s electric grid: not superstorms or cyberattacks, but rooftop solar panels.
If demand for residential solar continued to soar, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems, from “declining retail sales” and a “loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence,” according to a presentation prepared for the group. “Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” it said.
Markets and governments are converging to address climate change. As scientific evidence and government actions strengthen, investors and financiers are reducing the exposure of their portfolios to risks from rising greenhouse-gas emissions. They are allocating more capital to low-carbon activities and less to carbon-intensive industries.
In September 2014, banks, insurance companies, charities, and pension, mutual and endowment funds announced that they would direct an extra US$125 billion per year until 2020 to investments that address climate change. Fossil fuels are being divested from by influential funds, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of New York, and universities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
A major new study from a leading German think tank and renewable energy specialist says the cost reduction potential of large scale solar is still misunderstood, and predicts that solar PV will be the cheapest form of power within a decade, and cost less than $US0.02/kWh by 2050.
The study by the Berlin-based Agora Energiewende says that the end to cost reductions from solar plants is “not in sight”, even after falling more than 80 per cent in recent years.
It cites a range or reasons for this. Primarily, though, it comes down to an expected doubling in module efficiency, which will mean less panels are needed to produce the same amount of power, and therefore less land, less materials, less maintenance and lower installation costs.