The solar homeowner has enough challenges at his or her doorstep without yet another obstacle. Some utilities have welcomed solar as a growing part of their energy portfolio—and yet still others see solar as a threat, to be stopped at any cost. This blog entry is about the latter sort. You probably have a hard enough time in reading your electricity bill—do the utilities do that on purpose? Try finding the average rate utility customers are paying in your region. You may be lucky and the utility may provide good access to that data—or not. If they can obscure the information and get away with it, who wants to sift through all of the arcane data? And that is the backdrop to the new net metering battles playing out throughout the country.
Posts Tagged ‘solar energy’
We went to a reception by the Clean Economy Network last night—we had a chance to meet with lawyers and lobbyists, financial analysts, and even a few solar energy installers. We got a good review of industry trends and some of the upcoming challenges from Reed Hundt, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital and Ethan Zindler, Head of Research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. There is obviously keen interest in renewable energy these days. Take a look at the news article we posted today on some of the latest optimistic trends in the solar industry. Support for solar energy is up—right across the board, regardless of party affiliation or geography. Some want to reduce the threat of global warming, and some want to create jobs, and still others simply want to do their part to save energy. The solar energy industry is optimistic that the residential PV market will continue to expand. At the reception, despite some of the hopeful signs, there were some long faces in the room.
The death of the energy bill has left a lot of people pointing fingers at each other, and a lot of people wondering if we cannot now take action on climate change, then when—and by whom? A Washington Post article today identifies some very unhappy House Democrats who went out on limb last year to support the energy bill and combat climate change. They now understandably feel hung out to dry. I think that the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman best summarizes the events of the last few days: “Greed, aided by cowardice has triumphed.”
SolarTown met with Mr. Paul Brandus, a White House correspondent with a huge interest in green issues. Brandus is a strong advocate of renewable energy, relating a story on how he personally asked President Obama when solar panels would be installed on the White House, on three separate occasions. Although no solar modules have yet to grace the President’s residence, Brandus expressed his desire to see the 132 rooms of the White House heated by the rays of the sun and the power of the wind, calling the act a great symbolic value to the nation. Incorporating solar and other forms of alternative energy into the lives of Americans is still a major challenge. Interest in environmental-related topics is only illustrated when major catastrophes such as the BP oil spill occurs. After the disaster dies down, the interest responds accordingly. Brandus believes that it will take awhile for solar and renewable energy to fully assimilate into everyone’s lives.
“The time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” said the President during his talk on the BP oil spill earlier this month. For much of the past year, the nation’s energy policy has played second fiddle to , well, everything else, but primarily health care and most recently financial reform. Deadlines have come and gone, and with the mid-terms elections around the corner, it is hard to see how Obama will pick a rabbit out of the hat and push the energy agenda forward.
What is clear is that as states and local governments are cutting back on their solar energy programs, just at the time when the solar industry needs this support the most. The Maryland program cut its rebate program with only a few days notice. Take a look at our SolarTown news stories to read about some of the states that are throwing their renewable energy programs to the wind in an effort to close budget gaps.
The school where my kids go encouraged all students to walk to school today. We usually drive them to school, so we had to get them up and out of the house a little earlier this morning. I got up and went downstairs to see if they had already gotten up and saw that all of the lights in the kitchen were on and all of the lights in the den were on and all of the lights in the TV room were on—and no sign of my kids who were still upstairs watching Mythbusters on a laptop. Now you have to realize that my kids are generally very environmentally conscious and very supportive of SolarTown’s mission to promote solar energy. But there sometimes is this huge gap between your views and beliefs and taking action on your beliefs. My son is a hard core believer but a less than hard core doer. And that is the challenge we have on Earth Day: how do we move from what we believe to taking actions, even modest ones like turning off the lights when we are out of the room
Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat gave the keynote address at today’s George Washington University Solar Institute Symposium here in Washington, D.C. Eizenstat, domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter, was there when Carter installed solar panels on the White House in the late 1970s, when the promise of solar seemed bright. Eizenstat recounted that the “momentum waned” and the solar panels were “dismantled by the next president.” Eizenstat laid out a powerful argument for solar: national security.
The solar industry applauded when the 30% federal tax credit was extended to 2016 and the legislation lifted the cap. The reason of course is that for all intents and purposes, the solar industry is just emerging and needs substantial support, and the stability in the incentives provides this support. But now one important part of this program, known as the treasury grant program, has been placed in jeopardy. Four senators released a letter in which they urged the Obama Administration to suspend this program until the legislation could be amended to allow only for clean energy projects “that preserve and create jobs in the United States.” You can read the full text of the letter here. The abrupt fits and starts of incentive programs, and not just this federal program, only serve to stall the march to solar.
Buried on page 20 of our local paper was a news item “Students push solar for NCS.” The National Cathedral School may not qualify as you your average American school. (For those of you not in the know, NCS is a private school home to some of sons and daughters of the elite of the Nation’s Capital.) But what is going on at NCS may be a glimpse of what the future holds. The article in the Northwest Current chronicles how NCS is now planning on installing 32 solar panels on a century old (read historical) building at NCS—due to the insistence and perseverance of two students at NCS, Charlotte Zimmerman and Christina Boulineaux. The two raised $20,000 and even interviewed solar contractors so that they could place these solar panels on NCS.
The Renewable Energy Technology Conference (RETECH 2010) here in Washington, D.C. convened over the last couple of days. I am sure that there will be much written about the conference that concentrated on strategic issues, finance and incentives for renewable energy. The Conference highlighted many of the common challenges faced by renewable energy projects, regardless of whether they are solar PV, biomass, wind or geothermal. There were some recurrent themes at many of the sessions that I attended on federal and state incentive programs, local programs, and financing of solar energy products.