Energy Democracy Media Roundup – week of February 20, 2017

This week in Energy Democracy news:

We wrote about big movements in the Minnesota legislature on co-op oversight as well as the impending Sherco natural gas plant. Anti-net metering legislation also advances in Indiana.

Featured Stories

California weighs fair pricing for distributed, centralized energy by John Farrell, CleanTechnica

Video: The coming of energy democracy – Midwest Renewable Energy Fair by John Farrell, CleanTechnica

Sherco power plant: The wrong project, for the wrong reasons, at a big cost by John Farrell and Karlee Weinmann, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Last fall, when asked for their approval of Xcel’s proposed plant, regulators expressed deep skepticism that the proposed 786-megawatt gas facility is the most cost-effective option. Now, Xcel is trying to get around regulatory review and manipulate the economic fears of one Minnesota town — and the admirable desire of legislators to help — to obscure the costly reality of its proposal.

Construction will cost $800 million, per Xcel estimates, not including another $200 million needed to build gas pipeline infrastructure feeding into the plant. Ratepayers will pick up the tab for that, plus another $5 billion in estimated fuel costs over the first 20 years of the facility’s life. That’s an eye-popping cost of nearly $40 million per job.

Value of utility scale vs. rooftop solar debated amid price decline by Kevin Randolph, Daily Energy Insider

Commentary: Removing co-op oversight jeopardizes rural solar by John Farrell and Karlee Weinmann, Midwest Energy News

Legislation introduced last month and working its way through the state’s House (HF234) and Senate (SF141) would put co-op boards themselves, rather than the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), in charge of resolving customer disputes over rates and other policies. Disguised as “local control,” the measure undermines the objective role of the Commission as a mediator between cooperatives and their members.

Co-ops provide electricity across greater Minnesota, and have in recent years come under fire as sharp opponents of distributed solar generation.

Reworked net metering bill passes Senate committee by Nick Janzen, WFYI Indianapolis

Lawmakers amended the bill after hearing testimony largely against it for more than five hours last week. The new version says Hoosiers who currently have solar panels will be paid the full retail rate for 30 years. And Hoosiers who purchase solar panels within the next five years will receive retail rates for excess energy until 2032.

How microgrids are reducing energy costs and increasing reliability by Alex Richardson, Aquicore

The up-front costs for creating what most people in the industry consider a microgrid are still very high, and as a result, they remain economically viable for only a limited set of situations. As Karlee Weinmann, the Energy Democracy Initiative Research Associate at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) pointed out, however, the cost of new technology invariably falls as it is adopted.

“The cost of materials, installation, and maintenance for the components that make up a microgrid are going down, so the value proposition for a microgrid increases in turn,” Weinmann told Aquicore. “The general viability of microgrid projects is also reinforced through replication, like anything else, so the more that various stakeholders test the technology, prove its value, and improve upon it, the easier it is to justify buying in.”

 

Energy Democracy News in the States

California

Solar+storage projects help keep California residential solar growing despite net metering caps by Kathie Zipp, Solar Power World Online

Next stops on the California PUC’s distributed energy roadmap by Julia Pyper, GreenTech Media

The Golden State currently has more than 635,000 distributed solar customers, representing nearly 5,000 megawatts of installed capacity. California has become the leading market for home energy storage and electric vehicles. The state is also driving the conversation on smart inverter standards and community-owned renewable energy projects.

With net metering secure, California solar now faces uncertainty from time-of-use changes by Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media

Third-party energy resources are the future of the electric grid by Constance Douris, PV-Magazine

 

Florida

Two initiatives could empower more households to go solar by Dale White, Sarasota Herald Tribune

 

Hawaii

Bill would impose fines on Hawaii parking lot owners for not having EV spaces by Duane Shimogawa, Pacific Business Journal

Senate Bill 817, introduced by state Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Keaau-Pahala, would mandate “places of public accommodation,” including hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and health care facilities, to have at least one EV parking space per 100 spaces by July 1, 2018 and two parking spaces per 100 spaces by July 1, 2023.

How Hawaii’s new shared renewables program could benefit the electric grid by Julian Spector, GreenTech Media

 

Indiana

Big utilities try to tilt solar energy market in their favor by Brian Slodysko, Bismarck Tribune

Strengthen solar industry, Legislature by Christopher Rohaley, Kokomo Tribune

Tri-Creek advances solar project by Melanie Csepiga, Northwest Indiana Times

A net loss for Hoosiers, progress by Richard D. Waterfield, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Indiana Senate panel OKs bill to reduce solar incentives by Brian Slodysko, Sioux City Journal

Reworked net metering bill passes Senate committee by Nick Janzen, WFYI Indianapolis

Lawmakers amended the bill after hearing testimony largely against it for more than five hours last week. The new version says Hoosiers who currently have solar panels will be paid the full retail rate for 30 years. And Hoosiers who purchase solar panels within the next five years will receive retail rates for excess energy until 2032.

 

Iowa

Iowa utility’s plan preserves net metering, but raises a red flag for solar supporters by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

Iowa not heaven for solar net metering by Frank Andorka, PV-Magazine

 

Kansas

Energy plan a smart move by Lawrence-Journal World Editorial Board

 

Massachusetts

Bill would require Massachusetts to use 100% renewable energy by Paul Tuthill, WAMC Northeast Public Radio

Massachusetts plans to identify microgrid opportunities statewide by Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge

Boston last year mapped out 42 “hot spots” for microgrids and other forms of distributed energy based on preliminary cost benefit and engineering studies. The city also more recently identified several neighborhoods that would benefit from microgrids to ease the effects of climate change.

“That’s enabled Boston as well as project developers to do a fair bit of planning around those sites. That’s an effort we are looking to duplicate – not just for Boston – but for communities statewide. We’re looking to put some funding to that effort in the coming months as well,” Pike told the audience of more than 200 vendors, microgrid developers, energy infrastructure decision-makers, utilities and policy leaders.

 

Michigan

Solar energy workforce in Michigan grows by 48% in 2016 by Annalise Frank, Crain’s Detroit Business

New northern Michigan solar garden expands solar energy access by Megan Woods, 9 & 10 News

Ann Arbor property owners to start energy-saving 2030 district by Logan T. Hanson, MLive

Ann Arbor’s latest stance on taxing solar panels leaves some unhappy by Ryan Stanton, MLive

Farmers will lose tax credits if they go solar by Brenda Battel, Huron Daily Tribune

 

Minnesota

Minnesota report suggests efficiency push could generate 15,000 jobs by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Northeast Minneapolis brewery going solar with beer by Molly Rosenblatt, WCCO – CBS

Renewables: Work together on renewables programs by Mankato Free Press Editorial Board

Commentary: Removing co-op oversight jeopardizes rural solar by John Farrell and Karlee Weinmann, Midwest Energy News

Legislation introduced last month and working its way through the state’s House (HF234) and Senate (SF141) would put co-op boards themselves, rather than the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), in charge of resolving customer disputes over rates and other policies. Disguised as “local control,” the measure undermines the objective role of the Commission as a mediator between cooperatives and their members.

Co-ops provide electricity across greater Minnesota, and have in recent years come under fire as sharp opponents of distributed solar generation.

Sherco power plant: The wrong project, for the wrong reasons, at a big cost by John Farrell and Karlee Weinmann, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Last fall, when asked for their approval of Xcel’s proposed plant, regulators expressed deep skepticism that the proposed 786-megawatt gas facility is the most cost-effective option. Now, Xcel is trying to get around regulatory review and manipulate the economic fears of one Minnesota town — and the admirable desire of legislators to help — to obscure the costly reality of its proposal.

Construction will cost $800 million, per Xcel estimates, not including another $200 million needed to build gas pipeline infrastructure feeding into the plant. Ratepayers will pick up the tab for that, plus another $5 billion in estimated fuel costs over the first 20 years of the facility’s life. That’s an eye-popping cost of nearly $40 million per job.

Changes to Minnesota power plant bill ease some opponents’ concerns by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

City signs up for more solar by Mike Fischenich, Mankato Free Press

The city of Mankato will reduce its future electrical bills by $1.9 million through subscriptions to solar energy projects in the area, boosting the savings by more than 50 percent from its initial agreement last summer.

 

Mississippi

Solar power slowly coming to Mississippi by Tim Kalich, Northside Sun

 

Missouri

Wal-Mart, other companies back Missouri bill to allow power-purchase agreements by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

In America’s heartland, a power company leads charge for electric cars by Robert Siegel, National Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers look to open efficiency benefits to more multi-family buildings by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

 

Montana

Time for Montana to update its energy policies by Matthew Yaeger, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Let’s create jobs, not kill them. As for Northwestern Energy, they are a monopoly, and it is reasonable to ask them to support what is to become a thriving industry in Montana in the coming years, so long as the Legislature cooperates. Despite skyrocketing job growth in solar energy throughout the country, Montana is still sitting on the launch pad due to our outdated energy policy. It’s time to take off.

 

Nebraska

Nebraska lawmakers hear testimony on Sen. Larson’s bills on wind power, shared solar by Cole Epley, Scottsbluff Star Herald

Nebraska’s solar energy potential ranks among the top 15 states, but residents who lack a home with a south-facing roof, or those in a homeowners association that prohibits solar panels, have been left in the shade. And despite fervent opposition to wind development in parts of the state like Cherry County in the Sand Hills, some communities and landowners are clamoring for wind turbines, which are a revenue stream during tight times on the farm.

A pair of proposals from State Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill aim to give some relief: One would establish guidelines for shared community solar programs that would permit groups of residents to participate in such projects; another would create a process for counties to be designated as “wind-friendly” through state agencies.

 

Nevada

Democrats propose doubling Nevada’s renewable energy target by The Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers want solar industry back on track by Sean Whaley, Las Vegas Review-Journal

 

New York

A revolution in getting power to the people by Lisa Frantzis and Stuart Nachmias, Crain’s New York Business

New York moves to update its grid by Carl Weinschenk, Energy Manager Today

 

Ohio

Ohio adds more than 1,000 solar industry jobs by Tom Knox, Dayton Business Journal

Ohio GOP targets clean energy standards, efficiency rules by John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohio State researchers study distribution of electric car power system by Aurora Song, The Lantern

 

Utah

Lawmakers debate bill to extend electric vehicle tax credits, then phase them out by Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News

HB29, sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, seeks to extend the tax credit that lapsed at the end of 2016 but gradually phase it out by 2022.

Handy said the measure is intended to offer a modest stimulation of electric vehicle purchases throughout Utah, without a substantial subsidy, with an eye toward getting pollution out of the air and cleaner cars on the road.

Utah solar advocates demand fewer rooftop solar restrictions, more financing options by Robert Walton, Utility Dive

 

Virginia

After eight years, PACE program poised to launch in Virginia by Jim Pierobon, Southeast Energy News

 

Wisconsin

Plain Talk: Solar jobs surge, no thanks to Scott Walker by Dave Zeifel, The Cap Times

Wisconsin’s solar industry jobs growth jumped 45% in 2016 by Todd Bragstad, Milwaukee Business Journal

Sauk County may seek state solar incentive by Tim Damos, Baraboo News Republic

 

Nationwide Energy Democracy News

Wind tops nation in renewable energy capacity for first time by Devin Henry, The Hill

10 rooftop solar debates to watch in 2017 and beyond by Krysti Shallenberger, Utility Dive

But the animosity between distributed solar companies and utilities from years past continues to simmer as they fight over rate reforms and appropriate compensation for rooftop solar.

Many of these policy debates are transpiring in familiar battlegrounds like Nevada and Arizona. But states in other regions, such as the Southeast and Midwest​, appear ripe for precedent-setting decisions on solar policy. Utility Dive takes a look at the ten states that will host the most heated policy debates over rooftop solar in 2017.

Midwest EVOLVE wants more EVs in flyover country by Sebastian Blanco, Inside EVs

Midwest EVOLVE is going to try and get car shoppers in this relatively EV-free region of the country to test drive, learn about, and finally buy plug-in vehicles. There’s a logical reason for this, said Lew Bartfield, CEO and president, American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, during a presentation in Chicago. Aside from the logical health benefits of cleaner air that EVs bring, this part of the country hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, he said. “The Midwest has been overlooked as a market for electric vehicles,” he said. The solution is to let people test drive these plug-in cars and see for themselves how they work. “Butts on seats, that’s our phrase,” he said.”Butts on seats.”

1 out of 50 new US jobs came from the solar industry in 2016 by Katie Fehrenbacher, GreenTech Media

Last year’s solar market performance made 2016 the fourth consecutive year that U.S. solar jobs grew by 20 percent or more, the report found. It also made for some eye-popping figures, like how 1 out of every 50 new jobs, or 2 percent of new jobs, created in the U.S. in 2016 came from the solar industry.

America’s community solar market will surpass 400MW in 2017 by Mike Munsell, GreenTech Media

U.S. solar jobs grew 25% last year by Nichola Green, Fox Business

There are now twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the US by Brad Plumer, Vox

Citizen power: Arne Jungjohann talks energy democracy by Christian Roselund, PV-Magazine

Research spotlight: Solar cost shift negligible, DER valuation efforts advancing slowly by Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

Proterra CEO: Every new transit bus will be electric by 2030 by Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media

How microgrids are reducing energy costs and increasing reliability by Alex Richardson, Aquicore

The up-front costs for creating what most people in the industry consider a microgrid are still very high, and as a result, they remain economically viable for only a limited set of situations. As Karlee Weinmann, the Energy Democracy Initiative Research Associate at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) pointed out, however, the cost of new technology invariably falls as it is adopted.

“The cost of materials, installation, and maintenance for the components that make up a microgrid are going down, so the value proposition for a microgrid increases in turn,” Weinmann told Aquicore. “The general viability of microgrid projects is also reinforced through replication, like anything else, so the more that various stakeholders test the technology, prove its value, and improve upon it, the easier it is to justify buying in.”

Governors urge Trump to support wind and solar power by Joe Ryan, Bloomberg News

Value of utility scale vs. rooftop solar debated amid price decline by Kevin Randolph, Daily Energy Insider

US Solar market grows 95% in 2016, smashes records by Mike Munsell, GreenTech Media

In its biggest year to date, the United States solar market nearly doubled its annual record, topping out at 14,626 megawatts of solar PV installed in 2016.

This represents a 95 percent increase over the previous record of 7,493 megawatts installed in 2015. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) previewed this data in advance of their upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight report, set to be released on March 9.

War, peace, and innovation: Solar policy in 2016 by Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

Forget tax credits. These two federal policy changes are a more immediate threat to solar by Travis Hoium, GreenTech Media

 

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update.