AB 2188 California affordable solar energy

AB 2188 Makes California Solar Affordable

AB 2188 California affordable solar energyA Bill in California, called AB 2188 aims at making solar energy more affordable.

AB 2188 makes California solar affordable

The very promising solar bill, AB 2188 is currently making its way through the California Legislature, with a good shot at taking the sting out of solar energy costs. As the U.S. and China fight a desperate tit-for-tat war on solar panel tariffs, consumers are left paying the extra fees, reducing our energy independence progression.

According to the ECOreport, the Californian bill AB 2188 would streamline the permit process, something that is still very much needed in the Sates, despite recent moves to make it easier to install solar energy. This could be the result of Sunrun, a company that recently released a report stating it could deliver an additional $5 billion into the State’s sagging economy.

Bill AB 2188 passed Assembly

So far, the bill passed the Assembly  by a clear victory of 58 against 8. It is now going to the senate. CleanTechnica printed the interview ECOReports conducted with Walker Wright, Director of Government Affairs at Sunrun.

Soft costs hinder residential solar energy progression

The gist is that, soft costs are still slowing down the progression of solar energy for residential areas. The cost of solar panels and associated electronics might have come down dramatically over the last few years, but the non-hardware costs (soft costs), are negating the price declines. In other words, the soft costs associated with alternative energy are still a high barrier to making solar energy affordable. Europe has already done much to lower these soft costs, but the U.S. trails other countries there.

Soft costs include the permitting, customer acquisition, labor, installations, etc., and account for up to 50-70% of the total installation cost. In other words, if your solar array hardware cost is $10,000, be prepared to spend anywhere from another $5,000 to 7,500 more for the installation. Add to this that the permits can run an extra 5-20% of the total cost, depending on your location and size of the system, and you can see how many shy away from installing their own energy system.

Money talks to politicians

Petitions might be great, but bottom line dollars is still what talks most to politicians eager to keep California’s chronic budget mismanagement problems under control. By streamlining the permitting process across municipalities, this will reduce the costs, which will make solar more affordable to many homeowners across various income levels. This in turn, helps grow the California energy economy, while creating clean economy jobs, other wise known as green collar jobs.

Specifically, AB 2188 would enforce short permit time lines, with inspections happening within 5 days of the request and the application review within 24 hours. This would cut down on the current weeks it takes to approve a solar energy project for a residential rooftop. We hope AB 2188 goes through the California Senate and help boost the economy, which is to everyone’s advantage.

Mitsubishi PV

Iowa Supreme Court Allows Solar Turnkey Solutions

Utility fight consumer energy choiceA historic ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court allows Eagle Point to provide its solar turnkey solutions services where utilities are. Why is this important? The consequences are far reaching.

Supreme Court allows residential solar energy

According to CleanTechnica, The Iowa lower court ruling nullified a previous finding by The Iowa Utilities Board that had ruled Eagle Point’s activities classified it as a public utility. This means that it could not operate within another utility’s service area, in this case, Alliant Energy.

It’s a shame the majority of utilities are stalling the inevitable with residential energy making. It must happen, will happen, and in many ways, is already happening. Going against it is a certain way to make sure they will be left behind as irrelevant business models. Fighting with lobby power against the wish of consumers will only further the negative image they already have.

Iowa Supreme Court allows Eagle Point to provide its solar turnkey solutions services

The Iowa Supreme Court sets a precedent allowing smaller solar energy companies to install an energy turnkey solution on the rooftops of private homes where utilities already operate.

“According to the district court, Eagle Point’s provision of electric power through a “behind the meter” solar facility was not the type of activity which required a conclusion that Eagle Point was a public utility.

“The district court further found that  although it was conceivable under some circumstances that an entity that was not a public utility could nevertheless be an electric utility under the applicable statutory provisions, Eagle Point’s proposed arrangement with the city did not make it an electric utility for purposes of the statutes.”

Thanks to Power purchase agreements (PPAs), distributed solar installations on residential rooftops is becoming a feasible possibility, alluring many families eager to tame the country’s ever-decreasing power of purchase and ever-rising inflation. In other words, the push from consumers to take back some power of decision by becoming energy makers with the help of solar panels on their rooftops is finally a reality with PPAs, something utilities are fighting back against.

In the end, I’m left with the words Ed Kjaer from Southern California Edison (SCE) told me back in 2008 that SCE is not interested in building new power centrals, but becoming energy efficiency managers. This is also a good definition of what a smart grid is, efficiently managing energy production form various sources, in a redundant way.

Make no mistakes, this court ruling will create waves among the utility circles, who will surely show they will be fighting it tooth and nail.


U.S. Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales slump in June

June is never the best month for car sales, and this past one confirms the rule for electric vehicles (EV) and their plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cousins. Overall, EVs and PHEVs are still selling well, despite the predictable June Gloom. These numbers give us a better insight as to the motivation of the buyers. Consumers are looking for a more economical vehicle to operate in the long run than gasoline.

EDTA shows expected June Gloom sales

June Gloom is that time of the year in Southern California when a fine marine layer cover the sky in the morning and gets burned off by the mid-day sun. It usually lasts two weeks in June, and it’s expected. June car sales go through the same thing. Car sales predictably go through its June Gloom period.

The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) shows  us the good news, EVs and PHEVs are still doing fairly overall, even if the number dropped down this past month of June.

As you can see from the chart, EVs and PHEVs are still selling well and continue to do so from year-to-year.

The numbers break down as follows:

EDTA June Sales EV and PHEVJune saw more EVs and PHEVs leave car dealerships than January, February and April.

You can compare those numbers to last year:

EDTA June Sales EV and PHEV 2013

Over all, the numbers are down by a few thousand compared to the previous year, but nothing dramatic, and certainly very much to be expected.

I believe the momentum of clean plug-in electric vehicle somewhat tapers off currently. We are experiencing a lull in new vehicles, as OEM have already delivered their first vehicles. After the first wave of early adopters bought the first round of the first generation of these electric plug-in vehicles, the next wave is getting ready. Tesla Motors will be releasing its Model X hopefully at the end of this year, although early 2015 seems more likely. Mainstream carmakers, such as GM, Honda and the rest, are gathering data on their first test in the field.

In the meantime, the hydrogen fuel cell team is beating the drum to let you know it is still here and pushing the technology. Again, as much as I believe in the hydrogen fuel cell technology, I see many obstacles when it comes to its use in transportation. I believe it will find a better application in the alternative energy world.

Plug-in Smart!

EPA mandates cleaner power plant emissions

EPA mandates cleaner power plant emissions
EPA mandates cleaner power plant emissions

Good news from the EPA who proposed on June 2, 2014, a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants.

EPA mandates cleaner emission for power power plants

So far, States, cities and businesses are taking action to address the risks of climate change by looking at their environment. The EPA’s proposal wants to reinforce the actions already in place, in order States and power plants mix their various energy sources to take opportunities, as they go forward. This also helps the different key players see the important role they play as partners with the federal government in cutting pollution.

The proposal aims to maintain an affordable, reliable energy system that cuts down on pollution and protects our nation’s health, environment now, and for future generations.

Click here for more.

Plug-in Smart!

How microgrids will save the grid

Natural energyMuch like the Internet is based on a redundant system, knock out one server, thousands more will relay the data packs, our national grid needs to move in that direction. The problem is, it takes time and the decades of deferred maintenance are slowing down its transformation into a smart grid. To make things worse, it costs more to maintain each year, the costs of which are passed on to customers.

Microgrids to the rescue!

Yesterday, we looked at the definition of a microgrid, today, we look at their strengths. Last year’s Council of Economic Advisers report was a serious wake up call. Superstorm Sandy prompted a few studies and reported the average annual cost for U.S. weather-related outages between 2003 and 2012 at an inflation-adjusted $18 billion to $33 billion.

Although a smart grid will increase reliability, efficiency, redundancy, and help bring in renewable energy sources into utilities’ portfolio, microgrids are the ideal interim solution while building the bigger picture.

Microgrids involve storage capacity, local energy generation, which can be renewables, but mostly are customized to meet individual energy needs and demand. The best part is that energy transmission losses are seriously reduced since by definition, they are local and use cleaner sources, another added benefits for local communities.

Traditional energy systems on the fritz

The news this week for traditional energy, which we should really be calling alternative energy if you think about it, is that petroleum production is down, scaled back from over-optimistics estimates. Add to this a lower demand on gasoline, lower shale deposits estimates, some have been slashed by 96% and you can see what is about to happen.

Prediction of a hot month of June is raising clean natural gas (CNG) estimates with little data to back it up. At below $100 a barrel for crude, investments are not justified to dig deep into the Artic, but at $120+, that would a different story. On top of this, the Department of Commerce has just approved fine on Chinese solar panels, from 18% to 33, which doesn’t help at all the alternative energy industry in the US. Google the whole German SolarWorld WTO China complaints to see how narrow-sighted that strategy is.

Do you have a clearer picture of what is happening? There are no policy makers with a strong enough vision to make the right decision for the highest benefit of our country. They cannot even take the right actions so much corporate pressure, each pulling interests in their small market corners. Just call me optimistic, but it seems individuals and mid-size companies will drive the real demand for the right future.

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