Rank #1: Fracking
Jul 22 2015
Rank #2: The Path to Energy Independence with John Farrell of the ILSR
The threat isn’t new solar technology, but the ways in this technology is being deployed and paid for. Historically, utilities generate and distribute electricity, and charge customers for their usage. Indeed, about 5 GW of utility solar will be installed in 2015 -- more than the commercial and residential sectors combined. But the price of electricity to residential and commercial customers continues to increase. Even though utility scale solar is the cheapest new generating source of electricity, customers are not benefitting. To make matters worse, customers can install their own solar power plants and generate their own electricity for less than the utility charges.
The centralized monopoly utility business model must change because electricity can now be generated, consumed, stored and even distributed on a local level. John Farrell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR), focuses on issues surrounding renewable energy, utility power, and energy-generation. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as John shares with us his insights on how utilities are trying to adapt to the new world of distributed generation.
Dec 29 2015
Rank #3: Net Metering and Future Solar Electric Rates
Sep 29 2015
Rank #4: Solar Incentives In 2016
As a result of the hard work at solar advocacy groups SEIA, Vote Solar and CALSEIA, the ITC is good through 2021 (30% in 2016-2019, then 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021). And unlike their brethren in Nevada and Hawaii, the California Public Utilities Commission has made a preliminary decision to extend retail net metering, albeit at a slightly reduced rate.
But there is still real urgency to go solar: the sooner your installation is complete and you flip that switch to “on,” the sooner you’ll reduce your electric bill. Granted, installation costs are likely to be a little lower in future years, but electric rates keep going up and the “cost of doing nothing” will only grow as you pay your monthly electric bill. Many states still have rebate programs and caps on net metering – so check with your local installer to find out the status of incentives for your home or business. For more about the extension of the ITC and local net metering programs, please Listen Up to the Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.
Jan 18 2016
Rank #5: Ten Utility Electricity Myths
This week were talking about ten utility electric company myths and were going to debunk these myths, but first a little background. Electric utilities started in the U.S. in the 1880s. Thomas Edison came up with a way of generating DC power, and then George Westinghouse came up with a concept of AC power, which ultimately became the industry standard and grew rapidly. The fundamentals of the utility industry are you generate power in a central location with big power plants; originally coal fired, then oil, then gas, then nuclear, now solar. You then have transmission lines that transmit the electricity at high voltages over long distances. Then you have local distribution networks –those utility wires above and underground, and transformers that look like tin cans on utility poles, and these local distribution lines send lower voltage power to businesses and homes in the area. It’s a terrific industry, many innovations and it’s been a key part of our industrial economy’s growth. They deliver power safely, and relatively inexpensive in relation to what it used to cost –it is pretty affordable when you consider the alternatives, such as putting in your own wood burning generator --crazy.
But the thing is, the way we generate power and the way we can now store power, and the way we are using the technology is changing rapidly. The way we would store power even as little as ten years ago was we would build dams to store water, then run turbines to generate electricity as the water in the dam goes down. We can still do that but it is easier to store power in a battery.
Now that we have solar and wind power, as well as affordable energy storage we have to reconsider the role of utility companies. Because of changes in technology, we have less need for big utility companies that generate power centrally and transmit that power over long distances to our homes and businesses.
So where all this going is and what does it mean for homeowners and businesses? Listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we cover the top ten myths about utility companies that they use to justify their actions to ratepayers and competing industries like solar.
Aug 02 2018
Rank #6: Financing Your Commercial Solar Installation
New financing options for commercial solar are changing this picture. Banks are getting more involved in providing unsecured loans for solar installations, and secured solar loans are becoming available that offer relatively low interest rates. Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE loans are perhaps the most significant innovation.
PACE loans are secured by the property itself, and are paid back as part of annual tax assessments. If the property is sold the loan on the solar improvement automatically goes to the new owner. The loan debt typically does not show up on a company’s balance sheet. And if the property is leased to a tenant with a triple net lease in which the tenant pays an allocated part of the property taxes, then a portion of the solar repayment loan can be automatically passed on to the tenant (who in exchange gets the benefit of free solar electricity).
If you own or have a long term lease on a commercial property in a solar friendly state, please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World for the latest on financing options for your commercial solar installation.
Feb 23 2016
Rank #7: Understanding A Home Solar Sales Pitch
Apr 14 2015
Rank #8: The Rates They Are A Changin'
When the new TOU rates become available this spring, PG&E will end its solar friendly E-6 and E-7 rates. The new TOU rates will not be as favorable to solar customers since the peak rate periods are shifted later in the day when there is less generation from solar (see details below).
For most customers we recommend that you immediately change to the E-6 rate so that you can preserve this good rate option for the future.
If you are on the current E-6 TOU rate you don’t need to do anything. This E-6 rate is currently slated to stay in place until 2020 or later.
If you are on the old E-7 rate we recommend that you immediately change to the E-6 rate. Otherwise, PG&E will automatically switch you to the new TOU rate, which will not save you as much money as the E-6 rate.
If you are on an EV rate and charge your vehicle at night, stay on the EV rate.
If you are on the current E-1 rate and do not use a lot of electricity during weekday afternoons, we recommend that you change to the E-6 rate. Since the E-1 rate has no time of use component, it is generally good for customers who cannot run their meters backwards during the day (typically smaller solar systems and higher daytime AC electric loads). All current solar customers are on the Net Metering 1.0 program (and grandfathered for 20 years), so you can go back to the E-1 rate if the E-6 rate is not beneficial for you.
Clear as mud, right? Unfortunately, these rate changes are complicated. Nevertheless, we want you to achieve the maximum benefits from your rooftop solar system. For more information, please call PG&E at (800) 743-5000 to discuss your rate options and decide whether moving to E-6 is the best option for you.
PEAK: noon to 6pm Monday through Friday, All Year, $0.16-$0.54/kwh
OFF-PEAK: all other hours, $0.13-$0.30/kwh
Summer (May 1 through October 31)
PEAK: 1pm to 7pm Monday through Friday, $0.34-$0.51/kwh
PARTIAL-PEAK: 10am to 1pm and 7pm to 9pm Monday through Friday, plus 5pm to 8pm Saturday and Sunday, $0.23-0.39/kwh
OFF-PEAK: All other times, including Holidays, $0.15-$0.32/kwh
Winter (November 1 through April 30)
PARTIAL-PEAK: 5pm to 8pm Monday through Friday, $0.17-$0.34/kwh
OFF-PEAK: All other times, including Holidays, $0.15-$0.32/kwh
PEAK: 2PM-9PM Monday-Friday, 3PM-7 PM Sat, Sun, Holidays, $0.44/kwh Summer, $0.31/kwh Winter
PARTIAL PEAK: 7AM-2PM Monday-Friday, 9PM-11PM M-F, $0.24/kwh Summer, $0.18/kwh Winter
OFF PEAK: All other hours. $0.11/kwh
FUTURE E-TOU Rates
PEAK: 3pm to 8pm Monday through Friday, rates TBD
OFF-PEAK: All other times, including Holidays, rates TBD
Feb 10 2016
Rank #9: Planning for an All Electric Future
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On this week’s energy show were talking about the all electric future. We’ve had customers at Cinnamon Energy Systems come to us wanting to go 100% electric at their home. They want to get rid of their gas dryer and furnaces, put in more solar panels, use an electric heat pump, and many already drive an EV. This kind of transition is already happening. So what does it mean when our homes, businesses and most transportation systems and most industries primarily operate from electricity instead of the fossil fuels that have powering humanity since basically we discovered fire?
There is a steady trend of devices and appliances that are converting from fossil fuels to electric operation. All of the big energy users when you look at the economy, transportation, industry, residential and commercial electricity have all been generated by fossil fuels. Now, everything is going electric. I expect that this electric future for humanity will depend very heavily on both solar and wind in the near term because we know those technologies to be cost effective. There may be things like nuclear fusion or other energy generating technologies that might happen over the next ten to fifty years, but right now, my bet is on solar and wind.
So Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show to learn more about why this migration to an all electric future is underway and the economic decisions you should be considering now for your home and business.
Jul 17 2018
Rank #10: New Battery Storage Products
The annual Solar Power International show held in October of this year celebrated its 16th year. The first show was a tiny venue that started in back in 2004 and was held in a tiny venue in San Francisco. Since that day back in 2004, the show has grown significantly as has the solar industry itself.
This year, the Solar Power International show was held in Salt Lake City with a big focus on energy storage --which has been building more and more every year, with a particular focus on new battery storage products.
In addition to the plethora of bigger and better solar panels, there was many new racking and mounting products that connect these systems to a roof or big utility scale field, plus all kinds of hardware such as inverters, controls and accessories. Most notably, software and hardware companies are now working to make installing and managing these systems easier, so software is becoming an important part of the whole industry.
But with the current demand for energy storage, clearly the focus on new battery storage products was most interesting. So to learn about the industry's latest energy storage offerings, please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we review the most notable battery storage systems spotted on the floor of this year’s Solar Power International show.
Dec 04 2019
Rank #11: What's a Watt - Energy & Power Explained
On this week's The Energy Show, we’re talking about energy — duh. And power. Not just because we’re short on both energy and power. But because solar and battery customers need to understand these properties so they can properly size and operate their systems. This show is a bit on the geeky side, so buckle up.
Power is the measure of the amount of work that can get done over a period of time. We measure power in units of watts in the metric system, and in units of horsepower in the English system. Even though the English use the metric system and horses are basically just recreational vehicles for rich people. Commonly we refer to the power of a car in horsepower, or the power requirements of an appliance in watts.
Energy is the measurement of work, or force over distance, or an amount of heat. Not a watt, but instead a watt hour or kilowatt hour (kwh). Your utility bills you for electrical energy in terms of kilowatt hours, and for natural gas thermal energy in terms of Therms (geeky rhyme). A Therm is 100,000 BTUs, which stand for British Thermal Units — which is a measure of energy in the English system — which only the Americans still use (my high school English teacher would have referred to this sentence as a which hunt).
In the solar world, we measure the power output of a solar panel in watts (360 watts per solar panel under ideal conditions), or the total size of a 20 panel system as 7,200 watts. Home battery storage systems are measured in terms of kwh (most commonly a 10 kwh or 13.5 kwh battery), and commercial systems are measured in terms of mwh (megawatt hours).
Feel free to download this week’s Energy Show for more information about the energy and power terms we use in the solar and storage industry to measure size and performance of solar and battery storage systems.
Nov 20 2019
Rank #12: The Economics of Commercial Energy Storage Systems
Nov 15 2017
Rank #13: Real World Solar Economics with Tom Beach
Great solar policy is just as important as great solar technology. Obviously we need the technologies for these products — but we also need the policies so that solar products can be cost-effectively installed. And I’m not just talking about incentives…policies related to net metering, interconnection and permitting are just as important.
Getting good solar policy requires effective political lobbying. I hate to let you down, but these great energy policies did not magically spring from the brains of inspired politicians When I look back at the successes our industry has had over the years — net metering, the California Solar Initiative, Solar Tax Credits, state incentives — all of these policies were based on sound analytical research coupled with effective lobbying.
There are a few companies that specialize in the types of analysis that’s required to put together good policies. One of the best is Cross Border Energy, based in Berkeley California. They provide clients with strategic advice, economic analysis and expert testimony on market and regulatory issues in the natural gas and electric industry. It is my pleasure to have Tom Beach, Principal Consultant of Cross Border Energy as our guest on this week’s Energy Show.
Tom has been influential on many of California’s ground breaking energy policies. He has worked on the restructuring of the states gas and electric industries, the addition of new natural gas pipelines and storage capacity, renewable energy development, and a wide range of issues concerning California’s large independent power community. I also had the pleasure of working with Tom on the California Solar Initiative many years ago. To learn more about the energy industry, real world solar economics, and Tom’s perspective on energy regulatory issues, listen up to this week’s Energy Show.
PS – the Kyocera and SMA rooftop solar system I installed for Tom back in 2003 is still working perfectly, with only 0.4% degradation over the last 15 years.
PPS – his monitoring system is intermittent since his 15 year old computer that runs the software is on its last legs.
Aug 22 2018
Rank #14: Ten Tips for Successful Battery Storage Installations
Nevertheless, many of the integrated systems that are out there are reliable and most importantly, because there is high electric rates, backup power needs, and some good incentives, businesses and homeowners can save money now.
Listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we go into the details behind a successful battery storage installation.
Feb 16 2018
Rank #15: SolarEdge Battery Storage Review
Sep 18 2017
Rank #16: There is a New Utility in Town - Silicon Valley Clean Energy
The electric utility industry is undergoing rapid change. There used to be two types of utilities: investor owned utilities (IOUs, such as Pacific Gas and Electric and ConEd) and municipally owned utilities (MOUs, such as LADWP and Silicon Valley Power). Now there is a third hybrid type, called a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) utility.
IOUs work for their stockholders — striving to maximize their profits by charging the most they can for electricity, maximizing their net assets and minimizing their expenses (often maintenance). MOUs work for their local cities — and try to provide affordable and reliable power in their territory. Not surprisingly, electric rates at IOUs are almost always higher than rates at nearby MOUs. Because IOUs profit by installing their own solar and storage systems and maximizing their own sales of electricity, they do not look favorably on homeowners and businesses installing their own systems. My biggest competitors for almost 20 years have been local IOUs.
CCAs offer the potential for lower electric rates for customers in their territory, without changing completely to a municipally-owned business structure. CCAs buy power from large solar and wind farms, as well as hydroelectric facilities. They then distribute this power over the existing utility lines. The existing utility bills customers and maintains the power lines, while the CCA essentially just charges customers for the energy they use. CCAs offer customers cheaper electricity, and they offer better economics to solar customers.
Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) is the new CCA serving most of the Silicon Valley area. My guest this week is John Supp, Manager of Accounts Services at SVCE. Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we talk about the operations, economics and effects that CCAs will have on both customers and the utility industry in general.
Aug 16 2018
Rank #17: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
The number of panels you need is based on two factors: the available space on your roof and the size of your electric bill. A good installer will not take advantage of you by installing modules where there is a lot of shade or a poor north-facing orientation on a steep roof. Along the same lines, your installer should analyze your current electric bill and recommend the number of solar panels that will get you close to a zero bill.
Once you know these two boundary conditions – the number of panels that fit on your roof and the number of panels that you need to zero out your bill – you can see what size system fits in with your budget and method of financing. At the same time your installer should step you through the options for different levels of solar panel efficiency, module electronics (optimizers or microinverters), and changes in your future use of electricity (such as an EV or energy conservation measures). For more about determining the optimum size of your solar power system, Listen Up to this week’s episode of The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.
Apr 01 2017
Rank #18: Distributing Solar and Storage Equipment
In addition to installing solar equipment, solar contractors also install a variety of electrical equipment: wiring, junction boxes, conduit, circuit breakers, etc. Since many of these electrical items are not carried at your local “big box” hardware store, experienced solar contractors source them from electrical distributors.
Since solar is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., some of the more farsighted electrical distributors have started to supply a limited amount of solar equipment. And some are distributing solar and storage equipment enabling them to become a “one stop shop” for everything needed on a typical residential or commercial rooftop system.
Having a single source distributing solar and storage equipment significantly reduces the supply chain costs for a typical solar contractor. Instead of ordering from several different manufacturers and have the materials trickle in over a few weeks or months, a contractor can back up his or her truck to a single distributor the morning of a project and load up everything that is needed. For larger projects, distributors can deliver directly to a job site. Voila: no extra warehousing costs, simplified purchasing and payment, and easy access to extra parts or supplies that may be needed during the course of an installation.
CED Greentech is one of the first electrical distributors in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides these specialty solar items, in addition to a complete range of electrical equipment. My guest on this week’s show is Paras Shah, Profit Center Manager at CED Greentech in San Jose. Please tune in to this week’s Energy Show as Paras shares his insight into the ways that local solar/electrical distributor can significantly reduce costs for all sizes and types of solar installations distributing solar and storage equipment.
Oct 30 2019
Rank #19: Solar Investment Tax Credit
30% of the costs of a solar or battery storage system are paid for with the Solar Investment Tax credit. The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is the biggest renewable energy incentive in the country, and helps make solar affordable for just about every business or homeowner in the U.S. with a sunny rooftop. The solar ITC has been around for almost ten years – but 2019 is the last year that it is in full effect.
The solar ITC steps down to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021 and zero for residential systems in 2022. As in year’s past, there will be a big rush to get systems installed before the end of the year – and even a bigger rush at the end of this year since systems will effectively be 4% more expensive on January 1, 2020.
Moreover, California’s public utilities have put their foot on the solar + battery storage accelerator with upcoming Public Safety Power Shutoff announcements. The 30% tax credit fully applies to battery storage systems used for backup power as long as the battery is charged by solar at least 75% of the time. Businesses and homeowners are realizing that a clean, renewable, and quiet solar + battery backup system is more reliable and cost effective than traditional built-in gas and diesel generating systems.
The solar ITC is a straightforward credit (not deduction) on your business or personal tax return, and is not affected by the alternative minimum tax. Other incentives, such as business equipment depreciation, can also be combined with the solar ITC – in many cases cutting the total cost by 50% or more. To learn more about how your home or business can leverage the Solar Investment Tax Credit for both energy and backup power, tune in to this week’s Energy Show.
Aug 28 2019
Rank #20: Ten Energy Saving Myths
Jan 17 2018