Renewable Energy Legislation to Revive PA Economy

A coalition of organizations has rendered their support for the new renewable energy bill that was introduced by Senator Art Haywood and Senator Daniel Laughlin. The legislation will help to harness the power of renewable energies like solar, which will put Pennsylvania back on the road to economic recovery.

The senator’s bill will amend the 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) Act to increase PA’s renewable energy goal from 8% to 18% by 2026. 5.5% (from the current 0.5% goal) of renewable energy is set to come from solar energy.

When introducing the legislation, Senator Laughlin said that it will help expand renewable energy given that the economy is in a crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He went on to say that the efforts will diversify the energy mix, attract private investments worth millions of dollars, create tens of thousands of jobs, and grow tax revenue for communities.

He also said that this may offer a solution that can save farms in PA without necessarily using state revenues. Similarly, Senator Haywood said that renewable energy grows jobs, saves farmers, and can do a lot to save the planet. He added that the proposal may be one of the largest job stimulus and economic development bills in decades.

Renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation. When compared to the statewide job growth rate of 1.9%, jobs in the renewable energy industry grow at a rate of 8.7%.

Nearly 5,200 jobs have been created in this industry since the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard Act was passed in 2004. PA renewable energy projects have created jobs for engineers, technicians, construction workers, manufacturers, salespeople, and more.

Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project estimates that more than 100,000 jobs will be created by 2030 should the portion of solar in the state’s electricity mix increase from the current 0.5% to 10%. Consequently, this will benefit the economy with a net of $1.6 billion annually.

Here is what some of the coalition members had to say:

Sharon Pillar, who is PA Solar Center’s Executive Director said that there is a high expectation for the bill to put back PA on the road to recovery after the hard times experienced in 2020. She also thanked the two senators for introducing the bill and providing inspiring leadership on renewable energy.

Kim Anderson, Evangelical Environmental Network’s field organizer said that he is excited about the bill. Anderson said that the bill moves in the right direction when it comes to embracing cleaner energy and air to protect the health of both born and unborn children.

Executive Director of PennEnvironment, David Masur said that promoting renewable energy gives a triple win for PA. He said that it is good for the health, pocketbooks, and the planet. David further said that it was about time PA became a regional leader when it comes to tapping into the renewable energy economy.

Pennsylvania Program Director at Solar United Neighbors, Henry McKay said that Pennsylvanians in both urban and rural communities in the entire Commonwealth prefer to go solar. He said that they want to decrease their electric bills and be in charge of how their energy is generated.

Henry said that increasing the value of solar renewable energy credits will contribute to a stronger AEPS that will enable more businesses, homeowners, and places of worship to afford solar installation.

8 Community Choice Aggregators Join Forces to Purchase Power Through California Community Power

Community choice aggregators (CCAs) in Northern and Central California have joined forces to form a new Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The new JPA will include Central Coast Community Energy, MCE, East Bay Community Energy, San Jose Clean Energy, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Sonoma Clean Power, Peninsula Clean Energy, and Silicon Valley Clean Energy. According to the group, CleanPowerSF and San Francisco’s CCA are seeking membership.

The JPA makes it possible for the 8 Community choice aggregators to join their buying power in a bid to procure large-scale, cost-effective, and clean energy to meet the climate goals at the local and state levels. The combined buying power will also offer cost-effective programs and services.

Community choice aggregators have become a major player in the electricity markets in California. The CCAs are tasked with supplying electricity from the state’s investor-owned facilities to millions of customers. As the 8 CCAs come together, their goal is to buy large amounts of clean energy to advance climate goals.

The new group that forms California Community Power serves about 2.6 million customer accounts. In total, the CCAs serve an annual load of 32, 600 GWh, which is about 40% of what the Northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric serves.

According to a senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie, Colin Smith, this makes the joint buying group one of the biggest purchasers of power in the country. The group also serves about 6.6 million customers in more than 140 municipalities going from Humboldt County to Santa Barbara County.

The group will allow different aggregators to collaborate on bigger energy procurements, something that they would not have handled separately. This is especially true for smaller and new CCAs that may have a difficult time getting financiers for their power projects.

However, joining forces with larger CCAs that have investment-grade credit ratings will give them greater leverage, better deals, and confidence from developers. Other benefits of the JPA include increased innovation opportunities, enhanced negotiating power, shared risk mitigation, and greater procurements for renewable and storage.

In October, seven CCAs in the California Community Power and another CCA announced a request for offers for long-duration storage. The long-duration Request for Offers comprises a contract of at least 10 minimum for grid-charged technologies with a minimum discharge period of 8 hours to come online by 2026, or before.

According to the state regulators, the long-duration storage procurement is supposed to meet the clean energy goals of California. The JPA is currently steering that process for its seven members.

Public Participation on Low-Wealth Solar Policy Roundup

Policymakers and local communities across the U.S. are redesigning the solar policy to incorporate low-wealth families as major stakeholders to help them benefit from local clean energy.

Each month, Emphasis Power initiates a Low-Income Policy Call, which is led by our Access & Equity team. During the call, we bring together policymakers from across the country to celebrate our wins, talk about best practices and advanced learning, and brainstorm ways to join forces to improve on the design of the low-income solar program.

We believe that by hosting this call, we will be able to address some of the greatest issues that lower-income communities face. We use it to share information on the best practices that are working and those that are not so as to ensure that affordable solar is easily accessible to everyone.

Congress Directs FERC to Form Office of Public Participation

The policy must not just be informed by regulatory and legislative action alone. Instead, the public must be encouraged to offer their input; otherwise, there will be knowledge gaps and goals will be misaligned.

Many people in the community wonder how they can participate in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, they are faced with various barriers. This has prompted the federal government and states to brainstorm effective ways to increase public participation.

Congress has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Office to establish an Office of Public Participation. FERC, which was formed in 1977, is an independent regulatory agency that is tasked with regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, oil, and natural gas.

FERC announced that there will be a workshop and a series of listening sessions to allow interested persons to offer input on the establishment of the Office of Public Participation (OPP).

The OPP, which will be within FERC, will offer assistance to interested parties of the public that want to participate in Commission proceedings. This will be done per the authorities that the Commission exercises.

La Mesa Prepares to Launch Community Choice Power Program

La Mesa has partnered with four other cities to prepare the launching of the community choice energy program. The program is intended to provide a transition from renewable sources to clean energy to approximately 770,000 customers in La Mesa, San Diego, Imperial Beach, Encinitas, and Chula Vista.

The SDCP (San Diego Community Power) is set to be the second-largest CCA (community choice aggregation) program in California.  This program will be locally run and proponents believe that it will be the solution to providing the community with 100% renewable and cost-effective energy.

According to the California rules, San Diego Community Power customers will automatically be enrolled in the CCA program. Despite the establishment of CCA, incumbent power companies like SDG&E will continue to operate and provide services that are not associated with power purchasing.

This includes tasks such as customer billing and transmission and distribution of energy. SDGE will be responsible for purchasing renewable energy and then feed the energy into the electricity grid that is maintained by SDG&E. Besides, customers that prefer to remain with SDG&E can come out of San Diego Community Power (SDCP) for free.

David Harris, who is a resident of La Mesa and a member of the group’s 10-member Community Advisory Committee, expressed his gratitude to the city for publicizing the importance of San Diego Community Power to the city.

He also thanked the city of La Mesa for consenting to community choice energy for La Mesa in 2019. Harris said that once the program is launched, San Diego Community Power will give 50% more renewable energy to the electric grid compared to the SDG&E.

Harris said that the surplus revenue that San Diego Community Power will generate will be reinvested back to the community. This, he said, will create local jobs for skillful workers and fund renewable energy products.

According, Bill Carnaham, San Diego Community Power Interim Chief Executive Officer, the rates and service offerings will be structured such that they are in line with San Diego Gas & Electric.

During a presentation at La Mesa City Council, Carnaham and Cody Hooven, who is the Chief Operating Officer at San Diego Community Power said that one of the group’s goals was to attain 100% renewable energy by 2035. Attaining this goal will also help La Mesa to meet its goals of greenhouse gas reduction as stated in its Climate Action Plan for 2018.

Carnaham said that SDCP will send two notices to customers before they are enrolled and the other two notices after the service begin. The notices will include information that allows customers to opt-out if they want to.

As aforementioned, the enrolment in the program is automatic. However, participation is voluntary. This is according to the statement of intent of the SDCP group that was filed in December 2019 with the California Public Utilities Commission.

To make the launching possible, the City of San Diego allocated half a million dollars from its 2019-2020 budget to support the program. The group has also taken a $30 million working capital loan and a $5 million bank loan for the purchase.

Energy Saving: EBCE Comes Up with Holistic Approach to Energy Saving

The EBCE is taking steps towards achieving a zero-emission power system in the next decade. Despite this move, one of the challenges is the evening peak. While it is easy to meet the power demand in the daytime when the sun is up, it becomes a challenge in the evening when the sun goes down.

There is a need for something else to meet the demand in the evening hours. The peak hours are expensive times for EBCE customers to buy power. However, the most viable solution that can help fill the gap is to burn natural gas. This can be a setback since it is not zero-emission.

To ensure energy saving, EBCE has come up with a new approach known as Pay for Performance. EBCE is using this approach to compensate energy efficiency contractors depending on their capabilities to cut or reduce demand in the evening hours. The approach is also set to give verified savings to targeted customers.

By saving energy during peak hours, EBCE will help save money for everyone. EBCE developed pilot programs for the Pay for Performance approach in 2019, which was intended for low-income residential customers, single-family residential, and commercial customers.

To help with the entire process, EBCE hired the Recurve Company, which was responsible for developing a dashboard that builds on the in-house data capabilities of EBCE. The dashboard helps to analyze customer loads comprehensively. It then creates baselines and keeps track of how the loads change based on the energy measures.

For EBCE to get the highest value, a constant stream of sub-hourly data from the smart meters is constantly fed into the dashboard. This also allows EBCE to reach customers that would greatly benefit from the program.

Generally, a red dotted line will show to represent the general population and a blue line for those with high demand during peak hours. The program makes it easy to filter customers with high demand during peak hours from the general population. Consequently, the program is now able to target customers that have the most potential to save.

According to the program manager for building electrification and energy efficiency at EBCE, Beckie Mentem, the low-income pilot has enabled them to identify customers on rate discount programs like FERA or CARE that utilize massive energy during peak hours on the low-income pilot.

She went on to say that some households in the low-income category use nearly 12% of their income on energy. This, she says, is higher than what most wealthy customers use. Basically, the program will help customers lower the proportion of their energy use to that of their monthly income, helping them save on their energy costs.

Mentem was quick to note that providing efficiency improvements that are meant for cutting the demand during peak hours will significantly lower their bills. It will also ensure a seamless time-of-use rates transition that is set to phase this year and lower the need for EBCE to provide power during peak hours. She said that this will help save money for all their customers.

Advocates Against Indiana Move to Curb Solar

On Wednesday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) gave a ruling that will see customer-owned solar inaccessible for Vectren customers. The move will reduce the credit that future-solar owners, who are served by Vectren, will receive. IURC decision will also change the period for earning credits, meaning that customer-owned solar will be credited at the new lower rate.

The IURC oversees five investor-owned utilities in the state including Vectren Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Duke Energy, Northern Indiana Public Service Company, and Indianapolis Power and Light.

The INA broad alliance of solar, environmental, and consumer advocates of Indiana have condemned the ruling.  According to the advocates, the decision is a great setback for the customer-owned solar market in Indiana. The coalition of advocates has put a lot in environmental and consumer outcomes in regions like Indiana, the Midwest, and the nation.

The ruling will solidify the monopoly of CenterPoint and this will be a major setback for customer-owned solar in the territory. It will have a negative impact on the consumers in Southwest Indiana.

In 2015, Indiana lawmakers tried to pass a bill that aimed to decrease the payback for net-metered solar. The bill also aimed at allowing state utilities to add new bill charges. However, the bill was pulled down before it could even reach a vote.

The solar industry and advocates are concerned that the ruling favors monopolies and puts unfair burdens on rooftop customers.

According to Indiana Program Director at Solar United Neighbors, Zach Schalk, solar owners are entitled to fair value as compensation for the electricity they generate. Zach said that rooftop solar harvests sunshine to give clean electricity, which benefits all customers.

He went on to say that they are disappointed by the IURC’s ruling to protect the monopoly profits of Vectren at the expense of Hoosier. He believes that the IURC should have stood up for the consumers by supporting rooftop solars.

In response to IURC’s rulings, Kerwin Olson, who is the executive director at Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana this is another scenario of the consumers losing at the IURC and the monopolies winning. Kerwin said that it is shortsighted decisions like the one IURC made that continuously leave Indiana consumers behind and entire Indiana in the dark for ages.

A senior attorney at Environmental Law & Policy Center, Brad Klein made his remarks saying that they are very disappointed that the IURC chose to prioritize the profits of Vectren over the interests of its customers. He went on to say that the decision of the IURC is contrary to Indiana law.

Emphasis: Power’s Regulatory Director, Thomas Brown said that the move is a setback for Indiana and its community. He said that families and businesses in Southern Indiana desire to have clean energy but this is proving difficult because of the IURC decision.

He said that the ruling prevents fair compensation for companies that have invested in local solar. He was also quick to note that Indiana was moving backward as parts of the Midwest invest in clean energy and take steps to modernize electric grid.

Ultimately, there is no denying that curbing customer-owned solar will cripple the solar industry that serves them as well. It limits the customer’s choice when it comes to their source of energy and their ability to be self-sufficient. Solar installers are arguably the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S and a good number of the jobs are in Indiana.

However, with the move to curb solar in Indiana, installers may need to expand their business to other states to be able to survive. Businesses may be forced to move their businesses to other states or lay off employees.

2021 Nominations for the Dr. Espanola Jackson Solar Justice Award Open

Emphasis: Power is pleased to announce that nominations for the Dr. Espanola Jackson Solar Justice Award are open. The award is set to celebrate outstanding solar justice heroes in honor of the legacy of Dr. Espanola Jackson.

The late Dr. Espanola Jackson was a renowned environmental justice leader and solar ambassador for families with low income. She was a dedicated grassroots community activist that worked tirelessly to ensure economic justice, environmental justice, and that the civil rights issues of the community are addressed.

She made a great impact in the state of California, particularly Bayview Hunters Point Community and San Francisco. She was recognized and honored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for the environmental impact she made in the country.

She collaborated on several projects such as coming up with a solar incentive plan for the residents of San Francisco. Dr. Espanola also advocated for the rights of tenants in the low-income category and was involved in the shutting down of the Potrero Power Plant.

Community activist Espanola Jackson died at the age of 82-years-old and left a legacy that will live on. To celebrate Dr. Espanola Jackson, Emphasis: Power is proud to recognize and honor great solar justice heroes in our community today with the Dr. Espanola Jackson Solar Justice Award.

The award recognizes individuals who are:

  • Leaders who have served their communities for a long time anywhere in the US
  • Great coalition builders who can mobilize their support in and around their community
  • Committed to improving the health and well-being of people in their communities using solar energy
  • Able to influence the local or state energy policy agenda by way of direct grassroots advocacy
  • Working at crossroads to ensure access to clean energy & racial justice
  • Dedicated to put a stop to the polluting energy economy and use clean energy opportunities to promote health, jobs, and more savings to people in their community

The aim of giving this award is to honor the important role of activism that is geared towards the community by people of color who are committed to environmental progress and clean energy transition.

The recipients of this award are individuals that practice environmental justice leadership and offer inspiration to the community to embrace the clean energy transition. They are role models when it comes to environmental justice leadership and a great inspiration to the public to work and support the move to a just clean energy transition.

Usually, Emphasis: Power holds this event in San Francisco. However, this year, the event will be celebrated virtually due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The timeline of the award process is as follows:

  • Nominations Open: April 7th
  • Nominations Close: May 3rd
  • Nominees give limelight on our platform: During May
  • Winner Announced: June 9th
  • Virtual Reception: July 14th

All nominations sent for award consideration will be reviewed by a committee that includes Emphasis: Power staff and other people that worked with Dr. Espanola Jackson closely.

During the virtual event, Emphasis: Power will recognize the awardee and gift $5,000 to their organization.