PACE Can Spur Expansion of Clean Energy in Florida

Florida is continuing its clean energy leadership with the expansion of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to more cities and counties across the state. This innovative financing model advances many of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s goals, namely, supporting climate solutions and creating local job opportunities. With recently-enacted state policy advancing the will of the voters to support solar power, and the current response to improve structures post-Hurricane Irma, PACE is one way to boost widespread adoption of clean energy in Florida.

PACE provides funds for property owners to install renewable energy systems and add energy efficiency, as well as wind resistance upgrades, then pay for the work over time through their property tax bill. Homeowners can use PACE financing to, for example, add solar panels, replace failing AC units with high-efficiency models, or install wind-resistant roofing.

The combination of competitive interest rates, approval based on home equity, fast processing, and stringent consumer safeguards makes PACE a compelling financing option for many homeowners and brings these energy and efficiency renovations within reach for many homeowners who may otherwise be unable to afford them. Communities where PACE is active have seen their collective carbon emissions decrease, the value of their housing stock increase, and their homeowners save money on utility bills.

There are now four companies offering PACE within the state, bringing healthy competition and broader opportunities for property owners to access clean energy improvements.

One of the core beliefs of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is that communities should not have to choose between a healthy environment and a stable economy. PACE supports this belief by partnering with local governments to help them reduce their carbon emissions while creating local jobs. By stimulating home improvement activity, PACE creates local jobs in the contracting sector. These are jobs that are not easily automated or sent offshore.

Despite the policy advances and the abundant sunshine, fewer than 1% of Floridians own renewable energy systems. Fortunately, this number is growing, and with the expansion of new PACE options to more communities, the Sunshine State is poised to up the pace of combatting climate change and advancing the clean energy economy in Florida.

Energy efficiency is trending up and down in the Southeast

Yesterday we reported on how Duke Energy leads the Southeast in energy efficiency, and Florida Power & Light is providing the worst results in the region. But what about the rest? There are a lot of great stories to tell, but first here’s a reminder of the overview.

2016 Energy Efficiency Savings by Southeast Utilities

SACE compiles utility data filed in regulatory proceedings and with the Energy Information Administration to report the annual energy efficiency savings using percent of prior year retail sales, a commonly used regulatory benchmark. An asterisk represents data not yet available from the Energy Information Administration.

We report on the recent performance of Southeastern utilities’ energy efficiency programs in the blog series Energy Savings in the Southeast

As discussed in yesterday’s blog, across the region SACE works in, utility management commitment, state regulatory or legislative policy, and stakeholder engagement are the critical factors that determine success. Today’s blog will review the rest of the Florida utilities, Southern Company, and the South Carolina utilities.

Read more…

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Duke Energy leads the Southeast on energy efficiency

Duke Energy Carolinas has reached the 1% energy savings benchmark in 2016, a nationally recognized indicator of success in providing customers with energy efficiency programs. Congratulations to all the staff at Duke Energy for that achievement!

Since we last reported utility energy efficiency savings in 2014, we have seen some remarkably good as well as some regrettable changes. Energy efficiency ties in to virtually every energy policy story in the Southeast – from the V.C. Summer / Westinghouse scandal in South Carolina to the unregulated monopoly utility known as Alabama Power. Yet we still remain confounded that while energy efficiency is – by definition – cheaper than building and running power plants, utilities in the southeast continue to under-invest in energy efficiency.

2016 Energy Efficiency Savings by Southeast Utilities

SACE compiles utility data filed in regulatory proceedings and with the Energy Information Administration to report the annual energy efficiency savings using percent of prior year retail sales, a commonly used regulatory benchmark. An asterisk represents data not yet available from the Energy Information Administration.

We report on the recent performance of Southeastern utilities’ energy efficiency programs in the ongoing blog series Energy Savings in the Southeast. A table with these data may be viewed here.

Read more…

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Trump Admin Begins Rollback of Clean Power Plan

SACE Southeast Energy Research Attorney Angela Garrone contributed to this post.

Following through on a campaign promise, the Trump administration signed a rule this week to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever national limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants. An historic public health regulation, which wasn’t scheduled to begin implementation until 2022, the Clean Power Plan was projected to save Americans $12 billion to $34 billion in health cost savings.

By setting modest carbon reduction goals and providing maximum compliance flexibility, including carbon reductions achieved through increased use of natural gas and nuclear, the Clean Power Plan established a balance of environmental and economic development goals. In fact, the rule would have provided relief in the form of utility bill savings, with an estimated $7/month savings realized by 2030 thanks to reduction in power demand thanks to increased energy efficiency.

Instead of capturing these life-saving public health and financial benefits for Americans, the Trump Administration is choosing to reward fossil fuel interests and push onto the public the costs of less efficient, more expensive and polluting energy sources. Energy efficiency, solar, and wind are now the cheapest ways to provide for our energy needs, and in the Southeast, we could save more than a hundred million dollars per year by retiring inefficient coal plants and building wind or solar instead. Read more…

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UCS “Dwindling Role for Coal” Report: Wind and Solar Could Help Replace Coal in the Southeast

We’re hosting a free webinar with UCS report authors at 12:30pm ET on Tuesday, October 24. Click here to register.

The past decade or so has seen a dramatic shift away from coal for producing electricity in the United States. According to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), that trend is set to continue.

The analysis identified 51 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generating capacity that is slated to retire or convert to another fuel (mostly natural gas) through 2030. And it found that an additional 57 GW (or 20 percent of the coal capacity that was operating at the end of 2016) is uneconomic compared to existing natural gas. Strikingly, most of those uneconomic coal units are located in the Southeast.

A surprising number of coal plants in our region are also uneconomic compared to new wind power, or even solar energy. And new developments in the wind industry, such as high-voltage transmission lines, could make wind even more accessible than the report assumes. Read more…

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Georgia is whupping Tennessee in more than just football this year

Let’s talk about the ridiculously lopsided football game at Neyland Stadium last week. The University of Georgia (UGA) pummeled the University of Tennessee (UT) 41-0…in UT’s own backyard. This annual match is usually competitive, but this year, UT suffered their first shutout in over 20 years. But have you noticed that Georgia is whupping Tennessee in more than just college football this year?

Let’s talk solar power: At the end of 2016, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had only 100 megawatts of solar in the Tennessee system. Georgia has five times that amount.  Tennessee ranks just 24th in the nation in installed solar power, while Georgia is 8th. Just like the college football rankings this year, Georgia continues to rise and Tennessee continues to fall.

Read more…

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Guest Commentary: A time to break down, a time to build up: energy equity and the Southeast’s future

This is a guest post originally published by Southeast Energy News. To read the original article, click here. SACE’s own Amelia Shenstone was one of five “clean energy energy superheroes” awarded during the #ATL100 event for her leadership on energy efficiency throughout the Southeast.

This is a tale of two September Tuesdays in the American South.

On one Tuesday, Atlantans begin the painful task of clean up in the wake of a tropical storm. Scientists tell them the fossil fuels they burn contribute to climate change and the warming seas, which are fueling this year’s brutal hurricane season. People sit in the dark without power, feeling powerless.

The following Tuesday, Atlantans gather to shine a spotlight on local clean energy leaders. Hollywood stars celebrate their efforts to move the city toward 100 percent clean energy, which will cut back on local pollution while curbing climate change, building a healthier city and a stronger economy for all of Atlanta. People sit in theater seats, then stand, cheering, feeling powerful.

In that second Tuesday is a tale of hope — not just for Atlanta, but for all of the Southeast and the nation.

The national nonprofit Solutions Project, co-founded by actor Mark Ruffalo, hosted that Atlanta celebration at the city’s Plaza Theater. Imagine activists’ surprise when a video featuring Ruffalo – who plays the “Incredible Hulk” in the Avengers movies – and Chris “Captain America” Evans called to them from the silver screen, asking them to stand up and be applauded for their work. Read more…

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FPL Pollutes and Loots at Turkey Point

You make a mess, you clean it up.

That’s a basic lesson that’s taught to us by our parents at an early age.  Yet, executives at Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state’s biggest power company, have apparently forgotten that lesson over time.  It wants its customers to pay more than $200 million over the next ten years for cleaning up a mess – created on its watch – at its Turkey Point plant in south Florida.

Polluting                        

The company operates a ten square mile cooling canal system for its aging Turkey Point plant 3 & 4 reactors. FPL is the only utility in the country to use this system for cooling water for power generation. The miles of canals are unlined, and due to the porous geology of south Florida, water from canals has leached underground to form a plume of hyper-saline and contaminated water spreading westward in the Biscayne Aquifer towards drinking water wells and eastward into Biscayne National Park. The Biscayne Aquifer is the sole drinking water source for Miami-Dade County and the Keys.

Last year, FPL entered into a “consent order” with the FL Dept. of Environmental Protection for a plan to clean up it’s mess. An expert say that this plan won’t even solve the problem (more on that later). Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit last year asking a federal judge to find that FPL violated its environmental discharge permit and require a remedy that stops the source of the pollution.  A hearing is scheduled for next year.

Looting             

There’s more. FPL has filed a request with the Florida Public Service Commission to recover more than $100 million from its customers next year for alleged clean-up expenses and investments that it has already racked up. It will seek to ultimately recover over $200 million dollars from families and businesses in its territory. Yes, it wants its customer to pay. Let that sink in for a moment. This request is especially shameless given that FPL earned record profits last year – taking home $ Read more…

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Vogtle, the Law of Holes, and Two Modest Proposals

Ever hear of the law of holes? If you’re in one, stop digging. This blog was originally posted here by Steve Huntoon at RTO Insider on September 11, 2017. An excerpt is below, published with permission. Steve Huntoon is a former president of the Energy Bar Association, with 30 years of experience advising and representing energy companies and institutions. He received a B.A. in economics and a J.D. from the University of Virginia. He is the principal in Energy Counsel, LLP.

Vogtle, the Law of Holes, and Two Modest Proposals

The Vogtle nuclear project in Georgia is looking like an object lesson in the failure of regulation (and a vindication of competition).

What went wrong? Traditional regulatory policy is that new utility investment didn’t get billed to utility customers unless and until it’s actually in service and thus “used and useful” to utility customers.

But nuclear advocates argued that the lead time and risk of nuclear plants were so great that construction costs ought to be guaranteed, and in some cases charged to utility customers, long before the plants are completed.

This fundamentally and completely changed the investment calculus for utilities interested in nuclear plants, with the potential for enormous returns on billions of dollars. The key was to get legislators and/or regulators to go along.

Once they did, nuclear plant development became a no-lose proposition for the utility.

To read Mr. Huntoon’s full column, please click here. (Please note, RTO Insider allows you to view two free articles per month.)

How expensive is solar power? You’re going to be SHOCKED!

The National Renewable Energy Lab recently published their annual solar power cost benchmark study, U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2017.

The results are shocking.

In some southern states, like North Carolina and Florida, NREL reports that utility-scale solar power prices may reach a levelized cost of approximately 5 cents per kilowatt hour. Incorporating the federal investment tax credit (ITC) could drop those prices down into the 3-4 cents per kilowatt hour range ($30-$40/MWh). Those prices will challenge even existing natural gas power plants.

NREL’s report highlights regional levelized cost of energy models. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Southeast contains significant solar power resources, priced below 6 cents per kilowatt hour ($60/MWh) in real dollars when priced excluding the cost savings from the federal ITC. Including the federal ITC, which currently reduces capital costs by 30%, may actually drop those solar power prices to 3-4 cents per kilowatt hour ($30-$40/MWh), given the net present value of reducing a solar power project’s tax burden, early in its lifetime. The federal ITC is slated to decline in value after 2019, until 2022 when the ITC will be valued at 10%.

NREL’s report highlights an interesting phenomenon: even though installing single-tracking solar panel systems (systems that mechanically tilt panels towards the sun on a daily basis) are a bit more expensive in total installation costs, the additional power generated from those systems reduces overall levelized cost. Installed costs for a tracking system appear to be about 6-7% more expensive than fixed-tilt systems; however, tracking systems result in higher power production, reducing overall levelized cost by more than 10%. Here’s the bottom line: for many solar power development companies, and electric utilities, installing slightly more expensive solar power structures is likely well worth it. Given that tracking systems also can generate power for longer periods of time “on peak”, tracking systems seem to have a lot of benefits working for them.

Other big news from the NREL study shows that solar power prices have dropped about 30%, just in the last year. A number of years ago, the United States Department of Energy set solar power pricing goals via the SunShot program. And with the latest pricing data, it appears DOE has met its SunShot goals, nearly three years early.

On Friday, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that solar panels “are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported article.”  The President of the United States will have authority to impose “relief” which could include tariffs and/or a floor price as requested in the petition.  Those actions would affect future solar power prices.

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