Archive for February, 2010

Next Generation Solar Financing

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , |

Despite the plummeting price of solar PV systems, cost remains an issue.  High upfront costs can prove prohibitive for many, even after subsidies and tax breaks.

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) have been around for several years – allowing customers to “lease” solar panels, thus benefiting from drawing their electricity needs from renewable solar power but without the associated costs of installing and maintaining the panels.  Under a PPA, the electricity provider secures funding for the project, maintains and monitors the energy production, and sells the electricity to the host at a contractual price for the term of the contract.  PPA terms generally last between 5 and 25 years.  The benefits of PPAs are real, but lessees do not enjoy the benefits of actually owning the panels.

But Renewable Funding, an Oakland CA based company, is leading the charge for Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE.  This program allows residents and businesses to borrow money to finance solar or long-term energy efficiency improvements and pay the money back over a span of years through a marginal increase in their property taxes.  In fact, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom just passed a bill making $150 million available to residents and businesses in the city interested in pursuing PACE improvements.

By parking all related costs of such improvements into the borrowers property taxes, up-front financial barriers are eliminated.  Renewable Funding is hoping that the San Francisco initiative takes off and spurs similar programs across the country.

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Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Reader, now Google Energy?

Posted on February 19, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Environmental Leader reports that the Federal Energy Regualtory Commission (FERC) approved Google’s new venture in energy markets. Google Energy LLC will act as an energy broker by purchasing electricity (rather than generating it on its own) and selling it to wholesale customers. Google has stated its initial goals are to secure access to lower cost energy from more renewable energy sources to power its own operations. In January, shortly after the announcement to seek FERC approval was made, Google’s Niki Fenwick explained on CNET:

“Right now, we can’t buy affordable, utility-scale, renewable energy in our markets. We want to buy the highest quality, most affordable renewable energy wherever we can and use the green credits,”

This is only part of Google’s drive to become a greener company. Other efforts include powering its California campus with solar panels, introducing initiatives to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, developing a home energy monitoring tool and numerous other clean energy investments and joint ventures. Leaving the question of whether or not Google should be buying and selling energy aside, the company’s committment promoting renewable energy are commendable.

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And China Takes the Lead . . .

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , |

China has overtaken erstwhile leaders Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines.  China is already the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. 

This news comes just after President Obama’s public edict proclaiming the need for America to lead in the clean energy revolution.  President Obama said “We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow.  From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.  The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation.”

Yet many Western and Chinese executives expect China to prevail in the energy-technology race.  China enjoys several advantages that are enabling its meteoric rise in clean energy.  The government of China has been investing heavily in upgrading its electricity grid, state-owned banks provide generous financing to incentivize clean energy, regulators have set mandates for power generation to use more renewable energy,  and the state provides subsidies for consumers who invest in clean energy.  In addition, China’s low labor costs and artificially undervalued currency are a big advantage in energy equipment manufacturing.  But China’s biggest advantage may be its soaring domestic demand for electricity as more of its citizens adopt a power hungry lifestyle.  This means that Chinese energy producers enjoy enormous efficiencies from large-scale production.

In response to complaints from the West about China’s unfair advantages, Ma Lingjuan, deputy managing director of China’s renewable energy association says “Every country wants low cost renewable energy.  Now China has reached that level, but it gets criticized by the rest of the world.”

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Pepco MD to raise rates by summer

Posted on February 2, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Pepco has appealed to the Maryland Public Service Commission asking to increase residential electricity rates by 2.5 percent.  This rate increase would equate to roughly $4 on a $150 bill.   The rate increase would take effect in July 2010, but must gain the Commissions approval before taking effect.

Pepco says the increase in rates is needed in order to protect against power outages as demand across the region continues to increase.  Pepco plans to invest the potential $40 million in extra annual profit in new technologies such as automatic circuit breakers — which restart electricity in powerless neighborhoods before Pepco can arrive on scene — and preassembled aerial cables, which can withstand inclement weather and weighty tree limbs far longer than regular cables.

If the new rates are approved, it would be the third time in 12 years that Pepco has petitioned for an increase in Maryland’s distribution rates.  Distribution rates account for the cost of power delivery but exclude the price of energy itself.

… What better time than now to make the switch to Clean Currents to lock in our lower rates.

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Grow Tall in Portland

Posted on February 1, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in downtown Portland Oregon will be the beneficiary of a $133 million federal stimulus grant from the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings.

The 18 story tower will be retrofitted with the latest in energy efficient and green design concepts, including a 200 foot tall garden that will replace the building’s western facade.  The upgraded building will be 65% more energy efficient and save $280,000 annually in energy costs.

The architecture firm Cutler Anderson is the lead design.

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