4 States Lead US In Freeing The Grid For Distributed Solar Energy

Pro-solar energy state-level energy policies are arguably as strong right now as they’ve ever been across America, just in time for consumers to take advantage of affordable technologies to generate their own clean electricity.

Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) concluded the policy outlook for distributed generation from solar energy is bright as ever in Freeing the Grid 2013, the 7th annual report card ranking all 50 US states on net metering and interconnection policies.

The report helps policymakers, regulators, and renewable advocates understand the best approaches to these two wonky but critical influences on the growth of solar energy and small-scale renewables across the country. States are “graded” on an A to F scale depending on their policies – and America’s grades just keep getting better.

Freeing the Grid 2013

Freeing the Grid net metering rank image via Freeing the Grid

Sustaining Solar Energy’s Surge

Thanks to plummeting prices, solar power installations are surging across the US, especially among middle class families. But with many state incentive programs set to expire in coming years, progressive net metering and interconnection policies need to be in place in order to sustain the solar boom.

“Renewable resources are now at the scale and cost necessary to allow them to be a real and growing part of our energy landscape,” said Adam Browning, Vote Solar executive director. ”Now that we’ve built this new energy economy, it’s critical we keep the way clear for Americans to keep going solar with strong net metering and interconnection policies.”

Net metering is the more controversial and thus better-known policy. At its most basic, net metering means homes or businesses who have installed their own solar systems are paid in full for the electricity they generate but don’t consume and put back onto the grid. Net metering threatens many existing utility business models and has led to high-visibility fights in states like Arizona, California, and Colorado.

By comparison, interconnection is the more boring of the two, often not even registering a blip on most people’s radar screens. However, it may be the more important policy for the future of solar energy. Interconnection procedures are the rules a solar system must follow in order to “plug” into the grid, meaning net metering may not even come into play until solar panels can interconnect.

Good Grades On Net Metering & Interconnection

But enough with the wonky background – let’s get to the good news. More than two-thirds of US states now receive an A or B grade on net metering, with zero states getting a worse grade in 2013 than in 2012. In order to get an A or B, customers must receive full retail value for electricity contributed to the grid, and the state must maintain several other pro-solar policies.

The results for interconnection are a bit less impressive – while half of US states received an A or B grade, the rest are in need of significant improvement. In order to get an A or B, states must maintain good interconnection rules that incorporate best practices, with few or no customers blocked from interconnecting their systems.

Many states should be commended for having good policies in place, but four in particular, aka the “head of the class” states, lead the nation. California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Utah (surprisingly) received top grades in both net metering and interconnection policy. California, the epicenter of America’s clean tech market, and Massachusetts, home to one of the country’s fastest-growing green economies, aren’t a surprise, but Utah and Oregon seem primed for solar growth.

Freeing the Grid also recognized Washington as its “most improved” state, with a big jump from a D to a B in interconnection procedures by removing unnecessary requirements and procedures for smaller systems and expediting review of larger systems.

Best Practices Light The Way Forward

America is just now starting its transition to a clean economy. Renewables, and solar energy in particular, are becoming a real part of a distributed generation power system that moves toward grid freedom away from a traditional infrastructure of centralized fossil fuel generation and hundreds of miles of inefficient transmission lines. With nearly 20 best practices listed for states to emulate, the path forward is clear.

“Policy design on the frontiers of our fast-changing clean energy marketplace can be a challenge to get right,” said Jane Weissman, IREC president and CEO. “Freeing the Grid helps policymakers and other stakeholders make better sense of best practices and what needs to be done in their own state to clear the way for a 21st century approach to energy.”

4 States Lead US In Freeing The Grid For Distributed Solar Energy was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.


Ergon Says Renewables And Batteries May Be Cheaper Than Grid

Originally published on RenewEconomy

Ergon Energy, which operates the sprawling, regional electricity network that covers 97 per cent of Queensland, has suggested that within the next decade renewables and battery storage will be cheaper for domestic consumers than grid power.

The operator of 160,000kms of power lines, and a million power poles, says it is moving away from the traditional “poles and wires” approach to investment, but it warns that current subsidies to the cost of centralised generation are delaying innovation and investment in new technologies and systems.

ergon-map“Will we see a time in the next decade where renewables and battery storage will be cheaper than grid power for the domestic consumer?”  Ergon Energy chairman Malcolm Hall-Brown wrote in the company’s annual report. “Queensland’s current uniform tariff may delay some alternatives but innovation is definitely accelerating in the renewable market.”

The Queensland government spent $ 600 million in 2012/13 under its bridging the gap between the cost of delivering coal and gas fired generation to regional centres and what it charges consumers. That taxpayer-funded subsidy equates to $ 850 per customer.

Even with this cap on consumer bills, and the removal of the 44c/kWh feed in tariff,  Ergon Energy CEO Ian McLeod says increasing numbers of householders were looking to solar for certainty and control over costs.

“The network’s role is transitioning from a transporter of electricity to a market enabler, Our customers are increasingly becoming producers selling energy into the grid while changing their consumption behaviours to maximise their return on investment – 14% of households in regional Queensland now have solar,” he says in the report.

The Ergon Energy annual report came out on the same day as that of state-owned generator Stanwell Corp, which blamed the proliferation of rooftop solar for declining wholesale prices and causing it to run at a loss. It also came days after Energex, which looks after the network operations in south-east Queensland, blamed solar for making its economic model unsustainable.

The difference in tone in the reports of Ergon Energy and Energex could not have been more marked. Where Energex – and most other network operators in Australia for that matter, see only doom, Ergon Energy sees opportunity, in the same way as Vector in New Zealand.

“Like Bob Dylan’s immortal classic ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ so is the purpose of the electricity distribution network,” McLeod writes in the annual report.

McLeod noted that capital investment and technology is now flowing downstream into the customer installations – away from traditional regulated infrastructure to unregulated solutions funded by customers or third parties.

“Alternative energy solutions will set a market-based benchmark in pricing as they become increasingly technically and commercially viable.

ergon-household-use“In this environment the network is no longer a monopoly as it delivers a single commodity that can and is already being supplied via other means. This change means our value proposition needs to shift to enable a strong market for energy, storage and demand management solutions, while still providing a safe, secure and reliable supply.”

McLeod recognised that half the cost of electricity in Queensland came from the investment in poles and wires, and the combined impact of higher prices, economic conditions, greater awareness of energy efficiency and the availability of technologies like solar had caused underlying and peak demand to fall significantly over the last three years.

Average household demand from the $ 12 billion grid that Ergon Energy operates fell 5 per cent in the past year alone, and by 15 per cent over four years, to 6,811kWh per household. Overall demand fell slightly, to 15,097GWh, but again was well below forecasts.

Ergon Energy says it has responded by cutting its spending program by $ 1.5 billion, has streamlined its workforce and had achieved significant peak demand reductions – and avoided infrastructure investment, through demand management and demand response mechanisms.

ergon-solar-installMcLeod says Ergon Energy connected another 32,000 solar PV systems to the network, taking its total to 78,000 and the proportion of homes to 14 per cent. It now has 255MW on its network. Added to Energex total of 675MW, the 44MW of solar thermal to be added soon at Kogan Creek and additions in last two and coming months, that will take the state’s total to over 1GW.

McLeod says the rate of take-up of solar remains a challenge for the network operator, because “thin grids” are generally more vulnerable to voltage issues. “Historically, the network was not designed for electricity to flow intermittently in both directions,” he sdaid.

Ergon was looking at technical solutions, but he noted the success of Magnetic Island, where the Solar City project had cut demand on the island by 16 per cent and deferred the need for a costly third submarine cable to the island by at least eight years. “The project demonstrated that a comprehensive community engagement program can drive real change to the benefit of customers, electricity utilities and the environment,” he said.

Ergon is also looking at electric Vehicles, which could create similar challenges to solar if sales of EVs suddenly escalated. It noted that a trial of using five Mitsubishi i-MiEVs in Townsville had shown that fuel costs were dramatically lower $ 4.81 per 100km vs $ 11.54 for a petrol car), and had given valuable insight on appropriate tariffs to encourage charging at off-peak periods.

McLeod signalled that there was likely to be a change in tariffs, along the lines discussed in these pages,here, here, and here.  “We see great opportunity in moving from charging largely based on the amount of electricity used to mechanisms that look at the capacity a customer requires from the network at any given time.”

The options include include mechanisms such as time-of-use tariffs, kVA denominated demand charges and critical peak pricing. Our aim is to spread the electricity load more evenly, manage growth in peak demand and avoid spending millions of dollars in asset augmentation or reinforcement; which would ultimately have been paid for by our customers.”

Despite Ergon Energy’s embrace of solar, new technologies, and new thinking, the annual report also revealed that it had invested little in renewables to meet the national renewable energy target.

It sourced only 7 per cent of its renewable energy obligations (Ergon also operates a retailer) through its own production, and bought renewable energy certificates to meet the remaining obligations. Most of these would have been bought from projects in other states. RenewEconomy has been told that Ergon Energy had been instructed not to invest in large-scale renewables (Queensland does not have any apart from the 20-turbine Windy Hill installation and some bagasse project, but has not been able to confirm that.

There was also surprisingly little renewable energy generation in remote areas not connected to the grid. Ergon used 712,658 gigajoules of diesel generation during the year, and only 671GJ – less than 0.1 per cent – from renewables.

ergon-solar-domadgeeIt says it is looking to increase its renewable capacity to defray the volatile diesel fuel prices and the environmental impacts. Interestingly, it is easier to defray fossil fuel costs in remote locations than on the main grid. A new 264kW solar PV system at Doomadgee (pictured) has been introduced without affecting stability and can be expanded to 2MW.

It is looking at increasing its wind generation on Thursday island, where two turbines supplement diesel, and it is still looking at options to replace its ageing geothermal power station at Birdsville.

While Ergon Energy’s attitude to the grid and new technology opportunities is welcome, and like a beacon in the smog in Australia, it is not entirely clear that it will be able to continue with this vision. The Queensland government has announced it wants to merge Ergon Energy and Energex and bring them under one management. Whether that single management structure reflects backward thinking or forward is not yet clear.

(Note: This story was corrected from first edition to say Windy Hill had 20 turbines, not four).

Ergon Says Renewables And Batteries May Be Cheaper Than Grid was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.


Leading Edge Designs on the Grid for Southern California Schools

LEDBy Hazel A. Tamano

The smart grid technology industry, which includes energy-efficient lighting, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, hydroelectricity, marine energy, and biomass, is a $ 33 billion global revenue industry as of 2012, and it’s growing. Smart grid technologies are not only promising because of the potential they bring to the energy systems already in place, but also because they enhance a cleaner and more efficient environment at reduced costs. According to Bob Lockhart of Navigant Research, “smart grid technologies improve the reliability and efficiency of the power grid via the application of modern IT capabilities alongside, or in place of existing utility assets and networks.”

As the demand for a more energy-efficient planet becomes the norm and not a trend, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are becoming the energy-efficient light of choice. Today, Leading Edge Designs*, a direct manufacturer and distributor of LEDs, is doing just that and making its way by contributing to the smart grid in more ways than just being green. It has started the “Brighter Days Program” to assist economically distressed school districts in both the Los Angeles and San Diego metros. Due to state- and local-level budget cuts in the schools, there is resistance to smart grid technologies because funds are just not there. To help reduce the upfront costs for schools to go greener, Leading Edge Designs is setting aside 5% of every purchase made by their clients in this program to be applied to the cost of LED lights for the participating Southern California schools. Their commercial customers will also receive 5% off their orders if made by year-end.

This is a great program because it helps reduce the upfront costs for cash-strapped school districts, while achieving savings in maintenance and energy costs for years to come. Bill Motsko, CEO of Leading Edge Designs, says “this is a great program because, with corporate participation, we can reduce upfront costs, and the savings on the school’s operating budget per year will have a notable affect. This will enable school districts to refocus and redirect these dollars as needed for projects such as enhancing education programs, purchasing new equipment, helping to keep teachers employed, or helping to fund music and sport programs.” For example, LED lighting can save one school enough in energy and maintenance expenses in one year to perhaps pay a teacher’s salary.

Smart grid technological advancements (such as LEDs) are not only green, but allow us to stop wasting money powering inefficient, outdated systems. Green energy reduction (via better technology) has higher performance than green energy production by a factor of 4-5 times, meaning the cost of reducing energy consumption is more beneficial than the cost of generating new energy. Plus, energy conservation lowers the demand on an already “stressed” infrastructure.

Leading Edge Designs specializes in commercial grade new and retrofit LEDs, so their products fit the cause. Retrofit LEDs are great for schools because they can use existing fixtures and wiring so as not to add another capital expense burden to achieve benefits. School lighting projects may include theatres, administration & facilities buildings, classrooms, school stadiums, sports fields and courts, parking lots, and other indoor and outdoor lighting.

Leading Edge Designs is a San Diego Green tech company that solves clients’ lighting challenges by designing, fabricating and delivering LED lighting products that use only the latest technologies that maximize efficiency and value. They also use recycled materials and design their products so they can also be recycled after their useful life, which typically ranges from 11-22+ years. Because lighting technology has advanced, resulting in greater efficiency and longer product lifespans, buying bulbs off-the-shelf no longer provides the best value. Tailoring products to specific applications allows customers to fine tune their lighting, thus achieving better quality light where and when needed, realizing significant energy savings and lowering maintenance costs. Leading Edge Designs brings this customized approach to their clients, while remaining cost competitive and delivering the highest quality possible.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “if all U.S. businesses and institutions conducted cost-effective energy upgrades, they could reduce their average energy use by 25%. The total cost of this work would be more than $ 100 billion — which would be offset as a result of lower energy bills.” Leading Edge Designs’ lighting is a major component of creating energy-efficient buildings because, as a model green business, they are helping companies to save 50-80% or more of energy costs over traditional lighting. This is a dramatic savings for organizations with limited funding sources, and will help those businesses and agencies that install these lights for years to come.

*This article was supported by Leading Edge Designs.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Green Good and Services Program,, July 2013
2. CleanTechnica,, July 2013
3. Clean Tech San Diego,, July 2013
4. Earth Easy for Sustainable Living,, July 2013
5. LA Cleantech Cluster,, July 2013
6. Leading Edge Designs,, July 2013
7. The Smart Grid,, July 2013

Image Credit: Leading Edge Designs

Leading Edge Designs on the Grid for Southern California Schools was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.


Power grid increasingly vulnerable to severe weather, report says – Los Angeles Times

ABC News

Power grid increasingly vulnerable to severe weather, report says
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — A decade after a vast power outage shut down the Northeast, the electricity grid remains "highly vulnerable" to blackouts because of extreme weather fueled by climate change, a report by the White House and the Energy Department 
America's Electric Grid Is Far Too Vulnerable To Extreme Weather, And Needs ThinkProgress
Protecting the Electric Grid From Increasingly Severe Weather Due to Climate The White House (blog)
White House warns of rising threat to power grid from 'extreme weather'The Hill (blog)
Greentech Media –TIME –
all 79 news articles »

extreme weather – read more

Trying to Energize the Push for a Smart Grid

For years, electrical experts have been calling for a “smart grid” that could better sense and adapt to changing conditions, from electrical outages to shifts in power consumption. Massoud Amin, referred to by some as the “father of the smart grid,” talks about how and why the country should improve its aging electrical infrastructure.

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Power Grid Must Adapt To Handle Renewable Energy

Grid operators constantly match what power plants are producing with what people and their TVs, microwaves and air conditioners need. But when the electricity comes from unpredictable sources, like wind or solar power, balancing the grid is a challenge, a new study finds.

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Sunvalley Solar Partners With GRID Alternatives – Biloxi Sun Herald

WALNUT, Calif., Sept. 17 — /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Sunvalley Solar, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: SSOL), a leading solar power technology and solar system integration company, announces a statewide …
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Arizona man is living ‘off the grid’ – Zanesville Times Recorder

TUCSON, Ariz. — He grew up off Bear Canyon Road, catching fish and crawdads in Sabino Creek. “We’d spend all day there, swim in the pools, hike to Seven Falls. We would hardly see anyone,” said Jonathan Hanson. We are …
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