Posts Tagged ‘CLEAN Coalition’

By definition, most of us are in the 99%. Some of us may even be in that mythical 47%. But there’s another group that many of us are in, without even being aware of it: the 75%. That’s the estimated number of people who can’t get solar on their roof.

While leases are helping far more people go solar than before, 75% of us are still left out of the equation. We may have shaded roofs, rent our homes, or live in multi-unit buildings. And these are just a few of the reasons preventing so many of us from going solar.

But don’t despair! There’s hope for the 75%, and plenty of it. The boom happening right now in community solar is making it possible for almost anyone to benefit from solar power. At a recent Community Solar Forum put on by Solar Sonoma County, the 75% became a theme as we learned about some of the options:

  • Community Choice Energy: Programs like Sonoma Clean Power and CleanPowerSF are enabling utility customers in some areas to buy their power from renewable sources.

    Joy Hughes explains solar gardens to an audience of 60 attendees at the Community Solar Forum

  • Solar Gardens: Some states have laws that allow virtual net metering, which lets utility customers subscribe to solar power from an installation not on their own roof.
  • CLEAN programs, or feed-in tariffs: By promoting these programs, the Clean Coalition is working toward the goal for 2020 of 80% of all new electricity generation in the United States coming from renewable energy sources.
  • Co-ops: Energy co-ops like the San Francisco Energy Cooperative allow anyone to participate in solar for as little as $50. They hope to be a model for other co-ops around the country.

The speakers at the forum all had slightly different perspectives, and they were focused on different ways to bring solar to communities. But they all shared the goal of helping as many people as possible to participate in renewable energy — that is, reaching the 75%.

All of these ways to bring solar to the 75% are important and highly effective — and even affordable. Models like community choice energy, solar gardens, and CLEAN programs generally result in savings, especially over time. They bring a slew of other benefits, like cleaner air, local jobs, increased national security. So it’s crucial to support these efforts. Still, while a lot is happening already, some of these programs can take years to implement, and they aren’t yet available everywhere.

In the meantime, how do we get the word out to the 75% that there are options for them — for us — now?

For most people, that will mean an appeal to their pocketbook. Those with an active interest in supporting solar for altruistic reasons are a minority. But most people like the idea of saving money or getting a good return on an investment. If they can do good at the same time, that’s a nice benefit.

And now there are more ways to invest in solar and do well while doing good. Energy co-ops can already provide a return on small investments, and the JOBS Act should allow for larger investments in the near future. Other organizations are moving from crowdfunding models where people can recoup their investment to providing a return on that investment. For example, Mosaic allows people to invest in solar projects and get paid back from the clean energy produced. There’s more coming, so stay tuned! Before long, we’ll have solar for the 75%.

What you can do now:

This post was originally published at Mosaic on 11/12/12.

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Community power is springing up everywhere! There’s a huge amount of interest in it – in fact, as I noted almost a year ago, it’s really a movement, and one that keeps growing. This was in evidence at the recent San Francisco Bay Area Community Solar Confluence I organized, which was co-sponsored by the Solar Gardens Institute and the Local Clean Energy Alliance. It was part of a series of similar events this spring in Boston, New York, and Omaha.

A small part of the Confluence audience

The event drew in 80 people from diverse perspectives:

  • Members of community groups and neighborhood associations
  • Organizations that are funding community power
  • People working on policy to promote community power, or advocating for community power in other ways
  • Members of activist groups like 350.org
  • Government employees
  • Solar installers
  • And even individuals not associated with any organization, who were just interested in finding out more about community power

We also had a range of speakers from organizations promoting community power. Though the organizations have different approaches, they’re all working toward the same goal – and that’s to empower communities and help as many people as possible participate in renewable energy.

I’ve posted Confluence videos and presentations from these organizations on the Solar Gardens Institute Training page:

Evan Wynns, Andreas Karelas, Youness Scally

Learn more about policy:

The fact that we had to squeeze the talks and questions into not enough time attests to how much is happening with community power in the Bay Area, and how much interest there is. The Confluence gave us an overview of community solar in the area and introduced many of us to one another. Let’s continue the conversation!

Joy Hughes, Ted Ko, Eric Brooks, and Erica Mackie

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, get involved locally:

  • Join the Local Clean Energy Alliance for updates on what’s going on, including monthly meetings on community power issues. The LCEA welcomes volunteers in a variety of areas, so here’s your chance to keep networking and learning.

For more Confluence videos, see the Solar Gardens Institute Training page and YouTube channel.

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Panama Bartholemy and Stephanie Wang at the San Francisco Green Festival

This post was originally published on The Energy Collective.

Those of us who live in California often have occasion to feel proud of our state’s leadership in the area of clean energy. The spring 2011  San Francisco Green Festival provided another such opportunity at the session on “Accelerating the Transition to Clean Energy,” with speakers Panama Bartholemy of the CA Energy Commission and Stephanie Wang from the CLEAN Coalition.

California is facing these realities:

  • The demand for electricity in the state is growing by about 1.2 – 1.6% a year.
  • In California, 1 in 5 children have asthma.
  • Electricity use accounts for 24% of emissions in the state, transportation 37%, and industry 21%.
  • Though we use a lot more natural gas than energy from dirtier sources such as coal, California produces only 13% of the natural gas we use.

However, according to Panama Bartholemy, these are also true:

  • More jobs are created by renewable energy than by natural gas production.
  • By the end of 2010, California was getting 17% of our energy from renewable sources, and our goal for 2020 is 30%.
  • Almost 300 renewable energy facilities are in the permitting process in California, representing over 51,000 megawatts. Although not all of these will get built, there’s clearly a lot of activity in this area.
  • Though the costs for solar installation are still high, the cost of photovoltaic solar has plummeted, and by 2020 the cost of PV should be comparable to that of energy from the grid.
  • An expansion of large wind and solar is expected in the state.

That last item sounds positive, but it creates challenges in two areas: How do we build these large facilities responsibly and avoid destroying precious habitat for endangered species? And how do we avoid building miles of transmission lines?

A solution that the CLEAN coalition (“Making Clean Energy Accessible Now”) is pursuing is to move from placing solar and wind facilities in the desert to generating renewable energy within our communities. In keeping with this goal, Stephanie Wang noted, Governor Jerry Brown has called for 60% of clean energy systems in California to be installed within California communities in the next 10 years.

CLEAN programs are being launched at local, state, and national levels and are expected to cut costs and encourage renewable energy production:

  • CLEAN contracts require utilities to enter into long-term contracts to purchase all energy from eligible renewable energy systems at a fixed rate, making it easier to sell clean energy to utilities. This also encourages more production of clean energy — for example, currently, any excess energy produced by a PG&E customer can only be used as a credit over the course of the year, not sold to PG&E. So there’s no incentive to produce more than one will use over the year. These programs will change that and thereby encourage installation of renewable energy systems on unused spaces such as warehouse roofs.
  • Grid interconnection makes it easier to site and connect clean local energy projects to the grid, and to reduce time and costs for financing.

CLEAN California, which will soon be launched, is expected to create more clean energy projects faster than other plans. It will create more jobs that employ people locally, and it will stimulate billions dollars of investment in the state. According to a study by UC Berkeley, the program will increase direct state revenues by over $2 billion. In addition, creating power locally avoids the 10 years or so required to plan and build transmission lines — not to mention that some power is lost when being transported over these lines. Instead of damaging fragile habitat, the program advocates placing solar systems over areas such as landfills, parking lots, commercial or apartment buildings, and agricultural land.

If you’re a California resident interested in participating, you can take action with CLEAN California by becoming a partner (if you represent an organization that can endorse the CLEAN California program), requesting a speaker, or getting involved as an organizer. And if you live in the rest of the country, never fear — programs like this one are planned around the country. It will be interesting to follow them and see where they go.

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