Buy or Lease Solar

Smart home energyThat 30 percent tax credit on solar panels that was supposed to expire this year? It’s been extended, all the way to 2019. I feel like we just got an extension on a term paper — but if we don’t start writing now, the deadline is going to be here again before we know it.

To get the full Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), we’ve got to get our panels purchased and put up in the next three years. After that, the credit fades out: to 26 percent in 2020, and then to 22 percent in 2021. By 2023, the residential tax credit will be $0. And after that, who knows? We may all be living in egg-shaped, self-reliant, solar-powered tiny homes. The time really is now.

The price of solar panels — even for top-rated panels from SolarWorld and Canadian Solar — is down. It’s fallen by more than 75 percent since 2009, according to prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben. This drop reflects increased efficiency, both in the manufacturing process and in the panels themselves. Still, the initial cost of buying and installing a full system, including panels and supporting parts, can run between $10,000 and $40,000.

But, you don’t need to have a spare $10K to plunk down. Options like leasing and power purchase agreements (PPAs) from well-known solar names like Solar City and Vivint allow you to generate solar energy without up-front costs. Depending on where you live, there might even be a way for you to buy power from a solar farm.

Read more…

Does Renewable Energy Increase Electricity Costs?

By Daniel Fleischmann, Renewable Energy World

Since the big push from the U.S. government for investment in renewable energy in 2009, we’ve had the opportunity to see how prices have changed between states that have made large investments in renewable energy, and those that have not.

Critics of renewable energy investment say that renewable energy will never be as cost-effective as fossil fuels and could give customers sticker shock.

But is that the case?

To make the comparison, I took a sampling of 40 states; 20 states that have clearly invested heavily in increasing generation from renewable energy, and 20 states that have clearly been lagging behind on investment. I left out Alaska and Hawaii, where electricity prices are affected by different market forces than in the lower 48 states. I focused on the increased generation from geothermal, solar, and wind energy. Biomass has only grown measurably in New Hampshire and Virginia over the past several years.

I focused on generation rather than consumption, since the practice of actually constructing and operating these facilities within the state is more of an “investment” than buying power from hundreds of miles away. To do this, I compared the average price of power provided by the Energy Information Agency (EIA) for each of these states from 2010 through 2015 with the approximate average price over the last 18 months.*

In selecting the states for each list, I found it pretty clear to differentiate those that had invested heavily in renewable energy and significantly increased generation, with those that had not. This list takes into account EIA estimates on generation from distributed solar.

The obvious states that have invested heavily include California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont. As for the remaining six states, I found Arizona worthy for the list, growing from 0.2 percent of its generation from wind and solar in 2010 to nearly 5.8 percent through the first half of 2016.

Read more…

Businesses Support Clean Power Plan

This is an interesting article for us here in Arizona where our Senators have sued to stop the Clean Power Plan. The leading businesses understand the value of the Clean Power Plan to the economy, communities and jobs. Our Senators seem to place more value on the benefits to dirty power and the contributions they make to their political campaigns.

Tech titans Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as global brand companies Ikea, Mars, Adobe and Blue Shield Blue Cross Massachusetts told a U.S. court Friday that they need the federal Clean Power Plan for economic reasons.

In two separate Amici Curiae briefs filed in U.S. Circuit Court supporting the EPA’s plan for reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by 32 percent, the corporate giants said without a “national carbon mitigation plan,” they face “undesirable business risk,” energy price volatility and higher costs.

With these arguments, the businesses seem to have flipped prospects for the Obama administration’s centerpiece climate change policy, which only a month ago looked dim after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to delay its enforcement.

Since the eight companies collectively employ about 1 million people, account for nearly $2 trillion in market capitalization and are major energy consumers — the tech companies alone use 10 million megawatt hours of electricity a year — they have clout.  

Read more here.

Water & Coal for Power

Most of us know that producing electricity requires water. Our most common means of generating electricity is to boil water and use the pressure of the steam to turn turbines. An average coal-fired plant uses as much water as a medium-size city every year. When you add up all the water used by the coal plants in the world, it totals billions of gallons of water that could be used for essential purposes, such as drinking and growing food. Attached is a study by Greenpeace showing water use plant-by-plant. Given that we have plenty of other ways to generate electricity that do not waste our precious water supplies, this is a study in man’s stupidity…or the greed of a few.

Coal Water AW D26LORES

Value of Energy Efficiency

Steven Nadel, Executive Director of American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Multiple studies looking at spending and savings across programs, over time and in multiple states, all show the same thing: energy efficiency is highly cost effective. Put another way, it keeps electricity affordable by meeting demand and environmental regulations at a lower cost than if we generated new power, including from clean energy resources. To help break down this discussion to key points, we released two new fact sheets today, one showing that energy efficiency is consistently the lowest-cost option for meeting electric demand and the other showing that including energy efficiency can lower the cost of Clean Power Plan compliance.

How Much Does Energy Efficiency Cost?” includes results from studies by Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryACEEE, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The fact sheet shows how these studies provide further evidence that energy efficiency costs less than other sources of energy, and also that the costs of energy efficiency have been level in recent years. “Energy Efficiency Lowers the Cost of Clean Power Plan Compliance” looks at the results of three studies, all finding that including energy efficiency as part of state compliance plans will lower costs to utility customers. For example, a study by Synapse Resource Economics provides state-by-state information on most of the states…

To continue reading this blog post, visit: http://aceee.org/blog/2016/03/new-studies-are-showing-what-we 

To read “How Much Does Energy Efficiency Cost?” visit http://aceee.org/fact-sheet/cost-of-ee 

To read “Energy Efficiency Lowers the Cost of Clean Power Plan Compliance” visit http://aceee.org/fact-sheet/ee-lowers-cost-cpp

100% Renewable Energy in 10 Years

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute:

If our transition to renewable energy is successful, we will achieve savings in the ongoing energy expenditures needed for economic production. We will be rewarded with a quality of life that is acceptable—and, perhaps, preferable to our current one (even though, for most Americans, material consumption will be scaled back from its current unsustainable level). We will have a much more stable climate than would otherwise be the case. And we will see greatly reduced health and environmental impacts from energy production activities.

But the transition will entail costs—not just money and regulation, but also changes in our behavior and expectations. It will probably take at least three or four decades, and will fundamentally change the way we live.

Nobody knows how to accomplish the transition in detail, because this has never been done before. Most previous energy transitions were driven by opportunity, not policy. And they were usually additive, with new energy resources piling onto old ones (we still use firewood, even though we’ve added coal, hydro, oil, natural gas, and nuclear to the mix).

Since the renewable energy revolution will require trading our currently dominant energy sources (fossil fuels) for alternative ones (mostly wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass) that have different characteristics, there are likely to be some hefty challenges along the way.

Therefore, it makes sense to start with the low-hanging fruit and with a plan in place, then revise our plan frequently as we gain practical experience. Several organizations have already formulated plans for transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. David Fridley, staff scientist of the energy analysis program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and I have been working for the past few months to analyze and assess those plans and have a book in the works titledOur Renewable Future. Here’s a very short summary, tailored mostly to the United States, of what we’ve found.

Read more here.

Science of Inequity

This is an interesting discussion of the embedded systems in our economy that create and perpetuate inequity and poverty. While this presentation can seem a bit academic, it does give an interesting look at the ways to eliminate poverty and correct the problems with our economic systems. Thanks to Geoff McDonnell and Gene Bellinger of the Systems Wiki.

Energy-Water Nexus

By Steven Nadel , Executive Director

ACEEE and many others have noted the importance of the nexus between energy and water issues. Energy is used to move, treat, and heat water. Water is vital for producing energy, such as for cooling electric generating plants. Insufficient water availability can increase energy use for pumping and decrease energy production. Flooding can damage both energy and water systems. And there are many opportunities to promote both energy and water efficiency at the same time. Next month we will release a fact sheet on our work on the energy-water nexus and how both energy and water efficiency play critical roles. But first, I want to explore how the relationship between energy and water may evolve in future years, particularly in response to climate change.

Impacts on water supply and demand from Climate change

Parts of the US—primarily in the triangle from Montana to southern California to western Texas—are already experiencing water stress, meaning that water is being withdrawn from water sources at a rate that might not be sustainable (see map on page 272 here).

According to the US Global Change Research Program, as the climate changes, some regions, such as south of the Great Lakes, will get more precipitation and other regions, like the southwest, will get less. A stylized map of expected precipitation changes from their 2008 report is below.

Water flow change in 2040-2060 relative to 1901-1970. Source: US Climate Change Science Program, p. 138. (following this report the program was renamed the US Global Change Research Program). Read more here…

Walmart & Eggs?

Walmart to Purchase Only Cage-Free Hen Eggs By 2025

Walmart announced last week it plans to source 100 percent of the eggs it sells at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in the U.S. from cage-free suppliers by 2025. That’s big news, especially considering the company is the largest grocer in the country. But what exactly does cage-free mean?

If you’re picturing happy flocks of chickens scratching away for insects on a sunny hillside somewhere (the kind of images egg companies love to adorn their cartons with), you’d be wrong. Cage-free facilities can still be industrial-scale chicken farming where thousands of hens spend their lives indoors in what many would consider cramped conditions.

Walmart will require all their egg suppliers to be certified by United Egg Producers and compliant with the trade organization’s Animal Husbandry Guidelines. The UEP—which represents U.S. chicken farmers who own about 95 percent of the country’s laying hens—updated its guidelines this year, including the standards for cage-free operations. Based on the guidelines each hen should be allotted between 1 and 1.5 square feet of space and 6 inches of elevated perch space, and 15 percent of the usable floor of the hen house must be a scratch area. This setup allows the birds to exhibit some of their natural instincts such as dust-bathing, scratching, perching, and wing flapping. There’s no provision that the birds be allowed outdoors. Read More→

Higher Wages Reduce Tax Spending

Millions of Americans rely upon public assistance programs to help meet their basic needs. These programs provide a vital lifeline for individuals and families struggling to get by. Indeed, given rising costs of necessities such as child care, housing, and health care, many families’ ability to achieve a modest but adequate standard of living requires resources earned on the job and assistance from government programs.

However, for many workers in certain sectors, wages are so low that even those who work full time must rely heavily on government assistance to make ends meet. This suggests that low pay by many employers—facilitated by weakened or inadequate labor standards, such as a low minimum wage and outdated overtime regulations—is placing unwarranted demands on public resources. As corporations achieve extraordinarily high profit levels and executive pay reaches new heights, it is appropriate to question whether employers are effectively passing off a portion of their societal responsibilities on to taxpayers.

This report examines the utilization of public assistance among low-wage workers and their families. After a brief review of previous research, it presents data on program participation and transfer income receipt by working individuals’ annual hours of work, hourly wage level, major industry of employment, and state. Then it examines how higher wages among workers at various wage levels affect utilization rates and benefit dollars received. Finally, it discusses policies that would raise wages and the effect these policies would have on public assistance utilization and overall program spending. It concludes that higher hourly wages for low- and middle-wage workers, achievable through a variety of labor-market policies, would unambiguously generate savings in government safety-net and income-support programs—savings that could be used to strengthen and expand anti-poverty programs or make critical public investments to boost productivity and grow the economy. Read More→