Solar Technical Brief Examines Utility Cross-Functional Coordination

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have released Community Solar Program Design: Working Within the Utility. This is the latest in the series of quarterly bulletins and briefs focusing on utility solar business models from the SEPA and EPRI partnership.

This brief focuses on community solar programs, a type of business model that requires innovative approaches and cross-functional coordination. From the point of view of the community solar design person or team within a utility, this brief explores topics including:

  • The inter-departmental strategic needs that should be addressed in the development of a community solar program
  • Strategic and design questions the community solar design team may need to answer, and how feedback from other stakeholders may help 
  • Two case studies on community solar programs at Seattle City Light and Tucson Electric Power, including lessons learned during the development process

Visitors may login and download the report.  SEPA is happy to answer your comments and questions about any of this bulletin’s featured research and events. Please contact Bianca Barth at 202-379-1615.

Source: Solar Electric Power Association, 2/15/12

Scholarships available to utilities for 2012 SEPA events

The Solar Electric Power Association is offering a limited number of scholarships for electric utility staff to attend one of their conferences in 2012. The scholarships are intended to encourage attendance by utility staff that would not otherwise be able to attend due to budgetary and/or travel restrictions. Municipal, cooperative and investor-owned utility staff are eligible to apply for a scholarship to:

  • PV America 2012 West, March 19-21 in San Jose, CA – Deadline is Jan. 20; applicants will be notified no later than January 30, 2012.
  • Utility Solar Conference, April 17-18 in Tucson, AZ – Deadline is Feb. 17;  applicants will be notified no later than February 27, 2012.
  • Solar Power International, Sept. 10-13 in Orlando, FL – Deadline is June 15, 2012; applicants will be notified no later than June 25, 2012.

Recipients will receive complimentary full conference registration, and a travel stipend for coach airfare and hotel stay (receipts reimbursed). For PV America and USC, the travel stipend is up to $750. For SPI the stipend is up to $1,000 because of the conference’s duration. SEPA will consider geographic location, utility-type and SEPA membership status to ensure diversity of recipients. Only one scholarship is available per utility, per event, and is available only to utilities. Applicants must be at a management level or above.

Apply today! Questions about the scholarship program can be directed to Jessica Sliva.

SEPA report examines utility decisions to buy, vs. build solar

As utilities seek to add more renewable generation to meet renewable portfolio standards (RPS), they must choose between two procurement options—ownership or contracting. 

Buy versus Build: A Qualitative Comparison of Financial, Tax and Regulatory Issues Influencing Utility Solar Procurement, a new report from the Solar Electric Power Association, explores the factors that impact a utility’s decision whether to buy (PPA) or build (own) solar generation. Considerations include:

  • How imputed debt, cost of capital and accounting treatment affect the financial decision-making process
  • Whether investor-owned utilities will be influenced by tax incentives to build solar generation
  • Creative ownership structures that may help municipal and cooperative utilities monetize the benefits of tax incentives
  • The effect of regulatory considerations, such as integrated resource planning and cost recovery risk, on a utility’s determination whether to build or buy?

Login to download the report. For more information, contact Becky Campbell at 202.559.2030.

Free webinar explores energy audit program development

Tuesday, Oct. 18
12 noon Central Time

Some municipal utilities and electric cooperatives are working with community groups and local colleges to develop energy audit programs and new low-cost energy savings campaigns.

How to Expand Your Energy Audit CapabilitiesExternal link information will focus on how to accomplish energy audits that REALLY produce energy improvements. Participants will hear from a community organization that used an energy audit as a springboard to update a local rescue mission with energy-efficient upgrades and retrofits. There will also be a presentation from a municipal utility that is using energy audits to help promote their direct-install program.

Clean Energy Ambassadors hold free webinars from noon to 1 pm Central time (11 a.m. – noon Mountain) on the third Tuesday of each month. Because the events focus on needs of consumer-owned utilities, the discussion can be specific, candid and informal.

RegisterExternal link information for this free Webinar and to see the full line-up of CEA services and events. If you have any questions please contact Stevie Moe at 406-969-1040.

Learn how utilities can support renewable projects in schools

Free webinar series helps utilities save money and better serve their customers

Join the Clean Energy Ambassadors (CEA) Tuesday, Sept. 20, at noon Central Time for the next free event in the Lunchtime Webinar Series, Utility Support for Renewables in the Schools External link information.
An executive at GE stated a few years ago, that “wind is not a science project anymore,” meaning, of course, that wind technology had become a reliable, mainstream resource for utilities. The same is true of photovoltaic systems. By the time today’s fourth-graders graduate high school, wind and solar power could well make up 20 percent or more of most utility resource portfolios. So what can utilities do to introduce school kids to the resources that will be a part of their not-too-distant energy future?

This webinar explores how community-owned utilities nationwide are helping to bring working renewable energy demonstration projects and curricula to local schools and how you can join them—whether your utility prefers to own the generation or to facilitate school- or third-party ownership.

Speakers will share current success stories of consumer-owned utilities that encourage renewable energy in the schools, including a school-based wind projects in Iowa and South Dakota and school-based solar projects at co-ops and public power utilities nationwide. Larry Flowers, who helped initiate the Wind Energy for Schools program for US DOE and is now promoting school programs through the American Wind Energy Association External link information will talk about his experience working with electric co-ops and public power. Jill Cliburn, a regular contributor to the Clean Energy Ambassadors’ blog, brings her field experience to a discussion of School Solar Best Practices, including using voluntary subscriptions, low-cost financing and power purchase agreements to help support school solar projects.
CEA Webinars are held from 12-1 pm Central time (11 a.m. – noon Mountain Time) on the third Tuesday of each month. Because they are focused on the needs of consumer-owned utilities primarily in the Midwest and Plains states, the discussion can be specific, candid and informal. Register today for this free webinar to secure your place.

SEPA report finds 100% increase in utility integrated solar power

According to the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) 2010 Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings report, the top ranked utilities integrated 561 MW of solar electricity in 2010, showing 100 percent growth over one year. 

Utilities were scored in two areas: Solar megawatts installed in 2010 and solar watts per customer. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association was the only Western customer to appear in the first category, acquiring 30.2 MW of new solar power last year. In the second category, Western customer Silicon Valley Power in California ranked first nationally with nearly 40 watts-per-customer. The City of Banning, also in California, moved into the Top 10 by providing more than 27 watts of solar generation per customer. 

The report indicated that market growth is increasingly occurring in areas outside of the solar resource-rich regions of California and the Southwest. Another emerging trend the report identified is the move toward more utility-owned solar projects and third-party power purchase agreements, like Tri-State’s purchase from the Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico.

While 30 utilities reported owning 140 MW of solar—a 300 percent increase in utility ownership over 2009—utility solar portfolios differed widely in solar project technologies and procurement strategies. Factors such as state policies, utility preference, solar resources, electricity prices and available incentives influence the make-up of the top 10 power providers’ solar holdings. In California, for example, interconnected customer systems continue to supply a significant amount of solar power for municipal utilities like Silicon Valley and City of Banning.

SEPA is holding a webinar June 23 to discuss the report and talk about how utilities are integrating solar power into their energy portfolios, how the solar market has changed and new market trends. The one-hour event will take place 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. Eastern. The cost is free to SEPA members and the media. Register online.

Free webinar focuses on utility renewables projects

Working with Utilities on Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Projects, on  April 28, at 10 a.m. MT,  describes how municipalities can improve their economy, save energy and integrate energy efficiency and sustanable energy technologies with little or no expense. Speaker Vincent DeVito of Bowditch & Dewey LLP offers compelling reasons why utilities would benefit from working with communities and developers on renewable energy projects.

Following the presentation, participants will be able to ask questions and share their own experiences.

Although there is no cost for the webinar, registration is required. Participants will receive login information after registering.

This is the second in a five-part series, “Creating a Plan for Growing Your Local Economy Through Energy Savings and No- or Low-Cost Sustainable Energy,” hosted by Energy Forefront. For more information, call 303-281-9111.

Scholarships available to SEPA Utility Solar Conference

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is offering a limited number of scholarships to attend the 2011 Utility Solar Conference, July 26-27, at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego. 

Scholarship recipients will receive a complimentary full conference registration, valued up to $1199, plus a stipend of up to $750 for coach airfare and hotel accommodations. 

Created by utilities for utilities, the conference’s educational content will target employees across departments with a role in solar program and project development and implementation, from executives to distribution engineers to program marketers. Attendees will enjoy a variety of networking opportunities, including:

  • 2010 Top 10 Utility Awards Luncheon
  • Utility Solar Interest Groups (USIGs) face-to-face meetings
  • Evening receptions
  • Networking breakfast with your regional colleagues and SEPA regional director

Don’t miss this forum where utilities can explore solar issues free from outside influences.  The deadline to submit applications is March 7, 2011, and scholarship recipients will be notified by March 14, 2011.

Take SEPA’s utility solar integration survey

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is now collecting responses to the 2010 Utility Solar Integration Rankings Survey.  This annual survey collects utility data on solar electricity installations in the United States, both photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), on the customer and utility side of the meter.  The resulting rankings have appeared in such media outlets as the Wall Street Journal, Renewable Energy World, Transmission & Distribution World and Reuters. The information also helps utilities (regardless of rank) to compare their solar capacity with their peer utilities. 

All electric utilities are eligible to take the survey.  You can access the online survey until Feb. 14, 2011.  SEPA will release the 2010 Utility Solar Rankings Report in May 2011, and awards will be presented during SEPA’s Utility Solar Conference from July 26 to 27, 2011, in San Diego, Calif.  Please contact Becky Campbell with any questions.

Collaboration produces results in Roaring Fork Valley

Aspen Utilities Energy-efficiency Manager Jeff Rice eschewed the usual slide show on the Roaring Fork Valley Utility Collaborative to share his presentation with partners. Jason Haber of the nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) and Rob Morey of the nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) in Carbondale, Colo., joined Rice on stage to discuss the value of teamwork.

The Collaborative comprises utilities that serve the Roaring Fork Valley in the central Rocky Mountains—the municipal utilities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Holy Cross Energy, SourceGas and Xcel—as well as the two nonprofits. Rice explained that by working together, the utilities are able to provide a level of programming and services far beyond their individual resources. “If one of us doesn’t have the expertise, equipment or rebate a customer needs, someone else does,” he said.

Where funding is concerned, teaming up has created a larger pool. The utilities receive funding individually from sources such as Energy Star Partners, but leverage their funds to offer stronger incentives, or build larger projects. For example, working together on a solar thermal/photovoltaic installation on a senior housing facility, CLEEN and CORE were able to install a system that met 20 percent instead of 10 percent of the building’s load.

Aspen and Holy Cross teamed up with CORE to apply for Recovery Act funding. The nonprofit, which has funded renewable and energy-efficiency projects, and provided consumer education and policy recommendations to Pitkin County for 16 years, is administering the grants for the utilities.  “It frees me up to take care of my customers, instead of spending time on paperwork,” said Rice.

The advantages are not all financial, either. When Aspen set out to develop a program to improve the efficiency of existing buildings, Rice turned to Holy Cross and SourceGas to make sure he wasn’t duplicating any efforts. Borrowing from the two utilities’ established programs, Aspen has completed 91 home energy audits this year and has a dozen more scheduled. Local auditing and retrofit contractors have enjoyed an increase in business as a result.

Recently, the Roaring Fork Utility Collaborative successfully applied for a grant from the Small Commercial Efficiency Initiative, offered by the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office. They are now in the process of devising a program to deliver greater efficiency to small businesses. You can be sure it will benefit the entire Roaring Fork Valley.