Category Archives: Geothermal Energy

Despite Ohio Freeze, Renewable Energy Continues To Be Hot

Last month, Ohio Governor Kasich signed legislation putting a two-year ‘freeze’ on the state’s proven, successful, and money-saving renewable energy standard. Doing so, he is moving Ohio backward as other states move forward, developing job-creating  CO2-neutral/CO2-light, clean renewable energy.

This new state law freezes economic growth in a sector that employs 25,000 people in Ohio, while costing Ohio consumers plenty of their hard-earned money. This news underscores two important things: first, the power of incumbent fossil fuel interests to pass damaging, unpopular legislation, and secondly, just how out of step Ohio’s elected officials are with their own constituents.

A broad coalition of Ohioans came together to support maintaining the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Honda and Whirlpool, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, labor groups, clergy and environmentalists united in their vocal support of renewable energy and energy efficiency. A poll of Ohioans found more than 70 percent of those surveyed favor renewable energy over traditional power plants, while 86 percent support utility energy efficiency programs. Shamefully, Ohio politicians instead stood up for incumbent special interests over their own constituents by supporting this costly legislation.

While advocates for greater energy choices should be upset at the way Ohio politicians were cajoled by the powerful fossil fuel lobby, they should take heart that Ohio is the exception. Nationwide, investments in renewable energy have helped states create new jobs and diversify their energy portfolios.

Iowa was the first state to enact a renewable portfolio standard. Today, Iowa is well on its way to producing 40% of its electricity from renewable sources. The state is home to more than 3,000 wind turbines and 4,000 wind industry jobs. Tens of billions of dollars have flowed into Iowa through investment in the industry and by direct payments to landowners for use of their land for operating wind farms. Now, Ohio is missing the boat.

In Nevada, the state’s goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025 helped create more than 2,000 solar jobs and drive more than $100 million invested in the state. Now, Ohio is missing the boat.

Ohio is not the only state that faced a vigorous attempt to roll back its smart investments in renewable energy. In Kansas, fossil fuel interested ran a similar campaign to roll back its popular renewable portfolio standard as recently as this past May. In just five years since it passed in 2009, Kansas’ investments into renewable energy have paid dividends. Kansas powers over 20% of its electricity using renewable resources. Investments in wind created a Kansas manufacturing renaissance, to the tune of 12,000 jobs. In fact, Kansas was able to land major investment from Mars Inc. because Kansas’ wealth of renewable energy resources will help that company meet its corporate sustainability goals. Now, Ohio is missing the boat.

These telling business-based facts are reasons why renewable energy is popular across party lines. Interestingly, each of these states — Iowa, Nevada and Kansas — all have Republican governors who are renewable energy fans.

Across the country, from regions as geographically and politically varied as Arizona, Oregon, Vermont and North Carolina, we’re seeing similar policy and regulatory progress on renewable energy because of the resiliency and broad bipartisan support for job-creating, clean renewable energy.

Not that it’s rocket science, but well-funded, special interest bought and paid for attacks on renewable energy are likely to continue. They are likely to continue because the dwindling opponents of renewable energy see the ship has sailed and desperate failures call for desperate efforts to try and reverse the tide — but, time and tide wait for no man. Renewable energy continues like a flood-tide to boost economic growth and lower the cost of energy. Ohio made a mistake this past month – let’s hope Governor Kasich is able to make things right again. Otherwise, Ohio will be still standing on the pier as the rest of the Midwest sails prosperously by.

Countdown Begins to Projects of the Year Deadline!

August 31 is the last day to apply for the Projects of the Year and Woman of the Year awards, which you can do by clicking here.

The awards are given for Best Renewable Energy, Best Coal, Best Nuclear and Best Natural Gas project. Finalists will be selected in all five renewable energy categories as well as the other categories.  A Readers’ Choice award will also be given to one of the finalists.

I and my awards Co-Chair Jenn Runyon recently held a Google Hangout to answer questions about the awards program, the nomination process and what happens after voting is completed. You can watch a replay of the entire Hangout at the link below, but here are a few highlights:

  • Nominations do not have to be new builds. They can also be retrofits, upgrades or even innovative products or procedures that help processes move smoothly,
  • Projects can be of any size, from kilowatt-sized distributed generation projects to gigawatt-sized power plants,
  • Projects can be sited anywhere in the world,
  • Plant owners are not the only ones allowed to submit a nomination. EPCs and other contractors can also submit a nomination as well,
  • Simply submitting your project puts it in front of the eyes of the editors of PennWell, which means one of us could be interested in learning more about your project and writing an article about it. So even if it’s not picked, it could still be a winner for publicity!

More questions can be answered by watching the replay of the Hangout, or feel free to contact me or Jenn Runyon if you have any questions. Good luck, and we look forward to reading about your projects!

Lead image: Awards via Shutterstock.

Les Cedres, Stevens Creek hydropower projects join Hydro Hall of Fame

Two additional plants were added to the Hydro Hall of Fame at this year’s HydroVision International closing awards luncheon and finale in Nashville, Tenn.

The Hydro Hall of Fame is a collection of 38 plants that have been in continuous operation for 100 years or more. These testaments to hydropower’s durability and long life have been chosen as inductees by the editors of Hydro Review every year since 1995, based on their age, performance history, and unique characteristics.

The Les Cedres and Stevens Creek hydropower plants were inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame class with representatives from each plant owner in attendance to accept the award and make a few remarks on the achievement. 

Located in Quebec, Canada, the 103-MW Les Cedres hydroelectric plant is situated in the Saint Lawrence River. The plant was commissioned in 1914 with nine main vertical Francis units and three auxiliary units with a finished capacity of 78.4 MW. At that time, these were some of the largest vertical units in use in Canada. The plant also utilized Kingsbury bearings. Nine additional units were installed at a later date, bringing it to a capacity of 162 MW. Les Cedres was the first plant in Canada to be built with the goal of exporting power out of the country. An agreement was reached in 1912 with ALCOA that committed 44.76 MW of power generated to an aluminum plant in upstate New York. Owned by Hydro Quebec, the facility is still active, making it the second oldest facility still in operation in Quebec today.

The Stevens Creek hydropower plant has been in continuous operation since its commissioning in February 1914. Located on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia, Stevens Creek hydro was considered by local media outlets to be the greatest engineering feat in the region at the time it was commissioned. The installed capacity in 1914 was 11.8 MW, divided between five vertical units. Construction on this project was completed in two years with a workforce of more than 800 workers. The workers were cared for in the full service work camp, which was complete with a commissary, boarding houses, butcher shop, bake shop, ice and refrigerating plant, filtered water and sewage systems and a fully-equipped hospital with resent physician on site. Currently, the plant, which is owned by South Carolina Electric Gas, generates an estimated 94 GW/h annually to the Georgia grid. 

For more information on these plants, check out the Hydro Video Library here.

To nominate your 100-year old plant for inclusion in the Hydro Hall of Fame or to see more about the plants inducted into the Hall of Fame, click here. 

U.S. Solar Industry Waiting for SolarWorld to ‘Show Its Hand’

As the old proverb goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”  But convincing some people of that isn’t easy. 

In hopes of ending the long-running and costly U.S.-China solar trade dispute, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has urged SolarWorld Americas LLC to step forward and offer a specific proposal that could serve as the basis for discussions and eventually lead to a negotiated settlement.

Editor’s note: Find SolarWorld CEO Mukesh Dulani’s open letter to SEIA, published August 6th, here.

Since the divisive solar trade war first erupted several years ago, SEIA has been working tirelessly to broker a truce and achieve a win-win solution for the entire U.S. solar industry, but it take two sides to negotiate.

To begin with, SEIA fully supports SolarWorld’s stated goal of achieving an amicable solution to the ongoing U.S.-China solar trade conflict, as evidenced by our work to develop a settlement proposal and facilitate meetings between SolarWorld and Chinese manufacturers.  I must take issue, however, with the company’s misguided assertion that SEIA sanctions unfair trade practices.

From the first day SolarWorld initiated trade litigation in 2011, SEIA has been steadfast in its support for the rules-based global trading system, including trade remedy proceedings.  We have also consistently stated that other foundational principles of this system — specifically, negotiations and dispute resolution — must be recognized.  Reliance on litigation alone is failing the U.S. solar industry by raising costs, disrupting U.S. manufacturing supply chains and providing no long-term solution to the growing U.S.-China solar trade conflict. 

Simply put, just because a party has the right to litigate, doesn’t mean they should.  Many times, such as here, there are much better alternatives to litigation.

With these principles in mind, SEIA developed the Draft Recommendation to Governments for the Establishment of a U.S.-China Solar Trade Agreement.  This proposal was drafted with broad industry input and is designed to address U.S. cell and module manufacturers’ competitiveness concerns, while ensuring the continued growth of the U.S. solar market.

SEIA’s proposal also recognizes the interests of the 30,000 other U.S. solar manufacturing employees producing polysilicon, ingots, wafers, metallization pastes, encapsulants, backsheet, junction boxes, connectors, racking systems, inverters, finished goods and solar manufacturing equipment, as well as the more than 100,000 individuals employed in the solar services sector, such as installation, maintenance, project development, finance, engineering, consulting, legal, testing and certification and distribution.  SEIA’s proposal is truly an industry-wide solution.

Regarding SolarWorld’s suggestion that SEIA “reformulate and resubmit” this proposal,” it is unclear what, specifically, SolarWorld seeks from a negotiated solution, beyond the general demand that any settlement “eliminate China’s unfair trade practices” and “be enforceable.”  SEIA has developed and publicly released an industry-wide solution.  We welcome specific input from SolarWorld on this document and/or any alternative proposal.

As I stated recently, it’s time roll up our sleeves, work together and reach an agreement that’s good for everyone.  Continued litigation is bad for the industry and, we believe, bad for SolarWorld.  SEIA’s settlement proposal remains the best path forward.  But we will not preclude any settlement option that serves the greater interests of the U.S. solar industry. 

Working together, we can have our cake — and share it, too!

US Solar Industry Continues Rapid Growth

This was a huge week for fans of clean energy. 

First, Telsa Motors announced that it would build a new factory in Nevada, employing 6,500 workers.  Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to hold a vote later this year on green energy tax credits.  That important announcement was quickly followed by news that the U.S. solar market hit a major milestone in the second quarter of this year with more than half a million homes and businesses now generating solar energy.

According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,133 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the second quarter of this year.

The residential and commercial segments accounted for nearly half of all solar PV installations in the quarter. The residential market has seen the most consistent growth of any segment for years, and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

Across the United States, cumulative PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) operating capacity has reached nearly 16 gigawatts (GW), enough to power more than 3.2 million homes.

Simply put, solar continues to soar, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity. 

Showing continued strength, the utility PV segment made up 55 percent of U.S. solar installations in the second quarter of the year. It has accounted for more than half of national PV installations for five straight quarters. In just two years, the utility segment has quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 MW in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 MW today.

GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.5 GW of PV will be installed in the United States by the end of this year.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • The U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar PV in Q2 2014, up 21 percent over Q2 2013, making it the fourth-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity has now eclipsed the 15 GW mark thanks to three consecutive quarters of more than 1 GW installed.
  • As of the first half of 2014, more than half a million homeowners and commercial customers have installed solar PV.
  • 53 percent of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in the first half of 2014 came from solar.
  • Growth remains driven primarily by the utility solar PV market, which installed 625 MW in Q2 2014, up from 543 MW in Q2 2013.

The report also forecasts that PV installations will reach 6.5 GW in 2014, up 36 percent over 2013 and more than three times the market size of just three years ago, while CSP will have its best year ever.

Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps nearly $15 billion a year into our economy.  This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS).  By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. economy and our environment – and should be maintained, if not expanded, given their tremendous success, as well as their importance to America’s future.

Any way you look at it, this was a big week for clean energy – but an even bigger year so far for solar.

Building a Viable Solar Marketplace in Nigeria

In countries where there are established markets for alternative and renewable energy sources, economic and financial inducements such as feed in tariffs, tax incentives, net metering and self supply schemes have significantly driven market activities in the new energy sector and provided enabling environments for individuals, businesses and the government to play their respective roles in developing a more vibrant energy market.

At the vanguard of these encouraging economic policies are industrialized nations affecting their economies positively and making an impact on the everyday lives of their people. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, could learn a thing or two from these renewable energy front runners.

Solar technologies, in particular, have overcome so many obstacles over the years and are ultimately advancing in several countries against scores of odds; many thanks to policies that have been formulated to catch up with existing energy markets which favour the large utility companies who have called the shots for many decades.

In reality, the irony of the current situation is that all the top solar energy markets in the world (Germany, China, Italy, Japan, United States, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Australia and Belgium) currently have well-run energy delivery systems and remarkable power infrastructures in place. Most are mainly seeking to diversify and reinforce their power generation capacities using alternative sources. On the other hand, countries faced with the mammoth challenges of energy insecurity and poverty, decrepit power infrastructures and in dire need for a revamp in their power sectors are the ones significantly lagging behind in the new and renewable energy race.

For many decades, the proportion of Nigeria’s population without access to the nation’s power grid has always been between 40 to 60 percent. As a result, the federal government proactively launched its power sector reforms in 2010 which was aimed to be a catalyst for growth and to improve the standard of living of Nigerians. This conspicuously included solar energy as one of the main alternative sources of energy to be harnessed. With very favourable natural conditions and increasing energy demand, solar in Nigeria is justified. Her population, 170 million people, further reinforces the economic prospects and boundless market opportunities available. These, amongst many, are some noteworthy indicators which will play significant roles in developing the solar marketplace in Africa’s number one economy.

As with all forms of energy, with the right strategies, the large scale deployment of solar technologies can guarantee its success and encourage market growth which inevitably will bring down costs. Given solar’s potential, the solar energy sector in Nigeria should not be solely controlled by forces of demand and supply. These will only result to very high costs and low patronage as currently experienced. To forestall the discouraging solar market trends in Nigeria, practical measures should be taken to engage interested parties and stakeholders in order to provide support and give confidence.

Practices currently employed in solar advancing markets evidently show that the forces of demand and supply alone will not effectively bring about the desired energy revolution. Nigeria could learn a lot from global renewable energy best practices and policies. The benefits of these are tremendous. Not only will there be increased power generation but also jobs creation, better standard of living and an improved economic outlook in general.  

Lead image: Nigeria flag via Shutterstock

Finalists for Renewable Energy World Projects of the Year 2014 Revealed

The finalists were selected from four major categories: Renewables, Gas, Coal and Nuclear.

The finalists for Best Renewable Project are NRG Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station in California, Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan Generating Station Biomass Conversion Project, the Arizona Solana project built by Abengoa, the Pantex Wind Project in Texas, nominated by the Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group Inc., and the UN City solar project by SolCell Ltd. Dansk Solenergi Int. in Denmark.

The 2014 Best Gas Project finalists are Kansai Electric Power’s Kansai Himeji No. 2 Thermal Power Station in Japan; and Siemens Energy’s Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center in Florida.

The Best Coal Project finalists are the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Sequestration Project, owned by SaskPower in Saskatchewan, Canada; and the Columbia Energy Center Air Quality control Retrofit, performed by Black Veatch.

The Best Nuclear finalists are the Kudankulam 1 Nuclear Power Plant, owned by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited in India, and the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in Iran, built by Rosatom.

“The world’s appetite for energy continues to grow,” said Richard G. Baker, senior vice president of PennWell’s Power Generation Group. “Companies like those represented by this year’s project finalists are instrumental in meeting the growing demand. Power Engineering and Renewable Energy World magazines are once again pleased to be able to recognize some of the exceptional power generation projects that were completed in the past year.”

The winners of the Projects of the Year Awards will be announced during a gala awards banquet on Monday, Dec. 8, at the Odyssey Pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. as part of the POWER-GEN International Conference and Exhibition and the co-located NUCLEAR POWER International Conference and Exhibition, Renewable Energy World Conference Exhibition North America, the Financial Forum and GenForum.

The finalists will be profiled in a larger story on in the month of November. 

Lead image: Ivanpah. Credit NRG.


The Next 25: Energy Storage Crossing the Rubicon in Texas

The Energy Storage Association (ESA) is the forum for energy storage stakeholder engagement, and has been an active and tireless proponent for the advancement of the energy storage industry for the last 25 years. 

And what a change those years have brought.  

From humble beginnings, when eight pioneering U.S. power utilities sent their executives to Washington to convene the first dedicated and influential gathering to discuss energy storage as a critical component of the energy grid. To today, where ESA has grown to over 130 members, and in addition to executing year-round education, policy activities and networking opportunities, we host the world’s largest and most impactful energy storage event with hundreds of attendees, speakers, and exhibitors.

In 2015, we are excited to announce that we will be convening the energy industry in Texas for our 25th Annual Conference, to discuss the state of the energy storage industry and the path forward for continued success and growth.  Our Annual Conference is the most in-depth and comprehensive educational opportunity available for the industry, and the premiere networking and business development event on the calendar.  

This year, we are very excited to be working closely with our Host Utility, Oncor, to take advantage of everything that Dallas has to offer.  We are again developing a comprehensive program of keynote speakers, storage experts, and market influencers, and will be providing attendees a deep understanding of energy storage technology, policy and markets. 

«Storage is the best opportunity to have the most significant, and positive, impact on improving service to customers, but the only way we can make it a reality is to share information among peers,» said Don Clevenger, Oncor SVP of Strategic Planning. «Oncor is very excited to invite the global energy industry to join us in Dallas next year to learn more about the future of energy storage, and see how we are making storage a core facet of our long-term planning.”

Texas is an emerging market for energy storage on multiple fronts.  The Public Utility Commission of Texas is currently overhauling the way it procures ancillary services like frequency regulation and load following, and already has a number of programs and incentives in place to encourage development of storage projects.  

With over 14GW of wind energy currently deployed, and 7GW on the way – the way energy is generated and delivered in Texas is evolving.  ESA has been and will continue to be an active participant in the state’s stakeholder process, and by bringing the global industry to Texas in 2015 we hope to continue to propel these markets forward.

This year, the Annual Conference’s Honorary Chair will be David Sandalow, Inaugural Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and former Under Secretary (Acting) and Assistant Secretary for Policy International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy.  David brings a global perspective to energy challenges and will assist in developing the conference program and proceedings.

“There has never been a more exciting time in energy storage,” said Sandalow.  “Costs are falling.  Demand is rising.  And dynamic businesses that understand the market and regulatory environment are poised for dramatic growth.” 

As a global industry, storage is crossing the Rubicon. We are seeing systems go into operation in the U.S. and around the world that are producing a tangible track record of success – in fact, the largest battery project in the U.S. was just unveiled yesterday by Southern California Edison and their partners LG Chem and ABB. 

These energy storage systems – more than 900 worldwide — are demonstrating to grid operators, utilities, investors and customers that energy storage is helping to create a more resilient and responsive grid.   

And the location of these systems around the world is no mystery; markets are born at the intersection of policy, technology and opportunity – and our Annual Conference provides the most in-depth education and knowledgebase in all three areas, with experts from all facets of energy working with global leaders to chart the path forward storage.

The ESA’s 25th Annual Conference provides attendees a unique opportunity to gain a complete understanding of the key drivers for energy storage and what conditions are shaping markets, to network with the senior leaders in the energy industry, and to create opportunity to be part of shaping the future of the energy storage industry.

More news and announcements regarding this pivotal event will be coming soon.  For now, you can find learn more at 

The Untapped Potential of Solar Schools in Massachusetts

School districts across America are beginning to see the light, as they realize the potential of solar energy. From providing learning opportunities for students to safeguarding teachers’ jobs, solar is proving to be a valuable addition to any school district.

Prepared by The Solar Foundation with data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the first nationwide study was conducted to evaluate how solar energy is impacting schools across America. The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, reveals that solar installations among U.S. schools have grown 110% year-over-year from 2008 to 2012.

Benefits of Schools Going Solar

Solar installations on school campuses can protect districts against rising electricity prices, and generate savings that can be used to preserve programs like art and music – curriculums that are often the first to go in the face of budget cuts. “Perhaps most importantly, solar installations on schools can provide teachers with a unique opportunity to teach concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and pique student interest in these critical subjects,” say study researchers.

Schools are major energy consumers, thanks to heating and air conditioning that run during peak hours and the massive amounts of electricity it takes to operate the classrooms and cafeteria.

As of September, there are 3,727 solar PV systems in schools throughout America – representing $77.8 million in annual utility bill savings. This translates to an annual average of nearly $21,000 per school; enough to fund 2,200 new teachers’ salaries, according to The Solar Foundation.

Solar Schools in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is ranked fourth in the U.S. in terms of installed solar capacity. With 237 megawatts (MW) of solar installed during 2013, that’s enough to power more than 38,500 homes.

The Bay State also earned the #4 spot in the nation as far as solar school capacity. There are currently 181 schools in Massachusetts with on-site solar electric systems, for a total PV capacity of 25,400 kilowatts (kW). “Solar is enabling many Massachusetts schools to save money, enrich learning and keep teachers in the classroom – all while providing local jobs and generating emissions-free electricity,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation.

Drury High School is just one example of solar energy’s success.

In North Adams, Mass., Drury High School has 41 kW of solar electric capacity, funded through $400,000 in federal and state grants. Throughout its two years in operation, the school has offset almost 140,000 pounds of CO2 emissions; incorporated solar into a pre-engineering curriculum, and saved enough money to “preserve its current teaching staff and academic programs,” reveals the solar schools study. More impressively, Drury High School is using the money saved to create a summer program where students will make recommendations to a local homeless shelter on how to reduce its electricity usage and costs, following an energy audit.

Untapped Potential

Taking into account the flat rooftops and ample parking lots of schools across America, The Solar Foundation concluded that there are 72,000 schools in the U.S. that could go solar in a cost-efficient manner. And, if these schools installed an average-sized system, the total PV capacity on K-12 schools would reach 5.4 gigawatts (GW)—that’s equal to more than one-third of all the solar PV capacity currently installed in America!

In The Bay State alone, the untapped potential of school solar installations is enormous. “An analysis performed for this report found that seven school districts across Massachusetts could each save more than $1 million over 30 years by installing a solar PV system,” SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said in a statement. “In fact, Worcester and Springfield could each save nearly $2 million and Brockton about $1.5 million. That’s a huge amount of money.”

Resch acknowledged that many schools are facing hard times, and solar can offer some relief. “ In a time of tight budgets and rising costs, solar can be the difference between hiring new teachers—or laying them off,” he said.

The original article was posted on the Clean Energy Collective blog. 


Why Local Energy Ownership Matters

Solar and wind projects can mean big bucks for communities – but only if they keep them local!

Why does ownership of renewable energy matter? Because the number of jobs and economic returns for communities are substantially higher when electricity generation from wind and sun can be captured by local hands.

This economic self-interest motivates rapid expansion of renewable energy and builds political support for a low-carbon, more local and economically rewarding energy system. This report – Advantage Local: Why Local Energy Ownership Matters – serves as a resource, especially for communities seeking independence from their electric utilities and big out-of-state projects like high voltage transmission lines.

Read Full Advantage Local Report

Unfortunately, there are at least five substantial barriers to local ownership in the U.S. energy system:

• Tradition: in its 100-year history, the U.S. electricity grid has primarily been controlled by centralized, vertically integrated utilities that are reluctant to lose market share.

• Capital: collectively raising capital for a locally owned renewable energy project tends to run afoul of Securities and Exchange Commission rules for investment that are unduly onerous for the size and scale of community-based projects.

• Cash Flow: revenue sources for renewable energy projects may come from four or more sources, complicating the challenge of making finance payments and recovering the initial investment.

• Legal: the most logical legal structures for local ownership, e.g. nonprofits or cooperatives, are often ineligible for federal tax incentives.

• Utilities: opposed to the erosion of their control of the technical and economic elements of the electricity system, utilities raise policy and technical barriers to the development of locally owned energy projects.

Fortunately, there are policy solutions to these barriers, including:

• Incentives for locally owned projects, rewarding their higher economic returns to state and community.

• Community renewable energy programs (like Colorado’s Solar Gardens) that codify and simplify the organization of locally owned projects. • Virtual net metering rules that allow the sharing of electricity output among many customers within a community.

• Crowd financing rules that remove financial and legal barriers to collective efforts to raise capital.

• Feed-in tariffs or CLEAN contracts that dramatically simplify a project’s cash flow.

• Abandoning the tax code and switching renewable energy incentives to a cash basis.

Download the report

This article originally posted at For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Democratic Energy weekly update.