Archive for the ‘Renewable Energy Policy’ Category
New Utility, New Solar Programs for LIPA Customers
LIPA Changes for 2014: What to Expect
LIPA is expected to undergo significant structural changes in the near future that might have an impact on the renewable energy and energy efficiency incentive programs available to electricity customers on Long Island. Specifically, in 2014, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), New Jersey’s largest and oldest investor-owned utility, will take over operation and management of Long Island’s electric transmission and distribution system from National Grid.
In addition, Governor Cuomo has proposed a far more limited role for LIPA, and an expanded role for PSEG, including control over budgets and overall management. The goals of the changes are to have a more accountable and transparent utility structure, while maintaining the benefits of the lower debt payments associated with the non-profit LIPA holding company structure.
Impact on Solar Incentives
LIPA presently offers the most attractive solar incentives in New York State that help make solar an attractive investment for residential, commercial, and non-profit clients. So given the proposed changes to LIPA, what impact will it have on solar incentives?
While it is certainly possible that the specific incentive levels and rules might change, and historically incentives get reduced incrementally each year, we do not think there will be a dramatically reduced solar program. First and foremost, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated a significant commitment to developing solar in New York. In non-LIPA territory, The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) currently offers a solar rebate of $1.40/watt for commercial-scale solar systems, up to 50 kilowatts (kW) or $70,000, and 7kW for residential systems or $9,800. This is significantly lower than the solar rebates that are currently available in LIPA territory, which are capped at:
-$17,900 for purchased residential systems;
-$17,200 for leased residential systems;
-$172,000 for commercial-scale systems;
-$225,000 for non-profit, government, municipal, or educational customers;
However, NYSERDA’s rebates are still significant enough to drive solar growth (EmPower Solar is very active in Con-Ed territory with NYSERDA rebates).
For large scale solar projects, NYSERDA offers incentives for large scale net-metered systems, which compare favorably with LIPA’s Feed-In-Tariff Program. We anticipate that, under PSEG, LIPA customers will only be eligible for NYSERDA’s program, and not the robust incentives that are currently available today.
It is also important to note that PSEG has been commended for its commitment to solar energy in its New Jersey service territory, particularly through the release of their Solar 4 All program.
One specific concern is that the Governor also announced a rate freeze for three years. This might imply a reduction of budget available for renewable energy projects.
Take Advantage of LIPA’s Rebates Today
It is anticipated that the solar rebate available from LIPA for commercial and residential customers will stay at or near current levels throughout the rest of 2013. If you are currently considering acquiring solar power for your commercial facility or home, now is a great time to go solar and secure LIPA’s strong rebate funding.
To learn how you can go solar, call us today to set up a free consultation, (516) 837-3459.
Al Gore Talks Climate Change and Politics
Taking action against climate change was just one topic former Vice President Al Gore discussed at the Long Island Association Annual Luncheon on March 8. The political, business, and environmental visionary also shared his decision to enlist in Vietnam war, the best lesson he’s ever learned, and economic inequality in America during a sit-down with Kevin Law, LIA president and chief executive.
EmPower Solar, one of many sponsors at the event, gladly attended and here are some memorable Gore quotes and comments from the event:
The vice president’s role is “totally dependent” on the person’s direct relationship with the president.
On his relationship with President Bill Clinton: “It’s cliché to say we were like brothers . . . but we were.”
Number one learning experience from a business standpoint: pick the right partners.
On Vietnam: “There were plenty of ways to get out of the draft,” he said. Many other Harvard students didn’t want to participate in the war, but he felt called to serve his country rather than just sit by and watch others risk their lives for his freedom.
He believes the democratic system is “magic” when it’s working the way it was intended.
“There is virtually no reform of any kind that can pass the House today,” he said, because of the power of money and votes.
“I’m a recovering politician. I’m on step nine,” he said on not running for president in 2016.
Thomas Payne was the J.K. Rowling of the 1800s.
Information consumption has changed dramatically since the 1800s. Now, the average person is rarely heard, he said. The Thomas Payne era has ended.
“The problem today is that facts have become battlegrounds,” he said. The general population is only hearing people with large microphones who are ignoring facts.
He believes the digital revolution is still in its early stage.
He hopes that regardless of party affiliation that people will be moved by what they hear enough to act.
He said several times that the LIA should be speaking up about global warming legislation and support putting a price on carbon.
“We’re having once in a thousand year [destructive environmental] events every year,” he said, referring to homes flooding in Nashville, where he lives, as well as Superstorm Sandy.
He said that people criticized him when the World Trade Center memorial was flooded in an “An Inconvenient Truth,” released in 2006, but his prediction came true sooner than suspected during Superstorm Sandy.
“Pollution is free. Pollution is invisible . . . just use the skies as a sewer.” Gore said this adding that’s how many still think.
His focus today is educating and fighting climate change. The goal is to “win the conversation” on climate change, he said.
Al Gore is the author of several bestselling books, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, and the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He is currently on the Board of Directors of Apple, Chairman of the Climate Reality Projects, Chairman of Generation Investment Management, and Senior Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He was previously elected to the U.S. House of Representatives four times and the U.S. Senate twice. Gore then served eight years as the 45th Vice President of the United States. He was a central member of President Bill Clinton’s economic team and the leader of a wide range of administrative initiatives.
Rallying for Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Guest Post by Glenn Drost — Long Island resident and energy consultant
It was a cold and windy day, but the speakers at the “Forward on Climate” rally ignited passion and energy for the movement. Specifically, we asked the President to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline planned to run from Alberta, Canada to Texas and to take real action instead to prevent climate change.
Tar sands oil extraction, refinement, and combustion are highly carbon intensive, which would exasperate existing concerns that climate change is a result of burning these greenhouse gasses. The pipeline also poses yet another risk for an oil spill. Jacqueline Thomas, chief of Saik’uz First Nation, spoke of the many oil related disasters that have occurred in North America. She asked us to aspire to one ideal: “When we take care of the land, the land will take care of us.”
“The fight against fracking, coal ports, and taking the tops off mountains is ultimately the fight for a living planet,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, “Our theme has to be, that when you are in a hole, stop digging. Above all, stop the Keystone Pipeline,” he added.
“It’s clear that climate change is real and that people are starting to wake up to that fact,” said Matthew Kearns, Clean Energy for Long Island and Sierra Club member. “That was proven by [Sunday's] attendance, which included two buses of almost 100 Long Islanders, The thought of continuing to burn fossil fuels and its effects on our planet can be a frightening one, but what is promising is that clean energy solutions are real and obtainable. The missing piece to this puzzle is the political will to help speed up the transition from our old, dirty economy to a healthy and renewable future.”
Unfortunately, even if the president rejects the pipeline, the tar sands oil will likely make it to U.S. markets anyway. The pipeline is not the only way it can be transported. It’s just the most profitable. Therefore, we as citizens must ultimately decide for ourselves where our energy is coming from, and how much of it we want to use. We have the power to do that with every dollar we spend on energy today.
Metropolitan New Yorkers are quite heavy users of home heating oil, and of course gasoline and diesel fueled automobiles. We must combat these practices with education on the benefits of energy reduction and efficiency improvements. Very simple air-sealing measures in homes can increase comfort and decrease fuel consumption. Decisions about how far and how often to drive can be planned ahead of time, and fuel consumption brought to a minimum.
On the supply side, we must also help people understand that there are alternatives to oil today that not only pollute less, but cost less! When financed over time, renewable energy offers significant savings when compared to fossil fuel sources. Solar power offers tremendous savings on electricity bills. Solar can also supply an electric car with energy for much less than the cost of gasoline. Electric heating systems are coming back into the mainstream with increased reliability of air source heat pumps. Ground source heat pumps also offer tremendous operational cost savings if the area for wells is available.
Efficiency auditors, solar, and geothermal installers are quite busy these days on Long Island and New York City. Residents are beginning to take advantage of the economic advantages of energy efficiency and renewable resources. All we have to do is keep spreading the word!
The views represented by the guest writer do not represent the views of EmPower Solar. We invite guest posts with different perspectives and opinions in order to attain more knowledge about energy and environmental issues. The better informed we are, the better decisions we can make.
Rebuilding right after Sandy
“If you don’t grow, you die,” said Donald Monti, of Renaissance Downtowns, at the Vision Long Island Smart Growth Summit on Nov. 16. Rebuilding right was the focus of the event that drew politicians and business owners from throughout the island, but this year, Sandy also took center stage.
While Steven Kreiger, a commercial developer at Engel Burman, implored that houses on the Long Beach canals need to be lifted to prevent future flooding, David Schieren, CEO of EmPower Solar, urged residential and commercial solar installations as essential to grid reliability.
The grid, lamented Neal Lewis, of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, was “shaken” by Sandy’s impact. This, he said, may lead to the dismantling of the Long Island Power Authority. “You can’t ask what LIPA will do in the future,” he said, “because LIPA may not exist.”
According to Lewis, who is also a LIPA board member, while the communication breakdown by LIPA was a colossal failure, he praised the organization for its attempt to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people. It’s unfortunate, he suggested, that the “Herculean effort by LIPA will not be remembered.”
While Long Islanders are quick to pounce on comments that praise LIPA after sitting in their darkened homes for weeks, Lewis said that New York City politicians did have some positive words for the organization’s restoration in the Rockaways, but there is only a one-sided story in the media that pictures everything as a failure, he added.
Due to the unprecedented nature of Sandy, LIPA was unprepared, but, said Lewis, there are ways to improve grid reliability in addition to utilizing renewable resources. Wood utility poles can be replaced with metal ones, which did not fall during the storm, and some electrical lines, like those powering hospitals, police stations and the Long Island Railroad, can be transition from above to underground.
It is clear, more than ever before, that Long Island needs to rebuild right, said Schieren, and solar will play a major role. Backup power, he said, will also be at the forefront and EmPower Solar is ready to provide these services.
Solar Incentives: Past, Present, Future
Solar installations in America increased 60% between 2007 and 2011 — an impressive leap given the financial crisis — and forecasts indicate that the industry will continue to grow briskly in the next five years.
Why is that? First and foremost, it’s due to American entrepreneurship, ingenuity and risk taking, driven simultaneously by the profit motive and a genuine desire to better the world. Secondly, smart government policy has spurred the industry.
While not all government subsidies have been positive, the incentives that have gone directly to the consumer are great. And, with the reelection of Barack Obama, homeowners and businesses can expect to see the 30% federal income tax credit stick around until 2016.
The federal tax credit, combined with state and LIPA rebates, helps to dramatically decrease the cost of solar and increase demand. In fact, the cost has decreased more than 50% in the past five years. In 2007, the average residential system was $80,000. Today, it can be as low as $36,000 and in New York, shrink to $8,500 after incentives. As incentives decrease at the same rate as the system cost, the return on investment remains great.
While government incentives have helped the solar industry, not all “green” policy is good. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act another incentive that was introduced was the loan guaranty program (originally conceived under the Bush administration). This program came under intense scrutiny last year after the high profile failure of Solyndra and several other companies, which has cost American taxpayers more than $1 billion thus far.
The loan program is something EmPower Solar doesn’t support because we believe it’s wrong for the government to take specific company risk; this is what private capital is for. However, the policy is partially defensible because the government was trying to encourage Americans to purchase solar from U.S. companies rather than relying on China, which is providing cheaper options.
In addition to homeowner incentives, the best way to build a dynamic domestic solar industry is to promote and enhance the conditions that continue to make the United States the premier country to start and grow a business.
We are envied around the world for our vibrant democracy, rule of law, unparalleled education and amazing culture and patriotism. Let’s continue to build on our strengths as we invest in renewable resources like solar!