David Schieren Published in Long Island Business News
Jul 12, 2010
by EmPower Solar
EmPower’s CEO David Schieren was featured in the Long Island Business News (LIBN) last week. He wrote an op-ed explaining the benefits of solar energy and why utilities and the government should continue to provide incentives for renewables, at least in the short-term. You can read the article at LIBN’s website if you have a subscription. If you don’t have a subscription, the full text of the article is below.
Schieren: Reasons to take a shine to solar power
By David Schieren
Long Island’s and our nation’s current energy paradigms are not sustainable. Every day we buy about $1 billion of oil from other countries, some of which are hostile to America. Every day, air pollution from our fossil-fueled power plants creates serious public health problems, including increased asthma rates, cardiac issues and premature deaths. Every day we wait for BP to plug the Gulf oil leak as we helplessly witness the destruction of wildlife and the livelihoods of thousands of Americans.
A renewable energy economy is the solution. A renewable energy economy will stabilize future energy prices, create jobs and increase domestically supplied energy while decreasing imports. A renewable energy economy will create a more prosperous, healthy and civil world for ourselves and future generations.
Locally, there is a pressing need to bring new energy sources into our power mix. Renewables, including solar energy, are beneficial for all Long Islanders. Solar rebates and tax incentive programs not only benefit those who choose solar energy systems for their homes and businesses, but also are good for all ratepayers. Here’s why:
As grid electricity prices continue to go up because of volatile and increasing fossil fuel prices, solar prices are coming down. Electric bills have consistently increased in recent years while solar costs have decreased at a rate of nearly 4 percent a year since 1998, a trend expected to continue. Many industry experts predict solar energy will achieve “grid parity” (the moment when solar electricity costs the same as traditional electricity) within the next five years. Through net metering, excess solar capacity is sold back to the Long Island Power Authority resulting in significantly lower bills for the solar user and a supply of clean, low-cost power for the other ratepayers.
There is much more than meets the eye regarding the value of solar output. The true market price of electricity fluctuates during the day, even though customers pay a constant rate. The real-time price of electricity spikes during sunny hot summer days, which is exactly when solar power works best. LIPA benefits from bringing more solar online because it reduces this peak demand, which has great economic benefit to the utility.
In addition to the direct economic advantages, solar energy boosts overall grid reliability because it puts a cap on surging demand on hot summer days. Remember the 2003 blackout? Richard Perez at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at SUNY Albany states that if as little as a few hundred megawatts of solar energy had been online throughout the Northeast, the blackout could have been avoided.
The socioeconomic gains of renewable energy are enormous. Solar does not release particulates or carbon dioxide into the air, leading to significant health benefits. Solar can be used to fuel electric vehicles and help reduce our insatiable reliance on foreign oil. Renewable energy and energy efficiency-related jobs cannot be outsourced overseas. The green industry can be a powerful force for reviving Long Island’s economy and that of our nation.
In the near future, solar, wind and other renewables won’t need incentives to be economically viable, but for the moment they are a necessity. Currently before the state Legislature is the New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act of 2010. This legislation would create a solar renewable energy credit market where solar owners would receive a SREC for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced; utilities would be required to purchase SRECs based on a certain percentage of their electricity sales. This would move solar away from a rebate structure and create market-driven incentives for individuals and organizations to install them. Whether or not this legislation passes, it is clear that the price of solar is coming down, and because of its many benefits, Long Island, New York and the United States should continue to aggressively invest in renewable technologies.