Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AUSTIN — Solar energy could have a brighter future under a Texas Senate-passed bill that would invest half a billion dollars into the industry over th

The investment would come through rebates for solar installations, from homeowners’ rooftop panels to large-scale projects envisioned for West Texas. The bill, passed by a vote of 26 to 4, now goes to the House.
Money for the rebates would be raised through monthly fees on electric bills. Homeowners would pay 20 cents, small businesses $2 and industries $20.
“We took baby steps to start with to jump start the industry,” said Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who authored the bill.

The Public Utility Commission would determine the amount of the rebates, with $30 million a year going to homeowners and up to $70 million for utility-scale solar projects. Fraser said if there are not enough qualifying large projects, more money would be available for individuals. The bill directs municipal utilities like the ones in San Antonio and Austin to establish similar solar incentives. The fund expires after five years although the PUC could extend it for another five years. The bill would also require retail electric companies to buy a customer’s surplus electricity at a fair market price or credit the customer’s bill.“If people want to generate electricity, more power to them,” Fraser said.

Solar could help during hot summer afternoons — times of peak electric demand — when the wind often dies down, Fraser said. It would authorize the State Energy Conservation Office to establish a revolving loan program to help school districts install solar systems. It also would require homebuilders to offer solar as an option in new subdivisions with at least 50 homes. Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger said despite the progress of solar technology, the cost of a home or commercial solar system in Texas is still too high to make long-term financial sense. But the U.S. Department of Energy said that improvements in the next five years could put solar on parity with traditional electricity sources. “We have the sun, we have the technological know-how. Now, we’ll have a market that can make Texas a world leader in solar power,” Metzger said. Another feature of the bill would stop homeowners’ associations from banning rooftop solar panels, as some have done.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pennsylvania - Clean Energy Funding Bill

Action Crucial to Cut Pollution, Build New Energy Economy
HARRISBURG, Pa.--(Business Wire)
Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) president and CEO John Hanger praised the members of the Pennsylvania State House for their passage today of Special Session HB 1 (SHB 1), the clean energy funding bill, which provides $850 million of investments in renewable energy, green buildings and energy efficiency. Included in the bill is $200 million for solar energy. The bipartisan bill passed with a vote of 126 to 74.
"With the national economy rapidly deteriorating and job losses mounting, Pennsylvania's elected officials can take  action at this critical time to generate great green jobs that will come from our investment in the green energy economy," said Hanger. "Senate approval of both this bill, and HB 2200, the clean energy bill which was passed by the House two weeks ago, would add thousands of additional clean energy jobs to the 3,000 that have already been created," continued Hanger.
"Both SHB 1 and HB 2200 will also give consumers real tools to manage increases in electricity prices when electric rate caps, that have already expired in six utility service territories, end in the rest of the state in the next 21 to 33 months," continued Hanger.
"And we haven't a moment to lose. Pennsylvania's competitors are already putting up cash to attract renewable energy businesses. Right across the Delaware, New Jersey Public Service and Gas Company has a $100 million program to provide long-term loans to builders and homeowners who install solar energy systems.
"Pennsylvanians need the tools to compete, and the energy savings bill and the clean energy funding bill will give us those tools," said Hanger. "By saving energy and money and investing in clean energy industries about to boom, we can create thousands of great green jobs in all parts of Pennsylvania. 
"House passage of the clean energy funding bill was due to the vision and persistence of a number of representatives, including the bill's prime sponsor, Eugene DePasquale (D-York), Majority Whip Keith McCall (D-Carbon), Appropriations Chair Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), and Greg Vitali (D-Delaware). They, and all the representatives who voted for this bill, showed great foresight in giving Pennsylvanians the means to build our 21st Century green energy economy, full of great green jobs. We look forward to a similar vote in the Senate."
PennFuture, which is about to mark the tenth anniversary of the organization's founding, is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state's environment and economy. With offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and West Chester, PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Miami Smart Meters - Tap Stimulus funds

The City of Miami announced a proposal on Monday to install 1 million two-way "smart meters" to all Miami residents over the next two years in what would be the most comprehensive smart-grid program in the U.S.
Mayor Manny Diaz outlined the Energy Smart Miami plan, which is anticipated to cost $200 million in its first phase, at a press conference at Miami Dade College. Joining Diaz were the CEOs of the key suppliers in the project: Florida Power & Light CEO Lewis Hay, General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt, Cisco systems CEO John Chambers, and SilverSpring Networks CEO Scott Lang.
"To me these are prudent and smart investments that will easily pay for themselves," Diaz said. "It will show the nation how to address environmental, energy, and economic challenges all at the same time."
The installation of meters with a wireless Internet connection will allow consumers get detailed home energy usage information from the Web, according to Hay, the CEO of the Florida utility. With the up-to-the minute data, consumers are expected to take steps to lower their consumption.
About 1,000 consumers will get in-home energy display from GE, called an EcoDashboard, and have smart-meter-controlled appliances and thermostats. These people will also participate in a demand-response program that will allow the utility to adjust appliances to throttle down electricity use during peak times.
(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET)
The project, which will total $700 million across the state, also calls for adding Internet connectivity to substations and other hardware along the distribution grid, which will allow the utilty to prevent or quickly fix outages, Hay said.
Florida Power & Light is applying for a matching grant from the federal government, which would allow the utility to complete the program in two years rather than five, he said. About 100,000 people in FPL's Miami territory already have smart meters equipped with wireless networking card from SilverSpring Networks.
In addition, municipal facilities will invest in solar power at schools and universities, and FPL will buy 300 plug-in electric vehicles and 50 charging stations. With the smart-grid infrastructure, the utility can better incorporate distributed renewable energy generation to make the grid run more efficiently.
"We have 100,000 of the meters deployed already and customers are seeing real savings," Hay said. "It's an open-architecture-based system that will allow new applications to be developed" to automate home energy monitoring.
Stimulating the stimulus 
The project altogether involves about 10 technologies, from the power generation station to people's homes, said Immelt.
As such, it would be a showcase for how information technology can upgrade the power grid and lower people's bills, he added. It also will serve to "stimulate the stimulus" plan.
"The most important word to come away with from today isn't 'green,' it's 'now.' The technologies are available now, the investments need to take place, the jobs need to be created now," Immelt said. "This is the kind of project the country should be doing."
Diaz said that the project would create between 800 and 1,000 jobs and pump between $5 billion and $7 billion into the general economy by 2015 from the energy savings of consumers. It's fitting that Miami would be at the forefront of cleaner energy technologies and environmental sustainability because a rise of several feet from global warming would put much of the city, including Diaz' current home, under water, he said.
Cisco will provide the networking infrastructure to transmit information from meters and other devices to FPL. Cisco CEO Chambers said that countries around the world recognize the importance in investing in anautomated power grid.
Both governments and businesses need to invest in the grid, much the way the Internet was built. "This is an instant replay of the Internet," he said. "Instead of moving zeros and ones, we're moving electricity."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SUN Fleet

After a wonderful 2-day sales seminar, our network of SUN advisors grows! I'm pleased to share pics of our vehicles and highly skilled sales team:


Monday, April 13, 2009


Thank you for your interest during the last several weeks since the DOE has announced the federal stimulus funding allocations. The Energy Commission will be receiving about $275 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that will be administered under two main programs: the State Energy Program and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program.
Before any funding can be awarded Guidelines/Regulations and the program design for the SEP and Block Grant Programs must be developed. Several public workshops are planned for early May to discuss proposed concepts and funding areas. You will be notified as soon as these workshops are scheduled with enough lead-time to prepare for them.
Although the Energy Commission has some near-term application deadlines to the DOE for general information, there will be plenty of time to apply for funding. No solicitations for Energy Commission administered programs have been released yet. You will be notified of all funding opportunities and application instructions as soon as they are available. We encourage you to check the Website www.energy.ca.gov/recovery on a regular basis for information.
SEP Update
The DOE guidelines for the SEP funds were released March 12, 2009 to the State Energy Offices. The Energy Commission provided an initial application to the DOE on March 23, 2009 with a general overview of non-project specific funding areas. The more detailed application is due to DOE on May 12, 2009. Several public workshops are planned for early May to discuss proposed concepts and funding areas to help design this program. Information will be sent out by e-mail blasts to the Recovery ListServer soon. No solicitations for Energy Commission-administered SEP funds have been released.
On March 26, 2009 the DOE announce their intention to award California $351.5 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding, with $302 million going directly to large cities and counties. A preliminary list of these large cities and counties and the amounts they will be receiving is available at www.energy.ca.gov/recovery/blockgrant.html
The Energy Commission has been allocated $49.6 million and will make 60 percent ($29.7 million) of these funds available to small cities and counties through a competitive block grant process. The remaining 40 percent will be distributed at the Energy Commission's discretion to meet ARRA and California energy and environmental policy goals.
The Block Grant application from the Energy Commission to the DOE is due May 26, 2009. Several public workshops are planned for early May to discuss proposed project concepts and funding areas. Information will be sent out by e-mail to the Recovery ListServe soon.
Interested individuals, companies and organizations are encouraged to directly contact their local city or county for ways to partner for Block grant funding to assist local governments in meeting these energy program guidelines and goals. No solicitations for Energy Commission administered Block Grant programs have been released.
The Frequently Asked Questions have been updated and provide more information on the SEP and Block Grants funding. Please check out http://www.energy.ca.gov/recovery/faqs.html
DOE has released several competitive program solicitations including:
Assisted Housing Stability and Energy and Green Retrofit, posted March 10, 2009. Closing date: April 16, 2011
Funding for SmartWay Clean Diesel Finance Program, released March 6, 2009. Current Closing Date for Applications: April 28, 2009.
Transportation Electrification (Reference Number: DE-FOA-0000026). US DOE Competitive Grant Info, released March 19, 2009. Current Closing Date for Applications: May 19, 2009.
Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative (Reference Number: DE-FOA-0000028). US DOE Competitive Grant Info, released March 19, 2009. Current Closing Date for Applications: May 13, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

South Africa Feed in Tariff, similar to Europes

South Africa Introduces Aggressive Feed-in Tariffs

Johannesburg, South Africa [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]

South Africa's National Energy Regulator (NERSA) announced March 31, 2009 the introduction of a system of feed-in tariffs designed to produce 10 TWh of electricity per year by 2013. The feed-in tariffs announced were substantially higher than those in NERSA's original proposal. The tariffs, differentiated by technology, will be paid for a period of 20 years.
Dr. Ruth Rabinowitz, a member of the South African parliament for the Inkatha Freedom Party said that NERSA's tariffs reduce the need for the legislature to act on feed-in tariffs.
NERSA said in its release that the tariffs were based, as in most European countries, on the cost of generation plus a reasonable profit. The tariffs for wind energy and concentrating solar power are among the most attractive worldwide.

The tariff for wind energy, 1.25 ZAR/kWh (€0.104/kWh, $0.14 USD/kWh, $0.17 CAD/kWh) is greater than that offered in Germany (€0.092/kWh) and more than that proposed in Ontario, Canada ($0.135 CAD/kWh).

The tariff for concentrating solar, 2.10 ZAR/kWh (€0.175/kWh), is less than that in Spain (€0.278/kWh), but offers great promise in the bright sunlight of South Africa. NERSA's revised program followed extensive public consultation.

Dr. Ruth Rabinowitz, a member of the South African parliament for the Inkatha Freedom Party said that NERSA's tariffs reduce the need for the legislature to act on feed-in tariffs. Rabinowitz was the author of a private members bill 9n 2008 to introduce a system of feed-in tariffs in South Africa. However, she said there is still a need for comprehensive legislation that includes municipalities in developing renewable energy.

Stefan Gsänger, Secretary General of the World Wind Energy Association said in a release that "South Africa is the first African country to introduce a feed-in tariff for wind energy. Many small and big investors will now be able to contribute to the take-off of the wind industry in the country. Such decentralised investment will enable South Africa to overcome its current energy crisis. It will also help many South African communities to invest in wind farms and generate electricity, new jobs and new income. We are especially pleased as this decision comes shortly after the first North American feed-in law has been proposed by the Government of the Canadian Province of Ontario."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Updates on Econ Stimulus Funding for Solar

On February 17, President Obama signed HR 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the Stimulus Bill). The bill contains 19 provisions that help grow markets, finance projects, expand manufacturing, access federal lands, build transmission lines, increase research and development, train workers, and reduce the tax burden for solar companies. Combined, solar has access to over $25 billion in government funded construction projects, illustrating the President’s commitment to renewable energy and his specific interest in promoting solar technologies. The Sharp Solar Policy Team has outlined how your business can take advantage of these funds in the most timely and efficient way. Below you will find the 15 provisions that most directly affect your business based on four categories:


·         Federal guidance pending: Agency guidance in the next 60 to 90 days.

·         Enhanced funding for existing State programs: Federal funds will be directed to States for distribution. State agencies will provide access to funds.

·         Agency specific appropriations: Funds directed to specific agencies for programs or projects that are most likely already in the pipeline.

·         Tax code provision: Effective upon enactment unless noted otherwise.


The provisions include (solar is eligible for a portion of this funding):

·         Grants in lieu of 30% ITC

·         Loan Guarantees - $6 billion should support $60 billion worth of loan guarantees

·         State Funding - $16.8 billion including $3.1 billion for state energy programs

·         Solar on Federal Property - $5.5 billion

·         Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) – an additional $1.6 billion

·         Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds - $2.4 billion

·         Solar for Schools - $9.75 billion

·         Green Collar Jobs - $500 million

·         Solar Water Treatment Plants - $6 billion

·         Department of Interior Funding - $125 million

·         Solar for the Military - $400 million


Click here for full details: http://gosolar.cc/solar_universe/stimfunding040709.pdf

Proposed Nevada utility rate increases

Nevada utility seeks rate increase

LAS VEGAS—NV Energy is trying to raise electricity rates for its residential customers by more than 16 percent.

The utility presented its proposed rate hike at a public meeting on Monday. Several opponents called the pricing plan "price gouging."

Company officials say they need to recover costs of changing how NV Energy obtains the power it distributes to customers. The utility says it has spent $1.5 billion on increasing the amount of power it generates in Nevada.

Single-family residential rates would rise 16.7 percent overall, all users would see a general increase of 13.6 percent.

Company officials say they know the rate increase is hitting consumers while their down. They asked the Public Utilities Commission to delay the start date for the higher rates from summer to fall, and they've asked for a rate freeze for low earners.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

Setting Expectations on Buying a Franchise

SmallBizResource Blog -- SmallBizResource

Q&A With Franchise King Joel Libava

Posted by Gayle Kesten Tuesday, Apr 7, 2009, 09:00 AM ET
You know the saying, "If the shoe fits, wear it"? Well, make it a crown, and Joel Libava wears it well.
Libava, president of Cleveland-based franchise consulting firm Franchise Selection Specialists, says he didn't aspire to be his own boss, but at a certain point during his career, he knew what he didn't want: to work for other people. In 2001, when Libava was canned (his words) from a management position at an automobile franchise, his father, Jerry, encouraged him to join (and eventually take over) the franchise consultancy, which he had founded in the late '80s to help match franchisors with franchisees. Libava has been there ever since. "Even though business is tough, and there's a lot of nervousness and caution out there, I love what I do," he says.
PhotobucketAbout the nickname: Libava was appointed the Franchise King title at a chamber of commerce event about six years ago. "The director, who knew me, looked across the room and said, 'Hey, it's the Franchise King!' It just kind of stuck," he told me. "It's not an ego thing -- it's more of a branding thing to separate myself from others."
Libava, whose blog is the only one tax expert Barbara Weltmanregularly follows, has one of those (Internet) radio-type voices that commands attention, too. In addition, last year he wrote an e-book, "The Essential Steps To Researching A Franchise Opportunity," plus he's a featured blogger on American Express' OPEN Forum and Anita's Campbell's Small Business Trends Website.
Libava and I had what you'd call a Franchising 101 conversation, during which he shed light on what it costs to buy into a franchise, where people go wrong in choosing one, and why it's an excellent opportunity for someone who doesn't want to reinvent the business wheel.
SBR: How would one first go about learning about franchising?
 Most people start by going to one of the numerous franchise directories. They see a handsome tile ad, and they click on it and think it might be interesting to own a chicken wing joint. I was taught to do the reverse. One has to start with himself: What do I bring to the table? What am I good at? What am I not good at? Can I sell? Do I have the ability and desire to call on people, kind of a business-to-business type opportunity, or am I more of an operations, back-of-the-house person? That's how a lot of people really blow it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chevy Volt : Testing to Begin this Summer

Even as it faces a massive corporate restructuring, General Motors this summer will begin testing prototypes of the electric Chevrolet Volt, a car that could be pivotal to its future.
GM on Thursday hosted a teleconference to discuss its community outreach efforts and work with electric utilities to establish an industry "ecosystem" to make electric vehicles attractive to buyers.
The Volt is scheduled for mass production starting in November 2010 in the U.S. and introduction in mid-2011 in Canada. About 80 prototypes will be built for fleet testing this summer, said vehicle line director for the Chevy VoltTony Posawatz, who revealed a few more details about the highly anticipated sedan.
Getting millions of plug-in vehicles on the road in the coming years will require new technologies and the installation of a car-charging infrastructure in communities, say automakers. One technology important to widespread plug-in use is so-called smart charging, where car batteries are charged at off-peak times in the middle of the night.
With the release of the 2011 Volt late next year, General Motors will allow consumers to set what time the car can be charged using GM's OnStar in-car communication system.
"We will have a customer-selectable car-charging feature at a minimum," Posawatz said. "We don't have to put in smart meters to get those kinds of features and accommodations."
(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET)
By controlling when and how fast a car's battery is charged, a utility can smooth out the demand on the power grid and avoid having to install more power plants to meet peak demand. In places where there is time-of-day electricity pricing, consumers could potentially get cheaper off-peak rates.
A Volt, which has a 16 kilowatt-hour battery, will consume about 2,500 kilowatt-hours a year, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The average U.S. home consumes about 11,000 kilowatt-hours a year.
Smart charging, which would work with a utility's smart grid programs for running the grid efficiently, will become more important as millions of plug-in vehicles get attached to the grid, said Mark Duvall, director electric transportation at EPRI. The first generation of mainstream electric cars coming out next year won't require it, he said.
Another important step to making electric cars more palatable to consumers is having dedicated outlets that can charge at 240 volts, twice as fast as a normal outlet.
The city of San Francisco is trying to coordinate among different agencies to establish a plug-in charging infrastructure, including streamlined permitting for dedicated car charging lines, said Robert Hayden, clean transportation adviser for the city's Department of the Environment.
Making charging pedestals available in public places for people who live in apartment buildings, for example, is also important to plug-in car adoption, but very expensive and complicated, he said.
Because of GM's precarious financial position, there's a lot riding on the commercial success of the Chevy Volt and the underlying electric power train which GM plans to use in different cars.
But in its review of automakers receiving federal aid, the Obama administration's auto industry task force found the Volt technology promising but too expensive to be commercial viable.
GM executives have said they expect to lose money on the first generation of Volts. Posawatz said on Thursday that GM could shed thousands of dollars per car through high-volume domestic manufacturing of components, such as batteries and chargers, and technology improvements.
"It certainly may not be a Moore's Law relationship, but I do believe that we have just begun the journey of taking down the cost of batteries and the vehicle," he said, adding that GM is already working on a second-generation Volt focused on lower costs.
Posawatz offered a few more technical details on the 2011 Volt, which will have an internal combustion engine that can run both gasoline and E85, a blend of gas and ethanol. The engine acts as a generator for the battery for rides beyond 40 miles.
The batteries themselves will have a thermal management system that includes liquid cooling and the ability to start in very cold temperatures even when it's not plugged in, he said.
The anticipated battery life will be 10 years and 150,000 miles. After their use in moving cars, GM anticipates that utilities could use the batteries--still at 75 percent capacity--for grid storage and they would eventually be recycled