Solar Austin Holiday Party – Save the Date!

Our holiday party was so much fun last year, that we’re making it an annual event.  This year, we will honor Tom “Smitty” Smith, who has served as the director of Public Citizen’s Texas office for 31 years and Karen Hadden, who is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.  Smitty and Karen were central to the creation of Solar Austin and have been champions for solar energy in Austin and across Texas for many years.  Smitty is retiring from Public Citizen and Karen recently stepped down from the Solar Austin board after many years of service.  We hope you will help us honor their contributions to solar in Austin.

ben-balmerWHEN: Tuesday, December 13, 7-10 p.m.

WHERE: Brick Oven (1209 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701)

TICKETS: $25 in advance ($15 with valid student ID), $30 at the door

We’ll have live music by Ben Blamer and his band, appetizers, and a drink with each ticket purchase.


October Happy Hour: Texas Energy Policy

In honor of this year’s election season, and given that the election falls 10 short days later, we have chosen to focus on the body politic with a party based panel on:

TEXAS ENERGY POLICY

October 25, 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP.

Some knowledgeable and good-natured persons have agreed to take up the mantel of their political party, wear a partisan hat in public & discuss energy policy – remarkable and appreciated.

When Solar Austin talks energy, we typically mean the optimally distant nuclear fires of the Sun and a quiet panel on your roof. But when in TX one should be ready to talk knowledgeably about oil and gas, its regulatory body – the Texas Rail Road Commission, as well as the many renewable options with which Texas is blessed. All these energy sources will be important to TX for decades to come and become more interesting and intertwined as transportation becomes more electrified and the means and the materials of these systems become more highly engineered and dependent on our chemical, manufacturing and design prowess. The speakers we have lined up are capable of covering much of this ground.

lon-burnam Democratic Party – Lon Burnam is an experienced 9 term (1997-2015) TX Representative from District 90 in Ft. Worth and we are honored to have him join us. He was considered the top candidate in his primary run for the TX Railroad Commission this year. Despite endorsements from many national organizations and several of Texas’ major newspapers he was defeated in the Democratic primary to the surprise of many Texas Observers but has many earned insights to share.

 

 

katswiftGreen Party – kat gruene, is a current candidate for TX Representative District 51 but is joining us principally to share a decade of experience as a Co-chair and at-large State Executive Committee member of the Green Party of Texas. She has dedicated herself to expanding access to the Texas electoral process for the past fifteen years.

 

 

 

mark-miller Libertarian Party – Dr. Mark Miller is joining us in his capacity as Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas. He is steeped in TX energy matters as he has indeed written the book on the Texas RailRoad Commission (see the book cover below), had a varied career in the oil and gas industry, and been a petroleum engineering faculty member at UT. He is also a 2016 candidate for Texas Railroad Commissioner, the top statewide office in contention this year, and leads in endorsements from the state’s major newspaper editorial boards, including the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News.

Republican Party – ?? (we are still working on it…..we will accept suggestions) – The Republican party has dominated state wide offices for over 20 years so we may simply credit the party with the status quo and let that stand as everyone’s favorite straw man for good or ill – to the degree that policy has been responsible.

The intent is to focus on state policy, but as an introduction to our topic and acknowledgement of federal policy’s importance to Texas, we recommend a short reading assignment; an editorial by UT Austin’s Dr. Michael Webber in the Houston Chronicle from Oct.1st:  “Webber: Where the candidates stand on U.S. energy policy matters a great deal to Texas.”

With questions, good humor and magnanimous nature at hand, we look forward to you joining us.

Oil&Gas and TX Railroad Comm_M Miller book cover


September Happy Hour: Distributed Solar Participation in the ERCOT Market

This past fall and winter, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – the entity that controls the electric grid that serves most of Texas – convened the Distributed Resource Energy and Ancillary Markets (DREAM) Task Force.  The purpose of the DREAM Task Force was to evaluate new rules for distributed energy resource participation in the ERCOT wholesale power market.  The DREAM Task Force vetted concepts and made recommendations.  Then it was time for ERCOT staff and stakeholders put forth market rule revisions based upon concepts vetted in the DREAM Task Force.  Dan Seif will present an update on where we are with these new rules and what it means for new profitable opportunities for distributed solar in Texas.

September 27, 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St
Please RSVP

dan-seif_2016_09_02Dan Seif is Managing Director of Grid Economics, a clean energy policy, markets, business development, and financial advisory consulting firm.  Prior to cofounding Grid Economics, Dan was a Sr. Consultant with The Butler Firm, an Austin-area boutique clean energy legal and consulting firm.   Dan also previously led the solar program as a Principal at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), was an investment team member of the private equity firm, US Renewables Group, and led global energy optimization and carbon emissions mitigation for the semiconductor manufacturer,  Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Mr. Seif holds a BS and MS in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia and the University of Arizona, respectively, and an Masters of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.


Solar Austin Tour: Texas Electric Grid Control Center

Electric Reliability Council of Texas ERCOTHave you ever wondered how it is that there’s always (or just about always) electricity available when you flip a switch?  It’s not magic, it’s thanks to the work done by the people at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

ERCOT staff will provide us with an overview of current trends and conditions for grid operations and markets including renewable energy resources. Their senior analyst specializing in market design for distributed generation will also be on-hand to cover topics of interest that could be relevant to distributed energy services like commercial and residential solar.

WHEN: Friday, October 14, 2016, ERCOT tour 2-4 p.m., Texas Beer Company after 4 p.m.
WHERE: 800 Airport Rd, Taylor, TX 76574

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED AND THE TOUR IS LIMITED TO 30 PARTICIPANTS, SO RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW.

Carpooling
Parking is limited at the ERCOT control center, so please carpool if you can.  Carpools will leave at 1:00 p.m. from both locations.
NORTH LOCATION: Walmart (12900 N Interstate Hwy 35, Austin, TX 78753)
CENTRAL LOCATION: Home Depot (1200 Barbara Jordan Blvd #100, Austin, TX 78723)

Post Tour Visit to the Texas Beer Company
After the tour, we invite you to join us for a drink at the Texas Beer Company in Taylor.  We’ll start by stopping by the warehouse brewery (which will be completed next year) to check out their solar array.  Then we’ll head to the brewpub for a cold drink.  This start-up brewary and taproom is owned and operated by Austin natives who love solar, so it’s a great place to finish our afternoon in Taylor.
WAREHOUSE BREWERY: 1331 W 2nd, Taylor, TX 76574
BREWPUB: 201 North Main St, Taylor, TX 76574

About ERCOT
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers – representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 550 generating units. ERCOT also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 7 million premises in competitive choice areas. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. ERCOT’s members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities (transmission and distribution providers,) and municipal-owned electric utilities.


TREIA GridNEXT Conference

Our Partners at the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association (TREIA) are hosting their annual conference in Georgetown this year. We’re really excited about the GridNEXT theme and would love to see you there.

gridnext-so-eb-fbcover-763x315Register now, as today is the last day to get early bird rates!

Why Attend:

GridNEXT is a two-day conference, focused on the new business models, technologies and grid modernization initiatives needed to grow the renewable energy industry in Texas and across the U.S.

  • LEARN about the latest trends impacting the Grid of the Future
  • CONNECT with players in the Grid Modernization Industry
  • FOSTER the furthering of Renewable Energy Integration

Who Should Attend:

  • Technology Providers
  • Utilities
  • Energy Consumers/Prosumers
  • Developers/Integrators
  • Solution Providers (Regulators, Legislatures, Consultants, Academic Leaders

Registration:

  • Early Bird Discount expires on September 7th
  • Supporting Organization Discount Code 10% off: GRID16

Conference Highlights:

  • Pre-Conference Workshops
  • Networking Breaks-Morning & Afternoon
  • Networking Reception
  • Keynote Speaker: Brad Jones, President & CEO, NYISO, Formerly, Senior VP & COO, ERCOT
  • Opening Session Speaker: Bill Magness, President & CEO, ERCOT
  • GLEAMM Showcase Reception

August Happy Hour

Tuesday, 8/23/2016

We have no speaker lined up for this month but the venue will still be available for our use. For those hardy folks who are not using the final days of summer to travel outside of Austin, we invite you to beat the heat and support our venue by coming to Sholz Garten to socialize and talk solar.

Scholz Garten
5:30 – 8:00 pm
1607 San Jacinto St

July Happy Hour: Perspectives on Utilities – Where Does Solar Fit In?

As solar, storage, demand response, and energy efficiency continue their ascent, new utility business models are emerging that align utilities’ financial incentives with increasing DERs. What are they? How do they work? And which models are most likely to win out?

This month, we will hear from Mark Kapner and Doug Lewin for two perspectives on utility business models and how they interact with emerging issues around solar and clean energy.

 Tuesday, July 26, 2016
5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St

This Month’s Speakers:

Mark KapnerMark Kapner, PE, Partner, MV Green Power LLC, is also the Engineering Manager of Frontier Associates in Austin, Texas. He is a nationally-recognized authority in helping electric utilities expand their use of wind, solar and bio-energy and has spoken at dozens of national and international renewable energy conferences.

As Senior Strategy Engineer at Austin Energy (AE) from 1999-2011, Mark developed AE’s GreenChoice Program, the nation’s leading renewable energy marketing program. He also was instrumental in launching Plug-In Partners, the AE-led campaign that persuaded the automobile industry to build plug-in hybrid vehicles. Mark originated the dual storage media system for integrating off-peak wind energy and solar thermal energy to produce utility-scale dispatchable power. He has over 30 years of experience in energy technology, environmental engineering and renewable energy policy.

Prior to joining Austin Enegy, Mark launched TerraSolar USA, a solar photovoltaic company based in New Jersey, and served as a Research and Development Manager for the New York Power Authority. He has a BS in Engineering Science from the State University of NY at Stony Brook and a Masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Doug LewinDoug Lewin, VP, Regulatory Affairs of Market Devleopment, leads CLEAResult’s policy efforts. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in more than 70 cities in the U.S. and Canada, CLEAResult designs, markets, and implements energy efficiency programs for utilities and businesses.

Prior to joining CLEAResult, Lewin was the founding Executive Director of the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER).SPEER was recognized by the US Department of Energy as the regional energy efficiency organization (REEO) for Texas and Oklahoma, working with a network of REEOs throughout the US to advance energy efficiency. Under his leadership from 2011-16, SPEER grew from a start-up organization to a multi-million dollar organization with over 50 members.

Lewin also worked at the Texas Legislature for five years, primarily on clean energy issues for three different elected officials in the House and Senate. Lewin earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Bonus networking opportunity at this happy hour:

We are pleased to offer a new way to make your networking more effective at this happy hour: the wanah app. Download ahead of time, and write down one thing you want, and one thing you have to offer here.
At the event, you’ll both find and help others easily with this app.

 


June Happy Hour: Solar in Texas, The Emperor Has No Clothes

Texas has the most solar energy potential of any state in the U.S., but has been slow to adopt solar technology.  Now that’s changing and all kinds of entities – wholesale electric providers, retail electric providers, businesses and individuals – are looking to solar as an affordable, reliable source of energy.Maura Yates will speak about the values of solar in Texas, in particular within the deregulated power market. As solar is entering the mainstream, the mechanisms and strategies of making the values of solar accessible are sophisticated and validated. Join us for a forward discussion.

When: Tuesday, June 28, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto

RSVP

 Maura YatesMaura Yates is the Vice President of Sustainable Solutions for MP2 Energy where she is responsible for solar retail and generation solutions. Prior to joining MP2 Energy 2 ½ years ago, Ms. Yates oversaw government affairs for the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions for SunEdison and developing DG and utility-scale solar solutions for Arizona Public Service. Maura also spent time with Robert Kennedy’s environmental organization, Riverkeeper, prior to joining Standard Renewable Energy, a DG and energy efficiency provider previously based out of Houston during the mid-to-late 2000s. She was named one of the ‘Top 50 Smart Grid Pioneers of 2015’ by SmartGrid Today magazine.
We hope you will join us for an engaging conversation!

Austin Energy Community Solar Survey

Later this year, Austin Energy will begin offering its customers an opportunity to sign up to receive solar energy generated at community solar installations located at the Kingsbery Substation in East Austin, and, in the future, from other solar installations located throughout Austin.  Community solar will allow customers who rent or whose homes cannot be fitted with their own solar panels to be able to purchase local solar energy.

Austin Energy is currently considering several options for how to allow residential customers to enroll in its community solar program, including:

  • a capacity-based subscription with an upfront fee and monthly production credits (Austin Energy estimates investment would pay back in 13 years, with $90/month in savings for 12 more years);
  • a capacity-based subscription with a monthly fee and monthly production credits (Austin Energy estimates the average customer would save $6/month);
  • a fixed community solar fee that would replace the power supply adjustment (PSA) fee (this would initially be more expensive, but could be cheaper in later years);
  • a community solar fee that would be added to the PSA (similar to GreenChoice, where customers forever pay more);
  • a customer ownership model, where customers would buy a number of panels upfront and receive monthly production credits (Austin Energy estimates investment would pay back in 15 years, with $90/month in savings for 10 more years); and
  • a low-income community solar offering subsidized through customer charges.

We encourage you to take Austin Energy’s survey, which the utility will use to help determine the most appropriate model to ensure the success of the community solar program.

Please note that you may have to enable pop-ups and if you see a note that asks for a Login ID and Password, just ignore that and click “Begin Survey.”

The survey will close on June 1st, so don’t wait!


May Happy Hour: Screening of “Catching the Sun”

We’re shaking things up a bit!  Instead of a speaker, our May happy hour will be a screening of “Catching the Sun,” an exciting film the hopes and challenges of solar energy.  It’s about job creation, bringing people affordable energy, political battles, and helping the fight against climate change.

An unemployed American worker, a Tea Party activist, and a Chinese solar entrepreneur race to lead the clean energy future. But who wins and who loses the battle for power in the 21st century?

Through the stories of workers and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and China, Catching the Sun captures the global race to lead the clean energy future. Over the course of a solar jobs training program, Catching the Sun follows the hope and heartbreak of unemployed American workers seeking jobs in the solar industry.  With countries like China investing in innovative technologies and capitalizing on this trillion-dollar opportunity, Catching the Sun tells the story of the global energy transition from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands. Their successes and failures speak to one of the biggest questions of our time: will the U.S. actually be able to build a clean energy economy?

When: Tuesday, May 24, 5:30 – 8:00 pm (film starts at 6:15)

Where: Scholz Garten (1607 San Jacinto St)

Tickets: $10 ($5 students) – Buy Here