Updates

March Happy Hour – Solar for Low-Income Customers

SolarHost San AntonioThere was a time when solar energy was only accessible to those with cash on hand to buy a system outright. Then financing for solar became common place and middle income people with decent credit scores could go solar without paying up front. Now, there is finally a focus on making solar accessible for low-income residents as well. San Antonio’s electric utility – CPS – has launched an innovative new program called Solar Host that allows customers to benefit from solar without making any investment.

At the same time, CPS has rolled out its first community solar program. The program – called Roofless Solar – is ideal for customers who want go solar, but don’t have a suitable roof or other space on their own property. With community solar, a shaded roof or a roof in need of repair is no longer a barrier to going solar.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 28 (5:30 – 8:00 p.m.)

WHERE: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin

RSVP: Please RSVP and make a donation, if you wish to support our work.

SPEAKERS: CPS is working with a private developer to implement the Solar Host program, so both Rick Luna from CPS and Tuan Pham from PowerFin Partners will speak at our happy hour.

Rick LunaRick Luna is Sr. Manager, Product Development for CPS Energy. Rick oversees a program portfolio that includes a variety of solar, demand response and energy efficiency offerings for residential and commercial customers. Rick’s team is instrumental in achieving the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP) goal of reducing demand by 771 MW by 2020. Rick’s work has included account management, rate design and economic development. He holds a B.A. in economics from Columbia University.

Tuan PhamTuan Pham is the head of PowerFin, a solar development, financing, and operating company, with offices in Austin and San Antonio. Throughout his career, Tuan has focused on areas where energy and finance converge. Prior to his role in business development at HelioVolt, a thin-film solar company, Tuan covered energy and chemical companies at Morgan Stanley and Banc of America Securities in New York. Tuan’s experience also includes time at the Austin Clean Energy Incubator and Strategic Value Partners, a $5 billion hedge fund, where he served as a Director overseeing energy and industrial investments. Tuan also served on the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee, a City Council-appointed committee to devise a plan for citywide solar development.


Solar Austin Seeks Part-Time Communication & Event Coordinator

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF POSITION:  

Solar Austin’s mission is to accelerate the transition to clean renewable energy in Central Texas to build a healthy community and a strong local economy.  Solar Austin is currently a 100% volunteer run organization.  Solar Austin works with utilities (mostly Austin Energy) and decision makers to improve and expand solar programs and policies and works to educate the public through monthly happy hours with speakers, emails, social media and other events.  

The Solar Austin Communication and Event Coordinator will work under the supervision of the President or another member of the Board.  The Communication and Event Coordinator will take on many of the routine duties required to host monthly happy hour events as well as other administrative and research duties, as assigned.

We expect this position will require 20-30 hours of work per month, depending on what events and other activities we have planned.

SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES:

  1. Attend monthly Solar Austin board meetings on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  2. Coordinate and Attend monthly happy hours on the 4th Tuesday of each month from 5 to 8pm (including setup). Coordination includes:
    • Speaker Coordination: working with Board Members to identify happy hour speakers, contacting and confirming speakers at least 6 weeks in advance, putting together short biographies, photos and a brief descriptions of speaker and topic.
    • Event Marketing (at least 1 month in advance): creating an Eventbrite invitation for each event, posting happy hour information to the Solar Austin website, sending an email blast to the Solar Austin supporter list, creating event pages on  Facebook and MeetUp, and effectively promoting all events on Facebook, Twitter, MeetUp and any other useful platforms and calendars.
    • Event Management: Bring all needed materials to and from event and staff the sign-in table.  Show people where to sign in; collect donations; be welcoming and answer questions (or direct questions to a board member).
  3. Manage sign-in sheets and petitions by adding contacts to Solar Austin database.
  4. Communications: Write regular bi-monthly  blog posts on Solar Austin website.  Share posts via the Solar Austin Facebook and Twitter accounts. Post daily updates to the Solar Austin Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  5. Assist with solar, utility, and other research as needed.
  6. Other administrative duties as assigned.

REQUIREMENTS:

Education:  High school diploma or GED required; some college work prefered

Knowledge: How to utilize social media to engage the public; some knowledge about solar energy and/or policy

Work Experience:  Some previous professional experience required; experience putting on events and using social media professionally strongly desired

Skills:  Excellent written and oral communication skills; well organized; good computer skills (experience with WordPress required; basic HTML beneficial, but not required); good social media skills (particularly Facebook and Twitter); graphic design and video skills valued, but not required  

Capabilities:  Self-motivated; organized; ability to work independently, desire to learn about and advance solar energy policies and programs

APPLY

To apply, email info@solaraustin.org with your resume, cover letter, writing sample and social media samples.


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.


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

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


April Happy Hour: Living Building Challenge

Plan to be inspired by the solar opportunity within the Living Building Challenge™.  LBC is the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. The certification process under the Challenge requires that projects meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.  We will hear the living proof story of the building of the Bullitt Center, a local, place-based community transformation in Seattle.
Around the world, passionate individuals are advocating for restorative building practices. They’re spreading the word and removing barriers to change.  It begins by sharing resources and collaborating locally to pursue Living Building Challenge certification.Join us to hear from Karen Knight about the Living Building Challenge!
 Tuesday, April 26, 2016
5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St

Karen KnightKaren Knight’s enduring passion for energy policy, civic ecology, and high-performance architecture has made her an innovator and role model in Austin. Putting her money where her mouth is, she renovated her own home to receive the Austin Energy Green Building program’s 5-star rating, demonstrating clearly that it is possible to integrate modern architecture in an energy-positive environment. An Ambassador for the Living Building Challenge in Austin, she also supports the healthy engagement of kids with nature through the Shoal Creek Conservancy, Austin Families in Nature, and the Dell Children’s Medical Center Trust.  Along with her partner, Graham Pierce, she is currently stewarding 67 acres at Ardor Wood Farm in Red Rock, TX to be shared as a holistic, regenerative wildlife & human retreat experience.  Her urban development initiatives for an Ardor project in central downtown Austin continue to move forward to bring together internationally recognized innovators in sustainability, energy, and design to fulfill the vision of a collaborative space fusing hospitality with exquisite, living architecture along the greenbelt trails of Shoal Creek.