Happy Hour: Community Solar

Residential solar, commercial solar, municipal solar and utility scale solar can all be found in Austin, but community solar is the next big thing.  Austin Energy is currently designing a community solar program, so this is the perfect time to learn about the different options for community solar programs and what might work best for Austin.

Join us to learn how community solar can be used to expand access to the benefits of solar.  If you love solar, but haven’t been able to take advantage of it because you rent or have a shaded or badly oriented roof, you won’t want to miss this event.

When: Wednesday, April 16th, 5:30-8:00pm
Where: Scholz Garten (1607 San Jacinto St)

Please RSVP.

Stanley Florek headshotStanley Florek, CEO & Founder of Tangerine Power, is creating new opportunities for distributed energy finance and deployment in the United States. In prior roles he delivered technology solutions for hundreds of organizations, including Microsoft, John Deere, the US Air Force, and the University of Washington Medical Center. His interest in expanding access to clean energy led him to an MBA at the pioneering Bainbridge Graduate Institute for Sustainable Business, with a concentration in Sustainable Energy Solutions. Stanley is actively involved in distributed energy policy making at the state and federal levels, and co-founded the trade association Washington Local Energy Alliance (WALEA) and national advocacy group Community Power Network. Tangerine Power is Stanley’s 4th venture.

Austin Energy Cutting Solar Credits

Is Austin Energy joining the war on solar?

Bit by bit, our publicly owned, nationally renowned, supposedly green electric utility is trying to roll back programs that support customer owned solar.

Austin Energy is cutting the value of solar tariff, which compensates solar owners for the energy they produce, by 16 percent on January 1.

A lower solar tariff means fewer people will choose to purchase solar panels, which means our environment and local economy will suffer.

Tell the Austin City Council to stand up for clean energy and pass a resolution delaying reduction of the solar tariff.

Cutting the solar tariff isn’t the only attack under way. On January 1, Austin Energy will also confiscate all solar credits. Customers earned those credits by providing energy that the utility took and sold. Now Austin Energy is planning to take those credits away.

And just this week, the utility cut solar rebates for the second time this year. These cuts were reportedly made to keep the program from running out of funds, but Austin Energy could have asked for more funding for the solar rebate budget.

The Austin City Council governs Austin Energy, so it’s up to it to keep the utility honest.

Demand a resolution delaying the solar tariff change until after the public has had a chance to give input.

While other utilities are fighting to keep customers from generating their own electricity, Austin Energy should not play that game.

Austin Energy’s solar programs have given it and our city great publicity and helped to build a growing solar economy in the Austin area. Let’s not lose that momentum.

Our utility needs to start listening to us – the people who own it.

Send the Austin City Council an email right now.

Please note that emails will be sent using a Public Citizen action page. You can remove yourself from their list at any time.

We only have a few days to stop this attack before the City Council takes its winter break. Please help by sharing this post with friends, family and neighbors in the Austin area. If you work for a solar company, please forward this email to your customers.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Karl Rábago – Advancing the Value of Solar

Austin Energy’s value of solar tariff (VOST) has received national attention. Join us to learn more about the VOST from the man behind it and to celebrate our recent victories for local solar in Austin.

When: Tuesday, November 19th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701

Please RSVP here.

We welcome Karl Rábago to the stage to share his experiences developing the award-winning value of solar tariff with his team at Austin Energy, and advancing it across the nation.

This topic is especially relevant because Austin Energy just re-evaluated the value of solar tariff.

Karl Rabago smilingKarl Rábago was one of the key developers of the VOST at Austin Energy and he’s a champion of renewable energy for Texas and across the country.

For a sneak peak of a few things Karl has been working on, check out his blog, Sparks.

About Karl Rábago: Karl has over 20 years experience in electricity policy and regulation, energy markets development, and energy technology development. He operates an energy consulting practice called Rábago Energy, LLC — providing strategic, policy, regulatory, and market development consulting in the clean and innovative energy sectors. Karl serves as Chair of the Board of the Center for Resource Solutions, a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization that works to advance voluntary clean energy markets. He also sits on the Board of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). You can access Rábago’s short bio here, and his full resume here.

*Note: Our December and January happy hours will be at Scholz Garten, but may not be on a Tuesday.*

Defense Energy Summit

Defense Energy Summit imagesWhen: November 11-13, 2013
Where: AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin

Join the Nation’s energy, business and defense leadership as they accelerate the development and deployment of new energy and infrastructure solutions and projects.

The Defense Energy Summit delivers the entire defense energy ecosystem, focusing on the needs and solutions of energy providers, project financiers, early/growth stage companies, defense contractors, military installations and purchasing agents. This unique event brings together the business of the energy industry with the urgent needs of defense community, convening National stakeholders in the building of a Defense Energy Center of Excellence.Defense Energy Summit 2013 logo

For further information about the Defense Energy Summit, please visit www.defenseenergy.com.
For information about the Defense Energy Center of Excellence, please visit www.defenseenergy.org.

For a 10% discount of the regular registration rate, please use this code: 13SAUS10

Austin Solar Victories

Many of you probably remember our concern when Austin Energy proposed slashing the solar budget by 42% for fiscal year 2014 – which we’re now in. But public outcry and our meetings with Austin City Council members made a difference. The budget was fully restored and we can expect to have another great year for solar in Austin.  That was back in September.

Sun in fistJust yesterday, Austin City Council passed a resolution that expands the city’s commitment to development local solar.  Of our existing solar goal of 200 megawatts (MW) by 2020, half will now have to be locally sited and half of that local solar will have to be distributed systems that are owned or leased by customers.

That’s great news for local jobs, because there’s no way to outsource installation of small, local solar systems.  Someone has to be here to do a site inspection, file the paperwork with Austin Energy and actually install the system on someone’s room or in their yard.

City Council also instructed the City Manager to consider adopting the 400 MW by 2020 solar goal put forth by the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC) into the Generation Plan update next year.

We have Council Members Chris Riley, Laura Morrison and Bill Spelman to thank for leading this effort, but the resolution was adopted unanimously, and I know that others on the Council are eager to see solar thrive in Austin.  Send the City Council a thank you note.

With the help of the many people in Austin who are concerned about climate change, air pollution, water use, creating good local jobs, and keeping electric rates affordable, we’re going to make sure the 400 MW solar goal is included in the Generation Plan in 2014.

In the meantime, we can turn our focus to ensuring that solar owners continue to be credited a fair value for the energy they put out on the grid for the rest of us to use and that more attractive solar financing options are made available.  Better financing, options for solar leasing and a community solar program are all essential for expanding access to solar for lower and middle-income families and all of us who rent.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Climate Change and the 2013 IPCC Report

When: Tuesday, October 15th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701

Please RSVP here.

There are lots of great reason to support local solar and one of them is certainly the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With this in mind, we will dedicate our October happy hour to a panel discussion of climate change, including the latest information presented in the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

2013 IPCC report cover

Panelist will include Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas, and Dave Cortez, Organizer at Sierra Club.

Our planet’s climate is changing faster than predicted, making the need for an accelerated switch to clean energy sources even more critical. As we continue to urge the Austin City Council to adopt more ambitious solar goals, knowing the facts about climate change will be important.

The full IPCC report (Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis) is available for download.

State Parking Garages (usually free after 6PM) can be found next to, behind and across from Scholz Garten. San Jacinto Blvd., 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and Trinity have parking garage entrances.

We hope to see you there!

Solar 1st Saturday- Free talk on Advocacy, Policy, and Opportunity in Solar

ImagineSolar logoJoin us at Imagine Solar to explore the current state of the industry and how you can be part of the solar solution. This free monthly event series on the first Saturday of the month will explore advocacy, policy, and opportunity in the solar industry. Solar Austin’s Charlie Hemmeline and Rachel Stone of Environment Texas, will discuss opportunities to expand solar adoption in Texas and as well as ways for participants to get involved and make a difference.

When: Saturday, October 5th at 4 pm

Where: Imagine Solar (4000 Caven Rd., Austin, TX 78744)

Please RSVP.

The solar industry is experiencing rapid expansion in entrepreneurial opportunity – government policy is striving to keep pace. Let these discussions help you find your place in this swiftly changing landscape.

Solar 1st Saturday begins at 4pm, but participants are welcome to come at 3pm and observe the last hour of the PV System Design & Installation Lab already in progress.

Go here for more information about the event.

Climate-Com: Climate Change Communications From the Media – A Mini Symposium

Our climate is changing and action is desperately needed, but that message is not getting through to to many of our leaders. Climate-Com will explore how the media can better present current climate science so that the public and our leaders will be convinced to act.
Lake Buchanan

What: A panel discussion on how we can change the way we communicate climate science and facts to the public through the media, particularly broadcast meteorologists. Featuring Jim Spencer of KXAN-TV and Kris Wilson, PhD of UT School of Journalism.

When: Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 3:30pm to 7:00pm

Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd., North meeting room

Who: Climate Change Now Initiative, Public Citizen’s Texas Office, KXAN-TV, UT School of Journalism, Forecast the Facts, Texas Drought Project, Austin Citizen Climate Lobby

Cost (suggested donation): $10.00 – Adults, $5.00 for students, 16 and under free **Also, free if you calculate your personal carbon footprint using an online carbon calculator and send the tons of carbon per year with your name to qualitykicks@hotmail.com.**
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Massive Cuts Proposed for Austin Energy Solar Budget

It’s an important time for solar in Austin, so we will try to keep you updated as things progress.

Here’s the latest:

Instead of embracing the expanded solar goals recommended by the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC), Austin Energy has proposed slashing the solar rebate budget by 42% for the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2014. 

The solar rebate budget supports both residential and commercial solar installations and has become increasingly popular.  The program was projected to run out of money earlier this year, prompting Austin Energy to reduce the amount of the residential rebate from $2 per installed watt to $1.50 per installed watt.

Although solar costs have declined rapidly and are projected to continue that trend, rebates are still needed in the short term to help our local solar economy reach maturity.  Rebates will likely be phased out between now and 2020, but now is not the time for dramatic cuts to a popular and successful program.

There are going to be several opportunities coming up to voice your support for solar:

  • Monday, August 19th at 6pm in the Shudde Fath Conference Room at Austin Energy (721 Barton Springs Road): Electric Utility Commission meeting will include discussion of recommendations for the Austin Energy budget.  Public input is welcomed at the beginning of the meeting and for each agenda item.
  • Wednesday, August 21st at 3pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at Austin City Hall (301 West 2nd St): Emerging Technology and Telecommunications Committee meeting will include discussion of costs and benefits of solar compared to other energy sources.  Public input is welcomed.
  • (probably) Thursday, August 29th at 4pm in Council Chambers at Austin City Hall (301 West 2nd St): Public hearing on the proposed city budget.  The purpose of this hearing will be to gather public input. We will update the day and time on this post if it changes.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already sent an email to the Mayor and City Council in support of expanding solar goals and funding, you can do so using this Public Citizen “action page.”

Spread the word and help our city be more sustainable.

Solar a Shining Opportunity for Austin – Solar Goals and Programs Need Expanding

Business leaders, environmentalists and low income advocates are behind a push to get Austin to increase its solar energy goal to 400 megawatts by 2020 and expand solar programs to meet that goal.

A diverse group of community leaders appointed to the Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC) by City Council examined solar opportunities in Austin and unanimously recommended that we double our 2020 solar goal, creating an estimated $300 million in net economic benefits and staying well within our current affordability goals.

“The Austin Energy leadership is saying we can’t afford to do this now,” says Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “But they are only looking at replacement power costs.  The value of solar is far more than replacing wholesale power.  It increases revenue for the city from off system sales of peak power we won’t need at home. Expanding solar goals will mean reduced costs for peak power, fuel, hedging, insurance, maintenance and transmission, as well as reduced water use and pollution.  The LSAC looked at all of those factors and that’s why the business, solar and environmental community all agreed that we should expand our goals now.”

2013-08-06 400MW Solar is 5.2-6 Percent of Austin Energy Demand by 2020 (sun pie graph)The LSAC report shows that expanding the solar goal to 400 MW by 2020 – which would meet 5.2-6% of Austin Energy’s electric demand – would be affordable.  Current affordability limits are set at 2% of anticipated utility revenue and the solar program would never go beyond 0.31% – likely less, according to the LSAC report and would reduce costs by 2020.  The affordable nature of the plan is what got low income advocates to support it.

Susan McDowell, executive director at Lifeworks supports the expansion of Austin’s solar goals.  “Keeping up with rising electric bills is a struggle for many working families, especially in the summer.  Solar is cheaper over the long run and can ease that pressure.  We need more solar programs geared toward working families, including those who rent.”

Instead of embracing the recommendations, Austin Energy has proposed a 42% cut to its solar rebate program for fiscal year 2014, from $7.3 million to $4.2 million.  Supporters of the LSAC recommendations are asking City Council to move in the opposite direction and expand the solar budget to $10 million dollars.

We need a solar budget large enough to meet demand. This year, Austin Energy reduced the solar rebate to avoid running out of money before the year was over.  Solar is becoming more popular and we should take advantage of that.

While the LSAC did envision an eventual reduction and end to solar rebates, the Committee recommended investing more now to establish the industry in Austin and take advantage of a 30% federal tax credit for solar installations.

“Low solar prices, coupled with the 30% federal tax credit, give us the opportunity to get more solar installed for each dollar spent than ever before,” says BJ Stanbery, CEO of Heliovolt.  “And unlike most of the other energy sources we rely on, our investment in solar feeds into our local economy.  The time to establish the Austin solar business cluster is now because the 2016 federal ITC reduction from 30% to 10% is setting the timeline for industry maturation.”

The solar industry has already created hundreds of jobs in Austin, many of them in installation.  Solar installation companies are small, locally owned business and the jobs they create can’t be outsourced.

Carey Ibrahimbegovic, president and CEO of Greenbelt solar says, “We’re working hard to bring solar to as many families and business as we can and we’re creating good local jobs as we do that.  Austin area solar companies already employ over 600 people and meeting a 400 MW solar goal will create an estimated 420 new local direct and induced jobs each year from 2013 to 2020, with an average increase in local annual payroll of over $10 million.”