PV Solar Report Contributor
Momentum is building for shared renewable energy in California. Late last week the two bills we’ve been following there, SB 43 and AB 1014, passed with strong margins in their chambers of origin -- marking the first time this legislation has moved beyond committee to pass in either chamber.
The author of SB 43, Senator Lois Wolk, worked late into the night to draft last-minute amendments that would address concerns expressed by both Senator Alex Padilla and several utilities. The concerns were about an issue that’s been hounding the bill since its previous incarnation last year as SB 843: that there be no cost-shifting to utility customers not participating in the bill’s program.
The program allows for 500 MW of renewable energy projects that are ideal for utility customers who can’t put solar on their own roof. When they subscribe to energy produced by these shared renewable projects, customers get a credit on their power bill for that energy.
While this may sound great to customers, especially renters, utilities are sceptical. They want to ensure that the method used to calculate the bill credit be fair to all customers, including those who don’t sign up for shared renewables projects. Whether or not the utilities’ concern is disingenuous (remember the debate about net metering?), the bill’s sponsors have focused on addressing this point to ensure both fairness to all customers and passage of the bill.
And pass it did last week, with a vote in the California Senate of 27 - 9. The bill’s current version includes carve-outs that have been key requests of environmental justice and community power organizations: at least 20% of the program is set aside to be built in environmental justice areas, and at least 20% is set aside to be available to residential customers.
Less dramatic was the passage of AB 1014, which sailed through the Assembly with no debate and a vote of 55 - 17. Authored by Assemblyman Das Williams, this bill creates a voluntary program that allows utility customers to opt for 100% renewable energy, through their utility. As with SB 43, an important component of this bill was avoiding any cost-shifting to non-participants.
The bills have distinct approaches, but according to Tom Price, California Shared Renewables Policy and Market Strategies Director, “both solve the same problem -- letting people who can't buy renewable energy because they don't have a place to physically install it to instead virtually install it on their power bill.”
As currently written, each bill would generate about 500 MW of new clean energy, 6,500 jobs, $60M in new taxes, and $2B in economic activity -- all without a penny of state incentives.
At some point, SB 43 and AB 1014 are expected to be reconciled into one. No one knows yet how or when that will happen. Given that some still view SB 43 as pricing mechanism with cost shifts, there may be a convergence toward AB 1014’s PG&E-approved pricing structure. Wolk and Williams are working together to ensure the bills are supportive of each other.
The bills are now set to go through the policy committee of the opposite chamber, and then that chamber’s appropriations committee, before moving on to the whole floor. They’re likely to reach the policy committees by early July.
For the moment, the bills are on pause. But it won’t be long before it’s once again time for action. Keeping both bills moving forward requires showing as much support as possible. To receive updates and find out how you can get involved, sign up at the California Shared Renewables site.
Originally published on Mosaic.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about net metering. What’s so special about net metering, and why all the fuss?
Net metering is a simple concept that’s policy in 43 states. It’s like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill -- it lets utility customers who install solar systems feed energy they generate into the grid if they don’t need it at the time they’re generating it. They get the fun of watching their meter run backwards, and they get a credit on their power bill for that excess energy, which they can use when the sun goes down. The question, though, is what constitutes fair credit, and whether net metering customers are passing on to other customers an unfair burden of transmission and distribution charges.
As you can imagine, perspectives on this issue vary. Some are predictable, others not so much.
The utility death spiral
Let’s start with utilities, who are on the predictable end of the spectrum. After all, when utility customers generate their own power, those customers end up paying a lot less to the utility. And utilities are set up to make substantial profits from large infrastructure investments. Net metering poses a threat to that business model.
This threat has been getting a lot of attention. One of the most thoughtful writers on the subject, David Roberts, says of utilities’ “path to obsolescence,” “From the utility’s point of view, every kilowatt-hour of rooftop solar looks like a kilowatt-hour of reduced demand for the utility’s product.” And that’s not just any product: because solar panels produce the most at peak rate times, solar reduces demand for a utility’s “most valuable product.”
Where does this end? While Roberts calls it a “vicious, self-reinforcing cycle,” others have used more colorful language, terming it the utility death spiral: As more people go solar, utilities are forced to raise rates on those who don’t. That makes solar even more attractive, and more people opt for solar power. That forces utilities to raise rates even more. Get the picture? In case it’s not clear yet, here’s a nice illustration of the obsolescence of US utilities:
It may seem premature to talk of the death of utilities at a time when rooftop solar still represents less than 1% of US power generation. But the fact that utilities themselves are so worried indicates it’s a threat to be taken seriously. Think about it: Who would have predicted just a decade ago that so many of us would do away with our land lines? We’ve seen serious disruptions in other industries, and the power industry seems due for its own shakeup.
The equity issue
So it’s not surprising that utilities aren’t fans of net metering. Of course, they can’t say that the reason they’re against it is because it eats into their profits. Instead, they use the argument that all customers are subsidizing those who use net metering.
This is a valid concern, and it’s shared by consumer advocacy organizations like The Utility Reform Network (TURN). TURN also points out that in states like California with a tiered-rate system, net-metering customers are not getting equal credits. A customer who uses more power goes into a higher tier and therefore gets a higher credit for the power they generate than a customer who uses less. This particular issue can be addressed by paying all net-metering customers the same price -- something that might be in the works in California, where rate design changes are expected.
But the question still remains, What’s a fair price for net-metered energy? Utilities would like it to be the same as the wholesale prices they pay for most of the power they purchase. But according to TURN, it’s only fair for rooftop solar generators to get more than what a utility pays for dirty energy or even for remote large-scale solar, since rooftop solar provides benefits that neither of those can -- such as local jobs, reduced need for transmission lines, and increased grid security.
Benefits of net metering
While these are fair concerns, some say that utilities and all their customers are benefitting from net metering. Vote Solar is in that camp. A recent study they commissioned from Crossborder Energy found that the benefits of net metering in California (like savings on investments in infrastructure and on meeting state renewables requirements) outweigh the costs (like the lowered revenue to cover utility infrastructure costs).
The way Vote Solar sees it, net metering has been key to the success of solar in California, which in turn has conferred many benefits on that state -- creating thousands of jobs, bringing billions in investments to the state, and saving billions for schools and other public agencies. In addition, it’s helped low- and median-income families reap the benefits of going solar.
So Vote Solar’s position is basically, Why fix what isn’t broken?
Other findings echo Vote Solar’s, including recent studies in Vermont, New York, and Texas -- all of which conclude that net metering provides a net benefit to all utility customers. The California Public Utilities Commission is due to publish its own study this year.
But the utilities are likely looking toward a future where net metering will go a fair ways toward breaking their model. So even if Vote Solar is right that they incur a small benefit from net metering now, utilities are not likely to be swayed by a few studies.
Freedom of choice
Like that of the utilities, Vote Solar’s position is what you’d expect. What you might not expect is the support of Barry Goldwater, Jr., and other Republicans. What better proof that net metering is good for all of us?
Goldwater lives in Arizona, a state with ample solar resources -- and, it turns out, strong Republican support for solar, including for net metering. But the state’s major utility is threatening to do away with net metering. To keep solar strong and “stand up to utility monopolies,” Goldwater has started an organization called Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) -- clearly Republican all the way to its elephantine name and logo.
And how does he frame his argument? It’s all about freedom of choice. Utilities, he claims, are trying to limit our freedom of choice -- not just our choice of energy source but also our choice to save money. As he states on the organization’s website, “That's not the conservative way and it's not the American way."
Net metering -- a net gain
Also joining the cause are doctors in California, with the new organization Californians Against Utilities Stopping Clean Energy (CAUSE). Their website may not be as compelling as TUSK’s, but their angle is. Where TUSK focuses on choice, CAUSE puts the spotlight on public health. As co-Chair Dr. Deonza Thymes puts it, "More rooftop solar means cleaner air, and healthier communities. That's something we can all stand behind."
And this brings us to the larger picture. While even Vote Solar’s study showed only a small net financial benefit to California utilities and their customers, it didn’t include additional benefits that are harder to quantify -- to taxpayers, the economy, and of course, the environment and public health. When you add those, net metering looks more and more like a net gain.
Earth Month ended well for shared renewables in California. A few weeks ago we reported on the two shared renewables bills making their way through the California legislature, SB 43 and AB 1014. And last week, both bills made it past their first hurdle: committee votes that were crucial to keeping the bills going.
The first of these was AB 1014, which passed through the California Assembly Utility and Commerce Committee on April 29 with a vote of 9 - 0. There was no opposing testimony. In fact, support for the bill was expressed not only by organizations like Vote Solar and the Solar Energy Industries Association but also the US Department of Defense and utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E.
According to Tom Price, California Shared Renewables Policy and Market Strategies Director, the bill was significantly amended. (For details, see this AB 1014 analysis.) But he says its progress is still “tremendously positive news. While it’s not the bill we started with, it does help us advance the goal of broadening access to renewable energy.”
The next day brought more good news: the California Senate Energy Committee voted 6 - 4 to pass SB 43. This bill got some pushback, as utilities and other groups raised concerns that it would shift costs to non-participants. Senator Lois Wolk, the bill’s sponsor, has committed to ensuring that doesn’t happen. So we can expect to see more changes made to this bill.
What’s next for the bills? They need to get through their respective Appropriations Committees and through full chambers, and then continue through the opposite chamber. At that point, the bills are expected to be combined into a single proposal. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.
While many details remain to be worked out, the passage of both AB 1014 and SB 43 through their first committees represents a major milestone. And their eventual passage would have even greater significance. According to a recent report by Vote Solar, a 1000 MW shared renewables program created by these bills would bring these benefits to California:
12,700 local jobs
$130 million in tax revenues
$4.3 billion in total economic activity
That doesn’t even include benefits like improved public health, increased security, and climate change mitigation.
And there’s yet another benefit. Where California goes, so does the rest of the country. We don’t have enough shared renewables laws in the US. Passing these bills would set a great example and help spread renewables beyond just California -- to the majority of us throughout the country who can’t yet participate in generating clean power.
Solar leases are helping far more people go solar than before and are helping spread solar in a big way. In 2012, third-party-owned solar represented 74% of California’s home solar market. And much of that market’s growth was in low- and median-income areas.
That’s great news! Still, about 75% of us are still left out of the equation. We may have shaded roofs, rent our homes, or live in multi-unit buildings. Businesses can run into these issues as well.
Solar for the rest of us
So how do we get solar for the rest of us? One solution is shared renewables. And now there are two bills making their way through the California legislature that could bring the state a pilot program to try out this idea: SB 43 and AB 1014. They’re really twin bills -- almost but not quite identical -- that will eventually be combined into one. You can find details, including case studies on shared renewables and summaries of both bills, at the California Shared Renewables site.
What this legislation does is allow investor-owned utility customers to get a bill credit for solar or other renewables produced at a location other than their own property. This would be completely voluntary, and ratepayers would not be affected -- an important aspect of this legislation. Customers who sign up for this program would not experience any change in their service, and utilities would still get paid to make the grid safe and reliable.
Each bill would create a pilot program for shared renewable projects of up to 20 MW in size, for a total of either 500 MW (under SB 43) or 1000 MW (AB 1014). The goal is for this voluntary pilot program to spur more private investments and create a significant number of jobs.
The program would would bring access to renewable energy to a wider group of customers -- to those of us in the 75%. There are even carve-outs for residential customers, as well as for smaller projects (1 MW or smaller) in environmentally or economically disadvantaged communities. And the bills protect prime farmland from being displaced by the projects.
A few other states have passed or are considering similar bills, but Joy Hughes of the Solar Gardens Institute considers SB 43 and AB 1014 “probably the most thoroughly thought through legislative treatment of the subject to date.”
What you can do now
If you’re in California and would like to support these bills, help is needed now! Some important votes are coming up in key Senate and Assembly committees:
April 22 ( Earth Day): Vote on AB 1014, authored by Assembly Member Das Williams and Senator Lois Wolk, in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee
April 30: Vote on SB 43, authored by Senator Lois Wolk and Assembly Member Das Williams, in the Senate Energy Committee
It’s crucial that the legislature receive letters of support -- and they need to be in by Wednesday April 17.
So after you get your taxes filed, be sure to send letters in support of SB 43 and AB 1014! Especially helpful are letters from your company, organization, or school district. It’s important to write one for each bill. And it’s easy -- you can simply fill out the templates here and then send the letters to
Why support these bills?
Shared renewables programs allow many more people and businesses to participate in and benefit from solar. They give people and communities more control over their energy generation. Moreover, they help fight climate change, create jobs, reduce utilities’ need to buy power at the costliest time of day, improve the reliability of the grid, and save taxpayers money.
With all these benefits, shared renewables really are a win-win-win.
There are a number of ways to help spread solar. We’re lucky to have shared renewables as a potential option in California. Let’s work together to make that a reality. Let’s work to get solar to the 75% who are now left out.
PV Solar Report Contributor
Momentum, transformation, diversification: these words describe today’s dynamic solar industry. That’s according to Rhone Resch of Solar Energy Industries Association, Arno Harris of Recurrent Energy, and Shayle Kann of Greentech Media, who reviewed the state of the industry at a recent Google Hangout presented by SEIA and GTM.
Executive summary: Solar experienced strong growth in 2012. And despite the significant challenges that remain, solar is becoming mainstream.
Momentum and transformation
Drawing from the SEIA/GTM 2012 report, Resch noted that last year we installed 3,313 MW of solar in the US, a 76% growth over 2011. That represents 40% of all solar capacity in the US today, and led to the US becoming one of the most important markets in the world. American workers installed 2 panels per second, adding up to 16 billion panels -- enough to power 1.2 million households.
It goes without saying -- but I’ll say it anyway -- that as the solar industry grows, it creates jobs, many of which can’t be outsourced. Over 120,000 people are currently employed by the US solar industry, and that doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of others who work with them.
What’s driven this growth? Resch stressed that policy stability has been a key factor. Since the ITC extension in 2009, solar has taken off -- consistent with what’s happened in other energy industries with stable policies. It’s typical for an energy resource to go through a 30-year period of early adoption and innovation before experiencing rapid growth, and that’s where solar has been. Consistent policies that support solar can help it move through the current transitional phase and continue to play an increasingly significant role.
Of course, another crucial factor in the industry’s growth has been solar’s increased affordability. Average panel costs have plummeted 60% since the beginning of 2011, with the average cost of a completed system decreasing 27% in 2012 alone. In fact, in the past few years solar has leapfrogged from being the most expensive energy form to second or third place in affordability.
Solar’s affordability is not just about panel prices but has also been aided by new financing options. Solar leases have been a huge driver for the residential market. And the industry has proven itself as an attractive asset class. New investment vehicles that could lower the costs of capital, such as Real Estate Investment Trusts and Master Limited Partnerships, are appearing on the scene. PACE programs are taking root in some states. And 2012 was a big year for crowdfunding -- as seen in organizations like Mosaic, which provide financing for smaller to medium projects by letting individuals invest in solar.
The soft costs of permitting, financing, and customer acquisition continue to be an issue, but the SunShot initiative is starting to help reduce those. We’ll see further benefits from this program in the future.
Solar has matured and diversified in the past two years -- both in terms of business models and geographically. In 2012, twelve states installed over 50 MW of solar, compared to just five states in 2011. A few years ago, California accounted for 80% of US installations; now, it represents 30%.
Diversification is also evidenced by strength in all segments of the solar market: residential, non-residential (commercial, governmental, nonprofit, schools), and utility.
The market has diversified, too, in terms of who’s installing solar. That’s no longer confined to early adopters or pilot projects. The fact that solar makes economic sense is shown by its popularity with companies like Apple, FedEx, GM, Google, Macy’s, and Walmart -- not to mention the Department of Defense.
And the widespread appeal of solar extends to the general population. In polls throughout the last five years, Americans have expressed support for greater development of solar energy -- across party lines.
Projections for the near future see the industry continuing to grow. In 2013, solar could become the number 2 source of new-build energy after gas -- and by 2015 or 2016, it could even reach number 1.
This robust growth is tempered by tensions, many in the policy area. As solar becomes a significant part of new energy generation, fossil fuel interests see it as a threat and are challenging policies like net metering and RPS. But SEIA is helping to challenge these attacks, and they have a solid foundation for doing so. Not only are voters supportive of solar, but the distributed generation that solar allows can help stabilize the grid, protecting against power outages and cyber attacks.
Advancements in storage technology will provide a crucial opportunity to address some of these policy issues. After all, with onsite storage, net metering would no longer be needed. And while grid penetration is currently low enough not to require large amounts of storage, in the long term it will become more critical.
The upshot? We need to continue pushing for strong policies that level the playing field for solar. With the right policy climate and advances in storage technology, solar power is set to transform electricity in the United States.
Why reach for the moon, when we can go for the sun? That’s what Energy Secretary Steven Chu aimed for in 2011, when he launched the SunShot Initiative to improve solar technologies and reduce costs. The program’s goal: to make solar competitive with any other power source -- without subsidies.
So far, it seems the sun was not too lofty a target. Chu may be stepping down as Energy Secretary, but he’s leaving on a high note with great hopes for the future. At a recent Google Hangout on the solar industry, he expressed his excitement about the present and future of solar and his conviction that solar is close to being as cheap as any other power source: “This is not something that’s going to happen twenty to thirty years from today. This is going to happen ten years from today, maybe sooner.”
At the Hangout, Chu and panelists from the solar industry provided plenty of reasons to feel good about solar’s future. They pointed to improvements on the technological front, such as increases in the efficiency, reliability, and longevity of systems -- similar to what we’ve seen happen with computers. What to expect for the future: at least a decade of continued improvements. And within that decade, Chu aims for the U.S. to be a world leader in R&D, deployment, and manufacture of solar products.
But there’s a lot more to what’s happening than just technological improvements. An important part of the SunShot Initiative is tackling “soft costs,” such as financing and permitting -- or as Chu puts it, the “red tape and hassle factor.” Because of drops in hardware prices, those soft costs now make up more than half the cost of installing solar.
We’re already seeing progress.
In 2004, the fully installed cost of utility-scale solar (which includes all hardware and installation costs) came to about $8 per watt -- now it’s below $3, in some cases even as low as $2. ShunShot’s ambitious $1 goal is looking within reach!
SunShot programs like the one in Broward County, Florida, are part of that effort. Panelists from the program shared how helpful it’s been to implement a single portal for permit applications, and ensure inspectors receive consistent training. Other counties are expressing interest, so they hope the program will spread throughout the state.
That points to an important trend: each success that proves the viability of solar paves the way for more solar. A great example is that solar has become more “bankable,” even Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway are seeing they can make money -- so naturally, they’re getting in on the action. MLPs and crowdfunding are other important parts of the financial picture and are allowing many more people to help fund -- and benefit from -- solar. These options are popular: Mosaic’s first publicly crowdfunded projects sold out in less than 24 hours.
Many of these financing vehicles are relative newcomers, and that’s key when it comes to solar. As we deal with new situations like distributed power generation and increases in our ability to store power, we need to think in new ways. Secretary Chu urged the Hangout audience, as we look to spread solar power, to come up with new models.
And he’s been doing his part. It’s a shame to see such a strong proponent of solar step down from his position, but he’s already done a lot to lead the solar industry to a bright future. So let’s carry on the great work, and keep reaching for the sun!
This post was originally published on Mosaic.
By Phil Narodick
Originally published on Mosaic
In the past few years, the solar industry has been suffering from a lack of capital on both the equity and debt fronts. Despite remarkably high rates of return, tax equity investment still only amounts to around $4 billion per year -- roughly 0.2% of its potential in the United States based on total individual and corporate tax appetite. Similarly, while lenders have provided capital for utility scale solar, debt financing for residential PV remains at very low levels. Bloomberg New Energy finance predicts that maintaining US solar deployment growth will require substantially more investment: roughly $6.9 billion annually through 2020.
This shortage has affected both the liquidity and cost of capital in the solar industry, which in turn raises the cost of photovoltaic systems. Some sources estimate that financing costs drive up the cost of a solar project’s electricity by as much as 50%. Additionally, lack of access to financing has caused bottlenecks for the deployment of residential systems -- SolarCity states in their S-1 that in 2008 and 2009 their customers encountered a substantial waiting list for financing.
One way of facilitating the flow of capital to the residential solar industry would be to increase the number of investors. Currently around a 16 financial institutions -- and seven in particular -- make up the majority of investment in the residential solar industry. In order for the United States to truly transition away from a fossil fuel economy, this number needs to increase by at least an order of magnitude.
This transition will not happen without making it easier for individuals to invest in systems. Individual investment is straightforward in many European markets, but not in the U.S. As I wrote in my post on Master-Limited Partnerships, United States tax structure actually makes individual investment in fossil fuels energy projects much easier than renewable ones. Adjusting the tax code to allow for solar Master-Limited Partnerships would dramatically level the playing field -- some forecasts predict the increase in capital available to be several billion by 2020. There is already a bill in congress, called the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act, that aims to make this adjustment.
In the meantime, Mosaic is launching an innovative model that uses crowdfunding to finance solar projects, opening up new capital from everyday Americans and greatly increasing the number of potential investors for a PV system. Mosaic pairs rooftop solar projects with a portfolio of investors, creating the opportunity for individual, long-term investments in U.S. clean energy infrastructure.
About Phil Narodick
Phil Narodick is a cleantech enthusiast and former founder of Solar Pathway, a startup working on creating a market for community supported solar arrays. He has worked as a project finance analyst for Solar Trust of America and has a background in energy consulting. In addition to being an evangelist of innovative solar finance and impact investing, he holds both a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University.
Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed herein by persons not affiliated with Mosaic reflect the judgment of the author and not necessarily that of Mosaic. Nothing herein shall constitute or be construed as an offering of securities, or as investment advice or recommendations by Mosaic. Mosaic's investments are limited to investors who meet applicable suitability standards based on income, net assets and state of residence. Please click here to learn more.
By Carter Lavin
Originally published on Solar Power World
We all understand how tight margins are in the intensely competitive solar installation market, and reaching consumers is not easy. But just because you don’t have the budget for a canvassing team, ad campaign, or big sponsorships doesn’t mean that there aren’t effective and affordable marketing campaigns you can launch. Here are five ways to market effectively to your community — and they won’t cost you a dime.
1. Social Media
Your customers and local media members are on Twitter and Facebook, so you should be, too. Use these channels to show off past and current projects, update your audience on developments at your company and engage with your elected officials. By maintaining an active presence on Twitter and Facebook, you can engage in broader community discussions and present your message conversationally. But always remember this cardinal rule: Social media is supposed to be social. If you just talk about yourself or post infrequently, you are wasting your time.
2. Letters To The Editors
As a professional solar installer, you have the ability to comment on a host of stories that appear in your local papers/websites — energy, utilities, government involvement in the private sector, local businesses, new industries in the area — or even extreme weather. You should have someone in your office who dedicates an hour or so a day scanning local newspapers and websites. When you see stories on any of those issues, it’s time to spring into action.
Write a few sentences about what you and your company have to offer on the subject and then send it in to your local paper as a letter to the editor. Just make sure it is not too sales-y or they won’t print it. Letters to the editor are typically around 150-300 words and the guidelines usually appear on the page itself. If they aren’t listed- call and ask). Be sure to include your name, company name and, most importantly, your phone number. Most reputable news outlets won’t print a letter-to-the-editor without confirming who wrote it, so the phone number may be the most important part of what you send them.
This kind of involvement will raise your company’s visibility in the local press, but it will also help your rankings in online search results if it’s posted online.
3. Open Houses
Just as going out into the community can help raise the profile of your company, inviting them to a project site, or the home of a satisfied customer is an excellent way to educate potential customers in a low-pressure environment. This is also a great photo op for a local politician so make sure you invite them. And if the local press know a politician will be making an appearance, there is a good chance they’ll send a reporter. So now your event is educating attendees and is in the papers.
4. Turn Referrals Into A Competition
People love competing and getting rewarded for completing an objective. Many solar installers already have a referral program set up which is a good way to speed up the word of mouth about your company. Kick it into high gear by allowing people to opt in to a gamified referral program. Come up with non-monetary prizes to give to referrers and rank the top ones publicly. The more fun you make your referral program, the more likely people are to use it — and the more business it will bring your way.
Carter Lavin is The Solar Marketing Group’s Business Development Manager and helps renewable energy companies analyze the market, articulate their message, and connect with their targeted audience to achieve their marketing/communications goals.
PV Solar Report and Sunrun Announce Third-Party-Owned Solar Generated More than $900 Million for California in 2012
75% of home solar in top cities is third-party-owned
SAN FRANCISCO – February 13, 2013 – PV Solar Report, an authority on solar market data, and Sunrun, the nation's leading home solar company, today announced that third-party-owned solar delivered more than $938 million to the California economy in 2012. The single-year record means that California third-party-owned solar generated about the same amount in 12 months as in the previous five years combined. The third-party total represents 74% of the state’s 2012 home solar market.
An August 2012 report showed the business modeled had delivered $1 billion in growth for the state since it became a homeowner choice in 2007.
Also called solar power service, third-party-owned solar means a provider like Sunrun owns, maintains and insures solar panels on a homeowner's roof. Homeowners switch to solar without the high upfront cost, avoid the responsibilities of ownership, and save money on electricity bills. Sunrun pioneered the solar service model for home solar and is the market leader, installing $2 million in solar equipment every day.
“Nearly 75% of homeowners who went solar in 2012 chose third-party-owned, compared to 56% in 2011,” said Stephen Torres, founder and managing director of PV Solar Report. “We are seeing the most growth in low and median-income zip codes as companies like Sunrun continue to remove the barriers to access.”
As part of the 2012 analysis, Sunrun and PV Solar Report announced California’s Top Solar Cities for 2012 based on solar system contracts sold. Third-party-owned solar represented 75% of the 2012 home solar market among these cities. The state leaders for 2012 in order of total home solar contract value are:
1) San Diego
2) San Jose
4) Los Angeles
6) San Francisco
“Solar service is bringing solar to more American families not only because it eliminates the upfront cost, but also because it removes the hassles of ownership,” said Sunrun co-CEO Lynn Jurich. “Homeowners feel the impact of a tight economy and are looking for ways to own less in order to save more money. Our business model meets those needs, plus it helps the planet.”
The $938 million from third-party-owned solar for 2012 went directly to California local businesses and communities while helping homeowners of all income levels switch to solar. Two-thirds of home solar installations are now occurring in low and median income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 assessment from California Solar Initiative (CSI).
DOWNLOAD THE EXECUTIVE BRIEF
*Source: PV Solar Report analysis of California utility rebate data; growth numbers determined by totaling the contract value for each third-party-owned solar installation in the state.
Sunrun is the nation’s leading home solar company and invented solar power service, a way for homeowners to go solar without the high upfront costs. Sunrun owns, insures, monitors and maintains the solar panels on a homeowner's roof, while families pay a low rate for clean energy and fix their electric costs for 20 years. Since Sunrun introduced solar power service in 2007, it has become the preferred way for consumers to go solar in the nation’s top solar markets. More than 30,000 homeowners in 10 states have chosen Sunrun, and the Company partners with over 30 leading local solar companies who together employ more than 3,000 workers. Sunrun has attracted enough capital to support the purchase of $1 billion in solar systems from investors including U.S. Bancorp and raised $145 million in venture capital from Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, Foundation Capital, and Madrone Capital Partners. For more information visit: www.sunrunhome.com
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PV Solar Report is the leading authority on solar market data with the mission of providing relevant, timely and succinct information to busy solar professionals. PV Solar Report publishes a daily digest for busy solar professionals, in-depth quarterly reports of the California and New Jersey solar markets, and custom reports for solar company clients. PV Solar Report makes it easy for industry professionals to stay on top of the dynamic solar industry. For more information visit: www.pvsolarreport.com
The Internet was abuzz last Friday with some astounding news: Germany has more sun than the United States! That’s as reported by Fox business reporter Shibani Joshi last week on Fox and Friends, in a statement she’s probably been regretting ever since.The good news about this news is that it’s simply not true. In fact, Germany has solar resources comparable to those of Alaska, while our mainland is more akin to sunny Spain: This image, from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is by now a familiar sight to anyone who knows anything about solar -- a group that clearly doesn’t include Fox and Friends.The same week, another Fox story also concluded that solar is on the decline. Why? Well, it’s clearly because solar is affordable only when the government “throws” billions in subsidies at it, which are now “being slashed.” At the same time, homeowners have been snapping up solar because of an influx of cheap panels from China. So, let me get this straight: The problem is that solar is not affordable without subsidies -- and also that it's so affordable that people are buying it in droves. There must be logic in there somewhere … right?What these stories really tell us What’s really on the decline is not solar. It’s a couple other things -- and one of those is Fox News itself. A recent poll shows that the network’s credibility is at an all-time low, though that’s still not low enough when you consider how many people continue to absorb its misinformation. And while other media outlets may not be as laughably off-base as Fox (which some are now comparing to The Onion), the American public is not getting an accurate picture when it comes to solar.What’s more significant, though, is that fossil fuels are on a slow but steady decline. Last year, even a major coal company admitted that it’s only a matter of time till we move away from them -- and that this is the right move to make. But most in the fossil fuel industry are not so upfront. When people in power see that they’re losing their power (pun intended), they can get desperate. And that’s the real story behind these Fox stories.The article on declining subsidies becomes less baffling when you look at its focus on utilities. As more people generate their own power, utilities are concerned they’ll lose money. That fear leads to all kinds of misrepresentations. And the same fear has gripped the fossil fuel industry.Joshi’s outrageous claim on Fox and Friends got so much attention that it overshadowed the many times in the short segment she and co-host Steve Doocy touted “nat gas.” Doocy even went so far as to say, “That’s what we really have a lot of.” I have news for Doocy: What we “really have a lot of” is sun. In fact, every day enough sun falls on the United States to more than power us for 10 years. Coal, oil, and gas combined can’t come close to matching that:But Fox, like other news organizations, is beholden to the fossil fuel industry. So they cling staunchly to the belief that the industry will prevail, against all odds. And that’s what they report.Getting beyond misinformationThe sad thing about all this is that it perpetuates the impression that renewable energy is a partisan issue. In fact, 92% of Americans support developing more solar, and a majority want the government to support solar with subsidies and incentives. George Shultz is a major proponent of renewables; the Department of Defense is one of solar’s biggest adopters. Just visit Germany, and you’ll be struck by the fact that there, you can’t guess anyone’s political leanings by whether they have solar panels on their roof.That’s as it should be. The truth is, solar is just getting started -- in a big way. You could even say solar is booming. And given that it’s so abundant and confers so many benefits, solar power isn’t going away, no matter how much Fox News wants it to.I hope their recent gaffes will make Fox News reconsider the way they report on solar power. I won’t hold my breath for that, but I predict it won’t be long till we see an overall shift in media representation of solar -- at least, when it comes to the more trusted media sources.In the meantime, I’m off to plan a vacation -- to sunny Germany!
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