http://www.cleanenergy.org/2017/11/13/november-2017/

SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

November 2017

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As we head into the holiday giving season, we wanted to remind you that #GivingTuesday, an international day of philanthropic giving, is right around the corner. After you shop for your loved ones, consider supporting clean energy and climate solutions, which are lasting gifts of cleaner air, healthier communities and economic developement. Make a gift today for a better tomorrow.

 

  1. New Solar Choice Coalition Launched in Tennessee
  2. JEA’s New Solar Program: One Step Forward; Two steps back
  3. Energy Efficiency in the Southeast: The Highs & The Lows


1. New Solar Choice Coalition Launched in Tennessee

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Founding members of Tennesseans for Solar Choice: Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Tennessee Small Business Alliance, National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).

As the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) contemplates structural rate changes that would limit or prevent customer choice and fair access to affordable renewable energy, SACE was proud to join founding members of Tennesseans for Solar Choice who gathered in Nashville on November 8th, 2017 to launch a new initiative in defense of energy freedom and fair access to affordable, solar energy.

This diverse group of organizations plans to work together across political lines to ensure that TVA, as a self-regulating federal monopoly, does not make decisions that limit customer choice for residents, businesses, or Local Power Companies, through unfair rate structures or heavy-handed tactics that restrict the solar power market.

The coalition is a representation of the many voices currently being excluded from closed-door meetings where TVA staff are developing disincentives and road blocks for the growth of solar power and other customer-friendly technologies.

A press conference was held to mark the official launch of the coalition. A video of the conference can be viewed HERE and you can also read highlighted quotes from the founding members below:

Debbie Dooley, Tea Party Co-Founder and President of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, stated: “TVA is an outdated, federally-sanctioned monopoly, that appears to be working against consumer choice and energy freedom via regressive policies and ‘self regulation’ – a structure that is laughable at best and gravely concerning at worst. Their decision process happens behind closed doors, away from the eyes and ears of the very democracy they were established to serve.”

“We must actively protect Tennesseans’ right to choose solar energy and ensure that decisions made by TVA are fair for all consumers, both residential and commercial,” said Lenda Sherrell, State Director for the Tennessee Small Business Alliance. “Current policies and bureaucratic red tape are overcomplicating what should be a simple decision for businesses who desire access to affordable renewable energy to power their operations.”

“Solar choice is about taking the power back from monopolies who make decisions behind closed doors and instead giving that power to the people,” said Elder Jimmie Garland, Vice President Middle TN for the TN State Conference NAACP. “It is crucial that we support fair access to clean, affordable, healthy solar energy, and that we oppose discriminatory fixed charges that hurt people across the Valley.”

“Representing more than 150 companies, large and small, who employ over 3,500 people across this state, TenneSEIA’s mission is to make solar a mainstream energy source and to realize the full potential of the industry here in Tennessee,” stated Matt Beasley, President of TenneSEIA. “Working together, we believe we have an enormous opportunity to deploy renewable energy as a valuable tool to enhance Tennessee’s ability to recruit—and retain and expand—the more than 100 companies that have already pledged to be 100 percent renewable by the year 2025.”

David Freeman, Former TVA Chairman stated: “I’ve seen TVA evolve and progress over the years, but the direction they are currently heading in is concerning. TVA has both an opportunity and an obligation to the people of Tennessee to act as a leader, but they are instead lagging behind in solar, and this is not acceptable.”

“Tennessee is falling behind our neighboring states in growing the solar market and now TVA’s secret rate changes appear directed to add more market barriers,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “TVA should be embracing clean solar energy and working with customers as we move into the 21st century, not creating artificial road blocks with high fixed charges and other punitive rate structures designed to limit customer choice and block innovation.”

All coalition members believe that Tennessee has the potential to be an economic and renewable energy leader by embracing solar choice. If the power company monopolies won’t sell solar power, consumers should have the right to enter into a contract for solar power from someone other than their local power company or the TVA, and increasing the use of solar energy will position Tennessee as a forward-thinking leader in renewable energy, which will help businesses and prepare the state for a more sustainable energy future. Interested in learning more? You can learn more and get involved at www.tnsolarchoice.org.

 

2. JEA’s New Solar Program: One Step Forward; Two Steps Back

solar-install-floridaJEA is the largest municipal utility in Florida serving about 450,00 customers in northeast Florida. Its board recently rushed approval of a new solar plan that takes the state forward on utility scale solar, but way back on customer choice for rooftop solar.

Step Forward – more large scale solar

JEA will be adding another 250 megawatts (MW) in large-scale solar coming into service by the end of 2020. The additional utility-scale solar will make JEA one of the leaders in Florida in solar development on a solar watts-per-customer basis – which is an apples to apples comparison of solar development by utilities across the state.

The utility is also offering a 30% rebate on batteries of up to $2,000 for its customers. In theory, JEA says that customers will be able to store excess energy produce by their system in their batteries and use it later in the day to offset their power use at the retail rate. BUT, the battery incentive comes with a catch.

Two Steps Back – limiting customer choice and no stakeholder engagement

JEA is effectively forcing all new solar rooftop customers on to batteries. The utility will drop the credit for providing power to the grid from its current retail rate of 10.5 cents to its fuel rate of 3.25 cents kWh effective March 31, 2018 for all new customers. JEA is operating under the primitive paradigm that customer-owned solar value is limited to avoided fuel costs. We reject that utility industry talking point – as it’s been clearly disproven by a number of reputable studies.

JEA staff didn’t engage with stakeholders to determine if its plan is economically viable for new solar customers. It was announced and passed within 2 business days. That’s just bad policy making. SACE will be watching to see whether this proposal does indeed lead to a significant downturn in customer-owned solar development and will hold JEA accountable.

After all, good solar policy, for both utilities and customers, is critical to moving our communities and state to a lower cost, lower risk, and clean energy future.

 

3. Energy Efficiency in the Southeast: The Highs & The Lows

Energy efficiency is, by definition, cheaper than building and running power plants, yet southeastern utilities continue to under-invest in energy efficiency. So what does it take to build a leading energy efficiency program? It can be narrowed down to three factors: utility management, state policy, and stakeholder engagement. SACE’s blog series contrasts the highs and lows in the Southeast to fully illustrate how these factors drive success, but find a few highlights from this series below:

 

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Data filed by utilities is used to report annual energy efficiency savings as a percentage of prior year retail sales, a commonly used regulatory benchmark. Asterisks represent data from www.eia.gov

Duke Energy Companies

Duke Energy operates two utilities in the Carolinas under very similar conditions, aside from differing customer profiles and programs created before the merger. For 2016, Duke Energy Carolinas brushed up against the 1% energy savings benchmark by achieving 0.97%, while Duke Energy Progress achieved 0.85%.

However, Duke Energy Florida achieves only a third of the energy savings of its Carolina cousins. DEF does not implement similar management practices such as stakeholder engagement processes as in the Carolinas. It’s also burdened by shortsighted decisions from Florida regulators. Based on these factors and many other details, it’s unlikely that DEF will emulate the success of its Carolina cousins in the future.

Florida Utilities

Florida utilities face a harsh regulatory environment. In 2014 regulators drastically slashed energy efficiency goals and one utility, Florida Power & Light (FPL), was the driving force behind this decision. FPL quickly cut its energy efficiency programs to practically zero, yet continued to tout its “commitment” to energy efficiency.

Other Florida utilities opted to keep their programs. Gulf Power and Tampa Electric managed to maintain their energy efficiency program impacts at levels similar to those under previous goals. Unfortunately, Gulf Power, once the regional leader in energy efficiency, has stagnated due to lack of support from its regulators.

Southern Company System

Georgia Power surpassed Gulf Power for the first time ever for energy efficiency program impacts. Mississippi Power’s programs have managed to achieve a 0.2% annual savings rate for two consecutive years as a result of the Public Service Commission’s “quick start” programs. An in-depth analysis of how Southern Company utilities performed, as well as coverage on other utilities not covered in this article, is available at blog.cleanenergy.org