Archive for feed in tariff

Energizing communities

Friday, May 3rd, 2013


Moving to renewable resources to create energy has been a major focus recently for many in government and for individuals who are concerned about the environment. The Central Coast is no exception and on April 25 the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club was awarded with the 2013 Anthony Grassroots Prize for Organizational Stewardship from the Rose Foundation for its work in enabling communities to come together and collectively purchase clean energy.

The Santa Lucia Chapter won for its efforts in implementing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which helps local communities replace fossil-fuel energy with energy from cleaner technologies, such as solar and wind power. The prize is part of the Rose Foundation’s Earth Day Environmental Stewardship Prizes, which take place each year to honor grassroots efforts by individuals and organizations working on environment-oriented projects.

Tim Little, executive director and co-founder of the Rose Foundation, said, “The Anthony Prize is something that we give out every year. I think this is our 14th year of doing it. It recognizes an outstanding environmental stewardship activity through something done at the grassroots level, either by an individual or an organization.”

The prize included $500 toward the continued efforts of the Santa Lucia Chapter.

“We just wanted to recognize the leadership that the Santa Lucia Chapter is providing in the Central Coast, really on a whole range of environmental issues, but especially around bringing Community Choice Aggregation to the coast,” Little added.

When asked to comment on winning the prize, Santa Lucia Chapter Director Andrew Christie said, “It’s very nice to be recognized by the Rose Foundation specifically for our work on community choice. We’ve spent a lot of years convincing the cities and the county to integrate this really great tool to incentivize clean, renewable, local energy.”

While the Santa Lucia Chapter is based in San Luis Obispo, Christie said many of its members come from Northern Santa Barbara County.
Regarding the nature of his chapter’s efforts, Christie added, “We’re trying to move away from fossil fuels and make the case for the environmental and economic benefits of primarily solar, but also wind renewable power. Community choice basically lets cities and counties group together, pool their resources, and go out and purchase their own power from alternatives to their utilities.”

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Categories : CCA

By Woody Hastings

Santa Rosa, CA – The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, acting also as the Water Agency and the Sonoma Clean Power Authority, voted today to “authorize and direct staff to take all steps necessary to implement the Sonoma Clean Power program.” Climate Protection Campaign applauds the Board for moving forward decisively.

“It’s all systems go,” said Climate Protection Campaign Executive Director Ann Hancock. The Santa Rosa-based organization has worked to advance Sonoma Clean Power since 2005. Five years ago, their analysis identified Community Choice as the most powerful tool under local control for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Other actions authorized by the board include:

·      Signing a letter of intent with First Community Bank and negotiating a final loan agreement for startup funds.

·      Negotiating contracts with energy service providers.

·      Meeting with city councils to encourage them to participate.

·      Refining the Implementation Plan.

·      Hiring a marketing firm.

The board voted 4-1 to launch the program for the unincorporated portions of the county. All other action items were approved unanimously.

At the board meeting, Supervisor Susan Gorin said: “Sonoma County can lead the way. Let’s be bold. Let’s move forward and show other communities it can be done,” adding “we shop local, we play local, let’s power local!”

Last week, the provisional Sonoma Clean Power Authority staff announced that projected rates for cleaner power from Sonoma Clean Power will be competitive with PG&E’s. This news comes from the agency’s preliminary analysis of power supply bids submitted by eleven private energy service companies.

The Board cited increased renewable energy use, local economic benefits, providing choice and competition, and local control as primary reasons for creating Sonoma Clean Power. In particular, the staff report to the board found that Sonoma County residents and businesses spend $180 million each year on electricity generation, and steering some of that money toward local projects would give the region an economic boost. The report states: “By keeping the generation revenues ‘at home’ and focusing on local programs, Sonoma Clean Power will create local jobs and improve the local economy.”

“We can make great things happen with local renewable energy resources, but only if we control the means for doing so,” said Hancock. “Once Sonoma Clean Power exists, it’s game on for companies to tap local clean power opportunities.”

According to analysis of the bids received for power supply, a typical business paying $2542 per month under PG&E will pay an estimated $2462 to $2555 with Sonoma Clean Power. A typical resident paying $96.56 with PG&E will pay an estimated $94.83 to $97.58 with Sonoma Clean Power. These estimates fall well within the acceptable threshold for most consumers, according to market surveys conducted last year.

Sonoma Clean Power is an emerging not-for-profit local electricity service provider. It will, for the first time in years, offer businesses and residents of Sonoma County a choice for electricity service.

If the program is launched in early 2014, as is currently projected, electricity bill-payers in participating cities and the unincorporated portion of Sonoma County will be enrolled into the program. They can choose to stay with Sonoma Clean Power by doing nothing or choose PG&E by opting out of Sonoma Clean Power.

The next step in the process is for cities to decide whether they will give their residents a choice of power suppliers. City councils will be meeting over the next two months to consider joining Sonoma Clean Power.

 “We would like everyone in Sonoma County to have the ability to choose,” said Woody Hastings, Renewable Energy Implementation Manager for the Climate Protection Campaign. “Everyone will if their city councils vote to give them the choice.”

At the board meeting, Supervisor Shirlee Zane said, “I am a resident of Santa Rosa and I want the choice.”

Efren Carrillo, a long-time champion of the effort and member of the Board’s ad hoc committee evaluating the plan stated that “local control means emergence of local business opportunity.”

The question now goes to the eight eligible cities in the county about whether they will offer their constituents an electricity provider choice. The schedule is as follows:

May 6 – City of Sonoma

May 7 – Sebastopol

May 8 – Cloverdale

May 14 – Rohnert Park 

May 20 – Petaluma

May 21 – Santa Rosa (study session)

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Categories : CCA

LA’s Solar Feed-in Tariff Making A Big Leap

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013


Los Angeles has long been something of a solar underperformer, given its size and sunny clime. The group Environment California reported that as of late 2011, despite being nearly three times larger than San Diego, LA had less installed solar capacity (37 megawatts to 36 MW) and fewer installations (4,507 to 4,018) than its neighbor to the south. And a 2011 UCLA study found that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was generating less than one-sixth as much solar power per customer as state leader Southern California Edison.

But the city has been taking action to step up its solar game, revamping a broken rebate program and sticking its toe into the feed-in tariff waters with a 10 MW solar pilot program. Now the LADWP is dramatically expanding that feed-in tariff, approving a 100-megawatt program that’s being called be “the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation.”

los angeles rooftop solar

image via Shutterstock

A feed-in tariff has been the major tool for Germany in becoming the world’s solar leader. A FIT works by guaranteeing solar power producers a profitable price for the electricity their systems produce. In LA, the Department of Water and Power will offer 17-cent-per-kilowatt-hour contracts for projects at least 30-kilowatts in size (the equivalent of about six typical home rootftop systems), up to a total of 20 megawatts of new installed power every six month.

The program could become even larger in the near future; DWP said in in March it will entertain a lant to add another 50 megawatts to the FIT.

In addition to clean-sourced electricity, advocates say the FIT will be a jobs creator for LA.

“The full 150-megawatt program will be a major economic driver for Los Angeles, creating 4,500 jobs and generating a half-billion dollars in economic activity at full scale, while also eliminating 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016,” the DWP said.

Still, as admirable as these moves by LA are, the city has a long way to go in making solar a significant part of its power equation. As Southern California clean-energy blogger Chris Clarke noted, “LADWP can deliver around 7,200 megawatts of power to its customers, meaning that a 100-megawatt FiT, when fully subscribed, will account for less than 1.4 percent of the utility’s generating capacity.”

When Will The Solar Markets Stabilize?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

By Chaim Lubin & Martina Ecker

With the first eight months of 2012 completed, it is an ideal time to evaluate the current state of the solar market and consider what might come next in this turbulent industry. At the core of this is one essential question: When will the solar market stabilize?

It is already clear that 2012 will most likely be a strong year for solar installations, with latest estimates ranging at a global installation level somewhere between 26 GW and 35 GW and most analysts settling for the midpoint of about 31 GW. This means that 2012 will again show significant growth of almost 20% over 2011′s level of 26 GW.

This level of growth in the market is quite phenomenal given the lack – or removal – of incentives across many geographies. However, it can be attributed to the reduction in system costs driven mostly by module price declines.

These prices have been sliding since the beginning of the year and have lost another 12% to 15%, which fundamentally confirms the second rule in PV: that falling module prices facilitate demand creation.

During the Intersolar conference in Munich in mid-June, the lowest prices quoted were at 0.52 euros/W ($0.66), with the average price hovering somewhere above $0.75/W. There is a risk that prices will fall further as the pull-forward effect of demand in Germany – due to the feed-in-tariff change – abates and the U.S. market further destabilizes because of the anti-dumping duties.

Will consolidation help to stabilize prices? It is clear that at today’s pricing level, few – if any – manufacturers in the industry are making money. This trend is well illustrated by the first-quarter results of major solar players, which showed significant losses.

The argument is that current price levels do not enable industry players to earn a margin that allows them to cover their production cost. Industry participants will not be able to sustain ongoing losses, and consequently, less-efficient players should drop out of the market, helping to clear overcapacity.

Today, almost 60% of capacity comes out of China, and consequently, Chinese companies will determine the future shape of the industry. Currently, there are more than 1,000 solar players in China – of which at least 50% have shut down production or partially ended production.

This has already resulted in some consolidation, best illustrated by the increase in market share exhibited by tier-one players, such as Suntech Power, Yingli and Trina, from 25% in the fourth quarter of 2011 to more than 60% by the end of the first quarter of 2012. However, even these industry leaders share too much capacity amongst themselves to help stabilize prices.

The 10 largest solar companies globally held a combined production capacity of 20.9 GW at the end of 2011, which represents 85% of the total installed capacity of 24.7 GW. First Solar, the only U.S. player, will actively take about 500 MW out of the market after shutting down its German facility.

Other players, such as Canadian Solar and Yingli, are unfazed by recent market developments and continue their expansion plans by adding 600 MW and 700 MW of new capacity, respectively. Hence, overall capacity of tier-one players is forecast to remain stable.

Chinese consolidation is likely to take much longer than expected, as provincial governments will be hesitant to let their local champions fall. However, some less-visible clearances of overcapacity are already taking place.

Industry research group Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that combining the various announcements and insolvencies that already took place might lead to about 20 GW off the market in the near future.

Manufacturing innovation
Can technology ease the pain? It is unclear whether current technological market developments will be sufficient to ease the pain in the solar sector. Despite the partial stabilization of prices and removal of some overcapacity from the market, current price levels do not allow companies to earn an adequate margin from cell and module manufacturing.

Most industry players are targeting a manufacturing cost of $0.75/Wp by the end of 2012. However, Canadian Solar is the major exception, claiming it can reach $0.60/Wp, down from $0.73 reported in the first quarter. If achieved, this would be a total reduction of 18%, half of which should come out of lower polysilicon/wafer input cost and the remainder from process and module redesign steps.

But even this significant cost reduction might not be sufficient, as prices most likely will continue to slide.

Consequently, the industry is focused on the question of whether there is sufficient innovation to bring production cost down further. Short-term cost reduction will come from incremental steps, such as tightly managing material input costs, further streamlining and automating processes, and small improvements to the manufacturing process (e.g., optimizing the amount of silver used in front- and back-contacting), rather than ground-breaking innovation.

There is potential that thinner wafers might help, with a claim from SunPower that it would be able to reach approximately $0.60/Wp by the fourth quarter of next year from this methodology.

Similar steps are being taken by German manufacturer SolarWorld, which is planning to invest 50 million euros in the coming months for the combination of new equipment, technology upgrades and process improvements for its cell manufacturing sites in Germany and the U.S.

In the past, more ground-breaking innovation was driven by joint collaborations of leading manufacturers and solar equipment players. However, given the current environment and difficult investment cycle equipment players are facing, it is doubtful that they will have the financial means to continue these joint research and development (R&D) efforts.

Financial results for the first six months of 2012 underscore the challenges the equipment players are currently facing. Applied Materials declared losses of $74 million for the first half of 2012, while centrotherm filed for insolvency and Meyer Burger Technology barely posted a profit.

For the bigger, more diversified players, like Applied Materials, there is a risk that they might pull out of solar altogether, as the sector’s current contribution to the company’s overall revenue has declined to less than 3%. Additionally, management may not view solar as worth the effort compared to its core activities in the semiconductor market and the myriad of other growth opportunities.

Among the pure-play PV dedicated equipment players, only Meyer Burger Technology remains, raising concerns of whether sufficient innovation will come from the equipment front.

Not everything is bleak in the manufacturing equipment segment. GT Solar announced that it has developed new technology for polysilicon manufacturing that should allow for production cost of less than $14/kg. With current polysilicon spot prices at about $20/kg, this could open up room for a significant price decline of silicon, while at the same time, restoring margins of polysilicon suppliers.

It is clear that there is no short-term fix for the market difficulties of 2012. Similar to previous years, 2012 will be a year where market demand outstrips initial estimates and all players are jostling to get their share of the pie.

The road ahead
Previous experience has shown that markets always grow when prices continue to drop – hence the fierce price competition among industry participants. This will only change when markets start building at a more sustainable pace and governments start putting long-term policies in place. This will allow for some clear visibility instead of recurring quick fixes, as best illustrated by the ongoing revision of the German feed-in-tariff system.

For 2013, it is expected that there will be a significant shift in end markets, as Germany is expected to drop down to 3.5 GW or less of installations, and other European markets are also likely to shrink. Industry analysts believe that China will eclipse Germany as the single biggest market in 2013.

It is yet unclear whether the U.S., Japan and India, as well as selected smaller markets in Latin America, will be able to fill in the demand gap. Although solar development in the U.S. market could hinge on the outcome of the presidential election and the fate of other energy resources, such as shale gas, most other markets have a tendency to prefer local industry players, thus presenting a risk of severe market distortion.

Ultimately, the maturity of the solar sector will be a long and drawn-out process. It will be a combination of a number of factors, including more long-term and cautious market development by governments, ongoing consolidation of the industry, with some players falling out, and continued innovation to lower manufacturing costs.

For industry participants, that will mean a paradigm shift from “it’s all about growth and getting market share” to developing a sustainable business with focus on cost and capacity, retaining a technological lead and developing a clear view on which markets to serve.

Chaim Lubin is vice president and a member of the electronics and renewable energy group at global investment bank Lincoln International. He can be contacted at Martina Ecker is managing director and head of technology and renewables at Lincoln International. She can be contacted at

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By:  Becky Beetz

Without support, grid connected photovoltaics cannot grow profitably, states Navigant Research. Furthermore, while traditional energy sources are likely to continue to receive subsidies, it cannot be assumed photovoltaics will reach grid parity without them.

Photovoltaic planning is said to be difficult in such an unpredictable market.

Conergy AG

The importance of subsidies has been underlined in a new report –  Navigant Analysis of Worldwide Markets for Solar products and Five-Year Application Forecast 2011/2012 – issued by Navigant Research. The company says the compound annual growth rate of grid-connected photovoltaics between 2006 and 2011 of 69% was driven “entirely” by feed-in tariff programs.

However, since these are undergoing many changes, particularly in the German and Italian markets, photovoltaics has become a less profitable investment prospect and instable. As such, “strong growth going forward should not be assumed. Nor,” write authors Paula Mints and Jessica Donnell, “can the solar industry be considered mature, at which slower growth is normal.”

They go on to say that without incentives, grid connected photovoltaics cannot profitably grow. “Without support, and likely even with it, prices will be artificially low, and there will be little incentive,” they add.

In addition to affecting margins and causing bankruptcies, Mints and Donnell say decreasing photovoltaic prices have led to both low quality products and system designs. Without continued support, they underline the fact that cost cutting operations will continue, in areas like installation. “Cutting costs in this regard will lead to substandard installations along with mind-share damage to a young industry that can ill afford it,” they state.

They continue, “Some manufacturers have chosen to truncate the pilot scale phase and have rushed technology into commercial deployment before it is ready. Unlike software, which is always in beta, a solar system should not work out its bugs in the field.”

Regarding grid parity, the authors say the solar industry has “ignored the realities of technology development” including R&D, pilot production and repetition. “The assumption has been that solar will reach grid parity without subsidies with conventional energy sources. As conventional energy will likely continue to receive subsidies this cannot be reasonably considered fair competition.”

Planning is also said to be difficult in such an unpredictable market, “with little transparency and much obfuscation.” With photovoltaic module supply continuing to outstrip demand, and sustained high inventories it is very difficult to obtain an accurate market picture, say Mints and Donnell. To ensure growth, they believe financing mechanisms are needed.

In addition to analyzing the global photovoltaic market, Navigant also provided growth forecasts for the installation of photovoltaics (in MWs) – taking into account the amount of shipped and installed modules in a calendar year – based on 3 scenarios: reduced incentives (RI); conservative (cons.); and accelerated (acc.). See the table below for an overview.

Region 2012 2013 2014
Cons. Acc. RI Cons. Acc. RI Con. Acc.
North America 2,943.4 3,467 3,337.7 3,374.4 5,058.2 3,572.7 4,689.7 7,170.9
Latin America 98.1 126.1 206.5 334.9 447.7 178.6 750.3 843.6
Asia-Pacific-Oceania 7,009.1 9,581.6 6,754 10,020.3 11,705.4 6,516.7 9,642.1 10,993.3
Europe 14,122.3 17,681.8 8,111.9 11,385 23,802 7,256.5 11,046.1 21,866.3
Africa & Middle East 355.7 661.9 319.1 644 1,138.1 339.1 670 1,307.6
Total world 24,528.4 31,518.4 18,770 25,759 42,151.3 17,863.7 26,798.1 42,181.7
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China’s polysilicon producers urge EU dumping probe

Monday, August 20th, 2012

20. August 2012 | Top News, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

Four Chinese polysilicon producers have urged the Chinese government to initiate an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into European imports of solar grade polysilicon, according to reports.

WACKER POLYSILICON chip inspection

Most EU polysilicon products are said to be imported into China by Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG.

Wacker Chemie AG

China’s Xinhua has reported that Jiangsu Zhongneng Polysilicon Technology Development Co. Ltd, Jiangxi LDK PV Silicon, China Silicon Corporation and Daqo New Energy have sent a request to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) urging it to launch an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into “cheap” polysilicon products from the EU. It is now said to be reviewing the request.

The newspaper added that most EU polysilicon products are imported into China by Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG. Last year, it said, Wacker imported over 10,000 tons of polysilicon into the country. In the first half of 2012, imports from the company have already reportedly reached 9,000 tones, thus comprising 22 percent of polysilicon imports into China.

Overall, this year is said to have seen 9,300 tons of polysilicon imported into China from the EU, thus representing year-on-year growth of 30.8%. However, Xinhua, which was quoting figures from the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, said prices have fallen 47.5%, to reach US$27.5 per ton. “The price is significantly lower than normal. Such imports have seriously harmed the interests of China’s polysilicon sector,” Zhao Jiasheng, head of the association, told Xinhua.

MOFCOM already announced in July that it will launch investigations into solar grade polysilicon from the U.S. and Republic of Korea on the back of the U.S.-Sino trade dispute over solar cells. The latest calls for an investigation into polysilicon from Europe follows the announcement that an anti-dumping complaint, again led by SolarWorld, has been filed with the European Commission.

Responding to the news of the filing, MOFCOM said at the start of August that it is not cheap cells coming from China, which have led to module price declines, but rather it is polysilicon price reductions that have driven module price decreases.

A statement on MOFCOM’s website read, “The down-going of pricing of raw material for PV cells and advancement of technology is the main reason for China’s PV cells’ competitive price. It is not the dumping claimed by some EU companies. Price of polysilicon imports, the major raw material for PV cells keeps going down, from the highest of nearly 300 USD/kg in 2008 to less than 30 USD/kg at present, which brings about a down-going price of PV cells.

“Meanwhile, in recent years, China’s PV industry attaches importance to technology advancement and large-scale production, which further brings down the production costs. It is groundless to claim there is a dumping of PV cells from China.”

It added, “China’s industrial advantage is the production of solar cell modules and solar cell panels, but the raw materials, equipments and production technologies are mainly imported from EU and the US. The development of China’s PV industry not only drove the export of EU raw materials and high-level equipment, but also created many jobs for EU downstream industries such as the installation of PV power generation equipments. The PV industries of the two sides are interdependent and mutually beneficial; any restrictive measures against China’s PV cells will harm the interests of the EU industry.”

India accuses US of “ruining” domestic PV industry

Monday, August 20th, 2012

20. August 2012 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends| By:  Becky Beetz

ndia’s Centre for Science and Technology (CSE) has launched a scathing attack on U.S. photovoltaic manufacturers, claiming they are “ruining” India’s domestic photovoltaic manufacturing industry by taking advantage of the US$30 billion Fast Start Finance Fund.

First Solar thin film photovoltaic modules cadmium telluride

First Solar’s thin film modules have been heavily used in indian photovoltaic projects.

First Solar

According to the center’s researchers, which are reviewing the first phase of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), 80% of India’s photovoltaic manufacturing capacity is in a state of “forced closure and debt restructuring”, because Indian project developers are placing their equipment orders with U.S. manufacturers.

Currently, the JNNSM requires all crystalline photovoltaic projects to use domestically manufactured products. However, thin film projects may procure their equipment from other regions; a loophole, says the CSE, being exploited by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The center claims they have been offering rates of interest as low as 3% and long repayment schedules of up to 18 years to Indian project developers under the fund – designed to enable developing countries tackle climate change – if they purchase thin film panels from U.S. companies. In comparison, it says Indian banks are offering interest rates of around 14%.

“This has skewed the market completely in favour of thin-film panels imported from US despite the fact that thin-film has lower efficiency when compared to crystalline panels,” says the center in a statement released, adding, “Close to 60 per cent of the panels installed in India are thin-film type even though only 14 per cent of global capacity is thin-film.”

CSE goes on to quote the U.S. Department of State’s report on U.S. Fast start climate financing between 2010 and 2011, which reportedly shows that $248.3 million was awarded by Ex-Im Bank and OPIC for grid-connected photovoltaic plants in India. “The major beneficiaries in this case have been American producers such as First Solar and the now bankrupt Abound Solar,” it says.

Furthermore, the center claims the US is “fudging” its data on fast start finance. “When giving loans as aid, only the difference of the rate of interest between the ‘soft’ loan and a commercial loan is counted as aid. However, in this case, the US has counted the entire loan sum as aid under fast start finance. If a fair counting would have been done, the fast start financing amount shown by the US would be reduced to a fraction,” continues the statement. The U.S. says it has contributed $5.1 billion to the fund to date.

Outwith the fund, Ex-Im announced in July that it had authorized two loans worth US$57.3 million to support the development of 3 photovoltaic power plants in India, which will use First Solar thin film modules.

In a statement announcing the loans, Ex-Im Bank chairman and president, Fred Hochberg said the bank will be supporting India’s green-energy push. “These important transactions will finance the purchase of American products and services and support jobs in our innovative renewable-energy sector.”

Overall, the bank says it has provided $500 million for the financing of solar projects in India. Its goal is to “promote both the bank’s financial products, but also facilitate the purchase of U.S. goods and services.”

Developing countries

In 2009, the Copenhagen Accord agreed to establish Fast Start Finance, a US$30 billion fund contributed to by developed countries for developing countries to support the implementation of climate change measures between 2010 and 2012.

“Fast start financing was supposed to benefit the developing country recipient. Instead, the US has managed to turn it into a game where funds registered as climate funding is given out as loans to projects that promise to buy equipment made in the US thereby benefiting themselves while knocking out the Indian manufacturing competition that doesn’t have the same government backing,” states Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general.

Referring to the ongoing U.S.-Sino trade dispute over solar cells, Kushal Yadav, head of CSE’s Renewable Energy team adds, “Interestingly, the US government has put anti-dumping duties on solar equipment imported from China because of the alleged subsidies that China is giving to its solar manufacturers. However, the US is engaging in a similar practice in India by subsidising loans for buying American equipment!”

In the U.S. Department of State’s report, the funding transactions between 2010 and 2011 for India’s solar market include:

  • $719,985 awarded to Astonfield Renewables Private Limited from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a feasibility study for 2 photovoltaic plants in India. “The projects will serve as some of the first solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in India deploying U.S. thin film technology.”
  • $14.8 million from OPIC for the development, construction and operation of a 5 MW photovoltaic power generation facility in Gujarat. “The facility investor is a leading solar energy provider from the United States that will use advanced U.S. power generation technology in this plant in India.”
  • A loan totaling $84.3 million from Ex-Im Bank to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Dahanu Solar project located in the village of Dhursar, in India’s Rajasthan State. “The financing will support the export of thin film, photovoltaic solar modules produced by First Solar.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized a loan of $18.9 million to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Tatith Solar project located in Gujarat. “The project will utilize polycrystalline solar cells produced by Solarworld Industries America, LP.”
  • A financial guarantee from Ex-Im worth $18 million to finance photovoltaic modules for the Acme solar power plant to be located in Gujarat. “The Acme plant will utilize thin film technology photovoltaic modules supplied by First Solar of Tempe Arizona.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized loan of $15.8 million to finance photovoltaic modules and related equipment for the Azure Solar Plant project located in Rajasthan. “The photovoltaic farm will … consist of thin film technology photovoltaic panels supplied by First Solar of Tempe, Arizona.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized guarantee of $9.2 million to finance thin film, photovoltaic modules and related equipment to Punj Lloyd Solar Power Ltd. of India for a photovoltaic project located in Rajasthan. “The solar modules for the project will be produced by Abound Solar, Inc. at its Colorado facility.”
  • An Ex-Im authorized loan to Universal Solar System of India for $3.7 million to finance a photovoltaic power plant to be located in Gujarat. “The financing will support the sale of electrical inverters supplied by SMA America, LLC, of California as well as solar modules produced by Abound Solar Inc. at its Colorado facility.”
  • $30 million from OPIC for financing the development, implementation and operation of a 120 MW monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic module manufacturing facility located in Hyderabad.

LIPA approves solar feed-in tariff program

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Originally published: June 29, 2012 8:03 PM


LIPA trustees this week gave formal approval to a new solar program that will encourage construction of commercial solar power plants around Long Island that will sell electricity back to the authority much the way local power plants do, but without the emissions.

Approval of the so-called solar feed-in tariff on Thursday starts the ball rolling for companies and investors to construct mid- to large-size solar farms on commercial and municipal rooftops and other open spaces beginning July 15, when LIPA begins accepting applications.

Several solar installers at a LIPA trustees meeting this week applauded the program, saying it would likely lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs and up to 50 megawatts of combustion-less power. The Long Island Solar Energy Industries Association called it a “substantial and positive” step to building a local renewable energy portfolio. A megawatt of solar energy produces enough electricity to power 125 homes.

The $11.5 million program, paid for by ratepayers at around 44 cents a month, allows companies to negotiate 20-year contracts to sell solar power to LIPA for 22 cents a kilowatt hour. The program is considered ideal for companies with large warehouse roofs, which can accommodate dozens of solar panels.

The program differs from LIPA’s traditional rebate program — which continues — that gives ratepayers refunds of around a third of the cost of solar systems. With a feed-in tariff, there’s no rebate; producers are paid only for the actual energy their systems produce.

While the new solar program has caught the interest of installers and commercial firms, Michael Deering, vice president of environmental affairs at LIPA, said much of the early interest in the program is coming from municipalities.

“I expect we’ll have a significant number of applications come in right out of the box,” he said.

Solar installations provide two benefits to LIPA: They produce peak power on the long, sunny days of summer when LIPA’s system hits its peak. And they are also dispersed around the region, helping to lower stress on the system by cutting the need to pipe plant power to far-flung places.

LIPA enters the peak summer season without one major power source: the 660-megawatt Neptune Cable. The $1.75 billion cable has been out of service since early June because of two related transformer failures. Michael Hervey, LIPA’s operating chief, said a spare transformer is in place and can be used if needed this summer.

The expansion of solar comes as LIPA continues to review around a dozen proposals for new power around Long Island, including new gas-fired plants in Kings Park, Shoreham and Yaphank, and potentially a new cable. LIPA is also renegotiating its power supply agreement with National Grid, which owns 17 former Lilco plants around Long Island, including large steam-generators in Northport, Island Park and Port Jefferson. LIPA this week said a new agreement with National Grid could give it the flexibility to upgrade the plants to new levels of efficiency.

Paul DeCotis, LIPA’s vice president of power markets, said LIPA is considering opening the bidding process for new power sources that are used primarily for peak power, and said solar peaking units could be among the power sources being considered.


by Nixon Peabody

On May 24, 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted in a 5-0 decision to greatly expand the net metering program for rooftop solar power generators. The net energy metering (NEM) program, first established in 1995,[1] allows homeowners and businesses that install rooftop solar panels to have a standard contract with their utility which gives them a monetary payout at the end of each year if their energy output exceeds their energy use. Under the net energy metering program, the electric utilities of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison Company (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) are required to make net metering available to customer-generators on a first-come-first-served basis until the total generating capacity exceeds five-percent (5%) of the utility’s “aggregate customer peak demand.”[2]  The CPUC decision clarifies that the “aggregate customer peak demand” is the aggregation, or sum, of all individual customers’ peak demands, including their non-coincident peak demands. This will have the effect of significantly increasing the total generating capacity that is eligible for net metering, thus opening up greater opportunities for solar project developers, their customers and investors.

Prior to this decision, each utility used a different calculation method to determine where the 5% cut-off is. For example, PG&E divided the capacity of NEM-eligible generation by the highest-peak-demand-ever across its entire system, using a 60-minute interval. Other commenters, including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), argued that to calculate the aggregate customer peak demand, utilities should instead add together all of their individual customer peak demands regardless of when they occur in order to account for the non-coincident nature of customer peaks – i.e., to properly account for individual customers whose demand peaks at different times during the day. Under SEIA’s methodology, the “aggregate customer peak demand” would be the summation of each  individual customer’s peak demand, not the system-wide peak demand as a whole. The CPUC agreed with this interpretation, determining that the utilities shall use the highest recorded sum of non-coincident peak demands in a calendar year in calculating the 5% limit. The utilities argued that this decision will only serve to increase the rates to their customers, while generator-customers get to benefit without contributing their fair share toward the maintenance and improvement of the grid. Sempra Energy, SDG&E, PG&E, and SCE estimate that this will shift $1.3 billion a year in costs from solar to non-solar customers. However, SEIA and others hailed this decision as a “step forward,” predicting that the demand for NEM solar will more than double, increasing the demand for solar panels and availability of clean energy jobs. Already, California’s solar industry employs tens of thousands of workers. More importantly from an industry perspective, it was predicted that the net metering cap would have been reached in 2013 for PG&E, and shortly thereafter for the other utilities. This cap would have thus prevented the admission of new NEM customers, limiting the potential solar market as soon as next year. Instead, the CPUC “decision ensures that the solar industry will continue to thrive for years to come, and we are fully committed to developing a long-term solution that secures the future of the industry in California,” according to CPUC President Michael Peevey.

Going forward, a public workshop will be held in June to determine how best to estimate individual peak demands for those customers who do not yet have a smart meter. Further, the CPUC has ordered the preparation of a cost/benefit analysis for the NEM program to be completed on or before October 1, 2013. Lastly, cap or no cap, the NEM remains scheduled to end Jan. 1, 2015 unless new CPUC rules are issued.

  1. Senate Bill 656 (stats. 1995, ch. 369).
  2. Cal. Pub. Util. Code Section 2827(c)(1) (2012).

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of the firm. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel. If you have any questions or require any further information regarding these or other related matters, please contact your regular Nixon Peabody LLP representative. This material may be considered advertising under certain rules of professional conduct.

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May 31, 2012

By Paul Gipe

A bill to create feed-in tariffs for the poor and the disadvantaged passed the California Assembly on 30 May 2012.

The “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 27 and was reported to the Senate.

The move is the first significant action on feed-in tariffs in California during this legislative session. It is also the first time in North America that advocates for the poor and disadvantaged have called for equal opportunity to develop renewable energy through the use of feed-in tariffs.

Introduced by Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), the bill would create feed-in tariffs for 375 MW of small-scale renewable generation that would be specifically designed for disadvantaged communities.

The bill is sponsored by the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).

CEJA’s bill has received support from some 70 non-governmental organizations that includes a who’s who of the California environmental and social justice community, including Sierra Club California, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), and Environment California.

Though CEJA dubs the legislation “Solar for All”, the bill itself calls for “clean energy contracts” from all “eligible renewable energy resources” in California.

  • Project size cap: 500 kW
  • Program cap: 375 MW by 2020 at a “regular annual pace”
  • Term: minimum of 20 years
  • Program launch: 2014
  • Tariffs: “sufficient to stimulate the market” in low-income communities, create a diverse range of project sizes and achieve the environmental justice objectives
  • Reporting: annual
  • Administration and Rate Setting: Public Utility Commission (PUC) & local public utilities
  • Cost recovery: ratepayers
  • Cost cap: 0.375% of forecast retails sales in 2020
  • “Eligible” Technologies: Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste, Energy Storage, Anaerobic Digestion, Small Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Biodiesel, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels

It is not clear whether AB 1990 directs the PUC to set tariffs in two bands for those living in disadvantaged communities who can use federal tax subsidies and those who cannot. The bill only notes that the PUC is to take this into account during its deliberations.

AB 1990 contains a potentially onerous provision requiring that each renewable generator be “inspected” by a licensed contractor every two years.

Though utilities are obligated to provide “expedited interconnection,” they are exempted from the act’s requirements if they claim the grid is “inadequate”, that the generator doesn’t meet the utility’s interconnection requirement, or that the “aggregate of all small-scale renewable generating facilities on a distribution circuit would adversely impact utility operation and load restoration efforts of the distribution system”

Despite these limitations, the introduction alone of AB 1990 by CEJA should put to rest concerns that feed-in tariffs are a regressive form of taxation that penalize the poor. Rather, environmental justice organizers see feed-in tariffs as a more equitable policy tool than existing California programs for developing renewable energy.

CEJA: Solar for All Passes Assembly

AB 1990 Bill Status

AB 1990 Bill History

AB 1990

California Watch: Solar rooftops sought in poor communities

What’s New on Feed-in Tariffs

  • California Feed-in Tariff for Poor Communities Passes Assembly–A bill to create feed-in tariffs for the poor and the disadvantaged passed the California Assembly on 30 May 2012. The “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 27 and was reported to the Senate. . .
  • Canadian Auto Workers: WTO Called Upon to Dismiss Japan, EU Challenge to Ontario Renewable Energy Policy–Canadian NGOs and labour unions, including the CAW, have sent an amicus curiae submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) prior to a May 15 hearing into Japan’s and the European Union’s joint attack on the Ontario Green Energy Act. . .
  • Japan Times: Leveling the field for renewables–The government has drawn up a design for Japan’s feed-in tariff system to promote the generation of electricity through renewable energy sources. In a nutshell, it has decided the prices at which the nation’s major power companies buy such electricity and the duration of contracts. In principle they must buy all such energy. It is hoped that this system, expected to take effect in July, will help expand the generation and use of renewable energy, and accelerate advances in related technologies. Electricity fees may rise. The government should fully explain the need for the system and how it will work. . .
  • Karl-Friedrich Lenz’s analysis of Japan’s Feed-in Tariffs–The second fundamental flaw is the fact that the proposal doesn’t distinguish between onshore and offshore wind. That difference has a rather large influence on cost. Therefore, German law pays 8.93 cents for onshore and 15 cents for offshore wind. . .
  • Chronicle Herald: Nova Scotia Plans to Tap into Tidal Energy with FITs–Energy Minister Charlie Parker said his department will ask the province’s Utility and Review Board later this year to begin the process of setting a rate, or feed-in tariff, for the companies working on development projects in the Bay of Fundy. . .
  • Anglican Diocese of Oxford: Solar Feed-in Tariff put on a “predictable, certain and sustainable footing”–Churches exploring solar pv should note that buildings with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of less than D will get a reduced tariff rate. Calls have previously been made to examine possible exemptions from this and the national Church of England Shrinking the Footprint campaign has been responding to the consultation and having discussions with DECC with particular emphasis on the issues for churches in achieving an A – D rated Energy Performance Certificate. It is, however, possible to wire panels on one building into another which is easier to upgrade e.g panels on a church roof wired into a church hall. . .
  • Malaysian Reserve: RE industry may see change in feed-in-tariff, says SEDA–The Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) is looking at adjusting the feed-in-tariff (FiT) for renewable energy (RE) before it calls for the next round of quote in July/ August 2012 as there is an imbalance in the RE resource mix. At a recent talk on renewable energy updates, SEDA chief executive officer Badriyah Abdul Malek highlighted that almost half of the installed capacity for RE being generated, since the beginning of the FiT on Dec 1, 2011, was using solar energy which could be a “wrong signal” for the market. . .
  • Vermont Ups Feed-in Tariff Program Cap Slightly–Vermont’s Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law 18 May 2012 that slightly increases the cap on the state’s Standard Offer Contract program. Senate Bill 214 extends the small existing 50 MW program by a modest amount. . .
  • Saudi Arabia Launches Massive Renewable Program with Hybrid FITs–While North America continues to dawdle on the road to the renewable revolution, the conservative, oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has proposed one of the most sweeping and massive moves to renewable energy on the planet. . .

Nuclear Power, Japan, Feed-in Tariffs, and the Rapid Development of Renewables

  • Andrew Dewit: A Crossroads for Japan: Revive Nuclear or Go Green?–May 5 marked the shutdown of the last of Japan’s 50 viable nuclear reactors, with poor prospects for any restarts before the summer. The central government, the nuclear industry, most big business associations, and many international observers seem convinced that this will invite chaos through escalating fossil fuel costs and the risk of blackouts. But polls suggest a growing segment of the Japanese population see things differently. . .
  • Mainichi: Atomic Energy panel members call for independent probe into secret meetings–Some members of a Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) panel working out new nuclear energy policy have called for a third-party probe into revelations that business operators in favor of the nuclear fuel cycle project were invited to secret meetings before an assessment was altered to help promote the project. . .
  • Guardian: Only renewables – not nuclear – could be too cheap to meter–Germany’s long support for wind and solar energy is delivering zero-cost electricity at times. In contrast, the UK’s new energy policy seeks to underwrite the rising cost of nuclear. . .


What’s New on Solar Energy


What’s New on Community Power

  • Renewable Energy Tour to Germany & the World Wind Energy Conference 2012–The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association is leading a tour to renewable energy sites in Germany June 30 to July 8 including participation in the World Wind Energy Association Conference in Bonn, and visits to a biogas plant, a wind turbine manufacture, community-owned wind turbines, a leading research institute on grid integration, and a solar power plant. . .
  • Aaron Bartley: Community Power vs. the Kochs–In Germany, where the stranglehold of corporate energy has been loosened, renewables now comprise 20 percent, of national energy production, thanks to national policies such as feed-in tariffs which guarantee a stable price for power produced by wind, solar and geothermal systems. More than half of German energy is now produced in decentralized sites like homes, farms and community co-ops. This trend toward distributed generation conflicts directly with the corporate energy paradigm of centralized control. The German model shows that national policies can have a transformative impact that both increases overall renewable energy production while placing ownership in the hands of farmers, small businesses and homeowners. . .
  • Mount Alexander Community Wind–Mount Alexander Community Wind is a community driven project seeking to establish a locally owned and operated wind plant to supply a significant portion of the energy needs of our Shire. Clean renewable energy will be generated to replace energy derived from burning non-renewable coal. . .


What’s New on Wind Energy

This feed-in tariff news update is sponsored by the , An Environmental Trust, and the David Blittersdorf Family Foundation in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.