It’s a hot day in New England, with temperatures as I write over 90°F. Air conditioners are running hard, and the regional grid is at full tilt.
To supply the needed electricity, utilities and independent power producers are turning on their “peaker” power plants—facilities that sit idle most of the time, and only get used during periods of high demand. These power plants are extremely expensive, and when they are called into action regional spot-market wholesale electricity prices skyrocket.
I checked the wholesale prices five minutes ago. The screen grab below shows that the current price is over 87 cents per kWh!
(Source: ISO-NE. It shows prices in dollars per MWh. There are 1,000 kWhs in each MWh, so divide the cost shown by 1,000 to get the cost per kWh.)
That’s what the utilities are paying right now for the extra energy they need. So while they pay over 87 cents/kWh, they sell it to us at between 10 and 20 cents/kWh, depending on the utility and the rate plan. In other words, at a time like this, utilities are losing money hand over fist. And they will need to make it back up the rest of the year.
If utilities can buy less of this super-expensive power, then rates all year round can stay lower. Alongside efficiency and conservation (if you have A/C, turn your thermostat up a few degrees!), one of the best ways to avoid this high-cost power is with solar. Here’s a screen grab of solar production from one of our customer’s trackers, taken a few minutes before the cost image above.
This is typical of days with high-cost electricity. Electricity is expensive right now because it’s a hot day and so much is being used for air conditioning. It’s a hot day because it is summer and sunny. What do solar panels do on sunny days? They make electricity! So this tracker—and all the other Solaflect trackers out there—are producing lots of electricity at a far, far lower cost than grid wholesale. Every kWh coming out of the trackers is a kWh that the utilities don’t have to get from the wholesale spot market. That saves the utility a lot of money, and helps keep all of our rates low.
This Solaflect customer is both saving money for directly with their solar production, and helping their neighbors save money in the long run by keeping rates lower. You can do the same.
UPDATE: ten minutes after writing the above, New England wholesale electricity has gone up above $1 per kWh!
UPDATE #2. I checked in again at 5:30 pm. The cost for spot market electricity has been over $1 per kWh for about two and a half hours, so far. At shortly before 3 pm, it peaked out at a whopping $2.69 per kWh!
Governor Hassan signed the net-metering cap increase bill into law on Monday, May 2. Customers of Eversource, Liberty Utility, and Unitil can once again go solar. (Those with New Hampshire Electric Coop were not limited by the state’s previous cap, and continue to be able to go solar.)
The new limit on net metering is supposed to provide enough capacity for those who want to go solar this year. However, as happened in both NH and Vermont last year, the available cap easily could be hit sooner than expected. In other words, if you put off your decision to go solar until late in the year, you may find yourself out of luck and prevented from doing so by the new limit. Don’t delay! Contact us for a site visit today.
If you are in New Hampshire with Liberty, Eversource (formerly PSNH) or Unitil as your utility and have been waiting to go solar, you don’t need to wait hardly any longer. A friend in Concord writes, “The House just passed HB 1116 to expand net metering and to transfer regulation of the solar energy contribution to our state’s energy resources to the PUC. It was a strong voice vote. The same language has now been passed in the House and the Senate. Soon the House bill or the Senate bill will be passed through both houses and go to the governor for signing.”
Net metering in Vermont faces major challenges. If you care about the future of distributed, renewable energy in Vermont, please read on.
Vermont law (Act 99) requires net metering regulations to be revised as of January 1, 2017. The state’s Public Service Board (PSB) is charged with establishing these regulations. The PSB has released its draft of the new regulations. See http://psb.vermont.gov/statutesrulesandguidelines/proposedrules/rule5100 for the draft document and other details.
While subject to change between now and implementation, as written the draft regulations contain numerous problems. First and foremost is that the value of net metering for Vermonters will be significantly reduced once the new regulations go into effect in 2017. The silver lining is that the draft regulations grandfather current net metering values for any tracker installed in 2016. Additionally, the draft regulations hugely undermine the development of community solar. I’ll address that further down. Read more
We are part of change rapidly progressing across the world, as seen in a sample of the news from just the past day:
The solar energy rules are about to change – much sooner than previously expected. We’ve put together this brief “Solar 101: What you need to know IMMEDIATELY” so as not to miss this brief window to save thousands of dollars in solar incentives. A fuller explanation is below the bullet points.
- The Federal government currently provides a 30% federal tax credit for residential solar. This credit expires at the end of next year.
- Vermont provides a “solar adder” which currently increases the value of residential solar production by 25 to 35%, depending on the installation.
What’s Changing Read more
Because we’re on a roll…
Carbon emissions fall in 11 of G20 members, in turning point
Greenhouse gas emissions per capita are falling in 11 of the Group of 20 major economies, a turning point for tackling climate change, a study showed on Tuesday.
The report, by a new organization of scientists and other experts called Climate Transparency, also said 15 of the G20 members has seen strong growth in renewable energy in recent years.
“Climate action by the G20 has reached a turning point, with per capita emissions falling in 11 members, and renewable energy growing strongly,” the group said in a statement. The G20 accounts for about three-quarters of world greenhouse gases.
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are an accounting mechanism to make it possible to keep track of responsibility for bringing renewable energy to the grid. When one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated from a renewable energy facility that is registered with the grid operator, a REC is issued to represent the renewable aspect of that energy.
Electricity on the grid is identical, whether it comes from a solar array or a coal-fired power plant. But we all know that energy from the sun has a different impact on the world than energy from burning coal. The REC represents that difference. It represents the reduction in soot, mercury, smog, acid rain, radiation, and carbon dioxide that we get from solar (or other renewable) energy as compared to traditional sources. Because we want a cleaner, healthier world, there is social value in the difference represented by the REC. Read more