Net metering rules to change in Vermont

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

Living la Vida Sola: Driving Solar

Many Solaflect customers drive plug-in hybrid or all-electric cars. They are extremely low cost to operate, since the electricity to run them costs less than the gasoline that would be required to drive the same distance in a non-electric car. This is particularly true for those who have gone solar and have spare net metering to share with their electric vehicle.

They are also a good way to reduce one’s carbon footprint. That advantage only grows as solar and other renewable energy contributes an increasing fraction of the electric supply. Contrary to some claims, an electric vehicle does indeed result in environmental benefits when measured over the lifetime of the vehicle, as compared to a traditional vehicle. David Roberts at VOX has a nice summary on this aspect.

(Photo by Paul Krueger.)

Community Solar Forum at VTC, Saturday 11/21/2015

CENTRAL VERMONT COMMUNITY SOLAR FORUM

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 21
12:30 – 4:00 PM
Vermont Technical College SHAPE Campus Center (Google Maps)
Randolph Center, Vermont

Town energy committees from central Vermont are invited to learn about and discuss solar power development, siting problems and solar project types. The forum will focus on how to best expand solar electrical generation in the region on a community scale. Solar power is coming, but not every project is right for every site.

Town officials dealing with big solar siting issues will share their experiences. Community solar activists, solar developers, solar technical and legal experts and the Vermont Public Service Board will present information at this forum.

A panel discussion of solar development and community solar models moderated by Bob Walker will allow committee members to get questions answered by experts.

The forum is hosted by Randolph Energy Committee and Vermont Technical College.

For more information call 802-477-3189 or email randolph.home.energy@gmail.com

Hartland Farmers’ Market this afternoon

Looking for some fresh veggies to go with your solar? Drop by the Hartland Farmers’ Market this afternoon, Friday, November 20, 2015 from 4 – 7 pm. We’ll be there providing information on the Community Solar Park and PV Tracker, and can answer questions about the solar landscape going forward now that Green Mountain Power has hit its legal cap for net metering.

Location: Damon Hall, Hartland VT. (See in Google Maps.)

Access to solar at risk

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.

Background

  • 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

Why we go solar

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.

Full article.

VNews: “Vt. Nears ‘Net Metering’ Cap With Solar Boom”

Vt. Nears ‘Net Metering’ Cap With Solar Boom

Solaflect wins Reader’s Choice Award!

Thank you to our many customers whose support has resulted in our being awarded the Valley News Reader’s Choice Award 2015 for best solar business!

Readers_Choice_Award_listing2

Solaflect’s mission is to design, manufacture, and install the highest-quality and most cost-effective solar technology, supported with the best possible customer service. In the end, it is our customers who deserve credit for leading the transition to a world that is powered with clean, affordable energy. Thank you.

Next information events

Websites are great, but if you’d prefer to meet us in person and ask questions directly, please join us at one of our next information events. We will be answering solar-related questions large and small—and providing homemade soup!—at the following times and places. We’ll be emphasizing the Community Solar Parks (currently under construction) which allow customers of Green Mountain Power to go solar with PV Trackers that are hosted on our Solar Park land. If you are interested in possibly having a Tracker installed on your own property, that’s great too. We can explain how that works and how to determine if your property has suitable conditions for solar.

  • Wednesday, October 21, 7 pm
    Tracy Hall, 300 Main St, Norwich VT
    Multipurpose meeting room (downstairs)
  • Monday, October 26, 7 pm
    Upper Valley Food Coop, 193 North Main St, White River Junction VT
    Community meeting room (entrance around back of store)

Why we go solar

From 1990 to 2014, residential electric rates in Vermont have grown at an average annual rate of 2.6 percent. One perspective on going solar is that it is like pre-buying decades worth of electricity, effectively locking in your electric costs below those from the utilities.

Cost of electricity in Vermont from 1990 to 2014 is shown in gray, data from US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration. Projection of the historic trend is shown in red. Your cost of electricity from the Solaflect Community Solar Park--viewed as pre-buying 20 years' worth of energy--is shown in blue.
Cost of electricity in Vermont from 1990 to 2014 is shown in gray, data from US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration. Projection of the historic trend is shown in red. Your cost of electricity from the Solaflect Community Solar Park–viewed as pre-buying 20 years’ worth of energy–is shown in blue.

Why we go solar

Earth just had its warmest September on record — by a long shot

It’s virtually certain that in January 2016, the planet will set a new record for the warmest calendar year on record. A key data set that tracks global average surface temperatures, which comes from the Japan Meteorological Agency, shows a huge jump in temperatures in September as compared to average.

[full article cont’d]

Deadline #2: GMP net metering cap

Vermont law requires each utility to accept new net-metering connections until all of the net metering capacity as a whole is equal to 15 percent of the utility’s peak demand. Green Mountain Power has now reached more than 11 percent. In July, they were at just over 9½ percent. At this rate of new connections, GMP will reach its cap in less than half a year.

With the Federal tax credit deadline beginning to loom, the remaining net metering capacity could easily accelerate, bringing GMP to its cap even more quickly. Once it reaches the cap, GMP has the legal option to prevent new solar net metering connections from going forward, or to allow them but with reduced net metering credit.

In short: if you get your electricity from GMP and don’t move solar to the front burner now, you could easily miss out on today’s simple, high-value solar.

Every day you wait is a day that you pay the utility for your power rather than generating your own. Every day you wait is a day with increasing carbon emissions and decreasing ability to reverse the global warming trend.

If you have been waiting on solar because it seems intimidating, perhaps too complicated, fear not. Going solar is incredibly simple and plain sensible. Call or email us to dispel your fears and do right by your head and your heart.

Upcoming public presentations

Do you prefer to learn about topics with live conversation instead of by browsing the internet? We are offering several public presentations/Q&A sessions over the coming weeks. Please join us, and bring all your questions.

Refreshments served at all events.

  • Thursday 10/15, 7 pm
    Latham Library, Thetford VT
    Downstairs
  • Monday 10/19, 7 pm
    Brattleboro Food Co-op, Brattleboro VT
    Public meeting room
  • Monday 10/26, 7 pm
    Upper Valley Food Co-op, White River Junction VT
    Upstairs meeting room (entrance around back)

We are in the process of scheduling additional events. To be sure to find one that fits your location and schedule, give us a call at 802-649-3700 or send an email. Even better, call or email to have your own conversation whenever is convenient for you. We are happy to discuss all things solar over the phone or by email or in person with a free home visit.

Deadline #1: Federal tax credit

Solar purchases are eligible for a Federal tax credit worth 30% of the purchase. This applies both to residential and business purchases of solar.

The law that gives the credit expires at the end of 2016. To qualify for the credit, a solar array must be installed and in operation by December 31, 2016. Payment towards a solar array that has not yet been completed does not qualify for any credit. After that date, the credit for residential solar completely goes away. For businesses, the credit drops from 30% to 10%.

It is extremely likely that many homeowners and businesses who have been thinking about going solar but have been putting it off will see this coming year as the time to get off the sidelines. With limited numbers of trained installers and finite manufacturing capacity, we will not be able to ensure that all comers can have a Solaflect Tracker installed in time to qualify for the credit. If you wait until next summer—the time of year that most people remember to put solar at the top of their to-do list—you could easily be too late to get into the installation schedule for 2016.

Whether you think you will do best with a Tracker on your property or hosted off-site at our Community Solar Park, each day you wait is a day closer to risking the loss several thousands of dollars worth of tax credit. Think about it: if you are pretty sure you want to go solar eventually, why wait? Why keep paying out to the utility when you could begin receiving solar savings now? Why risk being a day late and a dollar short?

VT Digger commentary: solar vs. “solar”

Solaflect Energy is proud to be a part of helping change our energy economy to one that is based on clean renewables. We do our work because we want a better world, a world with healthier people, a stable climate, more vibrant ecosystems, and an economy that everyone can afford to live in. Solar is our contribution toward those goals. And because we believe in solar, we don’t play games with it. When we tell our customers we are selling them solar energy, we mean it. We don’t do the bait-and-switch that some other companies do.

Vermont Law School professor Kevin Jones has a commentary in VT Digger on this issue.

KEVIN JONES: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Kevin B. Jones, PhD, who is a professor of energy technology and policy at Vermont Law School. He can be contacted at energyclinic@vermontlaw.edu.

The sharing economy and solar energy seem like such a natural combination, kind of like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Green Mountain Power and Yeloha’s recent press release announced that “Yeloha and GMP will make it possible for individuals who don’t have a roof suited for solar to subscribe online to power produced by other homeowners and businesses, essentially going solar on someone else’s roof.”

It almost sounds too good to be true and perhaps it is…

Read the whole commentary at http://vtdigger.org/2015/10/07/kevin-jones-too-good-to-be-true/.

If you have a shaded roof or for any other reason can’t go solar with panels installed at your home, you can honest-and-truly go solar with hosted, off-site equipment at the Solaflect Community Solar Park.

The best solar homes are efficient solar homes

Energy from the sun is the most abundant and, certainly in the long term, lowest cost way to power our lives and society. But there’s no sense in generating energy only to waste it. Efficiency Vermont is a terrific source of information—and often discounts or rebates—for making your home or business more energy efficient. Their latest email newsletter includes details on improving windows with low-e storms rather than full replacements. Check it out.

low-e windows

Solar Energy

“Why Your Business Should (Finally) Go Solar”

So says Vikram Aggarwal in Inc. magazine:

If you’re a business owner, installing a solar energy system might seem like a risky move in a complex and confusing market. You may have heard about major Fortune 500 companies going solar, but thought that it might not be feasible for your organization. Maybe you’re considering installing solar panels at some point in the distant future, when your organization can afford to make a major investment in something that seems like an environmental “good” rather than a strategic financial decision.

Time to shake off that old way of thinking and join the growing chorus of smart business owners that have discovered the commercial solar benefits for business. Solar isn’t just for Intel and Wal-Mart anymore. Businesses of all sizes are capitalizing on the financial opportunities of installing solar, proving that a solar energy system is a key strategic decision that virtually guarantees a solid financial return for your business.

Full story continues…

Solaflect Community Solar Park outpaces top muni bond fund

According to US News & World Report, the #1 long-term, national municipal bond fund has—over the past ten years—returned an an annual rate of 4.8%. This is the longest time span that US News reports.

Our estimate for the Internal Rate of Return on a Solaflect PV Tracker hosted at our Community Solar Park is 5.0%, over 20 years. The reason we show a comparison with a municipal bond fund is because that sort of investment is non-taxable, and solar net metering provides non-taxable value to residential electricity customers: net metering reduces your cost of living, freeing up your money for other things, but does not provide cash income which would be taxable.

A key assumption in this estimate is that electricity rates with Green Mountain Power will rise at an average annual rate of 2.65%. We use this assumption because that has been the average annual increase in residential electric costs in Vermont over the past 25 years. If rates rise more quickly in the future, then the return on a Tracker increases because it is saving you more than had been assumed.

US News - best long-term national municipal bond fund 2015-09-28b
This screen grab, taken on September 28, 2015, shows US News & World Report’s listing of the #1 long-term, national municipal bond fund. This fund has had an annual return of 4.8% over the past 10 years, less than the expected return from a Tracker at the Community Solar Park. Click on the image to see it shown larger.

Be aware that many solar companies describe the expected Return on Investment (ROI), whereas the estimate above is for the Internal Rate of Return (IRR). These are calculated in different ways and cannot be compared. The IRR is a superior measure of expected performance, because it takes into account the difference between value received in the short term and value received in the long term. Additionally, it gives you a result that can be compared to traditional investment features, such as the interest rate on a CD or money market account. The ROI is much more rudimentary, does not allow for the difference between near term and long term, and cannot be compared to any of those other measurements.

Solaflect helps Norwich to be first 100% solar town in New England

The municipality of Norwich, Vermont is now powered 100% with solar energy provided by Solaflect Energy. Norwich is the first town in New England, and one of only a small number in the United States, to have its town facilities fully powered by solar. Read more about the town’s partnership with Solaflect in this CNBC article.

Solaflect would like to thank Town Manager Neil Fulton, the town Selectboard, and the Norwich Energy Committee for choosing to go solar and for choosing Solaflect to be their partner.

[Originally posted April 30, 2015. Revised September 23, 2015.]