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Bringing the Green to Customers

The Utility Solar Conference is one of the best organized events throughout the year. USC brings together the technology and thought leaders across both the solar and the utility industries to share ideas and collaborate on problem solving. As an attendee, the value comes with the opportunities to listen, interact and exchange ideas with key players working to incorporate more solar in a sustainable way into the grid. As a speaker, I’m excited to be able to share some of the things we are doing at Duke Energy to help our customers meet their renewable goals.

Low Cost Solar Signaling Dynamic Shift for Utility Planning

Recent news that Austin Energy is looking to sign a 25-year solar energy PPA for less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour is not just solar notable, it’s utility notable. The two projects totaling 150 megawatts are admittedly larger than typically seen for PV, creating obvious economies of scale, but we must take note as most other aspects are replicable by utilities across the U.S.

Customer Choice and the Emerging Utility Business Model

With the explosion in available information (and the technology to use it), the age of the customer is upon us. Conventional business models are being challenged in industries all around us. Consumers can now go to brick and mortar stores, test out a product, and then shop and purchase on-line, completely disconnecting the revenue stream. Similarly, in a matter of minutes, while in route, we can survey restaurant options and their reviews, phone a friend, and even find out what today’s special is before making a decision. Or we can simply order take out and pick it up on the way home.

Sea Change

This September, SEPA will lead a group of executives from the U.S. energy industry to Germany on what we call a fact finding mission. The focus will be on the big picture of energy markets in transition and how to adapt to and thrive in a climate of rapid change.

New Year Cheer: How Utilities and Solar Companies Can Innovate Together

These are interesting solar times. On one hand, there is a LOT of solar being installed, in all market segments. (Oh the joy!) On the other hand, acrimony hangs over net metering as utilities and the solar industry butt heads in state regulatory commissions, trade outrageous TV ads and engage in hand-to-hand combat in newspaper stories. (Woe to all!) This blog will NOT solve that…

How The Inverter Got “Smart” and What That Means for the Growth of Solar

The inverter performs the essential job of turning the DC power generated by a photovoltaic array into the AC power utilized by the electric grid. Much like the grid itself, we’re hearing that inverters are becoming smart, and that smart inverters can enhance the value of solar, for the utility and the customer.

Con Edison makes a solar leap

Con Edison has worked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other partners for a decade to encourage solar energy in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y . Adding a few kilowatts here and a few there with residential installations and moderate-sized commercial projects drove solar production from 8.5 megawatts in 2010 to 30 megawatts today.

How the Utility Solar Database will make your work life easier

I think by now, just about everyone in the renewable energy industry is familiar with the DSIRE database (and if you’re not, you’re living on a different planet). DSIRE has become a go-to source for the renewable industry whenever you need to quickly locate information about federal or state renewable energy policies and incentives. Personally, I find myself using DSIRE on at least a weekly basis. But sometimes I’m looking for a little more...

Energy Storage and Solar: "Any More Questions?"

Reliable, cost-effective energy storage is repeatedly cited by energy industry observers as the final barrier to realizing the full potential of solar. “Everyone agrees that solar by itself is a fine energy source, but solar does pose operational issues for electric utilities as penetration increases”, says Jurgen Krehnke, President of Technologies at Eden Energy Group, and a member of the SEPA Board of Directors. “These issues are all addressed by storage. Add storage to solar, and one can say, ‘Any more questions?’ ”

Solar in My State

Whenever I speak to non-solar audiences across the country, inevitably the conversation steers to some version of “Where does my state rank in solar?” In taking a second look at SEPA’s 2012 Utility Solar Survey Data, obviously California is the gross megawatt and installation leader. But when you standardize state markets by population, you get a different picture:

The NEM Stalemate

In Samuel Beckett’s seminal play Waiting for Godot, two vagabonds named Estragon and Vladimir spend the better part of two days waiting – somewhat impatiently – for the arrival of a mysterious man named Godot. They generate verbal diversions to pass the time, vacillating between periods of heated discussion and long stretches of quiet deliberation. At many points, Estragon forgets where they are and what they are waiting for, only to be reminded by Vladimir that they simply wait for Godot.

Solar is from Mars, Utilities are from Venus - Finding a Common Language for Net Energy Metering

Have you noticed increasing attention being paid to potential impacts from higher levels of solar distributed generation (DG)? Does the conversation sound like productive dialogue or an excerpt for a daytime drama? What is that sausage making they call ratemaking? What should be considered when valuing the costs and benefits of DG? What costs are fixed for the electrical system? And what, exactly, is net-energy metering (NEM)?

Are Commissions No Longer Needed for Clean Energy?

Electric utilities are often criticized for their risk-adverse nature and being perceived as a roadblock to efforts that will modernize or “green up” the grid. For stakeholders advocating change, it can feel as though they’re waiting for a tanker to quickly change course. And even when utilities are perceived as moving in the right overall direction, proponents of renewable energy, smart grid technologies, distributed generation, and other “modernizing” technologies may disagree with the deployment, investment, or program rollout options that are chosen.

300,000 PV Systems

SEPA released its national Utility Solar Rankings executive summary at the Utility Solar Conference (USC) earlier in April. The not-unexpected headline was ‘more solar megawatts for more utilities in more states’ for all project sizes, residential through utility-scale. The natural focus is on megawatts. They drive market capitalization. They drive state and utility comparisons. Megawatts are oh-so sexy in that geeky solar-utility way.