Energy transitions – Feb 13

February 13, 2013

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Solar for All

Paul Rauber, Sierra
I REALLY WANTED THE FIGURES TO WORK OUT. So did Ricky, the nice young guy from Sungevity who was trying to lease me a solar array for my roof. My family was looking into a 1.7-kilowatt system—the smallest available. Even so, our miserly habits kept us firmly in our utility’s lowest—and cheapest—tier of electricity usage. Solar is getting cheaper fast, but the numbers for the popular lease-financing model wouldn’t pencil out unless we could somehow boost our energy usage into a higher tier.

"How about a plug-in Prius?" Ricky suggested helpfully. "That would make it work."

Unfortunately, even though a Prius driven 30 miles a day would increase our electricity use by 165 kilowatt-hours a month, a new car isn’t in our budget—and so (for the time being, at least), neither are solar panels on our roof. That puts me in good company: Some 75 percent of Americans rent, live in condos, have roofs shaded by trees or other buildings, or are otherwise poor candidates for sun power. Which leaves us out of the clean energy revolution that’s going on across the country…

To triumph against the odds, community solar needs a model that can work within the current regulatory system (unhelpful as that may be) and that is widely replicable. Happily, two organizations (at least) appear to have such a model: Colorado’s Clean Energy Collective and California’s Mosaic.

Paul Spencer is founder and president of the former. He got into community solar after trying to design a "net-zero" community of 89 homes in Carbondale, Colorado, that would draw its power from a centralized solar system. The housing market collapse killed the project, but Spencer and his group resolved to craft a widely deployable model for community solar. It took a year and a half of running the numbers on dozens of different options before they settled on the rather uncollective formula of individual ownership.
(February 2013)

Energy-Efficient Mortgages now widely available in the US

Brentt Taylor, PUB
EEMs can offer significant savings over time with just a minimal increase in the purchase price of a home. Brentt Taylor explains how US residents can take advantage of these increasingly popular Green Mortgages…

EEM stands for an Energy Efficient Mortgage. You might think that this sounds like a "green" ploy in an effort to get people to invest more in green energy, but it’s actually something quite different. An EEM allows those who are looking to buy a home or refinance their current mortgage to get a larger loan than they otherwise might qualify for, in order to pay for energy efficiency improvements.

The maximum amount of the portion of the EEM for energy efficient improvements is the lesser of 5% of the value of the property and other significant standards that may apply.

The larger loan does not increase the down payment, nor does it increase the interest rate. This is simply additional money that is added to the existing loan and rolled in under the same terms as the mortgage…
(29 January 2013)

EDF asks would you do the washing when the wind is blowing?

Business Green
Energy companies’ plans to offer flexible smart grid-enabled energy tariffs that provide cheaper power when there is abundant renewable energy available are to take a big step forward with the launch of a new pilot scheme.

UK Power Networks, EDF Energy, and Imperial College London are teaming up to provide more than 1,000 EDF customers who already have smart meters installed with information on day-ahead electricity prices either via text or through their in-home smart meter display.

The year-long trial aims to find out whether people are prepared to do their washing, tumble drying, and other electricity intensive tasks on windy days or at off peak times when green power is cheap and plentiful…
(13 February 2013)

Energy Co-ops Bring Energy by the People, for the People Through Social Innovation

Sangeeta Haindl, Justmeans
When we think of community energy projects, we often look to the developing world, where local social innovation schemes bring energy by the people, for the people, and where these initiatives bring jobs in construction, operation and maintenance. Yet, these energy co-operatives are becoming increasingly popular in the West, too.

In the U.S., one good example is the Energy Co-op in Philadelphia. It is a not-for-profit, member-owned organisation that gives residents in the region clean energy options. It has also recently joined the growing network of renewable energy providers that offer products certified by Green-e Energy, North America’s leading certification and verification program for renewable energy. Green-e Energy provides independent, third-party certification to ensure that certified renewable energy meets strict environmental and consumer-protection standards.

The Energy Co-op is active: in 2011 it helped launch ChoosePAWind, a social innovation initiative, which encourages electricity consumers in the state to power their businesses and homes with energy from local wind farms…
(11 February 2013)

Why councils could be the answer to the energy crisis

Helen Andrews Tipper, The Guardian
How we generate and consume energy is now perhaps the most significant threat to economic and social wellbeing. Already high energy prices are predicted to keep rising and our current use of fossil fuels is unsustainable. Politicians are in deadlock over the future of the country’s energy infrastructure.

This is a bleak and familiar picture, but local authorities across the UK are beginning to see an alternative. They are taking control of their own energy future and investing in decentralised networks that bring down prices, improve energy security, cut carbon and make communities more prosperous and resilient.

Decentralised energy is not yet a widely understood term, but broadly refers to energy that is generated off the main grid, including micro-renewables, heating and cooling. It can refer to energy from waste plants, combined heat and power, district heating and cooling, as well as geothermal, biomass or solar energy. Schemes can serve a single building or a whole community, even being built out across entire cities.
(17 January 2013)

Green planet image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.

Tags: Community energy, cooperatives, decentralized renewable energy projects, Energy conservation, Renewable Energy