Delhi prepares for net metering as India rooftop PV boom predicted

India continues its “special focus” on solar energy with state rooftop policies. Image: Bridge to India Solar Rooftop Map 2015

Electricity distributors, or ‘discoms’, in Delhi have been instructed by the Delhi Electricity Regulation Commission (DERC) to bolster infrastructure for rooftop solar customers.

Two discoms owned by BSES and Tata Power Delhi have been directed to upgrade grid infrastructure as soon as possible so that rooftop solar customers can sell power they generate to the grid.

Earlier this year Delhi took the first steps towards what could potentially be a huge rooftop solar market by publishing regulations for a new net metering policy.

This will allow customers to benefit from either subsidising their own energy bills with solar energy generation, or receiving credits for supplying the grid with solar energy from rooftop solar systems.

Meet the Senate leaders who plan to gut the EPA and approve Keystone

520-repubesWe recently told you about the new fossil fuel–loving senators who were just elected, but they’re not the ones who’ll be causing the most trouble. The more tenured senators who’ll assume the Senate’s leadership posts are the ones you really need to watch out for — and they’re just as prone to silly science denial as the freshmen.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and the new Republican committee chairs will dictate what bills and amendments get considered, and will help set the public agenda by holding hearings, producing reports, and pumping out press releases.

Most of the outgoing Democratic committee chairs, with the notable exception of Energy Committee Chair Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, are climate hawks. Last week, four of them sent a letter to President Obama urging him to press forward on reducing carbon emissions and forging an international climate agreement. They have good reason to worry: Their Republican replacements will do everything in their power to force Obama to give up on regulating greenhouse gases.

Here’s what you need to know about the Republicans who are likely to be elected to leadership positions with the most influence over climate and energy policy:

Republican Congress to Push the Keystone XL Today

520-keystone xl republicansCongress is trying to fast track the controversial Keystone XL project. A debate on the pipeline is scheduled to take place today (Friday, November 14)  in both the US House and the Senate. Both houses of the Republican led Congress are expected to approve the bill.

While the President has indicated he will veto the bill, there are steps that could be taken by the GOP to override his decision.

Republicans do not seem to care about the consequences or the costs. NASA’s top climate scientist, Jim Hansen, said that fully developing the tar sands in Canada (a necessary step in the development of the pipeline), would mean“essentially game over” for the climate. According to White House statistics, additional emissions from the tar sands pipelines could equal $128 billion in climate costs over the pipeline’s projected lifespan. By 2100 the costs of failing to reign in emissions from fossil fuels will surpass the costs of carbon reduction by $8 trillion.

Thus far a number of protests have succeeded in delaying the pipeline.  Reports show that these delays have already prevented at least $17bn in new investments in the Canadian tar sands. These investments would have had the equivalent carbon output of 735 coal-fired power plants.

Obama’s Deal With China Is a Big Win for Solar, Nuclear, and Clean Coal

520- solar-panel-mjThe plan announced Tuesday night for the United States and China to join forces in the fight against climate change is a big deal. It sets a new, more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target for the US (although the target will only bring emissions slightly below 1990 levels, which isn’t as aggressive as climate scientists have advocated). It establishes a goal for China to get one-fifth of its power from low-carbon sources by 2030. And it lays out what both countries will bring to the table at next year’s international climate negotiations in Paris. That should help other countries set their own goals, and it increases the likelihood that the talks will be productive.

The deal could also be a big win for the clean energy sector. It calls for more funding for research and development projects focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean vehicles. It also includes a major new pilot project in China to study carbon capture and sequestration, the controversial technology that—at least in theory—could help China curb its emissions while continuing to burn coal for electricity.

Wayne Stroessner: Don’t be fooled by utility rhetoric on solar power

rock-on-wayne-520On June 1, 2007, 7.2 kW of photovoltaic panels were installed on our residential rooftop. Seven years and four months later, the photovoltaic array has produced 54,133 kWh of electrical energy, saved our atmosphere from 92,024 pounds of carbon dioxide and prevented 12.5 tons of coal from being burned in We Energies’ coal plants.

At the time of installation, We Energies considered solar panels to be beneficial for their electrical energy production. Photovoltaics are most effective when the sun is shining brightly on long summer days. This is the same time when most air conditioners are running to supply “peak” energy demand. Solar panels have indeed provided that electrical energy to prevent We Energies from starting up additional auxiliary electrical generators during hot days. In fact, We Energies found it to be so beneficial that they established a 10-year program in which they would pay photovoltaic owners a premium per kilowatt-hour for the electrical energy the panels produced.


How Green Are Those Solar Panels, Really?

520-solar-panel-greenAs the world seeks cleaner power, solar energy capacity has increased sixfold in the past five years. Yet manufacturing all those solar panels, a Tuesday report shows, can have environmental downsides.

Fabricating the panels requires caustic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, and the process uses water as well as electricity, the production of which emits greenhouse gases. It also creates waste. These problems could undercut solar’s ability to fight climate change and reduce environmental toxics.

A new ranking of 37 solar manufacturers, the Solar Scorecard, shows that some companies are doing better than others. Chinese manufacturer Trina scored best, followed by California-based SunPower.

The annual scorecard was created by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has tracked the environmental impact of the high-tech industry since 1982. It’s the group’s fifth scorecard, and it shows that the industry is becoming more—not less—opaque when it comes to the sustainability of its manufacturing practices.

Latinos shouldn’t be pawns in fight over rooftop solar power

chess-pawnThe three largest utility companies in California – Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison – have been using Latinos and others who live in middle- and lower-income communities as pawns in a war against rooftop solar.

Unfortunately, the longer their war continues, the more harm will come to Latinos and other communities of color. We are bearing the brunt of toxic pollution from utility-run coal plants. Latinos, who are concentrated in the drought-stricken Southwest and coastal cities like Miami, are on the front lines of extreme weather caused by climate change.

But, of course, the powerful utilities are looking out for their best interests, not ours. For years they have been trying to buy off Latino legislators to limit the expansion of rooftop solar and increase our community’s dependence on dirty energy that is poisoning us.

Historic US-China Climate Deal Is a Sign of Clean Energy’s Growing Political Strength

520-xi-obamaPresident Obama was supposed to be focusing on trade during his trip to Asia this week. No one expected him to pull off a landmark climate deal.

After nine months of talks, the White House announced this morning that the U.S. and China had agreed to historic joint targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

While the targets are not binding, the negotiations represent the first time China has agreed to a cap on carbon dioxide levels. Administration officials say the targets will create meaningful momentum as America tries to negotiate an emissions treaty with large developing countries in 2015.

The agreement is a reflection of the international pressure on China to address its growing emissions, as well as China’s own confidence in clean energy to help power its growing economy.


Vivint Solar CEO: Republican Congress will be good for industry

520-butterfiled-vivintGreg Butterfield believes that solar energy has finally transcended left vs. right.

Vivint Solar  VSLR 7.27%  yesterday reported its first quarterly earnings since going public last month, reporting a net loss of $0.45 per share on $8.3 million in revenue. It also said to expect a Q4 slowdown in installations, but that it still would meet (and likely surpass) its annual megawatt goals.

While the Q4 slowdown is to be expected, due to winter weather, it’s a bit more unusual to hear a cleantech CEO who seems to sunny about the arrival of a Republican Congressional majority. But that’s the sentiment of Vivint Solar boss Greg Butterfield, who explained his thinking in a phone interview with Fortune.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Republicans and Democrats on Climate Change

520-republicans and democrats on climate changeThere is a massive gulf separating Republicans and Democrats on the issue of climate change. Climate change and environmental issues did not keep Republicans from achieving gains in the Senate, the House of Representatives and many gubernatorial contests. When we take a look at voting patterns we once again see the stark partisan divide between Democrats and the GOP on climate change.

Exit polls from the November midterms show the climate divide breaks down along party lines. According to the New York times, exit polls show that 70 percent of Democrats nationally answered “yes” to the question “Do you think climate change, also known as global warming, is a serious problem?” While 84 percent of Republicans said no.

This poll is a reiteration of previous polls which show that supporters of the Republican party tend to disbelieve in anthropogenic climate change and tend to oppose action to mitigate and adapt to it. According to a 2012 Pew research poll, “Democratic voters are more than twice as likely to embrace the facts on global warming than their Republican counterparts.”

There is no other way to frame the issue other than saying that the Republicans are to blame for American inaction on climate change.

Five priorities to improve global energy policy

Smokestacks-CC-Matthew-Parsons-2009China, Australia and the United States all have important policy lessons to share when it comes to alleviating energy poverty, creating low-cost energy access, and improving emissions. That is according to Gregory H. Boyce, Peabody Energy’s chairman and CEO, who recently met with heads of state and CEOs at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) Summit in Beijing.

For example, China has used coal to lift 650 million from poverty since 1990 during which time gross domestic product (GDP) increased 850 percent and use of coal-fueled electricity increased eight-fold, which the International Energy Agency called “an economic miracle.”

Australia elected a new government last year to repeal the carbon tax, which created an economic burden in excess of $100 million per week. Repeal of the tax is expected to save the typical family $550 each year in electricity costs.

Drawing back the panel: what a solar energy ranking system looks like

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition ranks solar panel manufacturers according to a scorecard of criteria.
The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition ranks solar panel manufacturers according to a scorecard of criteria.

As more solar electricity lights up homes and businesses across the country, it also spotlights a growing, thorny issue: how do you recycle discarded solar panels safely? And should solar companies follow a set of sustainable practices similar to those in the electronics industry?

That debate could grow louder with the release of the latest Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) “solar scorecard” Tuesday. The scorecard, based on survey responses and publicly available information, ranks 37 solar manufacturers’ actions and commitments to practices such as reporting emissions, using water and energy efficiently, avoiding the use of conflict materials and promoting workers’ health and safety.

For companies that also develop and build solar power plants, the coalition looks at how they incorporate wildlife conservation into their projects.

Sweetwater Schools Make Major Commitment to Solar Power

520-SunPower-Solar-PlanelsThe Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista announced installation of solar power systems at 21 schools that will offset 60 percent of normal electricity demand.

San Jose-based SunPower Corp. installed solar shade structures in school parking lots, taking advantage of underutilized space and providing needed shade.

One ground-mounted system was installed at Mar Vista Middle School in San Diego, and a rooftop system was installed at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista.

“With proven, reliable SunPower technology, we are generating savings that the Sweetwater Union High School District can use to support our academic and enrichment programs,” said Dr. Tim Glover, interim superintendent of SUHSD. “We’re also supporting the development of more solar power installations in our region. It is the right thing to do for our students and our community.”


Post Carbon Institute: U.S. Oil, Gas Fracking Boom “unsustainable;” EIA Forecasts “extremely optimistic”

520-15542258908_af20458105According to the U.S. government’s latest long-term forecast, the country can expect a “56% increase in total natural gas production from 2012 to 2040,” with shale gas production “the largest contributor, growing by more than 10 Tcf” through 2040; and with “tight gas” production also growing sharply over that time period.

As for “tight oil,” the official U.S. government forecast has it growing through 2021, after which it gradually falls through 2040, at which point it is still nearly 1 million barrels per day higher than it was in 2012. In sum, the official U.S. government forecast for the U.S. oil and natural gas “fracking” boom is most definitely bullish, particularly for natural gas but also for oil. But is this actually true?