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News Article
Site: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/category/solar

When SunEdison went through difficult layoffs in October 2015, hundreds were let go -- but the folks in the C-suite were mostly left unscathed. As GTM's Stephen Lacey reported, "The cuts have reached all the way to the VP level, but not the executive level. Sources within the company expressed worry and surprise that the cuts didn't impact the architects of the Vivint acquisition." The other shoe has started to drop. Oaktree acquired asset management, operations and maintenance firm Solarrus and named Mark McLanahan as CEO. He was formerly VP of global services at SunEdison. Northern States Metals, a maker of extruded aluminum products and owner of Solar FlexRack, a ground-mount solar racking system supplier, named Jeff Gwinnell as CEO. Gwinnell was most recently CEO of Avtron, a manufacturer of engineered equipment and components. Gwinnell replaces Tom Meola, who resigned from the company after four years as CEO. Solar FlexRack has completed more than 1 gigawatt worth of solar racking installations. CLEAResult, a 3,000-employee firm that designs and implements energy-efficiency programs for utilities, named Aziz Virani as its new CEO. Virani joins the company from Avanade, a technology consultancy. Prior to Avanade, Virani was a partner at Accenture. Co-founder and interim CEO Jim Stimmel will return to the executive VP position and remain on the board. CLEAResult is part of equity firm General Atlantic's portfolio. Robert Scheuermann, SoCore Energy’s interim president and CFO, was officially named full-time president of the C&I solar developer. SoCore Energy is a subsidiary of Edison International Chris Beitel is now COO of battery-based energy storage firm SimpliPhi Power. Previously, Beitel was executive VP of global operations and planning at Silevo, playing a role in its $350 million acquisition by SolarCity. The company's battery technology uses a lithium-ferrous-phosphate chemistry. Tom Werthan was named CFO at Phononic, a solid-state cooling and heating technology startup. Previously, Werthan was CFO at Solid State Equipment, a semiconductor capital equipment firm sold to Veeco in 2014. The near-term applications for Phononic's thermoelectrics include high-end refrigeration for labs and medical facilities, as well as cooling for fiber optics and data servers. Phononic has raised more than $85 million in funding from investors including Eastwood Capital, Wellcome Trust, Tsing Capital, Venrock, Oak Investment Partners, and Rex Health Ventures. Jacqueline DeRosa was promoted to VP of emerging technologies at Customized Energy Solutions, a consultancy and energy market specialist. CES recently acquired the assets of demand-response startup Powerit. Sighten, a solar software provider, added Vivek Malipatil, previously with Verengo Solar, as VP of strategy and operations, and Mariya Nomanbhoy, previously with CPF, as VP of product. Sighten landed a $3.5 million round A of venture funding from Obvious Ventures late last year for its platform to drive down solar's soft costs. Karen Gados was promoted to chief of staff at SunShare Community Solar, a developer of community solar programs. Enertech Search Partners, an executive search firm with a dedicated cleantech practice, is the sponsor of the GTM jobs column. The firm has an active opening for a CFO: The client is an intelligent distributed energy storage system that captures solar power and delivers it when needed most. It combines batteries, power electronics, and multiple energy inputs in a UL-certified appliance controlled by software running in the cloud. The client is seeking a chief financial officer who will report directly to the CEO and will be responsible for all financial aspects of the company. In this role, you will provide guidance and support on financial and business matters, as well as growth strategy, business systems, human resources and financial and treasury issues. This role will also serve as the leader of a three-person team that includes the controller and the director of financial planning and administration. Premier Solar Solutions, a small solar sales and installation company based in Henderson, Nevada, eliminated 66 full-time positions. The move follows the decision by the state's PUC to eliminate solar savings for new and current solar customers, according to a release, which added, "Premier Solar Solutions is a family-owned and operated solar sales and installation company formerly based in Nevada." Tesla is delivering far fewer jobs than it promised for the Gigafactory. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is back to the grind this week, after a two-month paternity leave, according to website StrictlyVC. Isabelle Kocher was named CEO of French energy giant Engie (the former GDF Suez), becoming the first woman to head a Paris CAC 40 stock index firm (one of the 40 largest publicly held firms in the country), as reported in The Wall Street Journal.


News Article
Site: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/category/solar

The rooftop solar company SolarCity said Wednesday it has been forced to eliminate more than 550 jobs in Nevada because of the new net metering rate approved by the state Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 22. Where possible, the company said it will relocate affected employees to "business-friendly" states. The PUC's decision to change the net metering rules "to punish existing solar customers after the state encouraged them to go solar with rebates is particularly callous" and leaves Nevadans to question whether the state would ever place the financial security of regular citizens above the financial interests of NV Energy, the company said in a news release. Cyclical changes in the Pacific Ocean have thrown Earth’s surface into what may be an unprecedented warming spurt, following a global warming slowdown that lasted about 15 years. While El Niño is being blamed for an outbreak of floods, storms and unseasonable temperatures across the planet, a much slower-moving cycle of the Pacific Ocean has also been playing a role in record-breaking warmth. The recent effects of both ocean cycles are being amplified by climate change. A 2014 flip was detected in the sluggish and elusive ocean cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, which also goes by other names, including the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. Despite uncertainty about the fundamental nature of the PDO, leading scientists link its 2014 phase change to a rapid rise in global surface temperatures. InsideClimate News: Politics of Climate Unlikely to Change in 2016 In 2016, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new president, 34 senators, 435 representatives and 12 governors, not to mention countless state and local leaders. And despite this happening during what many scientists believe will be the hottest year on record and the stakes for the planet growing ever higher, climate change won't crack the list of top political issues. "Climate change, barring some enormous visible catastrophe on U.S. soil, is unlikely to be a major issue in the election," said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. "But many people will be working to raise its profile, and there will be more discussion than there was before." Until a few years ago, solar panels were a rare sight in South Africa, largely limited to the roofs of a few affluent households. This is changing rapidly, driven by three factors: the worldwide drive toward renewable energy, a highly strained local electricity supply, and a steady drop in solar panel prices. Taking the lead from other countries, South Africa committed to an energy generation infrastructure development plan for 2010 to 2030, known as the Integrated Resource Plan. Under the plan, the country aims to achieve 9,600 MW of solar power capacity by 2030. When the plan was drawn up in 2010, solar was limited to a few isolated panels on domestic rooftops, and until recently contributed nothing to the national power grid operated by the state-owned utility Eskom. The Hill: EPA Looks to Build on Big Wins This Year The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Monday that the Obama administration is preparing to roll out and implement new climate rules this year after pushing an aggressive agenda in 2015. In a blog post on the EPA website, administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency will look in 2016 to help implement the goals of the landmark international climate agreement reached in Paris last month. The agency will finalize rules this year to cut carbon pollution from heavy-duty vehicles, she wrote, as well as a rule to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations. The methane rule -- which targets a pollutant with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide -- is seen as a major step President Obama can take to address climate change in his final year in office.


News Article
Site: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/category/solar

Last year, thanks to the removal of a tree in my front yard and the confluence of low-cost solar technology and generous state incentives, I put solar on my roof and generated 4 megawatt-hours in my first year as a solar power plant owner. Everything performed as advertised: the 5.5-kilowatt SunPower system quickly cut my electric bill to $0, then generated a negative balance for most of the summer and fall. December came with a small bill (~$18), but also brought the news from my SREC broker (Knollwood Energy) that SRECs in Massachusetts are trading at $270 per megawatt-hour, so I stood to gain another $1,000 from the system. The 2.99 percent loan I have with EnerBank has a payment of around $189 per month, so if you combine the electric-bill savings with the income from the SRECs, I’m cash flow positive in year 1. But, as we’ve covered extensively over the past few weeks here, regulators in Nevada made the unprecedented and alarming decision not only to reform their net-metering program -- reducing compensation for exported power coupled with increases in monthly fixed charges -- but also to apply the reforms to all existing solar customers in a phased approach over four years. If regulators in Massachusetts made that same decision today, how would my investment in solar fare over the next 20 years? It’s worth taking a step back before digging into numbers, because it’s not clear to me how often people think of going solar as a purely economic undertaking. Solar, unlike other home repairs or remodels, feels different, wrapped as it should be in broader impulses to address climate change, energy independence, and overall energy resilience. In that context, the conversation with a solar installer tends toward one that for me felt more trusting (they sell solar, so they must be on my side). With that sense of trust, and the admittedly unfair access to a group of industry-leading market and technology solar analysts here at GTM Research, I went about selecting a solar system with confidence that I would make the right choice, from financing to vendor and installer selection. I honestly never considered that the assumptions around the incentives I would receive might change. I enlisted the help of EnergySage, a startup near our office in Boston that provides a platform to compare multiple bids from solar installers and attempt to normalize the assumptions behind those bids so I could make the most informed decision. Over the course of spring 2015, I uploaded all my power bills to the EnergySage platform, filled out all the other information required to receive bids, and within two weeks had about a half dozen. I had already chosen not to lease (I still don’t quite understand why anyone does) so my bids all included the option to pay outright or take out a loan to finance the installation. Throughout the process of reviewing bids, there were many elements of each proposal I needed help understanding (SREC price variability, power production and electric rate increase assumptions, and just what the difference between a DC optimizer and microinverter is), but I certainly understood how the ITC, a state rebate and tax credit, and net metering worked. I knew SREC prices were variable over 10 years, but also that Massachusetts had designed its system well enough to manage that within an acceptable window. If, in this thought experiment, the Nevada PUC picked up, came to Massachusetts and passed its solar tariff structure here today, what would happen to my electricity bill? For my system (a SunPower/SolarEdge system purchased in May 2015 at a net cost of around $21,000, which includes the ITC tax benefit and a Massachusetts state rebate), the original benefits of going solar looked like this: With the Nevada plan, my experience would look like this: Jumping out to year 5 -- let’s assume my system produces 6,295 kilowatt-hours of solar energy annually and half of it is exported back to the grid and compensated at wholesale rates. Instead of saving $1,346 on the electricity bills as planned, I would save $863 ($674 from load reduction plus $189 for my exported power). Add in annual SREC income of $1,200, and I would have a gross benefit of $2,063.  Subtract my annual cost of the solar loan ($2,156) and the new fixed charges ($300) and I have a negative cash flow. Continue to draw the model out, and I have negative cash flow every year until year 13. If you look at this through the lens of payback on my investment, I don’t reach that until year 19. This is arguably too generous because 1) we have SRECs in Mass, 2) we have higher wholesale rates, and 3) I kept the fixed charges at $300 per year, whereas in Nevada they increase well beyond that over time. To summarize: my system today is cash flow positive in year 1, and the payback occurs in year 3 if SREC prices remain over $200 per megawatt-hour. If the Nevada PUC came to town, I would have to wait 20 years to break even. I would be 70 years old! Forget it; by then, I’ve moved. As a homeowner, I took on risk when signing a mortgage for my house at its particular price and interest rate, exposing myself to market fluctuations, tax increases, unforeseen repairs and more. Those were all fairly well-understood risks with precedents and experience. With my solar system, however, I took risks I understood (SREC variability) as well as those I didn’t (retail rate escalation, service obligations) and placed my trust in the ecosystem of suppliers, installers, the utility and its regulators. This trust is critical for any market to mature, for people on the sidelines to step in and continue to fuel its growth. In the case of Nevada, that trust has clearly been broken. If other states regard Nevada’s moves as precedent, this becomes much more than a thought experiment for me, but a chilling signal to anyone owning or considering owning rooftop solar. The U.S. residential solar market, which has been celebrating the extension of the ITC, would find itself unfairly hobbled just at the time of its most impressive growth.


News Article
Site: http://www.treehugger.com/feeds/category/environmental-policy/

To drive out solar power companies out of sunny Nevada, you have to do something pretty bad. This is exactly what happened while most of us weren't paying attention, enjoying the holidays (or stressing out, depending...). The Nevada Public Utility Commission (PUC) changed its rules surrounding net metering and increased fees charged to the owners of solar systems (who said the sun was free?): "The base service charge is rising from $12.75 to $17.90 per month [a 40% increase] for southern Nevada solar customers and from $15.25 to $21.09 [a 38.2% increase] for northern Nevada customers. The changes also reduce the amount the utility pays to buy power back from rooftop solar panels, from 11 cents a kilowatt hour to 9 cents [an 18.2% decrease] in southern Nevada and from 12 cents to 10.5 cents [a 12.5% decrease] in the north. The service charge will rise and the reimbursement will drop every year until 2020." (source) This might not seem like much until you do the math and realize that these changes would negate the savings on many solar customers' utility bills. For example, if you are thinking about getting a solar system that would save you $40/month, you might not go solar if the new rules reduce net-metering returns and increase fees by more than $40/month. Some people might still do it just to have clean power, but a lot of people just won't... This is a big enough deal for solar installers that SolarCity has already said that it would halt operations in Nevada because of it, and Vivint Solar, another large solar installer, is considering doing the same. "This is a very difficult decision, but Gov. Sandoval and his PUC leave us no choice," Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's chief executive, said in a statement. "The people of Nevada have consistently chosen solar, but yesterday their state government decided to end customer choice, damage the state's economy and jeopardize thousands of jobs." (SolarCity says that it has created 2,000 jobs in the state since 2013.) The accusation is that this new plan is designed to protect the existing power utility from the new solar entrants, which are growing rapidly and threaten profits. There is some hope, though. The regulators are meeting on Thursday this week to consider pausing the rate hike, which was supposed to take effect on January 1st, 2016. Several entities requested the rates be postponed, including the Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Nevada Attorney General's Office. Consumer advocate Eric Witkoski said existing customers weren't properly warned that they would be subject to the new rates, instead of being "grandfathered" in to the more favorable ones. He also raised concerns that the rate change could run afoul of the contracts clause in the U.S. Constitution, because the changes are dramatic enough that they could disrupt private contracts homeowners have with rooftop solar companies. (source) Ideally, these changes would be scrapped and a more solar-friendly strategy would be devise in a more transparent way. Someday incentives for solar power will have to be removed, but this is too soon, and this isn't the way to do it. The social and environmental benefits of our civilization transitioning to clean energy should be taken into account when taking these types of decisions. We can't just change things around looking at short term impacts, especially after we spend decades giving direct and indirect help to the fossil fuel industry.


News Article
Site: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/category/solar

As the backlash continues to mount against recent changes to Nevada’s net metering program, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada released a draft order on Wednesday evening stating that it will review the issue of “grandfathering” existing solar customers into the new policy. On December 22, the PUC voted to increase the fixed charge for NV Energy customers who own rooftop solar from $12.75 per month to $38.51 per month in phased increases over the next four years. Over the same period, the credit solar customers receive for net excess energy they send back to the grid will fall from the retail electricity rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2.6 cents per-kilowatt hour. The changes came into effect on January 1, and were upheld by the PUC on January 13. One of the most controversial aspects of the decision is that the net metering policy applies to the 17,000 existing solar customers in Nevada, along with any new customers. Solar owners in the state have expressed worry and anger with the PUC. Within the next two years, most -- if not all -- solar customers will see their monthly savings erased by the new tariff. “I’m not happy; my wife isn’t happy,” said Dale Matz, Las Vegas-based audio technician who invested $22,000 in owning his 18 panels. “We could have done something else with that money.” A group of solar owners launched a class action lawsuit against NV Energy last week, accusing the utility of “deceptive and unfair practices” that led to the unpopular policy change. The commission’s draft order released yesterday heeds a request from the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) to re-evaluate the grandfathering provision. The BCP noted in its testimony that existing solar customers ought to be grandfathered in to the new policy for a period of eight to 10 years "at least." According to PUC staff, the eight- to 10-year provision would result in a $128 million to $160 million subsidy for solar customers at the expense of non-solar customers. The commission maintains there is inadequate evidence to justify a grandfathering program, but invited stakeholders to file additional testimony in support of the policy. The deadline for filing new information is February 1, and a hearing is scheduled on February 8. Nevada solar customers are likely to cheer the PUC’s decision; however, the draft order only calls for a rehearing on grandfathering, which implies that the new net-metering tariff will still be in effect for new customers. Solar companies say the new policy effectively kills Nevada’s rooftop solar market. Several companies have already been forced to shut down operations there. SolarCity, the largest solar installer in the state, was forced to close all operations, laying off 550 workers and shuttering a new training center. “There are no jobs to train at the center for,” said Chandler Sherman, public affairs manager for SolarCity. Governor Brian Sandoval announced earlier this month that he is deploying a rapid response team to help unemployed solar workers find new jobs. Sandoval issued a frustrated statement noting that SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive informed him of the job cuts on Christmas Eve, and then did not return the governor’s call. “My suggestion is that Mr. Rive respect the process and pursue his legal options, which include seeking reconsideration of the order or ultimately judicial review,” said Sandoval. As the grandfathering provision heads toward a rehearing, solar companies will have to decide on how they will address the policy change for new customers.

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