Author Archive: KaibaWhite

Solar 1st Saturday- Free talk on Advocacy, Policy, and Opportunity in Solar

ImagineSolar logoJoin us at Imagine Solar to explore the current state of the industry and how you can be part of the solar solution. This free monthly event series on the first Saturday of the month will explore advocacy, policy, and opportunity in the solar industry. Solar Austin’s Charlie Hemmeline and Rachel Stone of Environment Texas, will discuss opportunities to expand solar adoption in Texas and as well as ways for participants to get involved and make a difference.

When: Saturday, October 5th at 4 pm

Where: Imagine Solar (4000 Caven Rd., Austin, TX 78744)

Please RSVP.

The solar industry is experiencing rapid expansion in entrepreneurial opportunity – government policy is striving to keep pace. Let these discussions help you find your place in this swiftly changing landscape.

Solar 1st Saturday begins at 4pm, but participants are welcome to come at 3pm and observe the last hour of the PV System Design & Installation Lab already in progress.

Go here for more information about the event.

Climate-Com: Climate Change Communications From the Media – A Mini Symposium

Our climate is changing and action is desperately needed, but that message is not getting through to to many of our leaders. Climate-Com will explore how the media can better present current climate science so that the public and our leaders will be convinced to act.
Lake Buchanan

What: A panel discussion on how we can change the way we communicate climate science and facts to the public through the media, particularly broadcast meteorologists. Featuring Jim Spencer of KXAN-TV and Kris Wilson, PhD of UT School of Journalism.

When: Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 3:30pm to 7:00pm

Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd., North meeting room

Who: Climate Change Now Initiative, Public Citizen’s Texas Office, KXAN-TV, UT School of Journalism, Forecast the Facts, Texas Drought Project, Austin Citizen Climate Lobby

Cost (suggested donation): $10.00 – Adults, $5.00 for students, 16 and under free **Also, free if you calculate your personal carbon footprint using an online carbon calculator and send the tons of carbon per year with your name to qualitykicks@hotmail.com.**
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Massive Cuts Proposed for Austin Energy Solar Budget

It’s an important time for solar in Austin, so we will try to keep you updated as things progress.

Here’s the latest:

Instead of embracing the expanded solar goals recommended by the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC), Austin Energy has proposed slashing the solar rebate budget by 42% for the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2014. 

The solar rebate budget supports both residential and commercial solar installations and has become increasingly popular.  The program was projected to run out of money earlier this year, prompting Austin Energy to reduce the amount of the residential rebate from $2 per installed watt to $1.50 per installed watt.

Although solar costs have declined rapidly and are projected to continue that trend, rebates are still needed in the short term to help our local solar economy reach maturity.  Rebates will likely be phased out between now and 2020, but now is not the time for dramatic cuts to a popular and successful program.

There are going to be several opportunities coming up to voice your support for solar:

  • Monday, August 19th at 6pm in the Shudde Fath Conference Room at Austin Energy (721 Barton Springs Road): Electric Utility Commission meeting will include discussion of recommendations for the Austin Energy budget.  Public input is welcomed at the beginning of the meeting and for each agenda item.
  • Wednesday, August 21st at 3pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at Austin City Hall (301 West 2nd St): Emerging Technology and Telecommunications Committee meeting will include discussion of costs and benefits of solar compared to other energy sources.  Public input is welcomed.
  • (probably) Thursday, August 29th at 4pm in Council Chambers at Austin City Hall (301 West 2nd St): Public hearing on the proposed city budget.  The purpose of this hearing will be to gather public input. We will update the day and time on this post if it changes.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already sent an email to the Mayor and City Council in support of expanding solar goals and funding, you can do so using this Public Citizen “action page.”

Spread the word and help our city be more sustainable.

Solar a Shining Opportunity for Austin – Solar Goals and Programs Need Expanding

Business leaders, environmentalists and low income advocates are behind a push to get Austin to increase its solar energy goal to 400 megawatts by 2020 and expand solar programs to meet that goal.

A diverse group of community leaders appointed to the Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC) by City Council examined solar opportunities in Austin and unanimously recommended that we double our 2020 solar goal, creating an estimated $300 million in net economic benefits and staying well within our current affordability goals.

“The Austin Energy leadership is saying we can’t afford to do this now,” says Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “But they are only looking at replacement power costs.  The value of solar is far more than replacing wholesale power.  It increases revenue for the city from off system sales of peak power we won’t need at home. Expanding solar goals will mean reduced costs for peak power, fuel, hedging, insurance, maintenance and transmission, as well as reduced water use and pollution.  The LSAC looked at all of those factors and that’s why the business, solar and environmental community all agreed that we should expand our goals now.”

2013-08-06 400MW Solar is 5.2-6 Percent of Austin Energy Demand by 2020 (sun pie graph)The LSAC report shows that expanding the solar goal to 400 MW by 2020 – which would meet 5.2-6% of Austin Energy’s electric demand – would be affordable.  Current affordability limits are set at 2% of anticipated utility revenue and the solar program would never go beyond 0.31% – likely less, according to the LSAC report and would reduce costs by 2020.  The affordable nature of the plan is what got low income advocates to support it.

Susan McDowell, executive director at Lifeworks supports the expansion of Austin’s solar goals.  “Keeping up with rising electric bills is a struggle for many working families, especially in the summer.  Solar is cheaper over the long run and can ease that pressure.  We need more solar programs geared toward working families, including those who rent.”

Instead of embracing the recommendations, Austin Energy has proposed a 42% cut to its solar rebate program for fiscal year 2014, from $7.3 million to $4.2 million.  Supporters of the LSAC recommendations are asking City Council to move in the opposite direction and expand the solar budget to $10 million dollars.

We need a solar budget large enough to meet demand. This year, Austin Energy reduced the solar rebate to avoid running out of money before the year was over.  Solar is becoming more popular and we should take advantage of that.

While the LSAC did envision an eventual reduction and end to solar rebates, the Committee recommended investing more now to establish the industry in Austin and take advantage of a 30% federal tax credit for solar installations.

“Low solar prices, coupled with the 30% federal tax credit, give us the opportunity to get more solar installed for each dollar spent than ever before,” says BJ Stanbery, CEO of Heliovolt.  “And unlike most of the other energy sources we rely on, our investment in solar feeds into our local economy.  The time to establish the Austin solar business cluster is now because the 2016 federal ITC reduction from 30% to 10% is setting the timeline for industry maturation.”

The solar industry has already created hundreds of jobs in Austin, many of them in installation.  Solar installation companies are small, locally owned business and the jobs they create can’t be outsourced.

Carey Ibrahimbegovic, president and CEO of Greenbelt solar says, “We’re working hard to bring solar to as many families and business as we can and we’re creating good local jobs as we do that.  Austin area solar companies already employ over 600 people and meeting a 400 MW solar goal will create an estimated 420 new local direct and induced jobs each year from 2013 to 2020, with an average increase in local annual payroll of over $10 million.”

Rally for Solar on August 7th

Please put August 7th on your calendar for the Rally for Solar at noon in front of City Hall.

Solar SavesThe Local Solar Advisory Committee that City Council formed last year unanimously recommended a 400 megawatt solar goal for Austin by 2020. The economic benefits will far outweigh the costs. Now is the time for City Council to adopt the 400 megawatt goal.

Please join us at noon on August 7th in front of City Hall, and bring a friend or co-worker along too!

We are also advocating for Austin’s first ever community solar program so everyone, including those who rent, can take advantage of solar.

City Council will be setting the budget for the coming year in August. They need to hear that solar must be a priority and that the 400 megawatt goal should be adopted now.