Tag Archive: Solar Austin

Austin Energy Cutting Solar Credits

Is Austin Energy joining the war on solar?

Bit by bit, our publicly owned, nationally renowned, supposedly green electric utility is trying to roll back programs that support customer owned solar.

Austin Energy is cutting the value of solar tariff, which compensates solar owners for the energy they produce, by 16 percent on January 1.

A lower solar tariff means fewer people will choose to purchase solar panels, which means our environment and local economy will suffer.

Tell the Austin City Council to stand up for clean energy and pass a resolution delaying reduction of the solar tariff.

Cutting the solar tariff isn’t the only attack under way. On January 1, Austin Energy will also confiscate all solar credits. Customers earned those credits by providing energy that the utility took and sold. Now Austin Energy is planning to take those credits away.

And just this week, the utility cut solar rebates for the second time this year. These cuts were reportedly made to keep the program from running out of funds, but Austin Energy could have asked for more funding for the solar rebate budget.

The Austin City Council governs Austin Energy, so it’s up to it to keep the utility honest.

Demand a resolution delaying the solar tariff change until after the public has had a chance to give input.

While other utilities are fighting to keep customers from generating their own electricity, Austin Energy should not play that game.

Austin Energy’s solar programs have given it and our city great publicity and helped to build a growing solar economy in the Austin area. Let’s not lose that momentum.

Our utility needs to start listening to us – the people who own it.

Send the Austin City Council an email right now.

Please note that emails will be sent using a Public Citizen action page. You can remove yourself from their list at any time.

We only have a few days to stop this attack before the City Council takes its winter break. Please help by sharing this post with friends, family and neighbors in the Austin area. If you work for a solar company, please forward this email to your customers.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Karl Rábago – Advancing the Value of Solar

Austin Energy’s value of solar tariff (VOST) has received national attention. Join us to learn more about the VOST from the man behind it and to celebrate our recent victories for local solar in Austin.

When: Tuesday, November 19th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701

Please RSVP here.

We welcome Karl Rábago to the stage to share his experiences developing the award-winning value of solar tariff with his team at Austin Energy, and advancing it across the nation.

This topic is especially relevant because Austin Energy just re-evaluated the value of solar tariff.

Karl Rabago smilingKarl Rábago was one of the key developers of the VOST at Austin Energy and he’s a champion of renewable energy for Texas and across the country.

For a sneak peak of a few things Karl has been working on, check out his blog, Sparks.

About Karl Rábago: Karl has over 20 years experience in electricity policy and regulation, energy markets development, and energy technology development. He operates an energy consulting practice called Rábago Energy, LLC — providing strategic, policy, regulatory, and market development consulting in the clean and innovative energy sectors. Karl serves as Chair of the Board of the Center for Resource Solutions, a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization that works to advance voluntary clean energy markets. He also sits on the Board of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). You can access Rábago’s short bio here, and his full resume here.

*Note: Our December and January happy hours will be at Scholz Garten, but may not be on a Tuesday.*

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.”

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Expanding Solar Goals and Programs in Austin

Please note:
No happy hour in June.
Starting July 16, our happy hours will be on
the third Tuesday of each month
at Scholz Garten. 

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RSVP HERE

Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 5:30 – 8:00pm

Scholz Garten, in the Saloon (Private) room

1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX,78701 (map)

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Parking is usually free in the state parking garages after 6:00 p.m.

State Parking Garages can be found next to, behind and across from Scholz Garten. San Jacinto Blvd., 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and Trinity have parking garage entrances.

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We invite you to join us on for a happy hour discussion of solar goals and programs at Austin Energy and how to ensure that Austin maintains its role as a solar leader in Texas.
 
In April, 2012, Austin City Council established the Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC) to develop a strategic plan for utilizing solar energy resources in Austin.  The LSAC was a 20-member citizen committee with broad representation from the community and a wealth of expertise on solar energy.
Over the course of five months, the LSAC researched many aspects of solar energy and developed a report with recommendations for how Austin should expand development of our solar energy resources.  On November 1, 2012, the LSAC unanimously approved the report, titled “A Strategic Plan for Local Solar in Austin“.
The report shows that Austin Energy can cost effectively develop 400-600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020.  The LSAC also recommended several other policy changes, including:
  • a regular review of our progress toward our solar goals,
  • establishing community solar options for those who rent or have a roof that is shaded or facing the wrong direction, and
  • improving financing options.
Austin City Council will soon be working on the 2014 budget, so now is a great time to make sure that the LSAC recommendations are implemented and appropriate funding for program expansions is allocated. 
 
Austin has lead the way on solar development in Texas, largely because solar advocates like you have shared your views and expertise with Austin Energy and Austin City Council.
Please join us on Tuesday, July 16th at Scholz Garten to hear more about the LSAC recommendations and how we can make ourselves heard at City Hall.  Members of our board of directors will speak briefly about the issues and then open the floor to comments, questions and discussion.
5:30 PM: Happy Hour and Networking
6:30 PM: Speakers and Discussion

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Tech Innovation Beyond the Panel: Energy Optimization

RSVP HERE

Wednesday, May 15th, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Spiderhouse Cafe, 2908 Fruth Street, Austin, TX (map)

(in the back, under the big white tent)

Advancements in power converters allow modern solar installations to perform more efficiently and owners to monitor their systems accurately in real time.

On May 15th, we’ll hear from leaders in the power converter field.  Each has decades of experience to share.  We hope you’ll join us to learn more about energy optimization.

RSVP HERE

Panelist information:

Ray Burgess  Ray Burgess

Ray is the president of Draker Energy.  He has extensive experience in corporate leadership and general management with over 30 years in the technology industry.  Mr. Burgess co-founded Solar Power Technologies in 2009 and served as President and CEO through the successful merger with Draker Laboratories Inc. in August 2012.  He previously served as CEO of Teravicta Technologies Inc, a Texas based MEMS switch company and of Tao Group, a UK company delivering multimedia software solutions to the wireless industry.  Mr. Burgess spent over 20 years with the Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector and was a member of the executive team that led the company through its transition to Freescale Semiconductor and its successful IPO in July 2004.

Draker Energy was founded in 1999.  Draker is the global leader in performance monitoring and control of solar power systems. They are the first company in the United States to provide independent monitoring and performance analysis of energy produced by solar arrays. The type of independent energy metering, verification, reporting, and performance analysis we pioneered has become a key contributor to the rapid growth of the solar industry, allowing for validation and enforcement of incentive payment schemes around the world.

John Merritt  John Merritt

John has 30+ years of technical experience spanning product marketing, product development, engineering, and project management in high-tech companies.  Prior to joining Ideal Power Converters in early 2013, he spent 3 years at Draker working on both solar monitoring and solar power optimization technologies.  In additional to his interests in solar and energy storage, John is passionate about sustainable business practices, energy efficiency and water use, and the smart grid.

Ideal Power Converters has invented, patented and commercialized a revolutionary new technology that significantly improves the weight, size, cost, efficiency and reliability of electronic power converters – the conduits to modern energy.  Based on patented indirect Energy Packet SwitchingTM topology that uses a standard lightweight hardware design and embedded application-specific software, IPC serves the multi-billion dollar power conversion markets of renewable energy, electrical energy efficiency, smart grids and electric vehicles.

Paul Malone  Craig Lawrence

Craig is the VP Marketing at SolarBridge Technologies.  He is responsible for strategic marketing, product management, product marketing and marketing communications.  Prior to joining the company, Lawrence served in executive roles at SunEdison, a global leader in solar energy, including vice president of products and general manager of Sun Edison’s Residential and Light Commercial Business Unit.  Prior to SunEdison, Lawrence led the Energy Practice at IDEO, a global design and innovation firm providing product design, engineering and marketing services to leading renewable energy companies and utilities.  Lawrence also led energy investing activities as a principal at Accel Partners, a top Silicon Valley venture capital firm.  Lawrence holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.

SolarBridge Technologies offers solar module manufacturers and installers an innovative microinverter solution that makes rooftop solar simpler, more cost-efficient and reliable.  With the SolarBridge AC Module System, module manufacturers and installers can offer their customers a complete, roof-ready AC module solution.  With an integrated SolarBridge Pantheon, each AC module can perform its own power conversion.  Their on-site and web-based management system completes the solution for 24/7 monitoring of every customer’s system.