Energy Biz - May/June 2010 - (Page 32)
Any national energy plan will not depend solely on carbon having a price. It needs to include low-cost financing for retrofits and generation so that investors will be pulled quickly into what has always been a distressingly slow growth sector. It needs to include regulatory incentives so that utilities and merchants have new opportunities to do well by doing good. It needs to use the profit motive — and not just the avoidance of caps and allowances — to motivate firms to make the short- and long-term commitments that create good jobs.
Reed Hundt is the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital. He is the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
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the part of utilities to adopt new sources of energy such as solar. What these analyses miss is the fact that solar power has a great deal to offer to American utilities that need lowcost, clean and reliable energy. The solar industry and utilities can work in partnership to better meet America’s electricity needs while creating quality, high-paying jobs. The public is increasingly demanding clean solar energy. A recent survey by Kelton Research found that 92 percent of the American public believes it is important for the United States to develop and use solar energy. For many reasons, such as the deteriorating climate and our dependence on foreign oil, customers are becoming more concerned about where the energy they use comes from. Many utilities are recognizing this reality and reacting. Public Service Electric & Gas will provide nearly $105 million in loans to customers to install PV installations in their residences. Further down the East Coast, Florida Power & Light — highlighted by a visit from President Obama — turned the switch on a 25-megawatt utility-scale PV project last October that is the largest in the nation. It will reliably power 3,000 homes with clean electricity. At its peak of construction the facility created 400 American jobs. Austin Energy is launching a new solar rebate program, while CenterPoint is planning to put smart meters on each of its customers’ Houston homes. Even utilities in America’s fossil fuel capital are seeing the potential synergies with solar. But how can we get widespread adoption of solar by utilities? We need policies that stop favoring fossil fuels and give solar energy the opportunity to compete. Those policies are outlined in the Solar Bill of Rights (www.SolarBillofRights. org). These eight rights would create a policy environment that allows solar to compete on a level playing field with fossil fuel sources. For several of these rights, the policies are related directly to utilities. The lack of a modern transmission grid has made it diffi32 E n E rgyB i z
cult for our nation’s utility companies to access the rich solar resources of the American Southwest. Improving the grid will offer utilities more choices from which they can purchase power. More choices mean lower costs for consumers. An improved electric grid will offer ancillary benefits to utilities as well. A more technologically advanced grid will allow for better peak load management no matter what energy source is being used. Not only is our electric grid outdated, but also rules for connecting to it vary by state and utility. Streamlining these standards will help both utilities and their customers take advantage of new, cost-competitive energy sources. We also support a national net metering standard so that electricity consumers can sell the excess energy they generate with their solar systems back to the grid at full retail electricity rates. By supporting distributed generation, utilities can help better balance peak loads. Some companies have also developed utility-scale solar thermal systems to supplement steam generation in fossilfired power plants to boost peak production or reduce fossil fuel usage. This application can be a crucial benefit for utilities operating where air permits are scarce. Solar power is here and the utilities that embrace it will be best positioned to meet growing consumer demand. Our industry offers utilities the opportunity to provide their customers with clean, reliable, cost-competitive energy, right now. More than that, we offer utilities a partner that will work jointly for a better, more reliable energy grid. To achieve our industries’ mutual goals, it will be absolutely necessary to create these real partnerships.
Rhone Resch is president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
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