September 22, 2017
by Toby Sun
“As a U.S. based company, LimeBike is proud to bring another sustainable, affordable transportation option to our nation’s capital. We look forward to seeing all the ways we can continue to work to improve urban mobility and transportation for all of D.C.”
— LimeBike CEO & Co-founder, Toby Sun
What a week it has been… LimeBike has officially launched in Washington DC, making this this our 9th city launch!

Use promo code HELLODC and receive free rides until end of September 2017.

PAYMENT: LimeBike’s rides cost just $1.00, or 50 cents for students, per 30-minute time block. LimeBike is the first dockless bike share to offer a cash program, which allows riders to unlock their rides in their preferred method of payment.

HOW TO LIME: Bikes are GPS and 3G-enabled, making it simple for riders to find, unlock and pick up a nearby bike using the iOS or Android smartphone app. When the ride is finished, riders simply lock the bike’s back wheel and responsibly park between the pedestrian-designated sidewalk and the street curb, or at a bike rack. For more details, you can visit our How To Lime page or FAQ.

WHY LIMEBIKE: The dockless network makes it easier for D.C. residents and visitors to explore the whole city on two wheels.

Since our launch, LimeBike has provided nearly 350,000 rides to more than 200,000 riders. This has saved over 120,000 pounds of CO2, the equivalent of over 6,200 gallons of gasoline- all in 17 markets. By embracing sustainable transportation options like LimeBike, D.C. is paving the way for other cities to adopt bike sharing programs. By collaborating with local government, we are leading the urban mobility movement.

“LimeBike imagines its bikes as a complement or alternative to the existing transportation system.” – DCist

“The next-most ubiquitous arrival, bright green LimeBikes with their yellow fenders and chain guards, certainly stand out. Upping the safety game, LimeBikes’ airless tires feature reflective sidewalls, and they sport front and rear LEDs that run off a generator hub in the front wheel. We loved the swept-back handlebar that allowed for a relaxed, upright riding position.” – The Washington Post

“This company, which claims to be the fastest growing dockless US-based bikeshare company, differentiates itself from the pack by partnering with colleges and local businesses in order to provide subsidy-free services.” – DC Curbed

2020 Utility-Scale Solar Goal Achieved

SEPTEMBER 12, 2017
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The Department of Energy announced today the solar industry has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the SunShot Initiative. When DOE launched the SunShot Initiative, it set ambitious goals to make grid-connected solar electricity market-competitive with other forms of energy, without subsidies, by 2020. Three years earlier than expected, the average price of utility-scale solar is now 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Residential- and commercial-scale solar costs have also come down steadily, lowering to 16 and 11 cents per kWh respectively, and work continues to reach the 2020 cost targets of 10 and 8 cents. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, low module prices have been the largest driver of cost reductions, while the more stubborn “soft” costs—like labor, permitting, interconnection, customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration—remain challenges.

As it continues to work toward the remaining 2020 goals for commercial and residential solar, the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is looking to 2030 with a new vision to address the nation’s critical energy challenges: grid reliability, resilience, and affordability. Over the next decade, SETO will focus on the remaining challenges that constrain the growth of solar, while halving the cost of solar.

SunShot LCOE bar chart 2030 goals utility-scale 2020 met
With support from SETO, the solar industry has been able to drastically cut costs that have enabled technological innovation and market growth, making America a leader in research and innovation in the energy sector. In the last 10 years, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased immensely — from 290 megawatts in 2008 to an estimated 47.1 gigawatts in 2017 — enough to power the equivalent of 9.1 million average American homes and representing more than 1.5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply. Learn more about how the SunShot Initiative’s research has impacted every step of the going solar process.


National Renewable Energy Laboratory, PV Benchmarking Report
News release: Energy Department Announces Achievement of SunShot Goal, New Focus for Solar Energy Office
Photography: A collection of high-quality solar photography can be found on the DOE Flickr page

Funding Opportunity Announcement: Advanced Power Electronics Designs for Solar Applications

Subprogram: Systems Integration
Funding Number: DE-FOA-0001740
Funding Amount: $20 million


The Advanced Power Electronics Designs for Solar Applications funding program will help the industry develop new technology to improve the devices that serve as the critical link between solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays and the electric grid. Advanced smart inverters and other power electronics will allow utilities to collect data on photovoltaic (PV) systems and better support voltage and frequency regulation, enabling operators to pinpoint and regulate solar production levels. Given that all solar PV-generated electricity must flow through a power electronic device, this presents an opportunity to innovate and discover new applications that lower costs, offer enhanced services for improved lifetime value, and lower grid integration costs. Ultimately, these projects will improve the reliability and security of our national electric grid by improving the interface point between solar and the grid.

The FOA is divided into two topic areas:

Holistic solar PV inverter/converter designs that lower lifetime costs by lowering upfront costs, extending product life, improving efficiencies, and lowering manufacturing costs; and
Modular, multifunctional power electronics designs that enhance solar power electronics with new functionalities, including those that direct integration energy end use devices, provide online operations and maintenance services, support controls to reduce grid integration costs, and aid in orderly recovery from grid outages to improve resiliency, among others.
SunShot expects to make 10-15 awards under this funding program, each ranging between $0.5 million and $3 million for a total of $20 million. Projects will have a 20% cost share and up to a 3-year performance period. Prior to submitting a full application for this opportunity, a brief, mandatory concept paper is due on October 12, 2017. See all application deadlines in the table below.

FOA Issue Date: September 7, 2017
Informational Webinar: September 21, 2017, 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET
Submission Deadline for Mandatory Concept Papers: October 12, 2017 5:00pm ET
Submission Deadline for Full Applications: December 15, 2017 5:00pm ET
Expected Submission Deadline for Replies to Reviewer Comments: January 26, 2018 5:00pm ET
Expected Date for EERE Selection Notifications: March 2018
Expected Timeframe for Award Negotiations: 60-90 days

Additional Information

Download the full funding opportunity on the EERE Exchange website

Read the press release about this funding opportunity announcement

For FOA-specific support, contact

See more funding opportunities from SunShot and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest news.

Solar insiders expect ITC harm finding, handing tariff decision to Trump

AUTHOR:Herman K. Trabish PUBLISHED Sept. 19, 2017

President Trump may soon get to decide the fate of the U.S. solar industry.

Sector leaders are confident the International Trade Commission will find that imported solar panels have hurt domestic manufacturers, but how the president will respond remains unclear.

On Sept. 22, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is expected to decide whether the importation of cheap solar modules from China has unfairly disadvantaged U.S.-based solar manufacturers. If it finds harm, the president will decide whether to grant the request of two companies to impose import tariffs on Chinese modules, or find a different remedy.

How the president views the issue is unclear, but solar insiders anticipate that he will be pressed into a decision. In conversations with more than a dozen solar manufacturers, financiers and installers at the Solar Power International conference last week, not one expected the ITC to dismiss the petition (201-075).

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“It’s a very narrow case about solar cells and modules that are made with these solar cells,” said Barry Spicer, founder of installer Spice Solar and a board member of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Although I am opposed to it, I think they’re going to come to the conclusion that most rational people would that the U.S. solar cell industry was harmed.”

Other solar executives agreed that the decision on tariffs would likely fall to the president, implying an ITC finding of harm.

George Hershman, vice president of Swinerton Renewable Energy, acknowledged that the president has supported tariffs and protectionism in his rhetoric. But, he said, “I don’t see him approving a tariff that kills jobs for his hardhat-wearing supporters.”

Bill Vietas, president of racking manufacturer RBI Solar, was less confident.

“The president can do whatever he wants,” he said.

A finding of harm would be a significant victory for manufacturers SolarWorld and Suniva, which declared bankruptcy shortly before filing the petition. The companies have driven a wedge through the solar industry with their tariff push, proposing a $0.40/watt duty on imported cells and a floor price of $0.78/watt on imported modules.

“We have been injured by imports, many of which come from manufacturers with massive state support,” said Ben Santarris, communications head for SolarWorld. “The government will decide on the remedy. We have a lot of confidence in the facts and in the ITC.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the major trade group for solar in the U.S., is leading the charge against the petition.

“One key argument against it is jobs,” SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross-Hopper said during a panel discussion at SPI.

Analysts calculate the U.S. has about 260,000 solar jobs. Only about 38,000 are in manufacturing. The petitioners argue that a tariff on imported panels could restore “fair competition,” leading to an increase in manufacturing jobs.

SEIA and other solar companies say import duties would drive up the solar system costs and threaten far more non-manufacturing solar jobs. Dueling employment studies have fueled the debate, and SEIA argues the two manufacturers are not representative of the wider solar industry.

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The two sides made their cases to the ITC during an all-day hearing in August. As the sector girds itself for the commission decision, some say the president has better options to support domestic manufacturing than a tariff.

A divided sector

SolarWorld’s post-hearing brief argues the evidence of injury to domestic manufacturers is “overwhelming.”

During the period of investigation from 2012 to 2016, U.S. solar prices fell “roughly 60%,” according to the brief. This led to a 350% increase in demand for solar systems in the U.S., but because imports grew over five times in that period, U.S. production growth was “minimal.”

SolarWorld presented evidence that 19 U.S. solar manufacturers shuttered facilities over the period of investigation, even as the rapidly expanding solar market experienced supply shortages.

The “staggering losses” suffered by domestic manufacturers during a period of rising U.S. demand “can only be explained” by “surging, low-priced imports,” the brief argues.

Despite domestic manufacturing losses, SEIA’s post-hearing brief notes that much of the U.S. solar industry is opposed to the tariff petition. The trade group filed with co-respondent SunPower, a major U.S. vertically-integrated solar company with manufacturing and installation arms.

The “unprecedented” pushback is because the tariff threatens far more U.S. jobs “than will ever exist in the cell and module producing sector,” the respondents argue. The “vast majority” of the shuttered companies cited by the petitioners occurred “primarily for reasons other than imports.” Many bankruptcies were because “companies bet on the wrong technologies.”

U.S. solar manufacturing also failed to take advantage of protections in a 2015 ITC ruling against Chinese manufacturers for unfair trade practices, the filing adds.

Suniva takes exception to those claims in its post-hearing brief.

Until its bankruptcy in April 2017, “Suniva made every effort to compete,” the filing argues. But it “was steadily forced out of that market by the relentless deluge of low-priced imports.”

Imports were needed to meet U.S. demand for modules not because of U.S. manufacturers’ failures but because of loopholes in the 2015 ITC ruling against Chinese manufacturers, Suniva’s filing argued.

Other market factors do not explain the fate of U.S. manufacturers in recent years and arguments that low quality products caused U.S. manufacturers’ failures are “not supported by the facts,” Suniva argues.

Regardless of harm to domestic manufacturers, SEIA’s brief stresses that a tariff would also damage the ability of solar generation to compete against fossil fuels and other renewables. Solar’s newly achieved cost reductions have left most of the U.S. solar industry “thriving,” respondents argue.

“Although petitioners have experienced recent self-inflicted difficulties, other members of the U.S. cell and module industry are investing,” they wrote. “And the U.S. government continues to provide strong support for R&D.”

The letter

During a panel appearance at SPI, Hershman of Swinerton Renewables argued that a letter to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce revealed in May undermined Suniva’s tariff arguments.

Venture capital group SQN Capital Management is the largest creditor of Chinese-owned Suniva, having provided $51 million in equipment financing. In a May 3 letter, the company’s president outlines a plan that would see Suniva drop its tariff push if a member of the Chinese Chamber agreed to buy $55 million worth of Suniva equipment so the manufacturer could repay its debts to SQN.

If such a deal went through, the trade case “would be withdrawn,” SQN President Jeremiah Silkowski wrote, as the company would stop providing funding to Suniva under its bankruptcy.

“If SQN were to arrange a sale of the equipment that secures its investment, SQN would have no interest in providing additional funding to Suniva and the company would have to convert to a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy where the assets are liquidated and the company ceases to exist,” he wrote.

Swinerton called SQN’s offer “an attempt to extort money out of manufacturers that has now put all our jobs at risk.” Suniva did not respond to requests for comment.

Competing job claims

Competing job claims and economic impact analyses have animated the solar tariff debate.

SolarWorld’s concern is that cheap imports have cost the U.S. high-wage manufacturing jobs that have “a relatively bigger impact on the economy” than jobs in the installation sector, Santarris said.

“We can compete with any company in the world but we can’t compete with countries on the scale of China and we shouldn’t have to,” he added. “With the tariff, there will be a pretty sizable job gain in manufacturing employment.”

A employment study by law firm Mayer-Brown funded by SolarWorld concluded effective remedies from the ITC “would result in a net gain in employment of at least between 114,796 and 144,298 jobs for the U.S. solar industry.”

Using data from The Solar Foundation and forecasts from GTM Research, the study found there would be “as many as 45,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs” in cell and module manufacturing and in upstream sectors supported by manufacturing.

“It also includes an increase of 98,020 U.S. non-manufacturing jobs, including 65,830 U.S. installation jobs,” the study added.

Mayer Brown assumed all U.S. manufacturing capacity would remain operational and at least 2 GW of production capacity would be added. That would add between 37,500 and 45,500 jobs, between $2.5 billion and $3.3 billion in wages, and other investment which would generate “significant” new economic benefits, the study concluded.

Those findings are significantly more optimistic than studies from SEIA and independent parties.

A GTM Research report found the petitioners’ proposed penalties — a $0.40/watt tariff on imported cells and a floor price of $0.78/watt for modules — would cause profound harm to the U.S. industry.

Without tariffs, GTM forecasts cumulative U.S. solar installations from 2018 to 2022 would be 72.5 GW. With a $0.78/watt minimum module price, that forecast falls to 36.4 GW. Add in the $0.40/watt cell tariff, and the forecast reaches only 25 GW over that time.

In a separate calculation, SEIA took the existing solar deployment forecast for 2018 as a baseline and assumed the petition’s remedies would increase the cost of solar to what it was in 2015. A comparison of 2015 jobs to the jobs needed to achieve the 2018 deployment forecast concluded the industry would lose 88,000 jobs.

Additional SEIA numbers raised further questions. SolarWorld’s 550 MW factory employs less than 500 people, the trade group noted. If the Mayer Brown study is correct that the tariff will produce 2 GW (2,000 MW) of new production capacity, that would account for about 2,000 jobs, not 100,000 jobs, SEIA argued.

Hugh Bromley, lead U.S. solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said comparing the studies is complicated by their distinct assumptions.

The Mayer-Brown study takes solar job numbers for 2015 as a baseline and calculates job growth going forward. This allowed it to include already achieved record-breaking 2015 and 2016 solar job growth in its projections.

Bromley said a more accurate approach would compare, as SEIA did, an accounting of what would happen under a business-as-usual case with a statistical profile of what would happen if there was a tariff.

Even with a tariff, the solar industry will grow and create jobs, Bromley said. The important question is how many fewer jobs would be created if there is a tariff than there would be in a business-as-usual case without it. The SEIA answer was 88,000 jobs; Mayer-Brown does not answer that question.

Bromley suggested an alternate statistical approach.

“The current generation of PV cell production facilities require around 800 personnel per GW of annual production capacity,” he said via email. Current U.S. local demand will require about 8 GW of additional cell production capacity.

That means a “maximum of 6,400 jobs” could be created in manufacturing, Bromley calculated. With a tariff driving prices up and demand down, “downstream job losses would almost certainly exceed any manufacturing gains.” And, Bromley added, it is likely much of the 8 GW of required local capacity would grow offshore jobs rather than U.S. solar manufacturing jobs.

Alternative remedies?

If President Trump approves the proposed tariffs, he could “wipe out the U.S. solar industry,” warned Jigar Shah, president of Generate Capital.

But the White House knows a severe tariff would “hurt Republican investments in solar and solar businesses and jobs in states that support him,” Shah said. The likely compromise is a tariff that just “levels the playing field for U.S. manufacturers.”

Shah called for better policies than tariffs to support U.S. manufacturers, saying “the federal government has done little to protect U.S. manufacturing since the Carter administration.”

Shah suggested using DOE grants or the estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion collected in 2015 tariff duties to fund manufacturing centers.

Other solar executives echoed Shah’s calls.

“I’m disappointed with U.S. industrial policy towards solar cell and module manufacturing,” said Spicer of Spice Solar. “Manufacturers are working hard but U.S. policy does not support them and, more disappointingly, our industry lobbying organizations don’t support them.”

Steve Ostrenga, vice president for sales with China-based module manufacturer Seraphim Solar USA, said a production-based incentive would better support U.S. manufacturers.

“A buyer who gets paid for kWhs is more concerned about production and reliability and quality and that would support high quality domestic manufacturing over imported products,” said Ostrenga. He also suggested support for worker retraining programs.

SEIA’s Ross-Hopper said the association has supported U.S. manufacturing by fighting for the investment tax credit and net energy metering.

“We have created a market so that manufacturers have customers,” she said.

SEIA might, she said, also advocate for better manufacturing-specific policies, funding for worker retraining programs, and DOE grants to fund manufacturing centers. The duties from the 2015 tariffs are being held “until all litigation is finalized,” she added.

How the White House will respond to an expected ITC harm ruling remains an open question. Though the president reportedly issued a broad call for tariffs to his economic team earlier this year, the administration did not respond to requests for comment and Trump has not directly addressed the solar issue.

Like most at SPI, Spicer said he is not hopeful the White House will choose solar growth over the political appeal of protectionism. “In which case,” he said, “we’re looking at tariffs.”

Record Number of Cities To Take Part in 7th Annual National Drive Electric Week

From Hawaii to New Hampshire, from Australia to Croatia, National Drive Electric Week Expected to be Bigger than Ever

Monday, July 24, 2017 Contact:Sian Wu, (206) 374-7795 x105 Lauren Lantry, (202) 548-6599

Where can I charge my vehicle?

What else will I need?
What else will I need?

Record Number of Cities To Take Part in 7th Annual National Drive Electric Week

From Hawaii to New Hampshire, from Australia to Croatia, National Drive Electric Week Expected to be Bigger than Ever
Monday, July 24, 2017
Sian Wu, (206) 374-7795 x105
Lauren Lantry, (202) 548-6599

WASHINGTON — For six years, National Drive Electric Week has inspired drivers to ditch the gas station. The seventh annual National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) is on track to boast more events than ever before. Still two months away from National Drive Electric Week, there are more than 175 registered events across the globe featuring plug-in electric vehicle (EV) ride-n-drives and related activities from Sept. 9 to 17, 2017 with more registered events coming in every week. Through test drives, parades, news conferences and announcements of new EV policies and programs, NDEW community events demonstrate how EVs are greener, cheaper, and more fun to operate than conventional vehicles. Last year, there were 235 National Drive Electric Week events with 7,500 test drives and 120,000 attendees.
EV drivers are no longer an anomaly. Electric cars are entering the mainstream, with some major roll-outs recently. The next generation Nissan LEAF is slated for release in September; Chrysler just debuted the world’s first-ever plug-in hybrid electric minivan; GM’s Chevy Bolt EV, the first 238 mile range car under $40,000, will soon be available in all 50 states; Volvo announced that starting in 2019, all of its new models will be electrified; and more than 300,000 fans eagerly await the first delivery of Tesla Model 3 later this summer.

Just this summer, cities and even entire countries have built on a global movement to plug-in. Here’s the proof:
London’s mayor announced that London’s entire public transport system will be zero-emission by 2050.
France announced it plans to end sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 and the UK by 2050. They join Germany, India,Netherlands and Norway, which have already made similar commitments.
Next week, the United State’s second largest public transit agency – the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – is expected to approve a contract to switch to zero emission electric buses by 2030.

“With more cities committing to 100% clean energy, more EVs on the market than ever before, and with electric vehicle sales rising 37% this past year, it’s clear there are no detours on the road to clean energy. The popularity of National Drive Electric Week events is proof that American consumers want 21st Century solutions to transportation and climate disruption,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club Electric Vehicle Initiative director.
National Drive Electric Week is based on the idea that to convert gasoline-powered car owners to electric vehicles owners, nothing beats learning from existing owners and taking test drives in clean, quiet and powerful plug-in electric vehicles. The event showcases the cost savings, clean air benefits, and fun of plug-ins. Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association team up with local groups to organize events, which typically feature all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars from every automaker on the market. Numerous past attendees from around the country have purchased or leased plug-ins as a direct result of Drive Electric Week events, sales have jumped by as much as 23 percent the month after.

“American consumers are finding that EVs are just better cars all around, and we’re seeing this attitude in the sales numbers,” said Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America. “When a car is less expensive, easier to maintain, cheaper to fuel and most importantly, better to drive, no matter what the brand, consumers will respond to the innovation we’ve seen in the electric vehicle market.”
Most Drive Electric Week events are organized by volunteers. They’re held in state capitals and small towns alike. Among this year’s highlights:

Scottsdale, Arizona: This event will have every electric vehicle available for purchase in Arizona from the Tesla Model S, to Ford Focus EV, Kia Soul EV, Chevy Spark EV, to the Smart Car EV. Come learn about charging locations at the over 500 locations in Arizona.

Louisville, KY: Louisville’s NDEW event centers around an EV movie night. Attendees can check out all the EVs in the parking lot (before and after the film) and talk with EV owners about their experiences.
Las Vegas, NV: This event takes place under a photovoltaic solar canopy that tracks the sun during the day and provides power to two EV charging stations.

Durham, NH: The Energy Committee of the Town of Durham, NH is putting on its third annual National Drive Electric Week event held in conjunction with Durham Day, the town’s annual celebration with free food, drinks, kayak demonstrations, boat rides, and more. Chevrolet, BMW, Nissan, Tesla, and other dealers are likely to have electric vehicles and offer free test drives, and EV charging is provided free of charge!
Honolulu, HI: Honolulu’s second annual National Drive Electric Week event includes an EV caravan that drives all over Oahu. The caravan is followed by an event open to EV owners and non-owners alike, with opportunities to talk to EV owners about why they love to drive electric.
Westerly, RI: The Westerly NDEW event is being held in in partnership with the Misquamicut Business Association’s Fall Festival. After attendees take an EV test drive, they can check out the amusement rides, listen to the concert, and explore the beach.

Watts, CA: Watt’s second annual event features info on all of the available rebates and financing options to help low-income communities drive away air pollution with electric vehicles.
“With three more affordable new models all achieving longer range than the earlier EVs from major automakers – we should see more adoption of fully electric drive in the U.S.A.starting this year. It’s exciting to see progress on so many fronts, and the reasons to not go electric are disappearing” said Ron Freund, Chairman of the Electric Auto Association.

The environmental and financial benefits combined with the growing convenience of electric vehicles, from longer ranges to expanding charging infrastructure, are causing a steady increase in use. Each year, American passenger cars and trucks, through vehicle tailpipe, oil extraction and transport emissions, spew upward of three trillion tons of carbon pollution into the air by burning about 121 billion gallons of gasoline. In the U.S., reducing emissions in the energy and transportation sectors could prevent almost 300,000 early deaths caused by air pollution by 2030. Globally air pollution causes 6.5 million deaths per year.
Find an event near you (additional events to be announced), volunteer or launch an event in your community and view previous media announcements and coverage.
Nissan and its all-electric LEAF have served as the event’s exclusive automotive sponsor since 2013. ClipperCreek, Inc. and California Air Resources Board are also national sponsors.

SunShot Initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In conjunction with the annual Solar Power International conference, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released new research today that shows the solar industry has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the SunShot Initiative. Largely due to rapid cost declines in solar photovoltaic (PV) hardware, the average price of utility-scale solar is now 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Given this success, DOE is looking beyond SunShot’s 2020 goals with an expanded 2030 vision for the Solar Energy Technologies Office. Specifically, while DOE will continue research to drive down costs, new funding programs will focus on a broader scope of Administration priorities, which includes early-stage research to address solar energy’s critical challenges of grid reliability, resilience, and storage.

“With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the Secretary’s priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy.”

To further the new priorities for DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, Acting Assistant Secretary Simmons today announced up to $82 million in early-stage research in two areas:

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP): Up to $62 million will support advances in CSP technologies to enable on-demand solar energy. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a focused point where it is collected and converted into heat. This thermal energy can be stored and used to produce electricity when the sun is not shining or integrated into other applications, such as producing fresh water or supplying process heat. Learn more about the Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power funding opportunity HERE.
Power Electronics: Up to $20 million is dedicated to early-stage projects to advance power electronics technologies. Such innovations are fundamental to solar PV as the critical link between PV arrays and the electric grid. Advances in power electronics will help grid operators rapidly detect problems and respond, protect against physical and cyber vulnerabilities, and enable consumers to manage electricity use. Learn more about the Power Electronics funding opportunity HERE.
Awardees will be required to contribute 20 percent of the funds to their overall project budget, yielding total public and private spending of nearly $100 million. The funds provided are not grants, but cooperative agreements, which involve substantial federal oversight and consist of go/no-go technical milestones that ensure attentive stewardship of projects.

Solar energy currently supplies about 1.5 percent of U.S. electricity. With DOE’s help, the solar industry has drastically cut costs to enable technological innovation and market growth. In the last 10 years, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased from 1.1 gigawatts (GW) in 2007 to an estimated 47.1 GW in 2017—enough to power the equivalent of 9.1 million average American homes.

According to the report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory released today, low module prices have been the primary driver of cost reductions for solar energy. The more stubborn “soft” costs like labor, permitting, interconnection, customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration, remain challenges.

To learn more about the work being done by the Department’s Solar Energy Technologies Office visit their website HERE.

Notice of Intent to Issue Solar Desalination

Subprogram: Concentrating Solar Power
Funding Number: DE-FOA-0001821

The SunShot Initiative intends to release a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for solar desalination technology, which supports research, development, and potential demonstration of early- stage technologies that can significantly reduce the costs of desalination powered by solar thermal energy.

Rather than utilizing high-value electricity as an energy input, solar thermal desalination can achieve lower costs than current reverse osmosis systems by lowering the cost of collecting and storing solar thermal energy and increasing the efficiency of thermal desalination technologies. The Solar Desalination funding opportunity announcement may include four areas of interest:

Low cost solar thermal heat;
Innovative thermal desalination techniques;
Solar thermal integrated desalination; and
Solar thermal desalination analysis.
Download the full notice of intent HERE, which includes more information on the topic areas. The funding opportunity announcement is expected to be released on or about September 25, 2017. All of the information in the notice is subject to change.

See more funding opportunities from SunShot and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest news.

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Why utilities don’t think Trump will stop the clean energy transition

AUTHOR:Gavin Bade@GavinBade
PUBLISHED: March 28, 2017

Today, President Trump is poised to release a long-anticipated executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate initiative.

The order is expected to be accompanied by directives to lift a moratorium on federal land coal leases and to cease the use of the social cost of carbon — all part of a broad campaign to dismantle environmental regulations on the power sector that Trump blames for the decline of the coal economy in the United States.

But while rescinding the rules could help slow coal power’s decline in the short term, analysts say it is unlikely to reverse its long-term downturn, mostly due to the economics of natural gas and renewables.

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That attitude is shared not just by market observers, but by electric utilities themselves. According to Utility Dive’s fourth annual State of the Electric Utility Survey, the sector plans to keep moving steadily toward a cleaner, more distributed energy future — no matter what happens with the Clean Power Plan.

2017 State of the Electric Utility Survey Report
For an in-depth look at the survey results and insights into the state and future of electric utility, get the full report »
Early in 2017, Utility Dive surveyed more than 600 electric utility professionals across the United States. The results indicate that utilities expect to source more power from renewables, distributed resources and natural gas in the coming years, while coal continues to decline.

The outlook of utility executives on the future power mix Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

The results reflect a sector that largely supports some form of carbon regulation on the federal level. Though more than two-thirds of respondents indicated their company owns generation resources, only a quarter said they do not want the federal government to pursue a policy of decarbonization whatsoever.

Utility executives’ sentiment on federal decarbonization policy Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

Those responses are two of the top-line takeaways from this year’s 92-page report, which reveals a sector that is grappling for policy certainty on both the state and federal levels as it deals with an influx of new technologies and customer demands. Here are some more key findings from the report.

Most pressing challenges

President Trump’s push against carbon rules may grab headlines, but the 2017 survey indicates utility executives are significantly more concerned about other issues.

For the first time, physical and cyber security topped the list of utility sector concerns in 2017, with nearly three quarters of respondents indicating it is either “important” or “very important” today.

Security concerns were followed by more familiar utility issues with distributed energy policy, rate design reform, aging grid infrastructure and reliable integration of renewables and DERs — all issues which tracked close to the top in past Utility Dive surveys, the report notes.

The full chart of 20-plus utility challenges is available in the survey report. Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

The responses reflect a “deep unease in the utility industry over the state of its cyber protections,” according to the survey, after media reports of Russian election hacking and a scare over possible Kremlin malware at a Vermont utility.

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But security worries, while paramount to utilities, are far from their sole concerns. A majority of respondents indicated that the top nine issues facing utilities are either “important” or “very important” today, suggesting that the “growing complexity of the power sector and a rapid influx of emerging technologies are combining to create new concerns for electric utilities, while long-standing issues remain unresolved.”

Power generation

While utilities largely expect to add more renewables and gas in the coming years, the 2017 survey does include one bright spot for coal.

A plurality of respondents indicated their outlook on the resource is generally more favorable as a result of the Trump presidency, though they also overwhelmingly indicated they do not expect to source more power from coal plants themselves.

How utility executives believe the election of Donald Trump will affect various generation resources Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

Even if new coal plants are not planned, a rollback of the Clean Power Plan could allow some existing plants to operate longer in the future.

The future impacts of any regulatory actions still remain unclear. Earlier this year, the EIA forecasted that rescinding the Obama-era rules could allow coal to recapture the top spot in the U.S. power mix. But, the federal agency warned, an expansion of natural gas production could easily counteract that and contribute to an even faster decline for coal.

The sector’s uncertainty over the impacts of future environmental and market policy looms large in the 2017 survey. For the first time, respondents named policy uncertainty as the top challenge associated with their changing fuel mixes, beating out both customer cost and reliability concerns.

Utility executives’ greatest concerns with their changing fuel mixes Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

DERs and rate design

While utilities appear less sure about the future of bulk power resources, they are more confident about the trajectory of distributed energy resources.

More than 70% of respondents indicated they expect moderate-to-significant growth in rooftop solar, demand-side management and behind-the-meter storage. To facilitate the interconnection and control of those resources, more than 80% said they expect to see growth in grid communication technologies

Utility executives’ outlook on various distributed energy resources Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

As distributed resources grow, utilities expect to push for rate design reforms to mitigate their impacts and recover fixed grid costs. As in 2016, the sector indicated broad support for time-of-use rates and fixed charge increases, while demand charges were less popular.

How utiltiies want to reform their rate designs to better recover their fixed costs Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

But more than controlling the spread of DERs, the survey shows electric utilities are eager to get in on the game themselves. 90% of respondents believe their company should have a DER business model, with over half indicating they should pursue rate-based investments in distributed resources.

How utilities plan to build business models for DERs Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

Sentiment for rate-basing DER investments was strong across the industry. About 95% of respondents indicated utilities should be able to rate-base DERs under some circumstances, and more than 70% said they should be considered appropriate in most cases. This comes in stark contrast with the opinions of prominent solar advocates, who believe that utilities should typically not be allowed to rate-base DERs given their monopoly advantages.

Utility regulation

Utilities may prize certainty in most things, but if there’s one aspect of the industry they overwhelmingly want to change, it’s their regulatory models.

For the third year running, utilities named their regulatory model as the largest impediment to the evolution of their business models — edging out cost concerns.

The greatest obstacles to utility business model transformation Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

Though cost-of-service regulation has largely governed utility investments for the last century, respondents indicated they expect to move away from the traditional model in coming years and integrate more performance-based ratemaking.

Utility executives desire more performance-based regulation Credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

That move would largely be welcomed by the sector. Fewer than 10% of respondents indicated they think pure cost-of-service regulation is appropriate in the 21st century, while a plurality favored a mixture of traditional models with performance-based incentives.

Market reforms, plant retirements and more

The full State of the Electric Utility 2017 report contains a treasure trove of other findings on electricity market reforms, power plant retirements, utility regulation, DER policy and more. To date, it is our most comprehensive look at the attitudes of sector professionals and includes analysis by region and utility business model types.

We will further explore a number of trends from the report in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the broad narrative for the sector is clear: Even in the absence of federal action, favorable economics, customer sentiment and proactive state policies will combine with existing utility plans to continue to push the transition toward clean energy forward.

“In 2017 and beyond,” the survey concludes, “the continued evolution of the power sector — and the goal of decarbonization — may well rest with these states and their utilities.”

You can read more and download the full report here.

Filed Under: Generation Transmission & Distribution Solar & Renewables Energy Storage Distributed Energy Efficiency & Demand Response Regulation & Policy
Top image credit: State of the Electric Utility 2017

DOE grid study dominates FERC nomination hearing

AUTHOR Gavin Bade@GavinBade
PUBLISHED Sept. 8, 2017

The hearing illustrated how politicians of all stripes are deploying the study’s findings to support their views on power sector transformation.

The Department of Energy’s recently released grid study dominated the nomination hearing for two federal energy regulators this week as senators sought to ascertain their views on providing financial support for baseload generators.

In the hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate aide Richard Glick and energy lawyer Mark McIntyre, both nominated to sit on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), gave little direct indication of how they would use the study’s recommendations to shape policymaking. But the debate illustrated how both sides of the political spectrum are deploying the report’s findings to bolster their views on the power sector transformation.

The hearing, which also considered the nominations of two Department of Interior officials, touched on FERC’s jurisdiction over state energy policies, particularly nuclear supports.

The DOE staff study, released Aug. 23, found that the retirement of baseload coal and nuclear generators has not threatened reliability to this point. However, it also recommended that FERC explore how to better compensate generators for their resiliency benefits if the commission concludes reliability is under threat in the future.

Environmentalists and clean energy advocates fear that recommendation will be used by fossil fuel interests and their allies to push for financial supports to prop up coal plants that are otherwise uneconomic in the nation’s wholesale markets. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) took up that line in his questions for the nominees.

“The study expresses concerns that wholesale electricity markets do not adequately compensate coal and nuclear baseload power generation resources,” Barrasso said. “If this problem continues, baseload plants continue to be taken offline, the study concludes that reliability and resilience of the nation’s power grid may be at risk.”

Barrasso asked the nominees what action they would take “to improve how electricity markets compensate this baseload power generation.” Both nominees, however, said it would be “inappropriate” to give specific policy recommendations, as FERC has ongoing business on the subject.

“[FERC has] convened a series of conferences earlier this year on price formation in the energy markets with a particular eye toward issues along those lines,” said McIntyre, head of the energy practice at law firm Jones Day. “If confirmed to FERC, I would commit to looking very carefully at this issue and giving it the attention it deserves.”

The nominees did stress that FERC does not have the authority to shape the nation’s fuel mix directly. When Barrasso asked the pair if they agreed with a statement from acting FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee that coal plants should be “properly compensated to recognize the value they provide to the system,” the nominees demurred.

“The importance of [baseload] resources cannot be denied,” said McIntyre, who will chair the commission if confirmed. “However, FERC is not an entity whose role includes choosing fuels for the generation of electricity. FERC’s role rather is to ensure that the markets for the electricity generated by those facilities proceed in accordance with law.”

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Glick, a Democratic Senate aide to the Energy and Commerce Committee, said changing plant compensation is a “question of reliability.” Turning the grid study’s analysis around, he told Barrasso that its findings indicate that enhanced compensation may not be necessary at present.

“The Department of Energy grid study that was released recently … essentially suggests that the significant loss of baseload generation — both coal and nuclear — has not impaired reliability to date but also suggested it was something to keep an eye on in the future,” he said. “So, I think FERC and the DOE should keep an eye on that.”

Barrasso’s comments on the grid study contrasted those of his Democratic counterparts on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) outlined the environmental critique of the study to set up his questioning.

“I am concerned that the term ‘baseload power’ has potentially become less of an engineering term and more of a political term in recent years,” Heinrich said. “In particular, the indication within that report that potentially FERC should modify existing competitive markets for bulk power as an attempt to either prop up or subsidize central generation power technologies that are no longer cost competitive.”

Glick reiterated that changes to baseload plant compensation would have to come in the form of an initiative to preserve reliability or resiliency, and that he doesn’t see that as an immediate issue. McIntyre again promised to give the issue close consideration.

“The commission does not have the authority, nor should it, to prop up a failing technology,” Glick said. “The DOE grid study suggests there are some reliability attributes that those technologies provide … that the loss of those technologies — the loss of the baseload generation — has not had an impact on reliability, but like I said before, it’s worth looking at and continuously studying.”

Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with Democrats, said he was “disturbed that the term baseload has become a political term and not necessarily a scientific term.” He implored the nominees to “go with the science” in making power sector decisions and “not get tangled up, advertently or inadvertently, in favoring one technology over another.”

McIntyre reiterated that FERC “does not pick fuels for different generating resources,” and said he would base his decisions on science, “which I would expand somewhat to include the characteristics of reliability, economics and the other features that are important to satisfying the energy needs of our nation.”

The hearing also hit on state energy policies, with Democratic senators seeking to confirm that the nominees would not interfere with renewable energy or nuclear power supports. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), whose state passed nuclear energy supports last year, sought “reassurance” that states are “the focal place” for policies that shape the fuel mix.

With independent generators challenging the Illinois and New York nuclear supports at FERC, the nominees stayed away from concrete statements on their legality. Glick, however, said he believes the Supreme Court’s decision in Hughes v. Talen Energy “essentially outlined how states can affect resource decisions so they do not interfere with FERC’s jurisdiction.”

That 2016 decision held that states can take actions to promote generation resources that are not directly tethered to wholesale market participation, which falls under FERC’s jurisdiction. Legal scholars largely viewed that distinction as vague, but federal judges in New York and Illinois both ruled in July that the nuclear subsidies fall within state authority. Litigation is ongoing.

Without touching on the nuclear subsidies, McIntyre endorsed states’ power to create renewable energy standards. “We do have a federal system of law,” he said. “FERC has its role and the states have theirs and there is no question that states have the authority to create RPSs.”

FERC’s options

How the newly constituted FERC will handle reliability and jurisdictional issues remains to be seen. In August, the Senate confirmed two Republicans — Chatterjee and Pennsylvania utility regulator Robert Powelson — to join former Chair Cheryl LaFleur (D) on the panel.

The move allowed FERC to regain its quorum after losing it in February in the wake of former Chairman Norman Bay’s resignation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, indicated after the hearing that she hopes to confirm Glick and McIntyre in the coming weeks.

If the new FERC decides that reliability could be at risk from baseload plant retirements, legal analysts say it has broad power to alter plant compensation.

“FERC has very broad authority to consider not just reliability but the broader concept of resilience under the Federal Power Act and really set whatever terms and conditions it thinks are most appropriate to ensure the adequacy of service under the grid,” Andrew Weissman, senior counsel at the Washington law firm Pillsbury, told Utility Dive in an interview.

Policy options could come from individual market operators or FERC itself, he said. At present, PJM is considering strategies to better compensate for plants’ resiliency characteristics. PJM and ISO-New England are exploring two-part capacity auctions to handle subsidized resources, and the New York ISO is implementing a more robust price on carbon.

If FERC takes up the resiliency mantle, Weissman said solutions could look similar to reliability programs already active in the nation’s wholesale markets.

“They could, for example, come up with some criteria for determining what generating units … are essential for adequacy of future service,” Weissman said. “Then, with respect to those units, they could create a new category to provide cost-of-service recovery, just as they do for reliability must-run units currently, and socialize the costs of providing that cost recovery.”

Another potential policy solution could be to devise adders to capacity payments for plants deemed essential for resiliency.

“In the past they’ve approved a fixed adder in MISO that MISO determined was necessary for the future operation of the grid,” Weissman said. “They could — and in my view they actually should — seriously consider providing a super capacity payment as a significant add-on to the capacity payment for units they conclude are essential to the long-term adequacy of service in the wholesale markets.”

Such market reforms, either at the RTO or federal level, are controversial with environmentalists and clean energy advocates, who say they will do little more than prop up uncompetitive, inefficient generation with minimal impacts on generator revenues or reliability. But Weissman said that FERC’s jurisdiction to ensure adequate service could extend to environmental impacts like climate change, if the commission chooses to do so.

“FERC has plenty of authority to take into account impacts on the environment in its ratemaking,” Weissman said. “Obviously whether it should or not is something people have strong views about, but if you’re asking the lawyer’s question of whether they have authority to act, I think the answer is certainly yes.”

Solar Works DC

DOEE and the Department of Employment Services (DOES) have partnered to develop Solar Works DC, a low-income solar installation and job training program. GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic will implement the first year of the program. In addition to preparing residents to enter careers in solar and related industries, Solar Works DC will increase solar capacity in the District and reduce energy costs for qualified low-income District homeowners by installing solar systems on their homes.

Last year, DC Council passed the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Expansion Amendment Act of 2016, which aims to increase access to clean energy, and create a long-term pipeline for green jobs. The goal is to increase the District’s RPS to 50% and to provide the benefits of solar energy to 100,000 low‐income residents by 2032. Solar Works DC intends to train more than 200 District residents and install solar systems on up to 300 low-income single family homes in the District over three years. The cost savings per household is roughly $15,000, which translates to approximately $600 in savings per year.

Interested in getting solar panels on your home?
In the first year of the program, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic is implementing the program and seeking income-qualified homeowners in the District who want to go solar! There is no cost to the homeowner and going solar can save you up to 50-99% on your electric bills. At the bottom of this page, you will find more information on solar, how much money it could save your family, and see if you qualify for Solar Works DC. Have questions or want to sign up? Then it’s as simple as contacting GRID Alternatives at (202) 602-1091.

Interested in getting trained in solar installation?
According to The Solar Foundation’s job census, there were 260,077 solar workers in United States in 2016, a 25% increase over the previous year. In 2016, there were 1,180 solar jobs in the District of Columbia, a growth rate of 18%, with projected growth of 26% in 2017. Sectors in need of trained solar professionals include installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, and operations. Solar Works DC operates three training cohorts throughout the year (summer, fall, and spring).

Registration for the fall cohort is now closed. Solar Works DC will be seeking up to 25 program participants for the spring cohort (dates TBD) and applicants are welcome to submit their cover letters and resumes. Applicants must be District residents, ages 18 and over, to participate in the 12-week program and receive hands-on job training to install solar for income-qualified DC households. This is a pipeline program that aims to produce a trained, qualified workforce, and to prepare participants for entry-level green jobs in the solar and related industries.

Additional information and program requirements are available at Grid Alternatives – Solar Works DC.

Individuals interested in applying should send a cover letter and resumé to

Questions related to the Solar Works DC or other GRID Alternatives’ programs should be directed to GRID’s Workforce team at (202) 517-8857.

Program Details:

District residents ages 18+
Training is 12 weeks long
2-3 days weekly of construction, outreach, and workforce workshops
Certifications available: OSHA 10, CPR/First Aid, NABCEP
2-3 installs per week, 24 installs in total for fall
Fall cohort dates: September 5 to December 1
Fall deadline: August 5, 2017