“The CBCF family mourns the loss of Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) founding member, former Congressman John J. Conyers, Jr.

Author: CBCF communicatiions@cbcfinc.org   Published: 10/28/2019

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) President & CEO David A. Hinson released the following statement on the death of former Congressman Conyers:
“The CBCF family mourns the loss of Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) founding member, former Congressman John J. Conyers, Jr.
“As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965-2017, Congressman Conyers represented Michigan’s 14th District in Detroit. After more than five decades in office, he was the longest-serving African American in Congress. Before entering Congress, Rep. Conyers served in the National Guard and the United States Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.
“During his tenure in Congress, this champion of civil and human rights served as chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and the House Committee on the Judiciary. He was a principal sponsor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and led the passage of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Act of 1983 after 15 years of struggle to find adequate support for the bill. Ironically, Rep. Conyers was endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his initial run for Congress.
“In 2016, Congressman Conyers received CBCF’s AVOICE Heritage Award in recognition of his perseverance and his continued dedication to advancing the global black community. CBCF will be forever grateful for the immense legislative and social contributions made by Congressman Conyers throughout his more than 50 years of public service. His genuine concern for and fierce persistence in serving the concerns of African Americans and the nation are his legacy and our inspiration.
“We join generations across the nation in expressing our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and constituents. May he rest well.”
Founding Members of the Congressional Black Caucus
Caption: Left to Right: (front row) Rep. Robert Nix Sr., Rep. Charles Diggs Jr., Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Rep. Augustus Hawkins (second row) Rep. Parren Mitchell, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. William Clay Sr., Rep. Ronald Dellums, Rep. George Collins, Rep. Louis Stokes, Rep. Ralph Metcalfe, Rep. John Conyers Jr., Del. Walter Fauntroy
Date Created: n.d.
Creator: n/d
Location: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
Access Conditions: n/d


Office of Economic Impact and Diversity US Department of Energy Announces $4 Million Funding Opportunity for the Minority Education, Workforce, and Training (MEWT) Program

Author: DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity Published: 9/3/2019     Office of Economic Impact and Diversity

MEISPP Intern Class of 2019 with US Secretary Rick Perry

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Economic Impact and Diversity issued its first Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for Fiscal Year 2020. The Minority Education, Workforce, and Training (MEWT) Program FOA includes approximately $4 million in financial assistance awards. Subsequent project years may be funded, contingent upon available funding and programmatic relevance of proposed projects.

Topic areas of interest include:

  • STEM Education: Increase the participation of students enrolled in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) across the nation in STEM disciplines, enhance the students’ academic development, and build core competencies for DOE and its national laboratories.
  • Capacity Building: Strengthen the STEM capabilities of MSIs through collaboration with the Department’s national laboratories and scientific facilities to engage faculty and participate in DOE’s Visiting Faculty Program, a 10-week research appointment for faculty to collaborate on a research project with scientists at the DOE national laboratories.
  • Technical Assistance: Enhance competitiveness through sharing information and expertise, instruction, skills, and working knowledge relative to particular needs and priorities.
  • Training: Develop and deliver targeted training for regional energy sector employment opportunities through certification, apprenticeship, placement preparation, and partnerships with community colleges.
  • Workforce/Pipeline Analysis: The Office of Economic Impact and Diversity recognizes the importance of research on disparities and opportunities for people in minority communities, MSIs, and minority business enterprises.

Eligible Applicants include:

  • Small businesses
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • For profit organizations other than small businesses
  • Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education

More details on DOE Minority Education, Workforce, and Training (MEWT) Program Funding Opportunity Announcement can be found HERE.

Capitol City Solar & EV Charger Co-op

Author: Yesenia Rivera          Published: 10/25/19           Solar United Neighbors of D.C.

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We’re bringing homeowners and small businesses interested in installing solar and/or electric vehicle chargers together in a group, or co-op. Homeowners join the group at no obligation to receive discounted pricing and unbiased, installer-neutral support throughout the process. Our experienced team ensures you understand the basics of installing solar and EV charging as well as receive a competitive proposal from a qualified installer.

Homeowners or businesses participating in this co-op have the option of installing solar panels, a level 2 electric vehicle charger, or both.

Watch the videos below to learn more about our solar co-op process and its benefits, or view our FAQs.

Consulta nuestro FAQ para más información sobre la tecnología solar y el proceso de comprar e instalar su sistema solar.

Join the co-op to:

  • Go solar on your home or business;
  • Or install a level 2 EV charger;
  • Or install both solar and a level 2 EV charger


How does a co-op work?

Where we are in the process

What’s next

Installer selected. Co-op participants selected GreenBrilliance to be the group’s installer through an open and competitive bidding process. The company is in the process of developing personalized proposals for each co-op participant.

Sign up deadline. The co-op is accepting new sign ups through November 15.

No events currently scheduled.

What we’ve done so far

  • Launch co-op
  • Issue RFP
  • Select installer
  • Sign up deadline
  • Begin installations
  • Party!

Can’t make our info session?

Watch a recorded session for general information on solar, how co-ops work, and what to expect if you join.

How much does solar cost?




Rep. AOC Questions Dr. Hoffert at House Oversight Hearing on Climate Change and Denial

Author: Mike Tidwell         Published: 10/24/19               CCAN Action Fund

Watch the Exxon takedown. Thank Congressman Jamie Raskin

They knew. They lied. They’re still lying.

Dear: Ronald

That would be ExxonMobil Corporation, of course. Their scientists knew the horrors of impending climate change back in the 70s. The company then lied about it for decades. And they’re still lying.

But today, Congressmembers Jamie Raskin of Maryland (D) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (D) began uncovering those lies. As Chair and Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, they gaveled into order the first-ever congressional hearing focused entirely on the massive climate deception of Exxon and the other oil majors.

The hearing featured two former Exxon scientists, a Harvard professor, and environmental justice activist Mustafa Ali. Who did the opponents send? A hardcore climate denier best known for handing Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) the snowball he famously brought to the Senate floor in 2015 to “prove” global warming isn’t happening.1

What actual proof surfaced in the hearing? Internal Exxon memos from the 1970s showing that carbon emissions from oil combustion could “indeed be catastrophic” for the planet. So precise was Exxon’s science in 1982 that it predicted with stunning accuracy that a world without strong pollution controls would reach 415 parts per million carbon in the atmosphere by…2019.2 They were exactly right. And the consequences they predicted in the 70s and 80s are here today: rising oceans, killer storms, crushing droughts.

Thankfully your Congressman, Rep. Raskin, was on the case today. Take a moment to thank him for taking on our biggest carbon criminals of all time. Thank them for standing up for future generations.

In the 90s, dozens of states filed lawsuits against the tobacco industry for similarly lying about the health risks of smoking. The premise was simple: Big Tobacco caused the smoking health crisis — now, they should pay for it. As a result, tobacco companies had to pay billions of dollars for possible Food and Drug Administration regulations, stronger warning labels, and more.3

Raskin and his Vice-Chair, AOC, understand that Congress can never pass a strong Green New Deal bill to fight climate change as long as ExxonMobil and other oil majors maintain their political headlock on Capitol Hill.

Again, like Big Tobacco, we have to expose them and eventually force their executives to confess under oath that they have risked the entire planet for their short-term greed. Then the lying influence of these companies will be gone, and the path to a cleaner future will be clear.

They knew. They lied. And they’re still lying.

Yes, it came out at the hearing that Exxon to this day is STILL lying to the public. The company officially claims to support the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016 to significantly reduce carbon emissions worldwide. At the same time, published media accounts produced at the hearing show the company is predicting a 30 percent increase in its oil production by 2030. Both of these things cannot be true. You cannot support Paris and dramatically increase oil production. Exxon is lying to the public. Still.

But with your help, we won’t let them get away with it. Thank Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Let them know you are with them as they push for truth and reconciliation on our way to a safer, life-giving climate for all people. And if you want to watch Rep. Ocasio-Cortez at work, watch this video too. 

And here’s one more thing you can do: Sign the global petition calling on our leaders to hold polluters like Exxon accountable for climate change. 

On we go,

Mike Tidwell
Executive Director
Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund

Entire hearing available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfHt4U0r8Qw

1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-energy-202/2019/06/19/the-energy-202-this-former-epa-appointee-wants-to-make-climate-change-a-winning-issue-for-trump/5d090dcf1ad2e552a21d4fad/

2) https://thinkprogress.org/exxon-predicted-high-carbon-emissions-954e514b0aa9/

3) https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/topics/commercial-tobacco-control/commercial-tobacco-control-litigation/master-settlement-agreement

Sacking of vocal African Union ambassador to US raises suspicions of long history of Western influence on Africa

Author: NII NTREH      Published: October 14, 2019            Face2Faceafrica.com

Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao. Photo Credit: Al-Jazeera

The decision of the African Union (AU) to end a working relationship with its Permanent Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, has been met with confusion and disdain, especially from Africans outside the country.

A letter sighted by Face2faceAfrica.com dated October 7 and signed by AU chairperson Musa Faki Mahamat, speaks of termination of the contract with the ambassador with effect from November 1.

No reasons were given for this termination, and according to Ewn.co.za, none has been offered to Dr. Chihombori-Quao.

Dr. Chihombori-Quao, who is both a medical doctor and an entrepreneur, has been the AU’s envoy to the United States since 2017.

Before becoming a permanent ambassador, Dr. Chihombori-Quao had worked in various capacities for the AU on African-Diasporan relations. Through this, she had built an image of speaking truth to power, especially on neocolonialism.

It comes as very little surprise that many Africans in the diaspora feel her sacking is as a result of stepping on powerful toes.

AU letter to Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao. Photo Credit: Africafeeds.com

Dr. Chihombori-Quao has for instance called out France, a country that still benefits from neocolonial exploitation of African countries even decades after these countries became independent.

It may seem those who suspect that the AU is succumbing to neocolonial powers may not be without justified cause. Western governments have historically depended on Africans to undo themselves.

The first president of Cote D’Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, aided the US to plan and destabilise Ghana, leading to the overthrow of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.

In fairness, the examples of Africans conniving with or succumbing to Western interests are all too many.

Among other things, the petition noted that “not everyone is embracing her bold but honest discourses for effecting change for the betterment of Africa”.

In a query that would surely resonate with millions, the petitioners asked “Who called the shot? Or is Africa, and peoples of African descent, still facing the debilitating effects of modern colonialism or neocolonialism?”.


Author: Jess Nocera             Published: 10/20/19          Baltimore Sun

Columbia political cartoonist’s book showcases a black perspective on current events

Walt Carr, 87, of Columbia, has been a political cartoonist for newspapers around the country since 1993. ( Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media )

Growing up in Baltimore, Walt Carr used to spend hours in his room, lying across his bed and doodling in his notebook. He said he was in his room a lot on account of being punished frequently.

Carr said his mother, Hannah Carr, once told him she would crack his bedroom door open and watch him draw, thinking to herself about taking away his notebook and pencil because he “wasn’t suffering enough for her,” he said with a laugh.

Carr, 87 and a Columbia resident, still has those bedroom drawings. His mother saved everything, including Carr’s report cards with comments from teachers: “Walt’s always doodling in his notebook or sketching or what have you and talking too much.”

However, his parents encouraged their son to pursue art.

That support led Carr to where he is now, with his recently self-published book, “JUST US!” Printed in July, its title is a play on the word “justice.”

The 193-paged book features more than 180 political cartoons from a black perspective.

“Over the years, I realized you seldom saw people of color in political cartoons on the editorial pages of mainstream press unless there was some catastrophic event or something negative,” Carr said. “And you never saw our spin, our perspective, our take on the world or national issues.”

So Carr set out to change that.

In 1993, he began drawing political cartoons exclusively for black newspapers, including the former Negro Digest, renamed to Black World before ceasing publication, and Ebony magazine, which suspended its print edition in May.

Carr still draws weekly cartoons today for black newspapers across the country, including The Washington Informer, New Pittsburgh Courier and the Michigan Chronicle. He has a studio in his home where he works each day.

He said he has drawn more than 1,200 cartoons for black newspapers and publications.

Carr’s next “JUST US!” signing, where people can also purchase the book, is at 10 a.m. Oct. 23 at St. John Baptist Church, 9055 Tamar Drive in Columbia.

A ‘Balti-delphian’

Born in Baltimore in 1932, Carr and his family were some of the first residents of the Gilmor Homes, a public housing complex in the neighborhood of Sandtown. Portions of Gilmor Homes is slated to be demolished in November.

Carr describes himself as a “Balti-delphian,” growing up in Baltimore and then moving to Philadelphia in the seventh grade when his father, Walter Carr Sr., landed a job working at the Philadelphia Afro-American newspaper as the circulation manager.

However, due to circumstances unknown to the younger Carr, his father left the paper rather quickly. He then spent a few years working various jobs, including as a movie usher, bartender, car salesman and, finally, as a cab driver, which he did for 13 years.

“There were some rough periods in Philadelphia, a span of about three-and-a-half years we were up against it,” Carr said.

Through it all, Carr Sr. found his place back in the newspaper industry, this time as an editorial writer for a weekly tabloid.

Carr said his father began penning weekly editorials for a Philadelphia tabloid called The Nitelifer that advertised bars, night clubs, cabaret parties, concerts and dances.

“I remember as a kid there was something special about seeing him sitting at the typewriter with his pipe,” Carr said of his father. “He used the editorial space to comment on issues of importance to blacks.”

In 1960, Carr Sr. brought The Nitelifer idea to Baltimore, where he continued writing weekly editorials until his death in 1993. At the time of his death, Carr Sr. was known as “The Godfather of Nightlife,” according to his obituary published in The Baltimore Sun.

“He was very, very much the activist and he lived to write that editorial each week, staying on black folks’ case about what we needed to do to improve our lives as a people,” Carr said

Carr moved back to Baltimore in 1950 after high school to attend Morgan State University, where he majored in art education. He then moved to Columbia in 1977.

Political cartoons

While he began drawing political cartoons in 1993, Carr said he’s been a cartoonist for 50 years.

“I’m a cartoonist that just happens to be black,” he said.

Growing up, he drew a lot of cartoons based off 1940s comic books, including Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel.

For two years, when living in Philadelphia, Carr spent his Saturday mornings taking art classes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He had books of lined drawings with professional renderings that would have a piece of tracing paper over each. The class would then trace the drawings, all the while learning about human features, proportions, folds, wrinkles and more. He would retain those skills as he would later freelance drawings on his own. Carr spent almost 30 years working for the Social Security Administration as an illustrator for the visual graphics section. That section operated all printed materials about Social Security, including brochures, training materials and exhibits. When he retired, he had spent his last six years as chief of the section.

It was then when he turned to political cartoons. He became a staple for Ebony’s Strictly for Laughs page, which is how he said people became aware of his work.

His political cartoons reflect his personal journey through life, he said, and allow him to vent about his past experiences and what is happening in the present day.

Carr has experienced segregation, like having to use colored restrooms and water fountains, being forced to be at the back of a public bus and not being able to try on clothes in a department store.

In 1941, Carr’s parents were arrested in Baltimore for protesting police brutality against black people.

“For these reasons, blessed with a gift [of art], I feel an obligation to illuminate, with images, those injustices when they arise,” Carr said.

As a cartoonist, he said he has an artistic license because it’s not a realistic drawing, allowing him and other cartoonists to style and create people however they see fit.

For his entire career, Carr has used a small watercolor brush. Most people today use felt-tipped pens, he said.

When drawing a political cartoon, the strength of the visuals and the concept behind it is really important, he said.

“You really hit a home run if you can do it with visuals alone, having no commentary,” he said. “I try to minimize words and that’s not always easy to do.”

Carr realizes he can’t get a chuckle out of all of his cartoons, but he hopes that they at least inspire, educate or inform people.

For example, he discussed the cartoon that appears on the cover of his book.

It depicts two court proceedings side by side, one where a white man receives an 18-month sentence at a “medium security facility” for possession of six to seven kilos of cocaine, and the other where a black man, with possession of “one packet of crack,” gets five years in “the state penitentiary,” Carr explained.

The cover cartoon “says it all, about the title and the content” of the book, he said.

“JUST US!” has nine categories: former President Barack Obama, the Republican Party, racism, transition, youth/education, sports, police, entertainment and crime.

Before each section, Carr wrote a narrative to explain what readers would be seeing and why he included those series of cartoons.

The GOP section focuses predominantly on President Donald Trump.

“We have a president who keeps on giving. He is a cartoonist’s dream, a smorgasbord of ideas,” Carr said.

However, in the past year or so, he has had “to put on the brakes” with drawing Trump cartoons.

“I can’t be dealing with him every week. I need to address some other issues that impact the black condition,” he said.

In the sports section, he focuses on the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the “exploitation of college black athletes.”

“The fat cats in the NCAA have been pimpin’ off these kids for years” by making money off of the athletes, with the students not receiving any monetary compensation, Carr said. California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a first-of-its-kind bill to allow college athletes in that state to hire agents and make money from endorsements.

One sports cartoon in the book is of a black basketball player who is hunched over and sitting on his back is the NCAA, coaches and colleges with the phrase “Slaving Away for the NCAA.”

In transitions, Carr features black icons of the past, including from sports, politics and entertainment, and pays tribute to them.

Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, said Carr has been drawing political cartoons for the publication for nearly 20 years. He began when the newspaper was developing its own editorial page, and considered it important to feature political cartoons, Rolark Barnes said.

The weekly newspaper was founded in 1964 to “highlight positive images of African Americans,” according to its website.

The cartoons “give us another dimension,” she said, along with their regular editorials and letters to the editor. The drawings “keep us current” through a different means, she added.

The experience of publishing his book has been gratifying for Carr, and he said he is humbled by all the support from his family and friends. He’s not in it for the money, but he said with a laugh that some money helped fund a screened-in porch to build for his wife, Queen.

Next steps for Carr include trying to get “JUST US!” in the gift shop of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Rolark Barnes said Carr’s weekly cartoons have received great feedback from readers and other national news organizations, and she enjoys how he is consistent and timely with his drawings.

“If anything, I think his book and the cartoons will serve as an inspiration to others to do what he’s doing,” she said. “I think we need people who can articulate opinions on issues from an ethnic [standpoint], either black, Hispanic or whatever. We can’t do this forever, and we are looking for that next group to come out.”

All those years ago, Carr had an idea.

“I had a vision that I could make a contribution doing political cartoons and make an impact on the black community, and I haven’t regretted it.”

Power Shutoffs: Playing with Fire

Author: Denise Fairchild and Kim Evon  Published: 10/17/19       The Energy Collective Group

California’s fire season is back. Yet if this past week is any indication, our emergency response remains woefully inadequate.  When disaster strikes we are far from being energy resilient, ensuring reliable access to electricity for our most vulnerable communities.

Climate fires are California’s new normal.  Dangerous combinations of high (20-60 mph) sustained winds and tinderbox drought conditions wreaked havoc throughout the state last week.  Massive evacuations from the Saddleridge fire in northwest Los Angeles and the Reche Fire in Moreno Valley spared life, if not property, from thousands of acres of burning land.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) took pre-emptive measures.  They shut off power in over 30 counties in northern California.  In this way, they avoided a repeat of the 2018 fire season, the state’s deadliest, in which electrical equipment was blamed for conflagrations that killed 85 people and destroyed 19,000 homes.

But the shutoffs were a disaster of another kind.  They left close to a million people and more than half the counties in the state without power, or recourse, for nearly a week.

The PG&E power shutoffs were a colossal failure, according to utility and elected officials, local agencies, and residents.   The disruption was widespread:  accidents caused by failed street lights, schools closed, businesses idled, food supplies and basic services – public transit and water – compromised.   And as premeditated as this emergency response was, residents were left the dark; not just from the power outage, but from the lack of information.  No one could get information about what to expect or what to do in a power emergency.   PG&E’s communication and computer systems crashed, their website went down, their community resource centers were underprepared and useless.  The shutoff prevented fires, but not the burn; everyone fumed.

There must be a better plan for power outages, and emergency response in general, to prepare for recurring natural and manmade disasters.  This is especially important for vulnerable communities.  Life and death hangs in the balance. Financially strong families and businesses were inconvenienced, but managed. Early reports indicate that hospitals and nursing homes were protected by backup generators.  Isolated and helpless, however, were the countless families and their caregivers who rely on ventilators, respirators and refrigeration for medical reasons. SEIU2015, the California Long Term Care Workers’ Union that represents over 400,000 caregivers across the state most of whom provide in-home care to seniors, children and adults with disabilities say most of these caregivers and their patients are stranded whenever there is a blackout.

The utility sector needs to proactively engage and support the home health sector in its energy and emergency management strategies.  A recent focus group study of home health care and nursing home workers by Emerald Cities Collaborative and SEUI2015 found the lack of communication a common theme.

Most facilities have a communications plan.  They are required to call families informing them that they can take their family resident home.  But often families can’t, especially if they require life support equipment… feeding tubes, breathing tube, etc.

Moreover, it was a rare exception in which evacuations were well-executed

I live in Santa Paula with the Thomas fire.  They shut off our electricity.   My son is on a feeding tube/respirator.   I was holding his head to make sure he didn’t stop breathing.   Trying to move his head to help with breathing.  I have no back-up generators. I talked to FEMA, but no one could help me.  He is 190 lbs.   There was no evacuation plan or help.  I can take care of his medicines and other things, but I can’t move him.    I had no info on where to take him.

In addition to better communication and emergency planning, the greater need is for energy resilience.  It’s time to put battery storage technologies into the homes and facilities of vulnerable communities. The Clean Energy Group thinks there is a pathway: Its recent report Home Health Care in the Dark  offers suggestions for restructuring California’s experimental and underfunded Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) to provide backup power for nursing facilities and home health care.  SGIP’s focus on accelerating the use of battery storage technologies with renewable (and nonrenewable) energy generation could help medically dependent families during power outages.

The Clean Energy Group’s study also suggests changing the focus from carbon reduction to energy resilience, increasing access for non-homeowners and low-income populations, considering portable technologies, and mostly communicating with the home health care sector to access and refine the program.

The new normal requires new strategies, new technologies and new partnerships with America’s caregivers to ensure the sick, the elderly and the most vulnerable are climate and energy resilient. Let’s be clear: power shutoffs without energy resilience strategies is still playing with fire.

Denise Fairchild is president and CEO of Emerald Cities Collaborative, a national nonprofit organization of business, labor and community groups dedicated to climate-resilience strategies that produce environmental, economic and equity outcomes.

Kim Evon proudly serves as an Executive Vice President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 – California’s long term care local representing 400,000 home care and nursing home workers throughout California.

This op-ed was published in collaboration with the Island Press Urban Resilience Project, which is supported by The Kresge Foundation and The JPB Foundation. 

CBCF Mourns the Loss of Legislative Giant, Former Board Member, and Champion for the City of Baltimore, The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings

Author: CBCF communications@cbcfinc.org       Published: 10/17/19     Positivechangepc.com

October 17, 2019
CJ Epps
CBCF Mourns the Loss of Legislative Giant, Former Board Member, and
Champion for the City of Baltimore, The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings
WASHINGTON — CBCF President & CEO David A. Hinson issued the following statement on the passing of Congressman Cummings:
“The CBCF Board of Directors, Corporate Advisory Council and staff collectively mourn the loss of House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair and Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. He passed away this morning.
“Since 1996, Congressman Cummings has represented Maryland’s 7th District as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to joining Congress, he served in the Maryland House of Delegates for 16 years and became the first African American in Maryland to be named Speaker Pro Tem.
“Rep. Cummings was a true champion for justice and dedicated his life to empower the citizens in his district, and people across the United States and the globe. His life’s work literally fulfilled CBCF’s mission to develop leaders, inform policy, and educate the public.
“The congressman previously served on CBCF’s board of directors and was an avid supporter of the Foundation’s many initiatives. This summer, he charged CBCF Congressional interns to ‘make a difference’ and ‘save this [our] democracy’. Earlier this year, he generously allowed CBCF staff to interview him for the AVOICE Heritage ‘Who I Am’ video.
“In the fall of 2018, he and his wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings — founder of CBCF’s Center for Policy Analysis and Research — participated in the launch and celebration of the inaugural Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research.
CBCF will dearly miss this influential and pioneering lawmaker who helped transform his district and facilitated fundamental change. As a member of Congress with a full schedule, he made time to support CBCF and showed up when it mattered and where it counted. His eyes were ALWAYS on the prize and we will be forever grateful for his inspiring words and the countless treasures he has gifted us over the years.
“We join others across the nation in extending our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and constituents. May he rest in power.”
Established in 1976, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) is a non-partisan, nonprofit, public policy, research and educational institute committed to advancing the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public. For more information, visitcbcfinc.org.
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Diversity & Inclusion Cuts Through Noise of North America’s Largest Solar Trade Show

Author: Morgan Lyons     Published:  Sep 25 2019   SEIA


Press Release

SALT LAKE CITY – As part of the solar industry’s commitment to promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce, customer base and supply chain, Solar Power International (SPI) and North America Smart Energy Week (NASEW) 2019 featured an array of new programming to address and discuss diversity & inclusion challenges.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) hosted two new receptions on Tuesday: the SEIA Blacks in Energy Reception and the SEIA LGBTQ+ Reception. These events gave hundreds of attendees, community members and allies an opportunity to celebrate equity in the solar industry and make professional connections.

“As 20,000 members of the solar community converge in Salt Lake City, we want to use this opportunity to demonstrate that the solar industry welcomes and celebrates people of all backgrounds,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “As we enter the Solar+ Decade and advocate for policies that promote solar growth, we must be thoughtful about who has access to cleaner air, jobs, and business opportunities. This work is core to who we are as an industry and must become an imperative.”

SPI and NASEW 2019 are featuring more than a dozen diversity and inclusion-focused programs, including:

In May, SEIA launched its Diversity Challenge initiative, challenging the energy sector to mount a sustained effort to address diversity & inclusion in their industries. Since then, SEIA has forged new partnerships and participated in numerous events and programming, including two panels during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Leadership Conference.

In the coming weeks, SEIA will join onto The Hispanic Promise, a first-of-its-kind national pledge to hire, promote, retain and celebrate Hispanics in the workplace. This builds on SEIA’s pledge to CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance workplace diversity and inclusion. So far, 80 SEIA member companies and allies have taken the pledge.

To learn more about SEIA’s work on diversity and inclusion, visit http://www.seia.org/diversity.


About SEIA®: 

Celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2019, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, which now employs more than 242,000 Americans. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to build jobs and diversity, champion the use of cost-competitive solar in America, remove market barriers and educate the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

Media Contact: 

Morgan Lyons, SEIA’s Senior Communications Manager, mlyons@seia.org (202) 556-2872

HBCU Talent Exchange – Diversify Your Hiring Practices

Monday, Jan 21 2019

Blog Post

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day commemorates the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and an activist for non-violent social change who was assassinated in 1968. This national observation of the civil rights leader is a day of service during which people, companies, and organizations are encouraged to give back to their communities. Many SEIA members will be spending today, or other days this week, participating in days of service and engaging with their local communities.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, SEIA is releasing a video with our partners at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition (HBCU CDAC). Natasha Campbell, Director of the HBCU CDAC Clean Energy Initiative, along with her colleagues at WorkFountain, shared information about a recruitment tool that may be of interest to solar companies across the U.S. The HBCU Clean Energy Initiative was established to support and strategically engage the nation’s 107 HBCUs to expand access to clean energy and energy efficiency on campuses and adjacent communities where HBCUs are located by catalyzing HBCUs resources and relationships to connect with low-income individuals and families. This includes the development and deployment of coordinated solar and energy efficiency workforce programs through collaboration with organizations like SEIA and other interested stakeholders, with an strong focus on efforts to create a more diverse clean energy workforce. SEIA kicked off a partnership with the HBCU CDAC in 2018, and this is the first of many resources and programs our collaborative effort aims to deliver.

Many solar employers struggle to find and hire qualified candidates. The Solar Training Network notes that 84 percent of installers reported difficulty finding qualified applicants, and 26 percent reported it was “very difficult.” We see the connection between SEIA and the HBCU CDAC’s Talent Exchange as one way we can help our member companies address hiring challenges, while simultaneously reducing hiring bias and mismatches between job seekers and companies. The Talent Exchange moves beyond resume and job description searches to share more accurate information that helps both employers and job seekers make more informed hiring decisions. Through a survey based on the specific needs of the position, the platform quickly scores each candidate to assess their alignment for the opening and shares the results with both the recruiter and the candidate through the Talent Exchange’s Fit Assessment®.

Reducing bias and increasing diversity in the recruiting process is at the core of this technology. In addition to removing the reliance on resumes during the screening process, employers can mask candidate inform


Berkeley, CA sets historic law banning natural gas from new buildings

Author:     Published: July 18, 2019   Smart City Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The Berkeley, CA City Council unanimously voted this week to ban natural gas infrastructure in new low-rise residential buildings, beginning Jan 1. 2020. The legislation also requires that all new buildings in Berkeley be “electric-ready,” with proper panels and wiring conduits to support electric infrastructure.
  • Some industrial and commercial buildings with central hot water systems are exempt from the law, as the California Energy Commission (CEC) has not yet proven it is cost-effective or plausible to make such buildings all-electric. “We’re doing this on a rolling basis as the CEC finds these things to be effective,” said Councilwoman Kate Harrison, who sponsored the bill. The law also does not apply to renovations.
  • The bill received unanimous public support during the city council meeting, particularly in comments from PG&E and Sierra Club, and members of the community. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also praised the move in a statement, noting, “cities are leading the way to a clean energy future, providing hope and optimism in the face of increasingly dire climate disruption.”

Dive Insight:

During a city council presentation called, “Meeting the Climate Challenge in New Buildings,” Harrison outlined the impact green buildings have on local climate efforts. She noted natural gas is responsible for 27% of Berkeley’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 73% of the city’s building sector GHGs. The city is also under pressure from a statewide goal to reduce GHG emissions from building stock by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

“Every new building that we build in Berkeley locks in greenhouse gases for 100-plus years,” she said, noting methane leaks and other obstacles can increase the problem.

Harrison assured costs of electrification will be favorable for the city in the long-term. In a 2018 report, the Rocky Mountain Institute found, “electrification of space and water heating and air conditioning reduces the homeowner’s costs over the lifetime of the appliances when compared with performing the same functions with fossil fuels.” Harrison also said PG&E will have significant increases in gas prices by 2020, which will be offset to customers.

The topic of natural disasters was also a focus of the city council meeting. Berkeley sits on an earthquake fault line, a location where gas can be particularly dangerous. Harrison said it took three weeks to get gas service back after recent earthquakes, and only three days to get electric service back to the city. She also mentioned gas prices are subject to more volatility in the face of natural disasters like earthquakes.

While phasing out natural gas will not be a reality for every building, the mandated preparation for electrification will be significant as more electric vehicles (EV) come online. California is increasingly looking at ways to incentivize EV purchases, which will in-turn require cities to have proper charging infrastructure, particularly in their buildings. While Berkeley is currently home to a number of EV charging stations, the city will need to install more to keep up with demand.

NRDC notes that more than 50 other California cities are exploring similar building measures, which are being encouraged by groups like the Building Decarbonization Coalition. While Berkeley is the first U.S. city to take this step toward all-electric buildings, it will likely start a ripple effect toward more green building standards.

CLARIFICATION: This piece has been updated to clarify which buildings are currently exempt from the law.


LevelTen Q3 2019 PPA Price Index Reveals Competition and Expiring Tax Credits as Main Driver on PPA Prices

Author: Level 10           Published: 10/16/19

LevelTen Q3 2019 PPA Price Index Reveals Competition and Expiring Tax Credits as Main Driver on PPA Prices

Corporate demand, utility demand, and decreasing renewables costs seen as the primary drivers of renewables growth

Each quarter, the LevelTen Energy PPA Price Index provides an in-depth look at average offer prices for wind and solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) submitted on the LevelTen Marketplace. The report covers five independent system operator (ISO) regions in the United States, including CAISO, ERCOT, MISO, PJM and SPP. In addition, the report includes a survey of renewable energy developers with projects on the Marketplace. This quarter, LevelTen asked developers what had the largest impact on their PPA offer prices in Q3, and whether they expect prices to increase, decrease, or stay about the same in 2020.

The following are a handful of key takeaways from Q3 2019:

  • While results this quarter were largely in line with what we saw in Q2 2019, developers still view competition as having the largest impact on PPA pricing. Looking back at the start of the year, 30% of developers held this view. That number increased in Q2 to 52% and has dropped back down to 35% in Q3; indicating that other factors are weighing heavily as well.
  • This quarter, 35% of survey respondents thought prices would increase, while 21% thought prices would decrease (compared to an even split at 27% last quarter).
  • Developers are seeing the largest opportunities for renewables growth in ERCOT and PJM.

The LevelTen Marketplace features a vast amount of data on nearly every renewable energy project under development in North America, and now, we’re accepting projects in Europe. On the Marketplace, potential buyers can browse through projects and see what price per megawatt hour the developer is offering based on different terms of the power purchase agreement. LevelTen requires developers to submit offer prices based on a set of standard PPA terms most often requested by buyers. This standardization enables buyers to make an apples-to-apples comparison between projects, and it enables LevelTen to aggregate the data into our quarterly PPA Price Index – a unique position in the industry.

To see the full results and analysis, download the report below.

Download Q3 2019 Report

Up-to-date data is always the most useful—so LevelTen publishes its PPA Price Index on a quarterly basis. However, PPA prices represent only a fraction of the data required to effectively evaluate PPA opportunities. For real-time analysis of project value and risk, cash flow modeling, price curves and more, project developers and potential renewable energy buyers are encouraged to request access to the LevelTen Marketplace by contacting LevelTen.

Electric revolution: How are cities overcoming EV range anxiety?

Author: Chris Teale            Published:  10/17/19        Utility Dive

Credit: Yujin Kim, Industry Dive

The number of U.S. electric vehicles is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades. But how are cities and utilities preparing for that influx? In a two-part special report, Utility Dive and Smart Cities Dive explore that question from both the urban planning and power sector perspectives.Read our Deep Dive on the utility perspective here.

As environment and transportation goals drive cities to foster the growth of electric vehicles (EVs), they face a major challenge in ensuring there is enough charging infrastructure to meet demand.

Cities have looked to legislation, new building codes and partnerships with businesses and public utilities to encourage EV use and build out infrastructure, however concerns like range anxiety linger. Experts say cities need a wide-ranging strategy if they are to help more residents go electric in a way that is accessible and equitable.

“If we want EVs to succeed, they have got to be available to all Americans,” Rep. Paul Tonko, D-NY, said at an event celebrating the rollout of 1 million EVs in the U.S. hosted by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) last year.


The most direct way cities have flexed their planning muscles in the preparation and expansion of EV infrastructure has been through legislation. That includes beefing up building codes and emphasizing the need to use renewable energy sources for charging, as well as new laws that deal with EVs directly.

Such plans can start relatively small. Spokane, WA last year moved to waive the building and construction permit fees for new EV charging stations and solar panels. Permit fees for the charging stations are typically around $50, and while the change may seem small financially, it could make a big difference by encouraging more infrastructure installation.

Elsewhere, the push for more charging infrastructure has been brought into a push to modernize building codes.

Berkeley, CA passed a historic law in July banning the use of natural gas in new low-rise residential buildings, beginning Jan. 1, 2020. That legislation also requires that all new buildings in Berkeley be “electric-ready,” with proper solar panels and wiring conduits to support electric infrastructure.

The mandated preparations for electrification will be significant with more EVs coming online, as previously such panels sometimes haven’t been big enough to support EV charging.

“We don’t want to have to adapt later,” Councilmember Kate Harrison saidbefore the vote on the new law. “We want to make sure that as they’re built, they’re ready to take on the challenge of being electrified.”

It is a similar story in San Jose, CA, which became the biggest U.S. city to ban natural gas infrastructure from being installed in many new residential buildings. It also requires all new multi-family buildings to have 70% electric vehicle (EV) capable parking spaces, at least 20% EV ready spaces and at least 10% EV supply equipment spaces.

“[We] try to educate the public and really get around that range anxiety issue that is probably still the number one reason the average consumer is not putting the EV higher on their shopping list.”

Rick Ricart

President, Ricart car dealership

In a statement for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) after the San Jose City Council’s vote, Maria Stamas, western director for energy affordability, and Pierre Delforge, senior scientist for building decarbonization at the Climate & Clean Energy Program, said the new law means more visible and available charging infrastructure, and “even more San José residents will have the opportunity to purchase EVs and easily fuel them.”


If You’re Already Replacing Your Roof, Why Not Turn It Into A Power Plant?

Author: Peter Kelly-Detwiler    Published:   10/16/19    Forbes

roof replacement

Do I simply replace the roof, or make an investment? IMAGE: GAF ENERGY

Every year, roughly 5% of U.S. homeowners gaze forlornly up at their aging and weathered shingles, sigh, and take the financial plunge to get a new roof.  Martin DeBono, President of GAF Energy, sees this as a potential watershed moment for homeowners, in which each can make a decision:  They can simply replace their roofs.  Or they can convert them into investments that generate electricity and income.

DeBono has been in the solar industry for some time, most recently with SunPower – heading up the global residential and channel businesses – before joining GAF Energy (a subsidiary of Standard Industries, the biggest roofing manufacturer in the world).  He has seen the sector evolve and while he is confident that the solar industry will continue to see improved efficiencies and module cost reductions, he says that’s not where the action is these days.  The solar panels now constitute a relatively small portion of the entire installed cost stack, “and it’s the opportunity to take out those other costs and offer better products where we find ourselves with an opportunity at GAF Energy.”

A solar business based on transaction efficiencies 

When DeBono got to GAF Energy, he stepped back to evaluate the business and its available assets, “I realized, you guys are sitting on a gold mine.  Let’s go form a company to take advantage of the assets that Standard Industries has.”  The company was already a big investor in commercial-scale solar projects, so it was familiar with the industry –  the next step was to determine a go-to-market strategy in the residential space. DeBono’s goal was to create what he calls “the world’s first truly sustainable solar company,” one that doesn’t need to rely on tax credits or financial engineering – such as leases or purchase power agreements – to offer a compelling value proposition.

Instead, the approach taken was to leverage an event that was already inevitable – a roof replacement – and apply efficiencies, existing partnerships, and economies of scale to create a solar business built around that transaction.  With this approach, GAF Energy felt it could substantially reduce soft costs, especially those related to sales and installation.

The company currently offers its solar product in nine states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, and California.  In these markets, when channel partners are talking to prospects about a roof replacement, DeBono comments, “They say here’s the roofing estimate, but did you know it also qualifies for solar?”  The contractors explain the potential to transform the roof from a static asset into an income-generating asset.  If the customer expresses interest, the roofing contractors pass the information along to GAF Energy for qualification, a size estimate, and a quote.

It doesn’t unduly complicate the roof replacement sales conversation, DeBono says.  If the customer proceeds, the same crew that installs the roof lays down the panels as well in one single and efficient transaction. The result is that, “You can reduce sales cost, reduce labor costs, and you can present a cash offer that makes sense.”  The company focuses solely on the residential roof replacement market.  DeBono characterizes the resulting savings as roughly 15-20% when compared with buying both items separately.  It stays away from new homes that need roofs, for the simple reason that new housing is almost entirely a financed market.

Equipping its business channel partners

In order to effectively convey its value proposition to partners and customers, GAF Energy offers two days of sales training to its existing roofing contractors (with an optional third day).  The company also provides sales consultants that can accompany the contractor on the home visits.

In addition, it offers on-the-roof training for contracting partners that perform the actual installations. Typically trainers will attend a specific crew’ first few installations, until that team is comfortable proceeding on its own.  It’s a simpler installation than most solar offerings, DeBono indicates, since “we are not selling traditional rack-mounted solar. The solar is the roof in our case. The panel is not laid over shingles – it is the roof, and there is an underlying material.”

The technology itself involves 360-watt panels that integrate with the roofing materials.  GAF Energy can source from multiple suppliers, since the company is simply buying high quality solar laminate absent the frame. The product is warrantied for 25 years, with an additional 25 years for protection against leaks through a ‘Golden Pledge’ option, available from GAF Energy’s top-tier contractors.

While not every GAF roofing contractor is interested, for many it offers an opportunity to grow their market while providing new skills to employees.  DeBono comments that many roofing businesses are generational family-held enterprises with “a new generation of roofing contractors that have grown up with an awareness of technology and of climate change…for sure, not every roofer is jumping in, nor do we expect that, but we are working with a set of select roofers that see the future.”

While GAF Energy has been in business for less than a year, DeBono indicates that sales have been respectable, though he declines to offer a specific number.  “I will say this.  It’s been solid enough that we have doubled our number of employees. We are at 70 now.”

Perhaps most interesting, the company has seen the best uptake in areas where traditional solar has not been widely offered, and competition is limited.  DeBono compares states like Pennsylvania, Illinois and Florida with the market in California and its “everyone gets in a three-quote dogfight,” and indicates that the lesser-emphasized states are some of the healthier markets. “The reason is we can go into homeowner in a place like Pennsylvania and offer a payback that makes sense in the context of a roof sale that dedicated solar providers cannot match.”

Future market evolution

While energy storage is not in the current business model, DeBono expects that batteries will eventually be tied to a growing number of future solar installations, especially as battery costs continue to fall and storage technology improves.  At the same time, GAF Energy doesn’t always sell systems so large that they have to be able to either store power (or export to the grid under an existing net metering arrangement).  “If you are going to market selling shingles you don’t need to give customer the biggest system possible, but you can size for exactly what they need.  The best return may not always be with biggest system,” he says.

DeBono articulates a vision for the future in which solar looks a lot more like a traditional roofing product.   “When you think about it, it’s like taking a flat screen TV and screwing it to the roof. By and large it hasn’t changed in the last 20 years.”  He hopes that changes. “If you were to ask what success looks like in the next 5 years, I would say you would have product that looks like traditional roofing product that can be installed in a market that takes advantage of the existing solar supply chain and roofing chain that results in higher attach rate.”

DeBono sums up the potential this way,


City Selects Firm Proposing Solar Energy Farm at Former Sunnyside Landfill

Author: Tejal Patel                       Publish: 08/29/19          Mayor’s Office > Press Releases


Sunnyside Solar Farm

August 29, 2019 — Mayor Sylvester Turner announced today that Sunnyside Energy, led by developer Dori Wolfe of Wolfe Energy LLC, has won a competition to be considered to repurpose a  240-acre former landfill in Sunnyside. Subject to meeting certain terms and conditions, the team will construct one of the largest urban solar farms in Texas., if not the largest.

“It is fitting that Sunnyside would be home to one of the largest urban solar farms in Texas,” Mayor Turner said. “The project proposes to not only revitalize an underutilized piece of property that has been an eyesore to the community for years, but could also make Sunnyside a more complete, sustainable and resilient community.”

“Reinventing the landfill into a solar farm will help bring much-needed economic development to the community and makes Sunnyside part of the international energy transition to using ‘clean,’ renewable energy sources, reducing pollution and limiting climate change in the process,” the mayor added.

In 2017, Mayor Turner joined C40 Reinventing Cities – a global competition for innovative carbon-free and resilient urban projects. Together with 13 other cities across the globe, underutilized parcels of land were identified for redevelopment. Through this competition, the Sunnyside Energy team of engineers, architects, neighborhood groups, and artists have created a vision to transform the unmaintained closed landfill into a beacon of sustainability and resiliency.

“Reinventing Cities recognizes low-carbon solutions in cities around the world and makes it possible for these innovative ideas to become reality. It is evident why Houston’s Sunnyside Energy project is one of the world’s best,” said David Miller, Director of International Diplomacy and the Regional Director of North America at C40 Cities. “Transforming a former landfill into a site that will be carbon-positive by its fifth year illustrates how taking bold action gets us closer to achieving the future we want.”

Next steps will be for the City of Houston and Wolfe Energy LLC. to complete the financial and environmental feasibility, finalize the design plan with community input and negotiate contract lease terms for use of the land. The project is estimated to begin in 2021.

The preliminary design calls for the development of a 70 Megawatt ballasted solar array that would:

  • Generate enough electricity to supply about 12,000 homes
  • Prevent potential future environmental hazards posed by the landfill
  • Provide power discounts for low-income residents in the neighborhood
  • Train and employ local labor
  • Store and filter stormwater on the tract to help reduce flooding
  • Include educational attributes at the restored site

Sunnyside Energy is a partnership among EDF Renewables, MP2 Energy and Wolfe Energy to supply electricity to the Houston-area power grid through MP2 Energy and CenterPoint, meaning the solar-generated power would be distributed across the metropolitan region.

“We’re excited to come together with the City of Houston, Wolfe Energy and the other members of this team to work on this project,” said Kevin Boudreaux, MP2 Energy Vice President of Solar Operations.  “As the first project of its kind planned for Houston, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of something that has the potential to provide unique benefits to the community and help Houston on its path addressing the challenges of the energy transition.”

“EDF Renewables is proud to be selected to bring our depth of expertise in solar project development and construction, particularly our experience in brownfield sites, to Sunnyside Energy,” said Rod Veins, Executive Vice President, EDF Renewables’ Distributed Solutions Group.  “We applaud the City of Houston for its leadership is progressing the transition to a sustainable energy future.”

Sunnyside solar will not only bring jobs to the area, but also help teach future generations of Houstonians about renewable energy. Houston Renewable Energy will provide solar installation training at the neighboring Sunnyside Community Center. Qualifying graduates of the training program will have an advantage in securing a job during the construction of the 70 MW solar farm, designed and constructed by EDF-Renewables.

“The community will have a voice both during the design phase and into the future, through the creation of the Sunnyside Energy Trust. It will be energy for the community by the community,” according to Efrem Jernigan, president of South Union CDC and one of the lead community members on the team.

Increasing Houstonians use of solar power is a key component of the city’s recently released draft Climate Action Plan. About 92 percent of the electricity used by the City of Houston to operate its facilities comes from solar and wind sources, making Houston the largest municipal user of renewable energy in the nation.

More details about the project are available at www.greenhoustontx.gov andhttps://www.c40reinventingcities.org.

Community Garden Center

The Sunnyside Ag Hub addresses the needs of communities in Food Deserts by providing an educational and demonstration garden center and a processing and packaging hub for local gardeners and urban farmers.. Exhibition and demonstration gardens and displays educate the community in effective and profitable small and medium scale gardening methods.

The building and its programs aim to be carbon-neutral and economically self-sustaining through the use of intensive closed-loop aquaponic growing techniques. The project up-cycles and reuses many materials and “waste” from local construction, starting with the recycling of 12 used shipping containers which form the structure. Raised planter beds are created with used wood scraps from nearby construction sites. A solar array provides energy for the building and is sold back to the grid. All rainfall on the site is captured and reused. Biophilic design principles connect the visitors and workers with the healing and restorative effects of nature.

Client: South Union Community Development Corp.

Designer: Pyranak Design Group

Aquaponics Consultant: RTBiosciences

Production Drafting: designerDOX

Contact Us 713-864-6688 info@designerDOX.com designerDOX.com


Californians Learning That Solar Panels Don’t Work in Blackouts

Author: Chris Martin       Published: 10/10/19            Bloomberg

Climate Changed

Californians have embraced rooftop solar panels more than anyone in the U.S., but many are learning the hard way the systems won’t keep the lights on during blackouts. That’s because most panels are designed to supply power to the grid — not directly to houses. During the heat of the day, solar systems can crank out more juice than a home can handle. Conversely, they don’t produce power at all at night. So systems are tied into the grid, and the vast majority aren’t working this week as PG&E Corp. cuts power to much of Northern California to prevent wildfires.

The only way for most solar panels to work during a blackout is pairing them with batteries. That market is just starting to take off. Sunrun Inc., the largest U.S. rooftop solar company, said some of its customers are making it through the blackouts with batteries, but it’s a tiny group — countable in the hundreds.

“It’s the perfect combination for getting through these shutdowns,” Sunrun Chairman Ed Fenster said in an interview. He expects battery sales to boom in the wake of the outages. And no, trying to run appliances off the power in a Tesla Inc. electric car won’t work, at least without special equipment.

Over 300 Communities in 40 States Now “Open for Solar Business”

Author: Solar Industry Association (SEIA)       Published:  10/10/19

National SolSmart program achieves goal to place 300 local governments on path to solar energy growth

solsmart logo

WASHINGTON, D.C., – From Anchorage, Alaska, to Sarasota, Florida, more than 300 local governments have now met national benchmarks for encouraging the growth of solar energy and removing barriers to solar market development.

These local governments have each received designation under SolSmart, a national program launched in 2016 that helps local governments make it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar. SolSmart has now achieved its goal to designate at least 300 local governments as SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze, for a total of 328 communities and counting.

SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association, and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. All designated communities have met national criteria to prove they have streamlined local procedures to make it easier for homes and businesses to install solar energy systems. SolSmart provides intensive technical assistance at no cost to help communities meet these goals.

The 328 SolSmart designees include cities, counties, small towns, and regional organizations in 40 states and the District of Columbia, representing 82 million people. One in four people in America now live in a SolSmart-designated community. More information on these communities and examples of their solar achievements can be found here.

“All across the nation, local governments are leading the way toward sustainable economic growth,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “SolSmart is a high performing, breakthrough program that has already helped more than 300 communities turn their goals and the demands of their constituents into reality, working with them to reduce carbon emissions, lower energy costs, create jobs, and build more resilient infrastructure. With over 18,000 communities in the U.S., we are excited to help hundreds if not thousands more reap the benefits of solar energy and compatible technologies like storage.”

“Creating sustainable communities is at the heart of ICMA’s mission and today’s milestone demonstrates that local governments are making the transition to green energy a reality,” said Marc Ott, Executive Director of the International City/County Management Association. “We are proud to partner with The Solar Foundation, the Department of Energy and most of all local governments across the United States that have stepped up and made it easier for businesses and residents to go solar.”

The actions that SolSmart communities have taken help reduce soft costs, which are the non-hardware costs that today represent roughly 65% of the cost of solar installations. SolSmart helps local governments streamline permit approvals, review planning and zoning guidelines, facilitate group purchase campaigns, and improve solar financing options. Taken together, these actions help lower the overall costs of solar installations and allow the solar industry to expand more rapidly nationwide.

Anchorage, AK became the 300th community to achieve SolSmart designation, after the city installed Alaska’s largest solar array at the William A. Egan Civic and Convention Center. The first SolSmart designations were awarded in 2016 and included Kansas City, MO; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; Hartford, CT; and others. As the program gained momentum, it truly became national, as many communities that are not known for being “solar friendly” or having a sizable solar market got involved.

Some of the most recent designees include Durham, NC; Elkhart County, IN; San Jose, CA; Doylestown, PA; Stevens Point, WI; Mountain Iron, MN; Miami Lakes, FL; Decorah, IA; and Haddonfield, NJ, among others.

“For years state and local governments have been leading the way on solar energy adoption,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Programs like SolSmart can improve local permitting practices and cut unnecessary costs, making it much easier for American families and businesses to go solar. We congratulate the hundreds of communities that are stepping up to make solar affordable and accessible.”

“Solar and battery permitting should be simple,” said Lynn Jurich, CEO of Sunrun. “SolSmart has encouraged more people to adopt solar, created quality local jobs, and brought more reliable local clean energy to our energy system. We need more clean and resilient options in our local communities, and simplifying permitting is a proven way to make real progress.”

129 of the 328 communities have been designated SolSmart Gold, indicating that they have reached the program’s highest level of achievement. All Gold designated communities have reduced permitting turnaround times to 3 days or less for rooftop solar projects.

An additional 75 communities have achieved SolSmart Silver designation, while 124 have achieved SolSmart Bronze. Nearly one-fourth of all designees (79 in total) started out as Bronze and then worked with the SolSmart technical assistance team to improve local programs and practices and move up to Silver or Gold designation.

Among the 328 designees, some noteworthy achievements include:

  • 189 communities have set up web pages with detailed information on how members of the public can go solar.
  • 226 have ensured that zoning ordinances allow rooftop solar installations in all major areas without excessive restrictions or barriers.
  • 108 have set up group purchase campaigns, providing savings for residents and helping the solar industry reduce customer acquisition costs.
  • 95 have an online permitting submission option, speeding up approvals for installations.
  • All 328 designees have established a set of unique solar goals to help drive continual improvement in their local solar market.

“Chattanooga’s SolSmart Gold designation sends a clear market signal that Chattanooga is an attractive, sustainable place to do business,” said Christy Gillenwater, President & CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee. “Our community is taking bold actions to advance solar energy, including our Chattanooga Airport’s solar farm, which generates enough power to equal the airport’s total energy needs. It’s the only U.S. airport to achieve this sustainable energy goal.”

One of the program’s linchpins for success was that communities competed to receive on-the-ground technical assistance from SolSmart Advisors, who are trained professional staff that live and work in the region for approximately six months. SolSmart Advisors work efficiently across local and state boundaries to help communities share ideas and achieve solar energy goals.

“The SolSmart advisor program has allowed the Great Plains Institute and our partners to mobilize local resources for its largest cohort, which encompasses three states in the upper Midwest and includes communities of all sizes, in metro and rural areas,” said Brian Ross, senior program director at the Great Plains Institute. “These resources and technical assistance are invaluable to busy city staff as they address the unique puzzle of how solar development fits into the fabric of their community and enables them to make progress on critical clean energy goals.”

Throughout the month of October, these 300 communities are planning events, local announcements, and other special activities to highlight their solar energy achievements. More information on these communities and their achievements can be found here.


About SolSmart: 

SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to expand their local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, SolSmart strives to cut red tape, drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. More than 300 local governments in 40 states and the District of Columbia have achieved SolSmart designation, representing 82 million Americans. SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association. Learn more at SolSmart.org.

About The Solar Foundation®: 

The Solar Foundation® is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate adoption of the world’s most abundant energy source. Through its leadership, research, and capacity building, The Solar Foundation creates transformative solutions to achieve a prosperous future in which solar and solar-compatible technologies are integrated into all aspects of our lives. Learn more at TheSolarFoundation.org.

About ICMA: 

ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government management worldwide through leadership, management, innovation, and ethics. ICMA provides member support; publications; data and information; peer and results-oriented assistance; and training and professional development to more than 12,000 city, town, and county experts and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA’s members affect millions of individuals living in thousands of communities, from small villages and towns to large metropolitan areas. ICMA has gathered more data on local government than any organization except the federal government, spanning a broad spectrum from economic development to local government innovation. Learn more at ICMA.org.

About SEIA®: 

Celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2019, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, which now employs more than 242,000 Americans. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to build jobs and diversity, champion the use of cost-competitive solar in America, remove market barriers and educate the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

Media Contact: 

Avery Palmer, The Solar Foundation, 202-866-0908apalmer@solarfound.org

The Solar+ Decade: Roadmap for Building the Solar+ Economy

Author: Solar Industry Association (SEIA)   Published: 9/23/19

solar plus roadmap gif

SALT LAKE CITY and WASHINGTON, D.C. — As part of the first steps into the Solar+ Decade, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released a roadmap that puts solar energy on a path to reaching 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030. The roadmap is a 10-year strategic vision for the solar industry that highlights both opportunities and systemic challenges the industry will need to overcome to reach its goals.

“The Solar+ Decade represents opportunity and a paradigm shift as we transform energy use in America,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “When we hit this goal, by 2030 we will more than double our workforce and add $345 billion in private investment, all while offsetting electricity sector emissions by 35%. But we can’t get there on momentum alone. We’ll need policies, alliances, and action from every member of the industry to make these goals a reality,” she continued.

Earlier this year, SEIA laid claim to the 2020s, as the Solar+ Decade to signify the leading role solar and its partners will play in reimagining our energy landscape. The roadmap spells out the benefits of reaching 20% solar by 2030, as well as the collaborations, policy mechanisms, and growth management the industry will need to make solar the leading source of new electricity generation.

solar installations to reach 20 percent by 2030

To achieve this goal, the solar industry will need to consider:

  • Collaborations: A cohesive solar industry and external partnerships will be key to the industry’s success. Partnerships with storage, wind, and other technologies will be critical to advance grid infrastructure and change how we generate, distribute and consume energy.
  • Market Accelerators: Economic and political forces outside of the solar industry, like energy storage, carbon reduction goals, and the further electrification of our economy have their own momentum and solar will need to continue to ride this wave of success.
  • Market Levers and Policy Drivers: Reaching 20% solar by 2030 will depend on a variety of factors, including the industry’s ability to find new opportunities for cost reductions and to move or change policies that can drive growth. The industry will need to streamline permitting challenges to reduce costs, continue its push on net energy metering and other state-level policy in emerging markets, and pass an extension of the ITC to continue growth.
  • Growth Management: The industry must consciously build a strong foundation to support itself. We must proactively address cybersecurity, recycling and land use challenges, as well as grid modernization and the inclusive, equitable distribution of opportunities in solar.

Numerous benefits, including the deployment of 500 gigawatts by the end of 2030 and a sharp reduction in emissions are on the line.

“As the solar industry prospers, we must be thoughtful about who’s benefiting from solar and the enormous economic and climate benefits it will bring,” said Ms. Hopper. “Together we can show that the Solar+ Decade is a story of inclusive growth that will both lift our communities and tackle our pressing climate challenges.”

Executive Summary

This roadmap offers a vision for the radical transformation of the nation’s energy system. It articulates where the solar industry stands today, sets the industry’s goal for the next decade and outlines the steps we must take to get there. The pages that follow will explain how the solar industry will expand exponentially from comprising 2.4% of the U.S. electricity mix today to 20% of all U.S. electricity generation by 2030.

This is an ambitious but achievable goal. Critically, none of it will happen without a collaborative, well-funded effort led by a strong national trade association.

We have identified four significant pillars of our plan to reach 20% by 2030 through radical market transformation:

  • We must work constructively with other industries and organizations that share our vision of radical market transformation. While our goal is predicated on solar penetration, we envision an electricity portfolio comprised of clean energy sources and technologies. Our ethos must be “aggressive collaboration.” We must be impactful and unabashed as we work with other stakeholders to advance storage, infrastructure, wind energy and any number of other technologies that will advance the solar vision and transform our markets.
  • There are a number of market accelerators that can increase solar energy adoption. Capitalizing on these accelerators, including energy storage, carbon reduction goals and electrification, will be critical to meeting our 2030 goal.
  • Market levers and policy drivers will play central roles in whether or not the solar industry reaches its destination. Climate policy, investment tax credit extension, state net energy metering, building codes and renewable portfolio standards all drive solar energy growth. Other factors include regional energy market rules, access to financing and opportunities to further reduce costs.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must manage our growth. Whether it is gaining a social license to operate by being good stewards of the land, proactively addressing recycling, modernizing the grid to allow for more solar deployment, protecting customers or ensuring a diverse customer base and workforce, we have to show that we are growing in a responsible way.

Why set this goal of 20% by 2030 and articulate a vision of radical market transformation? Because, when we achieve this goal, we will have generated hundreds of billions of dollars in investment and created hundreds of thousands of American jobs. We will reduce carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons, replacing more than 150 polluting power plants. And, when done with intentionality, we will grow prosperity for all Americans by creating economic opportunity and clean abundant electricity for our communities.

Throughout this report, we outline actionable steps that must be undertaken to realize the 20% goal. Key actions include:

Short-term (one to two years):
  • Extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit.
  • Reduce trade barriers
  • Expand on state-level coordination with partners to strategically plan nation-wide solar advocacy.
  • Strengthen trade association technical capacity and resources to further engage in regulatory proceedings, including FERC, RTO/ISO and state bodies.
  • Develop shared policy priorities in the pan-renewable space.
  • Begin crafting policy priorities for carbon legislation that will provide certainty and maximize opportunity for the solar industry.
Mid-term (three to five years):
  • Be the voice of clean technology in the climate policy debate, including crafting carbon legislative priorities that will maximize opportunities for solar.
  • Achieve adoption of SolarAPP.
  • Position solar + storage as the marginal generation resource (i.e., the best, cheapest and most capable) in state and utility resource planning and procurement.
  • Build a self-sustaining, nationwide PV Recycling Network.
  • Build a workforce that better reflects our country.
  • Expand the U.S. solar supply chain and build out both new and underutilized solar technologies, including photovoltaic (PV), solar heating and cooling and concentrating solar power technologies.
  • Create a vision for longer-term financing mechanisms.
Long-term (five years and beyond):
  • Fully-fund a 50-state policy strategy.
  • Build new transmission to support solar growth, including lines that provide regional and system-wide renewable energy and reliability benefits.
  • Work to build solar powered infrastructure that serves as a national network supporting the full electrification of the transportation sector.
  • Establish a sophisticated, locally-driven solar engagement plan to support solar expansion.

SEIA is well positioned to lead this radical transformation and be the lynchpin for the aggressive collaboration that is needed. However, the solar industry writ large will need to actively engage on all of the areas identified in this roadmap. It will be a transformative and prosperous journey for those in the solar industry today, and the thousands of new companies and hundreds of thousands of workers who will join us on the road ahead.

Resource Type

Learn more about the Solar+ Decade: www.seia.org/solar-decade.

Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

Media Contact: 

Morgan Lyons, SEIA’s Senior Communications Manager, mlyons@seia.org (202) 556-2872

Introduction to Virtual Power Purchase Agreements for Corporations

Author: Zach Starsia             Published: March 13, 2019               Level 10 ENERGYVirtual Power Purchase Agreement Infographic

Virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) are becoming an increasingly popular way for corporations to achieve their renewable energy goals. Here’s the 101 on VPPAs for anyone who is exploring this option on behalf of their company for the first time.

First of all, what is a power purchase agreement?

A power purchase agreement (PPA) is a contract between an energy buyer and the developer of a renewable energy project that hasn’t been built yet. In the contract, the buyer guarantees that the developer will receive a fixed price for their energy, and in exchange the buyer receives renewable energy credits (RECs) for every megawatt hour of clean energy that is generated and sold. PPAs are long-term contracts, typically spanning 12-20 years, enabling the project developer to secure long-term financing and build the project.

What are the benefits of a power purchase agreement?

Corporations enter into PPAs for a variety of reasons. PPAs enable a corporation to:

  1. Offset Scope II Emissions – These are carbon dioxide emissions that are a result of the corporation’s electricity use.
  2. Make Renewable Energy Claims – With a PPA, a corporation can claim that all or part of its operations are “powered by renewable energy.”
  3. Contribute to Decarbonizing the Grid – PPAs result in the generation of clean energy that would not have been possible if it weren’t for the agreement; this is known as “additionality,” and is important to many stakeholders.
  4. Hedge Energy Costs – PPAs can act as a hedge against rising energy prices (read on for more info).

What is a virtual power purchase agreement?

When a company decides to pursue a PPA, the two most common options are a physical PPA or a virtual PPA. With a physical PPA – as the name implies – the corporation, or a designated third party, takes title to the physical energy at a specified delivery point on the electric grid. The physical energy can then be transmitted from that specified delivery point to the corporation’s energy account or meter.

With a virtual PPA, the energy doesn’t physically flow from the project to the buyer. It is merely a financial contract, which is why it’s often referred to as a “financial PPA.” In a VPPA, the energy is sold on the wholesale electricity market at a defined settlement location (node, trading hub or load zone). The buyer continues to get their electricity from their utility company at their utility’s rate. For more information on the differences between a physical and virtual PPA, check out “4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Physical or Virtual Power Purchase Agreement.”

A VPPA is settled financially as a fixed-for-floating swap or contract-for-differences. The buyer and developer will agree on a settlement period, typically every month or quarter. During that time, the developer will sell energy on the wholesale market, at the floating market price. At a pre-determined interval (typically every hour), the developer will calculate the difference between the floating market price and the fixed VPPA price. At the end of the settlement period, they’ll add up the differences. If the total is positive, the developer will pay the buyer the difference. If the total is negative, the buyer pays the developer the difference, thereby guaranteeing that the project always receives the agreed upon VPPA price for each megawatt hour.

How does a virtual power purchase agreement work?

There are two players that come to the table in a VPPA: the corporate buyer, and the developer of the renewable energy project. Corporate buyers want to achieve their renewable energy goals by procuring bundled RECs and bringing new clean generation projects to fruition (referred to as “additionality”). Developers are trying to sell their energy at a price that will enable them to reach their internal rate of return. If the developer can find a buyer who will guarantee that they get that price for 10+ years, they can get the financing they need to build the project.

Here are the general steps in the process:

  1. The developer begins development of the project (site control, permitting, interconnection, etc.)
  2. The buyer and developer sign the VPPA, which defines the terms of the contract and the transfer of RECs.
  3. The developer gets financing and begins construction of the project.
  4. Once the project is operational, the developer sells the energy on the wholesale power market in their area, at whatever the price is at the time (the floating price).
  5. At the end of the settlement period, the floating market price vs. fixed VPPA price will be calculated, and the developer or the buyer will pay the difference, depending on whether it was higher or lower than the VPPA price.
  6. The developer receives one REC for every megawatt hour sold. Under most VPPAs, the RECs are immediately transferred to the buyer.

Virtual Power Purchase Agreement Infographic

In addition to receiving RECs, a corporation has an opportunity to hedge energy costs through a VPPA. If energy prices rise where the buyer uses energy AND where the project sells energy, the buyer will have a higher utility bill, but (if the average wholesale market price rises above the VPPA price), they’ll also receive a payment from the developer. If energy prices decrease, they’ll have a lower utility bill, but they’ll also have to pay the developer at settlement (if the average wholesale market price is below the VPPA price). For this reason, hedges are more effective if the buyer uses most of their energy in the same electricity market as the project.

Where can virtual power purchase agreements take place?

With a VPPA, the project does not need to be located in the same wholesale electricity market as the company’s facilities. However, the project must able to deliver its energy to a deregulated (retail choice) electricity market that is run by one of the seven Regional Transmission Operators (RTOs) or Independent System Operators (ISOs) in the U.S.

Even though the corporation does not need to operate in the same wholesale market as the project, there are a few benefits to doing so:

  • Projects located in the same ISO will have a stronger correlation between the energy market price at the project location and the energy price the corporation pays on its utility bills. A stronger correlation between these prices has the potential to create a more effective long-term hedge on energy costs.
  • It may be important to corporate stakeholders to work with a project that is close to where it uses the most energy, so that the environmental benefits are in the same region as the corporations’ operations.

Electric Power Markets

What type of corporations can participate in a virtual power purchase agreement?

VPPAs are now an option for a wide variety of corporations, universities and other institutions. But that wasn’t always the case.

To get financing for a project, developers need to first find a buyer for the majority of energy the project will generate. Historically, developers would find a utility or a large corporation to purchase the majority of energy, and then – if there was any energy left over – they’d sign a PPA with a smaller corporation. This made it extremely challenging for a smaller corporation to find a developer willing to sell them just the right amount of energy.

Now, project developers are slicing up a project and selling the pieces to multiple buyers. This is referred to as “aggregation” – and it has the potential to transform the industry.  With aggregation, a developer doesn’t have to find a utility or large corporation first; multiple buyers can collectively purchase the majority of energy the project will produce, allowing the developer to get financing. By slicing up the project, buyers who don’t need extremely large volumes of energy are now able to participate in PPAs. For more information on aggregation, check out “What is Energy Aggregation? – A Primer.”

While aggregation is great in theory, it’s complicated to execute. To sell to multiple buyers, a developer has to knock on a lot of doors, convince multiple buyers to work with them, and find enough buyers to purchase the perfect amount of energy– not too much, not too little. On the flip side, before corporations can collaborate to purchase power from a project, they first have to find each other, coordinate their extensive list of internal stakeholders, and jointly navigate tricky timing issues and contract negotiations in order to get a deal over the finish line.

LevelTen Energy developed its Dynamic Matching Engine to solve this problem. The Engine analyzes all of the data in the LevelTen Marketplace – a comprehensive database of more than 1,600 renewable energy projects across North America – to identify optimal projects (or portfolios) based on each buyer’s needs. Through the power of data science, LevelTen Energy can uncover a project that meets a corporations’ needs in terms of size, price, risk, timing, location and other factors, whether they work alone, or with other buyers.

By bringing buyers and sellers together, and matching them in optimal ways, LevelTen is able to open the world of renewable energy VPPAs to thousands of corporations who were previously sitting on the sidelines. For more information about working with LevelTen, visit www.leveltenenergy.com.

U.S. Energy Markets 101: How Electricity Markets Work

Author: Maryssa Barron   Published: October 10, 2019       Level 10 Energy

The structure of the U.S. electricity market is complicated, to say the least. It reflects years of debates over federal vs. states’ rights, market regulation vs. deregulation, monopolies vs. competition, and who should be responsible for the generation, transmission, and distribution of power. In this primer, we will explore how energy markets work, the importance of competition in the energy markets, and how that affects the options that corporations have when buying renewable energy.

Let’s start from the beginning…


Vertically-Integrated Energy Markets

After inventing the lightbulb in 1879, Thomas Edison opened the United States’ first electrical power plant in lower Manhattan. The coal-fired Pearl Street Station was only 50 by 100 ft and served less than 100 customers (including J.P. Morgan, himself). Because there was no existing infrastructure for the delivery of electricity, in order to deliver the power from Pearl Street, it was incumbent on Edison to build, own, and operate the first electrical distribution systems, as well. This “vertically-integrated” model of electricity distribution, where a single company owns the power plants, transmission lines, distribution lines, and delivers electricity directly to the end customer, served as the model for most electric utility companies that followed. In fact, Edison’s utility, the Edison Illuminating Company, is still around today as Consolidated Edison (Con Ed), one of the biggest power suppliers in the country.

Though small, the Pearl Street Station marked a tremendous achievement for the burgeoning electricity market and sparked fierce competition between wealthy investors to dominate it. Within two years of its opening, dozens of new utilities had emerged across the country mimicking the Pearl Street business model. But as Manhattan became blanketed with thousands of power lines, serious safety and reliability concerns came to the fore.

To put it into perspective, imagine a city block where two neighbors bought electricity from two different utility companies, Utility A and B. Each customer would then have entirely different transmission lines and power plants delivering power to them. So, when the power plants of Utility A stopped working, all of its customers would lose power, while all of Utility B’s customers still had their lights on. Of course, the first power plants and transmission lines didn’t always work how they were supposed to (Pearl Street caught on fire within the first two years of operation), so blackouts–and upset customers–were very common.

To address this issue, savvy businessmen lobbied the local and state governments to allow for the consolidation of monopolies. They successfully argued that publicly-regulated monopolies could keep prices lower and make the grid more reliable and safe.  Thus, competition was eliminated and single utility companies were given the power to own and operate all transmission within a given geographic region.

Today, this is the hallmark of vertically-integrated energy markets. Also known as known as “traditionally regulated” markets, vertically-integrated regions still exist in many parts of the country. In these markets, utility companies, 80% of which are still privately-owned, own the transmission and distribution lines and all associated infrastructure, including the power supply itself.


The Emergence of the U.S. Electricity Grid


From New York and elsewhere in the United States, the electricity grids grew to encompass the entire nation. Despite many references to “the grid” in pop culture, America doesn’t have a single power grid. There are actually three grids that serve the lower 48 states, which are known as “interconnections”: The Western Interconnect, Eastern Interconnect and Texas Interconnect (also known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT). These interconnections operate relatively independently, meaning very little power is shared between them. Within these interconnections, there are vertically-integrated energy markets and competitive wholesale electricity markets.


Wholesale Electricity Markets

As Americans began relying more and more on electricity, there were increasing numbers of blackouts across the country and confidence in the monopolistic, private utilities dropped sharply. It was determined that more oversight was needed on a federal level – Enter the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Founded in 1977, FERC set out to regulate the transmission and wholesale sale of energy and transport across state and federal borders. (Fun fact: Because the Texas Interconnect does not cross state boundaries, it is not subject to FERC oversight.) Regarding the electricity grid, FERC is responsible for ensuring policies are in place that prevent major power outages.

To stymie FERC’s intervention, in the 1990s, power generators, utilities, and transmission owners came together to form organizations called, Independent System Operators (ISOs). These private, non-profit organizations received FERC approval to self-regulate and share transmission responsibilities. The ISOs are charged with overseeing the commodity market for electricity in their respective jurisdictions by dispatching power generation, controlling transmission and distribution, and guarantying sufficient generating capability to meet demand (i.e. to ensure reliability!).

There are seven Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO)/Independent System Operators (ISOs) in the U.S.:

  1.     California Independent Service Operator (CAISO)
  2.     Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)
  3.     New York Independent Service Operator (NYISO)
  4.     Independent Service Operator New England (ISO-NE)
  5.     PJM Interconnection (PJM)
  6.     Southwest Power Pool (SPP)
  7.     Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)

And two RTO/ISOs in Canada:

  1.     Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO)
  2.     Independent Electric System Operator (IESO)

Relevant to corporate buyers of renewable energy, ISOs play a key role in managing a competitive market for energy supply. In a wholesale electricity market, the price for electricity is changing every five minutes according to factors like demand and, increasingly, wind and solar resources. Below is a price contour map of SPP electricity prices where you can see how price can vary by geography.

The competitive wholesale market enabled the eventual development of the corporate virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA), by providing a liquid reference price against which the VPPA settles financially. See our blog post, “Introduction to Virtual Power Purchase Agreements” for more details on how this contract works.

While over two-thirds of the country are within an ISO, some utilities and states still operate under the traditional, vertically-integrated model – if the ISOs are ‘free markets’, these traditional utility models are monopolies – located in parts of the West and most of the Southeast. These monopolistic traditional utility models do not provide opportunities for corporates to enter into VPPAs for renewable energy.


What is retail electricity choice?

To further complicate the electricity landscape, within both vertically-integrated and wholesale markets, states can have either regulated or deregulated (i.e., competitive) retail electricity markets.

In regulated retail markets (not to be confused with the “traditionally regulated”/vertically-integrated markets), there is not competition between utilities for end consumers. In other words, the incumbent utility monopoly is the only available supplier of electricity. Residential and commercial users in regulated retail markets cannot shop for a different electricity supplier the same way they would for, say, a TV/Internet provider. In such markets, which are defined at the state-level, end electricity consumers do not have “retail choice.” Instead, utilities are regulated by Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) to ensure monopolies do not inflate prices unfairly for the public.

On the other hand, in deregulated retail markets, retail electricity providers compete to sell electricity to the end consumer. In these markets, the incumbent utilities still own the distribution (and sometimes the transmission) wires, and simply charge the competitive electricity suppliers for access. There are 18 states in the U.S. that offer retail electricity choice, allowing residential and commercial users to choose their electricity provider. Advocates for deregulation argue that introducing competition to the market keeps prices low for consumers and encourages more innovation in grid operations.


Competitive Renewable Energy Supply

Decades of competition and innovation have transformed the landscape of energy markets around the globe. Now, LevelTen Energy is leading the rapid growth of clean energy growth in the United States, Canada, and Europe by building competitive marketplaces for renewable energy supply. Unparalleled in the industry, the LevelTen Energy Marketplace is serving hundreds of buyers and sellers of renewable energy to transact on competitive supply offers, enabled by real-time analytics, incentives for developers to post their most up-to-date prices, and market transparency that is unavailable anywhere else. Already, new structures and aggregations are being developed, and there is no limit to where it will take us.

If your company is thinking about procuring renewable energy to meet its sustainability goals, LevelTen Energy advisors can help you understand your options. Contact us to learn more.

Supreme Court rejects SDG&E appeal on who pays for wildfire costs

Author: Rob Nikolewski           Published: 10/7/19          Los Angeles Times