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07/15/2011 10:59 AM     print story email story  

State Roundup: Record Year for CA Rooftop Solar; NH Veto Saves Carbon Trading; VA Transitioning to Clean Fuels Fleet News

Record Year For California Rooftop Solar

95,000 sites in California are now topped with solar panels!

2010 was a record year for rooftop solar in California with 194 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic  (PV) capacity added atop residences and commercial buildings.

That's a 47% increase over 2009, according to a California Public Utilities Commission report. The state now has a total of 924 MW of rooftop solar - more than half of its 2016 goal of 1,750 MW.

The Commission credits the growth to the success of the California Solar Initiative, an unprecedented $3.3 billion program launched in 2007 to incentivize installation of 3,000 MW of solar over 10 years. Those incentives have been aimed toward helping solar achieve "grid parity" - where its price is competitive with fossil fuels.  

And prices have dropped significantly. Inflation-adjusted prices for residential systems under 10 kW are down 18% since the program began - from $10.45 per watt to $8.55 per watt.

New Hampshire Veto Continues Participation in Carbon Trading

New Hampshire's Democratic Governor John Lynch vetoed a bill that would have pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). 

RGGI - the only cap-and-trade system in the US - has been under assault by fossil fuel interests since the midterm elections when Republicans gained more influence in the Northeast and throughout the country.

According to Reuters, Republicans in New Hampshire's legislature are short of the two-thirds majority vote that would be needed to override Lynch's veto. Republicans say pulling out of the program would reduce costs for utilities and lead to lower rates for consumers.

However, Lynch asserts the RGGI brings the state $16 million in additional revenue each year that is being used to increase energy efficiency and create clean energy jobs.

"I am vetoing this legislation because it will cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery, and damage our state's long-term economic competitiveness," says Lynch in a statement.

In May, legislative committees in Maine and Delaware resisted similar pressure pressure, voting to keep their states active in the program, but New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie announced he would withdraw his state.

The RGGI was adopted by 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in 2005. The states committed to capping and then reducing carbon emissions by 10% by 2018.

It has been successful not only in reducing global warming emissions from power plants, but also in channeling funds to clean energy projects in those states. Since 2009, the program has raised $886 million.

Efforts to roll back RGGI are being fueled by Americans for Prosperity, a corporate front group bankrolled by leading polluters, including Koch Industries, who have been aggressively moving to eliminate regional cap-and-trade programs.  

Virginia to Transition State Fleet to Clean Fuels

Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed an executive order to transition the state's vehicle fleet toward clean fuels.

The order instructs the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Department of General services to study the state's current fuel use and propose by 2012 a "best available path" for a complete transition to clean fuels.

The state operates 10,000 vehicles - using a range of cleaner  fuel sources from natural gas to electricity would offer budgetary relief with gasoline prices hovering around $4 a gallon.

"Today would be a great day for a solar-powered car," McDonnell said at a press conference the Associated Press described as "sweltering under the sun."

Hawaii Studies On-Bill Financing for Renewable Energy Projects

Hawaii's Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie signed a law directing the state's Public Utilities Commission to study the feasibility of "on-bill financing" for small-scale renewable energy systems.

On-bill financing allows property owners to pay back loans for energy efficiency improvements or renewable energy systems through savings on their utility bills.  It's designed to assist middle-class residents and small business owners who don't qualify for low-income weatherization programs. 

New York instituted on-bill financing with the passage of a new energy law earlier this month. But implementation in Hawaii is less likely. The bill originally ordered the PUC to establish the financing model but was downgraded to a study after the governor threatened to veto it.

Hawaiian Electric Co. told legislators the program would be expensive to administer, according to the Star-Advertiser, and the governor said the PUC could label it as an unfunded mandate.

Non-profit group Blue Planet Foundation offered to help the PUC with the cost of the study.

Wind Power Capacity Increasing in West Virginia

Wind power production is increasing in West Virginia, a state where coal has been king for the last century.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, West Virginia got 25.4% more energy from wind from February 2010 to February 2011.

Wind still produces only 1.2% of the state's electricity. The state added 101 MW of capacity in 2010, bring its total to 431 MW. 

Wind could supply up to 17% of the state's energy, according to DOE's National Renewable Energy Lab.

To reach that figure, there need to be a shift in public and political will, so that the state's mountaintops are used to host wind farms and not blasted away to supply coal.

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