Monday, January 30, 2012

Study updating Net Metering cost benefit analysis

I came across the following study today:

The short form, it appears to be saying Net Metering saves the electrical consumer/power company more then it costs the consumer/power company when you have a single tier rate (like Dominion's). However, it is in researcher speak and not sure I understood it correctly. 

If I am correct then this is some of the evidence we are looking for that "standby" fees are unjust to solar PV owners.

The study link was buried in an article on "grid use fee" which I suspect Dominion will try out after "stand-by" fee to attempt to kill residential solar. The "grid use fee" got killed, but only because California voters have slightly more political power then the power company's do; unlike Virginia, where Dominion owns the legislature from the looks of it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jacobs' Passive Solar House Insulated Roll Shutters

Here's an early morning shot of the new insulated roll shutters which A&A Awnings just installed. The slats are about 1/2" thick, foam filled, powder coated aluminum.  It's motorized and the control is wireless so it can operate it from anywhere within about 200 ft. Individual shutters can be up, down, or anywhere in between for shade control.  In this installation, there are 8 separate units which can be controlled independently, though a unit could have been designed to cover any number of windows since the system is custom designed and built.

When down, they seal tightly and have allowed the internal heater usage at night to be cut by 1/3. It's like something out of Star-Trek when they all go up or down at the same time. 

Serendipitously, they fit right into the passive solar house as if it were designed with them in mind, which, of course, it wasn't since the house was built in 1980.  

Because they're foam filled, they're not as structurally strong as hurricane shutters, but will give some protection up to category 1 storms, though that's not their primary function.  

Although expensive (the whole system was about $12,000 installed), Jim & Genny Jacobs can highly recommend them should someone want rolling, insulated shutters like these.  Warranty is 5 years on parts, 1 year on labor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Surry/ODEC Zoning Hearing Date Set for Feb 27

Dear friends,

With the help and dedication of many people, we have been able to combine our collective efforts to push back the Old Dominion Cooperative's stated date of completion for their proposed coal-fired power plant from 2016 to 2021. I believe we are winning, but ODEC hasn't backed down and is still working to build what would be the largest coal plant in Virginia. We all know that this is a bad deal for both the economy and the health of Hampton Roads, and we can't let up on the pressure.

I want to make sure everyone knows that a critical opportunity to show our opposition to the coal plant is coming up on February 27th at 7:00 PM in Surry County (exact location TBD).

The Surry County Planning and Zoning Commission is being forced to reconsider zoning approval of the coal plant after a judge ruled that ODEC had rammed zoning approval through without proper notice in 2010. The planning and Zoning Commission will hold a hearing and a vote whether to recommend that the town of Dendron also approve local zoning for the coal plant. This is a great opportunity for you to speak up. Bring signs, bring your neighbors, bring friends. I've also created a Facebook event that you can access here and use to help spread the word. If you have access to a list serve or help run an advocacy organization please alert your membership. I'm happy to help anyone get the word out.

Many of you were there when in 2010 the Surry County Planning and Zoning Commission held a hearing and voted to recommend that the town of Dendron approve zoning for the plant. Many of you were there when Dendron held a Town Council Meeting for which no vote was advertised yet they voted anyway - even though three town council members abstained for a lack of advertisement. Those three town council members also abstained because the Mayor of Dendron wouldn't allow the coal plant proposal specifics to discussed, they abstained because ODEC refused to discuss whose properties the rail spur would cross, whose properties the massive pipeline to the James would cross. They abstained because ODEC claimed that trees could hide view of the 650 foot smokestacks and that the smokestacks only emitted water vapor. In the eyes of many ODEC's credibility was nonexistent. How could they let them build and operate a major source of pollution, that is known to cut years off of lives, cause asthma attacks, COPD, strokes, poison rivers, poison lakes, poison the Chesapeake Bay, and dump millions of tons of toxic ash all over town

It was repeatedly stated by council members at the Town Council Meeting that the vote wouldn't be legal, but ODEC's attorneys reassured the pro-coal plant town council members that it would be fine, that no one would sue. These are Virginia's premiere land use attorneys after all, surely they know how to write a public notice. Still, the remaining town council members and the mayor had the votes, and audacity, to grant local zoning approval that night in February of 2010. Shortly afterward, feeling the sting of injustice a local blueberry farmer and lawyer joined other locals to sue ODEC for not advertising the critical vote. It was a simple cut and dry case and ODEC could have admitted their mistake and just held the votes again. Instead they tried to have the case dismissed and they tried to scare the plaintiffs from Surry County by asking the court to make them liable for potentially millions in court costs. ODEC tried to damage the character of the lawyer saying that he was continually trying to delay the case when it was ODEC trying to get the case dismissed and flooding the court with tons of irrelevant documents.

In the end the judge ruled in favor of the Surry County residents and their farmer/attorney. The Planning and Zoning Commission and the town of Dendron must each hold their hearings and votes again, this time properly advertised. ODEC isn't wasting time. As I mentioned above, the first hearing and vote will be February 27th and the second has yet to be announced though it could possibly be in early March.

The increasingly small pro-coal plant group in Surry County has more than their share of power in the county and have worked to bolster pro-coal sentiments in the Planning Commission and the town of Dendron. Those three courageous Town Council members, for example, have been voted out and replaced with pro-coal members. So we don't expect either body to vote against local zoning.

I hope you will join me, and the dedicated people of Surry County, as we make a point to ODEC, the media, Surry and Dendron Politicians, and downwind communities who would suffer for decades to come, that this coal plant proposal is unacceptable.

Though we may lose the local zoning vote, let's treat this as our rally against the plant. Let us show our support for the citizens who haven't stopped fighting for a single day and took a great personal risk in filing the suit. Let's show ODEC that as long as they continue to try to push this dirty deal through the permitting process, we will be there to oppose it.

I hope you can make it.
(original email sent by Mike McCoy, Virginia Campaign Coordinator
Appalachian Voices)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Natural Gas Stations

Hampton Roads Green Building Council presents a
Learning Series Event

      Natural Gas Stations
Continuing Education: 1.5 GBCI CEUs for LEED GA and LEED AP+, Category I, Project Site Factors

The use of natural gas fuel not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also significantly reduces costs.

Presenter:  Greg Martin from Clean Energy Fuels

When:  February 21, 2102
          Noon to 1:30 pm
          Lunch will be provided

Where:  To be determined

Fees:  Fees for this event are $20 for members, $35 for non-members and $40 for walk-ins. 

Members will receive a separate e-mail with the member discount code to register at the reduced rate. 

Click here for more details and registration.

Contact Donna Wilgus at with any questions. 

Clean Energy Business Lobby Day Results

Eileen Levandoski from the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club coordinated the "Clean Energy Business Lobby Day" on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in Richmond, VA.   Below is the email she sent telling about what happened:

Dear Clean Energy Business Friends:

Thank you for participating in yesterday's Clean Energy Business Lobby Day!  Let me quickly recount what happened yesterday and then jump to next steps.

  • Over 40 clean energy business reps participated.  Throughout the day, we had 29 meetings with legislators and 19 meetings with legislative aides.  Our legislative packet was hand-delivered to all 140 legislators by business reps.
  • While our press conference with excellent speakers (Aviv Goldsmith from Fishermen's Energy, Bill Greenleaf from Richmond Region Energy Alliance and Scott Sklar with The Stella Group) was picked up by the  AP, we were more-or-less news cycle-wise trumped by the Governor's Press Conference and his uranium mining announcement.  Bites, but what can you do...
  • In a statement from the floor of the State Senate, Senator Frank Wagner recognized the day as "Clean Energy Business Lobby Day".  Delegate Tom Rust did similarly in the House of Delegates.  Even the Richmond Times-Dispatch recognized the day
  • Many participants witnessed first hand Virginia's style of sausage-making by attending the House Commerce and Labor committee meeting in the afternoon where they voted unanimously to weaken the RPS and almost killed the one good bill on efficiency.
  • Finally at the end of a long day of lobbying for clean energy, we kicked back to enjoy remarks from Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and past and future? gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe while also hob-knobbing with 12 legislators and numerous legislative aides at our legislative reception.
Under separate cover, I will be sending out our feedback form from your appointments with legislators.  This is very important information to have as we continue our outreach to move our priority legislation along. 

I'll also be sharing photos and news clips.  Feel free to share anything you have from the day as well.

Moving on to next steps:

  • We've established an email chain for discussing legislation with many of our solar industry friends.  I am in the throes of moving this group over to a Google discussion group.  If you would like to be included in this discussion and sent an invitation to this Google group, please shoot me an email.  As we will be also greatly discussing RPS reforms, our friends in the other clean energy industries are more than welcome to join the discussion group. 
  • Unless I hear otherwise from you, I will keep your email on stand-by for Rapid Response and Action Alerts as we need calls and/or emails into the General Assembly.
After yesterday's activities, I think the General Assembly is now on notice that Virginia's Clean Energy businesses mean business.  Despite the fact that Virginia has miles to make up when it comes to renewable energy, we are presenting them an agenda that makes sense and is totally "accomplish-able", and presents at the minimum baby steps towards the ideal. 

On behalf of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, let me again extend our tremendous thanks and appreciation for the hard work you each put into yesterday and to the hard work you'll hopefully continue to give for Virginia's clean energy future. 


Eileen Levandoski
Virginia Conservation Program Manager
Virginia Chapter Sierra Club

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Solar/Renewable Energy Bills in VA Legislature

I went through the Virginia Legislature's Information System ( and identified a lot of the bills that might be of interest to our group.
They can be found at:
Legislative Information System
HB 69 Renewable energy portfolio standard; required participation of electric utility in program, etc.

HB 70 Energy conservation; establishes statewide goal of reducing consumption of electric energy.

HB 129
Electric utilities; retail competition; purchases from net metering sellers.
HB 232 Renewable energy; expands definition to include landfill gas, etc. and its Senate companion SB 492

HB 312 Electric and natural gas utilities; energy efficiency programs
; and its Senate companion, SB 493 - this is a very technically worded bill, and I frankly didn't understand it; perhaps someone can enlighten me.

HB 433
Real Estate Appraiser Board; continuing education.

HB 448 Net energy metering program; standby charges.

SB 582 Net energy metering; SCC shall approve utility's proposed standby charge methodology.

HB 590 Renewable energy facilities; eligibility for incentives

HB 657 Renewable energy portfolio standard program; adjusts mix of energy sources that qualify.

HB 883 Income tax, state; credit for solar energy equipment systems

HB 894 Electric and natural gas utilities; energy efficiency programs.

HB 911 Renewable energy; requires SCC to establish a program of community net metering.

HB 1017 Renewable energy portfolio standard program; eliminates Performance Incentive provision.

HB 1166 Renewable portfolio standard program; reporting to State Corporation Commission and its Senate companion, SB 382.

HB 1102 Renewable energy portfolio standard program; credits for investments, and its Senate companion, SB 413.

Most of these seem to be promoting solar or renewables at some level. Sierra Club is lobbying for HB's 129, 312, 433, 448, 657, and SB 382. I wrote short statements of why I thought they should be promoted or passed and sent them to my legislators.

I hope you will contact your legislators (you can use
Who's My Legislator if you don't know who they are - districts have changed this year) and express your own opinions about these bills.

Two of the bills (or pairs of bills) seem to me to favor Dominion , and I opposed them or reasons I give below.
HB 232 and its twin
, SB 492. These would allow thermal energy to count for RPS as well as electrical.
HB 1102 and its twin, SB 413, which would allow utilities to count money spent for renewables R&D toward RPS, up to 20%.

- - - - - - - -
Here's my email form I used - you're welcome to ignore it or use it as you wish:

Dear Delegate......

The field of renewable energy (e.g., wind, solar PV, solar hot water) and energy efficiency (e.g., ground source heat pumps, improved insulation, lighting, and motors) is a growing field in Virginia. Each year the Hampton Roads Solar Tour (which I organize) sees increased interest and purchases of new energy equipment in homes and businesses because of the opportunity it gives each owner to reduce costs over the long run. Because of the growth in interest, it is therefore an area that has potential for job growth in our state. To help create those jobs, I recommend that the General Assembly pass certain legislation that would encourage the adoption of energy efficient and renewable generation equipment by homeowners and businesses.

Based on the current list of bills proposed at this year’s legislative session, I urge you to promote and vote for (insert number of bill)

Bill List and rationale:

HB 69 - Renewable energy portfolio standard; required participation of electric utility in program, etc.

Most states with job growth in renewable energy and efficiency have mandatory RPS programs. This provides a strong driver for the state’s utilities and citizens to invest in these technologies, therefore driving job growth to manufacture and install equipment in businesses and homes. Virginia should have a mandatory RPS system.

HB 70 - Energy conservation; establishes statewide goal of reducing consumption of electric energy.

Setting a goal for energy efficiency sets a strong signal and climate for the rest of the state that renewable energy and efficiency businesses will likely have work to do in the coming years.

HB129 - Electric utilities; retail competition; purchases from net metering sellers.

This bill would open up opportunity for organizations interested in establishing large renewable energy generation capability to do so free of restraint from public utilities that have no interest in renewable. This is likely to stimulate construction of several new facilities in the state, bringing construction jobs here.

HB433 - Real Estate Appraiser Board; continuing education.

This bill will provide building owners with the incentive for investing in efficiency and renewable energy. Currently appraisers do not factor in the advantage to the buyer of reduced energy costs of an efficient or energy-generating structure. By training appraisers how to evaluate these factors, a truer value of the building can be arrived at. This will incentivize owners to make energy improvements and increase tax base for localities at no cost to the State.

HB 448 - Net energy metering program; standby charges.

This bill would modify the recent SCC ruling granting Dominion large “standby” fees on large net-metered systems. Since the presence of only a few large (less than 20 kW) systems will not influence Dominions huge per distribution system, it seems reasonable to allow a modest number of systems to operate without standby fees until there are enough large systems to actually influence Dominion’s distribution capability. Limiting standby fees helps encourage the development of larger renewable energy electrical generating facilities, bringing construction jobs to Virginia.

SB 582 - Net energy metering; SCC shall approve utility's proposed standby charge methodology

This bill will add more transparency to the process of establishing standby charges by requiring the SCC to demonstrate that the method the utility uses to propose such charges meets several reasonable criteria. Overall, having rationally established standby fees helps encourage the development of larger renewable energy electrical generating facilities, bringing construction jobs to Virginia.

HB 657 - Renewable energy portfolio standard program; adjusts mix of energy sources that qualify.

This is similar to but superior to HB 590. This measure would require that RPS credits need to be based on sources in Virginia. Most other states now have a similar requirement, and it makes sense to encourage development of in-state RPS-worthy sites because of the local jobs they stimulate.

It also requires that RPS credits be based on recent facilities, not old ones. This would emphasize development of new capability and thus new jobs.

HB 883 - Income tax, state; credit for solar energy equipment systems

Many other states find that having a personal and corporate tax credit, whatever the size, for renewable energy equipment is useful in stimulating sales of such equipment, which leads to job growth and increased property value (see HB433).

I urge you to oppose:

HB 232, SB 492 Renewable energy; expands definition to include landfill gas, etc.

I have no problem with adding landfill gas to the list of allowable renewables, but I object to the addition of thermal energy equivalents to the list. The allowable RPS items should be in facilities that directly produce electricity, not in indirect sources. For example, using this criterion the solar energy that happens to fall on an office building or power plant could be credited since it provides a component of thermal energy to heat the building. This is far too lenient and negates the intent of RPS which is to promote development of renewable energy sources.

HB 1102, SB 413 - Renewable energy portfolio standard program; credits for investments

I think that utilities, as any corporations, ought to be doing R&D to help determine their path to the future, and not to get RPS credits for it. The intent of having an RPS is to stimulate development of renewable energy sources within the State of Virginia. Doing R&D on renewable energy does not automatically do that. If in the process of doing R&D the utility creates a renewable energy facility tied to the grid, then that would clearly be OK. Otherwise, as the bill stands it reduces the intended impact of the RPS program.

Ken Wright