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"The Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club is dedicated to the goal of moving to a new energy future, one weaned away from carbon-based sources of energy and that defends instead on renewable, sustainable energy sources and that maximizes energy efficiency."

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October

Sub-archives

Oct 25, 2011

Join Us: Solar Energy To Be Discussed in Frankfort Tomorrow!

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 25, 2011 04:36 PM

The interim joint committee on local government will host a "discussion on solar energy" tomorrow, October 26th, in Frankfort at 10 am in the Capitol Annex room 171.

 

Join us to support Matt Partymiller and Denis Oudard of Solar Energy Solutions and the Kentucky Solar Energy Society, both member groups of KySEA.

 

The committee is co-chaired by Senator Damon Thayer and Representative Steve Riggs. Both are interested to learn about the opportunity Kentucky has to advance solar energy and how local governments can take action.

 

For more information, email jeff@kysea.org or denis@kysea.org.

 

 

Oct 20, 2011

Capitalism will drive demand for solar energy

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 20, 2011 08:16 PM

By Denis Oudard, representative to KySEA for the Kentucky Solar Energy Society
Posted: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/10/16/1923111/capitalism-will-drive-demand-for.html#ixzz1bAIpmegN

Solar electricity will be cheaper than any other source of electricity by 2020.

There, you heard it from me first. This claim is now more believable than ever.

Signs are everywhere that this will be reality within our lifetime. The reason is very simple, and it has nothing to do with the Environmental Protection Agency or environmentalists. It has to do with good old capitalism.

First, some basic, but important, data.

You can go crazy trying to determine the cost of electricity from coal (try the Internet), but since I have seen some utility bills from large companies at about 3.3 cents per kilowatt hour, it is quite safe to assume that — under most circumstances — it is less than 3 cents, including the transmission to the point of consumption.

More importantly, it is safe to assume that it is not going down. Kentucky residential customers pay about 8 cents per kWh and they know it has not been going down.

Today the solar industry can install utility-size systems that over their 40-year lifetime will produce electricity at a cost of 10 cents per kWh, down from about 18 per kWh about a year ago.
The reasons for this sudden decline are several, but the two main factors are:

■ European countries have lowered their feed-in-tariffs, the amount of money European utilities promise to pay for solar electricity, making them less attractive to investors

■ China is investing huge amounts of money in solar production plants. This has created an oversupply situation in the photovoltaic industry, sending the price of PV modules tumbling.

The cost of solar was going down before these two recent events and it will continue going down, most likely in fits and starts. Eventually, it will halve again, and again and again. I predict that by 2020, the cost of a solar kWh will be 2.2 cents, delivered.

Many in the industry make similar predictions. Forward thinking companies and governments all over the world are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to install solar systems. Once the cost of solar electricity reaches "grid-parity," the point where solar electricity is cheaper than the alternatives, they will spend hundreds of billions of dollars.

Solar has all kind of neat advantages. It produces electricity without water, without ashes and without various unwanted gases and poisons. But as we have seen, for many people those advantages are not enough. The decisive advantage of solar is that its cost is going down.

The implications are far reaching. Countries and states that do not act now to build a solar energy infrastructure, including knowledgeable engineers, qualified installers, modern transmission lines and even electricity storage, will find themselves with the highest electrical bills in less than 10 years.

Some say that coal is already the expensive solution today because of its externalities: its pollutions of all kind and their consequences. What seems to be the source of cheap electricity today will no longer be the source of cheap electricity tomorrow, no matter how you do the math and no matter how you account for externalities.

Some people say we cannot afford to rely on more expensive renewable energy. Their message — that renewable energy is pushing the price of electricity up — is the exact opposite of what is going to happen. Sticking with the status quo is what is going to cause the cost of electricity to increase the most. Investing now in renewable energy will create the cheapest electricity in the near term.

Groups involved with the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) and the Kentucky Solar Energy Society (KySES) are finally making some progress in Frankfort waking up our legislators to this reality. They are advocating a bill that would progressively increase the portion of clean energy that utilities purchase and implement policies — which states including Ohio, North Carolina and New Jersey have already adopted — to grow Kentucky's clean-energy market, clean-energy expertise and clean-energy jobs.

 

Oct 11, 2011

Renewed Energy

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 11, 2011 10:22 AM

Re-posted from the Louisville Eccentric Observer.

Activists point to higher bills, job creation in urging legislators to support clean energy
By Anne Marshall

Earlier this month, the Kentucky Public Service Commission’s public hearing unfolded much like a game of dominoes. Held at Louisville’s Johnson Traditional Middle School, members of the scant crowd leaned into the microphone, one after another, their pleas all generally falling into line: Don’t raise our bills, protect low-income families who can’t afford ever-blooming energy costs, and get serious about alternative energy.

Clean energy advocates hope the combination of rising rates, along with the potential for job creation, will steer legislators towards passing the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a bill that’s gone nowhere in the past two legislative sessions. It mandates that a portion of Kentucky’s energy come from renewable sources, rather than solely from coal. An admittedly uphill battle in a mountaintop removal state.

“I think it will look nearly impossible until the day before it passes,” says Wallace McMullen, conservation chair with Louisville’s chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Sept. 6 hearing was part of a series as the Public Service Commission decides whether LG&E and Kentucky Utilities should be allowed to tack on an environmental surcharge to bills. That could raise residential electric bills in Louisville by up to 19 percent over the next four years. (The Sierra Club and Metropolitan Housing Coalition will go before the Public Service Commission in November as interveners in the surcharge case. The Sierra Club questions the analysis behind the fee. The Housing Coalition is concerned with how the higher bills may inevitably hit the poor the hardest.)

The charge would eventually drop off once the utilities have covered the estimated $2.5 billion needed to improve existing coal-fired power plants not meeting Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. One such upgrade would include the addition of “scrubbers” that will catch emissions before they escape into the air. Joan Lindop, with the Greater Louisville Sierra Club, likens this to billions on Band-Aids.

“If they scrub more emissions out, that’s more that’s going into a coal ash pile,” she says. “We’re really not wanting to encourage them to spend that money on old plants when it could be used for renewables.”

And so for the third year, advocates are gearing up to push legislation they say would spark production and demand of solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal power.

In 2010, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB 239) was assigned to the state House of Representatives’ Natural Resources and Environment Committee, headed by global-warming denier Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence. It did not get a hearing. In 2011, the bill was strategically rerouted outside of Gooch’s committee and into the Tourism Development and Energy Committee led by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville. That resulted in measured progress: A discussion hearing. No vote.

This year’s proposed legislation will look much like the one from last year, with two critical pieces. The first includes a renewable and efficiency portfolio standard, a policy already adopted by 29 other states. It would require utilities to generate 12.5 percent of retail sales from renewable energy by 2021, with at least 1 percent from solar.

This is a rather conservative standard when compared to several other states demanding that well over 20 percent of energy eventually be derived from renewable sources.

The other proposed policy calls for a “feed-in tariff,” which works as a contract, establishing a fixed premium price for energy produced in Kentucky, be it from large-scale operations or individual homeowners.

Mike Hynes, president of the Housing Partnership Inc., a developer of affordable housing in Louisville, wrote a letter to the Public Service Commission in support of this idea. Hynes recently installed solar panels on one of the Housing Partnership’s properties, but was careful to only invest in panels that would generate 75 percent of their energy needs.

If Hynes outfitted the building with enough panels to exceed 100 percent of their desired energy, LG&E would give him a credit to go toward future bills, rather than pay him for that energy.
“Basically, that builds up in perpetuity. In my mind, that creates an incentive not to produce enough electricity as one could for their household,” he says. “With a rebate program, that’s an incentive to create systems that are larger than what you can use."

Several regional utility companies including Duke Energy, Georgia Power and Florida Power and Light have tariff programs that pay per kilowatt-hour, then turn around and put that energy back into the grid.

Tom FitzGerald, with the Kentucky Resources Council, says the timing is right for renewables.
“The unit cost of solar and wind is coming down,” says FitzGerald, adding that while coal may appear to be the cheapest source of fuel, that’s not including environmental costs and restrictions.

“Over the course of time, you start having to fold in extra costs because externalities have to be accounted for.”

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, will sponsor the renewable energy bill again this year. She says supporters are tailoring their arguments for the legislation in light of another sore subject — jobs.

“When you’re looking at business and manufacturing folks coming to Kentucky, they want constancy in the market,” she says. “Coal is cheap now, but it’s going up.”

The Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance reports that neighboring states with clean energy standards are experiencing a boom in manufacturing and construction employment. For example, after Ohio passed legislation in 2008, about 1,500 solar-related jobs were created.

While no one expects the Clean Energy Opportunity Act to garner much attention until election hoopla ceases, advocates believe this year the support just might be there. They point to this week’s Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment in Lexington, where various panels discussed the issue.

“What we have to consider is coal is always going to be No. 1 for the foreseeable 15 to 20 years,” Marzian says. “But if we don’t start looking at different tools … we’re going to be left holding the bag.”

Oct 05, 2011

KySEA Member, Kentucky Conservation Committee, Welcomes New Director

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 05, 2011 11:49 AM
Filed Under:

Re-posted from the website of Kentucky Conservation Committee, a KySEA member.

Frankfort, KY--October 5, 2011--The Kentucky Conservation Committee has appointed Art Williams, former director of the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, as Executive Director.

KCC has lobbied the General Assembly for environmental and conservation legislation since 1975.  Two recent legislative achievements required LEED certification of new state buildings and established a foundation for the protection of more conservation lands.

In accepting the position, Williams said, “I look forward to working with the members of the General Assembly, citizens of the state, and other interests to bring progressive and workable solutions to tough issues facing our great Commonwealth.”

Until recently, KCC relied on volunteer work and a part-time lobbyist but times have changed. The President of KCC’s board, Dr. David Wicks of Louisville, said, “Kentucky’s legislature confronts a wide range of challenges related to energy and conservation -- climate change, the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, rampant development, and the limited role of renewable energy . All these threaten Kentucky’s celebrated bio-diversity and suppress opportunities for new, green jobs. Providing an effective voice for conservation of our lands, air, and waters requires a year-round effort.”

Art Williams, an attorney, brings 33 years of environmental and energy experience in the public and private sectors to this position.  He has been the Energy and Environment Advisor to the City of Louisville, served in the Office of General Counsel of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and as Commissioner of the Department for Environmental Protection, and was a partner and head of the environmental practice for the Louisville law firm Woodward, Hobson and Fulton. 

Wicks said, “Art has dealt effectively with difficult and complex energy, environmental and conservation issues in his career and helped bring people with opposing positions together to achieve positive results. We’re fortunate to contribute his collaborative talents to the legislative process on behalf of Kentucky’s environment.”

KCC will introduce Williams as its Executive Director to the public at an annual meeting to be held Saturday November 5, 2011, at the U of L Shelby campus from 10am to 4pm, where the association will discuss issues for KCC’s focus in the upcoming legislative session.

KySEA welcomes Art Williams to the work!

Oct 03, 2011

KySEA Members Populate the Governor's Energy Conference

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 03, 2011 08:05 PM

Last Monday and Tuesday, September 26th and 27th, nearly 20 representatives of KySEA member groups attended the Governor's Conference on Energy and the Environment.

Member groups in attendance included: Kentucky Solar Energy Society, Solar Energy Solutions, Alternative Energies Kentucky, Center for Sustainable Cities Design Studio, Phinx LLC, Sierra Club, Wellhead Energy Systems and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.

KySEA representatives also staffed a table promoting the benefits of clean energy in the Commonwealth and the Clean Energy Opportunity Act during the two days.

The KySEA table entertained quite a bit of traffic, having conversations with conference participants about topics ranging from green energy on schools to clean energy training opportunities to in-depth discussions about the Clean Energy Opportunity Act. Several KySEA member group representatives also took the time to get to know one another.

KySEA representatives attended the wide variety of conference sessions that were offered. The conference did advance the discussion about clean energy solutions compared to last year in that break-out sessions about distributed energy options in Kentucky, the Kentucky Home Performance efficiency program and the statewide Kentucky Recycling organization were offered.

Further, former Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado was invited to speak on a plenary session about the advances his state saw in job creation and renewable energy production during his tenure. He credited the success to the implementation of statewide energy policies that encouraged such growth.

Many speakers, including Energy Secretary Len Peters and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson, indicated that the most promising policy advancement potential in Kentucky, in their minds, is energy efficiency.

"There's a quiet revolution going on in conservation," Adkisson said.

The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, supported by KySEA, would increase the amount of energy that utilities offset through energy efficiency programs every year.

To learn more about the conference or to view the presentations from the conference, please check this page of the state's website soon.

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