Help Put Rooftop Solar on the Ballot in Nevada

The PUC eliminated rooftop solar to protect NV Energy’s monopoly. We’ve launched a campaign to put rooftop solar on the ballot in November and get it back. Join us! http://www.bringbacksolar.org

Last December, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) passed anti-solar rules that destroyed the rooftop solar industry in America’s sunniest state. The rules eliminated Nevadans’ choice to go solar, imposed massive new fees on existing customers, and has already cost the state hundreds of jobs, with thousands more Nevadans facing layoffs in the coming months. And they did all that WITHOUT any evidence that NV Energy incurred any increased generation, transmission or distribution expenses that can be tracked back to the installation of residential solar arrays. Moreover, they undermined state policies and incentives that encouraged customers to go solar, created thousands of jobs, and made Nevada a national leader in clean energy. The PUC’s rules are unfair, they have damaged Nevada’s business-friendly reputation, and they only benefit the State’s monopoly utility, NV Energy. 

The PUC’s new rules allow NV Energy to take clean electricity from residential solar customers and sell it to their neighbors at a 300% markup, or even better, sell it on the open market for more than they can legally charge their customers, while crediting net-metered customers with a fraction of energy usurped. They also force solar customers to pay monthly fees 200% higher than other residential customers without solar arrays. In other words, the PUC granted NV Energy the right to usurp the investments made by residential customers who invested in solar arrays (but did nothing to penalize big box stores littered with solar panels on their roofs). That’s just wrong. NV Energy should not be allowed to take our electricity without fair compensation.

Meanwhile, all we’re seeing/hearing from Governor Sandoval?  Crickets!  Sign up now for Bring Solar Back‘s email list to join the fight and support the petition. Then, share and tweet your support to get your friends and neighbors on board.

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With Nevada Poised to Squash Rooftop Solar, Clean Energy Fight Heats Up

Decision “puts Nevada embarrassingly out of step with the national and international agenda recently set in Paris to save our climate,” says local activist

Renewable energy advocates say the move could “destroy the rooftop solar industry in one of the states with the most sunshine.” (Photo: SolarCity Advocacy/Twitter)

Renewable energy advocates in Nevada are outraged by the state’s solar-killing moves, and they’re not going down without a fight.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission considered requests Wednesday from solar company groups, homeowners, activists, and the state consumer advocate to put a stay on a rate hike that took effect January 1.

The Republican-appointed Commission (PUC) in late December voted to increase a fixed monthly fee for solar customers by about 40 percent while simultaneously reducing the amount customers get paid for excess power they sell to the grid. It also made these changes retroactive—a move one solar executive said would “sabotage” consumers’ investments.

Clean energy advocates swiftly decried the changes, which have left the state’s solar sector “in turmoil.”

Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, said the move would “destroy the residential rooftop solar industry in one of the states with the most sunshine.”

In fact, he added, “the one benefactor of this decision would be NV Energy, whose monopoly will have been protected. The people will have lost choice, jobs and faith in their government.”

According to Bloomberg, SolarCity announced last week plans to fire 550 field and support staff in Nevada and Sunrun Inc. followed a day later with “hundreds” more job cuts.

The PUC’s decision “forces Sunrun to displace our Nevada employees, inflicting enormous pain on hard-working Nevada families,” said Bryan Miller, the company’s senior vice president of public policy and power markets. “Nevada passed incentives to attract residents to go solar. But after baiting homeowners with incentives, the state switched the rules, penalizing solar homeowners to deliver additional profit to NV Energy. This bait and switch hurts Nevada families, many of whom are retirees on fixed incomes, and who use solar savings to meet their monthly budgets.”

Renewable energy advocate Judy Treichel, who serves as executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, belongs to one of those families.

In a guest column for the Las Vegas Sun published Tuesday, Treichel explained how “when the price of solar panels for residential installations dropped significantly, we tapped $8,500 from our retirement savings—after taking into account an NV Energy rebate and federal tax credit—and become a solar household. We were solar-powered all of last year, and our annual savings showed our system would pay for itself within 14 years. Moreover, it was right for the environment.”

Now, she said, “we feel financially ambushed,” continuing:

With the new pricing for NEM customers, the value or price of the energy they produce will be vastly reduced. In addition, the flat service charge for NEM customers will rise to three times that charged to nonsolar residential customers, a kind of penalty for producing much of our own electricity. The people with solar on their homes feel cheated; solar businesses are closing or leaving.

Similar arguments were reiterated on Wednesday, when actor-activist Mark Ruffalo joined hundreds of Nevadans calling on the PUC to change course—and for Gov. Brian Sandoval to take a stand against the new rates.

“Today’s decision puts Nevada embarrassingly out of step with the national and international agenda recently set in Paris to save our climate,” said Rt. Rev. Dan T. Edwards, Bishop of the Episcopal Churches of Nevada, following the PUC’s vote in December.

Indeed, squashing solar can be seen as a desperate attempt to hold on to the status quo, as Danny Kennedy, author of the book Rooftop Revolution and co-founder of solar company Sungevity in California, said in an interview with Alternet in 2013:

Solar power represents a change in electricity that has a potentially disruptive impact on power in both the literal sense (meaning how we get electricity) and in the figurative sense of how we distribute wealth and power in our society. Fossil fuels have led to the concentration of power whereas solar’s potential is really to give power over to the hands of people. This shift has huge community benefits while releasing our dependency on the centralized, monopolized capital of the fossil fuel industry. So it’s revolutionary in the technological and political sense.

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Of course, while the PUC’s residential solar-killing move directly impacts locals, it comes amid a growing global push for a clean transition to renewable energy.

A Visualization Of The Democrats’ Positions On 5 Important Issues

— by Andrew Breiner | Oct 14, 2015, 12:59 pm

In Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, candidates not only avoided boring their audience, but managed to discuss policy and solutions to real-world problems so that voters will be able to make an informed choice between them. That is to say, they had a political debate. It was a far cry from the Republican debates that have been held so far, where focal points included conspiracy theories about vaccines and Donald Trump’s assertion that he doesn’t call all women pigs, just Rosie O’Donnell.

Candidates challenged each other on key issues like gun control and marijuana legalization, and clarified their own positions on reforming Wall Street and college affordability. We’ve collected the stances of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley on some of the most prominent topics of debate:

on-the-issues-816x1084on-the-issues-816x1084


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Is O’Malley an Environmental Champion?

The former Maryland governor’s record is inconsistently green, at best.

— by Alissa Weinman

Commanding the backing of only 2 percent of Democrats in national polls, Martin O’Malley isn’t exactly a big contender in his quest to become the party’s presidential nominee. But like the rest of the growing number of hopefuls, the former Maryland governor is building his campaign around a narrative.

O’Malley wants you to see him as the climate hawk. His website conspicuously boasts the candidate’s “new climate leadership,” and he’s rolled out an ambitious set of climate-friendly policy proposals.

For example, he wants to completely transition the United States to renewable energy by 2050, a half-century ahead of the Obama administration’s target. He opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and arctic drilling ventures, and he’s vowed to create a Clean Energy Jobs Corps that would retrofit buildings for energy efficiency, expand forests, and employ thousands.

O’Malley, who stepped down in January after two terms, is clearly eying the green vote. Too bad his record is inconsistently green, at best.

Hillary or Bernie, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

My home state of Maryland had plenty of environmental mishaps under O’Malley’s watch. It’s now trailing in the race toward a fossil-free future.

Maryland only ranks No. 16 on Clean Tech’s Leadership Index, which evaluates states based on their embrace of alternative sources of energy, the strength of their renewable-energy policies, and how much related research and investment happens within their borders. Maryland’s even behind New Mexico and Michigan, two GOP-led states that are home to some of the nation’s dirtiest power plants.

O’Malley also backtracked on his promise to ban fracking. In a sudden reversal at the end of his term, he claimed that the economic benefits that come with fracking are worth the risk, given strong regulations.

Not everything O’Malley spearheaded was harmful to the environment. Under his leadership, the imperiled Chesapeake Bay began to rebound, along with its blue crab populations. He also pushed legislation to promote Maryland’s offshore wind power industry.

In fact, I became an environmentalist because of the changes I witnessed in Maryland during O’Malley’s governorship. And I couldn’t agree more with his assessment that “there is no future for humankind without a livable climate.” That’s what makes his mixed record harder to swallow.

Polls indicate that voters are increasingly thinking like me. Americans no longer see the environment overall or climate change in particular as a marginal issue. That’s especially true for young people, whose votes will be key in a tight race.

Even though O’Malley is clearly a long shot for the White House, his emphasis on the environment could help shape other candidates’ platforms. But to do that, his campaign will have to glow a lot greener than his governorship.


Alissa Weinman, a recent graduate of the College of Wooster, was a Next Leaders climate policy intern at the Institute for Policy Studies in the summer of 2015.
Distributed by OtherWords.org

Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Combat Climate Change

“Climate change is one of the most urgent problems facing our nation and our world. I’m proud to announce the first steps of an ambitious plan to combat it and help make America a clean energy superpower.  Too many Republicans in this race deny the very existence of this global threat by reminding you that they’re not scientists. Well, I may not be a scientist, but I’m a grandmother with two eyes and a brain. That’s all it takes to know that we must immediately address climate change, one of the defining challenges of our time. I hope you’ll stand with me to do just that.” — Hillary Clinton

Hillary for Nevada Facebook Page 

Hillary on Economics

Hillary on defending America and our core values 

Hagar: Clinton’s ‘gender card’ campaign picks up steamRGJ // Ray Hagar

Clinton campaign stops in Ely on Nev. tourEly Times// Garrett Estrada

Clinton’s grassroots tour stops in FallonLahontan Valley News // Steve Ranson

Clinton staffers make local stopThe Humboldt Sun // Joyce Sheen

Why were they in Gardnerville—Let’s Talk Nevada // Andrew Davey (video)

‘Thirsty’ Global Fracking Industry Puts Water, Environment, Communities at Risk

‘The fracking industry needs to be urgently reined in before it’s too late for our planet and people across the globe.’

— by Deirdre FultonCommon Dreams staff writer

Multinational oil and gas companies are moving into increasingly vulnerable countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia where the ecosystems, communities, and authorities are even less able to cope with the impacts of fracking and shale gas extraction, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.
Fracking
Mexico’s shale gas reserves and water-stressed regions overlap significantly. (Credit: Friends of the Earth/World Resource Institute/US EIA)

The report, Fracking Frenzy: How the Fracking Industry is Threatening the Planet (pdf), shows how the pursuit of fracking in countries such as Mexico, China, Argentina, and South Africa is likely to exacerbate the climate, environment, social, and human rights problems those countries already face. While much has been written about fracking in the United States and the European Union, this study “seeks to provide a global overview of shale gas development in the rest of the world,” its authors note, focusing specifically on 11 countries that are leaders in shale development on their respective continents.

“From Brazil and Mexico to Algeria and South Africa, this thirsty industry is exploiting weak regulation and causing untold environmental and social damage in the pursuit of profit,” said Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “The fracking industry needs to be urgently reined in before it’s too late for our planet and people across the globe.”

Released as United Nations climate talks open in Peru, the report illustrates the variety of dangers posed by the rapidly expanding fracking industry. In Northwest Africa and Mexico, for example, longstanding water scarcity issues will only be exacerbated by fracking operations that require millions of liters of water per project. In the earthquake-prone Sichuan basin in China, the Karoo basin in South Africa, the Himalayas, or the Sumatran basin in Indonesia, drilling around complex underground geologies raises the prospect of increased seismic activity, higher costs, and “incalculable environmental impacts and risks.” In Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, drilling activity on or near indigenous lands is already leading to conflicts with local communities.

“The emerging planned expansion of the shale gas industry outside the EU and North America raises serious concerns because of the almost unavoidable environmental, social, and health impacts already seen at existing fracking sites,” reads the report. “Given that these problems have proved difficult to avoid in countries with relatively strong regulations to protect the environment, how can this industry be properly monitored in countries where environmental standards are often lower (and sometimes non-existent), and/or where enforcement capacities are frequently limited and where corruption can be an everyday reality?”

Far greater scrutiny of the industry’s climate impacts is warranted, the report concludes, “particularly in countries which are already and will be much more directly affected by the consequences of climate change.”

Natural gas “is not—and never has been—the clean fuel that the industry has tried to claim,” it reads. “In fact it poses an immediate threat to attempts made to fight climate change.”

Friends of the Earth is urging the 195 nations gathered in Peru this week to consider these assertions.

“Around the world people and communities are already paying the price of the climate crisis with their livelihoods and lives,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “Fracking will only make things worse and has no place in a clean energy future. Europe and other industrialized countries most responsible for the climate crisis need to use the talks in Lima to make genuine commitments to end their reliance on corporate-controlled fossil fuels and embrace clean, citizen energy.”


CC-BY-SA   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Moving to Cleaner Energy — Letting the Sun Shine In

Why would the ALEC network of state-level lobbyists want to make solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses?

By Isaiah J. Poole

Isaiah_Poole

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.

 

Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.

caf-alec-Brookhaven National LaboratoryWhat’s not to love?

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?

Yes, according to ALEC, an organization that specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws, people like me who invest in energy-efficiency and shrinking our carbon footprints ought to be penalized.

Why does ALEC want us punished? Since it’s bankrolled by, among others, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, it’s hard not to surmise that they’re worried about a threat to fossil fuels businesses. Koch Industries’ operations include refineries, oil and natural gas pipelines, and petrochemicals

That’s no conspiracy theory. Recently the British newspaper The Guardian wrote about the assault on solar panels as part of a broader exposé on ALEC.

John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture program, confirmed to The Guardian that the organization would support making solar panel users pay extra for the electricity they generate. That’s already about to happen in Arizona, where homeowners who use solar panels will pay an average of about $5 extra a month for the privilege, starting in January.

The solar power industry called the new rule a victory only because power companies in the state were demanding assessments of as much as $100 a month — more than high enough to deter families from considering switching to solar.

Making solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses is part of a larger ALEC objective, affirmed at its recent annual meeting, to continue its effort to eliminate state renewable energy mandates.

According to meeting minutes, ALEC has already succeeded in getting legislation introduced in 15 states to “reform, freeze, or repeal their state’s renewable mandate.” ALEC lobbyists are pushing policies through states that will speed up climate change and increase pollution. They’re threatening the renewable energy industry, which is already creating new jobs and saving money for homeowners and businesses.

Without the current policy paralysis in Washington and a lack of bold, creative thinking about how to build a new, green economy at the national level, they wouldn’t be making so much headway.

My organization, Institute for America’s Future — together with the Center for American Progress and the BlueGreen Alliance — recently published a report that shows what’s at stake with ALEC’s destructive agenda.

Our “green industrial revolution” report recommends tying together a series of regional solutions that take advantage of the unique assets of each part of the country, such as the abundance of sun in the West and the wind off the Atlantic coast, into a cohesive whole.

These regional strategies would be supported by smart federal policies, such as establishing a price for carbon emissions and a national clean energy standard, creating certainty and stability in the alternative energy tax credit market, and providing strong support for advanced energy manufacturing.

This is the way to unleash the kind of innovation and job creation our economy — and our rapidly warming planet — desperately needs.

My solar panels are the envy of my block and I wish more of my neighbors will be able to make the same choice I did. But they won’t if fossil-fuel dinosaurs like the Koch brothers and right-wing organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council keep casting their dark clouds on efforts to build a clean energy future.

It’s time for them to step aside and let the sun shine in.


Isaiah J. Poole is the editor of OurFuture.org, the website of the Campaign for America’s Future. OurFuture.org.  Photo credit to:  Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr,  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

Boulder Taking On Golliath

When you’ve got giant energy companies this scared, you must be doing something right.

The only way to counter the monies golliath corporations can flood communities with outright propaganda and lies is with people running a truly grassroots campaign advocating to put their values into action.  Only an army of “people” can defeat the war chests of corporation after corporation.

A Deadly Power Surge

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful.

— by Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson

Jacki Schilke was suffering from symptoms ranging from rashes, pain, and lightheadedness to dental problems and urinating blood. The formerly healthy, 53-year-old cattle rancher’s body was under assault from a list of toxic chemicals as long as your arm.

But Schilke’s lucky — so far — compared to five of her cows. They died.

Richardson-Fracking-Oly-Pentax

The rancher’s problems might become worse in time, since the chemicals causing her acute problems are also linked to chronic, deadly diseases like cancer.

What’s afflicting Schilke and her cows? The oil and gas drilling craze known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. As The Nation magazine and the Great Plains Examiner reported last year, Oasis Petroleum started fracking on land three miles from her ranch in 2010. Oasis got money, the world got more energy from the gas they drilled, and Schilke got sick. Now, she won’t even eat her own beef.

If the results of fracking were virtually unknown a decade ago, before it became a common practice in states like Pennsylvania and Schilke’s home of North Dakota, there’s no mystery remaining now.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, when you pump a cocktail of toxic chemicals into the ground to dislodge fossil fuels, there’s a cocktail of toxic chemicals in the ground. And some of those toxins don’t stay put. Those toxic chemicals make their way into the water, the soil, and the air, and they’re EXEMPT from regulation under the Clean Water Act.  You can thank Dick Cheney for that reckless action.

And the toxins flow from there — into the living things that rely on the water: the soil, the air, plants, animals, and us. We’re fracking our food.

Yet President Barack Obama is a big fracking supporter. He called natural gas a form of “clean energy” in the big address on global warming he delivered in June, touting the nation’s production of more natural gas “than any other country on Earth.” Then he said, “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”

Right. Compared to other forms of dirty energy, natural gas might reduce our carbon emissions. But at what cost?

If our only energy options were oil, coal, and natural gas, we’d be in a rotten Catch-22. Luckily, we have more choices than that. There are growing solar, wind, and geothermal options. Perhaps the most overlooked alternative is increasing efficiency.

I visited the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, two years ago. The school had made a big effort to reduce its energy use. In one building, I saw a hallway that used to have its lights turned on all the time. The builders had never even installed switches to turn them off.

Decades ago, energy was “too cheap to meter.” It seemed cheaper to just leave the lights on all the time than to wire them to be turned off. That’s changed. After some retrofitting, the lights can be turned off.

How many other buildings and homes have no light switches, insufficient insulation, or old, power-guzzling appliances? How many are still being built without taking advantage of the most up-to-date methods that curb energy use?

Obama proudly spoke of doubling America’s use of solar and wind power in the last four years, with plans to double them yet again. He’s right. We increased wind and solar energy from less than 1 percent of our energy in 2007 to less than 2 percent in 2011. (Meanwhile, our reliance on natural gas crept up from 28 percent to 30 percent of total energy consumption, and our total use of energy overall rose in those four years by 9.4 percent — with most of the increase coming from dirty sources.)

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful. Emissions during the fracking process outweigh any benefits of reduced emissions when the fuel obtained is burned. Besides, how does fracking American land make sense if it’s poisoning our food and water supply with chemicals that give us cancer?

Let’s solve our energy problems by increasing efficiency and by turning to truly clean sources of energy: renewable options like solar, wind, and geothermal power.


OtherWords
columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.  OtherWords.org.  Photo Credit:  Oly-Pentax/Flickr