Category Archives: AustinEnergy

Southern Company buys 157MW Roserock Solar Farm in Texas

That’s great, but how about more of those hundreds of construction jobs and operation money right back here to Georgia? But since you’re buying solar power, why do you need to buy a pipeline company? How about helping us against Sabal Trail invading us from Texas through Southern Company territory?

Southern Company PR, 30 November 2015, Southern Company subsidiary acquires first solar project in Texas,

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Most of June electric bill for overbudget nuke, yet the sun rises

While electric bills still are tilted against local solar generation 300x225 CWIP on electric bill, in Most of June electric bill for overbudget nuke, by Bret Wagenhorst, 11 June 2015 and Georgia Power continues to levy its stealth CWIP tax for its nuke boondoggle, yet solar power is rising this year on Southern Company and Georgia Power.

Bret Wagenhorst posted on facebook 9 June 2015:

I find it decidedly ironic that a large portion of my last month electric bill went toward paying for a nuclear power plant that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, and which will no doubt cost millions of dollars a year to run and to manage its potentially deadly waste. I wonder if the money spent on the nuclear plant were used to purchase rooftop solar panels for all certified energy efficient Georgian homes if we citizens might not be better off in the long run. Thoughts?

Look for Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery Rider on that bill: Continue reading

Minnesota follows Austin with Value of Solar Tariff: better than net metering, or not?

Yes, it’s better than the unequal “net metering” Georgia has now, where your one-and-only utility pays you a rate they determine, typically their “avoided” rate of not generating energy by some other means, which is usually a lot less than what you pay your utility. Is it better than real one-to-one net metering? That’s a harder question, because even if it pays more now, it’s less predictable. In any case VOST has spread from Austin to Minnesota.

Herman K. Trabish, GreenTechMedia, 10 April 2014, A Rising Tension: ‘Value-of-Solar’ Tariff Versus Net Metering,

Source: Institute for Local Self Reliance

The Alliance for Solar Choice, a group made up of Continue reading

Austin Energy pays 3 cents extra for solar and everybody wins

Net metering actually shortchanges rooftop solar generators, discovered Austin Energy by running the numbers. And here in Georgia we can’t even get net metering: maybe we should. In Austin, Texas it’s called the Value of Solar tariff, and it’s an odd tariff that actually pays the solar generator.

Chris Warren wrote for Oxford American 7 June 2013, The Revolution Will Be Solarized,

To come up with a true value of solar to the utility, Austin Energy formulated numerical values for all of the benefits yielded by each kilowatt-hour of distributed generation. These included not only the actual electricity produced but also the elimination of line losses as well as costs the utility could avoid by not building, or even delaying, construction on more generation. “If you put off a billion-dollar decision for one year, that’s at five percent interest,” said [Karl] Rabago. “It’s a big savings in cash each year.”

In the end, Austin Energy determined Continue reading

Energy efficiency rebates, Austin, Texas

The central city of a major MSA, Austin, Texas, publishes its own video reporting on local issues, like this one on local energy efficiency.

AustinEnergy has brought back its best offer ever deal, which allows customers to receive both rebates and a loan to make energy efficiency improvements. The rebates can total as much as $3200, and can cover as much as a third of the cost of the improvements, including the air conditioning unit. Remaining costs after the rebates can be financed through a low interest loan through the Austin Credit Union.

The best offer ever is financed in part by a $10 million better buildings grant from the U.S. Department of Energy….

Here’s the video:

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Rooftop solar: the most direct route to clean energy industries

Austin vs. San Antonio in solar power Around here I hear local leaders say “we’ll never be Austin.” Well, Austin may be letting San Antonio pass Austin as far as rooftop solar and the jobs that generates. It’s not a matter of size or pre-existing advantages. It’s a matter of political will. Do we have that will here?

TexasVox wrote a white paper in February 2012, Solar Austin: Rooftop Solar & Job Creation,

…the most direct route to attracting and encouraging the development of clean energy industries is through the

the scale of future development will be orders of magnitude greater than what has occurred to date.
mass deployment of local rooftop solar, which is probably why solar has by far the most significant presence of any clean energy generation technology in Austin.

But the paper’s point is that Austin is falling short. Look at the graph: Austin seems to have settled for linear growth in solar power, while San Antonio gets it about compound growth. As San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said in 2011, solar power is in

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Crystal River nuke still can’t get insurance payoff

Nobody wants to pay to fix Progress Energy's Crystal River nuke: not PGN, not its new owner Duke Energy, not Nuclear Electric Insurance Ltd. (NEIL). So maybe this nuke, only 160 miles from here, will be staying shut permanently? What say we do the same for the new nukes at Plant Vogtle, only 200 miles from here, before they even open?

John Downey wrote for the Charlotte Business Journal, Crystal River nuke plant stymies Duke Energy Utility facing penalties, high costs for repairs,

After two mediation sessions, Progress Energy Florida and its insurer haven't agreed how much of the potential repair costs for the utility's crippled Crystal River nuclear unit are covered.

It appears all but certain that Progress — a Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary — will have to pay millions of dollars as a penalty for failing to make a timely decision on whether to repair the plant.

Repair expenses have been calculated at between $1.5 billion and $3.4 billion, plus what it costs to buy power to replace what Crystal River would have produced while it is being repaired.

What kept shut Crystal River down from 2009 on was a concrete containment separation. Maybe those errors in pouring concrete at Plant Vogtle are Continue reading

Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead, and Coal is Crashing

Somebody is willing to read the sunshine writing: Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead and Coal is Crashing, as Kathleen Rogers and Danny Kennedy wrote for EcoWatch 14 Dec 2012.

As I wrote back in April when formerly coal-plotting Cobb EMC went solar:

Coal is dead. Nuclear is going down. Solar will eat the lunch of utilities that don’t start generating it.

Can Georgia Power and Southern Company (SO) read that handwriting on the wall? They can’t fight Moore’s Law, which has steadily brought the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy down for thirty years now, and shows no signs of stopping. This is the same Moore’s Law that has put a computer in your pocket more powerful than a computer that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1982 and was used by an entire company. Solar PV costs dropped 50% last year. Already all the new U.S. electric capacity installed this September was solar and wind. As this trend continues, solar will become so much more cost-effective than any fossil or nuclear fuel power that nobody will be able to ignore it.

Rogers and Kennedy explained this phenomenon:

The seismic shift in how we all use cell phones and mobile technology to access the internet almost snuck up on the incumbent technologies and the monopolies that made money selling us landline telephones and a crappy service. Now, we’re all using apps on smartphones all of the time. So too, the shift to a scaled, solar-powered future built around the modular technology at the heart of solar power—the photovoltaic solar cell—will come as a surprise to many. We call it the solar ascent, and it is happening every day in a million ways.

Will SO and Georgia Power continue to prop up that 1973 legal wall that inhibits solar financing in Georgia? Companies and even economic development authorities are starting to find ways around it, and of course there’s Georgia Solar Utilities (GaSU) trying to wedge into the law as a utility. After Hurricane Sandy, rooftop solar for grid outage independence has suddenly hit the big time (Austin Energy caught onto that back in 2003). The U.S. military got solar and renewable energy back in Afghanistan and are now doing it bigtime everywhere.

SO and Georgia Power can try to ignore Continue reading

Financing solar energy: Georgia’s special problem

In most states, financing solar energy is largely a matter of learning all the local ropes. In Georgia, there’s a bigger problem.

Michael Mendelsohn wrote for RMI 5 December 2012, How Do We Lower Solar Installation Costs and Open the Market to Securitized Portfolios: Standardize and Harmonize,

Soft costs can be pretty tough. The cost of solar installations can be generally separated into “hard” costs — representing primary components such as modules, racking, inverters — and soft costs including legal, permitting, and financing. While the former group — particularly modules — have dropped dramatically over the last several years, the latter have not. According to a recent NREL analysis, these costs represent roughly 30% of both residential and utility installations (slightly less for commercial-host systems). See Figure 1.

In fact, soft costs are so critical to the overall success of solar adoption, their reduction is a primary focus of the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to make solar energy cost-competitive. In order to reduce the cost of financing, NREL recently completed and continues to work on various efforts to tap public capital markets and enable other vehicles that securitize project portfolios.

We’ll come back to tapping public capital markets and the like, because that’s the key to what Georgia Solar Utilities (GaSU) is trying to do. But there’s a special problem in Georgia, buried in the next paragraph:

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“Great, big” SO is 1/10 Australia for solar farm deployment in Georgia

Solar Megawatts 2012-10-11 So if Southern Company is a “great, big company” similar to Australia, why did Australia just deploy a solar farm ten times the size of the biggest one SO has in Georgia?

Back in May, Southern Company (SO) CEO Thomas A. Fanning said:

From an energy standpoint, Southern Company is a little bit smaller, but similar to, the energy production profile of the nation of Australia. We are a great, big company from an energy production standpoint.

Meanwhile in Australia, Giles Parkinson wrote for Clean Technica 10 October 2012, Australia’s 1st Utility-Scale Solar Farm Now On!

At about 11am local time near the Western Australian town of Geraldton this morning, Australia’s first-utility scale solar farm was officially switched on.

It was a suitably sunny day (blighted by three million flies) and although just 10MW in size, and built courtesy of funding from the local government, a state-owned utility and by one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, it may presage a dramatic change in the way this country produces energy.

So what’s SO or Georgia Power’s biggest solar plant in Georgia? You remember, 1 MW in Upson.

OK, to be fair, that’s just Georgia Power. SO does have larger solar farms elsewhere, including

Now I know Georgia Power’s party line is that solar is only good in the U.S. southwest. But I don’t know how that explains Continue reading