Clean Power

Published on January 24th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


California Gets SEIA’s Praise, Arizona Gets SEIA’s Condemnation

January 24th, 2013 by  

California Governor Jerry Brown, in his State of the State, showed some strong support for solar power and an ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Naturally, this earned the praise of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today.

Meanwhile, however, solar-blessed Arizona took a big step backwards when it comes to solar power, drawing some strong criticism.

California Dreamin’

“By restating his strong support for a 33 percent RPS target, Governor Brown continues California’s efforts to grow its robust, sustainable clean tech economy, provide additional certainty to solar developers, attract new private investment, add thousands of new jobs, improve reliability of the electric grid, and reduce air pollution,” SEIA states. “With this stepped-up commitment, additional solar firms throughout California will be in a position to further their growth. Fast-growing solar companies throughout the state have greatly expanded their presence since 2001.”

“With this ambitious renewable portfolio standard, California is setting an example for the entire nation – while realizing the benefits of an expanded clean energy economy,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president for state affairs at SEIA. “We applaud Governor Brown for advancing policies that promote clean energy innovation, create jobs, protect the environment, and help ensure our nation’s energy security and independence. This RPS target demonstrates California’s standing as our nation’s leader in solar deployment. The state’s forward-thinking energy policies ensure that solar continues to be an increasingly significant component in the state’s – and our nations’ – energy portfolio, one that helps contain electricity costs for families and businesses.”

California is a clear solar power leader. It’s nice to see such a large and influential state lead the way on this matter.


Arizona… Not Cool

While California is still a glowing state of support for solar power, very sunny Arizona has fallen of the wagon.

The Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC) has just voted to eliminate all incentives for competitive commercial solar systems. Here’s SEIA’s response:

“SEIA is disappointed to learn of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s decision to eliminate policies critical to future commercial solar energy investment. While the ACC maintained funding for utility-owned projects it eliminated those for privately-developed commercial systems. The latter is a step backwards for Arizona’s longstanding commitment to economic development, free markets and expansion of clean energy resources. This is particularly troubling at a time when Arizona faces challenges including water usage and shuttering of coal facilities. It is our expectation that this Commission will, despite this aberration, continue to support a diversified solar market in the future.

“Arizona businesses will continue paying monthly Renewable Energy Standard Tariff (REST) surcharges, but they will have no longer have the opportunity to use these funds to eliminate or reduce their electricity bill by installing solar themselves.

“While today’s decisions come as a surprise to SEIA, we remain committed to participating in a transparent decision-making process with the ACC that maintains free market choices for Arizona businesses and consumers.”

Of course, solar power is growing fast in the US — faster than any other power source. “Since 2008, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses, and military bases has grown by more than 500 percent – from 1,100 megawatts to more than 6,400 megawatts today, which is enough to power more than one million average American households. Solar is the fastest-growing and most affordable, accessible and reliable clean energy technology available today.  America’s solar industry now employs more than 119,000 workers at 5,600 companies – most of which are small businesses spread across every state in the union.”

The 6,400 MW figure is actually from the end of Q3 2012. According to SEIA and GTM Research’s projections, Q4 was going to be the biggest quarter in the history of US solar, by far. The projection was that it would add about 1,200 MW.

Arizona is currently ranked #3 for total installed solar capacity. As a result, it has nearly 10,000 solar employees working at over 270 companies. It would be a shame if it went backwards in this fast-growing industry and lost jobs and economic growth to other states.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    What extraordinary confusion! How can Arizona be subsidised with REST surcharges, then in the same article have ” ….a longstanding commitment to economic development, free markets ….”
    Economic development does NOT mean taking workers from established, productive jobs and putting them into less productive jobs. That is the reverse of economic development.
    Subsidies have NO part in a true Free market.
    Junk writing.

    • Bob_Wallace

      So how do you feel about the fact that we’ve subsidized fossil fuels for 100 years and nuclear for over 60?

      And how do you feel about the fact that no one would build a new nuclear plant unless they could receive some rather heavy subsidies?

    • There’s no such thing as a “free market” as idealized in economic theory. There are huge market failures that make the market unbalanced (not “free”).

  • science guru

    Great post. What do we do about this issue? Arizona is a no brainer for solar energy and it should be in the hands of the people that paid for it thru their electric bill. It will only get worse if we do nothing.
    Patrick sums it up very well in his comments.
    Could you post something / anything that will give us some teeth to fight back?

    • I’m not sure who’s working on the ground there, but I’d check in with (or even SEIA) to see if they could use some help or can connect you with people there who are.

  • patrick kerfoot

    this is more about political agendas then bringing clean energy to Arizona and the US, In most of the discussions on this subject, there has been one thing that seems to be left out and that’s the shareholders return on investments to energy comodities, that in my opinion is the major obstaclel to all of the renewable energy advancemnets, this is old money, people get substantial income from standard energy comodities, (oil, coal, and natural gas). There is no energy comodity on raw materials with renewables (sun, wind, and geathermal) and this is why there is resistance to change.No one spoke up for factory workers when automation took their livelyhoods, however now a major part of the investment community is being threaten with the lose of their income and they are crying out loud. Arizona is a republican state, they represent the investment community in this case and if you check most republican states you will find the same thing with exception to those that have major wind generation capacities.In my opinion,again, this needs to be brought to the front of any disccusions concerning why renewable energy projects, research, and further development of phasing out old energy is to progress. It’s not taboo to tell the investment sector to get with the times and move on.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Smart people should be moving their capital out of coal. Oil will continue to make a lot of money for many more years.

      But, were I heavily into oil, I’d be checking EV battery technology every day. I would not at all be surprised to see a 200 mile range battery suddenly appear. The big boys tend to develop behind closed doors and then spring new product on the market.

      Once we get affordable 200 mile range EVs I can see the market quickly shifting to EVs and after that it will take roughly 15 more years to get most ICEVs off the road.

      Coal is going to die much faster.

  • Nealicus

    Hmmm… Reminds me of energy return on investment. Speaking of which, Zach, help me out. You had a post a few months ago that showed the declining EROI of a barrel of oil compared to the rising EROI of solar. Was that an inforgraphic or do you know where it is? I tried searching, but the search on this site- not so amazing 😉

  • Otis11

    Well that seems rather backwards – I could see cutting support for utility scale solar in favor of allowing more rooftop solar installations, but the opposite just doesn’t make sense. Maybe if you were only supporting solar thermal as it would allow more on-demand type usage than PV, but for PV point of use makes a lot more sense…

    • Powerful, rich folks not thrilled with losing profits to solar. That’s what it’s about, afaik.

      • Otis11

        Well they have to realize they’re fighting a losing battle! As PV becomes less and less expensive and more and more efficient, the cost of transmission will become an ever-increasing portion of the cost of electricity.

        Within the decade solar will the at grid parity or better in all but the cheapest electricity markets (many of which are subsidized anyway!). The only hope for electric companies is 1) areas that are to power dense to produce all that they need (commercial and industry) and 2) as a commodity trading market (aka buy excess ower at just a slightly lower price than they sell it).

        I just don’t understand why commercial giants refuse to see what’s right in front of them – in many industries. I understand trying to fight it for a while to allow you to transition to the new business model, but trying to fight it forever is futile! Might actually be a good idea to short their stocks now that I think about it…

        • Bob_Wallace

          A number of these companies own coal and nuclear plants.

          They are used to making very sweet money when peak demand and merit order pricing take the wholesale/closing price of electricity very high.

          PV solar whacks those high peak prices. Cuts deeply into coal and nuclear profits.

          Right now about 1/4th of all US nuclear plants are in trouble because wind and natural gas are cutting profits almost to the point where they can’t stay in business. One big repair bill could easily do them in. Lots of solar will make their lives even worse.

          • Otis11

            Right, I understand that – but they have to realize they are fighting a losing battle, right? Technology doesn’t get more expensive, only resources do. So unless silicon runs out and prices skyrocket (aka all the sand in the world happened to evaporate…) they can’t win this fight. Wouldn’t it be better to get in on the profit than go down swinging?

          • Geoff Sherrington

            Bob Wallace, I’ve followed large scale electricity pricing since the early 1970s. I’m also a scientist who understands the principles of electrical generation and distribution. Incoming solar cannot pass a known figure, which is very dilute energy, because the sun is not predicted to suddenly start a brighter shining. There might be tiny, incremental improvements to the harvest of this dilute energy, but at the end of that road there is a gigantic concrete block that stops further progress. Nuclear does not have this technical barrier.
            When anti-development activists have had 60 years to increase artificial imposts on solar, it will be hell of a lot more expensive that nuclear has becomes because of its 60 years of fighting activism.
            It’s a social problem, not an engineering or resources or science problem. Some anti nuclear activists have spent near a life time inventing unreal ways to make it more costly. Why, some of them even claim this to be their benefit to society. Useful fools, I think was an older description.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tell us how a 100% nuclear grid would operate Geoff.

            And tell us which safety features/regulations you would eliminate from nuclear reactors in order to make them affordable.

          • You must be kidding me. Geoff, you are making wild claims for supposedly being so informed. The price of solar has been cut in half in recent years. Efficiency improvements have been considerable. To say otherwise is to show that you don’t actually follow this industry!

          • Ross

            Geoff. You are clearly lying about being a scientist.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Since this one popped up again with Ross’s comment…

            Dense/thin is not how we value a source of electricity. We value sources and technologies based mainly on the LCOE that technology delivers. LCOE plus time of delivery and “side effects”.

            Nuclear’s LCOE is one of the two highest, nuclear and coal. Nuclear has a time of delivery problem as you can’t turn reactors off at night. And nuclear has way more than it share of side effect problems, all the way from sudden meltdowns to centuries of very hazardous waste.

            One of the reasons that nuclear is so expensive, has such a high LCOE, is that it is just plain dangerous. We have to add all sorts of safety systems and security measures to nuclear plants so that they don’t go Chernobyl on us. Or at least they don’t go Chernobyl on us too often.

            Uranium and coal are our most energy dense electricity sources. They are also the most expensive ways to bring new generation to the grid and they bring with them dangers totally unlike that of any other electricity source.

            Wind and solar are energy ‘thin’. But we’ve learned how to turn those relatively thin sources of power into cheap electricity. And we’ve brought no important dangers to our environments with this technology.

            (Don’t stand under wind turbines in icing conditions. You might get hit by falling ice. As long as the ice doesn’t hit anyone, it will simply melt away. It won’t contaminate the Earth for centuries.)

        • I agree.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Zachary, you cannot attribute motive to strangers without proof. Perhaps these mysterious rich folks are capable of economic rationalist thought, a way to get richer in the first place. Perhaps they do not like to see viable industries destroyed so that dumb ones can replace them. Perhaps you might be better advised not to shout the dogma of other activists.

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