SolarFest 2016

FSolar Fest 2016 Sonjaun was had by all. Overall, SUMA-NW was well received at SolarFest this year. We made a presentation at 10AM, just as the fair started. We used a flip chart to make three take-away points:

 

  1. Smart Meters are NOT the Smart Grid
  2. Markets will lead the way NOT the Utilities
  3. Take Action for healthy, cost effective Solutions

The first point is the conflated WP_20160723_11_12_43_Prodefinition and greenwashing clarification. We left this chart up throughout the day and it was an eye-opener to most people. All along, people were surprised that being against so called “smart” meters did NOT mean we were against the actual “smart” GRID. This is very important information. Our booth emphasized the fire hazard today.

“Smart” Meters

“Smart” Grid

Centralized Revenue Control No New Meters required
Fire Hazard Distributed Renewable Energy Generation
Costly (Capital, rates, TOU) Sensors for outage detection
Loss of Privacy Electricity Supply/Demand Balancing
Health Risk Reduces use of Fossil Fuels
Grid Vulnerability by Hacking (9/30 substations) Creates Green Jobs
Negative Environmental impact
Automation = Job Loss

WP_20160723_11_19_02_ProThe second point was about Utilities versus the Markets. The Markets will be the driving force of rooftop solar energy and any renewable energy generation. The Utilities are stuck in a century old model that cannot change with the times. Seattle City Light for all its virtues as a carbon neutral, green energy provider are forced to focus on economies-of-scale, reducing costs by automating billing and other field services with “smart” meters. Demand for electricity, especially among residential customers, is going down just with conservation and energy efficiency programs. The Utility simply CANNOT afford to support decentralized, renewable energy. This is why incentives are being reduced and solar is NOT being promoted.

Utilities Market
Centralized Distributed
Fixed production Innovative
Inflexible Flexible
Need to control users Independence
Need to maintain or increase demand Installations of Solar up 94% since 2015
Economies of Scale Solar power becoming more affordable
Increasing rates built in Decreasing cost built in
Monopoly, no incentive to change Driving innovation and change
1 producer, many users Many producers, many users

WP_20160723_11_28_30_ProFinally, we talked solutions, what actions can we the public take to move the conversation towards progress, cost effective, renewable energy integration into the electricity grid. We started the conversation with these obvious ideas:

 

Solutions

Construction Codes
Incentive Policies
Community Organizing
Need Storage R&D

One person in our audience suggested creating special loan products that allowed people to pay the same monthly rate for electricity but to a loan provider, and the loan could be sold with the house. What a brilliant idea.

Solar Fest 2016-rs2Thanks to John Frink, Nancy Morris, Carolyn Mateos, and Sonia Hoglander for manning the booth. Thanks to Cher and David Ward for helping with equipment and materials.

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Solar Incentives for Washington

Current Incentives

The following is a summary of the main tax credits and incentives that are currently in place to make solar more affordable to those interested in installing a solar system in Washington. Click for a list of Washington utilities to find out more about your utility’s solar programs including net metering, if your utility participates in the state production incentive program, interconnection, and more.

Federal Income Tax Credit

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) is a federal tax credit for solar systems placed on residential (under Section 25D) and commercial (under Section 48) properties. In December 2015, Congress acted to extend the 30% tax credit through 2019 with a step down in subsequent years: to 26% in 2020, to 22% in 2021, and thereafter it is 0 (zero) for home-owners and 10% for businesses.
The Wind Production Tax Credit declines on a different schedule than the tax credit for solar. Learn more about wind from American Wind Energy Association at http://www.awea.org/.

Sales Tax Exemption in Washington State

Solar PV systems of 10kW or less are exempt from sales tax. This exemption is available to both residential and commercial customers. This exemption will expire June 30, 2018. Click for more information.

Washington State Production Incentive

Passed unanimously by the Washington State Legislature in 2005, the Production Incentive was created using the following language.
“The legislature finds that the use of renewable energy resources generated from local sources such as solar and wind power benefit our state by reducing the load on the state’s electric energy grid, by providing nonpolluting sources of electricity generation, and by the creation of jobs for local industries that develop and sell renewable energy products and technologies.”
EXCERPT from RCW 82.16.110
By rewarding property owners for installing Made-in-WA solar systems at a higher rate, the hope was to launch clean renewable energy manufacturing in our state.
The Production Incentive is an annual payment based upon the total kilowatt hours (kWh) produced by a solar photovoltaic (PV), biogas, or wind system up to a maximum payment of $5000 annually.
Incentive rates are based upon a base rate of up to $.15/ kWh for equipment made out of state. The combination of a WA Made inverter with out of state solar panels earns up to $.18/ kWh. The combination of WA made panels with out of state inverter earns up to $.36 and when both the inverter and panels are Made in WA, the maximum incentive rate is $.54/ kWh for homes and businesses. Community Solar projects earn at a rate that is double the rate for an individual property owner (home or business owner).
The funding comes out of Public Utility Taxes that each utility would otherwise pay to the State. Utilities are charged with reading the meters and tracking the annual payments to customer generators.
Not only is there a cap of $5000 on the amount of funds any individual (or couple) can earn, there is also a cap of how much each utility can redirect out of their taxes they would be paying to the state. Each utility’s annual pool of funds available to pay the Production Incentive is capped at .5% of their taxable sales for the year.
The Production Incentive program expires June 30, 2020 and no payments will be made for kWh generated after that date.
To find out how the caps affect the incentive rates your utility is paying, you must contact your utility. It is different for each one. Some utilities simply closed their solar programs and are not allowing more people to join them. Others are reducing the payment to each participant and continuing to keep the doors open for new participants.
NOTE: During the 2016 Legislative Session in Olympia, HB 2346 was introduced to address the problem of declining incentives and to keep adoption of solar moving forward. HB 2346 passed the House but did not pass the Senate. It would have raised the cap allowing utilities to spend up to 2% of taxable sales on solar incentives. It also would have created a new incentive program at lower rates to help continue the amazing growth of solar in our state.
The Washington Production Incentive is the primary reason why the growth of solar in WA has been so strong in recent years. Click to view a chart showing the number of solar systems added each year from 2005 to 2015, courtesy of WSU Energy Office.
List of equipment approved for “Made in Washington” Renewable Energy Systems Cost Recovery Incentive payments. Click to view list.

Local Incentives

Snohomish County PUD, Chelan PUD and possibly others offer local incentives for home-owners and businesses who go solar. Inquire with your utility to find out if they offer any unique solar incentives. Here is a link to a comprehensive list of PUDs and utilities in Washington state.

Net Metering

Net metering allows system owners to receive credit for excess electricity produced by their system.  Net-metered systems that produce more electricity than needed are credited for the excess production at retail electric rates on the next month’s utility bill.  Credits carry forward month to month for a year period ending annually on April 30. Remaining credits are zeroed out on May 1 with no payment to the customer. Click for more information.

For businesses – MACRS Depreciation of Solar Energy property

The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is a method of depreciation for some tangible property for tax purposes. Qualifying solar energy equipment is eligible for a cost recovery period of five years. The market certainty provided by MACRS has been found to be a significant driver of private investment for the solar industry and other energy industries. For equipment on which an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) or a 1603 Treasury Program grant is claimed, the owner must reduce the project’s depreciable basis by one-half the value of the 30% ITC. This means the owner is able to deduct 85 percent of his or her tax basis. The amount of the project cost that is eligible for a Bonus Depreciation is based upon the year of installation.
Special thanks to NW SEED for its contribution to the information found on this page. 
Disclaimer: The information presented on the Solar Washington web site provides an unofficial overview of financial incentives and other policies. It does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance, and it should not be used as the only source of information when making purchasing decisions, investment decisions or tax decisions, or when executing other binding agreements. Please refer to the individual contact provided in each summary  or linked information to verify that a specific financial incentive or other policy applies to your project.
While the Solar Washington staff strives to provide the best information possible, Solar Washington make no representations or warranties, either express or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of the information. Solar Washington disclaims all liability of any kind arising out of your use or misuse of the information contained or referenced on Solar Washington Web pages. Page Here
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Seattle City Light Cuts Back Solar Power Incentive

1. Seattle City Light is ratcheting back the incentives for people who use solar panels—and people like former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels are not happy about it.

People who put solar panels on their homes will now be receiving up to 35 percent less incentive money than the amount they were originally promised by Seattle City Light.

Historically, Seattle City Light used money from a state program known as the Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Program that was created by the legislature to promote sustainable and green energy use. As part of that program, Seattle City Light told solar panel customers the would get $0.54 for every kilowatt-hour that their (Washington-made) solar panels generated energy. The rebates would be paid in five annual installments. Additionally, in an equation known as net metering, if the solar panels were generating more power than someone’s home was using in the first place, Seattle City Light would give solar users a credit on top of the rebates for all the power they put back into the city’s power grid.

But Seattle City Light topped out on the state program budget during the 2016 fiscal year, forcing them to scale back the program.

Nickels, who installed an 8.96-kilowatt solar panel system at his home last September, took to Facebook June 30 to voice his frustration over the change. The post garnered heated reactions from both sides, including from Mayor Ed Murray, who defended the city’s decision.

“Today is the end of the ‘Solar Year’ in Washington State,” Nickels wrote on his Facebook page. “This feels to me like a broken promise and will be a huge disincentive for others to install solar. And that’s a shame.”

Seattle City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen told Fizz Seattle City Light is not to blame for the drop in incentive money. Thomsen said the reason Seattle City Light reached the cap set by the legislature so quickly was because they more people were installing solar panels than anticipated, people were installing larger solar systems, and there were more days of sunshine in Seattle last year. Essentially, the program was a victim of its own success.

In a similar irony, Seattle City Light’s cap was also reduced due to lower electricity bills in general, which Thomsen attributed to lower heating bills for homeowners in recent milder winters and the increased number of energy efficient homes in the city in general.

Thomsen said Seattle City Light had two options when they reached their cap: end incentive programs for all future solar panel users, or cut the incentives for everybody. Mayor Murray chose the latter option for Seattle.

“Presumably, the incentives will keep going down until the legislature comes up with a fix for it,” Thomsen said.

Screen shot 2016 07 20 at 8.26.36 am jbvfmr

Nickels said one way the city could make customers feel better about the incentive cuts, was to have the incentive payments extended from five years to seven or eight years.

“If you make a promise that you’re going to pay $0.54 an hour, and someone makes an investment—in our case the investment was over $30,000 to install the system—I think you have an obligation to make them whole,” Nickels told Fizz. “[Seattle City Light] has taken advantage of the system to encourage people to make that investment.”

SCL’s Thomsen said they “made no promises about incentives.” He added: “We described the incentives that were available from the state. The limitations on those incentives are set by the legislature as would any changes. All utilities in the state must follow those rules. If anyone believes changes are needed, they should contact their legislators.”

Original Article on SeattleMet here

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