Published on February 14, 2014
Vote Solar 2013 Annual Report Contents Letter from the E.D.. . . . . 2 Policy Objectives . . . . . . 3 How We Work . . . . . . . . .4 2013 Highlights . . . . . . . .5 Our Team . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Funding Sources . . . . . . 10 Get Involved . . . . . . . . . 10 Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to foster economic opportunity, promote energy independence and fight climate change by making solar a mainstream energy resource across the United States.
FriendsWe have a lot to celebrate. 2013 was a tremendous year--one that will go down in the history books as an inflection point for solar. Letter from the Executive Director, Adam Browning Consider: in one year, several states effectively transitioned -- as planned -- off of incentives to thriving solar markets that are at retail grid parity. When is the last time you’ve heard an industry cheer the end of incentives? In California, more rooftop solar was installed in 2013 than in the previous 30 years combined and the state is on track to be at least 10% solar, on an energy basis, by 2020. For the first time in 15 years, the US is likely to install more solar than Germany, with an expected 27% increase to 4.3 GW. Wholesale utility solar is, in many places, cheaper than building new coal or nuclear plants, allowing utilities to go big on renewables without breaking the bank. One utility, Palo Alto Municipal, is on track to be 18% solar. And it’s not just the usual suspects: states like Georgia and Minnesota launched big solar programs in 2013. Energy policy doesn’t make itself: we are proud of the role we’ve played in all this success. Vote Solar has 13 staff, working every day (and too many nights), on our goal of bringing solar into the mainstream. In 2013, we intervened in 28 dockets to improve solar regulations in 13 states; ran high profile public campaigns in six states to secure important solar wins; rallied citizens to submit over 76,000 messages to key local decisionmakers in support of pro-solar policies; hired new staff in Boston to ramp our work on the East Coast; helped deliver three innovative new shared solar programs; launched a new campaign to reduce permitting soft costs; brought on GroupEnergy to reduce customer acquisition cost by organizing group solar purchases; and went big prepping the future for renewable grid-integration, working on electric vehicles, storage, and energy imbalance markets. It was a busy year for us, and – not coincidentally - a busy year for our opponents. It’s worth noting: despite the all the attacks on solar in 2013 -both wholesale and distributed -- the good guys remain undefeated. But the challenges ahead loom large: in 2014, we expect a redoubling of efforts to roll-back progress, backed by the deep pockets of the Edison Electric Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council, amongst others. To take them on, we have a plan to double in size over the next 3 years. Our theory of change remains the same. We’ll use our tried-andtrue combination of technical expertise and grassroots organizing to focus on reducing solar costs and increasing solar access. Finally, we’d like to express our continued gratitude for the collaboration and camaraderie of our funders, partners, and friends along the way. The task we (and that’s the collective ‘we’) have taken on is a big one -essentially, create a new industry to fundamentally change how the world is powered. But given the stakes, there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing. Onwards. 2
2 1 Priority Issues: Renewable Portfolio Standards & utility procurement Net energy metering Electricity rate design Interconnection standards Local permitting Shared solar programs Grid integration Group solar purchasing PACE & other financing solutions 3 Solar generation accounts for one percent of our national energy mix, largely because cost and regulatory barriers stand in the way. Vote Solar works to overcome those hurdles for both distributed and large-scale solar power. Each market type has its own advantages and specific policy needs. Distributed rooftop systems located at or near where electricity is consumed don’t require utilities to invest in expensive new transmission infrastructure. And they can be used by individuals, businesses and others to reduce their power bills and their carbon footprints in one fell swoop. With good grid planning and operation, large-scale solar presents an exciting opportunity to bring solar into our energy mix at entirely new economies of scale. We believe that this country needs both in order to successfully address the very real energy and climate challenges we face. Vote Solar focuses on policies and programs that make solar of all kinds more accessible and more affordable to more Americans. We aim to solve this equation: cost + access = scale.
How We Work We work with policymakers: Policy leaders across the country are showing unprecedented support for cleaner, cost effective energy. But solar policy is complex and changing all the time. We help regulators and legislators understand their policy options, quantify the costs and benefits, draft legislation, and implement the programs that are going to most effectively support a solar market that benefits individuals, businesses, and communities alike. We work with other advocates: We aim to transform one of this country’s most powerful industries, and we can’t do it alone. We make the most of our own limited resources and those of our skilled advocacy peers by collaborating wherever possible. Whether it’s sharing our deep policy design expertise or highlighting best practices from the successful efforts of others, we provide the tools, guidance and support needed to help others make a difference in their own communities and nationwide. We work with people: We are a grassroots organization with approximately 60,000 members in all 50 states. Our social media channels reach 26,000 fans and followers. We help our members and others stay informed about the latest in solar policy through emails, blog posts, social media, webinars and strategic press outreach. When it’s time to take action, we mobilize our supporters and give them the easy tools they need to make their voices heard to policymakers. 4 We commit for the long-term: Each solar law and program successfully enacted requires sustained attention to make sure it is implemented correctly, operating effectively, protected from opposing interests, and amended when necessary. We stay the course and maintain watchdog vigilance to make sure positive progress is made.
3 2 1 Campaign Highlights 2013: Net Metering and Rate Design: It’s an exciting time in the electricity marketplace. Affordable solar is offering American homes, schools and businesses a viable alternative to utility power — and consumers are choosing solar in record numbers. For the first time in a century, customer demand is driving real competition in the power sector and challenging the old centralized utility business model. Rather than innovating to serve the needs of today’s market, many utilities are choosing to dig in and regulate against rooftop solar. In 2013, we counted more than a dozen states that considered utility-‐driven changes to their net metering programs and rate design with the end goal of making solar inaccessible to their customers. Vote Solar launched a new home on the Internet to help our coalition combat this onslaught of anti-‐net metering attacks. OurSolarRights.org features fact sheets and other general resources, updates on the most critical fights from around the country, and a neat animation to help explain it all. In addition to national coordination, we also led and supported m any of the ground fights in states across the country. With grassroots, press and policy support from Vote Solar, California passed A B 327, a utility rate reform bill that creates m ore certainty for consumers who want to go solar with a number of important provisions for net metering. California’s net metering program is currently rather arbitrarily capped at 5 percent of utilities’ peak load – beyond which the utilities are no longer required to provide net metering credit for that valuable 5 clean energy being generated by new solar customers. Before the bill was signed, the state regulators at the CPUC were considering suspending the program as soon as the end of 2014. AB 327 ensures that California’s net metering program will stay in place until customers of the three large utilities hit the existing 5 percent program cap, likely around 2016 or 2017. This bill also directs the CPUC to ensure that after the existing 5 percent program cap has been met, rooftop solar customers will continue to receive some form of fair credit on their utility bills for the clean energy they send back to the grid with no future cap. If the CPUC designs a post-‐5 percent program that continues to compensate solar customers fairly for the valuable power they’re delivering to the grid, we’ll keep seeing steady growth in rooftop solar throughout the state, generating jobs and clean air benefits for all Californians. Also exciting, the bill allows the CPUC to require the big utilities to go beyond our current Renewables Portfolio Standard, the statewide target of getting 33% of our utility power from renewable energy by 2020. This bill makes 33% renewables a floor and not a ceiling, which is a huge step in fighting climate change and protecting public health. In a victory of David vs Goliath proportions, policymakers in Arizona stood up for their citizens by rejecting an attempt from the state’s largest utility to squash rooftop solar. APS had proposed a new $50-‐100 monthly charge for solar customers, a discriminatory fee that would have wiped out any savings these customers would currently receive from their solar investment. The utility and its allies spent m illions of dollars in anti-‐ solar advertising to try to sway popular opinion. Vote Solar intervened in the proceeding to question the utility math and helped engage grassroots solar supporters. Five months after Arizona Public Service (APS) sought approval for this hefty new fee, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted to uphold Arizona solar savings by approving significantly reduced fixed charge of 70 cents per kw. While the vote was clearly a win for Arizonans, the ACC’s approval of a small but troubling new fee m akes it clear that there is a significant amount of education left to be done regarding distributed solar’s tremendous value. Just in time for Independence Day, rooftop solar rights scored another win. This one from Idaho where the state’s major utility, Idaho Power Company (IPCo) had set out to cap its net metering program and otherwise penalize solar customers by changing their rates and implementing new fees. Vote Solar participated in the case on behalf of the City of Boise, which was rightly concerned that the IPCo’s proposals would discourage not only the installation of solar resources but also new clean energy businesses from coming to Idaho, resulting in job and economic losses. On July 3rd, the Commission stood strong for Idaho’s rooftop solar customers by rejecting all of IPCo’s egregious proposals. In Colorado, the state’s major utility Xcel Energy also took aim at rooftop solar, using flawed math to weaken the state’s popular net metering program. Vote Solar fought back on two fronts with both regulatory and public campaigns. Our public efforts culminated in a rally at Xcel headquarters to show that the utility’s own customers oppose the proposal. Nearly 300 Coloradans and a slew of press converged in Denver that day to stand up for solar rights. The energetic crowd braved wintery temperatures to deliver nearly 30,000 petition signatures from Coloradans urging Xcel to withdraw its unfair proposal and keep
3 1 2 Colorado solar shining. It was an impressive display of local support for net metering and our message was heard loud and clear, but the fight’s not over yet! State regulators will make a decision on the Xcel proposal in 2014. It wasn’t all defense against utilities on the net metering front. In anticipation of an explosion of solar growth from Governor Cuomo’s NY-‐Sun Initiative, the New York Public Service Commission raised the state’s net metering cap from 1 to 3 percent. That means that the state’s utilities are now required to offer net metering benefits for three times as much clean, local, reliable solar power produced by their customers. GroupEnergy: Vote Solar added a new GroupEnergy project focused on propelling solar adoption by helping existing groups – think coworkers, clubs or congregations – pool their collective purchasing power to go solar at home. Our unique take on the group purchase model helps build solar awareness and lower solar soft costs in one fell swoop. Looking back on a busy 2013, we’re happy to report that it was a great year for GroupEnergy. The team was busy launching programs for major employers including: the State of Colorado, the City and County of Denver, the City and County of San Francisco, Blue Shield of California, eBay, Genentech, Pacific Gas & Electric, 6 and the University of California at San Francisco. Approximately 900 kilowatts of new residential solar will be installed on almost 200 homes as a result of this year’s GroupEnergy work. That’s nearly a megawatt! It doesn’t just sound cool; that’s a whole lot of new residential solar in just a few months. A nd, because buying in bulk delivers greater scale and lower customer acquisition costs to solar providers – that’s also solar with a low price tag. All told, these programs helped m ore than 2,000 individuals evaluate whether powering their homes with sunshine could be a good fit. In our view, this educational outcome is just as exciting as the new solar itself. These are peers and friends who are navigating the potentially daunting process of going solar together – with our expert guidance. Whether or not they end up going solar now, program participants come away armed with the information they need become solar educators and advocates in their own right. Grid Integration: Our power grid is currently managed by individual utilities matching consumption and production within their territory in real time. W ithout a change of approach, this balancing act will become increasingly challenging as more variable solar and wind is used to power our grid. But increasing the geographic area across which the utilities coordinate can help make a renewable-‐powered grid a cost effective, reliable and highly achievable endeavor. In wonk-‐talk, that’s a regional energy imbalance market or EIM, and it’s been a focus of Vote Solar’s grid integration advocacy. The EIM will allow utilities across the region to share generation resources and significantly lower the cost of keeping the lights on with significant new levels of solar and wind. This cooperative approach eliminates the need for each utility to operate and maintain costly generation that it doesn’t need all the time. It also allows them to better plan for and use variable solar and wind generation, which m ay be lumpy within individual utility balancing areas due to local weather conditions and the like – but is smoother and more predictable when assessed across bigger geographic areas. The regional EIM makes the most efficient use of combined resources can significantly lower the cost of integrating these renewable resources on the grid. It requires traditional energy players to rethink grid operation, but its benefits are well worth the work. In February, the CAISO and PacifiCorp, which serves 1.8 million customers in six western states, announced they had entered into a memorandum of understanding to develop a west-‐wide EIM. Then in November, Nevada’s biggest utility – NV Energy – indicated it would seek regulatory approval to join up as well. NV Energy’s decision adds much needed momentum to this nascent regional effort. A study by PacifiCorp and CAISO showed millions of dollars in savings for customers in California and PacifiCorp’s service areas, and even more substantial savings and benefits can be achieved if m ore utilities join. The ultimate goal is to have all of the utilities in the Western Interconnection — which covers all or parts of 13 states, two Canadian provinces and a small part of the Baja California Peninsula — join the EIM and take this low-‐cost approach to the grid integration challenge.
3 2 1 Shared Renewables: Despite tremendous growth in solar adoption nationwide, the majority of energy consumers – including renters – are simply unable to invest in their own on-‐site solar energy systems. Shared solar arrangements overcome that barrier. 2013 was a big year for shared renewables, with the passage of two major Vote Solar-‐supported programs designed to unlock pent up demand for clean energy among customers who are unable to put solar on their own property. California’s Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 43, which will requires the three big utilities – PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E– to collectively procure as much as 600MW of new renewable energy from within their respective territories, and enable customers to sign up to receive up to 100% of their energy from these clean local sources. Backed by Vote Solar from the start, the successful two-‐year SB 43 campaign was widely supported by business, military, and environmental justice groups. The DC Council unanimously approved a shared solar program this year as well. It’s clear the District is proud of this program and sees it as a m odel for others. Electric utility Pepco worked diligently with stakeholders to design the program, likely in recognition that it would help the District meet its RPS targets by tapping an entirely new solar market segment. The Community Renewables Energy Act enables all DC energy customers to get their power from renewable energy projects within DC, up to 5MW in size. The program is uncapped in total capacity, and participants receive credit for their share of the clean energy generation at a pre-‐set rate that local developers say will m ake the financials work. While the basic shared solar concept is a no-‐brainer, the policy details to make it happen can get pretty complicated. We worked closely with our partners at IREC to draft new Model Program Rules for Shared Renewable Energy that reflect best practices and lessons learned from the early days of shared renewables. Based on real legislative and regulatory experience, the updated model rules serve as a starting point for states, communities, and utilities interested in launching shared renewables programs. Vote Solar also launched a new website – sharedrenewables.org – to help track policy and progress nationwide. Market Building: Capping over five years of campaigning from Vote Solar and our stalwart partners, New York finished 2013 well on its way to a 3 GW, 10-‐year extension of its landmark solar policy: the NY-‐Sun Initiative. That impressive goal is 10 times the amount of solar PV currently installed in the state! With strong leadership from Governor Cuomo, the Public Service Commission approved funding for the incentive program through 2015 and directed program administrators at NYSERDA to submit a plan for the program through 2023. This will provide invaluable policy certainty for solar companies and consumers alike as New York continues its charge to solar scale. NYSERDA was also authorized to make plans to transition the incentive program into a regional megawatt block structure where incentive levels decline in a predictable fashion as costs come down and more solar is deployed across the state. As we’ve seen in California, this kind of transparent, capacity-‐based incentive structure can be an incredibly power tool for driving scale and lowering costs in a way that’s both sustainable and cost-‐ effective. Taking the state’s clean energy commitment further, NYSERDA released a bold vision to drive private clean energy investments through Governor Cuomo’s $1 billion Green Bank. NYSERDA also began a comprehensive review of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, which set the stage for possible extension of these programs beyond their current 2015 horizon. Policy progress of this scale doesn’t come easily in the solar world. New York’s 2013 outcomes make the five previous years of policy analysis, reports, grassroots engagement, press outreach, m eetings, heartache and celebration well worth it! Up north, the Minnesota legislature also passed a substantial solar energy bill that will result in hundreds of megawatts of new solar over the next 6 years and jump-‐start a solar m arket in the state. With strong local partners leading the charge on the ground, Vote Solar lent our policy expertise and helped bring national attention to the campaign.
2 1 proud that Freeing the Grid’s grading methodology was also adopted for use in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which aims to reduce the cost of going solar by 75% before the end of the decade. Four states achieved excellence in both net metering and interconnection policies this year: California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah. These states lead the nation in allowing customer participation in the renewable energy market. Big congrats to them! Project Permit: Few realize how much of an impact local governments can have on the cost of going solar. But with solar panel prices having dropped fast and far over the past few years, “soft” costs like local permitting represent the most significant opportunity for keeping solar prices trending down. Today, more than 18,000 m unicipalities each set their own permitting requirements for residential solar energy systems. As a result, permitting requirements vary dramatically city by city. Long waits, high fees, excessive inspections, avoidable paperwork and non-‐standard practices across different jurisdictions can all add unnecessary costs to what should be a simple, transparent process. To help tackle this challenge, Vote Solar launched our new Project Permit, an interactive website that scores local permitting practices to help lower solar costs across the country. It’s designed to help solar stakeholders, municipal officials, and people like you understand how their town’s permitting practices stack up and what can be done to improve them. Freeing the Grid: Vote Solar and our friends at IREC released Freeing the Grid, our annual report card to all 50 states on net metering and interconnection – two wonky sounding policies that make sure energy customers get fair and consistent treatment from their utilities when they want to generate their own power. We are in the midst of a transition to the era of mainstream renewables that gives Americans control over their power supply and energy bills like never before. It’s an exciting time; however, policy design on the frontiers of our fast-‐ changing clean energy marketplace can be a challenge to get right. Now in its 7th year, Freeing the Grid is designed to help policymakers and other stakeholders make better sense of best practices and what needs to be done in their own state to clear the way for a 21st century approach to energy. We’re Solar Means Business: Our nation’s businesses are harnessing clean, reliable, homegrown solar power at an unprecedented rate to take control of their energy costs and improve their bottom line. We just released Solar Means Business, an annual report from Vote Solar and our partners at SEIA that identifies the companies that are leading America’s transition to solar power – and the list might surprise you! Mainstream brands like Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s, Apple, IKEA and Macy’s rank among our nation’s top solar customers. Most of these companies are better known for delivering low-‐ costs and for serving millions of Americans than for their equally impressive clean energy leadership. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products and services, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way. Equinox 2013: Our annual celebration & fundraiser was tiki-tastic!
Vote Solar Staff: Adam Browning, Executive Director: Adam co-founded Vote Solar after working on the successful campaign for San Francisco’s 2001 solar bond. Prior to Vote Solar, Adam spent eight years with the Environmental Protection Agency where he ran an award-winning pollution prevention program. Gwen Rose, Operations Director: Gwen directs Vote Solar’s strategic organizational operations. Her prior work in Marin County’s solar and climate protection programs earned the “Best Progress in the Western Region” Award from the Department of Energy’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative. Annie Lappé, Solar Policy Director: Annie leads state campaigns throughout the West and Midwest. She rejoined Vote Solar after managing government affairs in the Interior West for SunEdison. She was previously with the Alliance to Save Energy. She holds environmental policy degrees from Oxford University and UC Santa Cruz. Rick Gilliam, Director of Research & Analysis: Rick is Vote Solar’s analytical and quantitative powerhouse. He was formerly Vice President of Mountain West Government Affairs for SunEdison and held prior roles at Western Resource Advocates, the Public Service Company of Colorado and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). He lives in Boulder, CO. Jim Baak, Utility-Scale Solar Policy Director: Jim leads Vote Solar’s utility-scale solar program focused on developing the market for centralized solar power plants. Jim joined Vote Solar from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., one of the largest utilities in the U.S. Rosalind Jackson, Director of Communications & Development: Rosalind supports Vote Solar campaigns and organizational growth through media, member and donor relations. Rosalind came to Vote Solar with five years of clean energy public relations experience. She has a degree in Environmental Science and Mass Communications from UC Berkeley. Peter Olmsted, Policy Advocate: Based in Pennsylvania, Peter is responsible for advancing solar policy in the northeast and mid-atlantic region. Peter was previously lead energy policy staff for the Delaware Senate Energy & Transit Committee. He holds a Masters of Energy and Environmental Policy from the University of Delaware. Susannah Churchill, Policy Advocate: Susannah directs Vote Solar’s distributed solar advocacy efforts in California. Prior to joining Vote Solar she was a Senior Regulatory Analyst at the CPUC and an Advisor to a Commissioner at the CEC. She holds a Masters in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. Hannah Masterjohn, Policy Advocate: Hannah leads our work on shared solar business models and east coast states. She previously managed the Solar America Cities program at the Department of Energy. She has degrees in Environmental Policy and Political Economy from UC Santa Barbara and Clark University. Hannah is based in New York. Nathan Phelps, Policy Advocate: Nathan focuses on the regulation of distributed generation. Prior to joining Vote Solar, Nathan was a Senior Economist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Nathan attended Willamette University for undergraduate studies in both environmental science and politics before attending Tufts University for graduate studies in environmental policy. He is based in Boston. Jessie Denver, GroupEnergy Program Director: Jessie previously founded and was CEO of GroupEnergy LLC and also spent 8 years with the City of San Jose, CA as Energy Officer and Solar Program Coordinator. She has degrees in Environment & Community Planning from Antioch University and Environmental Science from Humboldt State University. Jessie is based in Oakland. Kevin Armstrong, GroupEnergy Program Manager: Kevin co-leads Vote Solar’s GroupEnergy program. He previously spent two years with the City of San Jose, and two years with the County of San Mateo, managing municipal renewable energy programs. He has degrees in Civil & Environmental Engineering and City & Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Kevin is based in Oakland. Ashley Malyszka, Development Associate: Ashley supports Vote Solar’s fundraising efforts and donor relations. Her previous roles include SolarCorps Development Fellow at GRID Alternatives and U.S. Campaigns Associate at 350.org. She holds a bachelors in Environmental Studies from San Francisco State University.
Vote Solar is a project of the Tides Center, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and the Tsunami Fund, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization. We are primarily funded through the generosity of grantmaking foundations, with additional support from corporate giving, individual donors and public funds. 2013 Funding Sources 5% 2% 5% Foundations 9% Government & Public Funds Individual Donors Corporate Donors Make a Donation: Vote Solar welcomes credit card donations of all sizes online at: www.votesolar.org. Donations by check can be mailed to us at the address below. 79% 101 Montgomery St, Suite 2600 San Francisco, CA 94104 415.817.5062 www.votesolar.org www.votesolar.org/blog www.twitter.com/votesolar Earned Income
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