Renewable Energy Markets Conference Shows Clean Energy Progress

Renewable Energy Markets

The growth of clean energy has never been more apparent than it was last week at the annual Renewable Energy Markets conference.

Advocates, investors and employees of the renewable energy industry converged in Sacramento, Calif., the City of Trees, to discuss recent developments and to recognize cities and companies who are accelerating a clean energy future.

(Quick aside: Brigida Harrison, a marketing specialist for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, proudly shared that Sacramento is second only to Paris in terms of trees per capita.)

I joined a group of Green Mountain Energy employees attending the conference, and here are a few of my takeaways.

Cities pave the way: You may never have heard of Lancaster, Calif., a suburb located approximately 70 miles north of Los Angeles, but the mayor, R. Rex Parris (pictured), hopes to change that. A lawyer by trade, Parris passed a law requiring solar on all new homes in the city.
R. Rex Parris
He also plans to create a law requiring landlords to pay their tenants’ electricity bills, which he hopes will lead to more LED-lighting retrofits and other household energy efficiency measures that renters typically do not make.

In another innovative move, Parris is purchasing all of the city’s street lights from the utility and installing energy efficient lights. He plans to use the street lights in emergencies to aid residents similar to how runway lights lead the way for aircraft. In addition, if a resident calls the police, the street light in front of their house will flash to help improve police response times.

Distributed generation (DG): This is any electricity generation that occurs at or near the point of consumption, and it’s become a hot topic in the U.S. Although DG currently accounts for less than 1 percent of overall supply in this country, it is growing in popularity and its many benefits include the more efficient distribution of electricity (i.e. no line losses) and, in many cases, better reliability.

Community solar: There may be no better example of distributed generation than community solar, a new concept allowing people to benefit from solar power even if their house is not suited for rooftop panels.

More than 20 states in the U.S. have a community solar program operational, and 8-10 states are considering new programs, according to Tom Hunt from the Clean Energy Collective. Currently, 96 percent of community solar capacity in the U.S. is part of a utility-led program, and there has been a 64 percent increase in community solar programs in the past 18 months, per the Solar Electric Power Association.The benefits of community solar are that it can reach 100 percent of homeowners versus 20-25 percent for rooftop solar, so the potential market size and ease of access to solar is tremendous.

Speaking of solar, Jason Prince, research director at Karbone, pointed out how solar benefits everyone by reducing the wholesale power price since solar produces electricity during peak demand hours (i.e. during the day) when the spot rate for power typically is at its highest.

NOTE: Green Mountain would also like to congratulate Portland General Electric (PGE) on receiving a 2014 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which was presented at the conference. PGE was one of only four green power suppliers nationwide to receive the award recognizing green power providers for outstanding efforts, initiatives and programs that significantly advance the development of green power sources.  We’ve assisted assist PGE in selling renewable electricity plans to its customers since 2001. PGE’s Renewable Power Program now serves more than 100,000 customers, ranking first in the nation for total number of participating renewable power customers and megawatt-hours delivered, as reported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.