New York is spending $1 billion to help residents conserve energy — and lower their bills



  • As people shelter-in-place due to the ongoing pandemic, utility bills are rising as the summer heat intensifies 
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the state’s investor-owned utilities are working to provide clean and energy-efficient solutions to more than 350,000 low-to-moderate income households 
  • These services would include increasing insulation, efficient cooling and heating, education, and community support programs
  • An investment of $1 billion for programs will run through 2025 for energy efficiency in affordable multifamily buildings, increased energy efficiency access to low-income homeowners and renters, and capacity building with community-based organizations
  • The energy efficiency improvements help filter out air pollution, provide long term solutions to rising bills, and will ultimately help New York reach its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2050

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net negative emissions by 2030, including the phase-out of fossil fuels and a transition to clean energy

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Wind, solar to dominate new power plants in 2020


  • As of January 1, 2020, new houses in California are required to install rooftop solar.
  • “One utility, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, has asked regulators to approve a plan that says builders in its territory can comply with the solar mandate by subscribing to the utility’s community solar programs instead of putting solar on every new rooftop.”
  • “Microsoft said last week it intends to be “carbon negative” by 2030, meaning it will take actions to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that will exceed the company’s own carbon emissions and the emissions from its supply chain.”
  • Arizona Public Service plans on providing 100% carbon-free energy to its residents by 2050.

by Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News

In California, rooftop solar is now a standard feature for new houses. The state’s new building code, which took effect Jan. 1, requires solar on new construction, with few exceptions.

This is a big step for the country’s largest market for rooftop solar. But for the builders who must follow the rules, the shift is more routine. They are used to the building code being updated every three years, and have had plenty of time to prepare, said Brandon De Young, executive vice president of De Young Properties in Fresno.

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New US building codes will make every home ready for electric cars

by Michael J. Coren, Quartz

In January, the International Code Council (ICC) approved changes to building standards that preview a world in which every home has at least one electric car. The building standards organization, which sets voluntary guidelines for new homes, voted to approve a new provision that, functionally, will make all new homes built in the US “EV-ready.”

That’s a big change. Homes in the US are typically built with wiring for only a few 240-volt outlets in the garage, typically enough to handle a washer and dryer. But the ICC cites research (pdf) indicating the US will need 9.6 million new electric vehicle charging ports by 2030. Almost 80% of those will be in single and multi-family residential buildings.

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The power switch: tracking Britain’s record coal-free run

by Niko Kommenda, The Guardian

Britain is setting new records for going without coal-powered energy. In the latest milestone, it has gone for two weeks without using coal to generate electricity – the longest such period since 1882.

The coal-free fortnight comes just two years after the National Grid first ran without coal power for 24 hours.

Phasing out the heavily polluting fuel is a key step in the transition towards a net-zero carbon economy and essential to averting catastrophic climate change.

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Australia tipped to add 70,000 home batteries in 2019, lead global demand

by Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy

Australian is on track to become the biggest home battery market in the world in 2019, with solar households expected to install tens of thousands of energy storage systems in 2019, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The report, published on Wednesday, predicts more than 70,000 Australian households will install batteries this year – driven by $147 million in state government subsidies and other incentives, as well as low-interest loans and demand response schemes.

BNEF says the progressive state schemes led by governments in South Australia, the ACT and Victoria, are “solidifying” Australia’s residential energy storage market as one of the largest and most promising in the world.

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry wants to secure grid resiliency by subsidizing coal & nuclear

by Joshua S Hill, Clean Technica

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has turned to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in an effort to revitalize the country’s coal and nuclear industries by essentially subsidizing their sectors based on a misguided belief that their technologies are the only way to bring stability to the country’s electricity grid.

After several long months of silence from the US Department of Energy (DOE), in August it finally released its long-awaited grid resiliency study. While not as detrimental to renewable energy as some of us had feared, it was nevertheless clearly written to be in favor of supporting coal, nuclear, and large-scale hydropower. You can read all about it from my August coverage here.


We should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it, however, and just as the third quarter of 2017 was coming to a close last Friday, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry dropped the other shoe, by urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to enact a 30-year-old statute to help support coal and nuclear power plants compete in wholesale power markets around the country.
Secretary Perry sent a letter to FERC on September 29, formally asking the Commission to “take swift action to address threats to US electrical grid resiliency” — despite the fact that countless experts from around the country have explained, repeatedly, that there is no threat to US electrical grid resiliency.

In May, four US business groups — Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) — submitted research to Secretary Perry in advance of the publication of the DOE’s grid study informing him of the value and importance of renewable energy sources, and their contribution to protecting the reliability of the electricity grid. A month later, a report published by Analysis Group — conducted on behalf of the Advanced Energy Economy and American Wind Energy Association — concluded that there was simply no evidence that the changing mix of the United States’ electricity sector will affect system reliability.
Propping-up Coal & Nuclear

Nevertheless, Secretary Perry and the DOE has deemed a need to prop-up the country’s ailing coal and nuclear markets:

“Pursuant to his authority under Section 403 of the Department of Energy Organization Act, the Secretary urged the Commission to issue a final rule requiring its organized markets to develop and implement reforms that would fully price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s grid.”

“A reliable and resilient electrical grid is critical not only to our national and economic security, but also to the everyday lives of American families,” said Secretary Perry. “A diverse mix of power generation resources, including those with on-site reserves, is essential to the reliable delivery of electricity — particularly in times of supply stress such as recent natural disasters. My proposal will strengthen American energy security by ensuring adequate reserve resource supply and I look forward to the Commission acting swiftly on it.”

Specifically, Secretary Perry claims that regulated wholesale power markets in the United States are not adequately pricing resiliency attributes of baseload power. “There is a growing recognition that Commission-approved organized markets do not necessarily pay generators for all the attributes that they provide to the grid, including resiliency,” Secretary Perry said in his letter sent to FERC (PDF). “Because wholesale pricing in those markets does not adequately consider or accurately value those benefits, generation units that provide the benefits are often not fully compensated for them.”

Reality vs. Myth

Of course, the notion that baseload power is somehow the key to grid resiliency was reliably debunked by many of the studies and evidence provided to the DOE during the writing of its grid resiliency study. Specifically, the paper written by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), entitled Energy Fact Check – The Impact of Renewables on Electricity Markets and Reliability, made clear that not only are renewable energy sources not eroding “critical baseload resources” and that “America’s biggest grid operators and reliability coordinators are reliably integrating large amounts of renewable energy today and have said they can continue to integrate even more renewables while lowering costs for consumers,” but that “increased competition from cheap natural gas, decreased electricity demand, and rising costs for nuclear and coal generation are primarily responsible for the majority of power plant retirements.”

This would suggest, therefore, that these so-called “baseload” power plants are not as important as the DOE and Energy Secretary Perry make them out to be, and that it is natural market forces that are seeing the US electricity grid shift away from coal and nuclear, and not some nefarious scheme to make renewable energy the one electricity source to rule them all.

Nevertheless, Secretary Perry advised FERC that it should implement a new rule to protect the resiliency of the electric grid which would allow “for the recovery of costs of fuel-secure generation units that make our grid reliable and resilient.”

“The rule allows the full recovery of costs of certain eligible units physically located within the Commission-approved organized markets. Eligible units must also be able to provide essential energy and ancillary reliability services and have a 90-day fuel supply on site in the event of supply disruptions caused by emergencies, extreme weather, or natural or man-made disasters.”

If adopted by FERC, Secretary Perry and the DOE claim that their proposals will:

  • Ensure the diversity and reliability of generation supply
  • Boost the resilience of the grid against outages
  • Maximize reserve resource capacity for times of unusually high demand, including severe weather events

Rising Concern

Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees.

“We worry today’s proposal would upend competitive markets that save consumers billions of dollars a year,” said Amy Farrell, Senior Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, American Wind Energy Association. “The best way to guarantee a resilient and reliable electric grid is through market-based compensation for performance, not guaranteed payments for some, based on a government-prescribed definition. We look forward to participating in the process as FERC begins to consider the proposed rule.”

“We’re concerned this proposed rulemaking uses grid resilience as an excuse to prop up plants that have not been shown to be needed, preventing consumers from buying the power they want to buy,” explained Todd Foley, ACORE Senior Vice President, Policy & Government Affairs. “On-site fuel power sources have not helped with severe weather events such as the Polar Vortex where coal piles froze, Hurricane Harvey where coal piles flooded, and the Fukushima event where the nuclear plant ceased to operate.”

“This proposed rule ignores the primary finding from Secretary Perry’s own grid study from just a month ago, which was that the grid is being managed reliably with today’s diverse energy resources,” added Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business group.

“Simply put, this proposed rule has something for everyone to dislike. If you’re a believer in competition and free markets, this rule would insert the federal government squarely into the middle of market decisions. If you are driven by keeping energy costs low, this rule would impose higher energy costs on consumers for no tangible benefit by forcing electricity customers to pay to keep uneconomic power plants in operation. Finally, if you are driven by innovation and technology, this rule purposefully puts a thumb on the scale for existing, century-old technology at the expense of modern advanced energy that is currently winning based on price and performance.”

Fighting Back

It should come as no surprise, then, that within days of the Secretary’s proposal being submitted to FERC, a group of 11 energy industry associations representing the gamut of the country’s electricity sector, has filed a motion with FERC calling on the Commission “to move forward with a deliberative process that considers stakeholder input as it determines whether and how to move forward with a rulemaking.” Specifically, the energy industry associations’ motion:

  • Opposes DOE’s request for an interim final rule
  • Requests that any comment period should be at least 90 days given potential ramifications for consumers and billions of dollars of electric sector investments
  • Requests a technical conference be held prior to the end of the comment period for stakeholders to better understand the proposal and provide meaningful input
  • Notes that the other deadlines in the DOE proposal are “wholly unreasonable and insufficient” and should be extended, should FERC “decide to proceed with a rulemaking of this type at all.”

Just who is involved in this motion, and who is represented? Pretty much anyone that counts:

  • Advanced Energy Economy
  • American Council On Renewable Energy
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • American Public Power Association
  • American Wind Energy Association
  • Electricity Consumers Resource Council
  • Electric Power Supply Association
  • Interstate Natural Gas Association of America
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Natural Gas Supply Association
  • Solar Energy Industries Association

We’ll do our best to keep you updated on this, as it fits distressingly nicely alongside other recent news that the US International Trade Commission will likely look to impose tariffs on solar module and cell imports — a one-two punch that could devastate the country’s renewable energy industry.


A New Day for Energy Efficiency

By Chris Cone, Negawatt Market Project  |  September 30, 2015


When it comes to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, nothing
beats energy efficiency. Compared to generating energy (including with
renewables), efficiency costs less and delivers more climate protection per
dollar invested.

Energy efficiency is currently undergoing a paradigm shift.
New developments in data sharing/analysis protocols mean that units of unused
energy can now be metered as a commodity,
just like electricity and natural gas. As a result, building owners and efficiency
vendors will be able to sell, and utilities to buy, metered efficiency in a
pay-for-performance market.

On September 24, the The Climate Center and Negawatt Market Project hosted
a briefing with Matt Golden and Matt Gee, architects of the Open Energy Efficiency Meter, a free
open-standard, open-source, open-data platform that meters efficiency units. Developed
as part of a California Public Utilities Commission project to standardize a
transparent commodity-grade process for measuring efficiency, the Open EE Meter
uses national data protocols, utility data from upgraded buildings, and
statistical principles to reliably measure efficiency results.

Rather than receiving a one-time rebate based on an estimate
of energy savings, in a metered efficiency market building owners making
efficiency upgrades are paid for actual results over time. This aligns
incentives with results and promotes projects that produce longer lasting,
deeper efficiency. In addition, a metered efficiency market encourages business
model innovation based on accountability to results.

This paradigm shift is reflected in SB-350, the Clean Energy
and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015.

  • Metered efficiency
    The new law requires meeting State efficiency targets based on
    “normalized metered electricity and
    natural gas consumption” in addition to current methods that estimate savings
    using energy modeling techniques.
  • Pre-upgrade
    Efficiency results will now be based on the difference between a
    building’s energy use before upgrades (or baseline)
    and lower use levels as metered after upgrades. In addition, existing rebate
    programs can now count all efficiency units resulting from upgrades to
    buildings that are not currently compliant with energy code (which is most
  • Pay-for-performance
    The law also authorizes current efficiency rebate programs to
    directly link incentives to measured energy savings.

In addition, companion bill AB-802 tasks the California
Energy Commission, which oversees energy policy and planning, to incorporate
metered efficiency into the development of State goals, portfolio cost-effectiveness,
and budgets. It also allows the Commission to include efficiency resulting from
improvements that bring a building into conformance with energy code.

Taken together, the ability to meter efficiency and base
programs and markets on actual metered results constitutes a significant step
toward achieving speed-and-scale GHG reductions in buildings.


The Sun is Rising on a New Day for Solar in Sonoma County

by Geoffrey D. Smith

The recent ‘marriage’ of Solar Sonoma County (SSC) with The Climate Center (CCP) is, well, a match made in heaven. SSC has been responsible for a significant increase in installations of photovoltaic (PV) solar throughout the region. SSC has advocated on behalf of hundreds of homeowners and businesses by connecting them with qualified local vendors to get the job done. In their support of the solar vendor community, SSC brought installer companies together for forums and collaboration, and served as their voice in local and state government. SSC’s work to standardize the permitting process across jurisdictions vastly improved efficiency. In short: Solar Sonoma County ROCKED!

In July of this year, SSC became a program of the CCP. I have the good fortune of being the person hired to coordinate the new Solar Energy Program. I can think of no issue on the planet more important than climate change. Ending our dependence on fossil fuels is the critical component in the mix of strategies needed to achieve climate protection. Solar is a big part of this solution. I’m so excited about this work, in fact, that my wife and I are installing solar panels on the roof of our home this summer! (Stay tuned for a blog about that.)

Three core SSC programs will continue to grow under CCP:

Clean Energy Advocate (CEA) – The program supports prospective solar customers who call us with their questions about solar installations. If you’ve put off your solar decision due to questions about technologies and financing options, delay no more! We can help you determine whether your home is a solar candidate and connect you with three Qualified Vendors who will provide competitive bids for your job. Call us if you’re thinking of going solar: 707.654.4350.

Qualified Vendor Program (QVP) – Utilizing a detailed annual vetting process, we evaluate the skill sets, customer satisfaction and quality of work performed by each of the vendors in the pool. We develop personal relationships with the vendor teams, and host regular ‘Vendor Meetings’ at which we discuss technology trends in the industry, pending legislation and rule-making that affects solar ownership, and other topics of mutual interest. When we send referrals to our solar prospects, we can stand behind them!

Certified Local Program (CL) – The ‘CL’ brand serves as a means of easily identifying local contractors and service providers, with the goal of encouraging governments, consumers and other businesses to choose local first when it comes to both large and small renewable energy projects. Sonoma County residents support local business!

I am very upbeat about the future of solar in California! We’ll work to ensure favorable rules governing small-scale distributed solar generation at the state level. We look forward to assisting residential and commercial solar generators to be their own advocates for fair rates and policies. As solar is the flagship renewable energy technology, we’ll engage statewide to serve as a resource for emerging Community Choice programs.

As our marriage ‘made in heaven’ matures, the new combined forces of Solar Sonoma County and The Climate Center are sure to make a positive impact on how we view our heavenly resources – the sun and our climate.

Geoffrey D. Smith is the Solar Energy Program Coordinator for The Climate Center. Email Geoffrey for more information about the Center’s solar programs. 

Interpreting Cobwebs

Home to creepy crawly critters, spider webs can give a spooky, untidy look inside your home. From another vantage, spider webs often indicate a break in your home’s building envelope.

Spiders cast their webs in drafty spots because drafts attract yummy insects. Drafts also allow heated or cooled air to escape from your home, which makes your heating/cooling system work even harder to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Plus, you are less comfortable in a drafty home.

Drafts allow air to enter from under the house through the “stack effect” where heavy cold air pushes light heated air up and out “leak points” in the ceiling. This causes uncontrolled air circulation that can draw dust and other pollutants into the home, and on to your furniture and carpet where pets and kids play.

Combined with improvements to insulation and the heating/cooling system, air sealing will improve your comfort, increase indoor air quality, and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by reducing your energy use. It’s called “home performance.” You can find qualified home performance contractors and rebates at Energy Upgrade California:

   – Chris Cone