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How is COVID-19 Affecting Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy has no escape to the COVID-19 crisis around the globe. The economy is hitting hard times as we speak, as well as the health of our nation and the world. We’re in difficult times right now, and this can be a major lesson to the way we live in months and even years to come.

In Green Tech Media live blog update on the Coronavirus, they make an interesting statement and question. “American society has made dramatic changes in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Why hasn’t it responded similar urgency to climate change – another human global catastrophe that could harm human health and well-being for generations to come?”

The Green Energy Economy and Coronavirus

It’s difficult to predict the way the COVID-19 crisis will play out. Healthcare workers and world leaders are working to slow down and eliminate the spread of the virus. This is a time to come together as a world and end this as quickly as possible. When it comes to the economy around the globe, there are quite a bit of people out of work for the time being. Maybe hours and pay are cut in companies to eliminate the possibility of layoffs, which is a good thing, but for those investing in solar energy and other renewables, will this have a major impact?

It could very well, but we don’t know for sure yet. There most likely will be disruptions to green energy and solar projects due to a halt in businesses across the country and globe, but they shouldn’t be too daunting to the industry.

Experts Say This May Not Be an Awful Outcome

In Europe, experts are staying positive and believe that this crisis won’t have a negative impact on the progression of the renewable energy projects and agreements. Europe saw a major increase in solar installations last year, but it doesn’t necessarily mean this year’s numbers will be just as good. Many industry leaders believe that projects will continue to develop but at a slower pace.

For workers in the solar industry, it just means fewer people on jobsites, changes to breaks, and running extra transport to and from the project but with less people. There is a calculation of one to two-month delays on projects, but that still will fall in most projected timelines for these developments.

This Should Be a Lesson for Renewable Energy

Many countries were not prepared for the global pandemic. They did not pay attention to the impact it would have on the healthcare industry and the economy. We are in the middle of it in the United States, and it’s hard to tell when it will end. Everyone is responding with full force on this, but what about climate change? If a pandemic like this can happen, what’s to say that climate change cannot be catastrophic in the future if we don’t act immediately with 100% clean energy across the globe. This will be a test for nations around the world to attack the issue of climate change as quickly and efficiently as possible to secure the well-being of our planet.

Installation of large scale solar energy projects

Due to Social Distancing, Europe Sets Solar Energy Records

With everything going on with the Coronavirus Pandemic and incredibly clear skies, solar energy increasing in productivity. Several European countries on the front end of solar energy development have broken records with the production of solar energy.

Solar generation reached a peak of 9.68GW, which was an increase since the record peak of 9.55GW that was set in May of 2019. The conditions are better now considering the fact that people aren’t traveling as much. Pollution is decreasing because of the elimination of activities and the social distancing rules set in place around the world.

Why is this Significant?

We don’t want to diminish the severity of the virus, but we also want to reiterate the impact that pollution has on the production of solar energy. Air pollution has a substantial negative impact on the solar production industry. The production of solar energy can fail due to air pollution in large cities where pollution is high. This can be the difference of successful solar projects and solar fields that are experiencing inefficiencies and monetary losses due to pollution.

Solar Energy Lesson to Learn

Is this mother nature telling us to keep turning to renewable energy and eliminate fossil fuels? Well, it’s probably a little bit simpler than that. This might be a lesson for all of us to consider the way we live. In big cities, pollution is much more prominent. Switching to solar energy for electricity and power can eliminate the need for toxins polluting the air. When we eliminate our polluted lives by riding bikes and being conscious of the environment, solar energy can work better to provide us with the power we need.

At Pope Energy, we are dedicated to providing solar energy projects for landowners, real estate owners, famers, and commercial businesses. If you’re looking to save money on energy costs and improve the environment, contact Pope Energy at 855-767-3363 today!

Living Off-the-Grid with Solar Energy

This might be an extreme way of living in today’s society, but there are several places in Northern Canada with people and communities living the so-called “off-the-grid” lifestyle with major help from solar energy. Solar energy is playing a major role in the conservation of energy and the elimination of our carbon footprint already, but how is it impacting people trying to live a minimal and simple life?

Here is what we found about communities doing exactly that:

Extreme Living Situation

In Northern British Columbia, Canada, a family of seven is living off-the-grid and is utilizing solar energy to do so. Although, their solar energy system isn’t powering everything in their home. They do use solar to power several utilities in their home to reduce cost and energy.

They have two solar systems, which include one that generates 12-volt power to power lights, and smaller electronics. The other solar system is a 2.5-Kilowatt system located on their roof with a lithium ion battery bank to power the fridge, chest freezer, washing machine, mixer, blender and toaster. A backup generator is used but only when needed during cloudy and snowy seasons.

Life Off Grid

In 2016, a documentary was released about several individuals and families that are essentially living off the land all around Canada. Life Off Grid is a film that tells the tale of real people who have chosen to live their lives utilizing renewable energy.

What does Off-the-Grid Living Mean?

When it comes to solar energy and living off the grid, these people are generating their own energy, which means they aren’t using the commercial electrical grid in Canada. In the documentary, these people explain why they are doing this, and how it has been challenging, yet ultimately rewarding in the long run. Most of the people that were interviewed have similar views of the electrical grid. They would accept the invitation of being on the grid if it didn’t cost them any expenses. They’re using solar systems of their own to power their entire lives, which allows them to not need the commercial grid.

When you’re self-sufficient, you realize what is most important in life. The material world seems very unnecessary when money is a major priority.

What Does this Have to Do with Solar Companies?

A company like Pope Energy specializes in the production and maintenance of photovoltaic solar projects around the Northeast. We provide system owners, farmers, commercial real estate owners and landowners with a solar system where they can save money on energy and help the environment. Although living off-the-grid can be an extreme way of living, there are ways to save on energy costs, help the environment, and live better by investing in solar power. Pope Energy believes this and is dedicated to helping those get to that point. Contact us at 855-767-3363 today to learn more about our solar services and products!

Massachusetts to Grow Solar Jobs

The state of Massachusetts has been a leader in the solar energy industry in the United States. The state has set a precedent for all other states to follow their renewable energy agenda, so that the country can have a sustainable future. In Massachusetts, policy uncertainty is getting in the way of nonresidential development of solar energy, which means legislatures need to come together and make some changes.

Renewable jobs are growing across the United States, creating sustainable careers for hardworking Americans in some of the most fossil fuel-heavy states. It looks as if the coal industry is turning downwards once again.

Legislation Needs to Step Up with Solar

Legislation in the state of Massachusetts needs to work together with passing bills and keeping the Solar Massachusetts Energy Target on track for 2050. This means expanding the program by 3,200 megawatts for this to happen. There has been a stall on some solar progress in recent years, which has caused thousands to lose their solar energy jobs. Using compliance obligations already in force within existing legislation, regulators need to establish a fixed amount of solar DG as recommended by the Brattle Group Report, Achieving 80% GHG Reduction in New England by 2050. For Massachusetts, which consumes 45% of the electricity in ISO-NE, this fixed amount of solar that would need to be installed each year would equal 0.9 GW -2.5 GW of solar per year. A target of needing to install this level of solar would drive solar and interconnection policy with DOER, D.P.U. and MassDEP.

Allowing customers to adopt solar on not only a residential, but also a commercial scale will help the industry hire back the workers that have lost their jobs. This will help the state of Massachusetts reach a goal of net-zero carbon pollution by 2050, which was passed by the senate recently. If Massachusetts triples the SMART Program, Vote Solar figures it could create 8,000-9,000 new jobs and drive more than $5 billion in solar project investment into the state’s economy.

How Will Solar Energy Impact Jobs?

New renewable solar energy projects are much cheaper than keeping existing coal plants afloat. Building replacement wind and solar facilities will be much less expensive across the board by 2025. With the state’s trend for 100% clean energy goals, the demand for more jobs and workers to build solar panels and wind turbines is growing substantially. As long as legislation cooperates with passing bills on behalf of the clean energy movement, then jobs will be booming in this industry.

According to the National Solar Jobs Census, “Between 2014 and 2019, solar employment increased 44%, five times faster than job growth in the overall U.S. economy.”

 

In the state of Massachusetts, Pope Energy is taking initiative to provide commercial solar energy projects to customers around New England and in New York. If you’re looking to grow your business and be successful while helping to get to 100% clean energy in your state, contact Pope Energy at 855-767-3363!

 

High Volume Interconnection Queues

March 20,2020

Mark D. Marini,
Secretary
Department of Public Utilities
One South Station
Boston, MA 02110

dpu.efiling@mass.gov
Kate.Tohme@mass.gov

D.P.U. 1955

Submitted by Doug Pope, President

Dear Secretary Marini:We appreciate the Department of Public Utilities exploring the use of working group sessions to engage developers, utilities and public policy stakeholders in deliberative discussions of how to facilitate installation of increasing levels of solar PV and energy storage to achieve GWSA goals in Massachusetts.Ina typical adjudicatedproceeding, our participation, if allowed as an intervener, would be difficult if not prohibitively expensive,and if through an industry association, diffused. We very much appreciate this working group format.

ISA In-Series Application -A Case Study:

Despite the often-public statements of amore progressive policy of Eversource towards renewables, the old policy of reviewing solar projects in series in the interconnection study process continues, even after working group discussions in DPU 19-55.

On or about August 14, 2018, SRE Energy filed a Standard Application to interconnect a 1 MW AC, 1.391 MW DC solar PV system at 4 Wildberry Way, Westport, MA, 02790. SRE was informed that there were 4-5 projects ahead of the 1 MW projecton Wildberry Way in the Impact Study queue and that the process could take 1.5 to 2 years to process the Impact Study,as Eversource was handlingImpact Studies in series,as opposed to in aggregate or in a parallel process as isthe practice with other utilities. Pope Energy is the originator of the project and the local developer on behalf of SRE Energy.

A Distributed Generationprofessional from Distributed Generation at Eversource has been working with an experienced Project Developerfrom SRE Energy relative as to the queue position status of this project. As of approximately twomonthsago, this project is third in the queue behind a 4.5 MW and a 2 MW project respectively. While the 1 MW Westport project does not require a transmission study, those projects ahead of this project do require transmission studies and,as Eversource policy dictates, the Wildberry Way project will not get started until the other projects have been studied in conjunction with the transmission study which will not be complete until December of 2020.

Eversource will study these projects in series and,if complete, hold the ISAs until the transmission study is complete.

As stated at the DPU 19-55 working session, I believe that the position of Eversource to conduct interconnection applications in series is against public policy. This is contrasted with Unitil and National Grid,who have approached developers as customers.Unitil has been a pleasure to do business with,as has National Grid,albeit they have had problems with growth and integrating solar into their system.To be clear, those management decisions and attendant growth pains have caused great financial risk todevelopers, but the use of economic power or “leverage”was never part of the problem.

Legislators, regulators at both DOER and the D.P.U. have often observed available capacity in both net metering and SMARTin Eversource territoryas evidence that there is ample capacity left in the solar programs. However, in the SMART program, due to the in-series,ISA study policyof Eversource,developers are unable to access that available capacity.As former Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts, John Roddy has been known to say,“If it seems unfair, seems unjust, it is probably illegal.”

In Stat. 2016 c. 75 (11), the legislature directed DOER to “develop a statewide incentive program to encourage the continued development of solar renewable energy generating resources by residential, commercial, governmental and industrial electricity customers throughout the commonwealth.”

Does it seem reasonable to have a solar program seeking to encourage solar investment within Massachusetts and have those investors wait for twoyears or greater to know if those investments are financially feasible? Does it seem reasonable for landowners, farmers, corporations, non-profits and public entities to have a solar developer approach them for a solar project, a landorrooflease, a parking lot canopy project or a behind-the-meter applicationand have to wait twoyears and expect that proposal to be credible? Is this what was intendedby Stat. 2016 c. 75 (11), by all the revisions to the Green Communities Act, by Kain vs. MassDEP?

In both the 19-55 working group sessionsand for years at D.P.U. hearings, Eversource,in contrast to the other EDC’shas been “requesting direction from D.P.U.”

The direction from D.P.U. in guidance documents and eventual litigation of the19-55tariff,as well as within the Grid Mod and rate setting proceedings, should set clearprogram parameters for the EDCs and never let this kind of “leverage” currently exercised by Eversource intentionally delay the implementation of state policy.

This includes the D.P.U. setting performance standards in both guidance,tariffs and baseline assumptions at the TSRG. If ISO-NE accepts 2minutes or 30seconds as response times in certain equipment currently, then those are the timeframes that should form the basis for baseline assumptions. Yes, it may be advantageous for the grid to have different timeframes in the future. But the EDCs should not have the ability to unilaterally cause delay by adopting unreasonable standards through a process where “the Utilities have the final decision” within the TSRG.

Planning Interconnections for Solar and Other DER Through 2030

At the working session, I inquired if the transmission studies being conducted by each respective utility were studying a static condition, just those whose applications have been received, or greater interconnection requirements based upon legislation, court cases and regulations already in place.The answer from all of the utilities was a static condition, just those applications received.

At some point the D.P.U., DOER, and DEP, together as departments under EOEEA,need to internalize the obligations, including both the cost and the benefitsof achieving net zero energy emissions by 2050. It would appear that the 2050 Roadmap process currently under consideration by EOEEA is perhaps the start of this process.

The 2020 Regional Electricity Outlook report byISO-NEhas been the most dynamic report of its kind from this organization,describing the transition to renewables by the New England states. True to form,ISO-NEdoes not forecast DER penetrations beyond contracted or publicly stated programs. ISO-NE looks to the states to determine the amount of DER that is to be installed to meet that state’s renewable energy goals.

Why would the EDCs only be studying the static condition of existing interconnection applications when the SMART program is going to be expanded by some number and the compliance obligations are well above even that number? Will the Boston area, let’s call it the 128 Transmission System Upgrade RFP due March 4, 2020,be conducted to build to static conditions? Are large amounts of solar DGtogether with the “electrification of everything”1going to be coordinated with wind transmission lines pushing north and west?

To assist in long-term system planning,D.P.U.19-55 should be about setting targets to be interconnected each year and tying those targets to rate based ROI returns for the EDCs. The policyof restricting EDC responsibility to install DERs as percentage of load should be discontinued. WithDER generation being pushed up onto transmission and withthe “electrification of everything,” the cost of DER generation should be levelized across all ratepayers. Without long-term systemand interconnectionplanning, the deployment of DERs will continue to be choppy,poorly coordinated between regulatory departments and will not be made in the best interest of having net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Brattle Group, in their Achieving 80% GHG Reduction in New England by 2050September 2019report,indicated that “between 2019 and 2050 between 3.5 GW and 6.6 GW of renewable capacity, including 2-5 GW of solar and 2-3 GW of wind,will need to be added each year on average” to meet the targets New England has for itself.Since Massachusetts consumes approximately 45% of ISO-NE load,that would equal 0.9 -2.5 GW of solar and 0.9 –1.35 GW of wind per year from 2019 until 2050.

19-55 Interconnection –Guidance

In the interim, the D.P.U. needs to instruct all EDCs to conduct aggregated, group interconnection applications and Impact Studies for solar and solar + storage projects with all haste. No in-series review of solar projects is allowed. No solar or solar + storageproject should take more than 55 business days,and under no circumstance should the entire process, including ISO-NE,take more than 180 calendar days.As systems are automated, the timeframes for the completion of Impact Studies should shrink substantially and the EDCs should be rewarded for speeding up the processes.

The D.P.U. may need to work with ISO-NE in the streamlining of their portion of DER review. Area Studies should be calculated to deal with as-incurred solar and solar + storage applications while the entire system is being reviewed. If bonafide issues arise for a particular substation under unique circumstances,that substation could be identified to the Department and an extra 3months could be providedfor that particular application.

If there are conditions that encourage the development of solar projects,such as permissive zoning, then the EDCs should step up their efforts to accommodate such demand.

In no way should any EDC be allowed to take twoyears to complete an Area Study, holding off DER interconnectionapproval until completion of the study. Means and methods should be established to allow the interconnection of DERs while larger studies are conducted.

Privacy: As a policy, it should be part of tariff, including a guidance document, that all ISA applications may have the following information disclosed to encourage communication amongst common circuit or substation applicants:

  1. the Applicant Entity’s name
  2. the person representing the Applicant
  3. the active phone number and email address for said person
  4. the mailing address of the Applicant
  5. the size of the solar in AC as well as the storage facility in AC, if any.

With annual interconnections of DER set as goals per year, the EDCs could either hire qualified engineers internally or seek additionaloutside utility-scale engineering firms and attract them to servicing interconnection requirements of Massachusetts. It is our understanding that the engineering firms that service the EDCs is a select handful of firms and they are often overloaded with work or very expensive due to lack of competition.

The D.P.U.,along with all other departments under EOEEA, should set a clear path to 2030 for the interconnection of DER projects in conjunction with the Brattle Group recommendations. In so doing,D.P.U. and EOEEA would set the planning parameters for accomplishing Governor Baker’s net-zero goals for 2050, set planning direction for the EDCs and transmission companies,and allow the development and installation companies to see a clear path for building companies and employing skilled personnel.

At this writing, we are all dealing with the coronavirus with an uncertain economic landscape once this is over. If the above recommendations are put in place, long-term employment would be provided for thousands of workers for over ten years.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,

Doug Pope