Distributed Solar in Illinois, revisited
In response to 2016 legislation, FEJA, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) established new programs to help low-income communities benefit from distributed solar. PaulosAnalysis helped set up those programs. New legislation, CEJA, upped the ante, expanding and improving on initial efforts, and once again we were involved in the revisions. This time our focus was on “energy sovereignty,” the goal of creating greater ownership and wealth-building opportunity for eligible households and community organizations. Since most LMI solar programs in the US are aimed at reducing bills, CEJA was staking out new ground. The policy approaches are in the Long Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, filed with regulators in March 2022. See especially chapter 8 of the plan and Appendix G.
An Assessment of Evaluation Practices of Low- and Moderate-Income Solar Programs
There are at least 41 programs in 21 states providing support for low- and moderate-income (LMI) households to benefit from solar power, with funding commitments totaling well over a billion dollars. The programs provide favorable financing to eligible households, give upfront or production-based incentives, or create LMI set-asides in broader distributed solar programs. A study from Berkeley Lab looks at how those programs are being evaluated, how those evaluations compare to best practices, and how program administrators could improve future evaluations. I was principal investigator.
Advancing Toward 100 Percent: State Policies, Programs, and Plans for Zero-Carbon Electricity
So far, 19 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have adopted 100 percent clean electricity goals, arguably the most important positive climate change policy development of the past few years.
The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has launched the 100% Clean Energy Collaborative to help states achieve their goals. PaulosAnalysis is writing a series of reports for the project, starting with an overview of state goals and plans. A set of reports will focus on wholesale power markets, including a primer on how they work, and how RTOs and FERC are governed. More reports will be produced into 2022.
Impacts of High Variable Renewable Energy Futures on Electric-Sector Decision Making: Demand-Side Effects
In power systems with high levels of wind and solar power, the price dynamics of wholesale electricity will be very different than today’s systems, with new patterns varying by time and location. This new regime will have big implications for demand-side decisions made by consumers, program designers, and policymakers.
A report by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab looks at the implications for three demand side decisions: the design of retail electricity rates, the design and goals of energy efficiency programs, and the operations of large energy consumers.
In my role as an Affiliate at the Lab, I was a coauthor, focusing on research on large energy consumers.
The 2035 Report
While most “deep decarbonization” studies of the electric power sector look at a 2050 goal, a report from UC Berkeley and GridLab instead asks “how far can we get as quickly as possible?” The answer found is that the US can get to 90% carbon-free by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumers, and without new fossil fuel plants.
The “2035 Report” used state-of-the-art modeling tools and data sources to explore national, regional and state-level implications, plus job impacts and environmental benefits. PaulosAnalysis was part of the research team, writing the in-depth appendix and creating a number of interactive data visualizations.
Resilient Clean Energy for California
The risk of causing more wildfires led PG&E and other California utilities to resort to “public safety power shutoffs,” turning off power to millions of customers during high-wind, fire-season events. While utilities have proposed spending billions of ratepayer dollars to harden the grid or install more diesel and gas backup generators, there is a better way.
In a new report for Vote Solar, PaulosAnalysis makes the case for resilient clean energy — solar + storage — as a multifaceted, cost effective, and clean solution. For the report, Resilient Clean Energy for California: Protecting Vulnerable Communities, Critical Facilities, and the California Economy with Solar + Storage, and recorded webinar, see Vote Solar.
Solar with Justice
Under-resourced communities face a disproportionate share of societal burdens and lack access to many of the benefits other communities enjoy. Participation in the solar economy can help ease these burdens and provide low-and middle-income households with economic relief.
A new report, “Solar with Justice: Strategies for Powering Up Under-Resourced Communities and Growing an Inclusive Solar Market,” which aims to accelerate the implementation of solar in under-resourced communities in ways that provide meaningful, long-lasting benefits to those communities. The recommendations in the report set a path forward for increasing solar deployments that result in significant economic, equity, and environmental improvements.
PaulosAnalysis contributed to the report, created by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) in partnership with the Jackson State University Department of Urban & Regional Planning, the Partnership for Southern Equity, the University of Michigan School for Environment & Sustainability, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, and The Solutions Project. More than 90 policymakers, community group leaders, solar experts, and energy equity advocates were interviewed as part of the research for the report.
Minnesota Community Solar Gardens
Minnesota is the national leader in community solar, with 208 projects around the state producing enough power for 100,000 typical homes. Minnesota is currently home to more than a third of all community solar projects in the US. But the Minnesota policies that make it all possible were under attack in 2019.
PaulosAnalysis was hired by Vote Solar, MinnSEIA, and the Institute for Local Self Reliance to write a report documenting the benefits of community solar, and the need to protect the policies.
The report, Minnesota’s Solar Gardens: The Status and Benefits of Community Solar, along with factsheets and an interactive data tool are on the Vote Solar website.
Western Regional Power Market
The ongoing debate about whether to create a formal power market in the Western US has heated up again, with legislation in California. Next10, the California think tank, asked PaulosAnalysis to make sense of the debate and provide objective analysis for policymakers. The report, A Regional Power Market for the West: Risks and Benefits, was released on July 17. A companion report, Transforming the Grid: An Introduction to California’s Electric System in the 21st Century, gives a basic overview of the California power system, policies, and opportunities. A third report, The Growth of Distributed Energy: Implications for California’s Grid, covers the opportunities and policy needs for distributed energy.
East Bay Community Energy
The new community choice aggregation program, East Bay Community Energy, procures power for over 500,000 customers in Alameda County. PaulosAnalysis handles communications to energy stakeholders, including writing the newsletter and blog “From the CEO’s Desk,” and op-eds. We also worked with the staff to develop a successful funding proposal to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to look at putting solar and storage systems on critical facilities like fire and police stations. EBCE will partner with Peninsula Clean Energy on the project.
Distributed Solar Policy in Illinois
The Illinois Legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Act in late 2016, which, among other things, created a new effort to encourage distributed solar power in the state. The Illinois Power Agency was tasked with setting up an incentive program for rooftop, community, and low-income solar projects. PaulosAnalysis helped design the programs and policies, and provided input to the draft Long-Term Renewable Resource Procurement Plan (LTRRPP, pronounced “let ‘er rip!”).
The Solar In Your Community Challenge
The US Department of Energy’s Sunshot initiative is supporting over 170 teams around the country to pursue solar projects that benefit low-income communities and non-profits, and explore new deployment models, like community solar. The competition offers technical support, seed funding, and cash prizes to the top projects. PaulosAnalysis is serving as a Coach for 10 teams participating in the Challenge, and wrote a series of 10 articles publicizing various teams.
Institute for Sustainable Communities
The Institute for Sustainable Communities is a global NGO that gives “passionate, committed people the tools and skills they need to inspire active citizenship, protect the environment, and take on climate change.” PaulosAnalysis first worked with ISC on their conference, The Future Is Now: India, in Hyderabad, India, presenting the American experience on integrating renewable energy and the potential for energy storage. We then pitched in on a Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy, bringing a dozen city and county teams together to explore clean energy strategies at the local level. Most recently, we helped summarize and promote the Solar Market Pathways initiative, which they managed on behalf of the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office.
Clean Energy States Alliance
The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) is a national, nonprofit coalition of public agencies and organizations working together to advance clean energy. CESA members—mostly state agencies— include many of the most innovative, successful, and influential public funders of clean energy initiatives in the country. PaulosAnalysis developed a policy guide that reviews current best practices, innovative ideas, and makes recommendations for how CESA members can extend the benefits of solar power to low and moderate income consumers.
Green Ribbon Commission’s Renewable Energy Leadership Prize
The Green Ribbon Commission is a group of business, institutional, and civic leaders in Boston working to develop shared strategies for fighting climate change in coordination with the City’s Climate Action Plan. With funding from the Barr Foundation, the GRC offered the Renewable Energy Leadership Prize, to spur innovative approaches for large-scale adoption of renewable energy, demonstrating the Greater Boston area’s appetite for and readiness to lead the way toward a clean, sustainable energy future. They hired PaulosAnalysis to document the process and write a case study with lessons learned for future procurement efforts. The findings were presented in October 2016 at the Renewable Energy Markets 2016 conference in San Francisco.
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
The Electricity Markets and Policy Group (EMP) at the Berkeley Lab is one of the premiere sources of deep thinking about our energy future, hosting some of the nation’s leading experts on energy efficiency and renewable energy. PaulosAnalysis is helping EMP improve their communication strategies, exploring new methods of outreach to the public and the press.
A special focus is the Future Electric Utility Regulation (FEUR) project, a series of in-depth studies on the implications of distributed energy resources for utility regulation and planning.
Greentech Media and PA Consulting
PA Consulting, a utility consulting firm with offices in New York and London, asked Greentech Media for help in promoting their US presence. GTM asked PaulosAnalysis to help craft a series of white papers and articles about PA’s thinking and expertise on Dynamic Energy, their term for the future paradigm of utility operations in a highly-intelligent and distributed world.
Reports, articles, videos, and more are here.
Empowered: A new book from PaulosAnalysis
Published by Midwest Energy News, September 2015
Energy in America is undergoing a period of rapid change, driven by new technologies, consumer empowerment, and the imperative to reduce emissions that cause global warming.
But many utilities are dragging their feet, or actively impeding progress. People who want to save energy or install solar panels are finding their efforts at odds with utilities seeking to preserve their profits. Seeing an existential threat to their business model, utilities across the country are pursuing policy changes that will make it less viable for customers to generate their own electricity.
Impatient with the slow pace of change, an increasing number of cities are taking matters into their own hands as their citizens seek energy that is local, affordable, and clean.
Empowered describes how city officials and activists in Boulder, Minneapolis, and Madison are fighting back against entrenched utilities, and taking charge of their energy future.
Published by Midwest Energy News, it can be ordered in paperback from Lulu or e-book from Amazon. Media coverage from a Wisconsin book tour is posted here. If you would like me to speak about the book at your conference, webinar, or other event, please contact me.
Strategic and organizational development
PaulosAnalysis provides strategic development, progress evaluation, and other services for foundation and NGO clients in the energy and environment space. Clients have included the Barr Foundation, the Energy Foundation, Fresh Energy, Agora Energiewende, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, and the Climate & Energy Project.
Regulating the Utility of the Future: Implications for the Grid Edge
The academic discussion of what the utility of the future will look like is turning to implementation, as state policymakers begin to grapple with the technical, financial and regulatory implications of grid-edge technologies.
Some states are being driven by the opportunity that grid-edge technologies can offer: lower costs, higher reliability, lower emissions, and economic opportunity for in-state industries. Other states are being driven by pressure: technological, financial, and political pressure—conditions that threaten a state’s economy, power reliability, and potentially even the safety of its citizens. Grid-edge technologies can offer a solution to these pressures.
New technologies can also create their own pressures, as they are adopted by consumers outside the control of utilities and regulators, threatening traditional business models and operations.
PaulosAnalysis was commissioned by GTM Research to write Regulating the Utility of the Future, a report that looks at what five leading states – California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York – are doing to respond to these opportunities and pressures in order to create the utility of the future through regulatory proceedings.
The Power Markets Project
As renewable energy becomes cost competitive and technologically mature, two sets of problems must be resolved for it to be a significant contributor to our energy supply: 1) the technical issues of how power flows on the grid, and 2) the financial issues of how money flows in electricity markets.
Because the technical issues of integrating wind and solar power are well in hand by grid operators, the Power Markets Project addresses the latter issue. With a focus on markets in the US and Germany, it considers reforms to wholesale electricity markets to accommodate the rapid growth of renewables.
The Project summarizes the existing debate and literature on electricity market issues in both countries. It then brought a delegation of German policy-makers and grid experts to the United States to learn about experience with capacity and energy-only markets. As part of the visit to Texas, the UT Energy Institute convened a symposium on the theme of “Germany & Texas: Energy Twins?” Lastly, it publicizes the findings of the research and the tour, to promote further understanding about the issues.
I was the project designer, principal researcher, and tour guide. Funding came from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
[As of September 2020, the domain name PowerMarkets.org points to the Future Power Markets Forum, a project of Columbia and Johns Hopkins universities. The original content of the Power Markets Project can be found here.]
America’s Power Plan
America’s Power Plan is a policy roadmap for dealing with rapid change in the power sector on the way to a clean energy future.
The project was designed to provide a vehicle for policymakers at the state and local levels to address policy challenges.
At the heart of the project are detailed recommendations from leading experts for improving policies in seven key areas: power markets, utility business models, finance policy, distributed energy resources, distributed generation policy, transmission policy and siting of new power infrastructure.
More than 150 energy experts from academia, industry and non-profits participated in the project.
I was the project designer and funder, while at the Energy Foundation, and the project manager, promoter, and chief spokesperson afterwards. It was a collaborative project with Energy Innovation and funded by the Climateworks Foundation. The project continues to be managed by Energy Innovation, at America’s Power Plan.com.