The CESA SLICE Awards: Recognizing State Leadership in Clean Energy Development

By Anna Brockway, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

CESA-SLICE-winners-2012Working closely with a variety of state, federal, and private stakeholders puts Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) in a unique position to learn about numerous creative renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. State officials and agencies are increasingly partnering with the private sector, municipalities, and educational institutions to develop new approaches to recurring issues. The seven programs chosen to receive this year’s State Leadership in Clean Energy (SLICE) Awards have developed innovative grid integration solutions, promoted the smart implementation of solar and wind energy technologies, helped grow small cleantech businesses, and created new markets for biomass heating. These programs demonstrate exemplary leadership and innovation in clean energy development.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) and its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program received two awards, addressing pervasive grid integration issues by developing a robust microgrid and deploying a Real Time Dynamics Monitoring System. The microgrid, based at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), integrates a wide range of renewable and distributed energy systems including a fuel cell, several photovoltaic systems, electric vehicles and electric vehicle batteries, a combined heat and power plant, and a thermal storage system. The relative power outputs of the various energy sources can be re-optimized hourly, preserving system stability despite natural fluctuations in renewable energy sources.

The CEC’s Real Time Dynamics Monitoring System, a product of its Synchrophasor Research and Development Program, enables system operators to receive better, more complete, and instantaneous information about grid operations. Better knowledge and more control mean fewer outages, improved grid reliability, and an increased ability to incorporate intermittent renewables. The CEC’s program has been replicated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s national synchrophasor program.

The CT Solar Lease Program, administered by Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Development Authority, received a SLICE award for its trailblazing efforts in financing. The first residential solar lease program to involve a public-private partnership, CEFIA’s program pioneered the concept of solar leasing and brought private sector investors on board. The Connecticut solar lease model has been widely replicated, with the result that PV systems are now available across the country to homeowners who would not otherwise be able to afford them. Furthermore, data gathered by this program will inform other states and financial institutions, aiding the design of future renewable energy leasing programs. CEFIA is now in the process of designing a follow-up program that will offer leasing options for solar thermal as well as PV installations.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Commonwealth Solar Hot Water Pilot Program achieved more than just putting solar thermal collectors on roofs: it also monitored the performance of solar thermal technologies. Feasibility studies for commercial-scale projects helped to standardize site assessments and build installer expertise, while installed commercial and residential projects sent performance-monitoring data back to MassCEC. This information is important for the development of performance-based incentives, and will help to educate stakeholders about the real benefits of well-sited solar thermal systems. Insights from the pilot program have already informed the design of a full-scale program, launched by MassCEC in July 2012.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) won two awards, for its small wind turbine and clean energy business incubator programs. NYSERDA’s On-Site Wind Market Development Program was the first to base incentives for behind-the-meter wind turbines on predicted performance rather than installed capacity. To aid in predicting turbine performance, NYSERDA partnered with several private companies to develop wind resource assessment tools. NYSERDA also requires that qualified systems be installed by certified installers; to support this requirement, NYSERDA has invested in developing policies and procedures to qualify turbines, supported the development of turbine testing labs, and partnered with community colleges to develop installer training programs. Through this multifaceted approach, NYSERDA has pushed the small turbine industry toward maturity, while helping to build a green workforce. NYSERDA’s other winning program, the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program, provides funds to six incubators that offer technical and business services designed to support startups in securing additional investment and commercializing new technologies. The program is results-oriented, granting funds only when mentored businesses achieve milestones, and is innovative in supporting and retaining clean energy businesses in New York State.

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) succeeded in overcoming the all-too-common chicken/egg barrier with its whole-house Residential Wood-Pellet Boiler Rebate Program. To do this, New Hampshire involved wood pellet suppliers in early planning for this program, securing their participation by requiring that all customers install three-ton bulk delivery bins. With suppliers thus assured of profitable deliveries, the PUC was able to assure customers that fuel needs would be met at any location in the state. The program validated wood pellets as a primary heating fuel for consumers, replaced fuel oil heating systems with a cleaner, renewable alternative, and grew supply chains, creating new business opportunities in the state.

Together, these seven SLICE Award-winning programs reflect an impressively diverse array of innovative approaches to clean energy development. Each contributes valuable insights to the development of new programs and incentives. With continuing innovation, collaboration, and information sharing, state efforts such as these can truly pave the way for a clean energy future.

To learn more about the 2012 State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards, click here.

New Report Highlights Atlantic Coast as Ideal Home Base for U.S. Offshore Wind Industry

Author: Marissa Newhall, Clean Energy Group | Projects: Clean Energy Innovation, Offshore Wind Accelerator Project (OWAP)

CAP OSW reportAs voters contemplate who will occupy the White House and Congress in the years ahead, Clean Energy States Alliance’s Offshore Wind Accelerator Project has partnered with The Center for the Next Generation, the Center for American Progress, and several other organizations to release “Regional Energy, National Solutions,” a nonpartisan report that argues that the United States can enact a long-term strategy to achieve climate stability, economic prosperity, and energy security by using the unique assets of each region of the country and choosing smart places for investment in multiple forms of energy and fuel.

The report was launched this morning at an event where Rhode Island Gov. Linocln Chafee gave a keynote address about the importance of collaborative efforts to advance clean energy across the country. Chafee then participated in a panel discussion with John Arensmeyer of the Small Business Majority and Anne Kelly of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP).

“The key was that collaborative effort,” Chafee said of his state’s work planning for offshore wind. “We are very methodical in our approach to wind energy off our coasts. We know those finite [fossil fuel] resources will be going up in price at some point. So we in New England are looking at alternatives.”

The new report responds to a recent vision laid out by the American Petroleum Institute, which suggested clean energy be put on the back burner in favor of aggressive oil and gas drilling, both on shore and off, and coal mining. In contrast, offshore wind is an ideal technology that could contribute substantially to the sustained, long-term energy demands of the Atlantic Coast states. Developing just 54 gigawatts of offshore wind in Atlantic waters would generate $200 billion in economic activity and create 43,000 permanent, well-paid technical jobs, in addition to displacing the annual output of 52 coal-fired power plants, according to the report.

“We know the earth is warming, and resources are finite, and as a country, we simply cannot take a ‘drill baby drill’ approach that keeps us dependent on finite and carbon-intensive resources for our electricity and transportation needs,” said Kate Gordon, director of the advanced energy and sustainability program at The Center for the Next Generation and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “Whereas the plan set forth by the American Petroleum Institute relies on centralized energy sources controlled by a handful of companies, our alternative strategy presents a range of energy and restoration projects that involve a huge variety of companies—large and small—in every region of the country. This is a country rich in natural resources and innovative talent—we should build on that to move the United States toward a truly advanced and sustainable energy future.”

“Atlantic offshore wind energy is America’s golden opportunity to make our energy supply cleaner and protect future generations of people and wildlife from the dangers of climate change,”said Catherine Bowes, Senior Manager at the National Wildlife Federation, and an Offshore Wind Accelerator Project participant. “The best approach to our energy challenges isn’t building more pipelines or digging more holes, it is embracing clean energy solutions that don’t spill or explode. Properly-sited offshore wind energy can and must play a major role in America’s energy future.”

Among the report’s other region-specific findings:

  • In the Gulf Coast region, each $1 million in investment in ecosystem restoration can create as many as 36 jobs across a huge range of occupations and skill levels—more than equivalent investments in traditional infrastructure projects.
  • The Southeast boasts more firms across the high-tech smart-grid value chain than any other region and continuing to lead this transition offers the opportunity to create diverse job opportunities. At the same time, if the region were to cut energy use across the region by 16 percent in 2030, consumer would see an annual savings of $71 billion and 520,000 jobs by 2030.
  • In addition to revitalizing American manufacturing, the deep oil savings from vehicles now being built in the Midwest under strong new fuel economy standards mean net savings to consumers of more than $54 billion a year in 2030 and will add 570,000 jobs to the economy.
  • The Mountain West boasts nearly unlimited renewable energy resources and these non-hydro projects, either under construction or in advanced development, represent 71,872 jobs. A study by Headwaters Economics found that from 1970–2010, non-metropolitan counties in the West that had more than 30 percent protected federal lands increased jobs by 345 percent. Non-metropolitan counties with no protected federal lands saw just 83 percent growth.
  • The solar industry in California has experienced significant growth over the past 15 years. Since 1995 the number of solar businesses grew by 171 percent, and total employment jumped by 166 percent. As a point of comparison, the total number of California businesses has grown by 70 percent and employment increased by 12 percent.

The promise of the clean economy is not a mirage or a far-off goal; it’s being felt right now across the country, employing about 3.1 million Americans. In the second quarter of 2012 alone, more than 37,000 new clean energy jobs were announced in projects across 30 states. Recognizing the critical need to enhance our energy security, the U.S. military has become a major proponent of clean technologies such as biofuels, efficiency, and solar, and the world’s largest investors agree that long-term climate change and clean energy policy is a tremendous investment opportunity.

To read the introduction and summary of the report, click here. To read the full report, click here.