If You Live in Arizona, Salt River Project Wants You Shackled to Fossil Fuels For Decades to Come

Remove all the empowerment. All the individual benefit and pride that comes from owning your own energy-producing resource. Remove all the financial benefit — all of the increasing opportunities for middle class families to cut energy costs, to increase property values, and to expand their economic opportunities. Remove all the added benefit of expanding US energy independence — both for the US nation and for individuals.

Remove it all, and you still end up with the staggering singular opportunity that home solar energy generation provides — to cut individual and family carbon emissions through electricity generation to net zero.

Arizona-Solar-Energy

(Solar neighborhoods like these are popping up all over Arizona. Monopoly utility Salt River Project wants to stop that through the imposition of fees. Image source: GOYO.)

It’s a staggering empowerment in that it gives each and every homeowner the opportunity to say no to a future in which the world is dragged further and further into a global warming nightmare. It’s a right. In essence, a basic human right, to be given a choice to avoid such a terrible outcome and to play a personal role in making responsible choices for the future benefit of ourselves, our spouses, our children.

And, just a few days ago, a major Arizona utility — the state-sanctioned monopoly Salt River Project — did everything they could to take that choice away from homeowners. To shackle them, for decades, to devastating, carbon-emitting energy sources.

The Salt River Project — Green Washed, Carbon Fueled

The Salt River Project is an old, mostly smoke-stack driven, utility. Having existed for more than 100 years, it now provides power for more than 1 million customers — primarily in the Phoenix metro area.

Of the power SRP generates, about 85 percent comes from dirty sources. Though hydroelectric dams are among its assets, though solar energy accounts for 120 megawatts of its generation, though wind accounts for about the same, SRP is primarily powered by fossil fuel sources. It owns stakes in nine massive fossil fuel generating stations — half of which are coal, the other half gas. As a result, SRP is responsible for many millions of tons of carbon emissions each year. All emissions it generates and dumps into the atmosphere — scot-free of costs for the harm it is continuing to inflict on the world’s atmosphere, oceans, glaciers, and weather.

Coal power plant SRP

(The Four Corners coal power plant and associated strip mine — one of many coal plants operated wholly or in part by SRP. SRP’s stifling of renewable energy adoption by homeowners would ensure the continued use of dirty plants like this for decades to come. SRP pays nothing for the harm plants like these inflict on the global climate system. Image source: High County News.)

But all this damage doesn’t come without its own share of greenwash. The Salt River Project touts goals of reaching 20 percent renewable capacity by 2020. It also hosts a home solar project which funds 12.5 megawatts of solar energy capacity for the current year (May 1 2014 to April 30 2015). A rate of adoption that would take 300 years to remove its fossil fuel generation even if energy consumption levels remained flat.

At best, given the amazing achievements of renewable energy on cost, ease of use, and access (especially for wind and solar), the energy transition efforts by Salt River Project (SRP) can be described as foot-dragging. An effort far too paltry and slow to be an effective mitigation to the damage resulting from human-caused climate change.

The glacial pace of energy transition for this massive utility is bad enough on its own. But, even worse, SRP has leveled one of the most heinous attacks on individual renewable energy ownership now ongoing in the United States. And it is with this action that it has basically nullified even the paltry progress it has made toward reducing carbon emissions from its own generation sources.

A State-Supported Monopoly Assaulting Home Solar Ownership

For as of this year, SRP has decided to levy a $50 monthly fee (we could well call it a fossil fueled tax of 600 dollars per year) on home solar owners for use of grid services. The fee directly targets home solar users for discrimination, penalizing them for their choice of power source.

The fee is so high as to have stifled solar energy adoption in the Salt River Project territory. Last year, users in the SRP grid region installed nearly 40 megawatts of home solar energy (four times that proposed by SRP). This year, installations could have hit as high as 60 megawatts or more — equaling half the total SRP solar generation capacity installed within just one year.

But rumor of the fee alone was enough to snuff out new solar adoption. The monthly rate of installation swiftly fell from more than 600 homes per month last year, to less than 10 per month this year.

Though Salt River Project is not alone in adding ‘grid maintenance fees’ for solar energy users, it is the first to set the fee high enough to stifle solar energy adoption. Other fees range from 5-25 dollars per month — well less than half what SRP charges and the net effect has not been so great as to reduce solar adoption. Arizona Public Service, for example, leveled a 5 dollar fee and home solar adoption has continued at the rate of nearly 8,000 per year in its region of control.

Homeowners in the SRP region simply have no other choice. SRP is the only grid services provider. And its policies, as a government-private partnership, are sanctioned by Arizona state legislation. SRP has thus used its monopoly status to snuff out individual solar adoption in its area of operation. And this, in itself, is an egregious stifling of the individual rights of energy choice and energy freedom.

Lawsuits, Massive Public Backlash

Salt River Project’s suppressive action is already very unpopular. At the board meeting in which solar fees were assigned an angry crowd of over 500 people gathered. As SRP announced decisions on solar fees, they were met with loud boos from constituents.

But the stifling of public solar adoption hasn’t just inflamed the grass roots — it’s also bringing some of the heaviest hitting solar corporations and public alliances into the ring. Today, Elon Musk’s Solar City Corporation joined Solar Alliance (a solar interest consortium) in suing SRP for anti-trust violations. The Solar City statement is one of historic significance and reads as follows:

Last Thursday, [SRP] approved a new pricing plan designed to punish customers who choose to go solar. Under the new plan, SRP customers who generate their own power have to pay additional ‘distribution charges’ and ‘demand charges’ that other SRP customers do not. These discriminatory penalties add up to hundreds of dollars per year, and make a competitive rooftop solar business impossible within SRP territory . . . SRP has sabotaged the ability of Arizona consumers to make this choice if they happen to live in SRP territory. We can already see the intended effects: After the effective date of SRP’s new plan (December 8 of last year), applications for rooftop solar in SRP territory fell by 96%. (Emphasis Added).

Recent filings by Solar City and Solar Alliance are likely the first of many. For SRP’s action is so egregious as to materially impact anyone who previously desired or planned to install solar, effectively removing their economic ability to do so.

Such removal of choice is anti-competitive by nature and will likely end up with SRP facing off not only against environmentalists, Tea Party activists interested in individual energy choice, solar leasers, installers, financiers and homeowners alike, but also against the US Department of Justice’s Anti-Trust Division.

Like SRP, many utilities hold but often do not so punitively wield monopoly powers over their regions of control. The current struggle by SRP to suppress home solar energy adoption highlights a potential abuse of power by many utilities going forward. Utilities are, therefore put on notice, solar energy providers and users will not be bullied by fossil fuel special interests into reducing adoption rates. Any actions to suppress adoption are anti-competitive and amoral. They will be challenged accordingly.

Links:

Arizona’s New Solar Charge ‘Unsupportable by any Economic Analysis’

Solar City Sues Arizona Utility for Antitrust Violations

Rooftop Billing Issues Far From Settled

The Salt River Project: Commons

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101 Comments

  1. climatehawk1

     /  March 3, 2015

    Thanks, tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  2. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    Robert. Your scope, breadth and depth (and patience) are remarkable.

    Reply
    • Cheers, Kevin. Will keep doing my best for you guys. Some things simply must be done. This is one of them.

      Big battle on the way. First shots being fired now.

      Reply
  3. james cole

     /  March 3, 2015

    Potential water problems for the SW of America?

    ” News release from the Interior Department is very troublesome: there is a 20% chance of water shortages for Nevada and Arizona in 2016 if the lake maintains current levels.

    Lake Mead, if you are unaware, provides 90% of the water to Las Vegas. It is also a crucial water source for Los Angeles and major cities in Arizona.”

    Warnings about Lake Mead have been around in the media for years, this last drought is bringing the critical hour closer.

    Reply
    • That’s trouble…

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      ‘Water district signs off on rate hike for Lake Mead pump station’
      March 3, 2015
      http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/water-district-signs-rate-hike-lake-mead-pump-station
      Las Vegas Valley Water District customers will see their rates go up in each of the next three years to help pay for a new deep-water pumping station at Lake Mead….

      The increase will begin appearing on bills in January and be phased in through 2018, when it tops out with an increase of almost $5 per month for most residential customers.
      Commercial customers and others with larger service lines will pay substantially more.
      The increase is taking the form of a new fixed fee water officials are calling a “drought protection charge.”

      The money collected will help pay for a $650 million pump station the Southern Nevada Water Authority plans to build at Lake Mead to keep water flowing to Las Vegas even if the surface of the reservoir falls another 100 feet or more….

      The reservoir has lost about 130 vertical feet of water since 2000 as a result of record drought on the over-appropriated Colorado River, which supplies roughly 90 percent of the water used in the Las Vegas Valley.

      Reply
      • climatehawk1

         /  March 4, 2015

        Awesome solution. However, they still need a drain at the very bottom to suck out the last few drops, in case the casino fountains run dry.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 5, 2015

        Not certain of the veracity of this info, however:

        ‘Las Vegas Casinos Conserve Water Amid Drought’
        May 4, 2014
        http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/las-vegas-casinos-ensure-water/26343278
        For casino resorts in town, described as the economic engine of the city, water conservation isn’t just an option, it’s a necessity.
        During the early 1990s, resorts were one of the first sectors in the community targeted for conservation.
        Any new resort that has been built since then is required to submit a water conservation plan as part of the approval process for construction.
        Conservation techniques such as using water efficient technologies, minimizing landscaping, moving water features from outdoors to indoors among other measures are utilized.
        “They need to be able to show us how and where they are working to save water,” said Bronson Mack, a spokesperson for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)….

        The water for the iconic fountains at the Bellagio, does not come from municipal water, Monet said. Rather, it comes from an underground well, fed from its privately owned 8.5-acre lake, which holds 22 million gallons of water.
        Annually, about 12 million gallons are replenished due to certain factors such as evaporation and leaky pipes….

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 5, 2015

        No matter where that water’s coming from there’re many better uses for it than

        Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      ‘The Bomber at the Bottom of Lake Mead
      Historic drought might soon open this derelict B-29 to divers’
      Feb 1, 2015
      Lake Mead hides many sunken treasures in its cold, freshwater depths. Lost in the lake at the dawn of the Cold War, a crashed B-29 Superfortress bomber kept its secrets for nearly 60 years….
      Today, a handful of B-29s still exist, and only one can fly….
      Finding another B-29 is remarkable. Diving to one as a shipwreck is extraordinary….

      Extreme drought in much of the western United States changed those calculations. With Lake Mead’s water levels at an all-time low, the Overton Arm B-29 now sits in only 110 feet of water, within reach of advanced recreational scuba divers.

      If all goes well, this summer may see the first recreational dives to the Overton Arm bomber open to the general public. With effort and care, this special piece of aviation and Cold War history should amaze generations of history buffs.

      Reply
  4. Griffin

     /  March 3, 2015

    Excellent post Robert. I had seen some news on this but your write-up really hits the message home. This is nothing less than corporate war on the citizens that are bound to it’s product. Disgusting. It is similar in a way to what is going on here in Massachusetts with the Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline project that will run a pipeline though Mass to connect the Marcellus Shale to the ocean. They claim it is for alleviating supply pressure here but it is really to get the gas to the LNG terminals so that it can be shipped to higher markets overseas. Anyway, this is a big year for them to to try and get the project approved. There is growing local opposition to the project. So, starting last year, the cards were flipped. The electrical companies started crying that there is not enough gas and so they desperately need more pipelines. Meanwhile, the consumer can enjoy a 37% rate hike to pay for the “suddenly” very expensive natural gas. Naturally, among the bills payers, the conversation gets watered down to “our electrical bill is really high cause they need to build that pipeline”. So now, the opposition is made to be the bad guys that want the average homeowner to be punished with high rates just to “save a couple trees”. It is a very clever ruse. When coupled with the push to allow gas exports to help “increase stability abroad”, it forms a very clear picture. It really is a battle, and information is the weapon of choice.

    Reply
  5. It’s typical corporatism which now dominates American politics. Hopefully, the lawsuits will succeed – provided, of course, that there are honorable judges left who haven’t been bought off.

    Reply
  6. dnem

     /  March 3, 2015

    Let me play a bit of a devil’s advocate here. I have a 6.11 kw grid-tied solar array on my roof, so obviously I’m a believer and a fairly early adopter. My array covers about 75% of my annual usage. It’s great, I love it, and it was an excellent investment. Buuuuut, I am a bit of a free rider. BGE, my utility, pays me full retail price for every kWh I push back onto the grid and I pay very little to them over the course of the year. Yet, I get the same gird reliability and maintenance as my neighbors that pay four or more times as much as me. If ALL my neighbors got on the bandwagon, the utility would be stuck maintaining the grid yet would only be receiving a fraction of the revenue they do now. That’s not sustainable either. So, we need creative public/private solutions (or complete public takeover of the utilities) to promote rooftop solar while avoiding killing their business model. What’s happening in AZ ain’t that, but we need to do better than the status quo to make the transition work.

    Reply
    • Of course some cost shifting will have to be made to pay for grid transmission/storage over time. The trick is to do it honestly and in a way that doesn’t crush solar adoption rates. One way is to slowly shift net metering from retail to wholesale. Otherwise, it’s grid service fees like the one we see above. The problem with this fee was that it was so high it stifled solar development, and it appears that it was intended to do just that.

      The cost of the grid is about 25 to 30 percent of the total cost we pay for grid energy. To support a grid service, solar owners might eventually reasonably pay 20, 30, or 40 dollars per month (although higher prices in this range will likely drive customers off grid in the out years as battery storage prices keep falling). But dumping that cost onto solar owners all at once when solar is just getting its legs is both cynical and exorbitant to the point that it kills adoption.

      Power companies now do not pay for the cost of their fossil fuel externality. I think this earns solar owners a discount for providing and using a non carbon power source until the utility is able to provide those resources itself.

      I think 5-10 dollars is fair this year. Going up by 4 dollars every year til we hit 25 dollars. The remainder discount (15 dollars) should be kept until the utility gets to 100 percent renewable energy. Otherwise slowly scaling to wholesale achieves the same goal.

      The problem that utilities are basically sanctioned monopolies also rears its head. So perhaps it’s best just to break power generation and storage/transmission into separate businesses as we see now happening in Japan.

      Reply
      • Utilities will say that they can sell 100 percent renewable energy to existing customers without having them install solar. However, this gives the utility far less incentive to remove legacy fossil fuel power sources. It also doesn’t address the fact that there are other very powerful and attractive benefits to homeowners with solar energy systems. Homes with solar systems have higher value. Home solar owners have control over their own power source and are not so vulnerable to the whims and rate changes of utilities. They are stakeholders, owning a valuable physical asset. And there’s a good amount of pride that comes with generating your own carbon-free energy.

        Reply
  7. pintada

     /  March 4, 2015

    Robert, those panels are not mounted on trackers and obviously, they don’t even face south. Looks like there is more being done to those homeowners in the way of ripoff than by the power company.

    Reply
  8. dnem

     /  March 4, 2015

    Pintada – how do you know where south is in the photo? The majority appear to be angled as if south is toward the bottom of the photo. My due west panels generate about 86% as much as my due south panels, so even those oriented 90 deg from the majority should be generating just fine too. (It does look like the 90 deg off panels would be facing east if the majority are facing south, but I suppose the image could be reversed).

    Reply
    • They look like a south and west orientation.

      The west orientation optimizes for time of day when power demand is higher, so they benefit from rate swapping all the more so. And, as you note, you end up with about 86 percent. In general, it’s about rate optimization.

      Pin, might want to check the blanket statements. The orientation here is well considered.

      Reply
  9. pintada

     /  March 4, 2015

    dnem – The panels on one house point one direction while those on another are pointed 90 degrees different.

    As you say, they may be facing north and west, but in any event, they are not working anywhere close to 100% efficiently, which means much the resources embodied in those panels and inverters are wasted. That is not my vision of a sustainable society, and not my idea of a good investment.

    Reply
    • mikkel

       /  March 4, 2015

      I have yet to find any panels where tracking makes it more efficient from a whole systems perspective — the tracking cost and material resources, when taking the increased maintenance into consideration, outweighs the increased output. If panels were something like 40% efficient then there is a break even.

      Reply
      • 12volt dan

         /  March 5, 2015

        the cost is high I agree but if your a diy kind of person there are cheaper alternatives. I use old satellite dish mounts, the old 10 foot ones,remember them? A lot of times I can just remove it for some one for the material then mount it at home. Use a cheap tracker from here http://www.redrok.com/led3xassm.htm and connect it to the old dish actuator. lots of work involved but it returns the investment sooner and gives you the satisfaction of a tracking array. I can’t use the roof ,way to much snow here for that but I’m able to clear it a lot easier off the post mount. Oh yeah those led trackers are quite susceptible to lightning strikes nearby, I’ve lost 2 to that problem, good thing they’re cheep :^)

        Reply
  10. Robert In New Orleans

     /  March 4, 2015

    What happens to the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant when the mega drought sets in?

    Reply
  11. Robert In New Orleans

     /  March 4, 2015

    Another point is that the image of new home construction in Arizona shows really how clueless people are in continuing to build in an area that might be unlivable within a decade or two depending on how quickly air temperatures rise.

    Reply
    • Robert In New Orleans

       /  March 4, 2015

      Should have typed might be, not my be😦

      Reply
    • They’ll need solar if they’re going to stay. That and all sorts of further increase in water use efficiency.

      At current rates, it does appear Lake Mead is getting into trouble sooner rather than later. Even in near El Niño conditions, that drought just keeps hanging in there.

      Got the typo😉

      Reply
  12. Robert In New Orleans

     /  March 4, 2015

    At least the homes are painted a light color to reflect the sun and the shingles aren’t too dark.

    Of course not all of the homes have solar cells on them and there are different configurations. This raises a good question: Should government only allow home designs that are optimized for solar energy (active and passive)?

    Reply
  13. Colorado Bob

     /  March 4, 2015

    (Reuters) – Australia’s weather bureau said on Tuesday the chance of an El Nino developing this year had risen to about 50 percent after signs of renewed warming in tropical Pacific Ocean.

    The Bureau of Meteorology said six out of eight international models it surveyed indicated that sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean would exceed El Nino thresholds by mid-year.

    El Nino can prompt drought in Southeast Asia and Australia and heavy rains in South America, hitting production of food such as rice, wheat and sugar.

    Reply
    • Of the last three, three month periods, Nino 3.4 was +0.5, + 0.7, and + 0.7 respectively. NDJ is unofficially +0.6 C and a February that probably saw Nino 3.4 warming makes this almost certainly a lock in for a weak El Niño so far. Also looks like February came in 1st, 2nd or 3rd hottest globally.

      There’s a rather warm Kelvin wave building as well — the strongest since the big one last year. Not quite that powerful as yet, but with some pretty significant departures nonetheless.

      Reply
      • Phil

         /  March 4, 2015

        And forecast possibility of enhanced MJO third week this month that might reinforce WWB as well as cyclone activity in WPAC. Again these are forecasts at this stage but it will be interesting to see what emerges in the next couple of weeks.

        Reply
  14. Near 120W 40N

     /  March 4, 2015

    Ironically, the Salt River Project may be planting seeds of its own demise. By imposing a flat arbitrary tax of $50 per month per solar installation, they are creating a market incentive for homeowners to go completely off-grid, in which case SRP not only loses the $50 but all other energy revenue as well. The $50 also creates an incentive for inventors to brainstorm new technology to make going off-grid more practical for homeowners.

    Reply
    • dnem

       /  March 4, 2015

      Let’s hope. See this?: “Elon Musk says Tesla will unveil a new kind of battery to power your home. The eccentric CEO said the product will be ready for production in a matter of months.”
      http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/11/8023443/tesla-home-consumer-battery-elon-musk

      Reply
    • Good insight. The home solar providers are looking at just that and believe they can provide off grid systems or systems with storage that better optimize rates within three months to a year. Nonetheless, the combination of added cost for storage and the threat of these fees would still slow adoption rates for this region in the short term.

      Australia looks like it’s about to jump fully into off-grid offerings. Hawaii may be next.

      Dnem — saw this. Tesla + Solar City have been planning to make integrated storage a part of offerings for solar systems. This helps to eliminate the so called ‘duck of death’ production/consumption pattern. The batteries are typically for extending solar usage into late evening through the high demand times. Reliance on grid returns as typical usage drops.

      Larger systems can go off grid. But this particular design was intended for grid optimization.

      Reply
      • Phil

         /  March 4, 2015

        It will depend upon price of storage. I suspect it will have to be relatively cheap to get good uptake. However, if or when cheap storage comes into being, then there will be a big uptake to try and go off-grid. Feed in tariffs in most states in Australia are not available for new systems so other incentives will be required to promote uptake. Becoming self-sufficient (completely off-grid) would seem to be the most logical.

        Reply
      • We have studies showing parity for solar + storage by 2018. This is interesting because just last year solar parity was predicted by 2017. We can probably arguably say that we have solar parity in 2015-2016.

        Reply
  15. Colorado Bob

     /  March 4, 2015

    Australia records second-hottest February

    3 Mar 2015, 11.31 pm GMT

    Sydney, 3 March (Argus) — February was the second warmest on record in Australia with the mean average temperature last month 1.67°C above its long-term average, while the maximum average temperature was 2.35°C above the long-term average.

    http://www.argusmedia.com/News/Article?id=200005362

    Reply
    • It’s been brutal down there — with the combined drought and resurgent heat. 11 years of drought for some regions of Australia in the last 14. Very bad climate.

      Reply
  16. Andy in San Diego

     /  March 4, 2015

    Reminds me of the Koch funded “sun tax” in Oklahoma, home to you-know-who-mr-snowball

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/opinion/sunday/the-koch-attack-on-solar-energy.html?_r=0

    Reply
    • I wonder if the snowball stunt was Koch funded as well. Perhaps they can send him to California with a glass of water to convince people the drought isn’t real? Our illustrious science committee chair in action. You’ve got to hand it to republicans, they really know how to put on a clown show.

      Reply
  17. Andy in San Diego

     /  March 4, 2015

    Reply
    • Andy in San Diego

       /  March 4, 2015

      Seems like the internet always enjoys dumb things….

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      “Our scientists warned us that a single Inhofe, left to his own devices, would do serious damage to the environment. It could stop regulating the world’s worst polluters, cause global food unrest and accelerate the destruction of the planet,” said a Chinese spokesperson. “The fact that such a moron is being placed in charge of US environmental policy is deeply troubling to every nation. Deeply troubling.”

      Reply
  18. doug

     /  March 4, 2015

    It’s a hard call from a financial perspective, on when to install solar panels on one’s home. The federal tax credit is due to expire on 12/31/16. Here in New Mexico where there’s lots of sun, the public utility is trying to pull a fast one similar to Arizona. They want to charge solar panel owners $30 a month, but say this would only take effect for people who buy the panels after the end of 2015. So, it would seem that one would want to buy solar panels by the end of 2016 (and 2015 here in N.M) however, solar is becoming so much more efficient and cheaper by the year-dramatically so.

    So, even if one bought panels in 2018 and did not get any tax credits, they likely will have dropped in price and improved in efficiency by then to more than make up for the loss of tax credits.

    At least this is my understanding of the whole situation…. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Of course the more we wait to install solar, the longer we’ll take to reduce our emissions, so that could be an argument for getting them now if one can afford it.

    I really would love anyone’s input on these economic questions as it relates to Solar power. I know about the about the Google/Solar City partnership, and there is no upfront costs for the consumer, but I am talking about a situation where one would buy panels on there own.

    Reply
    • You may want to take a look at Solar America and get a few quotes:

      http://www.solar-new-mexico.org

      On average a solar system now costs around 15-25 K in NM after rebates through most installers. NM also provides a guide with good info and links here:

      http://www.nmsea.org/Downloads/Go_Solar_Guide.pdf

      System costs are obviously quite a bit lower now than those shown in the guide.

      Reply
      • dnem

         /  March 4, 2015

        I installed my array in 2010. A friend who put his in a year or two before advised me to stop being so crazy with my spreadsheets and my projections and just go for it. He said the satisfaction you will get out of it will utterly swamp any ROI or payback period calculations. He was totally correct. My system cost about $20k after the 30% Fed credit and a bunch of other incentives. It returns about $2500 +/- a year, depending on the price of SRECs (the first couple of years were much higher than that as SREC prices were very high). I’m sure you’d do better than that at today’s prices. I tell anyone that asks, if you have the money and a good southern exposure, just go for it. You will be very happy you did.

        Reply
  19. Andy in San Diego

     /  March 4, 2015

    From an interview with Don Kopp, R-Rapid City, on the South Dakota Public Broadcasting program “Dakota Midday,” May 30, 2013.

    *********************************************************************

    “The climate has never been stable, the Ice Age, for example, is a prime example of that. Tropical vegetation found in the polar regions is another primary example and of course, you know Al Gore used the drowning polar bears as an example that the polar ice caps are melting and the ice is too thin and blah, blah, blah. Well, what, how did polar bears survive when there was no ice in the, on the, uh, arctic?”

    Wicks: “How long ago was that?”

    Kopp: “It is believed that probably the polar ice cap didn’t exist during the ’30s, when it was so hot.”

    Wicks: “The 1930’s?”

    Kopp: “During the 1930’s. But we don’t have satellites to prove it.”

    Reply
    • Spike

       /  March 4, 2015

      Quite something!

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      Nor any photographs.

      Reply
    • climatehawk1

       /  March 4, 2015

      Good point. With the extreme heat of the 1930s, that is probably when the dinosaurs died out as well. I’m not old enough to remember it myself, so I can’t really say one way or the other.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 5, 2015

        The dinosaurs aren’t dead! I saw one holding a snowball in the Senate last week!

        Reply
  20. Spike

     /  March 4, 2015

    $50 seems a very steep charge – my monthly bill in the UK is £40, about $62, and we have a standing flat rate charge of about $4/month to ensure low users help meet the costs of the infrastructure. Often the more you use the cheaper the cost per unit, which bugs me as it is precisely the wrong signal to send. But our daft pricing has nothing on this!

    The example of Arizona is obviously a deterrent punitive charge being applied to safeguard a company’s existing infrastructure and their profitability. perhaps they’ll want to charge users of LEDs and efficient appliances more next.

    I presume the only way of avoiding it if any legal challenge fails would be to go completely off grid and depend on solar + storage, which I would guess would be quite feasible in Arizona in the future.

    Reply
    • Power bills in the US average about 163 dollars per month. The SRP solar fee is disingenuous in that the corporation already charges 20 dollars a month for grid usage. So under their rate structure the separate solar fee has no justification. And, you’re right, it gets the incentives all wrong — rewarding people to use more energy and not less.

      The average SRP customer uses 1500 kWh per month. The average solar user drops that to 600 kWh. In essence, the fee makes the user pay for 50 percent of the power they saved through solar generation. This ghost power fee lets SRP keep legacy coal and gas plants online longer, effectively kills the solar market as it stands in their region, and insures monopoly control.

      In the end, solar users are using the grid for storage. They send energy they generate in excess to the grid during solar peak hours and buy the same energy back when the sun isn’t shining. So the question for solar users is whether a 600 dollar per year cost is better spent to use the grid or to store their own power for later use. With battery prices falling, the grid is going to start to look like an albatross the way these power companies are handling things.

      According to the research I’ve done, there are combinations for homeowners now that make such a switch economical for homeowners in the SRP region. Installers are putting these packages together and they should be available within 3-12 months. Do it yourselfers could put these things together now with the help of an electrician.

      Reply
  21. eleggua

     /  March 4, 2015

    ‘Japan’s Solar Power Growth Falters as Utilities Balk’
    MARCH 3, 2015
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/business/international/japans-solar-power-growth-falters-as-utilities-balk.html?_r=0
    ..Solar use in Japan has exploded over the last two years as part of an ambitious national effort to promote renewable energy. But the technology’s future role is now in doubt…
    …last September, Kyushu Electric Power Company, the region’s dominant utility, abruptly announced that it would stop contracting to buy electricity from new solar installations. Other power companies elsewhere in Japan soon followed suit.

    The faltering solar boom is threatening an important goal for Japan as a whole: finding clean sources of power to replace the nuclear output lost after the Fukushima disaster four years ago. So far, the country has been relying mostly on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to fill the gap, leading to sharply higher emissions of greenhouse gases….

    Solar projects have already changed the landscape and economy in Kyushu. They have taken over reservoirs, bankrupt golf courses and idle industrial parks, as well as the more familiar locations of residential rooftops….
    …Nanatsushima Mega-Solar Power Plant in Kagoshima, which opened in 2013, cover areas bigger than 100 football fields….
    …Makurazaki, a remote city in Kagoshima, the local airport went unused for a decade, a victim of economic and population decline. Now its 4,200-foot runway is covered end to end with solar panels…
    …expected to power 2,500 homes this year, its first full year of operation. And instead of paying to maintain an empty airport, Makurazaki will receive about 85 million yen, or a little over $700,000, in annual revenues, mainly from leasing the land.

    A bill now in Parliament is intended to promote competition. It would force Japan’s 10 regional utilities to split their generation and transmission operations into legally separate businesses. The two sides would remain closely connected, however, and some say the plan does not go far enough to even the playing field for new entrants, including those in green energy.

    “These 10 monopolies will still own the grid,” said Tom O’Sullivan, a Tokyo-based energy consultant. “It will still be very difficult for independent power companies to get their electricity into the grid.”

    Reply
    • I think it’s high time the utilities were broken up. This is a clear case of monopolies preventing progress, stifling competition, and harming the public good. Breaking them down into power transmitters and power generators is probably a good start. But as the article notes, more action may be needed.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 5, 2015

        Indeed. Couldn’t find anything more recent regarding this:

        ‘Japan opens up electricity market to break regional monopolies’
        June 20, 2014
        http://www.metering.com/japan-opens-up-electricity-market-to-break-regional-monopolies/
        Japan’s residential electricity market has been opened up to full competition after the government passed new legislation this week, the latest move to shake up the country’s power industry in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Reuters reports.

        The reforms, which may end with the break-up of powerful regional monopolies, are central to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to overhaul the economy, as high energy costs weigh on government finances.

        Regional monopolies like Tokyo Electric Power Co and Kansai Electric Power Co supply nearly all of Japan’s electricity and current laws allow only them to supply power to residential and small business users.

        The bill, which opens up the market for smaller power suppliers, was passed in the Upper House on Wednesday after receiving 211 votes in favour and 26 against, a parliamentary official said by phone. The Lower House approved the legislation last month.

        A bill passed in November allows for the establishment of a national grid operating company in 2015 to allow all suppliers equal access.

        The final phase requires regional monopolies to spin off transmission and distribution operations into separate entities by 2020.

        The monopolies were set up in 1951 during the American occupation after World War Two and followed the U.S. model at the time, with regional utilities controlling all aspects of generation and transmission.

        Reply
  22. Spike

     /  March 4, 2015

    A bit of progress here – UK emissions fell 9% in 2014, and no we’re not back in caves.

    http://bit.ly/1EMnIEP

    Reply
  23. Spike

     /  March 4, 2015

    Wildfire in Cape Town – would imagine this will produce quite a bit of ecological damage in that area.

    http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/LIVE-Cape-Town-fires-still-raging-20150303

    Reply
  24. VICE on HBO Season 2: Deliver Us from Drought

    Reply
  25. São Paulo – anatomy of a failing megacity: residents struggle as water taps run dry

    http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/feb/25/sao-paulo-brazil-failing-megacity-water-crisis-rationing

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      Greg posted that article here on Feb. 26th, on Robert’s ‘Solar in the Desert’ piece.
      Sobering story.
      “I’d always imagined people would try and help each other out in a crisis situation,” she says. “But it’s not what happened at all.” …
      “It was like a horror film,” says the building manager, Maria Aurilene Santana. “No one seemed able to agree on anything.”

      According to a crisis report published on 9 February by the pressure group Aliança Pela Água (Water Alliance), whereas catastrophic situations like flooding often fosters solidarity, a lack of resources tends to do the opposite, leading to chaos and even violence.

      “…the first in a series looking at Brazil’s largest city…”

      Looking forward to more in the series.

      Reply
  26. eleggua

     /  March 4, 2015

    ‘Full-scale production drilling starts at Novoportovskoye field’
    25 june 2014
    http://www.gazprom-neft.com/press-center/news/1102444/
    Work has begun on production drilling at the Gazprom Neft Novoportovskoye field. A total nine wells are to be drilled to the end of this year: a three-year development plan at Novy Port, scheduled to run to 2016, envisages the construction of five multi-well pads and the drilling of 60 wells.

    Over the past year Gazprom Neft Novy Port (a Gazprom Neft subsidiary and operator on the project) has completed a drilling programme as part of pilot production at the field, drilling eight production wells and conducting testing of 17 exploratory wells, as well as completing 10 fracking operations — the latter involving the testing of multi-stage fracking technologies, for the first time.

    The Novoprotovskoye field is one of the most significant currently under development in the Yamalo-Nenetsk Autonomous Region.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      Oil fields:

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 4, 2015

      Yamal holes / arctic craters:

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 4, 2015

        The object B2 is now attracting special attention from the researchers as they seek to understand and explain the phenomenon. This is only 10km from Bovanenkovo, a major gas field, developed by Gazprom, in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

        ‘Years of experience has shown that gas emissions can cause serious damage to drilling rigs, oil and gas fields and offshore pipelines,’

        Reply
    • This project was a bad idea to begin with. Now they have to contend with the prospect of the ground beneath their fields and pipelines exploding.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 5, 2015

        Raindeer herders are concerned and paying attention:
        http://reindeerherding.org/tag/climate-change/
        Scientists have found four new craters have been spotted in the region. Worryingly, one crater was found about 10 km from the extensive Bovanenkovo gas field….

        …Some alarming articles appeared suggesting that this may well be a sign of the end of days. However, more serious articles (e.g. a Nature piece you can read here and a piece on the Alaska Dispatch News here) attributed the holes to a build up of methane from thawing permafrost according to a Russian team investigating the sites, offering the abnormally warm summers of 2012 and 2013 on Yamal as a possible explanation. Of course this is of interest to the Reindeer Portal as some of the holes were discovered by reindeer herders, some of whom took pictures of themselves by these other worldly looking holes.

        Either way, the appearance of these holes are a concern for us all and will be watched closely by herders and scientists alike in the future.

        The International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR) was established by the Norwegian Government in 2005 in Kautokeino, as a contribution to the unique international cooperation of circumpolar reindeer herding peoples. ICR is an independent professional unit, with its own board and budget. Its core funding is provided by the Norwegian Government through annual grants from the budget of the Ministry of Reform and Government Administration.
        ICR’s purpose is to

        → contribute in maintaining and developing a sustainable reindeer husbandry in the north
        → strengthen the cooperation between the reindeer herding peoples
        → document and take care of the traditional knowledge of reindeer herders and contribute to knowledge development
        → communicate knowledge about circumpolar reindeer husbandry to our target groups

        Reply
  27. eleggua

     /  March 4, 2015

    ‘Brazil’s king of deforestation dethroned in drive to beat land clearers
    Arrest of Ezekiel Castanha shines new spotlight on financial crime and may help bring breakthrough in effort to protect Amazon rainforest’
    2 March 2015
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/02/brazils-king-of-deforestation-dethroned-in-drive-to-beat-land-clearers
    Castanha was arrested last weekend, along with 15 associates, in what has been hailed as a major breakthrough for environmental enforcement. The local media have described the detainee as the “king of deforestation”. According to the environment ministry Ibama, he and his gang were responsible for about 10% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last year…

    His arrest – after several months on the run – already appears to have made a dramatic difference to land clearance rates. Since last August, when the investigation – named Operation Castanheira – was launched and a warrant was first issued for Castanha’s arrest, deforestation around the BR-163 road has fallen by 65%, according to the ministry….

    Many questions remain, including the identities of Castanha’s business partners, political protectors and whether the supermarket boss was really the top figure in the syndicate….

    Reply
  28. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    Livescience is reporting a new assessment of arctic sea ice thinning

    https://www.livescience.com/50023-melting-arctic-ice.html

    Reply
  29. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    pretty stunning numbers from University of Washington Applied Physics Lab. sea ice in central Arctic Ocean thinned 65% 1975-2013 from 11.7 feet to 4.1 feet. September minimum 85% 9.8 feet to One Point Four feet over same period. I am trying to be careful, but I must re-check these numbers……they mention ’13 and ’14 well within trend….if link doesn’t work it may be worth looking up.

    Reply
  30. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    ….yes, they say 1975….using subs and other measurements ….yes they say 1.4 feet avg. thickness central Arctic Ocean for Sept. ’12.

    Reply
    • From the satellite, it looked paltry, much less than the NSIDC graphics. 1.4 feet average is nothing — teetering on the edge of blue water.

      Reply
  31. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    “At least for the central Arctic basin, even our most drastic thinning estimate was slower than measured by these observations.” co-author Axel Schweiger UW Applied Physics Lab quoted in UW Today.

    Reply
  32. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    Dr. Axel Schweiger is the chair of the Polar Science Center. The folks who bring us PIOMAS volume estimates…. Oh boy……

    Reply
  33. Greg

     /  March 4, 2015

    This hits are really beginning for Brazil from the government mismanaged response to mega drought. As citizens stock up on water storage, their open containers breed mosquitoes. “The tropical mosquito-borne virus, which often results in high fever, intense muscle pain and convulsions, has killed at least 17 people in São Paulo state in the first six weeks of 2015.”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/drought-stricken-sao-paulo-battles-dengue-fever-outbreak-1425420508

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 5, 2015

      ‘Climate change and insect-borne disease: Facts and figures’
      09/09/09
      http://www.scidev.net/global/policy/feature/climate-change-and-insect-borne-disease-facts-and–1.html
      ‘Priya Shetty explains the links between climate change and insect-borne disease, and outlines priorities for developing country policymakers.

      …some scientists estimate that by 2080, six billion people will be at risk of dengue, compared with 3.5 if the climate does not change. If the global population grows to about 10 or 11 billion by then, as some estimates suggest, over half the planet could be at risk…’

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 5, 2015

      ‘Scientists: Climate change is attracting more disease-carrying insects to the UK, but don’t panic’
      16 Feb 2015
      http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/02/scientists-climate-change-is-making-the-uk-more-hospitable-to-disease-carrying-mosquitoes-but-dont-panic/
      “Yellow fever and dengue threaten to reach Britain as climate change makes the country more hospitable to a mosquito that carries an arsenal of exotic diseases, a study warns.”

      “Humanity has tended to react to emerging diseases as they occur … We should perhaps be more proactive and use the past to help us anticipate the future … [P]roactive risk management is less expensive, and thus more effective, than responding after the crisis.”

      “Whether you like it or not, climate change is happening and deaths from vector-borne diseases due to climate change are inevitable and unavoidable – doing nothing is not an option.”

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 5, 2015

        ‘NRDC: Climate Change threatens health
        Serious threats where you live and what to do about them
        Infectious Diseases: Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Lyme Disease’
        http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/disease.asp
        Communities across the nation must educate themselves about the risks from climate change and spreading infectious diseases and learn how to protect their most vulnerable residents.

        Eleven states and several local governments have developed preparedness measures to address the spread of infectious diseases associated with climate change. The most frequent recommendation is improving statewide surveillance for vectors such as mosquitoes, and the presence of vector-borne diseases.

        Reply
  34. Greg

     /  March 4, 2015

    And the rainy season is at its historic end with below average rain again:

    Reply
    • Huge deficits from September through December just couldn’t be made up with near average rainfall for a couple of weeks in February.

      Reply
      • Greg

         /  March 4, 2015

        Robert, yes. This story will continue to unfold this year and serves as an analog for many regions with large urban centers for the future. It’s the slow seeming inexorability of it that gives me the chills.

        Reply
  35. This is very good, and thorough — w/ subtitles. The subject applies to climate change, since the CC we face now is due to air pollution where ever it occurs.

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  March 4, 2015

      Thank you for this. The Chinese gov’t is allowing this to go viral. It is being compared to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring for them.

      Reply
      • Yes, for some reason the Chinese do take air pollution seriously. I have too much AP in the USA to think Americans will allow AP to interfere with their toxic ways and means.

        Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 5, 2015

      ‘Anchor’s pollution documentary “Under the Dome” goes viral in an anxious China’
      http://www.smh.com.au/world/anchors-pollution-documentary-under-the-dome-goes-viral-in-an-anxious-china-20150302-13sw2w.html
      …Under the Dome, was posted online on Saturday, and has exploded into an unprecedented viral sensation, garnering well over 100 million views within 36 hours across various video-sharing websites and sparking vehement debate on a topic that resonates widely across China….
      The documentary also stands out for its criticism of the government’s role – including lax government regulation, state monopolies in the energy sector and China’s headlong pursuit of economic growth – in contributing to the country’s toxic smog….

      Rather than pull the documentary down from China’s heavily-censored internet before it gained traction, it has even gained praise from senior government officials ahead of this week’s National People’s Congress in Beijing….
      But while access to the video was not blocked, popular Chinese internet portals had removed prominent headlines and links to the video from their homepages, apparently at the instructions of propaganda officials – though this has not slowed the video’s reach through continued sharing via other social media applications.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 5, 2015

      The Good Earth

      Reply
  36. Greg

     /  March 4, 2015

    So now they start digging through urban concrete for water:

    “In a cramped car park behind a food processing plant in Sao Paulo, a group of workers drills a borehole through the concrete, splattering the walls with mud. It is not oil or gas they are looking for in this mixed residential and business neighbourhood, but water.”

    Reply
  37. Colorado Bob

     /  March 4, 2015

    The mercury climbed to 42 degrees in an unprecedented heat wave.

    Cape Town has never been so hot, at least not since temperatures began to be officially recorded.

    That was 100 years ago according to the weather office.

    Meteorologist Henning Grobler says, “That’s why they called it a record, it’s an all-time high.”

    http://ewn.co.za/2015/03/04/CT-weather-office-records-highest-temperature-ever

    Reply
  38. Colorado Bob

     /  March 4, 2015

    Climate scientists, Texas’ top water official disagree on dealing with drought, heat waves

    AUSTIN >> Texas’ top water official and one of the state’s leading climate scientists differ on how best to plan for future droughts and heat waves.

    In an interview Tuesday, Carlos Rubinstein, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, said that past weather is the best guide to determining how much the state will need.

    “You said everything we’re doing is retrospective,” he said. “There’s value to that because it happened.”

    But Katherine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, said that the climate is changing too quickly for that.

    “The one thing we know is that using the past as a guide to the future will give us the wrong answer in most circumstances,” she said in a telephone interview from Lubbock.

    http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_27637725/climate-scientists-top-water-official-differ-water-planning

    Reply
    • Robert In New Orleans

       /  March 4, 2015

      Bob,

      Just curious what part of Colorado do you reside in?

      Reply
  39. The TX H2o official is likely ‘just following orders’ when issuing a statement like that. I’m sure much of the misinformation put out is the same.

    Reply
  40. Robert In New Orleans

     /  March 4, 2015

    Great article at National Geographic about science denial:
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/science-doubters/achenbach-text

    As of 2:53PM CST New Orleans is 84 F

    Reply
    • climatehawk1

       /  March 7, 2015

      I’ve noticed that NBC News and USA Today have both been carrying a fairly steady stream of accurate climate coverage of late. Great to see.

      Reply
  41. eleggua

     /  March 7, 2015

    Me, too, but seems certain that once the Dems have a hat or two in the ring the US national mediascape will be dominated by political mumbo jumbo.
    Attack ads and responses, and analysis of the attack ads and responses, and responses to the analyses. A vortex of distraction.
    Toss in a Kardashian baby or gender reassignment, maniacal beheadings, popstar misbehaviour, new iPad release, etc, ad infinitum, seems like it’s going to be a bit longer before US media start to act responsibly.

    Will be interesting to see how the Guardian’s promise today of vigorous coverage of climate change issues and their stated intention of going after Dementors of Doom – outing pollutors and their financiers – will affect the mediascape. Good thing if their work inspires other outlets to see it as a lucrative bandwagon and jump on. We’ll see…

    Reply

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