en fuego

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This is what inaction looks and smells and tastes like. Our collective inability to move the ball forward, to get people to acknowledge and care about climate change is paying catastrophic dividends. And, it’s only going to get worse, before it gets better. Take a deep breath of air and consider how fortunate we are — to simply inhale carcinogens — relative to families in Paradise. Horrible.

First, here are two options to support victims of the Camp fire:

- UC Davis Fire Department: Accepting donation through Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

- Camp Fire Support, including an option to support our friends and colleagues at Chico Electric

Second, the most succinct summary we’ve seen evidencing what’s going is a Twitter thread composed this weekend by Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at UCLA and other institutes. It’s not just the north winds; they blow every year. And, we can’t place blame simply on the lack of rainfall this fall, though it normally should be 4-5 inches in Paradise so far. Further, our planet is warming — the past five years have been the hottest on record — but that’s not it. It is the terrible tonic of the three: Our world is warming, rain the fall is dwindling, and the winds are gonna howl. This is the climate change reckoning.

Building on the above, Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, shared an interactive scatter graph contrasting average temperatures and rainfall. This one is sobering.

Third, this reminds me of the Lorax. Facing a dystopian end after the Oncler and his crew decimated the environment, the Lorax stumbles upon a call to action: UNLESS. 

What we’re experiencing is past the new normal, unless we collectively confront the disaster head on.

The two most impactful measures you can take to reduce your carbon footprint are to electrify your transportation and go solar: Cut carbon from your car and home. Individually, our impact is marginal … another electric vehicle and a few dozen solar panels will not move the planet’s thermostat. But, collectively we can … it’s here and now, it’s economical and sustainable. Let’s move from “unless” to “yes”.

Valley Clean Energy is here: Choice is good for solar homeowners

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Change can be a good thing. Or, it can be bad. Or, somewhere in between.

Choice, however, is good. If you had one option — for anything you do or buy — you’re stuck. You have no choice and must opt for the sole solution.

Choice enables consumers to make a decision, to weigh options and decide what’s in their best interest. Choice makes markets healthy and efficient, thus benefiting consumers.

For the past few generations, Yolo County residents have not had a choice regarding their electricity: PG&E, the de facto monopoly, was it. That ceased in June with the debut of Valley Clean Energy (VCE). Though nothing changed with our electricity delivery, customer service and billing, VCE was a change that confused some. This is understandable: Consumers now had a choice.

As we’ve shared in prior posts (here, here and here), if you do not have solar panels, VCE is a no brainer: Participate and you’ll save a few bucks each month while reducing your carbon footprint. Or, stick with PG&E and pay more to an investor-owned utility for dirtier energy. Case closed.

Furthermore, if you have solar or are considering going solar, VCE is a viable option. It provides solar homeowners with a choice for how to net-meter their electricity.

When VCE commenced its solar net-metering program in June, we identified and shared a few (in our opinion) flaws to their accounting methodology. In short order, VCE staff absorbed our input, consulted the public, and amended their solar program. This efficient, transparent and productive process evidences the virtue of a publicly-controlled program. (Imagine trying to get PG&E to modify their solar program … no chance.)

Effective January 1, 2019, VCE’s new net-metering program will take effect and homeowners with solar will have a choice. Here’s a quick summary:

  • If you installed solar before June 1, 2018 you will stick with your annual true-up date (that you currently employ with PG&E) and you will be enrolled in VCE’s program at your true-up.

  • If you went solar after June 1, 2018, your annual true-up date will be in March.

  • In both cases, your net-metering accounting will occur every month (versus once/year with PG&E). At the end of your 12-month solar accounting calendar, your true up ($) will be the same, except …

  • … with VCE, if your solar system generates more electricity than you use in a given month, you will receive an additional one-cent per kWh credit.

Importantly, when you go solar, you receive “permission to operate” from PG&E and you are grandfathered in for 20 years under the prevailing (California Public Utilities Commission mandated) net-metering program. Participating in VCE’s net-metering program does not impact your 20-year utility agreement. (This is critical; we received written acknowledgement from PG&E.)

So, congratulations, you now have a choice. Options are good and, for solar homeowners, VCE will put a few extra dollars in your pocket without harming your solar interconnection agreement.

Feel free to stop by our workspace or contact us with questions. Viva community choice!

Is my solar working?

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Since today is election day, this post should engage, “Is my democracy working,” versus concentrating on the vitality of solar systems. Late tonight we’ll (hopefully) get an answer to the former; today we will concentrate on the latter.

We field a handful of calls each month from owners of existing solar systems, posing a simple question: I’m not sure if my solar system is working; can you help? For the 200+ Repower homeowners — and thanks to real-time solar system monitoring — we keep an eye on their systems. Twice each week, we: 1. Check to ensure the system is operating; and, 2. Gauge each system’s electricity generation vis-a-vis National Renewable Energy Lab projections. 

Two quick observations about Repower solar systems: We have yet to have a solar panel fail (out of 11,000+), and the median system is generating 4.6% more energy than we modeled. To the former, it’s what homeowners should expect: Solar panels are tested by the manufacturer and prior to when they’re installed; they have no moving parts; and, if they work day one, they should not fail. Solar systems simply work.

That said, the calls we receive are from homeowners who had their systems installed by another solar company. Oftentimes, a new homeowner adopts a solar system (with their purchase of the home) and has no idea when it was installed, which panels and inverters were employed, who installed it, and how it’s doing. They simply know they have a solar system and want to understand how its doing.

To wit, two approaches:

  1. Contract the solar installation contractor and engage them to diagnose your system’s performance. (Apologies for being terse!)

  2. If you do not know who installed the system (or, if the solar company is no longer in business), contact us and we will assess your system (at no cost). For our initial diagnosis, the following vitals will propel our assessment:

- System specifications (installation date, solar panel model and quantity, inverter type).

- PG&E net-metering data (we will share how to obtain).

- A few photographs/screen shots of your inverter’s screen.

With the above, we can determine if your solar system is performing as it should.

Finally, a quick binary check (to check your solar sanity :) : Green is good, yellow or red is bad. If your inverter’s light is green (during the day), that means it’s generating power; if it’s yellow or red, the inverter (most likely) has faulted.

Feel free to stop by our workspace or contact us with questions. Like democracies, solar should work for you.

50,000 Model 3s in 90 Days: Tesla is Tipping the World

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Tesla reported earnings yesterday. To the surprise of most experts (!), Elon crushed it. In three months, Tesla sold more than 80,000 electric vehicles, including 52,339 Model 3 sedans. And, they made money, registering a $312 million profit and generating more than $800 million in free cash flow. Well done.

We tweeted last month about Tesla’s extraordinary business model and outcomes:

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Further amplifying the above, from yesterday’s Wired story:

At the end of the quarter, Tesla actually welcomed existing customers as volunteers to help deliver cars, as that became the new bottleneck. “I’ve never heard of a case where customers volunteered their time to help a company succeed,” said Musk. “That’s amazing. It chokes me up actually.”

Great news for Tesla, but more important, for the future of electric vehicles (and, thereby, our planet) … an American auto manufacturer is making money selling all-electric cars. Amen.

We have had the fortune of helping more than 60 electric vehicle owners (including ~15 Tesla owners) go solar. The economics of solar are good; solar + electric vehicles are outstanding.

A few anecdotes:

  • Increasingly, we are installing 240A eV outlets in concert with solar systems, in advent of a future/soon-to-come electric vehicle (and its charger). Very simple, efficient and inexpensive process, particularly when bundled with the solar engineering and permit. (And, you get the 30% tax credit on your additional electrical work.)

  • Refresher on the math for increasing your solar system’s size to accommodate eV charging: Simply take the total number of miles/year you anticipate driving (e.g., 12,000), multiply by the percentage of time you will charge at home (e.g., 75%), and divide the number of at-home miles by 4 (e.g., 9,000/4) to calculate the additional electricity load in kWh (in this scenario, 2,250 kWh).

  • The amortized cost to generate solar electricity is ~$0.08 per kWh. Hence, your cost to drive electric is about two cents per mile. (Add in the fact that there’s no maintenance and the picture’s even rosier.)

  • All electric vehicle owners should switch to PG&E’s “EV” rate schedule … the benefits are amplified if you have solar. (We model multiple PG&E rate schedules for Repower homeowners … in most all cases, switching to “EV” is the best case.)

  • We’re working with a number of churches in the community, helping them go solar and install eV chargers … all churches see it as a community benefit, and thus public availability of chargers is going to increase significantly — via churches, local governments, businesses, apartments, hotels, et al — in the near future.

Want to learn more? Feel free to contact us and/or attend a Davis Electric Vehicle Association (DEVA) meeting at our office.

I am going solar. Now.

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We have the fortune of exploring solar with dozens of homeowners each month. No two conversations are the same, but common themes prevail. We normally commence with a simple question: Why solar, why now (in terms of the homeowner’s interest)?

Solar is not a panacea and it does not make sense for all homeowners. Further, there is no single, silver bullet that prompts people to pull the trigger; here are a selection of “why solar, why now” anecdotes from homeowners:

1. PG&E: Opinions sway from virtual venom to distrust to steady rate inflation to I’m sick of paying PG&E so much every month. As you may have noticed, PG&E raised residential electricity rates ~42% over the past three years, and there’s more to come …

2. Climate change: Everyone wants to do their part, and solar is a the most impactful measure a homeowner can employ to reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, our state is burning (no-duh) and homeowners acknowledge the latent liabilities PG&E is accruing for the Santa Rosa, Redding and other fires; there’s a general belief (we agree) that ratepayers will bear financial responsibility for PG&E’s liabilities. Hence, going solar insulates you from future rate increases.

3. Donald Tariff Trump: Regardless of your political stripes, nobody likes to pay more for something. President Trump’s first two tariffs were applied to washing machines and solar panels. (Washing machines?) Fortunately, the quantity of solar panels imported into the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2017 increased 1900% (versus Q4-2016); the solar industry has been working through a surplus of stockpiled, pre-tariff solar panels. However, supply is dwindling — prices have most likely bottomed — and the solar industry foresees tariffs in the next few months.

4. Donald Tax Credit Trump: There’s much concern among homeowners that the POTUS will eliminate the 30% federal tax credit (for solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy). For now, the tax credit is galvanized into the tax code, at the full 30%, through the end of 2019. We believe it is unlikely Congress (and then Trump) will abort the credit; perhaps we’re being overly naive! The safe bet, of course, is to lock it in in 2018.

5. Investment accounts: This one’s common … if I’m making less than 1% in my checking/money market account and I’m nervous about the stock market and my 401K, solar is an investment vehicle where I can confidently generate 12%+ annual returns. We agree, and the math is quite simple. 

6. I need a new roof: We are currently helping six homeowners who are replacing their roof and, in concert, installing solar panels. The timing is perfect to maximize and optimize warranties from the roof material and solar panel manufacturers (minimum of 25 years) and the roof and solar installation contractors (25 years). Importantly, we orchestrate the process (roof + solar) on behalf of homeowners.

7. Electric vehicle: This one’s a no-brainer, particularly if you plan to own your home for at least five years. Leveraging PG&E’s electric vehicle rate schedule (EV-A), our typical eV + solar homeowner only needs their solar system to generate ~80% of the electricity they use to offset 100% of their electricity costs. (Simple math: Your amortized cost to generate solar electricity is in the 8 cents per kWh range, and you will garner ~4 miles of charger per kWh … so, your cost to drive is ~2 cents per mile.)

Are we missing any obvious motivations (to go solar)? If so, please advise, or feel free to contact us if you’d like to amplify any (or all) of the above.

Understanding your PG&E-Valley Clean Energy Bill

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Valley Clean Energy (VCE) commenced service as an alternative electricity provider June 1. As discussed here, this is great news … your electricity costs will be reduced by ~2-3% and you will enjoy (though you can’t see/taste/touch the electrons!) cleaner electricity. (If you’re among the 7,000 property owners in Davis, Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County who have already gone solar, this article has no utility for you; here’s a recent article about Valley Clean Energy’s Net Energy Metering program.)

Now that we’re a few months into VCE’s service, many homeowners are trying to interpret their new (PG&E + VCE) electricity bill. Here’s a quick tutorial:

  • Page three of your PG&E statement quantifies your electricity use and charges. (Yes, July was a brutally warm month; electricity use/costs are quite high for most everyone.) Therein, you will see two additions:
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  1. A Generation Credit representing your Valley Clean Energy credit for the electricity generation component of your use.
  2. A Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, essentially the fee PG&E charges to participated in VCE.

Next, turn to page four to review “Details of VALLEY CLEAN ENERGY ALLIANCE Electric Generation Charges”. Per the below, there is a net charge of $93.28.

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Finally, simple math to determine how much you will pay relative to PG&E:

- VCE Electricity Generation Charge: $93.28

- Power Charge Indifference Adjustment: $43.90

- Less, PG&E Generation Credit: -$141.43

Hence, under the above scenario the homeowner saved $4.25 this month through VCE.

Annualized, this homeowner will save ~$40 for participating in VCE. It’s not enough to buy a bottle of Jordan cab, but perhaps you can enjoy a tasty meal at Mikuni’s.

Valley Clean Energy works.

Lions and tigers and ash on my solar panels, oh my!

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What a brutal few weeks it has been. Our climate is speaking to us: We can see, taste and smell it. And, our solar panels are not happy either. Analogous to what you see on your windshield, solar panels are clouded with ash from the Mendo Complex and Carr fires (of late) and others. Yuck … makes me want to hop on a tree stump and paraphrase Dr. Seuss: I AM THE LORAX AND I SPEAK FOR THE SOLAR PANELS, FOR THE PANELS HAVE NO TONGUES, NOW LISTEN TO ME!

We monitor 200+ Repower homeowners’ solar systems 2-3 times each week, evaluating their solar generation vis-a-vis National Renewable Energy Lab projections. Though it’s at the bottom of residual impacts of the fires — we’re simply talking about electricity generation! — our solar systems are generating 10-20% less electricity over the past 10 days. Some days are worse than others … Monday (August 6) was horribly suffocating for solar panels.

What to do? Here’s an excerpt from an article we composed last summer about keeping your solar panels clean:

As solar panels have no moving parts, the main area of maintenance is to keep them clean. We recommend to check the panels periodically especially during dry periods when precipitating dust occurs with the morning dew. Dirty panels can reduce electricity production as much as 8-12% (results from Department of Energy studies vary). Most dirt can be easily removed with water sprayed from a hose or from rainfall. (Do NOT use high-pressure sprayers as it can damage the seals around the frame.) Important: Wash/spray the panels in the morning to reduce drastic temperature changes. If you cannot ascend your roof, simply spray from the ground and let gravity do the trick … a small wave of water will cleanse most dust. Do not scrub the panels with any harsh materials. If a brush is needed, make sure it has soft bristles, or opt for a common window squeegee. If you notice rapid dirt build up—or bird droppings—then more frequent cleanings are warranted.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions about how and when to clean your solar panels. And, most important, let’s hope the fires cease and our air quality improves.

Valley Clean Energy + Solar: Just the facts

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Our community cares. A lot, about a lot of stuff. With conviction, unfortunately, there’s oftentimes confusion. Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is a contemporary example.

On April 18, we provided our perspective regarding VCE. In short order, it became the most-read blog post in the history of our site. Again, lots of curiosity (and some confusion), especially via several NextDoor threads.

As we originally opined, if you do not have solar, VCE is a no brainer: Do it (read: do not opt out) and you’ll save a few bucks and enjoy cleaner electricity. Nothing changes with your service — PG&E still manages the grid and bills you. There’s no downside (unless you’re an anti-government conspiracy theorist). Effective June 1, you were enrolled in VCE … enjoy!

Back in April, we were less definitive about VCE for the ~7,000 NEM (net-energy metering, or solar) customers in Davis, Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County. At that point, our recommendation was to love the one you’re with: Stick with PG&E until a few details (read: our concerns) were ironed out. Thereafter, we invested considerable time working with VCE staff to mitigate our concerns and improve VCE’s net-metering program. We also recommended they put the program on hold.

Fortunately, VCE was all ears and brains: They tabled the NEM program, listened to our concerns, analyzed our recommended changes, and revised their net-metering program. Then, they held public forums in Davis and Woodland … more than 90 people attended each. VCE is diligently doing the right thing.

We reached out to Jim Parks, Director, Customer Care and Marketing with VCE, for his perspective:

Here is what we are proposing, pending VCE Board approval in September.

  • Residential NEM customers will keep their annual billing cycle unless their annual balance exceeds $500.  Then they will go to monthly billing.
  • NEM customers will retain their existing true-up date.
  • VCE pays 1 cent per kWh more than PG&E for excess energy on a monthly basis. This will roll over as credits during excess generation months and will be trued-up on the annual true-up date if needed.  Over $100  credit balances will be paid to customer. Under $100 balance will roll over as a credit.
  • For excess energy at the end of the year, VCE pays what PG&E pays (wholesale) plus 1 cent per kWh, providing a financial benefit to NEM customers.
  • The transition from PG&E to VCE will occur on the customers true-up date in 2019.  This means that NEM customers will be moving to VCE over the course of the entire year, depending on their true-up date.

The transition from PG&E to VCE will be seamless to NEM customers and they will automatically receive the higher incentives that VCE provides. Customers also receive other VCE benefits including choice of providers, local control, higher levels of green and carbon-free energy, and reinvestment in the community.

Thanks, Jim. Count us in. 

And, a final note: This process of rapid improvement and adaptation would not occur with an investor-owned utility. VCE listened to its constituents, applied common sense and logic, and improved their solar program … in a matter of months. Yet another reason why local control makes sense, let alone the virtues of reducing utility bills and our carbon footprints.

Feel free to contact us or stop by if you’d like to discuss further.

City of Davis Environmental Recognition Award: Business

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Tuesday night we were honored to receive the 2017 Environmental Recognition Award from the City of Davis. Candidly, it was humbling and nerve-wracking. Here's a link to a video of the ceremony, and below are my rambling, bambling thoughts:

This is like the Academy Awards for us climate geeks, the anti-Scott Pruit. Thank you very much.

I am a solar simpleton. Credit for this award goes to the several hundred property owners we have helped go solar, and the little organization that is the sustainability heartbeat of our community, Cool Davis.

Ours is a community that greatly values sustainability. We value walking and riding our bikes. Driving cars that get good gas mileage, that perhaps are electric. We value making our own energy and growing our own food. We value recycling. We value conserving. And, with all those values, any time any of us do these things, it puts more money back in to our community, because we’re not paying more for gas or electricity or food.

Hence, sustainability to me is not just simply about reducing our GHGs and carbon footprint, but it’s about building a sustainable economy. But, our values have no value if we fail to make an investment in our community. We’re simply winking in the dark, kinda kidding ourselves. Because without an investment, our values are just that: They have no value.

I would like to thank the Council, the Natural Resources Commission, blah blah, mumble mumble.

Past recipients include several of our friends, colleagues, and partners in the climate change fight ... here's a list of businesses that have been honored:

1995 – Ridge Builders Group, Inc.
1996 – Davis Energy Group
1997 – Davis Food Co–op
1998 – Tandem Properties, Inc.
1999 – Calgene LLC
2000 – (none)
2001 – Davis Food Co–Op
2002 – (none)
2003 – Screaming Squeegee Screen Printing & Embroidery
2004 – Sunmart, Inc.
2005 – Harrington Place
2006 – Island Ink Jet
2007 – (none)
2008 – MAK Design+Build, Inc.
2009 – Kiwi Tree
2010 – Hallmark Inn
2011 – Waste Busters
2012 – Café Italia
2013 – Da Vinci High Charter Academy
2014 – (none)
2015 – Neighborhood Partners, LLC
2016 – Sierra Energy
2017 – Indigo Hammond + Playle Architects;  Whole System Designs

Muchas gracias to all for providing us the opportunity to serve our community and planet. Again, we are honored.

Shade on my solar panels: What to do?

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A few times each week we tender discussions with homeowners (who are interested in going solar) that begin with a similar question: How do I know if my home/roof is a good candidate for solar, given shading from surrounding trees? Or, perhaps it's a statement: Solar won't work at my home because I have too much shading.

With kudos and thanks to THE GREAT Mike Kluk -- one of hundreds of terrific Cool Davis volunteers that propel our community's sustainability -- we now have an in-depth look at technologies we employ to help mitigate shading (and, thereby, maximize electricity generation of solar panels that are shaded). Mike just published an article in The Enterprise, Rooftop solar: Partial fixes for partial shade. If you're contemplating solar, it's well worth a read.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike to help inform his research and prose. An excerpt:

Every residential solar installation is unique. Roof size, angle, and orientation to the sun all affect production. But for installations where intermittent shading is an issue, the addition of optimizers or microinverters typically increases production from 15 to as much as 25%. Over the lifetime of a system, 20 to 30 years typically, that is a tremendous amount of power that you will not need to pay for.

Our take: Solar does not work for everyone. However, by employing SolarEdge's power optimizers, the downside of shading is mitigated.

Most important, we are happy to perform an assessment and quantify the impact of shading. The end result may be a no-go, but it's worth contemplating.

 

 

Aggie thanks

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This was fun. A few months ago, we had the pleasure of sitting down with UC Davis staff for a retrospective and prospective discussion. Here's a link to the spring 2018 AggieXtra publication.

Therein we explored what it means to be an Aggie, why UC Davis is best-prepared to tackled the world's foremost challenges, the pragmatic and idealistic value of solar, and fond recollections of my late dad, Charlie.

One story I failed to relay: In the early 1970s, when I was toddling at Birch Lane Elementary and my parents were grinding through graduate school, my dad started a company, East Davis Hot Tub Works. Redwood hot tubs were all the rage, particularly when married with solar thermal (hot water heating systems). Many a weekend was spent tagging along with my dad, visiting Davis homes, and observing the installation of hot tubs, decks and thermal systems. My dad was grinding to put food on the table while he completed his PhD in Environmental Toxicology; I, perhaps, was learning a lesson about the value of renewable energy (and serving our community too).

My dad went on to start California Analytical Labs, eventually growing it into the largest environmental testing laboratory in the country. He had a license plate that reflected his passion: Cal Labs was the "BMF LAB". Years later -- when he engaged with the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, UC Davis Foundation and UC Regents -- he would bend many an ear: UC Davis is the Best Mother F@#$*&! University. Period. (BMF UC?)

Many thanks to our comrades at UC Davis for sharing our story.

Valley Clean Energy: Should I stay or should I go?

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We have fielded a few dozen calls, emails and text messages over the past week, primarily from Repower homeowners inquiring about Valley Clean Energy (VCE) piqued by recent VCE mailings. Simple questions: What is it? Should I opt out? What are the pros and cons?

Background: We had the privilege of serving on the City of Davis’ Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee. Over 14 months, our volunteer group deliberated yea/nae (should we do this?) and, if yea, in what form? Could be a curse of too much information, but we have been immersed since the start.

On June 1, all PG&E customers in the cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County will be transitioned to VCE. By statute, this is how it works: You are automatically enrolled in the program; if you do not want to participate, you need to opt out.

What will happen? In simple terms, you will see a slight reduction in your electricity bill (about 2.5%, for starters) and you will enjoy, though it’s not tangible, cleaner electricity (i.e., electricity with a higher renewable energy content than what PG&E currently serves). Nothing will change with your service: PG&E will continue to manage the grid and provide customer service. In short, you will have cleaner electricity at a lower cost, with funds channeled through a community (Joint Powers Authority) organization. Here's a thorough FAQ from VCE's site.

What’s not to like? In our albeit biased opinion, nothing. And, the hallmark program (Marin Clean Energy) has proven that home and business owners can reduce their bills and their carbon footprints.

If you do not have solar panels on your home or business, do it. (In other words, do nothing … you’re enrolled.)

If you do have solar, the decision is a bit more nuanced. When you went solar, you received a 20-year commitment (Net Energy Metering Agreement) from PG&E to credit you for your solar-generated electricity for a period of 20 years. With VCE, this agreement is not broached: It’s between you and PG&E, regardless of who supplies your electricity. If your solar system was well-designed, it should eliminate/cover 90-100% of your electricity use. Hence, you are independently fulfilling the mission of VCE: Transition our community to clean, less expensive energy. And if you have solar, VCE will provide you with a bit more compensation that PG&E does. Click here for a thorough VCE overview for solar customers.

The wildcard: PG&E (and the other investor-owned utilities [IOUs] in California) are not happy. Community choice energy programs are a direct, competitive threat to their monopolies. Within a year, approximately 50% of IOU ratepayers will have access to community choice programs. PG&E has not dropped its shoulders, shrugged, and opined, “So be it.” They have (unsuccessfully and vigorously) fought community choice programs over the past decade, and their will is intensifying. What can PG&E do to solar owners (and all rate payers) in advent of community choice energy? 

With apologies for the ambiguity, feel free to contact us with questions: Click here, call 530-564-4292, or swing by our office (909 Fifth Street; the old Dairy Queen). We may not have definitive answers, but we are happy to elaborate.

Our caring community

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The most important role of a leader — be it an AYSO coach, pastor, executive, teacher or parent — is getting people to care. Caring is not binary; we care to varying degrees about all we experience. The greater the degree of our emotional engagement and commitment, the more likely we are to achieve progress and happiness.

Our community cares — intensely about lots of things. We care about our environment and climate. The arts and music. Our kids and schools. Downtown and open space. Development and housing. Transportation and parking. Growth and taxes. Homelessness and hunger.

We have a front row seat at our office, witness to myriad community members and groups that weave the fabric of our community. In 2018, we have donated our space and hosted meetings/events for the Third Space Art Collective, Jumpstart Davis, Cool Davis Foundation, Davis Electric Vehicle Association, Holistic Health, Think Resilience, Bike City Theatre Company, Valley Climate Action Center, Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, and Soroptimist International of Davis.

Please join us in supporting these organizations, along with the 50+ we have donated to via our YoloShines program. And, if you’re involved with a local nonprofit, mi casa es su casa … we are happy to host your next meeting or event. Please swing by or drop us a line.

Tesla Model S vs. 3: First Impressions

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Aunt Laurie and Uncle Clif reside in Portland. They're car peeps, specifically (emphatically) Tesla junkies. In 2013 they registered the first Tesla (a Model S) in Oregon. A few years later, they welcomed a Model X, and quickly jumped in line (and vaulted me to the front, riding shotgun courtesy of their second reservation) when Elon announced the Model 3. 

Laurie and Clif have drank the Tesla kool aide ... they are fanatics. To wit, here's a 48-hours-after-souped-up-Model-3-purchase recap from Aunt Lor:

Something felt odd to me about the 3 so I've had to give it some thought. l think I understand now ...

I got spoiled by the S.

3 not as fancy by far, but heck, it's at least $45k cheaper! (Even tho we bot the interior upgrade, fancier paint, rims, & long range 310 mi battery.)

Positives: It's more nimble, it's shorter by 11", so easier to maneuver round town. It does have more headroom as it is taller. It has spunk for sure, auto park & auto drive features. Simpler controls. Odd no driver dash gages, only an ipad like screen that is placed near center of dash? But now I get it. 

After 1 day I realize that simple design is clearly paving way for no driver & autonomous. Simple steering wheel "almost" feels superfluous in design. iPhone acts as one's fob, like calling Uber.

Clean lines w/smooth front. Elon no longer has to make cars look like other autos to be accepted; I predict more space age looks in near future.

So my conclusion:

The S is the brilliant stepping stone from normal luxury cars to electric luxury cars.

The 3 is stepping stone from human driver elec cars to elec autonomous vehicles. 

Just wait until 200,000 are on the road.

The future 

🤔

IMPORTANT to include enhanced autopilot hardware on your order. It incorporates the eight cameras & smart brains that enable lots of future software upgrades. 

W/o it the car won't be sought after on resale. 

The fully autonomous can be added later. 

Trump tariff: #Sad #NotFakeNews #TheSunAlwaysRises

trump blurry.jpeg

On Monday President Trump instituted a 30% tariff on solar panels manufactured outside the United States. Optics/first take: Defies logic, common sense, and basic economics … not surprising given the ignoramus in chief.

On the surface, it's sad: Ideology trumps reality. Here's a quick summary of the irrationality of POTUS's move: 

  • Solar is the fastest growing industry/job creator in the U.S., and is projected to grow faster than any industry over the next 10 years.
  • Less than 5% of solar panels are manufactured domestically. Why such tepid market share? We cannot produce a reliable, cost-effective product.
  • When property owners go solar, the economy benefits and is decentralized: Less money is paid to utilities, more money is kept (and recirculated) by home- and business-owners.
  • And, the environment benefits, immensely.

In reality — importantly -- it will not matter. The 30% tariff will increase the gross cost (investment) of a solar system by 8-10%, at worst. Much of this inflation has already been priced into the market: Solar panel prices increased $0.15-0.20 per watt in September, in fear of the pending tariff. (We were fortunate to secure enough solar panels (at pre-tariff prices) to supply Repower property owners through early spring.)

And, the first 2.5 gigawatts (GW) -- or, 2,500 megawatts; 2.5 million kilowatts; 2.5 billion watts; simply, ~8 million solar panels -- imported each year are exempt from the tariff. (By comparison, an estimated 7 GW of imported solar modules were installed in the U.S. in 2017.)

Worst-case: The simple payback for a residential system will increase by 4-6 months. From an article in today's Politico:

Since solar cells and panels make up only a fraction of a new solar system's costs, analysts expect the tariffs to bump up overall installed prices by 6 percent for residential rooftops and about 10 percent for utility-scale plants. Rocky Mountain Institute's own analysis says that the ongoing decline in solar installation costs will wipe out the price increases from the tariff in 18 months.

It could have been worse, and many solar industry leaders are relieved the Trumpster did not throw the solar industry in the dumpster. Solar is a but a crumb of our economic pie, and the tariff is much like a small sliver in your had: Temporary pain, but long-term it's nothing.

Solar is an ever-growing bonfire. Even with the tariff, solar-generated electricity still much less expensive that utility electricity (i.e., you can generate solar energy for ~8 cents per kWh; the average cost in PG&E territory is 26 cents/kWh). Again, from Politico:  

"I don’t want to suggest that anyone is invulnerable," said Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. "But we have a tremendous amount of momentum in the marketplace. I think the administration understands it's not in their interest to get in the way of the driver that is producing tremendous amounts of investment and creating jobs."

Be calm, solar on.