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, 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

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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.

YoloShines: Yolo Farm-to-Fork

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When the sun shines, so too do our children and, increasingly, those who harvest fresh produce from their school gardens. Enter Yolo Farm-to-Fork (YF2F), another little engine that is making a tremendous impact on our community.

We've had the fortune of supporting YF2F and its programs over the past few years. Pun intended, they are planting seeds for healthy living and regional sustainability. Recently, we engaged Suzanne Falzone, president of the nonprofit, to share more about YF2F.

1. Why does YF2F exist?

Yolo Farm to Fork supports edible school gardens, providing garden- and farm-based education to students because kids love to eat what they grow, creating healthier eating habits in the process. Hands-on learning that starts in the garden easily connects to all areas of the classroom curriculum AND encourages kids to improve their diets with more fresh produce.  We have started and currently sustain 40 public and private elementary school gardens through our “Dig in Yolo” program.  Seven additional schools participate in our “Growing Lunch” project whereby students grow, harvest, weigh, wash and deliver garden fresh produce to their cafeterias for inclusion in school meals by district food service staff.  “Our Go Visit a Farm!” program has provided hands-on learning through farm visits for over 1600 students countywide.  Our ultimate goals are to introduce kids to the joys and skills of growing food in ways that connect to classroom curriculum, and to improve their nutrition and consumption of more fresh produce.

2. In 2017, YF2F ...

Our three programs reach more than 8,000 students in elementary schools throughout Yolo County. We serve preschoolers as well, introducing garden-based learning to Head Start centers in Woodland and West Sacramento. Students in our Growing Lunch project delivered more than 3,200 pounds of fresh produce to their schools’ cafeterias in 2017. College students benefit too as we offer garden internships to students from UC Davis and Woodland Community College – 24 interns to date with a new group oriented at Cesar Chavez Elementary on January 13. (Repower note: Love this ... we have a constant flow of UC Davis interns/employees churning the gears of our company, and our children went to school at Chavez!)

3. Share a YF2F story.

“I helped plant this tree when I was in first grade,” announced Graciela to her apricot-picking team of 4th graders.  “Just pick the ones that are a little bit soft, but not mushy,” she instructed, “mushy ones go in the compost, and leave the hard ones and the green ones on the tree to pick later.”  She led her team to the garden shed, and each of them weighed the bag of apricots they picked while Graciela recorded the weight by each team member’s name.  “We got almost 10 pounds today,” she boasted, following them over to the washing station. The fragrant fruit tempted a tasting before washing, but washing the apricots was fun too, so nearly all the apricots got washed and shared in the classroom.

In Graciela’s school, nearly 90% of the students come from low-income families, eligible for free or reduced cost school meals. Many of them had never tasted a fresh-picked apricot, and sharing the tasting in the classroom resulted in a flood of new adjectives from class, each written on the white board by the teacher along with a journal writing assignment about apricot adventures. Learning that starts in the garden sticks to minds better than apricot juice sticks to fingers.

4. How can people help (monetarily, personally, professionally)?

We invite individual volunteers, business support and monetary donations to join our cause. Healthier kids lead to a healthier future and economy for all of us.  Check out the “get involved” tab on our website: www.yolofarmtofork.org.

For fun AND support, plan to attend our Park Winters Gala on March 19, 2018 – a celebration of Yolo County agriculture with a 5-course gourmet dinner complete with Yolo produced beverages.  All the information can be found on our website or through our Facebook posts. See you at the Gala!

YoloShines: Yolo Food Bank

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Today is MLK Day, a celebration of social justice and a day to reprise the leadership and selflessness of Martin Luther King. A tenet of social justice is hunger: Our society's responsibility to feed those in need. Central to such efforts in our community is the Yolo Food Bank.

We have had the honor, at the request of Repower homeowners, of donating more than $12,000 to Yolo Food Bank over the past few years. We are fortunate to do so and the Food Bank does not disappoint: For every $1 donated, YFB provisions three meals. Amazing.

We engaged YFB's Kevin Sanchez to elaborate:

1. Why does YFB exist?

The Yolo Food Bank exists to ensure that the people of Yolo County not only have enough food to eat, but enough nutritious, culturally appropriate food to feed their families.  YFB is the largest hunger-relief organization in Yolo County and the only organization with the infrastructure in place to receive, sort, store and distribute millions of pounds of food annually to more than 36,000 food insecure people.

2. In 2017, YFB?

In 2017, YFB partnered with over thirty Yolo County Farms to provide more fresh produce to clients.  Over 4.25M pounds of food were distributed and more than 1M pounds was fresh produce.

3. Share a YFB story.

The Walmart Foundation started a Grocery Recovery Program and YFB applied for a grant seeing that Yolo Food Bank wasn't very involved in grocery recovery outside of major distributors. We were awarded a $25,000 grant and used that funding to outfit our partner agencies with items like hand trucks, coolers, scales, refrigerators so they may better handle perishable foods. We then paired them with grocery stores, markets, and other food retailers in Yolo County so that they pick up on a weekly/bimonthly schedule and receive grocery store items directly from the donor, saving the agency money on purchasing items, and enabling them to provide grocery items for their clients that are harder to come by.  By strengthening our partners, we have enabled them to become more self-reliant and better able to serve the needs of their clients.

4. How can people help (monetarily, personally, professionally)?

Yolo Food Bank encourages our community to help in many different ways. Monetary donations are highly sought after since they allow us the flexibility to spend on our most urgent operational needs. Secondly, volunteering is always encouraged. Yolo Food Bank has volunteers who have been with us for over 5 years and volunteers who come on special occasions once a year. We appreciate any and every volunteer that come through our doors. Yolo Food Bank has very flexible volunteer opportunities. We encourage everyone to submit a volunteer application that you can find online at www.yolofoodbank.org/givetime

Community members can volunteer for harvest events throughout the summer. When we do not have enough volunteers, we have no choice but to leave crops in the field, crops that would otherwise be distributed to families in need in Yolo County.

5. The Campaign to End Hunger in Yolo County … overview and update?

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Yolo Food Bank is engaged in a $6M capital campaign to repurpose an industrial building they own into the food bank of the future. When completed, this new facility will increase its dry storage by 2.5 times from our current capacity. A new cold storage facility will handle 8-fold what we currently store and will have multiple temperature zones. At the heart of this new facility will be a commercial kitchen where food will be preserved, processed and repurposed into value-added food products for our programs and a culinary academy, where students will take accredited courses in the culinary arts. The campaign has raised $4.5M in cash and pledges so far and continues to seek out investors to help the Food Bank reach its goal. Construction has begun with the goal of occupying the building in August of 2018.

Please join us and help Yolo -- and the Yolo Food Bank -- shine.

Does solar increase my home’s value?

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We are asked, often, if solar increases (upon resale) the value of a home. The short answer is yes: There are myriad studies that quantify the increase in a home's value (presuming, of course, the solar system is owned versus leased; if leased, it could devalue the home). However, we posit that you should not assume solar will increase your home's value ... there are too many unknown unknowns, including market conditions when you sell and, most important, the value the buyer will place on solar.

Fortunately, there's an effective, easy to use, free tool that calculates the increase in a home's value with solar. Developed by Energy Sense Finance (and funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative), PV Value walks you through a series of questions to quantify the value of your existing solar system. Take a peek and let us know if you have any questions.

In addition, Energy Sense recently released the U.S. Solar Market Value ReportThe intent was to help homeowners and other real estate professionals make an informed decision regarding how to value and whether to maintain (or remove) an existing solar system.

The report reveals that the mean value for an existing solar system in 2016 was $3.93/watt in California. (Interestingly, new solar systems, net of the 30% federal tax credit, cost ~$2.50 per watt.) The inflated value of a new versus old system amplifies the value of solar ... the future utility savings, even when discounted, significantly exceed the cost of a new system.

The report also addresses new versus older systems, and found that older solar systems do, in fact, retain their value. Specifically, a 12-year old solar system was found to retain 50 percent of the value of new systems installed in 2016. This means that, not only do homeowners with solar have the opportunity to save on monthly energy bills, they also have equity in the system itself, which retains significant value over time.

Again, take a few minutes, poke around, and feel free to contact us if you have questions. For home buyers, home sellers and real estate professionals, at a minimum this tool can help value existing solar systems and thereby determine whether it makes sense to install a new system.

YoloShines: Yolo Crisis Nursery

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As we’ve shared, every time a homeowner goes solar we donate $500 to the local nonprofit of their choice. We call this program “YoloShines,” in great part because we believe nonprofit organizations are the underlying fabric of our community — they make it shine! — and, thereby, we have a responsibility to support such groups.

Over the past year, seven Repower homeowners have selected Yolo Crisis Nursery (YCN) for their YoloShines gift; hence, we had the fortune of donating $3,500 to YCN in 2017. In an effort to shine a light on YCN and engage the community to join us in our support, here’s a quick profile of the organization.

First, a story that amplifies the impact of YCN:

About one year ago, a distraught young mom named Jess first came the Yolo Crisis Nursery.  After the birth of Jess’s second child she was home alone with her newborn and her toddler, and realized she was having trouble caring for them both by herself.  Jess’s decision to call the Nursery probably saved her baby’s life.

Over the phone, YCN staff invited Jess to bring both children to the Nursery, where we could care for them at no cost and give her a much-needed break.  Once the family arrived, the situation took a dramatic turn.  Executive Director Heather Sleuter looked at the baby and saw that he was far too listless.  She asked when he had last been fed.  Jess said she could not remember.

Heather directed one of our caregivers to comfort and care for the toddler and then drove both the baby and Jess to the hospital. 

The emergency room staff attended to the child, successfully treating him for severe dehydration.  The doctor told us the baby had come within hours of death.  Meanwhile, Jess received the medical attention she needed.  County authorities made arrangements for both children to move into temporary foster care.

While county officials and Jess worked toward family reunification, her health stabilized and the children eventually returned home.  The family was then enrolled in YCN’s Family Life Skills Program.  A Nursery staff member visited the family’s home for two hours a week for 12 weeks for hands-on parenting education.  Families who complete our program significantly increase the likelihood that they will remain together,’

Today, a year later, this family is doing well.  Jess is working and the children are happily enrolled in day care and preschool.

Wow. Thanks to Cam Stoufer with YCN for sharing the story of lives saved and changed.

All organizations have a purpose … Why does Yolo Crisis Nursery exist? The mission of the Yolo Crisis Nursery is to provide early intervention services to nurture healthy and resilient children, strengthen parents and preserve families. Our vision is that every child in Yolo County grows up in a safe, loving and stable home. The Nursery’s overarching goal is to prevent child abuse and neglect among young vulnerable children by partnering emergency childcare with wrap-around services for families in trauma or crisis. In doing so we keep children safe and families whole in our community.

In 2017, Yolo Crisis Nursery’s accomplishments included:

  • Families receiving childcare services who did not become clients of CPS: 99%
  • Families linked to case management counseling and community resources: 267
  • Families completing referral to wrap-around services: 98%
  • Children served and childcare slots provided: 178 (individual count - up 45% over previous year) and 2,342

Very significantly, 98% of the families the Nursery serves do not become clients of Child Protective Services.

Now, our punchline ... here’s how you can help (monetarily, personally, professionally): Yolo Crisis Nursery is a 501c3 nonprofit organization (Tax ID #47-1006055) which welcomes support from individuals, businesses, foundations, service and faith-based organizations in our community.  The Nursery provides care packages to our families and in-kind support is always welcome in the form of diapers, formula, clothes toys and other items for children.  Volunteer service projects occur throughout the year to maintain and enhance the Nursery facility for our children and families.  Volunteer positions are available annually on the Board of Directors and ongoing as members of the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, the fundraising and advocacy auxiliary of the Nursery.  Lastly, the community is invited to participate in the annual Krustaceans for Kids Crab Feed to support the Nursery’s programs.  This year the Crab Feed will be held on Saturday, March 24 at the Woodland Community and Senior Center from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.  Tickets and sponsorships are on sale now.  More information is available at: www.yolocrisisnursery.org.

Please join us in supporting Yolo Crisis Nursery, a shining light in our community.

Happy New Year: It’s 2018 and the solar world is still standing

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Percolated by the political atmosphere, we field numerous questions/concerns each week regarding the future of solar. General fear: Is Trump going to kill solar? Partisan question: Was the 30% solar tax credit aborted in the Republican tax bill? Regulatory: Is PG&E changing their solar (net-metering) program? Federal, again: What about tax credits for electric vehicles? And, finally, international trade: I’ve heard about the pending solar tariff case … What's going on?

In short, the solar industry entered 2018 standing strong. Here’s a quick peek at the commonly posed questions:

1. Is Trump going to kill solar?

Frankly, who knows? Logically, it would defy common sense and basic economics: Solar is the fastest growing (read: job creating) industry in the U.S. and it’s increasingly bipartisan. Putting climate change hoaxes to the side, if it’s about jobs-jobs-jobs, President Trump would be asinine to impede property owners’ ability to go solar (and, thereby, solar companies to serve property owners). Our bet: We’re safe, sans potential short-term harm (see #5 below).

2. Was the 30% solar tax credit aborted in the Republican tax bill?

No. Not a whisper during the sausage/bill making process. The 30% federal tax credit — granted based on the total cost of a solar system — is valid through 2019. Thereafter, it steps down 4% per year (i.e., is reduced to 26% in 2020). No worries, no rush (to go solar).

3. Is PG&E changing their solar (net-metering) program?

No. In 2016 PG&E, as directed by the CA Public Utilities Commission, doubled the size of its net-metering program. Property owners that go solar before mid-to-late 2020 are grandfathered in for 20 years, whereby PG&E is required to credit you at the full retail rate (based upon the time of generation) for your solar electricity, less a nominal “non-bypassable charge”. Again, no worries here, but PG&E will continue to modify its rate schedules, impacting (positively and negatively) solar- and non-solar property owners. We’ll keep you abreast.

4. What about tax credits for electric vehicles?

Lots of fear here, and rightfully so: Several Congressional tax bill drafts aborted the $7,500 Federal tax credit for new electric vehicle owners. Fortunately, the tax credit was maintained — at the full $7,500 — in the final tax bill. Hence, if you purchase an electric vehicle in the near future, you will receive $10,500 in incentives: $7,500 Federal tax credit, $2,500 state rebate, and $500 PG&E rebate. There has never been a better, more pragmatic time to consider an eV; IMO, the electrification of transportation is an ever-growing bonfire.

5. I’ve heard about the pending solar tariff case …

Two U.S.-based, foreign-owned, bankrupt solar panel manufacturers — Suniva and Solar World — filed a price dumping claim with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC ruled in September that the importation of cheap solar panels unfairly harms U.S. solar panel producers. (FYI, less than one-percent of solar panels are manufactured in the U.S.; unfortunately, we can’t manufacture a quality product at a competitive price.) The ITC recommended a ~$0.30 per watt duty on imported solar panels, which would increase the cost of a residential solar system by ~8%. Net-net, President Trump will make a final ruling — could be nothing, $0.30/watt, or worse — by the end of January. Again, who knows what President Trump will do … stay tuned. (Fortunately, in September we secured a large lot of solar panels at pre-tariff prices … Repower property owners are insulated through the end of March.)

On New Year’s Day, the sun rose, solar panels shined, and the clean energy industry breathed a collective and confident sigh of relief. Battles will continue but, to be trite, we believe the future is bright!