SPI 09: SEIA declares independence with “Solar Bill of Rights”

Many rights recognize and support residential and distributed solar installations.
Invoking the power of positive language to critique Amendments 5 and 6.

From SPI 09

In his Solar Power International 09 keynote, SEIA President Rhone Resch Challenges Solar Industry to Unite, Fight for “Solar Bill of Rights”, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch said:

So let’s make today solar’s Fourth of July —the day we declare our independence from policies that prevent greater use of solar energy which Americans so urgently need.

Today, we’re declaring a Solar Bill of Rights.

Solar Bill of Rights

To secure a policy environment that allows solar energy to compete and empowers consumers to choose, Rhone Resch declared today, October 27, 2009, in the City of Anaheim, California, a Solar Bill of Rights:

We declare these rights not on behalf of our companies, but on behalf of our customers and our country.  We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal terms and no more than the liberty for consumers to choose the energy source they think best.

1.      Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses. Restrictive covenants, onerous connection rules, and excessive permitting and inspections fees prevent too many American homes and businesses from going solar.

2.      Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards. This should be as simple as connecting a telephone or appliance. No matter where they live, consumers should expect a single standard for connecting their system to the electric grid.

3.      Americans have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates. When customers generate excess solar power utilities should pay them consumer at least the retail value of that power.

4.      The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment.
The highly profitable fossil fuel industries have received tens of billions of dollars for decades. The solar energy expects a fair playing field, especially since the American public overwhelmingly supports the development and use of solar.

5.      The solar industry has the right to equal access to public lands. America has the best solar resources in the world, yet solar companies have zero access to public lands compared to the 45 million acres used by oil and natural gas companies.

6.      The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines. When America updates its electric grid, it must connect the vast solar resources in the Southwest to population centers across the nation.

7.      Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility.  Consumers have no choice to buy clean, reliable solar energy from their utilities instead of the dirty fossil fuels of the past.

8.      Americans have the right, and should expect, the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry. Consumers should expect the solar energy industry to minimize its environmental impact, provide systems that work better than advertised, and communicate incentives clearly and accurately.

I found so much to like in Mr. Resch’s address such as Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8. In particular, Amendment 3 reinforces my own views on photovoltaic (PV) distributed generation and relates to my recent “AB 920: Free the Roofs for Solar!” post. Residential PV installations have been a bright spot in the tough 2009 market buoyed by the uncapped 30 percent tax credit enacted in the Bailout Bill.

I will endeavor to use only positive language in my critique of these two amendments. Let me first state for the record, I am a photovoltaic enthusiast and distributed generation advocate.

Amendment 5
Mr. Resch said:

Subsidies aren’t the only issue of fairness, which leads me to number 5.

We also have the right to equal access to public lands. Oil and natural gas companies are operating on 45 million acres of public lands. Today, solar companies have access to ZERO. America has the best solar resources in the world and we can’t harness the full potential of the sun without accessing our sun-baked lands of the West.

Yes, solar has a right to equal access of public lands. However, national preserves and refuges should be protected from oil and gas development =and= solar. Solar projects should aspire to a higher standard and be sited as close as possible to end demand markets, existing transmission, and near adequate water resources as required by their respective technology. Renewables including solar should leverage the best regional resources available near demand instead of creating a gold rush for lands soaked with the highest levels of solar radiation driven by a build it and transmission lines will come attitude.

Why is the effort to develop the Mojave National Preserve shaping up as the Big Solar equivalent of ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)?

Amendment 6
Mr. Resch said:

Of course, there’s little point in collecting energy unless there’s a means of distributing it.

That’s why our 6th Amendment is that we have the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines. Here, too, we seek no more than what other industries already have. The next great build out of our transmission lines must connect the vast solar resources in the southwest to the population centers across the United States.

Solar has the right to interconnect to the grid. Absolutely.

The Smart Grid is required to integrate solar and other renewable into the grid as their percentage of total electricity generation increases. Building new transmission lines just to exploit renewable resources sounds like a 19th century empire expansion and resource exploitation strategy. Certain transmission extensions and upgrades are required to enable a national US grid. Extending transmission lines to unpopulated areas in order to tap renewable resources is a debatable right.

For more eloquent arguments, “Transmission Lies” by Carol A. Overland, first posted at Grist, and “Renewable Energy: The Better Way” are both downloadable from the Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy.

Also, a “New study says “going local” the best energy option” by Osha Gray Davidson at The Phoenix Sun points out the favorable economics of local energy generation and consumption.

My INBY Proposal
While the NIMBY (self defining to preserve positive language) is derided, I propose the INBY (In My Back Yard) supporter of new transmission infrastructure volunteer a right of way through their own property for utility projects. Lest the INBY believe they are safe from transmission line extensions, other utility smart grid upgrades could make use of their generous pledge with the siting of substations, neighborhood storage, or even wind turbines and PV renewable projects.

An INBY unwilling to make the utility right of way pledge can be exposed for advocating a hypocritical position.

I took notice when SPI 09 Keynote Speaker Ed Begley, Jr. said:

Look at what Germany is doing and so many other countries with the Feed-in Tariff. That’s what we need to do, that kind of a model, here in this country.

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