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Solar Jobs Position Paper PDF Print E-mail

This is an email I have sent to all of our State Legislators and Governor Crist - please feel free to use it and send it to anyone who might be interested in creating solar jobs.

Subject: Solar Jobs Position Paper - Important!

Dear State Legislators and other Officials,

We have an opportunity in the upcoming Legislative Session to create thousands of Solar Jobs immediately.

The attached position paper simply explains the existing programs that can fund them. Please review the paper and use the footnote links to drill down for more complete information on each topic. 

As a member of the Broward County Workforce Development Board and a volunteer on the Broward Energy Training Partnership Grant Committee, I prepared this position paper to help clarify the opportunities that we have in the state of Florida for solar job creation. 

The partnership has been awarded two Department of Labor Grants totaling over $5 million dollars to train workers for over 700 jobs in the solar and weatherization industries. We have the training money, now we need the jobs!

Thank you for your service to our State and your constituents.

 

 

 

Solar Energy Systems Installations Can Provide Thousands of Jobs

Immediately In Floridas Stalled Economy  

By Paul Farren, CEO, The Energy Store

Prepared for the Broward Energy Training Partnership Grant Committee

February 1, 2010  

There are thousands of jobs that can be created immediately in the state of Florida by funding solar energy programs and the citizens are all for it.

One might think that a state with the adopted name The Sunshine State would be a leader in installed solar renewable energy systems, but Florida is not even in the top 10. This is not because the citizens dont want it to be..."With its plentiful sunshine, Florida has a God-given advantage when it comes to solar energy. What's needed is a long-term commitment from policymakers.[1]

A survey taken in 2008 of 625 registered voters, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, showed 85 percent believe the state Legislature should act to encourage investment in solar energy, and 81 percent said they support investment, even if it costs $1 extra on their monthly utility bills. "It's clear that the Sunshine State likes the idea of Florida becoming a solar energy leader," said Bruce Kershner of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association. [2] 

To further illustrate this enthusiasm for solar energy systems, you only have to look to the Florida Solar Energy Rebate Program.[3] It has been so well received that the program has run out of money early in each year since its inception in 2006. It is currently penniless and is due to sunset in June 2010 unless it is renewed or extended by the State Legislature. 

This program was designed to reduce our critical energy usage and save customers thousands of dollars over the life of each installed system. At the same time, solar will slow our need for expensive energy infrastructure expansion, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, improve our national security and reduce the production of harmful greenhouse gasses that cause air pollution and contribute to global climate change. 

The single most irksome problem with solar systems is their high upfront costs. If it werent for these high upfront costs, masses of people would be lining up to install systems that are going to pay for themselves over time and provide clean, free energy for decades.  

The Florida Solar Rebate Program has helped defray the high solar costs and has contributed to a number of participants enjoying the benefits of solar. But when the solar funding would run out early in each year, the sales of solar systems would be greatly stifled. Unless people can count on their rebate they will not commit thousands of dollars to a project. So there never has been a true benchmark for how many citizens would actually be committed to clean renewable energy if they had the opportunity to afford it. 

If we can figure out how to make solar systems initially affordable, we can stimulate this emerging solar industry whose growth potential is unprecedented.

Expanding solar energy production will provide many benefits to Florida. The National Renewable Energy Laboratorys economic data estimates that if Florida installed 1,500 MW of solar, up to 45,000 direct jobs and 50,000 indirect jobs would be created.[4]  

A critical mass of installed solar energy production will lead to permanent, high paying jobs in Florida. The demand for so-called green collar jobs has been driven by an expanding solar market, which supports 15-30 jobs per MW produced.[5] 

It is incumbent upon our Legislators to recognize this great opportunity we have before us to stimulate business growth and profits; while at the same time being socially and environmentally responsible. 

The bottom line is that we have an opportunity to provide the stimulus to grow this industry at a crucial time, when we can put people to work, incubate profitable businesses, generate substantial revenue and contribute to a decentralized infrastructure that would be future compatible with the Smart Grid; which is the future of our energy management policy. 

Without aggressive pursuit, Florida will lose the opportunity to be the nation's leader in the solar energy industry.[6] 

Fortunately, there are several diverse solar programs that can be implemented or combined to provide us with affordable solar installations that will be cost effective and produce abundant jobs. Initially, we need programs that the public can believe in and can be started immediately in order to create these jobs now. We cant wait for long drawn out programs and bureaucratic delays.  

Solar Rebate Program

The obvious first choice (and quickest) is to extend and fund the current Solar Rebate Program for Solar Photovoltaic (electric) and Solar Thermal (hot water) systems. The rebate program is already in place. It works well and there is already an infrastructure that is trained to support it and is familiar with its policies. The biggest challenge is that it requires substantial funding to make it successful. There are thousands of Floridians who have already done their part and, in good faith, committed their funds and savings to install solar systems on their homes and businesses. Many of these committed citizens have not yet been paid for systems that they have already invested in. It would be unconscionable for our Legislators to leave them out in the cold. At the very least the legislature should allocate enough funds to pay for anyone wanting to install a solar system throughout the remaining period of the rebate program (June 30, 2010).  

If the legislators decide to extend the Solar Rebate Program, the funds for the extension would, at least in part, be offset by reduced unemployment subsidies and the budding solar industry would start to thrive. The rebate program could be funded as a jobs stimulus program.  

Production Based Incentives (PBI) & Feed in Tariffs (FIT) 

There are several groups within the solar community who advocate Production Based Incentives (PBI) and/or Feed in Tariffs (FIT). These are two similar programs with the Production Based Incentives providing additional Incentives for Solar Thermal Systems (hot water) as well as for Solar Photovoltaic Systems (electric). 

Production Based Incentives provide consumers with affordable solar systems for a low initial down payment and the systems pay for themselves with payments from the utility company. The utility companies pay the consumer a premium (higher) price for the solar energy that they produce and give them a twenty (20) year contract for that produced energy.  

Banks and finance companies will loan money for the projects because the contracts guarantee payment from the utility company over the period of the contract. Loan payments will be made by the monthly payments from the utility for the electricity generated by the solar panels and the system pays for itself in a reasonable period. 

The cost of the program would be paid for by a small increase (1% to 2%) in consumer utility rates throughout the state. The money from the modest rate increase would be used by the utilities to pay for the renewable energy produced.  

Once installed, solar systems provide free clean renewable energy for decades and the price is already paid for over the systems lifetime (which is usually 25+ years). Unlike, fossil fuels whose price will steadily rise or spike as demand encroaches upon supply.  

The difficulty with Production Based Incentives lies in the fact that some utility companies, lobbyist and politicians regard the small rate increases as taxes and are opposed to any taxation in these tough economic times. What they do not account for is that these are investments in jobs and our clean energy future that will pay for themselves quickly and create a modern decentralized infrastructure that can grow as smart grid technologies evolve. 

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) a la The Berkeley Model

Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, has taken off like wildfire since the concept was first introduced in Berkeley, CA in October 2007. PACE allows private property owners to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through an addition to their property tax bill, overcoming the high upfront costs that prevent most property owners from investing in such retrofits.

PACE financing has the capacity to be transformative: property owners realize immediate savings on their utility bills with minimal money down; local green jobs are created through   increased demand for retrofitting goods and services; and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are dramatically reduced. With Americas building stock responsible for approximately 40 percent of its demand for energy, these kinds of improvements have the potential to get us significantly closer to our GHG reduction targets.  Recognizing the potential of this model, Scientific American magazine recently named PACE one of the top 20 ideas that can change the world.[7] PACE financing is made possible through Energy Financing Districts.

Energy Financing Districts (EFDs) enable local governments to raise money through the issuance of bonds to fund these clean energy projects (though bonds are not the only possible source of funds). The financing is repaid over a set number of years through a special tax or assessment on the property tax bill of only those property owners who choose to participate in the program. The financing is secured with a lien on the property, and, like other taxes, is paid before other claims against the property in the case of foreclosure. There is little or no up-front cost to the property owner, and if the property is sold before the end of the repayment period, the new owner inherits both the repayment obligation and the financed improvements.[8]

States around the country are recognizing the potential of PACE. Over the past 18 months, 16 states have adopted legislative changes to allow municipalities to use property taxes as a vehicle for private property improvements of this kind. In California, PACE financing can even be used for water conservation improvements. While many states and municipalities are just beginning the process of designing   their programs, several cities and counties around the country already offer PACE financing to their residents, or are well on their way.[9]

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) aka Renewable Energy Standards (RES)

A renewable portfolio standard is a state policy that requires electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy resources by a certain date. (For example: reduce emissions by 20% by 2020). Currently there are 24 states plus the District of Columbia that have RPS policies in place. Together these states account for more than half of the electricity sales in the United States. Five other states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Vermont, have nonbinding goals for adoption of renewable energy instead of an RPS.[10]

Florida Does not have a Renewable Portfolio Standard in place as of this writing.

The RPS mechanism generally places an obligation on electricity supply companies to produce a specified fraction of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Certified renewable energy generators earn certificates for every unit of electricity they produce and can sell these, along with their electricity, to supply companies.[11]

Renewable Energy Credits and Certificates (RECs)

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), also known as Green tags, Renewable Energy Credits, Renewable Electricity Certificates, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), are tradable, non-tangible energy commoditiesthat represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource (renewable electricity).

These certificates can be sold, traded or bartered, and the owner of the REC can claim to have purchased renewable energy. While traditional carbon emissions trading programs promote low-carbon technologies by increasing the cost of emitting carbon, RECs can incentivize carbon-neutral renewable energy by providing a production subsidy to electricity generated from renewable sources. It is important to understand that the energy associated with a REC is sold separately and is used by another party. The consumer of a REC receives only a certificate.

In states that have a REC program, a green energy provider (such as a wind farm) is credited with one REC for every 1,000 kWh or 1 MWh of electricity it produces (for reference, an average residential customer consumes about 800 kWh in a month). A certifying agency gives each REC a unique identification number to make sure it doesn't get double-counted. The green energy is then fed into the electrical grid (by mandate), and the accompanying REC can then be sold on the open market.[12]

Cap-and-Trade

Cap-and-trade is an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply. Successful cap and trade programs reward innovation, efficiency, and early action; and provide strict environmental accountability without inhibiting economic growth.

The way it works is that the government sets an overall cap on emissions and creates allowances or a limited authorization to emit up to the level of the cap. Sources are free to buy or sell allowances, or bank them to use in future years. Sources have the option to lower their emissions so that they may trade, sell or bank their savings. Or, they can continue emitting at levels higher than their allowance holdings and purchase allowances to cover the excess. The Government sets a goal that the industry must meet (i.e. the cap) and monitors compliance.[13]

Carbon Tax

A carbon tax is a tax on the carbon content of fuels effectively a tax on the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Thus, carbon tax is shorthand for carbon dioxide tax or CO2 tax.[14]

Carbon dioxide is considered to be a heat-trapping "greenhouse" gas, and the purpose of a carbon tax is to protect the environment by penalizing emissions of carbon dioxide, which may cause global warming. Some environmental taxes include other greenhouse gases; the global warming potential is an internationally accepted scale of equivalence for other greenhouse gases in units of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Carbon atoms are present in every fossil fuel (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) and are released as CO2 when they are burnt. In contrast, non-combustion energy sources like wind, sunlight, hydropower, and nuclear do not convert hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide.

A carbon tax can be implemented by taxing the burning of fossil fuelscoal, petroleum products such as gasoline and aviation fuel, and natural gasin proportion to their carbon content. If carbon dioxide emissions are not released into the atmosphere on combustion of fossil fuels, e.g., carbon capture and storage, then a carbon tax will not apply. Accordingly, a carbon tax increases the competitiveness of low-carbon technologies, such as renewables, compared to the traditional burning of fossil fuels.[15]

Some proponents of a carbon tax believe that A carbon tax should be revenue-neutral. Revenue-neutral means that little if any of the tax revenues raised by taxing carbon emissions would be retained by government. The vast majority of the revenues would be returned to the public, with, perhaps, a very small amount utilized to mitigate the otherwise negative impacts of carbon taxes on low-income energy users.[16]

Conclusion

In the State of the Union Address, President Obama proclaimed that "Providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future, because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America."[17]

The State of Florida has numerous opportunities to create thousands of renewable energy jobs, simply by implementing solar programs. There are surveys that prove the citizenry is in favor of solar, even if it means paying more on their electric bills in the short term, in order to reap the economic savings and environmental benefits over the long term.

It is important for our State Leaders to seize the moment and create these thousands of jobs for their constituents.  While these are troubled times it is good to remember that Trouble is only an opportunity in work clothes.[18]



[1] Former Florida Congresswoman Claudine Schneider

[2] South Florida Business Journal, March 13, 2008 - Poll: Support up for solar energy investment - http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/stories/2008/03/10/daily35.html

[3] Florida Energy & Climate Commission Website; Sections 377.801-377.806, Florida Statutes and Chapter 27N-1, Florida Administrative Code;

http://myfloridaclimate.com/climate_quick_links/florida_energy_climate_commission/solar_rebate_program

[4] The Positive Economic Impact of Solar on the Sunshine State -S. Grover, Energy, Economic, and Environmental Benefits of the Solar America Initiative, August 2007, NREL/SR-640-41998. http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resources/pdf/04162009SolarEnergy.pdf  

[5] Kammen, Daniel, University of California Berkeley, Testimony before the US Senate Hearing on Environment and Public Works, Sept. 25 2007; and Navigant Consulting, Inc., Economic Impacts of Extending Federal Solar Tax Credits, Final Report, September 15, 2008.

Available at http://seia.org/galleries/pdf/Navigant%20Consulting%20Report%209.15.08.pdf. 

[6] Briefings April 2009 Center for Competitive Florida- Florida Council of Economic Advisors At Florida Tax Watch - This Briefing was produced by David Macpherson, Ph.D., Senior Director of Research and Development and a member of Florida Council of Economic Advisors at Florida TaxWatch  Copyright Florida TaxWatch, April 2009 http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resources/pdf/04162009SolarEnergy.pdf

[7] Grist bt Email January 27, 2010 How Innovative Financing is Changing America  by Cisco Devries - http://www.grist.org/article/2010-01-26-how-innovative-financing-is-changing-energy-in-america/

[8] Guide to Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Financing Districts For Local Governments PREPARED BY RENEWABLE AND APPROPRIATE ENERGY LABORATORY (RAEL) UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY MERRIAN C. FULLER | CATHY KUNKEL | DANIEL M. KAMMEN http://rael.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/berkeleysolar/HowTo.pdf            

[9] Grist bt Email January 27, 2010 How Innovative Financing is Changing America  by Cisco Devries - http://www.grist.org/article/2010-01-26-how-innovative-financing-is-changing-energy-in-america/

[12] Wikipedia January 27, 2010 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_Energy_Certificates   

[13] US EPA Website January 28, 2010 - http://www.epa.gov/captrade/index.html 

[14] Carbon Tax Center Website January 28, 2010 - http://www.carbontax.org/introduction/#what

[15] Wikipedia January 28, 2010 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax

[16] Carbon Tax Center Website January 28, 2010 - http://www.carbontax.org/introduction/#what 

[17] Remarks of the President of the United States in the state of the Union Address, January 17, 2010 President Barack Obama - http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-state-union-address

[18] Henry J Kaiser, Industrialist - http://thinkexist.com/quotes/henry_j._kaiser 

My Contact Information:

Paul Farren, CEO

The Energy Store

601 North 21 Avenue

Hollywood, FL 33020

(954) 920-9009 Office

(954) 920-6744 Fax

(954) 662-2639 Cell

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http://www.energystore-usa.com

 

 
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