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SEAC analysts Hannah Cassard, Paul Denholm, and Sean Ong recently published the report "Break-Even Cost for Residential Solar Water Heating in the United States: Key Drivers and Sensitivities." This paper examines the break-even cost for residential rooftop solar water heating (SWH) technology, defined as the point where the cost of the energy saved with a SWH system equals the cost of a conventional heating fuel purchased from the grid (either electricity or natural gas). We examine the break-even cost for the largest 1,000 electric and natural gas utilities serving residential customers in the United States as of 2008. Currently, the break-even cost of SWH in the United States varies by more than a factor of five for both electricity and natural gas, despite a much smaller variation in the amount of energy saved by the systems (a factor of approximately one and a half). The break-even price for natural gas is lower than that for electricity due to a lower fuel cost. We also consider the relationship between SWH price and solar fraction and examine the key drivers behind break-even costs. Overall, the key drivers of the break-even cost of SWH are a combination of fuel price, local incentives, and technical factors including the solar resource location, system size, and hot water draw.
NREL analyst Joyce McLaren recently published the report "Southeast Regional Clean Energy Policy Analysis," which was funded by DOE's Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program (WIP) and implemented through NREL's Deployment and Market Transformation (D&MT) managed Clean Energy Policy Analysis project. More than half of the electricity produced in the southeastern states is fuelled by coal. Although the region produces some coal, most of the states depend heavily on coal imports. Many of the region's aging coal power facilities are planned for retirement within the next 20 years. However, estimates indicate that a 20% increase in capacity is needed over that time to meet the rapidly growing demand. The most common incentives for energy efficiency in the Southeast are loans and rebates; however, total public spending on energy efficiency is limited. The most common state-level policies to support renewable energy development are personal and corporate tax incentives and loans. The region produced 1.8% of the electricity from renewable resources other than conventional hydroelectricity in 2009, half of the national average. There is significant potential for development of a biomass market in the region, as well as use of local wind, solar, methane-to-energy, small hydro, and combined heat and power resources. Options are offered for expanding and strengthening state-level policies such as decoupling, integrated resource planning, building codes, net metering, and interconnection standards to support further clean energy development. Benefits would include energy security, job creation, insurance against price fluctuations, increased value of marginal lands, and local and global environmental paybacks
D&MT project leader Elizabeth Doris and SEAC analyst Rachel Gelman recently published "State of the States 2010: The Role of Policy in Clean Energy Market Transformation." This report builds on the emerging body of literature seeking to identify quantitative connections between clean energy policy and renewable energy. The methods presented test the relationships between a broad set of policies and clean energy resources (energy efficiency, biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind). Energy efficiency findings are an initial foray into this type of analysis and indicate significant connections between reduced energy use and buildings codes, energy efficiency resource standards (in some cases), and electricity price. Renewable energy findings specify that there is most often a relationship between state policies and solar and wind development, indicating that while policies might apply to a wide variety of renewable resources, further tailoring of policy specifics to resource needs may lead to increased development of a wider variety of renewable energy resources. Further research is needed to refine the connections between clean energy development and policy, especially in the area of the impact of the length of time that a policy has been in place.
NREL analyst Anelia Milbrandt and NREL emeritus Ralph Overend recently published the report "Assessment of Biomass Resources in Afghanistan." Afghanistan is facing many challenges on its path of reconstruction and development. Among all its pressing needs, the country would benefit from the development and implementation of an energy strategy. In addition to conventional energy sources, the Afghan government is considering alternative options such as energy derived from renewable resources (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal). Biomass energy is derived from a variety of sources—plant-based material and residues—and can be used in various conversion processes to yield power, heat, steam, and fuel. This study provides policymakers and industry developers with information on the biomass resource potential in Afghanistan for power/heat generation and transportation fuels production. To achieve this goal, the study estimates the current biomass resources and evaluates the potential resources that could be used for energy purposes.
SEAC analysts Lori Bird and Jenny Sumner recently published the report "Using Renewable Energy Purchases to Achieve Institutional Carbon Goals: A Review of Current Practices and Considerations." With organizations and individuals increasingly interested in accounting for their carbon emissions, greater attention is being placed on how to account for the benefits of various carbon mitigation actions available to consumers and businesses. Generally, organizations can address their own carbon emissions through energy efficiency, fuel switching, on-site renewable energy systems, renewable energy purchased from utilities or in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs), and carbon offsets. This paper explores the role of green power and carbon offsets in carbon footprinting and the distinctions between the two products. It reviews how leading greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting programs treat green power purchases and discusses key issues regarding how to account for the carbon benefits of renewable energy. It also discusses potential double counting if renewable energy generation is used in multiple markets.
SEAC analyst Bethany Speer published the fact sheet "First Known Use of QECBs will Save Yolo County at Least $8.7 Million over the Next 25 Years." Yolo County, California, made history in July when officials installed a 1 MW solar PV project to supply power to both a jail and juvenile center. The project is noteworthy for at least two reasons: It is the first known use of qualified energy conservation bonds (QECBs) and, subsequently, the first known combined use of QECBs and clean renewable energy bonds (CREBs) in the country. This article outlines the process the county underwent to finance the installation as well as the ways in which it helped make the process easier for itself.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, along with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, recently published three guides for local solar projects.
"The Solarize Guidebook: A Community Guide to Collective Purchasing of Residential PV Systems."
This handbook by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar America Communities program is intended as a road map for project planners and solar advocates who want to convert "interest" into "action," to break through market barriers and permanently transform the market for residential solar installations in their communities. It describes the key elements of the Solarize campaigns in Portland and offers several program refinements from projects beyond Portland. The handbook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers to replicate the success of Solarize Portland.
"A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-profit Project Development."
Advances in solar technology, an increase in federal and state tax incentives, and creative new financing models have made community solar projects more financially feasible. This guide is a resource for those who want to develop community solar projects—from community organizers or solar energy advocates to government officials or utility managers.
"Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments."
This guide assists local government officials and stakeholders in designing and implementing strategic local solar plans. The 2011 edition includes the most recent lessons and successes from the 25 Solar America Cities and other communities promoting solar energy and introduces a range of policy and program options.
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