Most Read 3D Printing Articles – January 30th, 2016

Most Read 3D Printing Articles – January 30th, 2016

By Michael Molitch-Hou

New Global Filament Directory Helps You Navigate the 3D Printing Jungle
Even though we know full well – thanks to one of the most stable charts in 3D Hubs’ monthly trend updates – that at least 50% of all desktop FFF 3D printing is done either in black ABS (for technical …

CEO Receives First 3D Printed MFH Crown from Own Company
How better to demonstrate confidence in your own product that to use it yourself? This is how Rik Jacobs, CEO of Vertex-Dental B.V./NextDent B.V., sought to demonstrate the power of NextDent’s dental …

Update: Live on Kickstarter, the 1.75/3 mm All-Metal Hotend from Kai Parthy & ReprapUniverse
After having transformed the world of desktop 3D printing with his original wood and stone filaments, German inventor Kai Parthy has teamed up with 3D printer manufacturer ReprapUniverse to create a h…

Exclusive: NVBOTS Launches NVLABS with New High-Speed, Multi-Metal 3D Printing
The world of metal 3D printing has just become a lot more interesting, as an unexpected player enters the game.…

The original post Most Read 3D Printing Articles – January 30th, 2016 appeared first on 3D Printing Industry.


Source: 3dprintingindustry.com
Most Read 3D Printing Articles – January 30th, 2016

Free 3D Printable of the Week: A Voxel Castle

Free 3D Printable of the Week: A Voxel Castle

By Michael Molitch-Hou

Right now, Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, Qubicle, and 3D Slash are hosting a voxel-themed contest to demonstrate the creativity that can be achieved with simple and easy 3D modeling. By submitting a story-filled voxel diorama, entrants have a chance to win 3D Hubs 3D printing coupons, a Qubicle Master license, a Parrot Airborne Cargo drone, 12 months of Sketchfab PRO, a Lego Studio box and more. Showing off just what’s possible, Sketchfab user elbriga has created this downloadable castle.

Not every model submitted to the contest is downloadable, but those that are shouldn’t be too difficult to 3D print, given the simplicity of the shapes.…

The original post Free 3D Printable of the Week: A Voxel Castle appeared first on 3D Printing Industry.


Source: 3dprintingindustry.com
Free 3D Printable of the Week: A Voxel Castle

Become an Extreme Drone Racer with Customizable 3D Printed Arrow Drones

Become an Extreme Drone Racer with Customizable 3D Printed Arrow Drones

By Michael Molitch-Hou

With the idea that “FPV Drone Racing will become the next popular extreme sport in 2016”, ArrowDrone has launched a Kickstarter with what they believe will be the perfect method for just about anyone to get into that extreme sport. And, if the awesome footage captured by the Drone Racing League is any indication, ArrowDrone may just be set to take off.

ArrowDrone argues that creating one’s own drone is a difficult task, given the technical challenges involved.  Arrow Drones, however, are meant to be customizable so that anyone can assemble them and then add their team’s own branding to the vehicle. …

The original post Become an Extreme Drone Racer with Customizable 3D Printed Arrow Drones appeared first on 3D Printing Industry.


Source: 3dprintingindustry.com
Become an Extreme Drone Racer with Customizable 3D Printed Arrow Drones

Optimism for Mexico’s Solar Roadmap Despite Market Headwinds

Optimism for Mexico’s Solar Roadmap Despite Market Headwinds

As Mexico’s wholesale power market launches, a clearer roadmap of the country’s solar development is emerging. However, there are market headwinds, speakers and panelists at GTM Research’s Solar Summit in Mexico City agreed.

Mexico’s solar growth is likely to mirror that of its northern neighbor and other developed countries, but with key differences. The country still faces obstacles that the U.S. and other markets have successfully overcome.

And while important lessons can be learned from solar development elsewhere, Mexico faces some unique hurdles, summit attendees learned.

Obstacles include a lack of awareness among potential customers of the benefits of switching to solar, a lack of capital among residents and access to financing for larger-scale projects, in addition to uncertainty as to how the nascent wholesale power market will play out.

Mexico’s solar growth is likely to be slower than in the U.S., which increased from a cumulative 2 gigawatts in 2010 to around 26 gigawatts by the end of 2015, with Mexico’s installed capacity currently at less than 1 gigawatt and likely to only add around 2 to 3 gigawatts by 2020.

On a comparative development timeline, Mexico is currently in 2004 in terms of U.S. installed capacity by that year, and is at the stage Germany was at 20 years ago, GTM Research’s Shayle Kann said during the summit.

At that time in the U.S., the fastest growth in the country was the commercial PV market, which hit 203 megawatts by 2009. But in Mexico, utility-scale solar is expected to lead growth, at least during the next decade.

Summit panelists identified policy and regulatory uncertainty as the biggest obstacles to the growth of utility-scale solar, followed by a lack of competitiveness and availability of capital.

“Solar will have a hard time competing in Mexico over the next two or three years due to a lack of available capital,” according to panelist Pablo Otin, VP for emerging markets at 8minutenergy.

Mexico’s wholesale power market, which launched in Baja California on January 27 and on January 29 nationwide, establishes the framework for greater private participation in generation, transmission and distribution.

But in addition to the lingering regulatory uncertainty, the new market model is not seen as a level playing field, as it is dominated by state utility CFE.

Ilioss CEO David Arelle likened participating in the Mexico market to playing soccer against the CFE, but in a match in which the utility fields 22 players, chooses the referee and ties the opposing players to the goalposts.

“The CFE remains a monopoly, but many people don’t mention this because they are afraid the CFE will block their entry into the market,” he told GTM. “The CFE has the faculty to enforce payment by cutting electricity supply to consumers, which private firms do not have. Plus, it has a database of all the country’s consumers, which is an unfair advantage.”

As part of Mexico’s energy reform, the CFE is restructuring to form separate transmission, distribution, supply and generation subsidiaries, with the utility participating in the market as both a supplier and an offtaker.

Arelle expressed his hope that Mexico’s solar energy association (Anes) and solar power association (Asolmex) would lobby for private firms and ensure that the energy regulatory commission (CRE), national energy control center (Cenace) and even the energy ministry (Sener) act as watchdogs to curb the CFE’s monopoly.

Compared to the U.S., where residential solar has now topped 2 GW and seen four straight years of 50 percent growth, residential solar in Mexico is likely to see the slowest growth, panelists agreed.

A month-on-month drop in electricity prices by the CFE throughout 2015 has removed residents’ incentive for switching to solar. In addition, the installation outlay surpasses the average annual electricity bill, making developers’ customer acquisition work that much harder.

Residents are not yet convinced of the savings solar could offer, Rogelio Nochebuena, chief operating officer at renewables firm Servicios Ambientales de Baja California (SERAMBC), said during the summit.

But as the market is deregulated and private firms bid for generation contracts in auctions, the first of which is slated for March 31, electricity prices are expected to rise, which will revive the incentive to convert to solar.

Panelists cited increasing retail electricity prices as the biggest driver of solar growth in Mexico, followed by increased access to capital and a revised tender process, with resource-specific auctions.

“Let solar compete against itself and not against other energy sources,” said Marco Garcia, chief commercial officer of California-based NEXTracker, which already builds components at its Mexico facility.

The solar content of the first auction has yet to be revealed, but panelists predicted solar would make up around 10 percent of the total projects up for grabs.

A lack of economic competitiveness was also cited as one of the biggest barriers to residential solar development in Mexico.

But Mexico is also an attractive solar manufacturing market, according to GTM Research SVP Shayle Kann. Solar component manufacturing is moving to domestic markets in other countries, and there is the potential for that to happen in Mexico, he said, citing the current 15 percent import tariff on panels as an incentive, in addition to Mexico’s proximity to the U.S., one of the world’s largest solar markets, which could become an export destination.

“The country has enormous potential but lacks manufacturing clusters,” Nochebuena of SERAMBC said.

Panelists dialed down their optimism regarding how big a market share domestic manufacturers could secure in the short term. “You can only build a certain number of factories in five years,” Otin of 8minutenergy said, predicting that the percentage of domestic manufacturing would remain well below 25 percent by 2020.

Panelists were also conservative in their estimates of Mexico’s installed solar capacity by 2020, predicting that it is likely to total between 2 and 3 gigawatts.

But the ambition exists to surpass that amount, and the government is committed to ironing out the issues concerning regulation that are currently causing a project bottleneck, according to GTM Research senior solar market analyst Mohit Anand.

“Despite all the challenges, solar is poised to be a key player in Mexico,” he said.


Source: greentechmedia.com/GTM_Solar
Optimism for Mexico’s Solar Roadmap Despite Market Headwinds

News Quiz: How Much Solar Capacity Was Installed Globally in 2015?

News Quiz: How Much Solar Capacity Was Installed Globally in 2015?

Welcome to GTM’s energy news quiz. I’m your host, Alex Trebek Mike Munsell.

We’ve provided explainer links to all of the solutions below the quiz, so try not to cheat by looking ahead! Sign up for our newsletter to improve your score every week.

How’d you do? Share this with colleagues and see if they can beat your score. Feel free to brag (or shame yourself) in the comments section.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

1. The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that FERC has the authority to regulate this.

2. Which solar developer just filed for an initial public offering, aiming to raise $100 million?

3. According to GTM Research, how much solar capacity was installed globally in 2015?

4. Which company recently completed the industry’s first securitization of distributed solar loans?

5. Which U.S. city will be the new home of General Electric’s headquarters?

6. How much wind capacity was installed in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2015?

***

Mike Munsell is GTM’s resident game show host. In addition to creating the GTM Energy News Quiz, he writes original riddles at www.riddleearth.com. Sign up to get them in your inbox every Monday and Friday.


Source: greentechmedia.com/GTM_Solar
News Quiz: How Much Solar Capacity Was Installed Globally in 2015?

Cubeforme – Receive Creative 3D Printed Crafts Each Month!

Cubeforme – Receive Creative 3D Printed Crafts Each Month!

Behind every incredible invention is an incredible inventor. In a world of constant advancement, it’s hard to not appreciate all of the technological developments happening at both a local and global level. When my co-founder Nick and I were first exploring the idea of starting a business, we knew we wanted to build it in […]

The post Cubeforme – Receive Creative 3D Printed Crafts Each Month! appeared first on 3D Printing.


Source: 3dprinting.com
Cubeforme – Receive Creative 3D Printed Crafts Each Month!

Is High-Voltage DC the Best Way to Modernize the Grid and Reduce Emissions?

Is High-Voltage DC the Best Way to Modernize the Grid and Reduce Emissions?

Wind and solar power coursing across a national system of high-voltage direct current transmission lines could significantly cut power sector carbon dioxide emissions without increasing the cost of energy in the U.S., according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

Researchers at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the University of Colorado, Boulder looked at three scenarios in which wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear were paired with natural gas at different cost points. They also included the cost of building a national high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system on top of the existing power system.

“The average variability of weather decreases as size increases; if wind or solar power are not available in a small area, they are more likely to be available somewhere in a larger area,” wrote lead author Alexander MacDonald, director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. Although energy storage can also provide stability to the grid, HVDC can do it at a lower cost, the study contends.

The results showed that with mid-cost renewables and mid-cost natural gas, electric power CO2 emissions could be cut by about 60 percent by 2030, a figure that rises to nearly 80 percent if natural gas costs rise while renewables decline by 2030.

In all scenarios, the cost of power in 2030 would be cheaper than the International Energy Agency’s estimate of an average $0.115 per kilowatt-hour for the levelized cost of electricity in the U.S. in 2030.

The model used weather data with high temporal and spatial resolution and assumed co-optimized dispatch of renewables across the modern HVDC grid. “We integrate complex weather data over continental-scale geography while still handling the salient features of an electrical power system,” the authors wrote in the paper.

The authors modeled 3 gigawatts of HVDC transmission to carry 523 gigawatts of wind power, 371 gigawatts of solar PV, 471 gigawatts of natural gas, 100 gigawatts of nuclear and 74 gigawatts of hydroelectricity, an increase of 30 percent over 2012 installed capacity.

 

The HVDC transmission network assumes a cost of about $700 per megawatt-mile and another $182,000 for each substation. The authors note that economies of scale allow for that price for the HVDC line, which becomes substantially cheaper once the lines are longer than about 300 miles. Costs for renewables were fairly conservative, with medium cost-assumption estimates nearly in line with today’s costs for wind and solar.

A benefit of HVDC, besides connecting generation to load centers more efficiently than high-voltage alternating current, is that it reduces the need for frequency regulation that comes with a high penetration of renewables.

One limitation of the study is that it only used hourly data for wind and solar, although fluctuations within the hour can be highly variable. Hourly data was used because there was not more granular electricity demand data and/or detailed weather data available across the large geographic scales the researchers used.

To realize the scenario laid out in this study, the U.S. power sector would have to embrace HVDC in a way that it has not previously. There is very little HVDC in the U.S., although it is being used more frequently in Europe and China. One of the largest projects in the U.S. is the 1,000-megawatt Clean Power Link in the Northeast that was recently green-lighted.

But large-scale transmission projects are difficult to site and often challenging to get approval for, especially as they move across state lines. Another benefit of HVDC, which PowerLink took advantage of, is that it can often be buried along existing rights of way, eliminating many of the battles that traditional transmission faces.

The authors acknowledged the challenges, and the political will that would have to be mustered for a project of this scope. They concluded that building out a national HVDC power system over the existing one would be similar to the challenge and opportunity of building the transcontinental railroads or the interstate highway system.


Source: greentechmedia.com/GTM_Solar
Is High-Voltage DC the Best Way to Modernize the Grid and Reduce Emissions?

Sonnen Grows US Energy Storage Effort by Partnering With SolarWorld, PetersenDean and Spruce

Sonnen Grows US Energy Storage Effort by Partnering With SolarWorld, PetersenDean and Spruce

German energy storage company Sonnen has officially opened its new headquarters in Los Angeles, and is wasting no time in selling batteries to as many American customers as possible.

Sonnen announced today that it is teaming up with SolarWorld, the largest crystalline-silicon solar manufacturer in the U.S., and PetersenDean, a large California-based roofing and solar company, to offer a complete solar-plus-storage package for the U.S. residential market.

Partnerships are a key element of Sonnen’s expansion plans as it tries to edge out Tesla, its top competitor. The German energy storage company has already built a U.S. distribution network of more than 30 local solar installation companies, and plans to grow that network to 100 dealers by the end of the year.

Sonnen also announced today that it’s working with Spruce, the product of a recent merger between Clean Power Finance and Kilowatt Financial, to develop a financing product focused purely on energy storage.

The two companies plan to make financing available to Sonnen’s channel partners in the first quarter of 2016. They’re also working on a solar-plus-storage financing option for release later this year.

“We’re building a comprehensive product that allows our channel partners to provide their end customers with a solution that’s fully integrated in all aspects,” said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Sonnen North America, in an interview.

The battery system itself is an integrated solution that incorporates a Sony Fortelion lithium-iron phosphate battery, an inverter, and a control system that can be accessed via computer or smart phone, or through a user interface on the battery.

Sonnen offers a commercial battery product, but its core market is on the residential side. Today, the value proposition for residential storage is largely for resiliency, like in the Northeast, where customers have to cope with severe winter storms, and for self-consumption, typically in places with high electricity costs, like Hawaii. New mandatory time-of-use rates in California will also make residential storage more attractive as a way to arbitrage between peak and off-peak times.

Sonnen told Greentech Media in mid-December that it had shipped the first 1,000 U.S. storage system orders from its factory in San Jose, and expected some of those systems online before Christmas.

Tesla, meanwhile, confirmed it has started manufacturing its Powerwall batteries at the Gigafactory in Nevada, and is expected to make the first deliveries in Australia next month and soon begin making deliveries in North America. However, it’s unclear when the systems will actually be installed.

A pricing comparison finds the Powerwall is likely cheaper than Sonnen’s offering, but prices vary based on product type and location. Both firms would appear to be engaging in specsmanship in their claims, as well.

In the U.S., von Bormann said Sonnen’s recent deliveries give the company first-mover advantage. 

“The important point is not just that we’re first; it’s that we’re first in the market with a product that’s been tested in thousands of units in various markets around the world,” he said.

Sonnen is currently the leading battery system vendor in Europe. And in the coming weeks, the company will hit 10,000 battery sales worldwide. Since residential batteries live in the home, sometimes right next to where people sleep, there’s a high value placed on a proven safety record, said von Bormann.

Sonnen’s partnership network could also give the German company a leg up in the U.S. over Tesla, which plans to work primarily through its partner SolarCity.

“There aren’t many markets with an economic proposition for the residential segment, as a result of which we haven’t seen many financing products catering to the residential segment,” said Ravi Manghani, senior energy storage analyst at GTM Research. “Residential storage vendors will have to rely on strong channel partners, and not financing packages alone to acquire customers. Sonnen’s partnerships with SolarWorld and PetersenDean offer it such channels.”

PetersenDean is one of the largest roofing companies in the country, and the eighth-largest residential solar installer in the country, according to GTM Research’s U.S. PV Leaderboard. By manufacturing in the U.S., Sonnen aligns itself with PetersenDean’s “Made in America” campaign.

“They’re right in our swim lane,” said Erin Clark, president of PetersenDean’s solar division, in a statement. “We are all resolved to offer complete solar solutions that include and promote the arrival of storage. We, SolarWorld and Sonnen are all best-in-class operators and employers right here on U.S. soil.”  

The grand opening of Sonnen’s new headquarters in L.A. today cements the company’s presence in America, building on the launch of its manufacturing plant in San Jose, and its research and development hub in Atlanta. With a major launch event planned for tonight, the company intends to make its presence known. The next step is translating that presence into sales.


Source: greentechmedia.com/GTM_Solar
Sonnen Grows US Energy Storage Effort by Partnering With SolarWorld, PetersenDean and Spruce

PV Solar Costs Have Fallen 10% per Year Since 1980

PV Solar Costs Have Fallen 10% per Year Since 1980

Union of Concerned Scientists: West Coast States Could Cut Petroleum Consumption in Half by 2030, New Study Shows

California, Oregon and Washington could cut their petroleum use by half in the next 15 years through policies that encourage greater transportation options and the more robust use of existing and emerging low-carbon technologies, according to a report prepared by ICF International and released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report finds that the three West Coast states are already on track to reduce petroleum consumption and outlines strategies for further cutting oil use from car and freight transportation that is fouling air quality and contributing to climate change.

Photon: Study Shows Costs of PV Decreased 10 percent per Year Since 1980

We put ourselves in the past, pretended we didn’t know the future, and used a simple method to forecast the costs of the technologies.

These were the methodological premises of a study conducted by a research team from the University of Oxford, which has also analyzed the development of the PV technology over the past and future decades. The paper (titled “How predictable is technological progress?”) found that the costs of a PV module decreased at an average rate of 10% per year since 1980. It provides a quantitative answer to a fundamental question: How do we know that the historical trend will continue? Isn’t it possible that things will reverse, and over the next 20 years coal will drop in price dramatically and solar will go back up?

Bloomberg Businessweek: Who Owns the Sun?

Warren Buffett controls Nevada’s legacy utility. Elon Musk is behind the solar company that’s upending the market. Let the fun begin.

SolarCity’s success is partly because the government provides subsidies and enables an arrangement called net metering, which allows homeowners with panels to sell back to the grid any solar energy they don’t use. This helps offset their cost of power when the sun’s not shining. Like more than 40 other U.S. states, Nevada forces utilities to buy the excess energy at rates set by regulators — usually the same rate utilities charge (hence, the “net” in net metering). In Nevada, it’s worked well. So well, in fact, that NV Energy, the state’s largest utility, is fighting it with everything it’s got.

Photo Illustration by Justin Metz from Photograph by David Brandon Geeting for Bloomberg Businessweek. Buffett: Lacy O’Toole/Getty Images; Musk: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Kleiner Perkins partner Randy Komisar discusses the roadmap for pitching a venture capital firm in the firm’s podcast, Ventured.           

The Present is a thesis short from the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg, Germany.


Source: greentechmedia.com/GTM_Solar
PV Solar Costs Have Fallen 10% per Year Since 1980

Breaking: California’s NEM 2.0 Decision Keeps Retail Rate for Rooftop Solar, Adds Time-of-Use

Breaking: California’s NEM 2.0 Decision Keeps Retail Rate for Rooftop Solar, Adds Time-of-Use

California’s next four years of net metering policy have fallen into place, and for the solar industry, it’s a major victory — with a big dose of uncertainty, and a considerable amount of last-minute conflict.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission voted 3-to-2 to enact its net energy metering (NEM) successor tariff, also known as NEM 2.0. For the past decade, this policy has assured net-metered customers that they’ll earn retail-rate payments for their surplus solar energy, which has helped push the state to lead the country in rooftop solar deployments.

As expected, Thursday’s decision upholds those retail rates, handing solar companies an important win, compared to recent net-metering losses in states like Hawaii and Nevada. Much of the public battle between solar advocates and California’s big investor-owned utilities has been about these rates — utilities had asked to cut them, saying they unfairly shifted costs to non-solar customers.

But the new regime also imposes an  “aggressive” move to time-of-use rates for net-metered customers, Commission President Michael Picker noted. Starting as soon as the successor tariff is implemented, net-metered solar customers will be required to move to TOU rates that charge different prices during different times of the day, to better match real-time costs of generating and transmitting energy across the grid at large.

Solar groups have given tentative support to this concept, but have worried that its implementation, still being worked out in CPUC proceedings and upcoming pilot projects, might make it difficult to predict the economics of net-metered solar systems in years to come. “We support a movement towards time-of-use rates, as better aligning grid needs with economic signals,” Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar advocacy group, said after Thursday’s vote, but added, “we would have preferred to see a more gradual phase-in.” 

The 124-page decision, which included some changes posted only a day before Thursday’s vote, also reduced some of the “non-bypassable” charges that new net-metered customers will be required to pay. Specifically, they won’t pay transmission charges as part of that mix. That will reduce the average non-bypassable costs of a typical residential rooftop solar system from about 4 to 5 cents to about 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, Browning said. 

But Commissioners Catherine Sandoval and Mike Florio, who voted no, said it was this last-minute exclusion of transmission charges that forced their decisions. Both said it was going too far in a decision that already favors solar compensation over fairly sharing grid and energy costs across all classes of utility customers.

“If anything, it would have made sense to me to reduce the solar compensation to reflect and share the benefit of the Investment Tax Credit extension,” Florio said in Thursday’s meeting. “But these last changes have taken a decision already hailed by the solar industry, and made it even richer. And I don’t think these benefits are going to accrue to solar customers — they’re going to accrue to solar vendors.”

But Commissioners Liane Randolph and Carla Peterman joined Commission President Michael Picker in voting yes for the decision and putting it into effect. Each noted that the decision wasn’t perfect. They also highlighted that Thursday’s decision sets a 2019 deadline to reconsider its net metering policies and to adjust their value equations in light of other regulatory proceedings underway in the state.

“This has been a very contentious, very complicated process,” Picker said. But “it’s a big step toward giving California consumers more choice, more responsibility, and more control over their energy usage.”

***

Here’s our previous coverage that lays out the scope of Thursday’s decision and how it fits into California’s broader moves to incorporate rooftop solar, energy storage, demand response and other grid-edge technologies into its energy regulatory regime.

This Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on a final plan for what the state’s next phase of net energy metering (NEM) policies will look like — at least for the next four years. And if the final decision looks anything like last month’s proposed decision — and according to observers, it probably will — it will be a major victory for the solar industry.

So far, we’ve seen little sign that commissioners are going to reconsider the key solar-friendly points of last month’s proposed decision — to retain retail rates, and reject additional fees, for net-metered solar systems. That’s more or less what solar advocates had asked for, and it’s a pretty good deal, compared to other net-metering policies coming out of states like Hawaii or, more recently, Nevada.

The proposal hasn’t sat well with investor-owned utilities Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, however. Earlier this month, they filed an unusual joint alternative proposal, seeking a last-minute compromise — an export compensation rate of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour until installed systems reach 7 percent of a utility’s customer peak demand, and 13 cents per kilowatt-hour thereafter. That’s more than the rates utilities had originally proposed, but significantly less than the average retail rates paid by residential customers.

Meanwhile, the unexpected decision by Congress to extend the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar has added a new variable to consider in the net metering debate — namely, how it might alter the equation for solar costs over the coming years. Last Wednesday, CPUC Commissioner Michael Florio held a meeting for utilities, solar companies and other parties to discuss how the ITC extension might require alterations to this week’s final NEM 2.0 decision. 

Solar advocates had worried that this meeting might serve as a forum for the commission to introduce the new utility ideas into an alternative proposal. But Wednesday’s meeting passed without mention of any significant changes to what’s already been proposed.

“The news, really, was in what didn’t happen — no alternative was proposed” Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA), said in an email this week. With only a day now left before Thursday’s vote, it’s unlikely that an alternative proposal will emerge, given that the CPUC is already several weeks past its statutory deadline to set the new program in motion, she noted.

That doesn’t rule out some minor tweaks that could alter the economic equation for net-metered solar, however. According to a Monday investors note from Credit Suisse analysts, “Parties also discussed reducing the grandfather guarantee to 10 years from 20 years (which we believe is unlikely), mandatory TOU plans, and how the costs and benefits of solar should be calculated.”

The issue of 10-year versus 20-year guarantees is potentially problematic for solar economics. Today, existing net-metering customers are guaranteed to keep their net metering rates for 20 years under a “grandfathering” structure, and last month’s proposed decision applied the same logic to the successor program. Cutting that period to 20 years could undermine the business case for power-purchase agreements, leases and other structures that have driven the third-party solar models that now dominate new rooftop PV growth.

But according to Stephanie Wang, senior policy attorney at the Center for Sustainable Energy, last week’s discussion about 10-year versus 20-year guarantees wasn’t focused on changing current grandfathering policies. Instead, it came up during a conversation about system financing, which indicates that “the CPUC was trying to get a sense of whether [the proposed] interim tariff proposal hit the right balance between maintaining steady solar growth during this interim period and being cautious with ratepayer funds.”

From NEM 2.0 to NEM 3.0: The bigger changes coming to California’s grid

That brings up an important point, however, she said — the fact that net metering 2.0, as the CPUC’s successor program is called, is meant as an interim solution. Specifically, the CPUC highlighted that it intends to revisit net-metering policies in 2019. By then, it expects to have a whole new set of regulatory structures in place that will put a new spin on the question of finding the right value for rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs).

These new policies include time-of-use rates, which will charge different prices at different times of the day to better tie the cost of retail power to wholesale energy costs. These are part of a broader set of residential rate changes set in place by the CPUC last year, including flattening the state’s longstanding tiered monthly charges, adding minimum monthly bills, and switching all residential customers to time-of-use rates by the end of the decade. Under the CPUC’s proposed NEM decision, these TOU rates are set to be applied first to solar customers, ahead of a broad switchover for most residential customers starting in 2019.

Beyond that, however, the CPUC is looking forward to the need to merge net-metering policies with two big distributed energy proceedings it has underway. The first, its distribution resources plan (DRP), is meant to include the value of rooftop solar, energy storage, demand response and other DERs in the multibillion-dollar grid investment plans of the state’s big three utilities. The second, known as integration of distributed energy resources (IDER), is meant to put these values into play as real-world economic incentives, rate structures and utility tariffs.

As the CPUC explained in last month’s proposed decision, reviewing net metering in 2019 is an attempt to create a near-term policy that will sustain solar growth, while leaving the door open to a more sophisticated approach once these new policies are ready to be put into practice:

Given the choice between making a large change from existing NEM now and waiting for what promises to be much better tools for grounding that choice, we choose to base the successor tariff on current NEM, with changes that will better align the responsibilities of NEM customers with those of other customers in their class, looking toward the time when a more comprehensive reform of residential rates is completed and information from the DRP and IDER proceedings is available.

This is a common challenge for many different CPUC proceedings, from its energy storage mandate to its new approaches to demand response and energy efficiency, Wang noted in a recent blog post. But its specific mention in last month’s NEM proposal is “the first time the CPUC has made this point” explicitly, she said in an interview this week.

“The fact that the [proposed decision] calls out the revisit of NEM 2.0 in 2019 after they figure out rates and IDER/DRP means that the other next big issues are first, the timing and design of integrated DER sourcing mechanisms that will be developed through the IDER proceeding, and second, the quantifiable and monetizable locational value of DERs,” she said. “All the solar folks who’ve been focused on NEM 2.0 will likely find that they need to engage on market designs and new business models for integrated ‘prosumer’ solutions going forward.”


Source: greentechmedia.com/GTM_Solar
Breaking: California’s NEM 2.0 Decision Keeps Retail Rate for Rooftop Solar, Adds Time-of-Use