Thursday, February 24, 2011

Xcel Drops PV Rebates!

The rebates have been restored after a 5 week moratorium.   (Bad move, Xcel, sudden moves like lifting the rebate can kill an entire industry overnight)

Original post:

This is critical to green residential design in Colorado.

An email from COSEIA:

URGENT: Xcel has suspended its solar program & the market is now 100% frozen. Can you help spread the word about this asap? Feel free to forward (or customize) the following email...


Clean energy is under attack. We urgently need your help. 

Last week Xcel Energy suspended its solar program, destabilizing the market for clean energy. 

This move has effectively frozen solar sales while customers wait for a possible program restart - with a devastating impact on small businesses and the Colorado economy. We can't let a monopoly choke off competition and curtail clean energy.  That's why we need your help. 

Mark your calendar: join the Rally for Clean Energy Jobs at the state capitol (west steps) in Denver THIS FRIDAY, 2/25 at 12noon. 

We need to see you there to help fight back against Xcel's outrageous activities - and to send a clear message that a monopoly shouldn't be allowed to control the fate of Colorado's clean energy industries and put thousands of jobs at risk.

Can you help spread the word about this event? 


Here's some background on this important issue - and why Xcel's actions are so concerning:

Colorado voters have sent a clear message that they want to increase clean energy and help promote economic development. Building on the success of Amendment 37, there are now 5,300 solar jobs and more than 400 solar businesses in Colorado. Colorado is now the #2 state in the U.S. for solar jobs per capita. 

Xcel Energy is using its monopoly to disrupt the market for clean energy and choke off competition. Xcel is now the 2nd major utility to suspend its solar program. Black Hills Energy in Pueblo suspended its solar program in October, which led to a 90% decrease in solar sales and significant job losses while customers wait for incentives to return. The Colorado economy can't afford a devastating similar crash statewide. An estimated 2,000-3,000 Colorado jobs will be lost by the end of the year unless there is a rapid restart to the state's successful solar programs.

Every industry needs a stable marketplace to compete. Xcel's Solar*Rewards program was on schedule, slowly ratcheting down incentives as solar costs decreased. Incentives were reduced nearly 50% during the past two years as solar electric costs decreased by 40-50% during the same period. The program has been working. The key was that program changes were predictable, incremental and transparent so consumers and businesses could react. 

Xcel Energy administering its own solar program is a conflict of interest. As a monopoly utility, Xcel has a financial stake in disrupting and destabilizing the clean energy marketplace. A monopoly shouldn't be allowed to pull the rug out from under Colorado's small businesses and put thousands of jobs at risk.

Xcel is exhibiting a blatant double-standard. If Xcel was forced to change its business model in less than 24 hours without advanced notice or due process it would be crying foul to policymakers and the public about the injustice.

Colorado needs an independent 3rd party administrator to oversee its solar program. Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy have demonstrated that they are either incapable or unwilling to ensure a stable marketplace for healthy competition. That's why other states have implemented an independent solar program administrator to avoid these conflicts of interest. Colorado should too.

The Public Utilities Commission should deny efforts to gut clean energy programs. The PUC should seek to restart Xcel's and Black Hills' solar programs quickly, before any more economic damage is done, and begin a fair and transparent stakeholder process to ensure stable marketplace.  
Attend the Rally for Clean Energy Jobs this Friday, February 25 at 12pm, at the Colorado State Capitol building, (west steps) and show your support for clean energy in Colorado and for future generations.

Please forward this email to your friends! 

Best regards,
Neal Lurie
Executive Director, COSEIA

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finally a Consumer Friendly Home Energy Rating System

I've finally found my dream house rating system, which is just like an EPA rating label for an appliance or a car:
I've been saying for years that as consumers get more educated about energy efficiency in homes, the demand for efficient homes will increase, and the selling price of those homes will increase.
Well, I'm tired of waiting*, so this rating system gives the consumers what they need to know NOW.
NOTE: this is a rating system, and by definition, can only be measured on a house that has been built. This will prevent the most insidious types of greenwashing, like advertising a LEED rating before the home has been built.
There isn't any "embodied energy" rating here, but I think a third scale for that would start making this rating system too confusing. The embodied energy of a low energy new home is small enough to be ignored for now. If and when a carbon tax is implemented, that will be reflected in the selling price of the house.
*I realized that until Realtors understand this stuff, most consumers have no hope. I haven't yet met a Realtor who really understands the difference between a KW and a KWH.
energytrust.org_library_forms_ENH_TP_EPS_Certificate_sample.pdf811.7 KB

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Your New Construction Greenbuilding in Denver Checklist

My top home design recommendations in no particular order:

-Frost protected slab on grade - R20 min perimeter insulation
-R28 min wall, R60 min roof (many methods available, the consensus is to use cellulose)
-Design for a "conditioned attic" bonus room or no attic (flat or shed roof)
-Simple forms, rectangular or square footprint
-100% electric, no natural gas
-No sliding doors or windows, or even exterior french doors
-If you have sunshine available, high SHGC south (and north) windows, solar DHW ($3.5k max)
-Triple pane  windows if you can find them at a reasonable price
-Fiberglass framed windows for longevity and other thermal reasons
-DO hire a HERS rater ($1500 max), DON'T waste money on LEED or PH certification
-Photovoltaic system, take advantage of Xcel rebates
-Small, cheap HRV system ($1000 max total) or just a WhisperGreen exhaust fan for ventilation
-Minisplit heat pump or PTHP
-Induction cooktop, small range hood
-PEX plumbing pipe using 3/8" home runs

In a nice neighborhood, upgrades may be desirable.  A finished basement is number one, but if you're building today, it will cost a little more than its resale value.  The third floor conditioned attic bonus room is cheaper per square foot.