Over the past few weeks, college students have been shedding light on the future of solar energy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Out of 19 teams from around the globe and 10 energy performance and livability contests, one overall winner emerged at the recently held U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon. The winning WaterShed home design, built by students from the University of Maryland, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The house included a 9.2 kilowatt rooftop solar array and prominently featured storm water management and recycling components, such as a butterfly roof and pollution filtration.
On June 15, 2011, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed eight renewable energy bills. Highlights from the bills include the establishment of a Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program that includes job creation mandates; establishment of a Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund to finance solar installations in residential, non-profit and commercial sectors; doubling of the allowable on-site electricity generation capacity for net metering from 10 to 20 kilowatts; and extension of tax credits for purchase of biofuel vehicles to 2014.
SB 862 Commonwealth Energy Policy; local renewable energy facility siting ordinances. Requires that a local ordinance addressing the siting of renewable energy facilities be consistent with provisions of the Commonwealth Energy Policy, and provide reasonable criteria and requirements on the siting of any such facility.
HB 1686 Distributed solar generation demonstration programs.Directs the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to exercise its existing authority to consider for approval petitions filed by a utility to own and operate distributed solar generation facilities and to offer special tariffs to facilitate customer-owned distributed solar generation as alternatives to net energy metering.
HB 1912 Electric utility ratemaking procedures; recognition of Commonwealth Energy Policy. Directs the State Corporation Commission (SCC), when required to approve the construction of an electric utility facility, to consider the economic and job creation objectives of the Commonwealth Energy Policy, including whether the cost is likely to result in unreasonable increases in customers’ rates.
HB 1983 Net energy metering program. Increases the maximum capacity of an electrical generation facility of a residential customer that qualifies for participation in a net energy metering program from 10 to 20 kilowatts.
HB 2191 Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund. Establishes the Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund, from which money will be loaned for projects that involve the acquisition, installation, or operation of photovoltaic devices, solar water heating devices, or certain solar space heating devices at residential, commercial, or non-profit facilities. The measure requires the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to provide the option to make voluntary contributions to the Fund, and expires July 1, 2016.
HB 2316 Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program. Repeals the Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program effective July 1, 2013, and the Biofuels Production Incentive Grant Program effective July 1, 2017, to create a program that provides financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable or nuclear energy, or products used for energy conservation, storage, or grid efficiency purposes. To be eligible for a grant, the manufacturer must make a capital investment greater than $50 million and create at least 200 full-time jobs. A wind energy supplier must make a capital investment of greater than $10 million and create at least 30 full-time jobs
HB 2389 Virginia Resources Authority; renewable energy projects. Adds renewable energy projects to those projects which the Virginia Resources Authority may finance.
SB 1236 Clean fuel vehicle and advanced cellulosic biofuels job creation tax credit. Extends the sunset date of the tax credit from the 2011 taxable year to the 2014 taxable year.
From commercial airplanes from Virgin Atlantic to a U.S. Navy fighter jet, powering airplanes with biofuels has been long been a goal of the airline industry. Following test flights by a number of airlines and the U.S. Department of Defense, Lufthansa will be the first to offer a biofuel-powered commercial flight in April of 2011. Though a 50-50 mix of biofuels and jet fuel (traditional kerosene) will power only one of the aircraft’s engines, the German airline is achieving a considerable milestone. The program is a 6-month trial using the Hamburg-Frankfurt route to evaluate the wear and tear of biofuels on an aircraft engine. The program should reduce the airline’s carbon footprint by about 1,500 metric tons of CO2 in total (the annual emissions of about 300 cars) and cost about 6.6 million euros. The plane is no slouch either – an Airbus A321 has a seating capacity of 220 and a range of 3,000 miles.
COPENHAGEN - Governor Chris Gregoire made a presentation about the successes of Washington state in building a clean energy economy at an official COP 15 side event hosted by us and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. A packed room listened to how the experience of the Washington out West should provide insight for national policymakers of the Washington in the East.
She detailed how, given an appropriate state policy framework, the private sector has made significant innovations in technology, making Washington a national leader in solar manufacturing and the state with the 5th most wind energy production. All of this development occurred despite the fact that the state does not have large wind or solar energy resources. The lesson here is that the innovativeness and drive of American business should never be underestimated, and there is nationwide potential for growth in a clean energy technology. New and existing American companies will find ways to flourish given the right incentives.
The Governor also spoke about states leading the way in implementing cap-and-trade programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She pointed out that a multistate and multi-Canadian province effort, the Western Climate Initiative, is underway to enact a cap-and-trade program covering 20% of the US economy - despite the delays in development of a national program. The WCI is the not the only state-level effort underway, with the Midwestern Greenhouse Reduction Accord signed in 2007. Both of these efforts follow on the heels of an ongoing cap-and-trade program in the Northeast, which, as Gregoire pointed out, has proven that cap-and-trade programs can tackle greenhouse gas emissions without damaging the American economy – an important piece of empirical evidence as the nation and the world look towards developing emissions-reduction policy.
Of course, the government cannot do it alone. The people in Washington state have a commitment to technology, whether it’s aerospace, software, clean energy, or coffee. Now its time for legislators in Washington, DC to show the same commitment to technology promotion and emission reduction.
Michael Tubman is the Congressional Affairs Fellow