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Solar Consumer Protection Reflections and Resource Selections

Solar Consumer Protection Reflections and Resource Selections

The U.S. distributed solar market has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade. [1] Over seventy- times the residential solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was installed in the U.S. in 2015 (2,099 MW) as was installed in 2005 (27 MW). [2] While the significant opportunities for gainful enterprise in the residential PV economy signal solar market health, they have also brought consumer-focused issues to the fore. Policymakers, regulators, advocacy groups, and the solar industry are giving increasing attention to ensuring that consumers receive accurate information and ultimately have good experiences with solar energy installation. A number of new resources are intended to help further residential solar understanding.The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has put forth a Solar Consumer Protection Resource webpage with various resources focused on improving consumer transparency, reducing transaction costs, and increasing the potential for asset securitization for solar customers. SEIA’s Solar Consumer Protection Resource webpage includes: A Consumer Guide to Solar Power, a short SEIA guide designed to inform potential solar customers about solar financing options and contracting terms. SEIA’s Solar Business Code, rules of conduct for all SEIA-member companies on advertising, marketing and consumer interactions, and contracts. An Information Alert on Telemarketing Rules, an overview of rules governing telemarketing and lead-generation activities for solar companies. A Solar Leasing Disclosure Statement and a Solar Power Purchase Agreement Disclosure Statement, voluntary forms produced by SEIA for solar third-party ownership providers to make it easier for customers to understand the terms of an agreement. Several resources developed by the Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) working group led by NREL that are geared toward solar third-party ownership providers, including Best Practices in PV Systems Installation, Best Practices in PV Systems Operations and Maintenance, and Sample Leases and Power Purchase Agreements. In addition to SEIA’s consumer protection webpage, Consumer Reports has published several articles on residential solar PV: “Shedding Light on Solar Power” provides background information and advice to consumers on the residential solar industry. “The Real Cost of Leasing vs. Buying Solar Panels” describes some of the advantages to buying solar panels. “How to Install a Solar System and Not Get Burned” gives advice on what consumers should think about when buying solar panels, including home energy efficiency, Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), and knowing applicable utility policies around pricing solar power. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has developed and published several clean energy protection tools designed to promote safeguards and protect the solar market. IREC’s consumer protection resources include: A Be Solar Smart Checklist, a list of questions and considerations to help consumers get the information they need to make informed decisions about installing solar. A Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights, a tool that outlines consumer issues and expectations for solar and other clean energy technologies. A list of solar consumer protection resources produced by various organizations. In July 2016, the Federal Trade Commission conducted a full-day workshop on competition and consumer protection issues in solar energy. Video and PowerPoint slides from the workshop, titled “Something New Under the Sun,” are posted here.Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has produced a Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing: Leases, Loans and PPAs  to help consumers make sounds solar decisions and select the best financing option for their needs. In addition, CESA recently launched the Sustainable Solar Education Project, which provides information and educational resources to state and municipal officials on strategies to ensure that distributed solar electricity remains consumer friendly and benefits low- and moderate-income households. Through the project, CESA is publishing a free monthly e-newsletter with news and information related to solar consumer friendliness and equitability. Sign up to receive the Sustainable Solar Education Project newsletter here!Ensuring that distributed solar PV remains consumer friendly is important to sustain the solar market’s upward trend. Increasingly, as highlighted in this blog, resources related to this topic are being published to better educate solar consumers. *** [1] U.S. Solar Market Insight, Executive Summary, Q2 2016, GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association, http://www.seia.org/sites/default/files/k7bZk7JSHC2016Q2SMI.pdf.[2] Annual Solar PV Capacity Installations in the U.S. Residential Sector from 2005 to 2015 (in Megawatts), Statista, http://www.statista.com/statistics/185694/us-residential-annual-pv-installed-capacity-since-2005/.   This article was originally published on NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Blog. Read the original post here.
Request for expressions of interest: Ethanol Micro-Distillery

Request for expressions of interest: Ethanol Micro-Distillery

  Dear all, The Gaia Association, an Ethiopian non-governmental and non-profit organization, has received financing from the World Bank to demonstrate the feasibility of producing bio-ethanol on a small-scale to be used as cooking fuel. The project will install an efficient Ethanol Micro-Distillery (EMD), based on molasses feedstock. Gaia Association intends to apply part of the grant towards the procurement […]
Utah organizations seek geothermal research proposals for awards worth $46M

Utah organizations seek geothermal research proposals for awards worth $46M

The University of Utah and Utah Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) announced FORGE Solicitation 2020-1. This is the first formal call for research proposals on enhanced geothermal system technologies from the FORGE program. Up to 18 awards are anticipated for up to a total of $46,000,000 and each award has a maximum period of performance of three […]
Ship Powered by Solar Power Sets New Transatlantic World Record

Ship Powered by Solar Power Sets New Transatlantic World Record

The same month as another record was set in the world of solar power, the solar-powered ship PlanetSolar, broke her previous record of Transatlantic crossing by more than 4 days. The ship didn`t spend longer than 22 days, 12 hours, and 32 minutes across the Atlantic Ocean.  The new record is currently in the process of being authorized by Guinness […]
BLM seeks public input on proposed 1,000 MW wind project in Idaho

BLM seeks public input on proposed 1,000 MW wind project in Idaho

The project would feature 400 wind turbines and up to seven new substations.
Investing in Renewable Energy Funds

Investing in Renewable Energy Funds

I'm interested in finding renewable energy funds in which to invest my 401k. Could you direct me to an archived story regarding this and if there isn't one, when can I expect to see something like that? Thank you for your time. -- Chip A., Milwaukee, WI
The State of Biomass Heat:   A Mid-Year Reflection from BTEC’s Chairman and Executive Director

The State of Biomass Heat: A Mid-Year Reflection from BTEC’s Chairman and Executive Director

The State of Biomass Heat:  A Mid-Year Reflection from BTEC’s Chairman and Executive Director      Today, we would like to share our reflection on the state of the biomass thermal industry and the progress BTEC has made, and ask you to consider joining the cause this Fall.     We are proud to report that the association reached a […]
US government study indicates 60 GW of geothermal energy capacity under our feet

US government study indicates 60 GW of geothermal energy capacity under our feet

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy released an analysis that shows how the United States could benefit from the vast potential of geothermal energy. The analysis culminated in a report, GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet, which summarizes findings showing that geothermal electricity generation could increase more than 26-fold from today — reaching 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2050.
Utilities and Solar Marketing Programs

Utilities and Solar Marketing Programs

Our utility is not in the sunny Southwest. Does it still make sense to create solar programs for our customers? -- Larry T., Walla Walla, WA
Document Standardization: It’s Not Just for Pencil Pushers Anymore

Document Standardization: It’s Not Just for Pencil Pushers Anymore

The U.S. renewable energy industries are persistently on the hunt for means of cutting down the cost of delivered energy. For example, in the case of solar, module costs have historically been the prize game. Although, now that modules are selling at bargain-basement prices worldwide, attention has shifted to "soft cost" components. And this is where document standardization — the creation of an industry-wide set of contracts, forms, permits, etc., required during the project development cycle — could pay some real dividends.