AEP, Honda partner to test vehicle-grid integration with used EV batteries

Dive Brief:

  • American Electric Power (AEP) and Honda have agreed to explore possible uses for used electric vehicle (EV) batteries, including renewables integration, while also seeking to address “multiple challenges” related to growing electrified transportation.
  • The companies on May 15 announced Honda will provide used Fit EV batteries to AEP, for research aimed at helping the companies “develop technology and standards for future vehicle grid integration,” as well as new business models surrounding EVs
  • With millions of EVs expected to be hitting the roads soon, automakers and the energy industry are preparing for a stream of usedbatteries. NissanHyundai and BMW all announced partnerships involving used batteries last year.

Dive Insight:

There are slightly more than 1 million EVs on the road in the United States, but that figure is expected to rise quickly. As it does, a steady stream of used batteries no longer suitable for vehicles will become available for use in a range of energy storage applications at discounted prices.

Experts say a typical EV battery would be replaced after about 10 years, having lost about 10% to 15% of its capacity. But these batteries can still have years of life left in them for other applications, and Honda and AEP say they see opportunities to improve energy security, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and prepare for broad scale electrification of transportation.

“Neither automakers nor utilities can address these complex technical, policy and business issues alone,” Ryan Harty, manager of connected and environmental business at American Honda Motor, said in a statement.

Honda launched the Fit EV in 2012, part of the automaker’s bid to electrify two-thirds of its fleet by 2030. The company is also developing vehicle grid integration solutions, including a proprietary smart charging program that incentivizes Honda EV customers to charge their vehicles when there is more renewable energy on the grid.

Honda and AEP say the knowledge gained from the pilot can help the companies to develop “technology and standards for future vehicle grid integration, as well as new business models to improve the value of EVs.”

Other automakers have found eager partners in the energy industry as well.

Nissan and EDF Energy in October announced they would work together on a project combining second-life batteries with demand response capabilities developed by the U.K. energy company. Last summer, tech groupWärtsilä and Hyundai Motor Group announced a partnership to help develop a market for advanced energy storage systems utilizing used EV batteries in utility-scale and commercial applications.

And an EVgo EV charging station in California began using second-life BMW i3 batteries last summer to reduce its reliance on the electric grid during times of peak demand.

Honda has other EV-focused work going on as well. Nikkei Asian Review reports the company is also working with GM on ways blockchain can enable grid integration of EVs, including possible two-way power flows.

SCE rolls out $356M charging program to spur electric trucks, buses and other large vehicles

Dive Brief:

  • Southern California Edison (SCE) on Monday rolled out a program designed to advance the electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including buses and tractor trailers, by offering to install infrastructure to support charging stations at no charge.
  • Rebates for charging station equipment will also be available to some customers as well, including transit agencies and school bus operators. The program has a budget of about $356 million.
  • The Charge Ready Transport program will fund installations at 870 commercial customer sites over a five-year period, which the utility anticipates will support at least 8,490 fleet vehicles. California regulatorsapproved the plan last year.

Dive Insight:

SCE officials said they already had three applications submitted for the Charge Ready Transport program after announcing it in the morning. Charge Ready is one more piece of the decarbonization puzzle for the utility, to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions in Southern California.

“We’ve been supporting vehicle electrification for quite a few years,” Katie Sloan, SCE’s director of eMobility, told Utility Dive.

Edison launched a Charge Ready pilot program for light duty vehicles a few years ago, and Sloan says it has installed about 1,000 ports. But “medium- and heavy-duty vehicles contribute quite a lot of pollution that impacts air quality in southern California,” she added.

The region has some of the worst air quality in the nation.

SCE offers customers interested in the Charge Ready Transport program two options: the utility can handle the make-ready design and construction, or the customer can do it and claim an 80% rebate on the work. “We don’t have a preference” regarding which option they choose, said Sloan. “We just want to facilitate the most electric adoption.”

The program requires a 10-year right-of-way for SCE to access charging infrastructure, and participants will need to commit to purchasing at least two electric vehicles — though the Charge Ready Transport models anticipate about 10 vehicles per location.

Vehicles supported by the program include medium- and heavy-duty vehicles like step vans and tractor trailers, school and transit buses, forklifts and airport ground support equipment.

“I think we’ll see a wide variation in this program, including customers that are smaller businesses, and may only have a couple of EVs,” Sloan said. Customers will be able to access new time-of-use rates designed for electric vehicles, which mean no demand charges until 2024 — and then a slow phase-in of the charges through 2029.

While residential customers who install charging equipment through the Charge Ready program are required to participate in demand response programs, there is no such requirement for commercial entities. The utility is looking to its time-of-use rates to push charging to times when there is ample renewable energy on the system.

Jesse Lund, an associate at the Rocky Mountain Institute who focuses on electrification, spoke at SCE’s kickoff event on Monday and discussed how customers going electric could save the most money. The process is lengthy, she cautioned, and includes more than simply buying electric vehicles and installing chargers.

“This is going to be a very time-intensive planning process,” she said. “Looking about a year ahead is a good starting timeframe. Also, look at your vehicle acquisition plans over the next 10 years.”

Despite a need to electrify long-distance freight hauling, Lund said RMI expects intra-city vehicles to be electrified first. And it will be the software networking capabilities of stations able to charge fleets at optimal times and interact with the utility grid that are “really going to allow you to have the best cost savings and the best chance of success with electrification of your fleet,” she said.

SCE says it will now engage with more customers about the program and review applications. It will launch initial site inspections in the coming weeks and months. The utility has said the electrification program is “believed to be the largest of its kind in the nation,” and industry observers say that is likely true.

SCE’s latest program is “a very large and serious commitment to electrification of freight,” Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America, said in a statement to Utility Dive.

“Electrification of heavy duty transportation and freight in particular, is a critical piece of the overall puzzle,” Levin said. “We cannot achieve our climate goals without it. The technology is not nearly as advanced as for cars, but it is moving forward now very rapidly.”

Heavy duty electrification is “in roughly the same place” that light duty was in just a decade ago, Levin said, though he added that from an air-quality perspective, heavy-duty vehicles are more important.

“Trucks are responsible for much of our air pollution, especially in urban areas near ports and other transportation hubs,” he said.

Senators launch bipartisan initiative on long term solutions to expiring energy tax credits

Tax credits have proven effective in jump-starting energy industries and driving adoption of new technology and infrastructure. However, as creditswind down, the renewable energy industry has been gripped by uncertainty in recent years, with federal legislators approving short-term extensions.

Both the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee announced a bipartisan initiative on Thursday to craft long-term solutions for the expiring tax breaks, with task forces focused on energy tax credits and disaster tax relief among others.

The wind production tax credit will end at the close of 2019 and the solar credit will begin to sunset. Already, industry groups like the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) are predicting a decrease in renewable energy deployment in 2020, as the market is expected to constrict due to the expiring credits.

The task forces are expected to determine by the end of June long-term solution possibilities that can be enacted this year, “to end the annual extenders drama and provide certainty to the taxpayers who utilize those provisions,” Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in remarks on the Senate floor.

“The modern renewable industry as we know it was built on the tax credits that are phasing out.”

Bill Parsons

COO, American Council on Renewable Energy

Other legislators have proposed bills intended to drive deployment by impacting a number of tax credits including energy storage, which has become a priority for this year in the renewable energy industry.

Task forces assemble

Legislators have an increasing need to strategize for the post-phase out period of tax credits in the energy industry.

“The modern renewable industry as we know it was built on the tax credits that are phasing out,” Bill Parsons, ACORE’s chief operating officer, told Utility Dive.​

Grassley and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for six task forces to assemble from the Senate Finance Committee. The energy task force, led jointly by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and the employment and community development task force are the largest, with eight members each.

The task forces will focus on a total of 42 provisions that expired, or will expire, between the end of 2017 and the end of 2019. For energy, the group would work to establish a level playing field for technologies beyond a year-by-year extension decision, which can get kicked down the road, given shifting Congressional priorities, thus reducing certainty among investors.

Grassley stated possible solutions that the task forces might identify to provide long-term certainty for particular industries:

  • Phasing out the credit phases over a longer period, giving the industry “a glide path to self-sufficiency”
  • Scaling back the tax provision
  • Considering elimination of the provision “if there’s little or no case for continuing the temporary policy”
  • Extending provisions without reform and considering whether permanency is warranted

“The exercise appears to be an attempt to look past an ‘Extenders Era’ in the Tax Code,'” Parsons said.

Extending the wind tax credit or ensuring a viable long-term path for the credit is important in Iowa, known for its large amount of wind power. Iowa has over 7.3 GW of installed wind capacity, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Alliance.

However, Grassley’s staff could not speak to timing or potential products. Task force members will bring their priorities, according to a spokesperson from Grassley’s office.

The energy task force also includes Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who has helped lead bipartisan efforts to extend a carbon capture tax credit and other legislation intended to support the technology’s development.

House bills and a push for storage

While the Finance Committee task forces are getting underway, bills are being introduced in the House and Senate to support energy tax incentives.

Among the latest, on May 14, members of the House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill that would allow the transfer of renewable energy tax credits beyond the specified technology.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Darin LaHood, R-Ill., sought to continue increasing renewable energy deployment, specifically wind energy, by allowing the transferability of production and investment tax credits.

The bill will give the renewable energy industry “additional tools to help invest in the future of energy,” Blumenauer said.

In February, Grassley and Wyden introduced bipartisan legislation to restore all the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2017 and 2018 through the balance of this year.

Wyden also introduced in May, along with 25 Democrats, a technology-neutral approach to incentivize clean electricity, transportation fuel and conservation. The policy would consolidate 44 energy tax incentives into three technology-neutral provisions. The electricity component would provide a 30% investment tax credit or a $0.024/kWh production tax credit for facilities with zero carbon emissions.

“A lot of folks among ACORE’s members … are rallying behind that kind of (technology-neutral) approach,” Parsons said.

2019 priority: Storage

A key priority for 2019, however, is giving the energy storage industry access to tax credits. Industry groups have called on lawmakers to expand the qualification of energy storage systems under the investment tax credit for the past year.

“There is a wide range of policy options lawmakers can consider to make the grid more resilient and increase renewable energy deployment, but as far as our members are concerned, getting an energy storage tax credit done this year would be a great place to start,” Parsons said in a statement.

The Energy Storage Association (ESA) supported bicameral, bipartisan legislation last year to accomplish this, writing to lawmakers approaching the end of their term, but the measure did not pass.

At the beginning of April, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced legislation long awaited by clean energy advocates, H.R. 2096: a tax credit for energy storage technologies. ACORE, ESA and other groups wrote letters to House leadership in support of the bill.

Including energy storage as qualifying facilities in the existing 30% investment tax credit has gained bipartisan support, and clean energy advocates want to see it included “as part of an extenders package or other viable legislative vehicle this year,” Parsons told Utility Dive.

Other options include adding it to an infrastructure package or as part of broader energy reform legislation.

 

Discussion with Carl Brown Jr. State / Executive Director Howard University DC SBDC

Author: Ronald Bethea Published: May 14,2019 Positive Change PC LL

Howard University DC SBDC 2019 Spring Summit

 SHOW ME THE MONEY: SOURCES AND TYPES OF FUNDING

Session 1: Financial Statements Key Takeaways for Profitability:

Session 2: Cash Flow Managing $ for Success

Session 3: Creating Lasting Wealth with Your Business

   Show Topic of Discussion:

What is DC Small Business Development Center?

Win was the Howard University DC SBDC established?

What is the purpose of DC SBDC?

Services provided by DC SBDC?

Starting A Business

Financing A Business

Maintaining A Business

Growing A Business

Consulting Services

Training

Export Services

 

 

 

 

How to protect California ratepayers, expand clean local energy and avoid bailing out PG&E

The following is a contributed article by Craig Lewis, Executive Director at Clean Coalition.

Since 2017, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest utility, has racked up more than $30 billion in liabilities for wildfire-related damages caused by its equipment. In January 2019, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with the goal of shedding these liabilities.

This grave situation also represents a golden opportunity for the Golden State.

Experts have been weighing in on what should become of PG&E. Ideas include making PG&E a public authority controlled by the state, breaking it up into municipal utilities, and making it a fully deregulated utility.

But there’s a better solution, one that should be applied to all the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs): require the utilities to divest their transmission assets. This solution avoids another utility bailout, protects utility customers from rate increases and wildfire risks, and fixes a major obstacle to California’s zero-emission, clean energy future.

A broken business model

The current utility business model is fundamentally broken and needs to change. IOUs now earn a guaranteed rate of return on infrastructure investments, which incentivizes them to build more transmission infrastructure and has led to out-of-control transmission costs around the country.

Credit: Sunrun

Because transmission costs are the fastest-growing part of electricity bills, it could soon cost more to deliver energy than to generate it. And it’s worse than it looks.

The capital costs of transmission infrastructure, high as they are, represent a fraction of total transmission costs. Operations and maintenance (O&M) and returns on investments drive up transmission costs significantly over the life of these assets, with those excessive costs borne by ratepayers.

In nominal dollars, total lifetime ratepayer cost is nearly 10x the initial capital cost; O&M accounts for 68% of this because it increases much faster than inflation. In real dollars (constant value dollars, accounting for inflation), the total lifetime cost is 5x the initial capital cost, and O&M accounts for 55% of this.

In California, the way consumers are charged for the transmission system is also broken. Currently, all energy in California’s IOU territory is subject toTransmission Access Charges (TAC), whether or not that energy actually travels over the transmission grid.

Generating energy closer to where we use it means less transmission infrastructure is needed, which lowers costs for ratepayers by avoiding expensive transmission lines. In contrast, continuing with business as usual will cost Californians an estimated $60 billion in avoidable transmission costs over the next 20 years.

Transmission costs are already at 3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in California and could double in the next two decades. In IOU service territories (unlike for municipal utilities), where the utilities have a major conflict of interest in owning both the distribution and the transmission grid, clean local energy is being burdened with these costs — currently up to 50% of total project costs — even though it’s not using the transmission grid.

This major market distortion makes clean local energy projects look much more expensive than they really are, with the result that far fewer of those projects are deployed.

The looming threat to state renewable goals in wholesale electricity markets

The following is a contributed article by Jessica Bell, Clean Energy Attorney in the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law.

While I certainly agree with Michael Hogan’s affirmation of states’ rights to address environmental externalities through energy policy in his recent Utility Dive opinion piece, “States’ rights, states’ wrongs,” his argument omits the important discussion of wrongs by Regional Transmission Operators (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs).

Specifically, several RTOs have undertaken a misplaced and unevenly applied mission to scrub the impacts of state policies from markets. States’ rights to determine resource mix are now on a dangerous collision course with organized wholesale markets. And it is not the states that need to correct

EVgo commits to powering chargers with 100% renewable energy

Dive Brief:

  • Electric vehicle (EV) fast charging network EVgo has committed to use100% renewable energy to power its chargers, becoming the first EV charging network in the United States to do so, according to EVgo.
  • Under its commitment, EVgo will contract with its energy suppliers and partners to ensure that each gigawatt-hour delivered financially supports an operating renewable energy generator in the U.S. It will use a combination of wind and solar energy to achieve that commitment.
  • EVgo’s commitment was announced as part of the spring member meeting of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), of which the company is a member.

Dive Insight:

This commitment from EVgo comes as cities and mobility companies wrestle with making the transportation sector more environmentally friendly. Along with buildings, transportation makes up a majority of emissions in cities, so initiatives like the American Cities Climate Challenge by Bloomberg Philanthropies have emphasized the need to make those sections of urban life more dependent on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that in 2017, nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation, the majority of which were from single-occupancy vehicles. Expanding EV charging infrastructure needs to happen if alternative transportation methods are to catch on. BMW and PG&E have also worked together on pilot programs to develop renewable-powered EV charging.

Cities large and small are investing in charging infrastructure, while Google recently made it easier to find existing chargers by adding real-time information to Google Maps. Having a reliable and accessible network of chargers is a necessary step to more widespread adoption of EVs, since it can assure drivers they will not be stranded without a charge.

As cities experiment with charging infrastructure through methods like adding it to light poles or deploying autonomous robots that navigate parking lots and charge parked cars, this announcement from EVgo — coupled with its recent rollout of Autocharge — should help it differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace.

Inslee signs 100% clean energy bill in midst of 2020 White House bid

Published: April 12, 2019 Updated May 8, 2019

Updated May 8: This post was updated to reflect the governor signing the bill into law.

Dive Brief:

  • Gov. Jay Inslee, D, on Tuesday signed Washington state’s 100% clean energy bill, making it the fourth state in the country to commit to such a goal.
  • Senate Bill 5116 passed the House 56-42 without bipartisan support in April, and will require the state to power 100% of its electricity from carbon-free resources by 2045. The legislation phases out coal entirely by 2025 and requires all electricity sales to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
  • Inslee released a clean energy legislative package in December, which included five policy goals to reduce the state’s carbon emissions, including the 2045 and 2025 goals in the bill.

It Seemed Like a Model Green Energy Firm. But Black Workers Paint a Different Picture.

Author: Patrick McGeehan  Published: May 6, 2019  New York Times

Federal District Court in Brooklyn, where the suit was filed.CreditCreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

The company seemed like a model for the modern economy. It was growing so fast in the clean-energy field that New Jersey awarded it $7.2 million in tax incentives to keep adding jobs installing solar panels.

But six black men who worked for the company, Momentum Solar, painted a far different picture: They contend that the managers of its operation on Long Island fostered a racially hostile work environment and fired employees who complained about it.

The managers made frequent use of racist slurs, routinely called black men “boy” and paid them less than white workers, a lawsuit filed on Monday alleged.

The suit, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, seeks class-action status on behalf of all employees who worked out of the company’s warehouse in Plainview, N.Y. It accused the company’s managers of engaging in systemic discrimination against black workers and retaliating against those who filed complaints.

The company responded that there was “no basis in law or fact for the claims” asserted in the suit.

“The six disgruntled former hourly employees were terminated for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons including unacceptable workplace behavior, fighting, poor performance, failure to show up for work and violations of material company policies and procedures,” a statement from an outside lawyer for the company said. “The company intends to vigorously defend all claims.”

Momentum Solar, which is based in Metuchen, N.J., claims to be one of the fastest-growing companies in its industry, with more than 1,200 employees across the country. Last year, it received $7.2 million in tax incentives from New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority for its plan to add more than 150 jobs over three years.

The state’s tax-incentive programs have come under scrutiny after recent revelations by The New York Times that tax breaks were awarded to politically connected companies, though Momentum was not one of the firms cited in the The Times report.

PG&E faces SEC investigation into public disclosures of wildfire losses

Dive Brief:

  • PG&E Corp. filed quarterly earnings on Thursday, revealing that the corporation and its utility subsidiary Pacific Gas & Electric are facing an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into “public disclosures and accounting for losses” related to the 2015 Butte fire as well as 2017 and 2018 fires.
  • The company reported first quarter net income of $136 million, or $0.25/share, compared with $442 million in Q1 2018. Management said those results include hundreds of millions in costs not considered part of normal ongoing operations — largely related to wildfires and the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
  • According to the company, GAAP results include $410 million after-tax from items such as wildfire cleanup and recovery that management “does not consider part of normal, ongoing operations.”

Dive Insight:

California’s devastating wildfires, combined with the state’s strict liability rules, have forced utilities to take billions in charges and in January PG&E filed for bankruptcy.

PG&E’s earnings topped analysts estimates, yet still revealed the ongoing costs and scrutiny the utility company will face.

“This was primarily driven by enhanced and accelerated electric asset inspection costs, clean-up and repair costs related to the 2018 Camp Fire, legal and other costs related to the 2017 Northern California wildfires and the 2018 Camp Fire, and financing, legal, and other costs” related to the company’s bankruptcy, PG&E said in a statement.

And while the company’s 10-Q contains the word “investigation” dozens of time, the filing revealed new scrutiny from the SEC related to wildfires.

The utility said it learned in March that the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office “is conducting an investigation related to PG&E Corporation’s and the Utility’s public disclosures and accounting for losses associated with the 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires and the 2015 Butte fire.”

The company said it cannot predict the “timing and outcome of the investigation.”

PG&E is involved in multiple investigations by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

The company has said it will take a $10.5 billion pre-tax charge related to third-party claims in connection with the 2018 Camp Fire, as it believes its equipment was likely the cause of the deadly blaze. Cal Fire has yet to make a determination.

Heading into the next wildfire season, which typically begins in mid-summer, the CPUC on Monday issued a number of proposed decisions to approve utility wildfire mitigation plans. PG&E’s plan was flagged for some improvements, including requesting an expanded strategy on how the utility can avoid power line de-energization, but was otherwise found in compliance with state law.

PG&E in April filed revisions to its wildfire mitigation proposal, asking to push back inspection and corrective action deadlines the utility is unlikely to meet. The CPUC’s proposed approval does not consider those changes.

Marijuana prices have collapsed, forcing growers to focus on energy efficiency

Efficiency experts say the biggest opportunities to reduce energy use in the cannabis sector are in the design phase of a new grow operation.

s marijuana becomes more mainstream, an increasing number of utilities are seeing growers set up shop in their service territories — at times creating distribution system issues, and in general bringing significant new demand.

With federal legalization now a topic du jour, there is a growing focus on energy efficiency in the cannabis space and how utilities and industry groups can help growers control their demand. Total electricity demand from legal marijuana cultivation in the United States is estimated to rise 162% from 2017 to 2022, according to Research from New Frontier Data, which focuses on analysis of the cannabis industry.

Credit: New Frontier Data

Compared with a typical office building, indoor marijuana growers are about 10 times as energy intensive on a square footage basis, according to Neil Kolwey, industrial program director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).

SWEEP recently hosted a webinar to discuss energy efficiency in the cannabis industry, and Kolwey said it is important to keep the sector’s energy use in perspective — it is not particularly large in aggregate, but can have significant impacts in specific areas.

Data centers use two to three times the energy of marijuana growers, again on a square-footage basis, he said, and account for about 1.8% of the United States’ electricity consumption. Pot growers, including illegal operations, account for just 0.1% right now.

But cultivation centers are energy intensive: a single one could overload a utility transformer, while an industry can add substantially to a city’s power demand.

Utility headaches

Growers account for 4% of Denver’s electricity consumption. In Xcel Energy’s territory, marijuana cultivation can account for close to 2% of demand and as the legal industry ramped up five years ago, it caused headaches for the utility.

“The issue wasn’t meeting the demand,” Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz told Utility Dive. But in some areas of its territory, “we often found the systems were not adequate for a 24 hour grow operation. … There were growing pains in the first couple of years after it became legal.”

There are now about 500 grow facilities in Xcel’s territory, using between 35,000 MWh and 45,000 MWh annually. “Certain pockets [in the city] became warehouse districts for marijuana growing,” said Stutz. Built years ago for different types of industry, transformers had to be replaced in order to deliver enough energy.

Energy consumption in Xcel’s Colorado territory from the cannabis industry has since leveled off, Stutz said

Credit: Xcel Energy

Nationwide, however, the trend remains upward.

“We’re seeing that electricity consumption increases are just continuing as this market continues to escalate,” said Derek Smith, executive director at Research Innovation Institute (RII), a non-profit market-transformation group in the cannabis space. “That’s the trend we’re on unless we do something about it.”

There are now more than 30 states with medical marijuana programs, and nine plus the District of Columbia have legal recreational access. Growing interest in cannabis means higher energy demand. But with the product now legal, markets are responding to typical economic forces — meaning energy efficiency may become vital to turning a profit.

Solar groups call for more inclusive hiring methods to improve diversity

Author: 

A worker installs solar panels on a barn roof. A national survey of nearly 800 solar employers and workers released Monday shows that the industry needs to adopt more inclusive recruiting practices in order to improve the diversity of its workforce.

A new report shows the solar workforce is mostly white and male, and that changes are needed to close diversity gaps.

The solar industry needs to adopt more inclusive recruiting practices in order to improve the diversity of its largely white and male workforce, according to a report released Monday by two leading industry groups.

The 2019 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study is based on a national survey of nearly 800 solar employers and workers by the nonprofit Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The report shows little change from a 2017 edition. The percentage of women and non-white workers is comparable or slightly better than other energy, construction and manufacturing fields but worse than the U.S. workforce overall.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Women (26%) and African Americans (8%) are the most underrepresented compared to the overall U.S. workforce.
  • White men are significantly overrepresented in executive positions: 88% of senior executives are white; 80% are men.
  • Women make 74 cents on the dollar compared to men, reflecting a similar gender pay gap nationally.

The burgeoning industry may be in a unique position to tackle the problem, said Solar Foundation President and Executive Director Andrea Luecke. The distributed nature of the technology means it can be built in all types of communities while involving dozens of different solar occupations, many of which don’t require higher education.

“This is a technology that has potential to reach into [a variety of communities] and potentially improve the livelihoods of people nationwide,” Luecke said.

Read more: Can legislation help diversify solar workforce? Illinois hopes so

Recruiting and tracking

The most common recruitment methods may contribute to the industry’s lack of diversity. Solar companies reported often relying on “professional or personal networks,” the study notes, which “can lead these companies to overlook candidates from diverse backgrounds or not spend the time to cast a wider net.” People of color were much less likely to find their positions through an employee referral or word of mouth.

Solar Foundation project manager Mary Van Leuven said solar being a “fairly new industry” with a large number of startups likely leads companies to hire those they know.

“They’re trying to fill many positions very quickly. It’s easier to just hire friends or the first people who knock on your door than to cast a wide net,” Luecke said. “It’s not that the industry is lazy, it’s that they’re already operating on razor-thin margins. It’s one of those things no one wants to deal with, and it hasn’t been dealt with in a meaningful way until now.”

Three of the solar industry’s top five recruitment methods rely on connections and professional networks. (Note: Solar firms were asked to select their three most preferred methods to recruit candidates.)

Chart

Source: U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019

Potential buyer eyeing abandoned $9 billion SC nuclear project, legislator says

Renewable energy to power all Novo drug production by next year

ive Brief:

  • By next year, all of the electricity Novo Nordisk uses to manufacture its medicines will be generated from renewable energy sources, an achievement the Danish drugmaker says will be a first among drugmakers signed up to a climate initiative called RE100.
  • Novo’s production facilities, which are spread across the globe, account for roughly a third of the company’s carbon emissions. When the drugmaker set out to meet this goal in 2015, 78% of the electricity used by its plants was generated from renewable sources.
  • Now, with an agreement inked with Swedish power company Vattenfall and another to run its Clayton, North Carolina-based facility with solar power, Novo believes it can hit 100% renewable power in production by early next year, according to a statement this week.

Dive Insight:

In drawing close to its 100% renewable power goal, Novo is outpacing its pharmaceutical peers.

Three other drugmakers signed up to the RE100 initiative, which commits companies that sign up to a goal of using 100% renewable power by set target dates.

AstraZeneca is also close, expecting to rely on only renewable energy sources for its sites in the U.S. and Europe by next year. Across its global operations, the British pharma is aiming for 2025.

The larger J&J is transitioning more slowly with a goal of using 100% renewable power by 2050. Biogen, meanwhile, purchases renewable energy certificates that equal all of its electricity use.

Outside of RE100, renewable power goals are more mixed. GlaxoSmithKline, which currently uses electricity sourced from renewable power for 5% of its needs, plans to raise that figure to 60% by 2030. Stateside, Merck & Co. has set a target of 50% by 2025.

For Novo, agreements signed last year and this month have put the drugmaker’s goal in reach. Since setting its target in 2015, use of renewable energy had stayed relatively consistent at just under 80%, even dropping one percentage point in 2018.

Last year, however, Novo reached a “long-term solution” for renewable power in Europe with Vattenfall, giving Novo’s European production sites power from Danish wind farms beginning next year.

And an investment in a 672-acre solar panel installation in North Carolina will support renewable power use by Novo’s entire U.S. operations next year, too, the company said.

Drug production is only one source of Novo’s CO2 emissions, however. An annual report from the company showed company cars and business flights accounted for 43% of total emissions from operations and transport.

One goal met, Novo used the announcement as an opportunity for another: zero CO2 emissions across its operations and transport by 2030