Wells Fargo Stories: Funding a solar revolution

Author: Wells Fargo                                                                                                                         Published:  Apirl 22, 2020

Wells Fargo installed its first solar array at its branch in Culver City, California, announcing “Solar Energy Arrives” in 1979.

Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

A color photograph showing the aerial view of lines of cars at a gas station.

Lines at a gas station during the energy crisis of the 1970s.

Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

The 1970s energy crisis and a growing environmental movement created the first commercial solar projects in the 1970s, funded by Wells Fargo.

In the 1950s, commercial solar silicon photovoltaic, or PV, cells came onto the market, and for the first time, the sun powered satellites, radios, and even heating systems. Despite these early successes, the expensive and novel technology did not inspire an immediate energy revolution.

That changed dramatically with the energy crises of the 1970s. The U.S. had about 6% of the world’s population, but used 30% of the world’s energy, and that demand kept growing. As limited supply and greater demand led to price spikes, President Richard Nixon started price controls in 1971 to create artificially affordable gas. His domestic policies could not influence the international market, however.

America had ceased being an exporter of oil in the 1950s, and depended on imports for about one-third of its energy by the 1970s. In 1973, the U.S. allied in support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries united to retaliate with an embargo on oil exports. The cost of a barrel of oil jumped immediately from $3 to $12. Gas stations closed as cars lined around the block to fill their tank. Families bought sweaters and dropped their home heating thermostats to a recommended 68 degrees. The first federal speed limits were posted on the nation’s highways to reduce unnecessary speed and gas usage.

The first embargo lasted only five months but resulted in years of additional disruptions, brownouts, gas shortages, and fear. The crisis deepened with another embargo following the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

At the same time, Americans debated the impact of energy production as the early environmental movement took shape. People searching for cleaner air and water organized and helped create the first federal regulation of pollution. Concerned citizens gathered to celebrate the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

Growing environmental activism ensured that the U.S. would invest in green energy solutions as it looked for solutions to the energy crisis. Government grants funded research projects, and the state and federal tax deductions encouraged a revolution of energy efficiency. Private investment from banks like Wells Fargo offered additional momentum.

Investing in early technologies

In 1976, developers in California’s Silicon Valley wanted to be part of the green energy movement. After learning that about 30% of domestic energy use came from space heating, the developers sought a better solution with a solar-powered heating and cooling system for a new project.

Many homes today use solar panels as an alternative to the electrical grid. But technical limitations at the time turned heating and cooling into the most popular use of solar power. These thermal solar systems used the heat of the sun to warm water circulated through panels in copper tubes. Sophisticated air control systems manipulated the resulting air currents to make a building warmer or colder.

A black and white illustration of two buildings. Each has a wing at a 45-degree angle to the building that holds the solar panels.
Placed at a 45-degree angle to the building, the solar array at this industrial park in California was the largest installation of its time for a commercial space. Wells Fargo loans helped ensure its construction.

Photo: National Archives

While some industrial plants had retrofitted buildings with solar-powered heating, the Silicon Valley developers planned to utilize solar from the start, making it possibly the first solar system planned for a new commercial building. At more than 100,000 square feet, it was also believed to be the largest industrial use of solar in the U.S. at the time. While many banks considered solar a risky investment, Wells Fargo provided $2 million in construction loans to the project — more than $9 million adjusted for inflation today. The building opened in 1978 to national attention as representative of a new era in American architecture.

Since then, the solar industry has continued to evolve. Technology has become more efficient and more affordable, even resulting in energy surpluses. Wells Fargo has continued to invest in renewable energy projects.

Solar at Wells Fargo

Just as families and communities faced difficulties during the energy crisis, Wells Fargo and other banks saw their operations costs skyrocket. Companywide conservation drives turned off signs and lowered heat. From 1973 to 1974, Wells Fargo reduced its energy use by 24%.

A diagram showing how light is converted into energy using a solar thermal system.
A diagram explaining the solar thermal heating and cooling system first used at the Wells Fargo branch in Culver City, California, in 1979.

Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

Meanwhile, the Corporate Responsibility Committee at Wells Fargo set goals for greener alternatives. In 1979, Wells Fargo installed a solar heating and cooling system as a test at a branch in Culver City in sunny Southern California. As the property manager said at the time, “You can talk theory forever, but until you actually try it, you don’t really know how effective it will be.”

The branch used an array of 840 square feet of solar panels to heat water in copper tubes. Glass walls ensured that customers could see the $48,000 solar thermal system at work. As solar technology continued to evolve, Wells Fargo continued experimenting with solar systems and renewable energy.

A color photograph showing the aerial view of a solar array on top of a Wells Fargo building.
Solar array on a branch in the Denver metro area, 2011.

Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

The Environmental Protection Agency recognized Wells Fargo as the nation’s largest purchaser of Renewable Energy Certificates in 2006, the same year the company launched a business focused solely on providing financing to renewable energy projects. The company made a sector-leading renewable energy commitment in 2016, and began meeting 100% of its global electricity requirements with renewable energy the following year.

Today, Wells Fargo maintains solar arrays on 16 properties, in addition to a number of solar-powered ATMs, and has announced plans to bring on-site solar generation to close to 100 new branch and corporate buildings.

Wells Fargo solar timeline

2005-2006

  • Wells Fargo announces 10-point Environmental Commitment that includes the company’s first sustainable finance goal: $1 billion in lending over five years to green companies.

2014

  • Wells Fargo and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory launch the Innovation Incubator (IN2) program, today a $30 million environmental grant program designed to accelerate the development and commercialization of early-stage clean technologies and foster a clean technology ecosystem.

2015

  • Projects owned in whole or in part by Wells Fargo produce more than 10% of all solar photovoltaic and wind energy generated in the U.S.

2017

  • Wells Fargo begins meeting 100% of global electricity requirements with renewable energy, primarily through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, in line with the first phase of its 2020 renewable energy goal.

2018

2019

  • Wells Fargo announces a renewable energy transaction that will power 400 Wells Fargo properties in Texas from a new utility-scale solar installation in the state. It is the first major transaction under the second phase of the company’s renewable energy goal — to transition from purchasing RECs to entering into long-term contracts that support the development of net-new renewable assets located near its load centers. The company also announces it will expand its portfolio of on-site solar arrays to more than 100 corporate properties.

    The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator is selected as a Bloomberg New Economy Forum Solution and received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation 2019 Citizens Award for Environmental Stewardship.

Energy Department Announces Grand Prize Winners of American-Made Solar Prize Round 2

Author: event, U.S. DOE of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy      Published:  8/30/2020        EERE

Solar Energy Technologies Office

Solar Prize Announcement

Washington D.C. — Today, at a live, virtual event, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Assistant Secretary Daniel R Simmons announced the grand prize winners of the second round of the American-Made Solar Prize, a $3 million competition designed to increase U.S. solar manufacturing competitiveness. The two winning teams will each receive $500,000.

“The American-Made Solar Prize was created to help bring solar technology to market faster by bridging the gap between the laboratory and commercialization,” said Assistant Secretary Simmons. “In less than a year, these two winning teams developed prototypes that are ready for industry testing, showing that the competition is driving innovation and creating new opportunities for American entrepreneurs.”

In addition to the cash prize, both teams received $75,000 in vouchers redeemable at the National Labs and other facilities in the American-Made Network. This network comprises select technology incubators, accelerators, investors, and industry resources that support the competitors’ efforts to raise private funding and provide technical support.

The Round 2 winners are:

  • Resilient Power Systems (Georgetown, TX) – This team is developing a hybrid inverter that enables interconnection between solar, storage, and other energy resources, using a novel technology platform. Their power router enables direct connection of these resources to the medium-voltage distribution grid, integrating transformers and inverters into a single unit.
  • SunFlex Solar (Tempe, AZ) – This team is replacing high-cost copper backsheets on standard back-contacted silicon solar cells with lower-cost aluminum. They will use a high-speed laser to weld the aluminum backsheet to the silicon wafer.

The American-Made Solar Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is funded by EERE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. The Round 1 winners were announced in September 2019. Round 3 is underway, and winners will be announced in December 2020. Round 4 launched in July and is seeking new competitors who have identified a critical challenge related to solar manufacturing. Entrepreneurial students, researchers, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations based in the United States are encouraged to submit their ideas by October 8, 2020.

Read the SETO newsletters for updates on the next round, and learn more about the American-Made Solar Prize.

Oklahoma Case Study: Market Sizing and Underreporting of Cannabis Usage

Author: Kacey Morrissey     Published: 8/24/2020         New Frontier Data

By Kacey Morrissey, Senior Director of Industry Analytics, New Frontier Data

Marking the unparalleled growth of the state’s program, near the start of this month Oklahoma had registered nearly 330,000 medical cannabis patients. Even so, there is no sign of participation slowing down: Registered patients now account for about 11% of the Sooner State’s adult (age 18+) population, meaning that its medical program participants nearly match the state’s total cannabis consumer population. They had already exceeded Oklahoma’s estimated number of heavy (i.e., monthly or more frequent use) cannabis consumers.

What is being seen in Oklahoma illustrates complications which can arise from trying to measure cannabis use though self-reported surveys (e.g., SAMSHA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health). A host of factors lend themselves to underreporting when measuring drug use with surveys, the most significant for U.S. respondents being the onus of federal prohibition.

With past-month usage rates at 7.8%, Oklahoma had the nation’s 8th-lowest reported rate of cannabis use. Nearly a dozen states (e.g., Vermont, Oregon, Maine, Colorado, etc.) report usage rates at 2x the levels seen in Oklahoma. Given the rapid expansion of public acceptance toward cannabis nationally (with a dramatic rise in aggregate usage rates seen nationwide), low reported numbers in Oklahoma and other historically, deeply conservative states raises the question of possible self-censoring that could be artificially suppressing reported usage rates.

Should the lower reported use rates across the bottom tier of state markets also reflect timidity about policy and stigma, then those usage rates are likewise underreported. As seen in markets that have turned legal (e.g., Vermont, Oregon, etc.), the margins of underreporting decrease with time following legalization.

For the time being, however, total estimates for cannabis market demand (being largely based on survey data) are prone to underreporting errors in the near term. Nevertheless, while estimates for the total U.S. population of cannabis consumers may skew conservatively in the near term, New Frontier Data anticipates that growing acceptance and normalization of cannabis use will lead to more precise estimates, and more complete, comprehensive, and accurate consumer reporting in coming years.

Facebook’s grants for Black-owned small businesses are now up for grabs

Author: Corinne Reichert         Published: 8/19/2020                C/NET

facebook-logo-phone-laptop-3019
Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook has announced that applications are now open for more than $40 million in grants for Black-owned businesses. As of Wednesday, majority Black-owned US businesses with up to 50 employees can apply for the grant online.

Black-owned businesses can also now self-designate their Facebook page as being Black-owned. The designation won’t appear publicly on the profile or page, but it will come up as being Black-owned in the Businesses Nearby section.

Facebook added it’s already distributed the majority of its COVID-19 grants to small businesses whose revenue has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as Black Lives Matter protests are continuing across the US as people demonstrate against the deaths at the hands of the police of George FloydBreonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and against systemic racism.

Black Lives Matter. Visit blacklivesmatter.carrd.co to learn how to donate, sign petitions and protest safely

Deadline  To apply:  August 31, 2020

 

“Deflect, Delay, Defer”: Decade of Pacific Gas & Electric Wildfire Safety Pushback Preceded Disasters

Author: Katie Worth: Karen Pinchin: Lucie Sullivan  Published: 8/18/2020    FRONTLINE

PG&E subcontractors assess vegetation at risk for catching fire near Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2018, five days after a PG&E transmission line sparked the Camp Fire.

PG&E subcontractors assess vegetation at risk for catching fire near Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2018, five days after a PG&E transmission line sparked the Camp Fire. (Anne Wernikoff/KQED)
In partnership with:
This story was co-published with KQED.

After sparking a series of deadly fires in Northern California and then shutting off power to millions of people in an attempt to avoid sparking more, Pacific Gas & Electric has started on an ambitious slate of upgrades that it says will drastically reduce the number of new fires sparked by its electrical equipment.

The utility giant’s leaders have said that transformation may take as long as a decade. But a detailed review of documents and hearings shows that PG&E spent the last 10 years resisting many of those very same reforms.

A FRONTLINE investigation found dozens of instances of such pushback: For instance, the company fought a proposal that it report every fire its equipment caused, describing the measure as an “unnecessary cost” of time and resources in a 2010 filing. The following year, responding to another proposal, its attorneys wrote that “PG&E does not agree that it is necessary to require a formal plan specific to fire prevention.” And for years, the Northern California company argued to regulators that it shouldn’t be held to the same standards as its Southern California counterparts, saying wind-driven fire risk in its territory was significantly lower than in Southern California.

These battles unfolded mainly within a little-publicized proceeding overseen by its regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission. In recent years, the commission has monitored the utilities’ fire safety more aggressively. But from 2008 to 2018, even as it wrote rules aimed at reducing utility wildfires, the commission didn’t have a single staff member who specialized in wildfire prevention. During that period, according to three former employees, the commission was hamstrung by too few enforcement officers and distracted by simultaneous investigations into other utility catastrophes, which allowed utility lawyers to dominate its proceedings.

In many cases, PG&E could have upgraded its systems and passed along those costs to its consumers as rate increases. After starting a devastating fire in 2018, the company filed for bankruptcy. Its exit plan, approved in June, leaves the company as much as $38 billion in debt, including $13.5 billion in compensation owed to people who lost their homes and businesses in fires over the last several years.

PG&E wasn’t the only utility that pushed back against fire-prevention regulations. California’s two other major investor-owned utilities, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, usually sided with them. But documents and interviews suggest that the vigor and persistence of PG&E’s resistance stood out.

“On a scale from one to 10, where 10 is really obstructive and zero is completely cooperative, I would have put PG&E at a nine,” said Mark Ferron, a CPUC commissioner from 2011 to 2014.

“The culture of PG&E has been to push back,” said Timothy Alan Simon, the former CPUC commissioner assigned to oversee the first years of the proceeding. “I think that kind of attitude has backfired.”

The uncooperative power company, together with an overwhelmed regulator, a rapidly warming climate, and a growing population living in California’s tinder-dry forests, combined to set the stage for tragedy: PG&E equipment has been found responsible for numerous wildfires in recent years, including the 2018 Camp Fire that burned nearly 14,000 homes and killed scores of people in the town of Paradise and nearby communities. In June, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the blaze.

PG&E equipment has been found responsible for numerous damaging wildfires in recent years, including the devastating 2018 Camp Fire that burned 11,000 homes and killed 85 people around the town of Paradise.

The 2018 Camp Fire burned 11,000 homes and killed 85 people around the town of Paradise.

FRONTLINE’s review of hundreds of documents filed with CPUC between 2008 and 2019 reveals that PG&E and its regulators repeatedly failed to swiftly adopt stringent safety measures. The story those records tell has been corroborated by interviews with more than a dozen experts and officials, some now retired, who attended years of hearings and workshops. PG&E’s recent embrace of fire safety policies, they say, has taken place only after years of resistance — a pattern that caused them deep exasperation.

“Deflect, delay, defer … we would joke that these were the rules of utility rulemaking,” said Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Todd, one of the few firefighting professionals who attended the CPUC hearings. “There was just no movement. It felt that they were just going to run out the clock on you.”

Many fire prevention measures were first proposed by a small, determined cadre of safety advocates long before they were forced upon the utilities by the CPUC or frustrated state lawmakers.

“We called it the glacial rodeo,” said Joseph Mitchell, a San Diego County resident who devoted years advocating for greater fire safety. “PG&E was just very, very hesitant. … I think it’s come back to bite them now.”

“There was just no movement. It felt that they were just going to run out the clock on you.”
– John Todd, Los Angeles County deputy fire chief

Responding to a list of questions regarding the pushback on fire safety measures described in this story, PG&E spokesperson Jennifer Robison said in an email that “PG&E is very much focused on the future and re-imagining the company as one driven by the twin goals of safety and better serving our customers.” The devastating 2017 and 2018 fires “have made it clear that we must work together to continue to do what we must to keep our customers, their families and communities safe,” she said.

Robison points to the “state-of-the-art technology and techniques” the company has implemented in the last three years, including new fire-spread modeling, hundreds of new weather stations and cameras that allow for more granular weather forecasting and fire monitoring, and line inspections that sometimes include drones and helicopters. She says PG&E has begun replacing conventional power lines in wildfire-prone areas with insulated “tree wire” that’s less likely to spark a blaze if it comes into contact with vegetation. And she says the company has begun the process of dividing up its distribution system so that fire safety power shutoffs affect fewer people. These and other measures “lessen the risk that our equipment will start a wildfire.”

She referred to a summary on PG&E’s website detailing the many strides the company has made toward fire safety over the last three years.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson addressed the utility's widespread power shutoffs at an emergency meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission on Oct. 18, 2019.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson addressed the utility’s widespread power shutoffs at an emergency meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission on Oct. 18, 2019. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

“We remain deeply, deeply sorry for the terrible devastation we have caused,” said former company CEO William Johnson in a June 18 public statement accompanying the company’s guilty plea for the Camp Fire deaths. “We are intently focused on reducing the risk of wildfire in our communities.”

Asked to respond to charges that the CPUC’s approach to wildfire safety wasn’t aggressive enough in the years leading to the disasters of 2017 and 2018, commission spokesperson Terrie Prosper said in an email that the agency has been “working hard to address wildfire issues, both by ramping up staffing and by creating new policies and working with sister agencies. … Since the massive wildfires began a few years ago, the CPUC has taken a number of steps to ensure rules were in place for utilities, who have an obligation to safely operate their systems.”

After more than 100 deaths in PG&E-caused fires since 2015, critics of the utility and its regulator say such changes have come too late.

“It was so frustrating to have worked so hard on this for so long, and to have this horrendous failure.”
Joseph Mitchell, physicist and San Diego resident

Former CPUC commissioner Catherine Sandoval says PG&E knew it had a wildfire problem fueled by drought and bark-beetle tree die-offs long before taking its recent steps.

“They knew that their territory was very vulnerable to wildfire,” she said. “Any assertion that they were just getting started on it in 2019 is disingenuous.”

In November 2018, Mitchell was devastated as he listened to news reports of the Camp Fire.

“I had tears streaming down my face,” he said. “I mean, it was so frustrating to have worked so hard on this for so long, and to have this horrendous failure.”

‘Trench warfare’

Mitchell, a physicist who worked in Europe before moving to California, bought his white, two-story San Diego County bungalow in 1999. Surrounded by crooked cacti and leggy rose bushes, the home sits atop a scrub-lined road northeast of San Diego in an area historically prone to devastating wildfires. In dry years — meaning most years — any wayward spark can ignite an inferno.

Haunted by the prospect that a wildfire could reduce his life to rubble, Mitchell rigged a rooftop watering system to protect his home in 2003. Soon after, a fire destroyed hundreds of nearby homes. Thanks to his system, when Mitchell and his wife Diane Conklin returned to theirs, roses still bloomed around their unscathed home.

When San Diego Gas & Electric proposed a new power line through the neighborhood, Mitchell began investigating its potential fire risk and found a stunning relationship: Electrical equipment starts 10 percent or fewer of California’s fires, but has caused 40 percent of the state’s worst blazes. That’s because the high winds that can snap power poles and bring down lines can transform a spark into a catastrophe. When SDG&E equipment ignited the Witch Fire in 2007, Mitchell’s home again survived — but 1,100 others did not. He and Conklin decided they had to do more to protect their community.

San Diego engineer Joseph Mitchell designed and rigged this rooftop watering system in 2003 to protect his family's home from fire-swept embers.

Before he became involved in state-level hearings on wildfire safety, San Diego-area physicist Joseph Mitchell designed this rooftop watering system to protect his own home from fire. (Courtesy of Joseph Mitchell)

So did the CPUC: In late 2008, the regulator opened a proceeding aimed at preventing future utility-caused fires. Thus began a years-long process in which stakeholders — including utility companies, state and city agencies, telecommunications firms, safety advocates and CPUC officials — could propose and debate new rules the utilities would have to follow.

Mitchell and Conklin, a law school graduate, threw themselves into the process as advocates under the name Mussey Grade Road Alliance, after their San Diego County community. Mitchell consulted wildfire experts and immersed himself in research papers while Conklin handled the legal paperwork. To encourage public involvement in proceedings, the CPUC pays participants for their time and labor; since 2006, Mitchell estimates that the couple has received close to $700,000 from the CPUC for their work on wildfires.

As the proceeding unfolded, it calcified into a series of standoffs between opposing camps. On one side: Mitchell, Conklin, a handful of municipal fire and elected officials, and the CPUC Consumer Protection and Safety Division — the department tasked with advocating for safety. On the other: attorneys representing the utilities.

Southern California Edison, with territory far larger than San Diego Gas & Electric’s but not as sprawling or complex as PG&E’s, was dogged by the danger of the region’s famous Santa Ana winds. Despite this specter of higher fire risk, their attorneys nearly always sided with PG&E during the hearings.

SDG&E, which has the smallest and simplest system of the three major utilities, was the most likely to agree to proposed fire safety rules, as it had already invested in reforms after its equipment had touched off major fires in 2003 and 2007.

“They wanted to make some real changes,” said Los Angeles County Fire’s John Todd.

Todd had trained as a forester before being hired by the county’s fire agency and believed safety should trump financial considerations. He expected to be involved in the CPUC proceeding for a few months at the most.

“Eventually I learned that this was going to be a long game,” Todd said. He attended meetings for years, growing incredulous at how long it took to get new rules written. “It was trench warfare. … We weren’t moving, we were just locked into place.”

The workload was unsustainable, Todd says, and he eventually stepped back to focus on pressing safety issues in his own community. That left the process even more vulnerable to domination by the utilities, he said, because once everyone else returned to their day jobs, “who’s over there still working on the rule book?”

Another official at many hearings was now-retired Laguna Beach Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse. He recalls that utility lawyers would frequently call for a vote over a motion, transforming a regulatory process into a democratic one. “It was all run by the utilities,” he said.

He often found himself the only fire official present during a given hearing, but was convinced that if other local fire officials had known about the proceeding, they would have been there. The Laguna Beach team became so frustrated with the lack of community involvement that they reached out to their state senator, John Moorlach. In 2016, Moorlach introduced a bill that would have required the CPUC and Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, to consult with local officials and fire departments in identifying areas where overhead power lines posed an increased wildfire risk. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, saying the agencies were already addressing the issue.

Simon, the CPUC commissioner, admits the regulator has not always been rigorous about encouraging public involvement, a “blind spot” that can tilt the balance of power.

“The utilities have a very deep bench, which oftentimes can outmatch local governments or other intervenors,” he said.

In many cases, the commission eventually did rule in favor of safety policies — but only after years of contentious hearings. Several people, including three former CPUC employees, told FRONTLINE that the regulator’s biggest problem was an absence of in-house expertise.

“We had a very skeleton internal staff that didn’t really have any kind of wildfire expertise,” said Mike Florio, a former commissioner who oversaw the proceeding between 2011 and 2017. “I guess it’s human nature, you don’t get a focus on something until it becomes a problem.”

The commission has since addressed its understaffing, said CPUC spokesperson Prosper: In 2018, the agency hired its first three engineers dedicated to wildfires. At the direction of the Legislature, the CPUC has established a new Wildfire Safety Division, which will audit and evaluate utilities’ safety plans. Another new division will provide advisory support to CPUC on safety policies.

‘A waste of Commission staff and utility time’

Almost as soon as the 2008 wildfire safety proceeding began, its slow pace worried CPUC’s safety division. In a March 2009 filing, commission engineer Ray Fugere wrote that “certain entities… would have the commission act like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. … Fires ignited by electric power lines have been responsible for some of the largest wildland fires in California’s history.”

A PG&E worker prepares to cut damaged power lines near Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2018, five days after a PG&E transmission line sparked the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in modern California history. The blaze leveled the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

A PG&E worker prepares to cut damaged power lines near Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2018, five days after a PG&E transmission line sparked the Camp Fire. (Anne Wernikoff/KQED)

To understand how the utilities influenced the pace and outcome of the proceeding, FRONTLINE’s investigation focused on three proposed rules: One would require utilities to report each fire that their equipment started. A second would create detailed maps to identify fire-prone parts of the system. A third would require utilities to create contingency plans for extreme winds.

Mitchell’s group made the first proposal – that utilities track and report every fire – as soon as the proceeding began. As it stood, utilities only reported fires that burned more than 100 acres. But Mitchell believed that gathering data on all fires — even small ones — would help utilities identify problem areas and prevent larger blazes.

PG&E immediately opposed the idea, saying that earlier efforts to collect such data had proven “a waste of commission staff and utility time” and that being required to disclose its role in fires could create new legal liabilities. Mitchell “would like to have the electric utilities collect fire incident data on the theory that it might be helpful for study in the future,” wrote PG&E’s attorneys in January 2010. PG&E put forth an alternate proposal, which would require utilities and the CPUC’s safety division to jointly assess “adequacy of fire-related data.”

Initially, the CPUC rejected both Mitchell’s and PG&E’s proposals. “We are not convinced that the … proposal to require [utilities] to report detailed data on all power-line fires will be any more successful than our previous effort,” it wrote in a 2012 decision. But the commission promised to reconsider the issue in a future phase of the proceeding.

Mitchell’s group continued to advocate for fire reporting, while PG&E and Southern California Edison persisted in their opposition, now arguing the idea was impractical because it would largely rely on “field observations made by utility personnel who are not trained forensic fire investigators.” Finally, in 2013, PG&E and Edison agreed to the mandate after negotiating changes that would limit their liability. But even after that, PG&E and Edison pushed for the rule to apply exclusively to “extreme” or “very high” fire threat areas.

It wasn’t until 2014 — the proceeding’s sixth year — that the commission finally mandated utilities track and report all fires, noting that PG&E and Edison remained “lukewarm” about the plan while SDG&E “strongly” supported it.

PG&E’s Robison did not comment on the company’s opposition to reporting its system’s fires, but she said that data now provides “an invaluable tool” for PG&E and regulators, allowing them to “evaluate diverse risks, better understand the effects of extreme weather, and, most importantly, improve wildfire safety.” She noted that the reported data has shown that the majority of fires associated with its system were “relatively small in size” and occurred outside high-risk areas. Further, she said, the data has shown that the number of fires within its highest risk territories has decreased by nearly 30 percent over the last two years, she said.

‘A fire prevention plan is not necessary’

A second key proposal made early in the rulemaking would require utilities to create contingency plans for the extreme winds that can cause fast-moving, destructive wildfires. The utilities could then assess what equipment might be vulnerable under worst-case wind conditions and either reinforce it or take other safety steps, like power shutoffs.

Again, PG&E pushed back, describing the idea as “misplaced” for several reasons: It fell under an inappropriate legal framework; duplicated plans already in existence; and assumed that “somehow utilities (or anyone else) can predict wildfires started by” power lines. Edison endorsed PG&E’s position, adding that the company “does not believe such costs are outweighed by the uncertain benefits of this proposal.”

PG&E also argued that if adopted, the mandate should only apply to Southern California utilities: “High winds in Northern California are most frequently associated with winter storms (not summer fire risk) and may not play as great a role in potential fire risk in Northern California as they do in Southern California,” the company’s lawyers wrote in 2011.

It was an argument PG&E made for years: That it should be held to different fire safety standards than its Southern Californian counterparts. Yet according to fire officials interviewed for this story, the historical record shows that wind-driven wildfire has always been a part of Northern California’s landscape.

“A fire prevention plan is not necessary.”
PGE, in a 2012 CPUC hearing document

In its 2012 decision, the CPUC required the two Southern California utilities to create fire prevention plans while asking PG&E to make a “good faith” effort to determine if its territory needed one too. Months later, PG&E told the commission that it had done its due diligence and “determined a fire prevention plan is not necessary” for its Northern California facilities. However, it nonetheless included a six-page summary of its territory-wide fire prevention and mitigation plans. The CPUC in 2013 approved the filing despite protests from Mitchell’s group that it was grossly inadequate.

It took a disaster of historic proportions and a sweeping change in state law to force PG&E to finally create a rigorous, enforceable fire protection plan. Power line-sparked fires swept through parts of Northern California in October 2017, destroying nearly 10,000 structures and killing 44 people. State Sen. Bill Dodd, who represents a wine country district that saw some of the worst of the destruction, was so incensed that PG&E lacked a legally binding wildfire safety plan that he wrote a law requiring the state’s utilities to develop plans or face criminal charges.

In February 2019, PG&E submitted the first of its newly required annual wildfire mitigation plans. In that 145-page blueprint, the company envisioned spending at least $1.7 billion for a program including improved infrastructure, a dramatically expanded effort to find and trim or remove dangerous trees near power lines, and expanding its network of remote weather stations to provide better awareness during periods of high fire danger. The plan also relied heavily on public safety power shutoffs to minimize the risk of wildfires during extremely windy, dry weather.

A CPUC administrative law judge signed off on the plan, though she identified several aspects of PG&E’s plan that required improvement in the following years’ plans. Responding, PG&E wrote, “we will not solve the problems of catastrophic wildfires in one year.”

Asked about the utility’s initial resistance to creating a fire contingency plan, PG&E’s Robison referred to a section of the 2012 decision in which the CPUC echoed the PG&E’s longstanding argument that Southern California “is the area of the state with the greatest risk” of utility-caused fires. Edison’s spokesman David Song said his company had never been “opposed to performing risk analysis on equipment based on high winds in high fire areas,” but rather contested the legal framework of the proposal and believed it conflicted with other requirements.

PG&E got mixed reviews for its execution of the first year’s plan. Unlike 2017 and 2018, no one died in fires sparked by the company’s equipment. But its widespread power shutoffs, which reached a climax during prolonged windstorms in October 2019 when more than 1 million customers were blacked out, were initially plagued by poor communication with the public. Although the utility reported it found hundreds of locations where the shutoffs probably prevented fires, one of its high-voltage transmission lines touched off one of the year’s most destructive blazes — the Kincade Fire, which broke out as 80 m.p.h. gusts raked a mountainous area north of San Francisco. About 200,000 people were forced from their homes during the incident, which destroyed 374 structures.

A battle over maps

A third proposal advocated by Mitchell’s group and the CPUC’s safety division championed the creation of elaborate statewide fire maps overseen by the commission. Fire scientists have long known that a granular map of winds and other weather factors, layered on maps of vegetation, topography, human settlement and power lines, can provide invaluable insight into where fires may start and spread. Such maps could help utilities focus maintenance work on the areas at highest risk.

San Diego Gas & Electric had already mapped its system. PG&E and Southern California Edison were open to the idea, but pushed back on a series of specifics. PG&E attorneys asked that the CPUC not enforce the maps in an “absolute or prescriptive” way. “It should be made clear in the standard or rule that the maps are simply a guideline, and not the ultimate authority,” PG&E attorneys wrote in 2009.

The CPUC adopted interim fire maps for Southern California that year, but when Mitchell’s group and the commission’s safety division pushed for statewide maps with detailed wind data, Edison said the proposal would “impose significant costs on the utilities” and would duplicate work already done.

“Do not adopt,” PG&E attorneys wrote. “[The proposal] should be rejected outright. It overreaches in many respects, including the fact that it proposes that the maps be funded by the [utilities].” The company began suggesting the commission postpone the map question until a later phase of the proceeding, a suggestion the CPUC agreed to over the objections of safety advocates.

“We have been promised a steak, and it has been turned into a hash, and then put into a stew, which has been used to make a soup.”
Joseph Mitchell, in a 2017 CPUC hearing document

By 2015, PG&E and SoCal Edison had stopped resisting the concept but continued to influence the plan in ways that safety advocates believed delayed its implementation and diminished its rigor. That May, the CPUC opened a whole new proceeding to specifically focus on the maps and other issues that hadn’t been resolved.

Even in 2016, after Cal Fire concluded PG&E equipment had sparked a 70,000-acre wind-driven fire in Amador and Calaveras counties the year before, the utility continued to assert the fire threat in its territory was “very different from conditions in Southern California.”

Around then, Mitchell noticed that wind-specific maps — the core of his initial proposal — had been diluted.

“We have been promised a steak, and it has been turned into a hash, and then put into a stew, which has been used to make a soup,” Mitchell wrote. “If the commission is to deliver on what it has promised ratepayers in this proceeding … it will need to pull the steak back out of the soup.”

“[PG&E] knew that their territory was very vulnerable to wildfire.”
Catherine Sandoval, former CPUC commissioner

In January 2018 — nearly a decade after the mapping proposal was first made — the CPUC adopted new fire maps and required utilities to use remote weather stations to monitor high winds. Mitchell notes that the maps still lack the detailed wind data that would help utilities pinpoint vulnerable infrastructure.

Asked recently about its early opposition to detailed, CPUC-managed maps, Edison’s spokesperson, Song, said the utility’s “concern was procedural in nature, not with the substance of the rulemaking.” In response to a similar inquiry, PG&E’s Robison said the current map is helping PG&E and others prioritize safety, prevention and response efforts. She added that it shows how dramatically climate impacts are increasing fire risk. “In less than a decade, the area served by PG&E that the CPUC designated to be at a high risk of wildfire has tripled from 15 percent to more than 50 percent,” she said.

Stopping sparks

Regulatory hearings weren’t the only arena in which PG&E took a sluggish approach to addressing fire safety. FRONTLINE’s investigation found the utility also failed to adopt a risk-reduction technique that had been used by other utilities for years.

When power lines suffer a problem — for instance, a branch striking the line — devices called “reclosers” will halt the flow of electricity, then immediately try to restore it. (When lights flicker at a home or an office building, it’s likely due to a recloser doing its job.)

For at least 30 years, utilities have known that reclosers can also start fires. For instance, if a line breaks and falls on brush-covered ground, the recloser’s attempt to resume the flow of power can spark a fire. A 1989 booklet titled “Power Line Fire Prevention Field Guide,” written by utility companies in conjunction with state fire agencies, outlined the risk: “Automatic reclosers, by re-energizing the line… increase the probability of ignition,” the booklet said.

As a result, many utilities have long-standing policies to turn off reclosers during fire season, opting for the laborious but safer method of sending out a crew to manually check a power line when it faults. Southern California Edison told FRONTLINE that it has had a policy in place to block reclosers during fire season since at least 1956; SDG&E began doing the same after its 2007 fire and hasn’t identified a recloser-linked fire since.

“That’s a real basic, easy thing to do,” said Hal Mortier, SDG&E’s retired head of fire safety.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) workers install a Viper Recloser in Yountville, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. The California Public Utilities Commission proposed to require large investor-owned utilities to speed up the deployment of microgrids and other so-called resiliency projects to minimize the impacts of wildfire-induced outages and power shut-offs. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

PG&E workers install a Viper Recloser in Yountville, California in April 2020. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Regulators raised the danger of reclosers with PG&E more than once: Former commissioner Simon said the regulator had “extensive dialogue” about reclosers with all utilities after the 2007 Witch Fire in San Diego County. And at a state Senate hearing in 2015, Sen. Jerry Hill of suburban San Francisco again asked utility officials about recloser risks. Representatives from SDG&E and Edison said they had recloser policies in place, while Pat Hogan, a PG&E senior vice president, said his company’s policy was “very similar to my colleagues’.”

In fact, PG&E did not have a formal recloser policy — a reality that came to light two years later when an active recloser re-energized a fallen line north of San Francisco, sparking a fire. It joined with four other nearby fires, part of the October 2017 wildfire siege, which ultimately killed three people and burned 172 structures.

PG&E only implemented a system-wide recloser shutoff policy in June 2018, after Sen. Hill authored a bill mandating they do so. When asked by FRONTLINE why the company had long failed to adopt such a measure, PG&E’s Robison did not respond directly, but rather outlined the specifics of the June 2018 program they were legally required to implement.

“We are able to disable reclosing on those line reclosers based on a daily decision-making process during periods of high fire danger, as determined by our Wildfire Safety Operations Center,” Robison said.

A Right to Expect Better

After killing scores of people and destroying billions of dollars of property, PG&E has now adopted a drastic new measure: It routinely cuts power to large portions of the state during times of high fire risk.

San Diego Gas & Electric started giving the measure considerable thought more than a decade ago. After the Witch Fire, SDG&E asked the CPUC for a special proceeding to develop a policy on power shutoffs during high winds. It implemented its first power shutoff under that policy in 2013, and then invested in grid upgrades allowing the utility to, for example, cut power to homes on a single ridge rather than to a whole city. The utility has also ramped up communication systems to notify customers as threatening conditions develop.

“No company makes any money when it is forced to terminate power.”
PG&E filing from 2010

PG&E and SoCal Edison declined to participate in the proceeding that created the first preemptive power shutoff rules. When the subject was raised in 2010, PG&E said it had little interest.

“No company makes any money when it is forced to terminate power,” utility attorneys wrote. “Termination of power at multiple locations is the last thing that a utility wants to do.” As recently as January 2018, just months after disastrous electricity-sparked fires swept Northern California, PG&E’s former senior vice president Pat Hogan said in a state Senate hearing that the company was open to the idea, but did not have plans to implement it.

This changed months later, after CalFire concluded that PG&E equipment had caused 12 of the previous year’s fires. In October 2018, PG&E conducted its first major intentional blackout during a period of high winds and extremely low humidity, turning off power to 60,000 customers in seven counties. But an event several weeks later led to a dramatic shift in how PG&E and state regulators looked at public safety power shutoffs.

On Nov. 8, a badly worn piece of equipment on a PG&E transmission tower failed, providing the spark that ignited the Camp Fire and incinerated Paradise. PG&E’s policy at the time did not include shutting down its high-voltage transmission lines during fire safety blackouts. The utility said doing that would be overly complex, might affect the stability of its power grid and would likely affect millions of people in its service area. The company’s stance changed after the Camp Fire, with PG&E deciding in 2019 it would include transmission lines in its power shutoff plans. Partly as a consequence, the company repeatedly turned off power last fall to hundreds of thousands of customers at a time.

Oakland's darkened Montclair neighborhood at dusk during a PG&E power shutoff on Oct. 10, 2019.

Oakland’s darkened Montclair neighborhood at dusk during a PG&E power shutoff on Oct. 10, 2019. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

Amid widespread criticism of the 2019 shutoffs, PG&E CEO Johnson said it will likely take at least a decade for the company to fortify the system enough to make blackouts unnecessary. That comment drew public outcry, and since then, PG&E has laid out a new plan for power shutoffs, promising future shutoffs will be “smarter, smaller and shorter.”

As California faces the perennial threat of a potentially catastrophic fire season — as well as a global pandemic that threatens to hamper firefighting efforts — many involved in the CPUC wildfire rulemaking reflect on the process with regret: that it took so long; that the commission was hobbled by insufficient expertise; that aggressive safety measures weren’t adopted sooner. It’s impossible to know if those differences could have prevented any given fire, but they cannot help but speculate.

“At the end of the day, I still think that the results are watered down, and it’s for economic reasons,” said retired Laguna Beach Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse. “But look at what these fires are costing [PG&E]. Not just in losses, but in lawsuits.”

After hundreds of hours spent navigating the unwieldy CPUC proceedings, Joseph Mitchell still considers utility-caused wildfires a solvable problem. This gives him hope, as well as commitment to the cause of utility safety.

“The changes have been very slow,” he said. “People have a right to be upset, they have a right to be concerned, and I think they have a right to expect better.”

Michigan Reaches $600M Settlement in Flint Water Crisis Case

Author: Jiquanda Johnson Abby Ellis       Published:8/20/2020           FRONTLINE

Tenise Houston, 44, with her daughter Destiny Hence, 9, and her son Darwin Hence Jr., 10, inside their home on the north side of  Flint, Mich.   in August 2020.

Tenise Houston, 44, with her daughter Destiny Hence, 9, and her son Darwin Hence Jr., 10, inside their home on the north side of Flint, Mich. in August 2020. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

It takes six bottles of water for Tenise Houston to fix just two boxes of macaroni and cheese for her children. The 42-year-old mother of four has become so accustomed to avoiding tap water that she didn’t even realize it’s been over six years since the water supply for the city of Flint, Michigan was first contaminated with high levels of lead.

“It’s just become a way of life,” Houston said, adding: “I do not trust the water.”

Her two youngest children weren’t even in kindergarten when the city began using improperly treated water from the Flint River as its main source in April 2014. Now 9 and 10 years old, they were exposed to lead for nearly 18 months before state and local officials acknowledged what was happening.

“We all (drank) the water before we knew it had lead in it,” she said.

No one has been criminally prosecuted. Last year, the state attorney general dropped all charges against 15 officials connected to the decision to switch the city’s water source and cover up the resulting fallout, leaving residents frustrated and angry.

But now, in a deal that could provide some relief, the state has reached an agreement to settle all Flint water civil cases against the state and its employees. The settlement requires that the state of Michigan pay $600 million into a qualified settlement fund to aid those injured by lead-tainted water, which can cause serious health problems including irreversible brain damage and heart disease.

But the largest benefactors of the settlement are the city’s most vulnerable — the children. Nearly 80 percent of the funds will be distributed to those who were children during the water crisis.

“The settlement recognizes the effects the crisis has had, and will continue to have on the children of Flint,” said Corey Stern, the lead counsel who is representing 2,600 individual children in the litigation. “The most deserving group won in this case — the kids won.”

The settlement allocates nearly 65 percent of the funds to children like Houston’s, who were six and under at their first exposure to Flint water, 10 percent for those who were 7-11, and five percent for ages 12-17. Lead poisoning can be difficult to prove, but in this case, Stern says, Flint kids won’t have to. The settlement assumes lead exposure and damage for all children living in the city during the 18-month period, with increased awards for those who present evidence of personal injuries, blood or bone lead levels, or who lived in homes with lead service lines.

Funds will be set aside for the children until they turn 18, which could lead to higher awards, Stern said. “For a lot of these kids their money will be accruing interest and annuities overtime, so the real value of their settlement is going to be much higher than what it looks like on paper right now.”

The remaining 20 percent will be distributed to adult residents and others exposed to the water, including property owners and businesses.

The settlement also includes those who were exposed to the water and contracted Legionnaires’ disease, a fatal but preventable illness from legionella, a waterborne pathogen. Only 12 residents were reported by the state to have died from the disease. But a FRONTLINE investigation, Flint’s Deadly Water, discovered the toll was far higher, including those who survived their initial diagnosis only to succumb months or years later to complications from the illness.

Stern said: “Families who lost loved ones as a result of exposure to legionella will be substantially compensated for their unnecessary and tragic losses.”

As for Houston, she said she welcomed the settlement, but wanted to know more. “Right now, it sounds like it’s great, because they don’t show any symptoms, but I don’t know what will happen in five years,” Houston said. “When they are 15 or 16, who knows. Will this money actually help in the long run?”

In 2014, state of Michigan officials under the leadership of former Gov. Rick Snyder, made a cost-cutting move to not adequately treat Flint River water. In the fall of 2015 doctors released information that children who consumed the water had elevated blood lead levels. Now health officials say they estimate that 150,000 people were exposed to the water, including people who worked and visited Flint during that time.

The settlement includes only the state of Michigan. Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley declined to comment on whether a settlement could be expected from the city. But he said a settlement moves residents closer to recovery. “As a Flint resident … there’s several levels of benefits to this,” he said. “This is another step forward.”

Stern and his team are still seeking compensation from federal and local entities, including the Environmental Protection Agency and private agencies Veolia, Lockwood, Andrews & Newman Inc., Rowe Engineering and McLaren Regional Medical Center.

He said: “I would tell the people of Flint that this is just the beginning.”


Jiquanda JohnsonFounder and PublisherFlint Beat

Abby EllisFilmmaker-in-ResidenceFRONTLINE

Flint’s Deadly Water

Maryland Governor Signs Bill Helping Homeowners Go Solar

Author:  Baltimore Sun     Published: 8/22/2020      www.baltimoresun.com

Homeowners Go Solar


 

SIGN NOW: Stop drilling in the Arctic!

Author: Hip Hop Caucus               Published: 8/21/2020

Hip Hop Caucus

SIGN NOW: Stop drilling in the Arctic!

Target: Elected Officials

The Administration’s rush to sell-off the Arctic Refuge must be halted. Trump’s Department of the Interior is barreling forward with plans for destructive oil and gas exploration and drilling, disregarding the serious biological, cultural and climate impacts fossil fuel extraction will have in the rapidly-warming Arctic.

The American people were promised a robust, scientifically sound review process with public comment and full tribal consultation. But actions speak louder than words and the Trump administration is rushing headlong to lease the area at the expense of science and sound process.

Together, we are calling upon Congress to put an immediate stop to a selling of public resources that would result not just in devastation for the arctic, but have devastating warming effects on a Global climate which is becoming rapidly uninhabitable for the human race.

 
SPONSORED BY

To: Elected Officials
From: Ronald Bethea

If Black Lives Matter, The Climate matters.
Stop the Trump Administration’s Trump’s Interior’s plan to Melt the Arctic and Destroy the Planet!

Are Renewables+Storage ‘Hybrids’ the Future of Power Generation?

Authvor: AEE Webinars       Published: 8/20/2020                   AEE

 

AEE WEBINARS

Are Renewables+Storage ‘Hybrids’ the Future of Power Generation? 

Recorded on Thursday, August 20th

HybridPowerPlant Webinar

Across the United States, developers are seizing the opportunity to combine advanced generation technologies like solar and wind with energy storage into a single “hybrid” power plant. Hybrids have the potential to bring many benefits to consumers and our power system, including increased efficiency, flexibility, and reliability. A recent FERC technical conference focused on issues related to hybrid resources, and across the country, RTOs/ISOs are looking at how grid planning, operations, interconnection practices, and wholesale energy market rules need to change to capture the value of these resources. Our panel of grid operators, project developers, and hybrid power plant experts discussed the changing resource landscape, ongoing regulatory efforts to incorporate hybrid resources, and what is still needed to allow hybrids to reach their full market potential.

 Panelists
  • Mark Ahlstrom, VP, Renewable Energy Policy, NextEra Energy Resources & NextEra Analytic
  • Kenneth Ragsdale, P.E., Principal, Market Design and Analysis, ERCOT
  • Kelli Joseph, Director, Markets and Regulatory Policy, Clearway
  • Deb Le Vine, Director, Infrastructure Contracts and Management, California ISO
  • Betsy Beck, Director, Organized Markets, Enel North America
  • Caitlin Marquis, Director, Advanced Energy Economy

Hear our grid experts discuss Renewables+Storage ‘Hybrids!’

Watch the Recorded Webinar

New York’s $701 Million Program for EV Charging, By the Numbers

Author: Claire Alford                   Published: 8/19/2020         Advanced Energy Economy    AEE

NY EVSE incentives-745

Last summer, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which adopted the country’s most ambitious climate targets, including 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. With transportation as New York’s largest emission sector, accounting for nearly one-third of the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, transportation electrification is an absolute necessity for meeting those goals. Several years ago, New York set a goal of deploying 850,000 zero-emission vehicles by 2025. Now, thanks to a big new incentive program, the Empire State is going to get ready to charge up all those electric vehicles.

In July, the New York Department of Public Service approved a $701 million electric vehicle (EV) make-ready charging infrastructure program. The program was initially proposed in January 2020 at just under $600 million, but after two rounds of stakeholder comment, the Commission added $100 million in new investments.

The largest state commitment to EV charging outside of California, the EV Make Ready program will fund over 53,000 public Level 2 (L2) charging stations and 1,500 public Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations by 2025. The program is expected to stimulate $1.5 billion in new private investment and provide more than $2.6 billion in consumer benefits and economic opportunities.

The final order, by the numbers:

$480 Million will go toward the “make ready” costs associated with installing 35,217 workplace L2 chargers, 18,556 public L2 chargers, and 1,500 DCFC chargers. The final order expanded the types of charging station locations that will be considered publicly accessible and thus eligible for the maximum incentive levels. Make-ready costs for publicly accessible DCFC within one to two miles of disadvantaged communities and for L2 stations located at multi-unit dwelling resident parking in disadvantaged communities will be eligible for up to 100% funding. Make-ready costs for sites that meet all of the applicable eligibility requirements, including being publicly accessible, will be eligible for up to 90% funding, and sites that do not meet all of the applicable eligibility requirements will be eligible for up to 50% funding.

The final order also clarified what qualifies as “make ready” costs eligible for funding, for both utility-side and customer-side investments. Utility-owned equipment includes traditional distribution infrastructure, i.e., step down transformers, overhead service lines, and the utility meter, and will be installed and owned by the utility. Equipment owned by an EV charging station developer, owner or manager, includes any conductors, trenching, and panels needed for the charging station. The EV charging station itself, power blocks, modules, mounting hardware, and co-located distributed generation or energy storage are not eligible for funding. The final order also allocates $15 million out of this pot of money to the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for the installation of DCFC equipment through its program, Evolve New York.

$85 Million will go to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to put toward three prize programs. These include the Environmental Justice Community Clean Vehicles Transformation prize ($40M), the Clean Personal Mobility prize ($25M), and the Clean Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Innovation prize ($20M). These competitions were added to the final order in response to many parties calling for additional focus on disadvantaged communities, as directed by the CLCPA. The Environmental Justice Community Clean Vehicles Transformation prize will focus on reducing harmful air pollution in frontline communities and creating transportation “green zones” across New York State. The Clean Personal Mobility prize will solicit innovative and high impact approaches that enable access to clean transportation services for disadvantaged and underserved communities. The Clean Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Innovation Prize will examine and prove out innovative approaches to medium- and heavy-duty electrification that can be replicated at scale.

$72 Million will be put toward a fleet assessment service proposed in the Staff Whitepaper, with some modifications. As approved, this assessment service will be open not only to operators of light-duty fleets, but also those managing medium- and heavy-duty fleets.

$38 Million will be allocated to future-proofing expenditures to ensure the longevity and value over time of infrastructure assets. In the final order, the Commission agreed with comments from the Joint Utilities that future-proofing expenditures, such as increasing space available for panel expansion, and installing additional connection points and conduit to permit future expansion of charging facilities, should be recognized as a separate line item inside the Make-Ready Program budget, so that costs associated with preventing future obsolescence will not negatively factor into a utility’s selection of projects. No more than 8% of each utility’s overall program budget will be spent on future-proofing.

$15 Million will be split between the utilities, excluding Con Edison, for the development of a Medium- and Heavy-Duty Fleet Make-Ready Pilot Program. Con Edison must expand its existing Fleet DC Fast Charger Make-Ready Program to include a pilot program for medium- and heavy-duty fleets. The additional focus on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles found in this pilot and other parts of the final order comes in the final order based on many commenting parties calling for increased attention to this important sector.

$10 Million will go to Con Edison, National Grid, and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. (RG&E) to partner with the Capital District Transportation Authority, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Rochester-Genesee Regional Transit Authority, and the Westchester County Bee-Line Bus System, to make-ready bus depots for EV charging. Under this program budget, transit authorities will be eligible for full 100% funding.

In addition to this $701 million program coming through the investor-owned utilities, New York has announced that it will devote $48.8 million of Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement funds to transit bus and school bus operators and EV charging station owners to advance electric vehicle infrastructure, clean public transportation and transit options, and electric school buses.

Approval of the EV Make Ready program represents a much-needed step toward meeting the emissions reductions and vehicle deployment goals established by the State of New York. It will also stimulate much-needed activity in the EV infrastructure market at a time when COVID-19 has slowed economic activity. The program is designed to work in concert with other initiatives that the state already has in place and other initiatives that will need to be developed, including programs developed based on the Memorandum of Understanding that New York recently signed with 14 other states and the District of Columbia pledging to develop an action plan to reduce toxic diesel emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2050. With over 20 bills introduced in the state legislature that focus on EV issues, it is safe to say that these programs are going to have a lot of company.

To download our guide for regulators considering action related to EVs, click below.

 

Progress on our goal to be carbon negative by 2030

Author:  Lucas Joppa                  Published: 7/21/2020         Microsoft On the Issues

In January, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, President Brad Smith, and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood launched a bold new environmental sustainability initiative focusing on carbon, water, waste and biodiversity. We began this work by announcing one of the most ambitious carbon commitments put forward by any company: Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030 and remove from the environment more carbon than we have emitted since our founding by 2050. We outlined a detailed plan to get there and committed to providing updates on our progress. We have been working hard to turn our commitments into action and, today, we are announcing seven important new steps on our path to be carbon negative by 2030.

Enabling cross-sector business transformation

Together with eight other corporations leading the way to a climate-stable future, we have launched a new coalition, Transform to Net Zero. Guided by science and transparency, the coalition will work to accelerate business action toward a net zero carbon economy. Once an organization sets sustainability goals, the hard work of transforming its business to meet them begins. We have heard from both those with carbon goals and those that want to engage but don’t know where to start that they need information and tools to close the gap between intention and transformation. The coalition will begin by bringing together industry leaders with some of the world’s most ambitious carbon goals and will work to create playbooks on how to achieve net zero. The founding members are A.P. Moeller – Maersk, Danone, Mercedes-Benz AG, Microsoft, Natura & Co., Nike, Starbucks, Unilever and Wipro. The Environmental Defense Fund is the founding NGO member and BSR will serve as secretariat.

[Video: Watch Microsoft Inspire, and see our President Brad Smith discuss sustainability and more.]

YouTube Video

The Transform to Net Zero coalition will focus on moving beyond commitments to business transformation. Working together, members will work to enable all businesses to achieve net zero emissions by: sharing the business transformation each company is undertaking to achieve net zero emissions by 2050; delivering robust emission reductions across the business and value chains; working jointly with our partners across supply chains; innovating and investing at scale in products, services and business models that amplify impact; and engaging with policymakers to incentivize progress toward net zero. Importantly, the coalition will also focus on ensuring that the coming transition to a low-carbon economy is an equitable and just one.

Empowering our customers

Today, we’re also announcing the private preview of a new product offering, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator. It’s challenging to make and meet meaningful carbon reduction goals without the ability to measure carbon emissions. The Microsoft Sustainability Calculator provides our cloud customers transparency into their total carbon emissions – Scopes 1, 2 and 3 – resulting from their cloud usage. Microsoft is the only cloud provider to provide full transparency to customers across all three scopes of emissions.

Using AI and advanced analytics, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator provides actionable insights on how to reduce emissions, the ability to forecast emissions, and simplifies carbon reporting. It uses consistent and accurate carbon accounting to quantify the impact of Microsoft cloud services on your environmental footprint. It calculates how moving additional applications and services to the cloud will help further reduce your emissions. It easily identifies and compiles reports for voluntary or statutory reporting requirements.

Reducing our own carbon emissions

To reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions to near zero, we need to change how we operate. We’re on the path to obtaining renewable energy power purchase agreements for 100% of the day-to-day power of our data centers by the middle of this decade. Today, we’re additionally announcing that we’re aiming to eliminate our dependency on diesel fuel by 2030.

Cloud providers around the world rely on diesel-powered generators for backup power to support continuous data center operations. While diesel fuel accounts for less than 1% of our overall emissions, we believe it’s important to help accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels. We’re charting a new course using low-carbon fuel sources, including hydrogen and energy storage. We recognize the challenges this might entail and that we need help in developing a robust supply chain for these fuels and advancements in battery technology, but we’re ready to work with partners across the world while leveraging investments from our Climate Innovation Fund to make this a reality.

On July 1, we extended our internal carbon tax to every part of our operations, including Scope 3. Additionally, we’ve updated our Supplier Code of Conduct. Suppliers will now calculate and report their Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions data. In the upcoming months, we’ll be working with our suppliers on a phased approach to develop a timeline, new ideas, tools and processes. This reporting is the first significant step toward helping our suppliers reduce their emissions in alignment with Microsoft’s goals of transparency in emissions reductions.

Removing our own carbon emissions

Our climate commitments require us to reduce our carbon emissions by more than half by 2030 and remove the rest, while also removing all of our historical emissions since we were founded in 1975 by 2050. We aren’t waiting until 2030 to get started. This fiscal year, Microsoft is taking concrete steps to remove 1 million metric tons of carbon from the environment. As the first step, this week we will issue a groundbreaking request for proposal (RFP) to source that carbon removal from a range of nature- and technology-based solutions that are net negative and verified to a high degree of scientific integrity.

To ensure that our funding will maximize carbon being taken out of the atmosphere, we are doubling down on scientific verification of each project, and using this RFP to harvest and share best available science and market intelligence on carbon removal. Each project will be rigorously vetted and verified by Microsoft as well as our third-party scientific and market advisors, including NGO Winrock International and the advisory firm Carbon Direct, which brings together leading climate science academics.

This is a first-of-its-kind approach and we don’t expect to get everything right. We will learn what works and doesn’t, improving our approach along the way. We will also publicly share our learnings from this process so others can accelerate their own carbon removal efforts.

Using our balance sheet

We’re announcing our first investment from the $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund that Amy Hood announced in January. We will invest $50 million in Energy Impact Partners’ (EIP) global platform for innovation of new technologies to transform the world’s energy and transportation systems, the two sectors that account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. EIP is a leading venture capital firm focused on decarbonized, decentralized energy industry transition that shares learnings among partners and facilitates collaboration.

Investing in climate equity and environmental justice

Finally, we’re taking a step beyond what we announced in January. We recognize that climate and environmental issues don’t affect every community the same way and that we need to address environmental equity as a broader issue. Today, we’re announcing a new innovative partnership with Sol Systems, a renewable energy developer and investor, for 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy that includes investments in communities disproportionately affected by environmental challenges.

This is the single largest renewable energy portfolio investment Microsoft has ever made, and is about a quarter of all of our previously procured renewable energy. Prior to this partnership, the total amount of renewable energy Microsoft has procured is approximately 1.9 gigawatts. To put it in context, 500 MW would power more than 70,000 homes in the US per year.

Some communities are disproportionately affected by environmental issues. The data shows that black and African American people in the United States are exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people and to 50% higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Researchers connect exposure to these increased level of pollutants to higher rates of asthma, lung cancer and heart disease.

Our work with Sol Systems is a first-of-its-kind initiative tying the purchasing of renewable energy to environmental justice and equity in under-resourced communities. Putting into action planning that started in December 2019, this partnership will:

  • Develop a portfolio of 500MW of solar energy projects in the US in under-resourced communities, working with local leaders and prioritizing minority and women-owned businesses
  • Provide at least $50 million for community-led grants and investments that support educational programs, job and career training, habitat restoration and programs that support access to clean energy and energy efficiency
  • Focus on communities that are economically under-resourced, disproportionately impacted by pollution and/or lack access to the benefits of the clean energy transition
  • Ensure that community benefits are realized with accountability measures, including using third-party evaluators to quantify and document social and environmental outcomes of the initiative

As a result of this agreement, Microsoft will be closer to achieving its goals of shifting to 100% renewable energy by 2025 and help address issues of climate equity and environmental justice.

Conclusion

Our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. This is in line with our belief that “the purpose of business is to produce profitable solutions to the problems of people and planet.” That’s why we’re working every day to address the climate crisis. It is good for the planet and it is good for Microsoft.

We cannot achieve our sustainability ambitions alone – this update reflects an extraordinary amount of hard work and dedication across Microsoft and with customers, partners, NGOs and others around the world. Working together, we can build a more sustainable future.

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The Price of a Fully Renewable US Grid: $4.5 Trillion

Author: Chole Holden                   Published: 6/28/2019          GTM

The price tag drops if existing nuclear were kept in the mix.

The price tag drops if existing nuclear were kept in the mix.

This estimated price tag is associated with transitioning entirely to renewables: replacing nuclear and fossil fuels with renewable energy, while keeping hydro, biomass and geothermal, consistent with a 100 percent renewables vision.

If nuclear were to remain in the energy mix, the total price tag would drop to $4 trillion.

According to the analysis, $4.5 trillion covers everything needed to reliably produce and deliver clean energy to consumers. That runs the gamut from constructing and operating new generation facilities, making capacity payments, investing in transmission and distribution infrastructure, delivering customer-facing grid edge technology and more.

“Markets can reach 25 percent wind and solar market penetration with relative ease, assuming fundamental natural resource and grid infrastructure prerequisites. Beyond that point, operational and cost complexities progressively multiply, in large part due to the intermittent nature of renewables,” the authors state.

No large and complex power system in the world operates with an average annual penetration of greater than 30 percent wind and solar, the report says.

First, there must be unprecedented build-out of wind and solar capacity. According the report, a build-out of the scale necessary to replace nuclear and fossil fuel generation would cost $1.5 trillion of the total.

If you add storage to the build-out — the authors estimate 900 gigawatts would be needed, assuming 24 hours of duration (16.8 terrawatt-hours) — the cost rises to $4 trillion.

Transmission costs are the next piece in the puzzle. The U.S. currently has about 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission (HVT). The report estimates that achieving 100 percent renewables would require doubling these transmission lines. Adding 200,000 miles of new HVT would add $700 billion to the total price of grid decarbonization.

Taking cost inflation of materials and other factors into account, the total comes to $4.5 trillion if the transition were to take place in 10 years.

Would the transition be cheaper if completed by 2040, rather than 2030? This analysis says no.

“The total price tag is not dependent on timeline, just the cost per year, as we are assuming current technology,” noted Dan Shreve, head of global wind energy research at Wood Mackenzie and one of the authors of the report.

(Of course, such a transition would not happen in a vacuum; the estimated costs of climate change for the U.S. in this century could also climb into the trillions and rise even more the longer action is delayed.)

In sum, “Wood Mackenzie concludes that RE100 goals remain largely aspirational but attainable given a reasonable timeframe to allow for technology development, regulatory realignment and socioeconomic reforms.”

An Entrepreneurial Spirit Helps Power The BarTech Group’s Growth in Chicagoland’s Electrical Construction Industry

Author:Dwayne Barlow         Published: 8/1O/2020                     Powering Chicago IBWE 134

Dwayne Barlow BarTech

For more than five years, Dwayne Barlow put together his plan. After working as a lineman for ComEd for many years, he could no longer ignore the entrepreneurial pull he felt throughout his life. Although he started his own DJ business during college and continued to promote concerts on the side while working at ComEd, he knew there was a larger opportunity he needed to pursue. With years of specialized training and on-the-job experience with high-voltage work, Dwayne was well-positioned to own and operate his own electrical contracting business.

After years of working to figure out how to achieve his goal and turn his passion for entrepreneurism into a full-time job, he recognized an opportunity that was too good to let pass by. Rather than launching his own company from scratch, in 2010, Dwayne bought into an existing electrical contracting company as the majority owner and got his first chance to leverage his skills in the electrical industry as the owner of his own business.

BarTech Group Security Fencing

The company initially specialized in all facets of outdoor electrical construction and maintenance, including street lighting, traffic signals and stadium lighting. Over the next few years, Dwayne built its capabilities in overhead and underground distribution projects and, in 2013, spun that division off as a separate company, sold his interest in it, and continued building his core business, by then known as The BarTech Group.

“My main goal in owning a company was to have something to leave for my family,” Barlow says. “I never wanted to force them into the family business, but I did want to give them that option. Having the chance to run my own business has also been gratifying for me. People always tell you that being an entrepreneur is much tougher than going to work for somebody else, and that’s true, but the feeling of personal achievement you get out of it is also far greater.”

That source of motivation and Dwayne’s drive to succeed while creating jobs for members of the community has served BarTech well. In the decade since Dwayne became the owner, the company has earned the trust of customers in metro Chicago and beyond by providing a wide range of electrical and fencing contractor services through several divisions of the company, while building a strong reputation as experts in traction power by installing rail systems and other related equipment for transit authorities. This reputation has enabled BarTech’s growth, and the company now has approximately 60-70 employees at any given time, and up to 130 employees during its busy season after starting with just 7 employees. It’s reputation has also earned BarTech the opportunity to contribute to projects like the modernization of the Chicago Transit Authority’s red and purple lines and the reconstruction of its 95th Street Terminal, among many others.

Although BarTech has consistently grown, both in size and in capabilities, its success hasn’t been automatic and, despite his expertise in the electrical industry, Dwayne learned quickly that running the business itself required an entirely new set of skills.

“It takes time to build trust with general contractors and get to the point where they believe in your work and that you can handle the financial management involved in running your business,” Barlow says. “When I first started, I wanted to grow the business quickly, like most new entrepreneurs. But I came to realize that there was a lot more to being successful than I could have imagined early on, especially when it came to the back office of the business. Success is not just the result of winning a contract and doing quality work. It’s about managing your overhead, putting solid accounting and project management systems in place, monitoring man hours, estimating correctly, and countless other factors that have very little to do with the actual electrical work being performed. The more you’re able to learn from others early on, the better off you’ll be.”

Successfully navigating this as a minority business owner further increases the challenge, according to Barlow. Access to the capital needed to grow can be a particular challenge, making it more difficult to transition from being a tier two contractor, which works on projects under other contractors in the industry, to a tier one business, which has the capacity to take on large projects, manage and complete the work independently while working directly for companies such as utilities and transit systems.

“This is my tenth year in business, and that’s an achievement in itself,” Barlow says. “The business is growing and we’ve been able to create jobs for quite a few people and keep them employed. Our goal now is to increase our capacity and eventually transition to a tier one company.”

With a firm grasp on where the company needs to go, a track record of quality work completed with the highest safety standards (400,000 man-hours worked with zero OSHA violations or days away from the job site), and at least one child who is going to graduate from college soon and is considering joining the company to learn the business from the ground up, it’s hard to bet against Dwayne achieving his goal and taking The BarTech Group to the next level.

In recognition of National Black Business Month, Powering Chicago is celebrating entrepreneurs in Chicago and suburban Cook County who contribute to one of the United States’ most vibrant markets for unionized electrical work. Contact us to learn more about the better careers, better construction and better communities made possible by the union electrical industry.

Three Pillars : Black Church Environmental Ministry

Author: Rev. Ambrose F. Carroll        8/18/2020        info@greenthechurch.org

THREE PILLARS

Power Purchase Agreements

Author: Ipsunsolar             Published: 8/16/2020         IPSUNSOLAR

CrossFit Gym DC

Your path to solar energy with no out-of-pocket investment

A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a great way to go solar without the expense of owning your solar equipment, in contrast to a typical cash investment in a solar project. You’ll realize immediate savings on your utility bill at no cost to you, and you’ll dramatically reduce your reliance on fossil fuels.

How a PPA works:

In the simplest terms, we agree to install solar at your site at no cost to you, generate power at your site, and sell it back to you at a lower rate than the utility company will. If you have a qualifying rooftop, we will agree to design, install, own, and maintain the system. We will sell the energy to you at an agreed-upon price for a set period of time, generally about 20 years.

cost of a PPAIn a PPA, your electricity rate is fixed for the life of the agreement, and is lower than the rate you would get from your utility company. 

OLQP blue cross (1) edit

Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, VA, used a PPA to model their sustainability goals

Benefits of a PPA:

  • No capital costs: We handle the upfront costs of designing, procuring and installing the solar PV system.
  • Immediate Savings: Without any upfront investment, you can go solar and begin saving money on your utility bill as soon as the system becomes operational.
  • Reduced energy costs: Solar PPAs provide a fixed, predictable cost of electricity for the duration of the agreement.
  • Limited risk: We are responsible for the system’s maintenance,  performance and operating risk.
  • Increase in property value: Solar PV systems have been shown to increase property values. The long-term nature of these agreements allow PPAs to be transferred with the property and thus provide customers a means to invest in their property at little or no cost.
  • Reach your sustainability goals: You can model your values without the initial investment for equipment ownership.

PPAs are available in VA, MD and Washington DC:

Types of businesses that can potentially qualify for a PPA include those listed below. To find out if your building qualifies, reach out to us through the form below and have a recent power bill at hand. If your roof is solar ready, you may be a great candidate.

First blue corss with film in the world - OLQP landscape - solar panels on church in Arlington Virginia

Faith-based  Organizations

image (1)-1Non-profits CrossFit Gym DCCommercial Properties Solar on schools and municipal buildingsGov. and Municipal Buildings
Faith-based organizations often find PPAs to be a helpful way to reach sustainability goals set forth by their denomination’s teachings or internal resolutions.

 

 

  • churches
  • temples
  • mosques
  • meeting houses
  • schools
  • charity centers
  • food banks
A solar PPA can be especially useful to reduce operating costs for a non-profit organization, and removes responsibility for maintenance from a non-profit manager’s already full plate.

 

 

  • associations
  • arts foundations
  • think tanks
  • child care
  • counseling services
  • social clubs
  • food banks
  • warehouses
Depending on your tax structure and your specific building and roof, a solar PPA could be a great cost-saving solution for your business.

 

 

  • breweries, wineries and distilleries
  • fitness centers
  • shopping centers
  • farms
  • riding stables
  • senior centers
  • Clinics, hospitals and veterinary offices
  • Self storage facilities
Many local government municipalities are pursuing PPA projects on schools and government-owned buildings to reach their localities’ sustainability goals, model environmental values and save money for tax-payers.

  • schools
  • firehouses
  • police stations
  • public works buildings
  • county government buildings
  • town and city halls
  • public libraries
For ongoing projects reach out to support@ipsunsolar.com
For Commercial projects, contact Dave at david.lasky@ipsunsolar.com
For Customer Service contact Dan at dan@ipsunsolar.com
For Marketing, events and policy reach out to bobby@ipsunsolar.com
For Accounting, reach out to accounting@ipsunsolar.com
For Logistics, reach out to OT at logistics@ipsunsolar.com
For Powerwall questions, reach out to
i-want-a-tesla-powerwall@ipsunsolar.com
For O&M work, reach out to Albert at albert@ipsunsolar.com
For Training and electrical work, reach out to Brent at brent@ipsunsolar.com

What is Social Media Marketing

Author: Lars Erik Larson      Published: 4/11/2020                 SERP

There are roughly 3 billion users on social media — that’s close to 50% of the world’s population. Imagine how effective your marketing efforts could be, if you targeted half of the world.

That’s the power of social media marketing.

In this article we cover:

  • What social media marketing is – the definition and importance.
  • The social media platforms to market on – the 8 “main” social media platforms.
  • The benefits of social media marketing – why you should do it and what you will gain.
  • Specific, real-world strategies used – exact social media marketing methods used today.

What is Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing in simple terms, is using the power of social media platforms, to market your business.

Social media platforms are virtual communities where people, families, friends and groups can come together. This is all done through the internet. In many ways, social media is an evolution of the internet — what message boards, chatrooms and email started.

When it comes to marketing, social platforms have an unmatched level of reach and engagement. They’re not some niche, youth thing either — this isn’t the Myspace era. Everyone from your kids, to your friends and parents are on there now. Maybe even your grandparents.

Simply put, social media is the ULTIMATE marketing tool in the 21st century.

The 8 Main Social Media Platforms

Instagram

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, and subsequently one of the best to market on. Around 1 billion people use it, and the most dominant generation demographic are millennials.

FYI — millennials are ages 24 to 39.

With regards to marketing, Instagram is best suited to B2C companies that want to sell something.

Some other marketing uses include:

  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • User-generated content
  • Natural media-based content

Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, and also one of the originals. As of 2020, there are over 2.2 billion people on Facebook. Its massive audience is a mix of generation x and millennials.

Generation x, by the way, is ages 40 to 55.

As a platform, Facebook is best used by B2C businesses that are trying to advertise a product or service.

Aside from advertising, it is also good for brand awareness building — viral videos are a good example.

NOTE: Facebook used to be THE social platform to market on. It was the gold standard. This was until they “nuked” organic reach. They did this because they want to make money, by prioritizing paid ads.

YouTube

YouTube is the #1 video-based social media platform, particularly for medium to longer-length content. It also happens to be one of the most popular websites on the internet.

Second only to Facebook in popularity, YouTube has just under 2 billion users on its platform. Demographics wise, millennials and generation z dominate this platform.

Generation z is from ages 0 to 23.

YouTube is most ideal for B2C, and is particularly awesome for video tutorials, entertainment and general brand awareness.

Twitter

With over 335 million users, Twitter is one of the more unique social media platforms. As Twitter was created in the late 2000’s, naturally it’s most popular with millennials.

Twitter is great for both B2B and B2C industries, and is particularly useful for PR and customer service-related issues. It’s most definitely the premier “news” social platform — live updates are huge on Twitter.

Twitter also created hashtags, which have been appropriated by many other platforms.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the “business” social media platform, designed for enterprise, employment and business relations. With a massive 645 million users of the platform, it’s used by boomers, gen x and millennials equally.

NOTE: Baby boomers are from ages 56 to 74.

Compared to all the other social platforms, LinkedIn is most definitely the one best suited to B2B enterprise. It is particularly great for employment marketing/relations, and business relationships and development.

Recommended ReadingLinkedIn Automation Tools

Pinterest

Pinterest is a popular, image-oriented social media platform with 250+ million users. When it comes to demographics, the platform is particularly popular with females in the  millenial and generation x age bracket.

The platform is awesome for visual advertising, suited for B2C businesses.

Snapchat

When it comes to the younger generations, (generation z/millennials) Snapchat is the social platform of choice. It has a userbase of 300+ million, and it is app-based.

Snapchat pioneered the short video trend among social media platforms — stories for example, came from it.

Due to the nature of the platform, it is quite limited when it comes to marketing. It however, is awesome for B2C businesses building brand awareness with “viral” content. Advertising can also be achieved, if done correctly.

TikTok

TikTok is another video-based social platform similar to Snapchat — it’s what all the young kids of generation z use.

The platform has over 500 million active users, and like Snapchat, is best used for B2C businesses. It is specifically good for brand awareness and advertising, geared toward the youth.

Benefits of Social Media Marketing

Brand Awareness

By far the biggest benefit of using social media for marketing, is getting your business out there. If you didn’t know, brand awareness is essentially how well/many people know about your business.

FYI — Most social media marketers consider brand awareness their primary goal. (source)

increase brand awarenss
source: sproutsocial

Audience Size

Imagine being able to market your business to an audience size in the billions. This is by by far the greatest benefit to using social media for marketing purposes.

There are about 3 billion users of social media right now, with that number expected to grow in the future.

source: statista

That is A LOT of people you can potentially market your business to.

Economical Cost

Before the internet became a big thing, marketing was something that was more guarded, exclusive. Your options were print, radio and television — these were all costly and competitive.

In many ways, the internet and social media made marketing cheaper, and more accessible to all. You could now get crazy amounts of exposure for your business, without paying an arm and a leg.

IMPORTANT: Not every social media marketing strategy is cost efficient.

Social platforms want to make money from you. They would rather you buy ad space, than get organic, free exposure. This was definitely true in regards to Facebook — they destroyed organic reach to push users towards paid ads.

Each strategy is unique, and has its own cost efficiency. Make sure you do your homework.

Increased Leads & Conversions

If you’re trying to sell a product or service, social media can be an awesome way to do this. Compared to more traditional methods like print, television or even email, social media is much more personal, targeted. You’ll have high levels of engagement, which translates to awesome conversion rates.

Increased Web Traffic

Social media is extremely effective at bringing lots of hits to your website. Websites are isolated and need to be found — social media is where people hang out. The right social strategy can bring them to your domain.

If your website is an important part of your business, your social channels can help you get people there.

Stronger Community Engagement

Social media, when used for marketing, is particularly effective when it comes to community engagement. If you’re not sure what “community engagement” means, it’s basically how active, or engaged your audience/customers/base are.

Your business can stand to gain a lot by having a stronger, more engaged community.

Specific Examples of Social Media Marketing

User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content (UGC) is basically when a business shares content from its social media followers. This content that is shared, is related to the business. Here’s an example from Instagram — the practice is referred to as “re-posting.”

Sharing user-generated content is a fantastic way to build up community engagement and increase brand awareness.

Most social media platforms allow you to purchase ad spaces — you’ll find them on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. The cost can vary, depending on the social platform used, the type of ad you buy, and when you buy it.

The effectiveness of paid ads will vary greatly, depending on various factors. Because they are “paid” ads, there will be an economical aspect to consider.

Here’s a YouTube paid advertisement example.

Infuencers on Instagram

In recent times, Instagram influencers have become an extremely popular, and effective strategy.

An “influencer” is someone that has a large social media following. Influencer marketing works by paying these people to promote your business.

Although influencer marketing is done on many platforms, Instagram is by far the most popular.

Video Content

In recent times, social media has been trending more and more towards video-based content. Whether that’s entirely new platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, or new features on established ones.

Video content is extremely diverse — you can have short-form “stories,” or even hours long how-to guides. There are so many different things you can do, and the benefits can be substantial.

Doesn’t matter what your marketing goals are — brand awareness, community engagement lead generation, more sales… Video content can help you.

Live Stream Videos

Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have all introduced live stream videos in recent years. It’s a unique way of producing video content — live streams are extremely good for community engagement.

Final Thoughts

Social media can supercharge your marketing efforts — not taking advantage of it gives your competitors an edge. Quite frankly, you can’t compete in today’s marketplace without a social media marketing strategy.

This post was just an intro — continue reading to learn everything you need to know about social media marketing.

To learn more about SEO, continue reading the guides in our learning hub, and join our mastermind community group here: SERP University.

 

U.S. Department of Energy Announces $20 Million to Advance Perovskite Solar Technologies

Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office  Published: 8/14/2020          DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $20 million in funding to advance perovskite solar photovoltaic technologies. Perovskites are a family of materials with a specific crystal structure, named after the mineral with that structure. When used to create solar cells, they have shown potential for high performance and low production costs. To be competitive in the marketplace, perovskite’s long-term durability must be tested and verified, the aim of this funding opportunity announcement through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

“Under this Administration, the Department of Energy is committed to an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, including solar and other renewable technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “We will continue to invest in early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and value of solar technologies on the grid and position the United States as the world’s leading manufacturer of clean energy technologies.”

“Perovskites are a promising solar technology that could help us reach the next level of innovative and efficient solar power,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “Our goal is to further advance this technology here in the United States. The research and development supported by this $20 million investment will help us better understand how perovskite solar cells, which can be manufactured quickly, can further this mission.”

Some of the goals of the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office are to improve understanding of perovskite stability; establish methods to produce high-efficiency, stable perovskite devices using industry-relevant fabrication techniques; and develop test protocols that enable high confidence in long-duration field performance of perovskite-based photovoltaic technologies.

DOE will fund projects in three topic areas:

Topic Area 1: Device R&D (Efficiency and Stability)

This topic area will focus on research projects to advance perovskite efficiency and stability at the cell or mini-module scale beyond the current state of the art technology. Projects may include intrinsic and extrinsic approaches to improve stability, methods to understand and characterize degradation, alternative materials or processes to improve performance or reduce costs, and advanced device architecture, including tandems. Teams may be led by academic, DOE National Laboratory, or industry researchers, and should include diverse participants from the research and development (R&D) community to maximize relevance and utilization of results.

Topic Area 2: Manufacturing R&D

This topic area will fund research projects to address challenges with manufacturing perovskite modules at relevant scale and throughput. Key areas will include process uniformity and repeatability, cell to module conversion losses, and encapsulation approaches. Teams must be led by a for-profit or nonprofit business and should include substantial involvement by established manufacturing and process engineering entities with proven expertise in the area.

Topic Area 3: Validation and Bankability Center

This topic area seeks to establish a neutral, independent validation center that can be used to verify perovskite device performance and address acceptance and bankability challenges. Independence and neutrality are required to ensure there are no conflicts of interest between this effort and other projects seeking to demonstrate high-performance devices. This center will be responsible for developing and refining test protocols, including accelerated life testing that closely correlates with long-term field performance. The center will also be responsible for operating an extensive field testing effort using devices produced by the R&D community to iteratively refine all test protocols and improve community understanding of remaining stability and performance issues. The center will investigate the environmental impact of perovskite technologies and serve as an objective source of information and analysis for the investment and finance communities. Teams must be led by a DOE Federally Funded Research and Development Center/National Laboratory.

Register for the informational webinar on August 21 to learn more about this funding opportunity. For more information about EERE’s Solar Energy Technology Office, please see the Solar Energy Technologies Office website.

While the planet overheats, Ohio’s coal industry gets a bailout

Author: Leah Stokes                    Published:  7/28/2020       The Guardian

I have spent five years investigating state efforts to roll back clean energy laws. Ohio just passed the worst legislation yet 

‘Ohio energy companies have been trying to bail out their dirty coal plants for years. Since Trump took office, they’ve found a receptive audience.’

Ohio energy companies have been trying to bail out their dirty coal plants for years. Since Trump took office, they’ve found a receptive audience.’ Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Bowing to the interests of a few deep-pocketed utilities, Ohio has enacted a controversial new law, dubbed HB 6, subsidizing dirty, decades-old coal plants and gutting the state’s clean energy programs.

I have spent the past five years researching states’ efforts to roll back clean energy laws. This Ohio bill – which Governor Mike DeWine signed the day it was passed – is the worst yet.

The legislation reflects an unfortunate national pattern: electric utilities pushing to delay climate action, bolstered by a president similarly interested in dragging our country’s feet. For years, FirstEnergy and AEP have been trying to dismantle Ohio’s clean energy policies and bail out their dirty coal plants. Since President Trump took office, these companies have found a receptive audience.

FirstEnergy’s CEO has met with Trump personally. Last year, the company asked his administration to invoke emergency powers to save its struggling coal and nuclear plants. Just a few months ago, an Ohio Republican operative who has a major role in Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign called several House Republicans who were on the fence to persuade them to vote for HB 6.

These companies have spent several million dollars on deceptive advertising, lobbying and campaign contributions to help elect politicians sympathetic to their cause.

In return, these politicians have proven dutiful beneficiaries, working diligently to secure almost a billion dollars of ratepayer subsidies for FirstEnergy and AEP.

As lobbying goes, not a bad return on investment. This isn’t just happening in Ohio. Utilities across the country are pushing to delay climate action and stall the growth of renewables, which are already a cheaper source of electricity than continuing to operate three-quarters of US coal plants.

Last week in Florida, the CEO of an electric utility called for large charges on customer bills in order to make solar customers “go away”. The Sunshine State gets a measly 3% of its electricity from renewables. Yet Florida utilities still fight customers trying to install solar.

In Louisiana, the utility Entergy actually paid actors to show up at a New Orleans city council meeting to secure approval for a new natural gas plant.

And in Arizona, the state’s largest electric utility – Arizona Public Service – has poured more than $50m into elections, including for its own regulator, often lying about its involvement. Once its favored politicians took office, the utility succeeded in rolling back solar policies.

These same electric utilities have funded climate denial for decades. Now they’ve moved on to delay: more than half the country’s highest-emitting utilities are slow-walking their own plans to decarbonize over the next decade. Some major utilities have zero plan to reduce carbon emissions.

When a private electric utility chooses to spend its guaranteed profits on denial or delay, the public cannot choose to stop buying its power. There is no exit from a monopoly.

In the Ohio case, these utilities started their attacks on renewables in 2011. By 2014, the state had frozen its clean energy targets and made it nearly impossible to build wind energy. This latest change will erode what little policy is left. The law will eliminate clean energy targets and gut an energy efficiency program that has saved the state $5bn – instead cementing Ohio’s position at the bottom of national clean energy rankings. With only 2.5% of its electricity from renewable energy sources last year, the state is in 49th place.

In a truly Orwellian doublespeak, Ohio’s latest policy is called the Clean Air Program. The lawmakers don’t even have the guts to call the law what it is – a coal plant subsidy – and instead refer to these dirty sources as “legacy assets”.

Some advocates have focused on the parts of the bill that would subsidize nuclear, and the legislation’s small offerings for solar – both carbon-free sources of power. Yet the bill provides almost twice as much funding for coal as clean energy.

This is all occurring as Ohio bakes in another heatwave. As farmers throughout the state struggle to plant crops under record rainfall and flooding. As poor communities surrounding these coal plants continue to breathe toxic air.

The climate crisis is on Ohio’s doorstep. Yet the corporations running these ancient coal plants want to keep them operating until 2040, when they will be 85 years old. These plants are long past retirement age.

The next time you feel that you are to blame for climate change – because you forgot to hit the light switch, or you took that flight to see your ailing mother – remember the Ohio electric utilities and their coal subsidies. Remember the politicians who gave them this billion-dollar bailout after receiving personal favors, like a flight to Trump’s inauguration on a corporate jet. And know that one day after signing this bill, Ohio Governor DeWine attended a Trump fundraiser hosted by coal baron Bob Murray.

Fighting the climate crisis is not about purifying yourself. It’s about dismantling corporate power. Electric utilities are a great place to start.

  • Leah C Stokes (@leahstokes) is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of the forthcoming book Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy Laws and Climate Policy in the American States
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82 days to save the Earth …

… because that is when the US withdraws from the Paris climate accord, on 4 November. Five years ago nearly 200 countries committed to a collective global response to tackle the climate crisis. But when Donald Trump took office he announced that the US would leave the Paris agreement. On the one issue that demands a worldwide response to help safeguard the Earth for future generations, the US has chosen to walk away. The president is playing politics with the climate crisis – the most defining issue of our time.

The stakes could scarcely be higher and with your help we can put this issue at the center of our 2020 election coverage. The election will be a referendum on the future of democracy, racial justice, the supreme court and so much more. But hovering over all of these is whether the US will play its role in helping take collective responsibility for the future of the planet.

The period since the Paris agreement was signed has seen the five hottest years on record. If carbon emissions continue substantial climate change is unavoidable. The most impacted communities will also be the most vulnerable. Instead of helping lead this discussion the White House prefers to roll back environmental protections to placate the fossil fuel industry.

Helen Jones Woods, 96, Dies of COVID-19

Author:  Hamil R. Harris           Published:  8/12/2020           Washington Informer News Paper

Jazz Pioneer Was Mother of Urban One Founder

Helen Jones Woods with daughter Cathy Hughes (Courtesy photo)

 

Helen Jones Woods, a jazz trombonist and founding member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a groundbreaking all-female big band, died July 25 of coronavirus-related complications in Sarasota, Florida. She was 96.

Woods was the mother of Cathy Hughes, founder of Urban One, the largest African American-owned broadcast company in the U.S., and wife of Dr. Laurence Jones, who in 1937 founded the Piney Woods School in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Helping people was her number-one priority,” Hughes told The Washington Informer. “The group was called the first freedom riders in the country. What they were doing in the 1930s and 1940s, people were getting killed for.”

The Sweethearts traveled across the country playing in venues from the Apollo Theater in New York City to the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. In 1941, the group set a box office record of 35,000 patrons.

When the Sweethearts broke up in 1949, Woods auditioned for the Omaha Symphony Orchestra and made it. But the conductor had no idea that she was African American until her husband picked her up.

“My father came to pick her up because it was a snowstorm so she wouldn’t have to ride the bus,” Hughes said. “When they asked, ‘who is your wife?,’ he said Helen Woods and he told her to take all of her things because there was no need to come back.”

After her dismissal, she never played the trombone again. Instead, she earned a nursing degree and a master’s degree in social work. For the next three decades, she worked at Douglas County Hospital in Omaha.

Helen Elizabeth Jones was born on either Oct. 9 or Nov. 14, 1923 (family documents differ). She spent some of her earliest days in an orphanage for white children in Meridian, Miss. But after officials realized that Woods was not white, she was put up for adoption.

Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones and his wife Grace adopted Woods. Dr. Jones was the founder of the Piney Woods Country Life School (now the Piney Woods School), which was a Black boarding school. To raise money for the school, Gracie Jones started male and female quartets called the Cotton Blossom Singers, which preceded the school’s famed group, The International Sweethearts.

Woods played the trombone because she was fascinated by its slide. She started playing at Piney Woods at 13 and as a teen was an original member of the Swinging Rays of Rhythm, which resembled an all-female white group popular at the time.

The Rays traveled the country in two modified school buses. One bus was outfitted with bunk beds and the other was a traveling classroom. Hughes said legendary bandleader Earl “Fatha” Hines gave the band the nickname “the first Freedom Riders.”

Hughes said her mother and the other girls had it hard on the road: “They were ripped off, harassed and bullied.”

But Woods and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were never forgotten. In 1986, a documentary was made about their lives, and in 2007, Woods was inducted into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.

In 2011, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were honored in D.C. by the Smithsonian Institute.

Woods was preceded in death by William Alfred Woods, whom she married in the 1940s and had four children with.

She is survived by daughters Cathy Hughes and Jacquelyn Marie Woods Williams, and two sons, William and Robert.

Instead of a funeral, Hughes said that her mother wanted all contributions to go to The Piney Woods School, where 95 percent of the students are on a full or partial scholarship.

“At one time, there were 40 Black boarding schools in America. Now there are only three,” Hughes said. “The reason why was wealthy white people encouraged their domestics to out their children in boarding schools.

“We still are educating children with this pandemic — it has been hard,” Hughes said. “My mother did not want a funeral. Her last request, which she put in writing, was to take that money to help the kids at Piney Woods.”

LIVE: Utilities that have and have not suspended disconnects amid COVID-19

Author: David Pomerantz                 Published:   3/8/2020               Energy and Polict Institute

 David Pomerantz  •  March 13, 2020

Latest Update: August 7, 2:00 pm, PT

If you have information to add or have been disconnected, please fill out our survey here.

COVID-19 continues to impact tens of thousands of people. Johns Hopkins reported at least 59,000 new cases in the U.S. on August 6. But states across the country with binding moratoriums on disconnecting utility service to customers have allowed these policies to lapse. According to a July analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, less than half of all states currently have mandatory shutoff moratoria in place, and only a few states will have a mandatory moratorium in place by September 1.

Also, some utilities in states without binding moratoriums which made voluntary suspension policies are announcing their intention to resume cutting off people’s power due to non-payment. For instance, Oklahoma Gas & Electric announced that it is about to resume disconnecting customers. The utility’s announcement occurred as the state is reporting a surge in cases since late April. In Missouri, Liberty Utilities resumed sending disconnection notices on July 16. That stands in stark contrast to Pacific Power in Oregon, for example, whose spokesperson told the Energy and Policy Institute that it will not be disconnecting customers for the “foreseeable future.”

A recent survey by researchers at Indiana University found that “22 percent of respondents had to reduce or forgo basic household needs, like medicine or food, to pay an energy bill” in the early months of the COVID-19 crisis. The survey found that people of color, low-income customers, and households with children and the elderly are more likely to face a disconnection by their utility.

The following table details the binding moratorium end dates, as of August 7.

EPI thanks E9 Insights and the Center for Biological Diversity for their work creating state trackers, which have more information, and can be found here and here.


Content below was last updated on April 27, 5:00 pm, PT

Many utilities that sell electricity and gas around the United States are suspending disconnections of customers who do not pay their bills during the coronavirus crisis, or are being ordered to suspend disconnections by regulators or other government officials.

The Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) is collecting data based on published reports and verified statements from utilities about which utilities are suspending disconnections, and which public utility commissions or other governmental bodies are ordering suspensions. EPI reached out on Friday, March 13, to about two dozen large utility companies directly to ask whether they would be suspending disconnections. We are also crowd-sourcing updates via the survey linked from the top of the page.

Note: The tables embedded below, which EPI is updating on a rolling basis, are *not* exhaustive, particularly for smaller utilities, municipal utilities, and cooperatives. If you don’t see your utility listed here, you should call it, or your state’s public utility commission, to find out the most up-to-date information.

While most large utilities, and at least 20 states, have taken some type of action to suspend disconnections, the policies have varied in some key ways:

1. LATE FEE SUSPENSIONS: Some utilities are suspending late fee accruals during the COVID-19 crisis, and some states are ordering their suspension. Others are not. In cases where regulators or utilities are not suspending late fee accrual, customers facing hardship could face accumulated charges to pay back when the emergency is deemed over. Maryland’s order expressly prohibits the accrual of late fees. Many utilities have not yet addressed this issue.

2. RECONNECTIONS: Some utilities, and at least one state, are calling for the reconnection of previously disconnected customers as long as utilities can do so in a safe manner. Wisconsin’s order states that “Additionally, utilities must make reasonable attempts to reconnect service to an occupied dwelling that has been disconnected.” 

3. SCOPE: Some of the state and utility policies apply to all customer classes, including residential and commercial customers. Others apply only to residential customers, or even more narrowly to certain income classes in a few cases.

4. DURATION: The utilities’ and state policies vary widely when it comes to duration of the suspensions. Longer or more open-ended policies are likely more effective at reducing customers’ anxieties during the crisis, freeing limited funds for other needs. Some suspensions have extended only through the end of March, at least as of now.

Regulatory and Government Actions

Government bodies have ordered disconnection suspensions statewide in 28 states and the District of Columbia: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Michigan is requiring utilities to suspend disconnections for only low-income and senior customers, as well as for “customers exposed to, infected by or quarantined because of COVID-19.” Oklahoma and West Virginia regulators have encouraged or urged voluntary action only.

The state actions vary significantly in scope. Maryland and Texas applied the suspension only to residential customers. Texas additionally is requiring residential customers to offer proof of unemployment.

On March 30, Sen. Ed Markey (D – Mass.) and seven other senators introduced a resolution calling for electric and gas utilities to suspend disconnections and waive late fees, to make reasonable efforts to restore connection to those previously disconnected, to waive reconnection fees, and to place a moratorium on rate increases during the duration of the federal state of emergency. Sixteen Democratic U.S. Senators had previously urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to adopt a nationwide suspension of all utility disconnections as part of a third COVID-19 relief package, including the suspension of late fees and fees associated with reconnections.

Utility Actions

Many investor-owned utility companies have suspended disconnections, including Ameren, American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Evergy, FirstEnergy, Georgia Power, NV Energy, PECO, PG&E, Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy and others.

The Edison Electric Institute, which is the trade association for investor-owned utility companies, announced that all EEI member companies are suspending electricity disconnects for non-payment nationwide. A list of EEI members is available here, and a map of their service territories is available here. The American Gas Association said on Mar. 31 that its member companies “have committed to work closely with state public utility commissions to appropriately suspend disconnecting customers from their natural gas service.”

Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) adopted a comprehensive policy that includes:

  • Suspending electric service disconnections for nonpayment for residential and business customers, until further notice.
  • Waived late fees for residential and business customers, effective immediately, until further notice.
  • Collection and credit reporting for nonpayment have been suspended.
  • Those recently disconnected for nonpayment will have their power restored without being assessed a reconnection fee.

A municipal utility in Oregon, the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB), announced a comprehensive policy: It is suspending all shutoffs, suspending late fees, increasing its budget for bill assistance, expanding its bill assistance to cover customers who experience job loss, and deferring loan payments for customers with residential or commercial energy efficiency loans upon request.

Utility Inactions, Vague Actions or Partial Actions

Other utilities have not suspended disconnections, or are not stating clearly how broadly they are applying customer relief policies.

A number of rural cooperative utilities have not suspended disconnections despite the COVID-19 crisis.

After community groups expressed concerns for days about Alabama Power’s silence on disconnections, Alabama Power stated on March 19 on its “Alabama NewsCenter” web site that “Alabama Power has been clear that we will not disconnect or charge late fees to any customer who is affected by COVID-19.” [Emphasis added.]

Alabama Power’s Southern Co. sister company, Georgia Power, had announced a clearer suspension on March 13, extending 30 days. The advocacy organization GASP (Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution) had been calling upon Alabama Power to suspend disconnections until at earliest May 1 and to waive late payment charges. Two Alabama PSC commissioners, Twinkle Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden, released statements about the crisis, but neither announced a formal suspension in disconnections for all utilities.

Florida Power & Light (FPL), a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, announced on March 16 that it would suspend disconnections “at least through the end of March.” FPL had initially sent customers an email on Friday, March 13 advising customers having trouble paying their bills to look to FPL, federal, state, and local resources, but did not state it was suspending disconnections, and linked to a page that did not list COVID-19 among allowable reasons for bill payment extensions. Gulf Power, another NextEra subsidiary, announced the same policy on March 17.

Community organizations are calling for FPL to extend its moratorium through Florida’s state of emergency, plus 30 days. A legislator is calling on Florida Gov. DeSantis to formally include utility disconnection suspensions in his state of emergency.

– In MichiganConsumers Energy told EPI that it is suspending shutoffs only for certain customer classes:

“We are suspending shutoffs for non-pay for low-income and senior customers beginning March 16, 2020 through April 5, 2020,” said Director of Media Relations Katie Carey. “Senior citizens and qualified low-income customers already enrolled in our Winter Protection Program have already had their end dates extended through April 30, 2020, without any additional actions required on their part.”

Deadline Detroit is reporting a similar policy from DTE Energy.

State regulators have not enacted a suspension on utility disconnections to the much broader group of customers certain to face economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and Michigan’s “Stay Home. Stay Safe” executive order.

– NRG Energy, with service territory across multiple states, issued a statement saying that it extended its “ongoing support to those who may need us,” but offered no comments on updates to its disconnection policies. NRG directed customers to visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s website. [Update 3/24: Reliant Energy Retail Services in Texas (an NRG company) submitted a letter on 3/17 to the Public Utility Commission of Texas that it is “pausing payment-related disconnects for residential and small commercial customers.”]

Some Texas utilities have voluntarily suspended disconnects, but others have not. Retail electric providers in Texas, which has a deregulated electricity market, are still required to pay transmission utilities under normal operating rules whether a retail customer is paying them for service or not. An open meeting is scheduled at the Texas Public Utilities Commission on March 26 to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic (Project No. 50664).

Further results are below. If you know information contained here is inaccurate or dated, or if you work for a utility with information not included here, please email us at press@energyandpolicy.org

This list is generally focused on electric and gas utilities. Food & Water Watch is keeping track of water disconnection suspensions here.

Regulators or government bodies that have ordered disconnections suspended:

Utilities that have suspended disconnections:

Utilities that have not clearly suspended disconnections, or have not responded to requests for comment:

EPI thanks AppVoices and E9 Insights for their contributions to this research. AppVoices is tracking disconnections among TVA-area local power companies. E9 Insights is tracking state utility commission actions. NARUC is also tracking state actions.