How to Create Jobs So We Can Operate Our City and County

From Michael Laybourn

Apr 9 2009, Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

An update on providing solar/renewable energy for Ukiah and even Mendocino County. REPs (renewable energy payment), FITs (feed-in tariffs) & So Forth…

Here is how we left it in January…

What if?… the City of Ukiah followed the proven German model and provided:

1. Low interest loans for solar conversion.
2. Gave a larger rebate: 1/2 or more of the system cost as California did in 2004.
3. Bought the electricity from solar homes and businesses at a rate that would pay back the loans.

I had heard -through the grapevine- that the first U.S. city had recently used the German model of a feed-in tariff or REP (renewable energy payment), which is the same thing. Here is what they did in Gainesville FL. (from the Gainesville Sun):

… Gainesville’s solar feed-in tariff would allow Gainesville Regional Utilities to purchase solar energy from investors – ranging from large companies to residents with solar panels on their rooftops – for at least 20 years. The price GRU would pay for this solar energy would allow these investors to make a profit. GRU’s cost of paying for this solar energy then would be passed directly on to GRU customers….

… Ed Regan, GRU’s assistant general manager for strategic planning laughed at the contention that Gainesville’s model is too expensive for taxpayers. “The environmental law that is requiring us to put scrubbers on our coal plant is 10 times (the feed-in tariff cost) and no one is complaining about that,” Regan said…
That cost to customers is capped at about $1.5 million a year. Spread out among GRU customers, that would mean a 1.5 percent increase in base electricity rates.

“Following the German model, solar energy could create hundreds of contracting and manufacturing jobs in the local community; we can reduce our carbon emissions, reduce the peak load of energy generation and thus reduce the long-term utility bill for everybody.

… We call on Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and UF President Bernie Machen to work together to make Gainesville and the university the solar capital of the United States. We do not need to look any further than the German experience to see what really works. All we need and expect is leadership.”

Then, just yesterday…from the Alliance for Renewable Energy:

March 08, 2009
Gainesville Solar REPs Program Meets Target Before Launch
On March 1, Gainesville, FL officially became the first city in the U.S. with a solar REPs law.  Utilities in the city are required to purchase solar energy from registered producers for $0.32 per kilowatt hour through 2010.  This 2009 tariff rate will be adjusted over time but program profits are guaranteed for 20 years.  At the commencement of the program, Gainesville now sees an influx of completed applications to request connection to the electricity grid that would sum up to a total of 4MW of generated solar energy, which is the first-year target of the program.

GRU modeled their gross feed in tariff program on similar strategies that have been successful in European countries such as Germany. Under the program, the utility will buy all of the electricity produced by registered solar power systems at an initial fixed rate of USD $0.32 per kilowatt hour. The program offers guaranteed  payments for 20 years. GRU’s experience has by no means been an isolated case, demonstrating the incredible popularity of gross solar feed-in tariff programs and their potential to rapidly increase the uptake of renewable energy in any country by home owners and businesses. Ontario, Canada’s feed in tariff program experienced a similar response where a 10 year target of 1,000 megawatts was reached within a year.

In every case, in the world, the only problem encountered was that the program grew too fast.

Let’s add it all up again. Ukiah does a Renewable Energy Payment system to allow homeowners and small business to create energy for Ukiah. Then it is highly likely there will be a strong demand for solar installation. Ukiah will be using energy that does not cost the environment nor leave a cleanup problem. There will be less need to buy dirty energy.

Local banks can invest and create low-interest loans. Jobs can be created for installation and possibly manufacturing. (Gainesville had both U.S. and German manufacturers looking at industrial sites.) Taxes from good jobs begin to help our local economy.

Let me echo the Florida folks:
“… We call on the Ukiah City Council and the Mendocino County Supervisors to make Ukiah and our County the solar gem of California. We do not need to look any further than the Gainesville or German experience to see what really works. All we need and expect is leadership.”