Monthly Archives: March 2017

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President Trump has been a long-time climate change denier. We know this from his rants during his campaign, his tweets —his most famous being that the global climate change is just a “Chinese hoax”—, and from Trump’s writings in his book titled Crippled America. I’m glad our President has the environmental knowhow to make an anti-climate change claim with such certainty! Not to mention, according to The Express Tribune, China is becoming world leader in clean energy investments. One would expect a businessman like Donald Trump to strive to be a leader in our future energy economy. Instead, he wants to invest in the dying coal industry. Contrary to popular belief, coal is not seeing its demise due to environmental policy, but rather due to the growth of the natural gas industry.

Anyway, what does this mean for solar and other climate change policies?

Although President Trump’s new budget has cut the EPA’s budget by an unprecedented 31% and eliminated the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), state governments are still holding true to their commitment to clean energy. Environmental responsibility is now reallocated to the states, and it will be the accumulation of our local governments to uphold their advancement towards a low-carbon future. States and cities are big players in curbing climate change and control a majority of the legal and policy power regarding these efforts. For example, the state public utility commissions regulate investor-owned electric utilities, state legislatures set up portfolio standards, and they decide on building codes. Below are some examples of policies that are expected to thrive and survive under the Trump Administration.

  1. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI: This is a cap-and-trade policy that limits the amount of CO2 emissions in nine of its member states. This cooperative effort includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The RGGI CO2 cap declines 2.5 percent each year from 2015 to 2020.
  1. Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS): 29 states have RPS which requires utilities to sell a specified percentage or specific amount of renewable electricity. Iowa was the first state to implement an RPS in 1983 and Hawaii has the most aggressive at 100% renewables by 2045. These policies support the renewable energy market and help diversity the overall energy mix. States with no standard or target goal include many in the southeast region.
  1. Net Metering Policies: 44 States have net metering policies, which financially incentivizes the switch to renewable energy. These types of policies allow distributed generation customers to sell excess electricity to a utility at a retail rate and receive credit on their utility bill. In New York, for example, people who have residential-scale solar installed will have their excess energy stored in a bank credit system. People can pull from that system throughout the subsequent months if needed. At the end of the year, if there is leftover net excess generation (NEG), their utility will pay their customer according to the amount that is leftover.
  1. La Plata Electric Association’s (LPEA) Renewable Energy Credit in Colorado: The accumulation of small policies like these can go a long way! This policy applies to solar photovoltaics, wind, and hydroelectric and is scalable to include commercial, residential, industrial, and federal sectors. For residential, the incentive is $16/kW for a maximum system size of 10 kW. Basically, customers of LPEA who have a solar array will be paid $16/kW of excess electricity generated by their system.
  1. What will happen to North Carolina’s Investment Tax Credit?: Homeowners in North Carolina who install a solar system on their home are eligible for a 30 percent dollar-for-dollar tax credit up until 2019. This program is designed to gradually decrease credits from 2019 to 2022. The credit applies to technologies such as PV, solar water heating, wind and others until 2019, when it will then gradually decrease to 10%.

Although the Trump Administration is actively trying to rip apart the strides made towards clean energy, the accumulation of states still hold the power to curb climate change. Furthermore, there isn’t a question of whether or not renewables will take a stronger hold in our energy market, but rather a question of when. In addition to environmental gains, switching over to renewables will be smarter economically, is better for energy security, and we will allow us to be less dependent on foreign oil.

The move to green energy seems like the smart move to me.

Article By: Andie Migden

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Cole Anderson graduated from Appalachian State University in the spring of 2014, and following his graduation, joined students from ASU and volunteers from USI on a trip to Nicaragua to work on solar projects in communities there. He specifically worked in San Ramón and helped install solar panels on a local art center and community center. He now works as a project manager for Yes! Solar Solutions. This interview is edited for brevity.

USI: What made you decide to go to Nicaragua?

Cole Anderson: I was ready to do a little bit of traveling. I actually did get a couple of credits out of it as well. Most of it was that I had a lot of professors who I was involved with and they were telling me about it and it seemed like a pretty cool opportunity. I actually majored in renewables, so that seemed like a good way to get some real-world experience doing some installation stuff while also getting to do some traveling.

USI: What was the most memorable part of the trip for you?

Anderson: The first week we were there we stayed at a place called Finka Esperanza Verde. We worked on some projects while we were there but it was memorable because it was my first hands-on experience to get to do some solar stuff and micro-hydro outside of the classroom, and actually see how it was benefitting this eco-lodge. This place was completely off the grid and run by renewables and had a battery system. It was neat to see an actual eco-lodge that was running 100 percent off of renewable energy.

USI: Did you witness specific ways that the projects you were working on benefitted the community there?

Anderson: Yes, especially in San Ramón The night right before we were leaving we were coming back from a hike or dinner, and we actually walked by the community center and saw that the lights were on and there were a bunch of kids in there reading and playing board games and stuff like that. It was pretty neat to see that just a few days ago no one would have been able to be in there—there was no electricity in that building. So it was pretty neat to see that turn-around time and see how it was impacting them right then and there.

USI: Did this experience help propel you into the solar industry at all?

Anderson: We don’t necessarily get to see the impact [solar] makes in individuals’ lives, because a lot of it is about reducing your energy bill and making your life a little bit easier so that you still have all these commodities available to you. That’s great, but the big thing that stuck out to me [in Nicaragua] was that you saw these people’s lives are completely changed just because they now have access to power, in places where they otherwise might not. That alone reassured me that if I get into doing this stuff I’m not able to do projects like this all the time, but if once a year I could come back over here or figure out a way to do stuff like this and actually see it and make a solid difference in people’s lives, then that’s exactly what I want to do.

We really take it for granted. Here you get so used to pitching to people and trying to convince them why they should spend money and put this thing on their roof and to reduce their bills. And there are tons of benefits, even if you’re not necessarily a green-minded person, but [in Nicaragua] there’s no convincing involved—you’re allowing people to harness the sun to improve their lives.

Article by: Lydia Odom

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Seeing a lot of people show up to support the great cause of USI’s Lug-a-Jug event on an early Saturday morning was a pleasant surprise, it showed that a lot of people care.

I believe that making people empathize is one of the most effective ways to raising awareness on issues like this. Here’s the main reason I was very pleased with the event format and USI’s mission overall: At some point down the road, I want to work at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya because I can be more effective and practical once I’m on the grounds where I would closely observe the culture and see what people are actually going through. Similarly, USI is represented in various locations in Africa and the Lug-a-Jug event was a great way to convey the message of what they’ve been facing & how we as current residents of the Triangle Area, could help provide what the people really need. For some, it’d be easy to just donate the $20 and not even show up to the event, but seeing how much it takes out of you to walk the 3K with empty 5-gallon jugs and making your way back with that precious water makes you appreciate something you take for granted every single day. That mindset is the difference-maker in making people volunteer & donate more down the road, and spread the word.

A lot of people, including myself, were exhausted by the end of the event and one thing should be clear: even though the solar panels are a great start & will indeed make people’s life easier in Africa, it still isn’t the solution. Not having to manually pump water from wells is going to save time and energy but they still have to walk long distances to have access to the most basic need of mankind. Thus, we need to keep spreading the word and get to work. 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to reliable drinking water sources[1] and even 620 million people live without electricity[2]. For people who want to get involved to any extent, there are a lot of opportunities to volunteer, donate or invest.

I want to thank USI for their efforts in such an important cause. Let’s aim even higher!

Article by: Serkan Erdem

[1] https://thewaterproject.org/water-scarcity/water_stats

[2] http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energydevelopment/africafocus/