December 31, 2008

IREC’s 2008 Year-in-Review: A Year of Notable Achievements

2008 closes on an interesting note, doesn’t it? The fork in front of us presents both optimism and caution. The shape of the economy looms over our future and will impact 2009. However, economic indicators include energy and “green” as growth areas along with water. The green imprint is part of the new Administration and…

2008 closes on an interesting note, doesn’t it?

The fork in front of us presents both optimism and caution. The shape of the economy looms over our future and will impact 2009. However, economic indicators include energy and “green” as growth areas along with water. The green imprint is part of the new Administration and new Congress. Extended tax credits are in place. And, solar, wind, renewables, energy and environmental security – all have become part of the national consciousness and everyday lexis.

We close 2008 with much accomplished but with much still to do.

Interconnection and net metering are key policy areas at IREC. No matter how strong the financial case is for renewable technologies, markets are unlikely to see sustained growth without interconnection procedures to facilitate parallel grid operation and net metering policies to ensure that system owners receive fair value for all electricity produced.

Our legal and technical team of Jason Keyes, Kevin Fox, Mike Sheehan and Joe Wiedman has worked in over a dozen states this year assisting state public utility commissions to adopt best practices in interconnection and net metering of renewable distributed generation. IREC was active in interconnection rules in New Mexico, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Utah and also in Maryland, South Dakota and the District of Columbia. For net metering, IREC was active in rulemakings in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Virginia and Texas.

As net metering rules and interconnection standards have enabled greater penetration of renewable generation, important new issues are emerging. We’ll be looking at community/virtual net metering, third-party ownership, and rate design in 2009. We’re also updating IREC’s interconnection and net metering models. Watch for better models in the spring.

In September, we welcomed Laurel Varnado as the new editor of IREC’s Connecting to the Grid newsletter. This monthly electronic publication, sent to over 3,500 subscribers, is packed with over 20 pages of regional and state news about interconnection and net metering.

Maureen Quinlan and Keith McAllister also take on leadership roles on our Connecting to the Grid team. Laurel, Maureen and Keith are at the North Carolina Solar Center at NC State University … a long-time partner with IREC. The North Carolina Solar Center is also the home of the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). Rusty Haynes, Sue Gouchoe, Justin Barnes and Brian Lips magically keep track of about 1,850 records including 790 solar and 715 PV records covering state, local, utility, and federal policies and programs. Wow.

Larry Sherwood published another edition of U.S. Solar Market Trends covering 2007. In this IREC report, Larry writes that over 80,000 solar (photovoltaics, solar hot water and concentrating solar electricity) installations were completed in 2007. Take a look at Larry’s report.

Larry also organizes IREC’s phone seminars – an opportunity to hear experts on the hot topics of the day. In 2008, we covered utility rate design, state solar policy trends, fire safety guidelines for PV systems, solar power purchase agreements, smart grids & AMI, interconnection and net metering, and the 2008 National Electrical Code. We have another series of seminars planned for 2009.

“Green” jobs and workforce development are on just about everybody’s plate as we tackle the failing economy with environmental and energy challenges. We have a great team of folks working with IREC on workforce issues including Jerry Ventre, Barbara Martin and Brian Hurd. We’ve been putting on Introduction to Training workshops and longer ones for faculty.

We recently released Renewable Energy Training: Best Practices & Recommended Guidelines. This covers recommended guidelines and criteria, assessment tools, task analyses, credentialing programs, and other related resources to assist those offering or planning renewable energy training courses. It talks about national credentialing programs and standards that the solar industry has set for installers. IREC also re-designed its online renewable energy Training Directory. We now have over 60 educational providers listed. The directory is easy to use. It’s sorted by state and also linked to a Google map.

Last March, we organized and chaired the second national conference on Workforce Education for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. We reached the capacity limit of 350 people with representatives from 33 states. Over 71 schools participated including Community Colleges, Technical High Schools, 4-Year Schools, Private Training Organizations and Skills Centers. Industry, state and federal government agencies and non profits also attended.

Save the dates for the 2009 Workforce Education Conference – November 18, 19, and 20 in Albany, New York. The “Call-for-Presentations and Posters” will be released in early January. Watch the IREC web site for details.

We continue to organize workshops for code officials. In 2008, we held PV code official workshops with Bill Brooks in Hartford, Boston, New York City, Rochester, Troy, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Golden. We plan another round of workshops in 2009 and also will introduce Solar Thermal workshops for code officials. Dick Michaud is working with Mark Thornbloom and John Harrison on these new seminars.

Jane Pulaski’s bi-weekly newsletters are filled with interviews, best practices, and state and city news. Jane features Solar America Cities, national and state leaders, and articles on projects, policies and people that you don’t find in other newsletters. Subscribe to Jane’s newsletter; and also pick up a copy of Larry Sherwood’s Small Wind Energy news.

Our 2008 Annual Meeting in October drew the highest crowd yet … standing room only. Take a look at IREC’s Annual Trends and Update Report. We enjoyed being part of the Solar Energy International Conference and thank SEPA and SEIA for their hospitality.

During our Annual Meeting, we rolled out the red carpet for 4 Innovation Award winners and 5 Special Recognition Award receipents. This year’s winners of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.’s Innovation Awards include a solar mapping project providing a one-stop shop for the San Francisco community; the significant impact of a non profit organization in San Diego; a unique renewable energy site assessment service in Wisconsin; and a novel approach to the production of methane, and ultimately biodiesel, from algae harvested in municipal wastewater in Santa Rosa.

The 2008 innovation winners are the San Francisco Department of the Environment, the California Center for Sustainable Energy, Wisconsin Focus on Energy, and the City of Santa Rosa. Special recognition awards went to Vote Solar, the Solar Alliance’s Four Pillars Policy Campaign, the Network for New Energy Choices’ Freeing the Grid report card, the Small Wind Certification Council and to Jim Dunlop for his Photovoltaic Systems textbook.

We couldn’t complete this article without sending our heartfelt thanks to the two people who keep IREC running behind the scenes. A very big thank you goes to MT Colello and Louise Urgo for all of their time and effort on IREC’s behalf.

We’re looking forward to 2009 and working with all of you in the year ahead. We send our best for the holidays and for a healthy and kind New Year.

Jane Weissman, Executive Director