My first introduction to solar was either helping a friend design a solar cooker in an engineering class or using my hand lens magnifier between the sun and a small pile of dry leaves to start a campfire at geology field camp in Eastern Oregon. Either way, both seemed like rather economical methods to harness a readily available source of renewable energy. After earning my geology degree it was a natural fit to end up in the energy industry. I started working with utilities and developers to site and permit large gas pipelines and offshore terminals.
News broke earlier this week that a former Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) employee pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges following an Oregon Department of Justice Investigation into the agency. The former employee had been an administrator in the department’s now-defunct Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) Program. He admitted to abusing his position to garner $291,000 in kickbacks over 3 years, from mid-2012 to early 2015...
Things at the Legislature are Happening Fast, Slowly -- The legislative session keeps moving forward. Things change rapidly, sometimes on an hourly basis. But final decisions seem to come slowly with entire days going by without clarity. But so it goes.
We are definitely seeing forward movement, though. HB 2760, the property tax exemption extension, passed out of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee on a unanimous vote. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote and, assuming it passes, will go to the Governor for her signature. It has no opposition so we expect the bill to pass easily.
Details are still being worked out but we’ve also seen some movement on the solar tax credit (soon-to-be) formerly known as RETC. Don’t panic when you read this line but the program known as the Residential Energy Tax Credit will be allowed to sunset at the end of December 2017. BUT…under a new agreement recently developed by a legislative workgroup, on January 1, 2018, a new residential solar tax credit will immediately take its place. The new program...Read more
On Tuesday, June 20 at 10:30am Jeff Bissonnette testified on behalf of OSEIAstating the importance of adopting Appendix U to provide clear standards, provide consistency with practices already promulgated by the Energy Trust of Oregon. See Jeff's comments here.
Appendix U, solar ready provisions, can be found here.
As we move into mid-June, lots is going on in Salem at both the Capitol and the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
The Oregon House last week passed the extension of the property tax exemption (HB 2760) by a vote of 55-1. The bill now moves to the Oregon Senate where it was assigned to the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. It has been scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, June 20. It faces no opposition by any interest group and conversations with committee members have been positive. Work continues on extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC).Read more
Over thirty years ago, as a communist child from the Vietnamese city of Saigon (capital city of South VietNam) fell to North Vietnamese forces on April 30th, 1975. The fall of Saigon (now Ho Chin Minh City) effectively marked the end of the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese people fled their country any way they could find possible. They became known as “Boat People,” and many settled in America. Vietnamese boat people refers to refugees who fled Vietnam by boat and ship after the Vietnam War, and I was one of those refugees. I believed and still believe that hope is the only way to survive. The number of boat people leaving Vietnam and arriving safely in another country totaled close to 800,000 between 1975 and 1995.
With about 24 hours to prepare, both solar and energy efficiency advocates responded in a big way for the RETC hearing on Friday, June 2. Nearly 50 support letters were e-mailed to the committee in advance of the hearing - a huge show of support. Special thanks are due to Shaun Franks of True South Solar in Ashland, Bob Westerman of IBEW in Coos Bay and Sam Beeson of Mitsubishi Electric in Seattle all showed up in person to testify. Their efforts were rounded out by 6 or 7 others all testifying in support of extending the RETC.
Renewing the RETC (HB 2681) remains OSEIA’s top priority this session. Since the prospects for winning on RETC are very much entwined with the question of how the legislature will address the budget deficit, OSEIA has been following the budget deficit discussion closely.
Oregon’s budget deficit is structural in nature, meaning that the state’s taxes and other revenue sources routinely fail to generate sufficient funding to cover the cost of state services. Without reform to Oregon’s tax policies, large deficits will continue to impact Oregon policy-making in future sessions and threaten state programs.Read more
Renewing the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) is OSEIA’s top legislative priority this session. Since the prospects for winning on RETC are very much entwined with the question of how the legislature will address the state’s $1.4 billion budget deficit, OSEIA has been following the budget deficit discussion closely.
The legislature’s first job, above all others, is to pass a balanced state budget for the next biennium. With such a large shortfall, any program that costs money is potentially on the chopping block—that includes RETC and even critical state programs like education and healthcare.
Oregon’s budget deficit is structural in nature, meaning that the state’s taxes and other revenue sources routinely fail to generate sufficient funding to cover the cost of state services. Without reform to Oregon’s tax policies, large deficits will continue to impact Oregon policy-making in future sessions and threaten state programs.
OSEIA has never weighed in with legislature on tax issues before. But the need for the RETC may require us to do that. We are seeking input on how potential policy positions on these issues could affect members’ work and company. Members have a survey in their inbox. Go here to fill out the survey if you haven’t already.
We will be also asking for OSEIA members to contact legislators very soon to support RETC. Once we define a specific funding mechanism, we’ll need to make sure that any extension stays in the final package. We know OSEIA members are ready to help deliver the message on how important RETC is. The time to help is coming quickly so stay tuned!Read more
With less than eight weeks left in Oregon’s legislative session, the legislature passed another significant benchmark on Tuesday: The State Economist presented May’s quarterly economic forecast to state legislators. The forecast provides the final estimate of revenue which legislators may allocate as they craft the next state budget.
What does that have to do with OSEIA’s legislative priorities? Well, OSEIA’s top priority is extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC). RETC brings numerous benefits to Oregon households and the solar energy and energy efficiency industries. But it also costs the states roughly $15 million dollars per year. With such a large budget deficit to fill, any state program that costs money is potentially on the chopping block.Read more
SEIA, the national solar trade association, is organizing a lobby day for solar companies based in and working in the western United States - Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico – in Washington, DC on June 22, 2017.
Community solar offers exciting possibilities to help consumers who can’t put solar on their roof still access the benefits of solar by participating in a larger project and getting a portion of the energy from that project credited to their bill.
The Oregon legislature adopted a community solar policy in February 2016. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) was charged with writing rules for the policy. The PUC has held a series of workshops starting in the second half of 2016 and continuing into 2017 as part of an informal process for the community solar rulemaking docket (AR 603). The community solar statute requires that rules for the program be in place by July 1, 2017.
I am the daughter of a career Marine and grew up on military bases around the country. What I took away from seeing my father put on a uniform each morning was a sense of service and the importance of working for something larger than myself. Driving across the country every other summer to a new duty station impressed on me that nothing is static and how important it is to be flexible.
My love for engineering can be directly linked to a multicolored set of Lego bricks. Why I chose to go into Aerospace engineering is not as clear. I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where the motto is “Learn by Doing” and it wasn’t until much later that I realized not all engineers had the benefit of such a hands-on education....In 2008, I moved to Oregon to be closer to my family and to start a career in the solar industry. An engineering degree - even one with a focus on hands-on learning - doesn't make up for a lack of construction experience. So I started at the bottom to learn the trade.Read more
Between OSEIA’s priority bills moving and a successful lobby day, it's been a good month for solar in Oregon's capitol but the outcome is still uncertain.
First, all three of OSEIA’s priority bills passed their first legislative hurdle by passing out of the House Energy & Environment Committee. Second, OSEIA hosted a successful and productive Solar Lobby Day last Monday in the capitol. OSEIA is beyond grateful to the 83 members and supporters who attended. We met with 67 legislators or their staff, that’s 75% of the 90-person legislature. Third, OSEIA policy staff and ten board members met with Governor Brown to discuss OSEIA’s solar priorities and solar’s role in our future. Nevertheless, we’ve a lot of work ahead to secure OSEIA’s priorities, and given the budget context, the outcome, particularly on RETC, is far from certain.Read more
The intention of this series is to give you, as a reader, a sense of where and how culture is thriving in the solar industry, and how you might begin to strengthen company culture in your own company or place of business. I conducted this interview with Ry Heller, Field Manager at True South Solar which currently employs 18 solar team members with 2 solar install teams.
Tamara: What does a thriving culture mean to you?
Ry: I think about it along the lines of my community here in Ashland. Our company is a little thriving culture within that. We have like-minded visions, shared goals, and our job is environmental activism. Our little thriving culture is more than just a job where you show up and make money. It’s a little community within the bigger community of people who want to make a difference, and enjoy showing up to work everyday to make that difference. We’re not just coworkers, but we’re all getting to know each other better, doing things outside of work sometimes, providing a very friendly community of support for one another...Read more
OSEIA caught up with Jeni Hall, Sr. Project Manager to ask her a few questions about this year’s Solar Contractor Day sponsored by Energy Trust of Oregon on Tuesday May 9th.
What is Solar Contractor Day?
A whole day of training on Tuesday May 9th designed just for Oregon solar contractors brought to you by Energy Trust of Oregon. Talking with solar trade allies we hear that many contractors are interested in growing their businesses, increasing their profits, and decreasing costs. We contracted with national industry experts on financial management, business operations, and installation best practices to help by providing Oregon solar contractors the tools needed to meet their goals.
Is there something different about Solar Contractor Day this year?
Yes! This year we have something for the whole team by offering two educational tracks. Focus on either business development or technical skills...Read more
Solar Makes its Mark on Legislature
OSEIA is beyond grateful to its members and supporters who attended Monday's Solar Lobby Day in Oregon's capitol. The importance of that event is difficult to overstate. With all three of OSEIA’s priority bills out of their first committee last week, this was our first chance to carry the message of RETC’s importance to a broader range of legislators.
By any measure, lobby day was successful. All told we met with 67 legislators or their staff. That’s 75% of the 90-person legislature. At least 83 solar pros and supporters attended...Read more
The 2017 legislative session is well underway and the OSEIA legislative team is hard at work. We are pursuing the policy agenda developed by the membership and approved by the board. Here’s an update on what’s happening with the key bills taking up most of our time.
At Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) we’ve been serving the financial needs of our neighbors since 1934 with a variety of products and services. But one of the ways we’re different is we’re one of the few financial institutions offer energy-efficiency / solar loans. Our Energy-Smart Loans improve housing stock, lower energy usage AND put people to work. Our deposits go towards supporting the environment, sustainability and YOUR local economy. That’s how PSCCU practices community and cooperation. Our solar program (to date) has helped over 2,600 Washingtonians become solar citizens, created living wage jobs, and these solar projects have put nearly $75 million back into our local economy which in turn will generate 6,100 Megawatts of electricity over their lifetime! We’re looking forward to adding Oregon solar projects to those numbers.
Oregon residents can join PSCCU and take advantage of our Energy-Smart loan program simply by becoming a member of the NW Energy Coalition (NWEC). More information about the Coalition and membership can be found on their website.Read more
We’ve been talking about extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) and the property tax exemption for a long time. But yesterday (Wednesday, March 29) we had the first hearing to start the process.
For an hour and a half, solar installers, energy efficiency advocates, labor representatives and economic development workers told the members of the Oregon House Energy and Environment Committee about the benefits of the RETC and the property tax exemption (but mostly RETC) – for consumers, for businesses and for Oregon.Read more
In mid-March, Imagine Energy at last completed one of the largest solar installations Portland has yet seen: 1.02 MW on the Montgomery Park commercial complex. The 1920 building, formerly a Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog warehouse, was acquired in the 1980’s and fully renovated into what is now the second largest office building in Oregon. Since then its owner, Bill Naito Co., has transformed the historic building through a host of upgrades and retrofits into one of the most sustainable commercial buildings in the United States. Its latest addition, the 1.02 MW solar array, will produce more than 30% of the buildings' energy needs and likely increase its already impressive current Energy Star Rating of 95 to 98, indicating energy efficiency greater than 98% of US commercial buildings.
Track 2017 Bills Important to OSEIA:
HB 2066 - Solar Home Incentive Program (SHIP)
HB 2681 - RETC: Residential Energy Tax Credit Extension - OSEIA no longer supports extension of RETC
HB 3050 - Relating to solar photovoltaic power generation facilities - Dead.
SB 979 - Renewable Energy Direct Access - Dead.
This article is part of an ongoing series of interviews for my exclusive column on Thriving Culture. The intention of this series is to give you, as a reader, a sense of where and how culture is thriving in the solar industry, and how you might begin to strengthen company culture in your own company or place of business. I conducted this interview with Anthoney Robinson, PV Installer and Energy Consultant at Elemental Energy, which currently employs 15 solar team members with 2 solar install teams.
Tamara: How would you describe your path to becoming an installer at Elemental Energy?
Anthoney: I was in the Marine Corps right after high school. I didn't particularly enjoy that too much, but I did learn that I like manual labor. I can't sit behind a desk – it’s something that I just can't wrap my head around...Read more
New Oregon Solar Energy Development Program Enrolls First Round of Projects. The 15 projects selected to date represent 116MW of the total 150MW capacity.
Oregon’s electricity could be 10 percent solar by 2027 by installing enough solar capacity to power 500,000 homes.
The Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA), Oregon’s solar trade association, today released its Oregon Solar Plan, which outlines a blueprint for the next 10 years of the state’s energy future. The plan, a collaboration between OSEIA and Lewis and Clark Law School’s Green Energy Institute, finds that solar can provide 10 percent of Oregon’s electricity needs by 2027 by installing enough solar capacity to power the equivalent of 500,000 Oregon homes.Read more
A quick update on the RETC; Oregon’s Residential Energy Tax Credit —> a great program driving solar in Oregon for many years!
Support the Oregon SolarPAC!!!
OSEIA has started a political action committee to increase our voice and influence with our decision makers in Salem. Your donation to the Oregon SolarPAC helps expand OSEIA’s capacity to develop a marketplace for the widespread adoption of solar energy in Oregon. More information>