By Charlie Coggeshall -- The past few weeks have brought some relatively encouraging updates regarding the implementation of the state’s community solar program. We can now confidently anticipate stakeholder engagement opportunities around key implementation aspects of the program over the next several months.
I am excited to take over as OSEIAs interim executive director and I look forward to engaging with you on upcoming initiatives, including 2018 legislation to fix the expiration of OR solar tax credits. Please know that we are as strong as ever and maintaining the momentum we've built over the past two years remains a high priority. I feel great about OSEIAs future for many reasons but a key one is that a main contributor to our momentum, the efforts of Craig Ernst and Meghan Craig, will continue delivering the excellent programs and events that OSEIA is becoming known for.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to myself or OSEIA staff if you have any questions.
OSEIA contracts interim Executive Director!Read more
Last week, The Solar Foundation released the 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study, which is the first comprehensive examination of the workforce diversity of the U.S. solar energy industry. Findings show that racial diversity within the industry has remained relatively stagnant over recent years, and that all people of color, particularly women, are at risk of being left behind as the solar workforce continues its rapid growth trajectory. Of the major findings, only 8% of African American respondents reported that they have successfully moved up the career ladder, and 50% think they have not been successful in moving up in their careers and feel “stuck” in their current positions. Meanwhile, all women and people of color are less likely to earn top-tier wages than their white male peers. Learn more.
I’m the Program Director at Community Energy Project (CEP), where I’ve worked for over 11 years. My focus is on community education, low-income engagement, program development, and grassroots outreach. CEP provides DIY workshops on weatherization and lead poisoning prevention, as well as direct repair and weatherization services for low-income seniors and people with disabilities...It is because of this experience with the intersectionality of the low-income experience that we were approached to give feedback on SB 1547 “Coal to Clean” bill which included a sub-section on Community Solar – with a further sub-section on serving low-income communities. I’ll be honest, we had to be convinced. After all, what does solar have to do with low-income?
Oregon has always been seen as a leader in clean energy. Before “climate change” or even “clean energy” were commonplace terms, Oregon was helping individuals make clean energy investments. In the late 1970s, the legislature created the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) to provide incentives to Oregonians to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. In fact, the RETC was identified in the recently released Oregon Solar Plan as a key factor in getting solar to where it is today in Oregon. It also helped Oregon reduce its energy usage over the years.
You’d think that as we confront climate change and look to be a national leader in demonstrating the benefits of clean energy that making sure the RETC or some kind of clean energy incentive would be a legislative no-brainer.
You’d be wrong.Read more
In 1979 at the ripe young age of 30 I built a new home in Northwest Portland. I installed a solar water heating system in May 1980. Proudly standing next to my solar collectors, on May 18th I watched Mt. St. Helens erupt. I was a real estate broker, having just started my own company selling a condominium project misfortunately called “Ash Creek Park”. As the region was covered in ash, and with interest rates climbing to 19% nothing was selling and I had a big mortgage to pay. I called the solar company who’d installed my system and asked them if they could use a part time salesman. I told them I could sell anything I believed in.
Most of you have heard that the legislative effort to extend the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) or replace it with another residential solar incentive was not successful for 2017. While we negotiated a very good package that balanced the needs of the industry and solar customers with the needs of the state, one or two legislators felt that without a more stable revenue approach for the state, they could not support any tax credits, no matter how small (ours would have had a $2.7 million impact on the current budget).
We had terrific champions, we had great grassroots support (over 200 people make calls or sent e-mails on July 3 alone as we entered the final days of the session. All of that combined kept us alive all the way to the end.
But we still fell short and are now trying to determine next steps...Read more
A diverse workforce better reflects the perspective of its customers, fosters innovation and retains existing talent—all of which are key contributors to financial performance.
That’s why a first-of-its-kind report will be released later this year on career pathways and diversity in the solar workforce. As an initiative of the Solar Energy Industry Association’s Women’s Empowerment Committee and administered by The Solar Foundation, the study will establish a baseline on specific job responsibilities, salaries, and levels of leadership for women, minorities and veterans. It will compare the results to other industry sectors and identify best practices and areas for improvement.
Policy Update: Lots Happening; Lots Still to Do
As this update is being written, there is a big effort going on in the legislature to create a new residential solar incentive. A big effort around community solar rulemaking just finished but there’s still a lot of work to do to implement a community solar program.
Legislative Update: The Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) will expire at year’s end, but we have the chance to create a new tax credit to help residential customers install solar on their rooftops. The new credit, known as the Residential Incentive for Solar Energy (RISE), will make it easier for residential customer to go solar. We are currently pushing hard to make sure that the new tax credit will be included in the final tax credit bill that the legislature will consider before the session ends.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Salem, OR (June 29, 2017) – Today, the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) adopted community solar rules that will bring the state one step closer to enabling all Oregonians to directly participate in, and benefit from, local solar projects without having to place solar panels on one’s roof.
Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 1574 on Mar. 10, 2016, directing the PUC to develop a community solar program with the goal of expanding access to affordable, local clean energy. Community solar allows multiple energy customers – families, businesses and schools - the ability to share in the benefits of a local solar project and receive credit on their electric bill for their portion of the clean power produced. Community solar can make solar accessible to every Oregonian with an electric bill. For the last year, the PUC’s staff and Commissioners have worked with stakeholders to develop the program rules approved today.Read more
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
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
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.
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
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>