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BLOOMBERG: Solar and Wind Just Passed Another Big Turning Point

Wind and solar have long made up a small fraction of U.S. electricity—about 5 percent in 2014. But production has been rising at an exponential rate, and those two energy sources are now big enough to influence when coal and natural gas plants are kept running, according to BNEF.

There are two reasons this shift in capacity factors is important. First, it’s yet another sign of the rising disruptive force of renewable energy in power markets. It’s impossible to brush aside renewables in the U.S. in the same way it might have been just a few years ago. “Renewables are really becoming cost-competitive, and they’re competing more directly with fossil fuels,” said BNEF analyst Luke Mills. “We’re seeing the utilization rate of fossil fuels wear away.”

Second, the shift illustrates a serious new risk for power companies planning to invest in coal or natural-gas plants. Historically, a high capacity factor has been a fixed input in the cost calculation. But now anyone contemplating a billion-dollar power plant with an anticipated lifespan of decades must consider the possibility that as time goes on, the plant will be used less than when its doors first open.

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LIVE MINT: India plans to provide solar power at new low of Rs4.75 per unit to states

India’s strategy of a foreign currency-denominated tariff plan for solar energy is aimed at providing solar power at a new low of Rs.4.75 per unit to the states.

This would work like this. Firms such as state-owned NTPC Ltd will call for bids from solar project developers for buying 15,000 megawatts (MW) on behalf of the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) that will then be sold to the states. NTPC will run a reverse bidding process for procuring solar-powered electricity in foreign currency-denominated tariff to reduce risk. It will provide a purchase guarantee, making such projects bankable and help solar power eventually cost the same as that purchased from the grid (this is called grid parity).

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FORBES: As California Rolls Out More Solar Power, Regulators Could Undercut The Industry

The fall season is kicking off a sizzling solar power debate in California and one that has the potential to undercut the state’s climate mission. Utility regulators there are in discussions over how to balance the interest of rooftop solar generators with the utilities on which they will still depend. Just how those hearings are resolved with have implications for the rollout of renewable energy not just in California but also around the country.

At issue is something called “net metering,” which is technical term used to measure the amount of money that rooftop solar generators should get paid relative to retail electricity prices. Utilities, generally, want to offer them the wholesale rate for what they send to them over the grid. Those are expensive wires to maintain and ones that all customers will use, even those who power their homes with solar panels. That’s because the sun is not always shining and the utilities would then have to provide them electricity over their networks.

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CIRCULATE NEWS: Solar energy kiosks provide rural lighting solutions in Madagaskar

A new social enterprise HERi Madagascar, has developed an innovative, healthier and affordable solution to providing lighting to rural parts of Madagascar. The current population of Madagascar is nearly 23 million people and a huge percentage of the 15+ million rural populus live without consistent access to electricity. Kerosene lamps are used to provide light in remote areas all over the globe, and the associated health dangers, fire hazard and safety issues are now widely publicised, not to mention the costs of paraffin fuel, but there’s often no alternative option.

In the absence of the development and capital needed to set up an electrical grid infrastructure, the greatest success stories tend to be in cost effective, innovative solutions. One recent example in Madagascar, set up in 2012, is social enterprise HERi Madagascar.

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Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

The creator of 5-Hour Energy ventures into game changing affordable clean energy solutions in India

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