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Canadian Hydro: A Lifeline for Northeastern Clean Energy Goals?


To access Canadian hydro, developers must first navigate siting in some of the most constrained corridors in the country.

by Michael O’Boyle

October 13, 2016


Land-constrained Northeastern states looking for creative solutions to decarbonize their electricity system and maintain affordable, reliable electricity service have renewed interest in an old resource: imported Canadian hydroelectricity.  Two recent policies from Massachusetts and New York have spurred this interest:

  • Massachusetts House Bill 4568 requires public utilities to procure 9,450 gigawatt-hours of new renewable generation, giving preference to proposals combining new in-state wind and solar with Canadian hydro, though large hydro doesn’t qualify for the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
  • In 2015, New York City pledged to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, and to power 100 percent of the city’s operations with renewable energy. Governor Andrew Cuomo also signaled his intention to drive New York state’s emissions down to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030. Both measures will lead New York to look north to Canadian hydro.

However, getting pollution-free hydro from Canada isn’t as simple as signing a power-purchase agreement (PPA) -- it means utilities must build new transmission lines on both sides of the border.

Several projects underway across America, including a successful Minnesota model, show the Northeast how to overcome traditional siting challenges to access Canadian hydroelectric resources.

Why Canadian hydro?

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How a tax on carbon has divided Northwest climate activists



Environmentalists in Washington are hoping to lead the way with a proposed carbon tax. California has gone in a different direction with a cap-and-trade rule, which impact facilities like this refinery in Wilmington.



October 13, 2016, 11:35 a.m.

On election day, less than a week after the historic Paris climate accord is set to take effect, voters here will have the chance to establish what some experts say would be one of the planet’s most ambitious policies for fighting climate change: the first statewide tax on carbon emissions.

“We’re looking to voters to turn out big in support of this and really set a historic precedent,” said Matthew Anderson, a National Audubon Society vice president for climate. “Getting a price on carbon through this mechanism, getting that on the books in the states, would really shift things significantly.”

It certainly would seem fitting. The progressive Pacific Northwest, evergreen and unencumbered by archaic debates about whether climate change is real, has long viewed itself as the leading edge of sustainability.

Yet whether it will lead the nation this time is far from clear.

The ballot measure, meant to demonstrate the region’s environmental resolve, instead is revealing sharp division among activists over what climate policy should do and who it should benefit — foretelling, perhaps, struggles the rest of America could face as it confronts the challenges of climate policy.

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OPINONATED: CAISO Ignores Massive Market Distortion that Harms Local Renewables

13  OCT 2016   By Craig Lewis

—Craig Lewis is executive director of the Clean Coalition, a clean energy nonprofit.

The California Independent System Operator just dropped the ball on needed transmission access charge reform and Californians will continue paying a steep price for this failure.

In most electric utility service territories in California, transmission fees are applied to every kWh of metered customer electricity usage, regardless of whether the transmission grid is used at all.[1] This situation subsidizes remote energy generation that by definition is dependent on hundreds, or even thousands, of miles of costly transmission lines. It also distorts the market for local renewables by making generation from remote sources appear cheaper, which further drives a perceived need for additional transmission infrastructure.

The costs associated with transmission infrastructure have been rising rapidly for more than a decade, even as the price of energy has been falling, especially renewable energy. Ratepayers unknowingly pay for these hidden “shipping and handling” fees on top of the price of energy, which adds about 3¢/kWh of hidden costs to the price of wholesale long-term energy contracts, increasing wholesale energy costs by roughly 50 percent.

The solution to this market distortion is staring CAISO in the face, since it is already applied to the many municipal utilities within CAISO’s balancing authority. The simple solution is to allocate transmission access charges (TAC) based on the transmission energy downflow (TED) at the substations—as is currently the case with munis—instead of basing it on the amount of energy used by individual customers, since customer usage includes locally-generated electricity that does not use the transmission system.

In contrast, utilities that own a stake in the CAISO-managed transmission infrastructure (including PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) operate under the distorted TAC structure. For these Participating Transmission Owner (PTO) utilities, CAISO assesses the TAC on every kWh of electricity that passes through a customer meter, regardless of whether the energy originated on the customer’s roof with no use of the transmission grid, or 1,000 miles away and delivered over transmission lines.

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Tesla needs $12 billion through 2018, key analyst says

Robert Ferris | @RobertoFerris

Tesla will need to amass a gargantuan pile of cash in the next two years, says one cleantech analyst.

The electric carmaker's impending merger with SolarCity, which goes up for a shareholder vote in November, will require cash in four key areas, according to a note from Oppenheimer's Colin Rusch.

In total, he thinks Tesla will need to raise about $12.5 billion by the end of 2018.

Specifically, Tesla will need to fund $5 billion to $8 billion (or more) in capital expenditures combining its stationary power business with SolarCity; another $2 billion in capital for the auto unit; as well as cash for working capital and operating lease obligations.

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What’s Driving The Move To Electric Vehicles?

OCT 13, 2016 @ 08:20 AM

Ken Silverstein , CONCONTRIBUTOR

I write about the global energy business.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.


Tesla cars are presented during press days of the Paris motor Show on September 30, 2016. ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images

Tesla may be the catalyst driving electric cars. But just about every car maker in the world is developing either an all-electric car or a hybrid vehicle that runs on both electricity and petroleum. That’s good news for the environment, especially as such vehicles approach price parity with traditional ones.

As electric cars continue to improve, so do the efficiencies — or the ability to input a unit of energy and to realize more output. In fact, traditional cars running on an internal combustion engine have a 30 percent efficiency. The rest is lost to heat, sound and energy. Just refining a gallon of gasoline takes 7 kilowatts-hours per gallon, says Thor Hinckley, a electric vehicle and renewable energy expert with CLEAResult, a consulting specializing in energy efficiency.

But vehicles that run on electricity have an 80 percent efficiency rate, or they convert 80 percent of those Btus to energy, he explains. The efficiencies are greater because of the superiority of the electric motor over that of the internal combustion engine — not because one unit of energy is better than another.

“With an efficiency difference that great, anything will be cleaner than burning gasoline,” says Hinckley. Obviously, burning a Btu of wind, solar or hydro is cleaner than burning the same unit of coal. But even if coal is used to generate the electricity to drive the car, he says that emissions are 20-30 percent less than a comparable vehicle running on petroleum. That’s huge.

The genesis of the modern electric car can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s time period. That’s when the California Air Resources Board set a zero-emissions standard to wean the state from petroleum. There, mobile sources still account for half of all emissions that contribute to ozone and particulate matter — and nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gases, the agency says.

Now, about 9 other states have similar initiatives — not just to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road but also to increase the miles per gallon that traditional cars can travel. Because car makers don’t find it efficient to make different types of cars for different states, jurisdictions across the country are also benefiting from California’s mandate.

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BART’s future on line: Can transit system gain voters’ trust?

By Michael Cabanatuan

October 13, 2016 Updated: October 13, 2016 9:29am


At a time when BART leaders should be extolling to voters the benefits of rebuilding the 44-year-old system, Measure RR foes are forcing them to explain how they let it fall apart — and why they don’t have ... more

As BART pleads with voters to raise their property taxes to bring in $3.5 billion in bonds to rebuild the Bay Area’s backbone rail transit system, its officials find themselves in an uncomfortable spot.

At a time when BART leaders should be extolling to voters the benefits of rebuilding the 44-year-old system, Measure RR foes are forcing them to explain how they let it fall apart — and why they don’t have the money to fix it.

“When I talk to regular BART commuters, they say it’s a matter of trust,” said Wendy McKeever Lack of Walnut Creek, a leader of the No on RR campaign. “BART didn’t plan. They have needs they didn’t save for.”

But while BART may not have been squirreling away money to rebuild, a Chronicle review of more than 20 years of financial reports found that the agency has consistently funneled money into upkeep. Even as ridership grew and the system expanded, it kept operating costs low compared with similar transit systems, and the percentage of fares that paid for them high.

BART officials say the goal was to find a balance between building extensions, maintaining the core of the system and avoiding service cuts when the economy slowed. They say they have spent riders’ and taxpayers’ dollars responsibly. Now, they say, it’s simply the time to replace key parts — from railcars to computerized train controls to the electrical power systems — that naturally are reaching the end of their useful existence.


The aging system, they argue, needs a $9.6 billion overhaul over the next decade, and they anticipate that only half of that will come from local, state and federal sources. Measure RR, placed on the Nov. 8 ballot by BART directors in June, would raise $3.5 billion by increasing property taxes a yearly average of about $9 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties. For it to pass, voters in those counties must give it cumulative two-thirds approval.

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Highway 99 rated deadliest in nation, study says

OCTOBER 13, 2016 1:16 PM


Highway 99 in the Central Valley is the deadliest major highway in the country, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The 400-mile highway that runs through the centers of Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto and other valley cities recorded 62 fatal accidents per 100 miles over a recent five-year span.

The report is from ValuePenguin, a private consumer research organization based in New York that reviews personal finance products. The company analyzes consumer data.

Highway 99 had 264 fatal accidents between 2011 and 2015, based on data ValuePenguin culled from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration database of fatal crashes. Fifty of those involved drunken driving.

The database recorded the most fatalities, 35, in the Modesto area.

Interstate 45 in Texas had the second highest rate of fatalities, 55 per 100 miles, followed by Interstate 95, which runs down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida.

California highway officials have been working on $1 billion worth of safety and efficiency improvements on Highway 99 over the past 10 years, using some of the $20 billion in infrastructure bonds approved by state voters in 2006 under Proposition 1B.

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Farmers were paid $32M to pump and not farm. Was it a waste of money?

OCTOBER 13, 2016 7:00 AM

In wetter years, this marsh at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge would have been filled with water and migratory birds by mid-October. But large areas of the refuge remain dry because of the drought. Ryan Sabalow



In a move that could have ramifications across the arid West, a government watchdog agency accused federal water regulators of wasting taxpayer funds when they gave Klamath Basin farmers more than $32 million to stop growing crops and to pump groundwater instead of drawing from lakes and rivers.

The funds were spent in a failed bid to protect endangered fish and wildlife near the California-Oregon border, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a report this week.

The inspector general slammed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for not having legal authority to enter into a seven-year agreement that reimbursed farmers and said bureau officials were wrong to take funds that Congress had set aside to help struggling species and give them to the now-defunct Klamath Water and Power Agency.

The watchdog agency said there was little evidence the program helped threatened coho salmon and two kinds of endangered sucker fish. In fact, the report says, it might have further strained the watershed because the pumping lowered groundwater already depleted by years of drought.

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Filed under: Water Comments Off

Strange Bedfellows Form Coalition To Increase Water Supply

Thursday, October 13, 2016 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink


California’s drought has brought about a strange partnership that includes corporations like Coca-Cola and environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy.  They’re partnering on projects aimed at helping increase water supply in California.

The California Water Action Collaborative, or CWAC, has announced four projects to help create a sustainable water supply as the state enters its sixth year of drought. The projects include flooding farms to recharge groundwater, removing invasive species in watersheds and thinning trees in dense forested areas of the Sierra Nevada. The groups will also look at ways to implement the California Water Action Plan.

“It was the collective realization of how bad it’s gotten that made us all put our individual needs aside and begin to think about how we can meet our multiple needs, especially as we approach another year of drought,” says Brian Stranko, director of the Water Program with the Nature Conservancy in California.

Nelson Switzer is with Nestlé Waters North America, which has five bottled water plants in California. The company is helping fund one of the projects that will test how forest thinning can increase water supply.

“While there may be a PR benefit to taking part in something like CWAC, the fact of the matter is we know that just Nestle Waters North America, we can’t solve California’s water challenges on our own, so we have to do this together," says Switzer.

Beverage companies Coca-Cola, MillerCoors, and Anheuser Busch are also helping fund the projects. You can read the entire list here.

watercaliforniadroughtnature conservancyNestléwater supplywater resources

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Filed under: Water Comments Off

BRIEFLY Stuff that matters GOOD-ISH NEWS


Reuters/Andrew Cullen

Energy-related carbon emissions were way down in the first half of 2016 — but there’s a catch. According to an analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, carbon emissions in the first half of 2016 were the lowest we’ve seen since 1991. For reference, that’s the same year the Soviet Union called it quits and Michael Jackson released Dangerous — in other words, a long time ago.


EIA offered two explanations for the decrease: “mild weather” leading to less home-heating demand and changes in our overall energy mix, meaning we’re using fewer fossil fuels like coal and natural gas and more renewables.

But here’s the rub: In recent years, methane emissions — a greenhouse gas that is by some estimates 84 times more effective at warming the Earth — have been on the way up.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency said it underestimated its methane data for several years, especially for the growing oil and gas sector. For 2013, the agency revised methane emissions with an addition of 100 million metric tons. EPA’s latest analysis shows nearly a quarter of methane emissions come from natural gas operations.

This year, the Obama administration took several steps to regulate methane. If left unchecked, methane emissions from oil and gas alone are expected to grow by 4.5 percent by 2018.

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6 years after Deepwater Horizon oil spill, thousands of people are still sick

By Linda Marsa on Oct 10, 2016

This story was originally published by Newsweek and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Scott Porter remembers the last time he felt completely well. It was a warm, clear day with sparkling blue skies in June 2010. A deep-sea diver and marine biologist, he was taking a TV news crew out on a 30-foot catamaran to one of his favorite spots in the Gulf of Mexico, a coral reef growing on an abandoned oil platform at Main Pass 311. It lies about 40 miles north of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which had exploded six weeks earlier. The rig’s severely damaged wellhead a mile below the surface was still gushing thousands of barrels of oil a day — and ongoing coverage of the accident continued to generate headlines. Federal officials had assured Porter that the water around the reef was safe, but the acrid smell of crude permeated the air. The minute he plunged into the murky seas, he found himself immersed in a 40-foot-thick mucous plume of oil and chemical dispersants.

“At midday, it’s normally light enough to read a book even 60 feet below,” Porter says. “But the oil blocked out so much sunlight, I couldn’t read my gauges.” Porter recalled the incident while picking over heaping platters of boiled shrimp and crawfish, specialties at Big Al’s, a popular Cajun-style eatery in Houma, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans — and in the heart of Louisiana oil country. Porter, who consults for oil companies and environmental groups, lives nearby in this bustling metropolis of 30,000. It’s a starting point for fishermen headed to the Gulf and for oil crews that bunk in chain hotels crowded along the town’s main drag before heading out to the rigs for two- to three-week stints.

Porter has spent a lot of time underwater — more than 6,000 dives over a 20-year career, he estimates — but that dive was different. “I felt like I was marinating in a vat of industrial solvents,” scowls the 49-year-old native of the Texarkana twin cities. When he got home that night, he developed a terribly itchy skin rash. He felt as if his lungs were seared by fire, with an intense burning sensation in his chest that he knew from experience was chemical pneumonia, caused by inhaling harsh solvents. But he kept diving. And after each subsequent dive, he developed more ailments — chest colds, a burning throat, pounding migraines, bone-deep lethargy, and nausea.

Many other Gulf residents are stricken with some of the same odd symptoms — and more. They include migraines, skin rashes, bloody diarrhea, bouts of pneumonia, nausea, seizures, muscle cramps, profound depression and anxiety, severe mental fuzziness, and even blackouts.


Reuters / Sean Gardner

The oil spill, the worst in maritime history, dumped 4.2 million barrels of oil, and officials released 1.8 million gallons of Corexit, a chemical dispersant used to break up the oil, into the Gulf before the well was sealed. Six years later, controversy still rages about the wisdom of carpet-bombing the Gulf with these chemicals, and newly released documents reveal that government scientists expressed concern at the time about the health consequences of mixing such large quantities of dispersants with the millions of barrels of sweet crude. Occupational health experts now believe it created a toxic mix that sickened thousands of locals — including some of the 47,000 people that worked in some capacity on BP’s cleanup operation — crippling them with chemically induced illnesses that doctors are unable to treat.

“There is a core of very sick patients who undoubtedly will be ill for the remainder of their lives as the result of exposure to chemicals involved in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” says Michael Robichaux, an ear, nose, and throat specialist in south Louisiana and a former state senator.

In the initial aftermath of the spill, Robichaux treated dozens of people, including Porter. They ranged from a 3-year-old boy, who had seizures from swimming in a pool next to an oil-soaked beach, to a cleanup worker who was blinded when his optic nerves were irreversibly scarred after exposure to chemicals near the oil booms. A family friend, the wife of a fisherman who worked on one of the cleanup boats, had developed a leukemia-like blood disorder that apparently stemmed from washing her husband’s oil-drenched clothes. “A lot of the women were no longer menstruating, or their menstrual cycles had gone out of whack,” recalls Robichaux. “I was seeing a lot of people — children even — who had seizures, dizziness, and all sorts of other neurological problems.”

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Oil Pipeline Battle Intensifies: ‘If It Spills It Kills’

OCT 12, 2016 @ 07:49 AM


Oil markets analyst, journalist and author based in Southeast Asia

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    “IF IT SPILLS IT KILLS,” read one sign carried by an activist opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline , that would stretch some 1,200 miles from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois.

    The underground pipeline, with a price tag of $3.7 billion, would transport 470,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Bakken oil fields to refineries and markets in the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast.

    Energy Transfer Crude Oil Co., the project’s developer, claims that the pipeline would bring an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments, in addition to adding between 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs.

    Mounting opposition and riots


    A demonstrator holds a copy of the United States Constitution and signs in protest of the Bakken Pipeline outside of the 2nd annual Roast and Ride hosted by Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, not pictured, in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

    However, opposition began in August when a few dozen members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe began protests over the project, also filing a complaint in federal court. The tribe alleged that the construction and operation of the pipeline threatened its environmental and economic well-being. They also claim that it “would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”

    Some are also concerned that digging the pipeline under the Missouri River would affect the tribe’s drinking water supply.

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    Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas receives warm welcome on Wall Street

    Solid market performance hints chilly relationship between Wall Street and the oil patch may be warming


    Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file Extraction Oil & Gas executives, from left: Rusty Kelley, CFO, Mark Erickson, CEO, and Matt Owens, president. Shares in the Denver-based company began trading publicly on Wednesday.


    PUBLISHED: October 12, 2016 at 6:10 pm | UPDATED: October 13, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Stock investors greeted Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. with open arms Wednesday, the latest sign that the chilly relationship between the country’s oil patch and Wall Street may be warming.

    “Extraction is the first exploration and production company to go public in over two years” said Matt Kennedy, an analyst with Renaissance Capital, which manages exchange traded funds focused on IPOs. “I would expect more energy IPOs in the remainder of the year.”

    The offering gives Colorado a new public company worth $3.1 billion, and provides Extraction with the cash it needs to fund its drilling program in the Wattenberg Field in Weld County.

    By not tanking on the first day of trading, Extraction also represents a peace offering from an industry that burned investors badly when oil prices fell to less than $30 a barrel at the start of this year from more than $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014.

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    A Maturing Industry: Assorted Insights From Energy Storage North America


    Photo Credit: AES Energy Storage

    Everyone’s getting serious about storage.

    by Julian Spector

    October 12, 2016


    We often hear that energy storage is a few years behind the solar industry. Comparing these industries’ respective trade shows helpfully illustrates this point.

    Solar Power International drew 18,000 people to Las Vegas in September, with panels sprawling throughout the convention center and two massive expo floors. There were espresso bars, two-story display stands and plenty of lights, shiny things and after-parties at swanky Vegas nightclubs.

    By contrast, the 2,000-person Energy Storage North America in San Diego last week felt quiet and provincial, closer to a hometown parade than a county fair. The expo had some familiar names from SPI, but focused more on fostering conversations between like-minded storage wonks than on wowing an audience with bells and whistles.

    Many of the conversations at the conference dealt with how to put storage on track to where the solar industry is now. Most of the air time went to addressing policy and regulatory obstacles so that the existing storage technologies can get paid for the services they provide. There weren't any earth-shaking revelations, but a steady march toward the boom that the industry and its observers have predicted.

    Here are a few of the insights stumbled upon while wandering the halls.

    Massachusetts storage companies are getting fired up

    At the state level, California has long dominated the storage game, having passed the first statewide storage mandate in the U.S. back in 2013. Employment in the storage industry is correspondingly concentrated in California.

    This summer, the Massachusetts legislature authorized the state's Department of Energy Resources to decide if it thinks a target would make sense. That same department released a study last month saying that up to 1,766 megawatts of storage capacity would provide a net benefit to ratepayers, so chances are good that a target will become reality.

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    Sonnen and AutoGrid Marry Big Data With Battery-Backed Solar


    Why software and data are critical to getting the most value out of distributed energy storage

    by Jeff St. John

    October 13, 2016

    Germany’s Sonnen is hot on Tesla’s heels in the small but fast-growing U.S. market for behind-the-meter batteries, mainly used to provide emergency backup power for solar-equipped homes. But like every other player in the field, Sonnen is looking for additional revenue streams to bolster its business case, like aggregating lots of smaller batteries to provide services at grid scale.

    That’s the goal of Sonnen’s new partnership with Silicon Valley startup AutoGrid. On Wednesday, the two announced they’re integrating their software to “help energy project developers, utilities and other energy service providers better manage, optimize and aggregate sonnenBatterie systems and other distributed energy resources.”

    Sonnen is already doing this kind of grid aggregation in Germany, through partnerships with retail energy providers and distribution utilities. It launched its U.S. residential energy storage offering last year, and now has more than 100 installation partners in 40 states. That list includes big markets like California and Hawaii and off-the-beaten-path states like Utah and North Dakota, said Olaf Lohr, Sonnen’s development director, in a Wednesday interview.

    While Sonnen hasn’t disclosed figures on how many customers have bought and installed its solar-battery systems in the states it’s working in, “We’re getting to the point of critical mass,” he said.

    But as the company will admit, there are cheaper ways for homeowners to get emergency backup power than a solar system and a battery. Meanwhile, maximizing your self-consumption of solar may be an economically effective use case in Germany, but it doesn’t pencil out in almost any U.S. markets, Hawaii being the possible exception.

    That’s leading Sonnen, along with every other residential solar-battery contender, to look to the other side of the meter for value. While a single 5- to 10-kilowatt battery isn’t of much use on its own, blocks of them can be aggregated into larger units of energy capacity stability that have value to utilities, grid operators or retail energy providers.

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