Delaware Sierra Club supports Sustainable Energy Utility at Joint Sunset Review hearing
DOVER (April 9, 2013): Joint Sunset Review Committee Hearing for the Sustainable Energy Utility
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club offers our support for the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) as a valuable asset to energy efficiency and renewable energy development in Delaware.
As a first-of-its kind non-profit public partnership, the SEU has had its fair number of challenges.
However, more recent advancements that have been made under the new Executive Director Tony DePrima have provided a level of transparency and organizational accountability that was needed.
We would like to point to the contributions that the SEU has made that is directly benefitting Delawareans.
- April 2012 SREC Auction that tiered users to reduce unfair competition in solar projects, and provided the price stability in the SREC market for many new solar projects. As you may be aware, policy changes in the Renewable Portfolio Standard that were adopted by the Delaware Legislature, including enabling the use of natural-gas fuel cell Bloom Boxes to receive renewable energy credits, has eroded the local market for renewable energy. The SEU has been able to help alleviate the financial burden that this policy change placed on those in Delaware who were the first to install solar.
Many of Delaware’s early installers of solar panels have been financially harmed because they have been unable to sell their SRECS. The collapse in the price of SRECS is in a large part due to the Legislature’s choice to redefine natural gas fuel cells as renewable energy in 2011. Natural gas fuel cells are now responsible for 32 % of SRECs in Delmarva Power and Light’s compliance with the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Reaching out to these stranded SREC customers will alleviate a financial burden on Delawareans that was created by the Legislature.
We are pleased that the SEU is having an SREC auction again this year. We hope that such programs will continue.
- Green for Green Program will provide rebates to new construction that are certified by the Green Building Council. At least 10% of the funding in this program will be supporting Habitat for Humanity and low-income home builders in Delaware.
Construction of energy efficient homes is an important way of reducing future growth in energy consumption in Delaware. Extending these resources to low-income communities will reduce the energy burden cost in Delaware.
- Home Improvement Program that will provide weatherization and energy efficiency support to residential clients.
Existing homes are an important source of energy waste in Delaware, and provide an opportunity to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint in meaningful ways that also save our families money on their energy bills.
- Support for the Delaware Community Investment Corp., that will pull money for loans to low and moderate income communities.
Eligible clients include Delaware’s Housing Authorities, including the Delaware State Housing Authority, Wilmington Housing Authority and Newark Housing Authority. These agencies have been providing a valuable resource to Delaware’s low and moderate income communities, including the elderly who are on fixed income, and are increasingly challenged by rising energy costs. This program will support those in Delaware who are most at risk of energy burden.
- Loan program for nonprofits and small businesses to make energy efficiency upgrades, including a partnership with Delaware Interfaith Power and Light to provide energy audits and efficiency improvements in the faith community.
Small businesses, nonprofits and faith organizations often lack the access to capital needed to make investments to energy efficiency, while trying to meet their payroll and daily expenses. Because of the small size of their operations, they often do not meet the minimum scale needed to benefit from energy performance contracting. The SEU’s loan program would therefore enable energy efficiency to be implemented in a sector of our economy that is often missed by efficiency programs.
The SEU provides a service to Delawareans that will insure future generations will have clean air, healthy water and energy resources that are not depleted. The fossil-based resources that have provided our energy supply for generations have deteriorated health and environmental conditions in Delaware. Delaware has become home to cancer clusters around our energy generation plants, including coal-fired electricity production in all three counties.
Coal and natural gas, which continues to comprise much of our energy supply, contribute to smog, greenhouse gases and air toxics. The recent transition to fracking places our upstream watersheds in the Delaware Basin at risk. The SEU provides a new model for redressing the environmental and public health harm of our energy supply. This non-profit public-public partnership is extending the reach of efficiency and renewable energy beyond what would otherwise be achievable utilizing our conventional energy policies.
When the SEU was first established by the Legislature, there were a number of ambiguities that we recommend the Joint Sunset Review Committee consider. These would strengthen the SEU and make it more effective in achieving its ambitious goals.
- Annual reporting to the Legislature
- Audited financial statements
- Clarification on compliance with the Freedom of Information Act
- Re-evaluation of the composition of the oversight board to make sure that the elaborate categories that of members make sense.
- Recommendations to the Governor that appointments be made in a more-timely manner.
- DNREC has not developed regulations for the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, so the SEU does not have the regulatory guidance needed to proceed with programming.
The SEU is a valuable asset in the State of Delaware’s multi-pronged approach to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy consumption, and increasing our capacity to install distributed renewable energy.
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club hopes that the Joint Sunset Committee will take steps to preserve and improve Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility. Read our complete statement.