California ruling on net metering a major win for solar

Great news: The California Public Utilities Commission has voted that homeowners with solar power systems will be compensated at the retail rate for power their systems generate and feed back into the electrical grid. 

Utility companies had argued that solar customers should be paid a rate closer to wholesale price to compensate for the "burden" they placed on non-solar customers to pick up the tab left by homeowners who now generate their own power.

Of course, this is not the view of us in the solar industry (and frankly anyone without a vested interest in traditional utilities) as solar consumers relieve pressure on the aging grid infrastructure, minimize fossil-fueled power generation and water usage required in that process, and reduces the need to buy power at expensive peak times. Indeed, the ruling reflects that value and is a major win for renewable energy in California and the US.

“This decision creates certainty for consumers, it creates certainty for clean energy providers, it creates certainty for investors and it upholds California’s strong tradition of clean energy leadership," said Sara Baldwin Auck, regulatory director at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, a nonprofit policy group that supports clean energy.

New customers will be required to pay an interconnection fee ($75-$150) and begin paying fees of a few cents per kilowatt-hour when utility limits are reached, estimated to be in 2017. Anyone installing a system in advance of those rooftop limits being reached will escape these fees, which will fund low-income and energy efficiency programs.

All in all, it's a positive step for solar and the energy landscape in general. Perhaps Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said it best:

"It’s not just net-metering 2.0, it’s grid 2.0 that this decision essentially ushers in.”




Project: KHS Bicycles

KHS Bicycles wanted a solution to spiraling electricity bills at its global headquarters in Rancho Dominguez, California. 

The renowned designer, manufacturer, and distributor of mountain, road, and touring bicycles, as well as comfort tandems and cruisers, is known for its quality, value and integrity and wanted to bring that ethic to its electricity generation too. 

The solar installation and energy management program will save KHS more than $600,000 and reduce its carbon emissions by 1.3million pounds. 

Since its establishment in 1974, KHS has earned many awards and accolades including: the first Taiwan-made bicycle to use Reynolds tubing (1979), Sears Partner in Progress Award (1986), Mountain Biking Magazine's coveted "Bike of the Year Award" (1994), awarded the US patent for the Delta Linear Downtube design (1998), the world's first "softtail" comfort bicycles, and Taiwan's prestigious "Excellent Product" award for its softtail bicycles (200).

For more information on KHS Bicycles Inc., visit or call 310-632-7173

Save energy this Christmas with a few quick tips!

Electricity bills spike around this time of year for most of us. For those of us who work from offices or buildings that will be closed for the holiday, these few reminders will help keep costs low.

1. When everyone leaves the premises for the Christmas holidays, switch off all computers, photocopiers, printers and non-essential equipment at the plug socket. Leaving these items on standby means they could still be using up to 90% of their power. 

2. Turn off the lights on your desk, in the office, any display lights that don't need to be on. If you need them on at a certain time for security reasons, use a timer. According to the Carbon Trust, lighting the average office building overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1,000 cups of coffee!

3. Turn off any Christmas decorations that light up. They may look nice, but if you're not there to enjoy them there is no need to pay for them. This is also heavily recommended from a fire safety perspective. And also, if you do decorate with Christmas lights, consider using LED lights, which are energy efficient.

Happy Holidays!

Project: Chula Vista Community Church

Sunistics Group has partnered with Chula Vista Community Church to help the organization with its energy management needs. 

The installation of a 21KW solar system will offset 90% of its electricity use and reduce its monthly electricity bill from $842 to $119 - more than quarter of a million dollars in savings in total. 

"We chose to go solar because it was the only option for us to get out of the rising costs from the utility company," said Pastor Phil Golden. "In the hottest months, we were paying more than double our usual bill from the cooler months.

"Our experience with Sunistics was positive from the start - and that set them apart. They had time and answers for every question, guided us through everything, and I felt comfortable with the team immediately and throughout. Even when obstacles arose, there was a great personal effort to overcome them and this, as well as their professionalism and clear communication, gave me complete trust in Sunistics. Our opinion of Sunistics is great."

For more information on Chula Vista Community Church, call (619) 422-7850 or visit 

Project: Plymouth Church, Whittier

Sunistics Group has partnered with Plymouth Church in Whittier to support the organization with its energy management needs for both its church and school facilities. 

A 68KW solar system will offset more than 1.7million pounds of carbon emissions and save the organization almost $650,000 in electricity costs. 

"As a growing church with a school and a pre-school, the increasing costs of electricity over the next few years was going to make it very expensive for us to continue - and guaranteed significant tuition increases," said Pastor Dan Pryor. "Solar power will help us stop the bleeding and continue to focus on our mission, not our electric bills."

For more information on Plymouth Church, visit or call (562) 692-1228.

Project: Coast to Coast Computer Products (Woodland Hills)

Coast to Coast Computer Products is overcoming its high demand charges by partnering with Sunistics Group to install a solar project on the roof of its Woodland Hills location.

A 49KW system significantly reduces Coast to Coast's carbon emissions and will save the company, which provides a complete range of consumable computer supplies, more than $650,000 in electricity costs. 

Coast to Coast have also signed up to install solar at its Simi Valley location, and the company's president and CEO, Rick Roussin, even purchased a Sunistics Group system for his own home. 

"After thoroughly vetting Sunistics Group to provide energy management and solar solutions for our Coast to Coast Computer Products business locations, I was very comfortable using their expertise for my home project," said Rick.

"I'm very pleased with the results and highly recommend their services for both business and residential solar."

For more information on Coast to Coast Computer Products, visit or call 800-223-8890.

Better Energy Education: Kids' Classes

One of our favorite things in our day-to-day work is to deliver better energy education classes to children and young people at faith-based and community organizations across Southern California.

We use a combination of resources both from Sunistics and external education entities, and we are always asked to share them after the classes.

So here is a list of our favorite resources (in no particular order):

1.  Climate Cops: Among the many fun games, Climate Cops also suggests energy saving activities - “No Power Hours.” From energy saving missions like standby button “Whack Attack” to word searches and other games, Climate Cops is perfect for kids and young people learning about energy conservation.

2.  Energy Kids: Energy Kids is the official learning and teaching resource from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. We like it because it breaks things down really simply for kids of all ages, and the puzzles and riddles are good fun for everyone. Which part of jail are the energy criminals kept? The fuel cell, of course.

3.  Energy Star Kids: Energy Star Kids is a website that explains the energy issues facing the world and what can be done in our day-to-day lives to help. It provides fun facts and interactive games that teach young people that everyone has a role to play in energy conservation and the reasons it’s important. Visit

4.  National Energy Education Development: The National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) is a wonderful resource that we share with faith-based organizations and communities during our energy management classes and seminars. It provides a broad range of detailed information for those who really want to learn about energy, where it comes from, what it is, how it’s used, and importantly, the difference between renewable and non-renewable sources. The curriculum is suitable for all age groups.

Try them out at home or keep an eye out for when we’ll be next in your community. Contact us for more information. 

A letter to the grandkids



This week, we have been inspired by Richard Branson (like most weeks) and Virgin’s #ChallengeRichard campaign. He was challenged to write a letter to his family, based on the fact it’s one of the most important things you could do.

It got us thinking about our own situations. As a team, we are individually and collectively motivated to work hard in the pursuit of better energy – and ultimately, much of that work is intended to protect our world for future generations. Here’s what our very own David Marsden had to say:

Dear Max, Kevin, Louise (and those of you who are still to come along!)
When you grow up, you will realize that you are living in one of the best places that you could possibly be.
You’re already lucky; being born into a family that loves you unconditionally, that can provide for you, that will raise you to be polite, respectful, and to fight for what you believe in. Add to that the fact you’ll (likely) be in Southern California, you’ll realize you hit the jackpot.
Life is about being happy and true to the things that make you feel that way. You have to be prepared to fight - but as long as you’re fighting for good in the world, you will be fulfilled.
Right now, our fight is fundamental to protecting our way of life in this magnificent place we call home. And we do so with the hope that you will be able to live your lives with clean air to breathe and the natural wonders of our world – in California and beyond – preserved to revel among.
We grew up taking this for granted, and we work every day now to ensure you can do the same, but with the wisdom of our mistakes and the legacy of our innovation and perspiration.
It is important not to lose sight of the important things in life, despite the inevitable and plentiful distractions. But if you value what you have, treat people with the respect you would expect in return, see things from different perspectives, and know the things you don’t know, you will be on a good path.
I love each day watching you grow and will always do everything in my power to ensure your lives are the best they can be. I hope you do the same for me when I’m old, slow, and need a ride to the golf club!
All my love, unconditionally,

What would lessons would you pass on, and what do you do that would make your grandchildren proud? We’d love to hear. 

Project: Big Brand Tire & Service

Photo courtesy of Big Brand Tire & Service

Photo courtesy of Big Brand Tire & Service

The solar installation at Big Brand Tire & Service's Camarillo headquarters is up and running.

This magnificent picture was sent to us by the team at BBTS as the company shows off its beautiful system and its significant commitment to its surrounding environment and community.

The 94kW system, developed by Sunistics and already out-performing projections, will save the company more than one million dollars in electricity costs and eliminate almost 2,500,000 lbs of C02 from the atmosphere. 

Big Brand Tire & Service has served the community in the region for 43 years and counting, and has taken this wonderful step to ensure that service will continue to be around for many more. 

For more information on Big Brand Tire & Service, visit them at

Energy Management Tip #3: 24/7 Loads

Time and time again, one of the most effective ways to cut electricity bills quickly is to get a better handle on 24/7 loads - the equipment that is left switched on 100% of the time.

For faith-based organizations, we regularly see 40% of all electricity-powered equipment running every minute of every day – and other organizations are not much different.

Some of this is unavoidable. We would expect 24/7 loads to be up to 15-20% as some lighting, servers, and security systems run through the night too. But for the most part, the biggest culprits are computers, televisions and other equipment that’s set to standby.

It’s a simple yet surprisingly effective issue to tackle, which is possible just by spending a little extra energy at the end of the day.

1.    Use power strips and power down at the end of each day (one button is much easier to switch off!)

2.    Install occupancy sensors for common area lighting

3.    Install smart thermostats and ensure temperature and time settings are set effectively

4.    Appoint an “energy champion” who’s responsible for monitoring energy efficiency specific areas of the organizations (assuming there is no facilities manager)

5.    Faith-based organizations with youth programs can educate children and young people about the importance of saving energy and simple ways to do it – including switching off standby buttons

As an important reminder from our last post about peak demand charges, remember that powering up equipment again in the morning should be done in stages rather than all at once to avoid inflated demand charges.

14 Takeaways from Obama's Clean Power Plan

President Obama's announcement today regarding the Clean Power Plan is a small victory for environmentalists and those of us concerned about the impact of a changing climate. 

As with anything like this, there are many "ifs" and "buts" and the guys at Vox Energy and Environment broke down the details of the Clean Power Plan into 14 key takeaways. Here they are:

1) The basics of the Clean Power Plan are fairly simple. The EPA is giving each state an individualized goal for reducing emissions from their electric power plants. States can then decide for themselves how to get there. They can switch from coal to natural gas, boost renewables, set up programs to boost energy efficiency in homes, enact cap-and-trade systems... it's up to them. States will have to submit plans by 2018, start cutting by 2022 at the latest, and then keep cutting through 2030. If states refuse to submit a plan, the EPA will impose its own federal plan.

2) Some details have changed since the EPA's initial draft proposal last summer. For instance, the EPA has tweaked the formula it uses to set individual state goals. States will now have until 2022 rather than 2020 before they have to start cutting. These tweaks will get lots of press attention, and they're of keen interest to policymakers and utilities. The EPA also hopes they'll solidify the rule against legal challenges. But they don't significantly alter the big picture.

3) If you add up all the state goals, the EPA expects that carbon-dioxide emissions from US power plants will be roughly 32 percent lower in 2030 than they were in 2005. This is not a hard requirement, as some outlets have suggested — it's just the EPA's estimate of what will happen if all goes according to plan. It's also slightly more ambitious than the 30 percent reduction projected in last year's proposal.

4) That sounds like a huge cut, but it's smaller than it first sounds. Power plant emissions have already dropped 15 percent between 2005 and 2013, thanks to a brutal recession, cheap natural gas pushing out coal, the rise of wind power, and improved efficiency. So with this new plan, EPA is expecting a further 20 percent cut in power-plant emissions from 2013 levels by 2030.

5) How does that fit in the bigger climate picture? Power plants were responsible for 31 percent of overall US greenhouse-gas emissions in 2013 — the biggest single source. (Other major sources include carbon dioxide from cars, trucks, and industrial emitters, methane from oil and gas wells, nitrous oxide from agriculture, etc.) So if all goes as planned, the Clean Power Plan amounts to a 6 percentage point cut in current US greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030.

6) To put that number in context, the Obama administration has pledged that overall US greenhouse gas emissions will decline at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Adjusting for baselines, the Clean Power Plan can be expected to supply around one-quarter of those cuts. It's an important climate policy, although far from the whole story:

7) Think of the Clean Power Plan, then, as just one component of a much broader Obama climate agenda. The administration has also been tightening fuel-economy rules for cars and trucks (which, together, could end up cutting as much CO2 as the power plant rule does). They're upgrading efficiency standards for household appliances. They're cracking down on methane leaks from oil and gas wells. And so on. This is a "kitchen-sink" approach to climate change — throwing a barrage of executive-branch actions at the problem, trying to push down emissions piece by piece.

8) There are, however, two big reasons the Clean Power Plan could have an outsized impact, according to its backers. First, as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told me, the Obama administration hopes this plan will bolster ongoing UN talks over a global climate agreement. This year, we've already seen China respond with its own pledge to restrain greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. The idea here is that US action will inspire other countries to take stronger steps in turn. It's hardly a surefire plan, but see this interviewwith political scientist David Victor for more on the logic of this approach.

9) Second, there's an argument that this rule could spur a major shift in mindset among US electric utilities. For decades, utilities have largely focused on building more power plants — primarily fossil-fuel plants — to satisfy ever-rising electricity demand. Now, utilities in 49 states will have to start thinking more creatively about how to accommodate variable renewable energy, how best to boost energy efficiency, and so on. In our interview, McCarthy implied that this change in mindset could be just as important as the plan's specific emissions targets — and create momentum for further action on clean energy.

10) Some opponents of the Clean Power Plan are warning that states will struggle to meet the EPA's targets; that utilities will have to close too many coal plants, threatening grid reliability; and that electric bills will soar. Any rule this complex will inevitably have problems, but it's worth taking doomsday claims with a generous helping of salt. The EPA has been regulating the power sector for a long time, and industry claims of disasterrarely pan out. What's more, many states — like Kentucky — were already planning to shutter some of their coal plants anyway, in response to low natural gas prices. Quite a few states will be able to meet EPA's targets with pretty minimal effort.

11) On the opposite side, Michael Grunwald argues that the Clean Power Plan isn't a big deal at all. After all, he says, emissions already fell 15 percent between 2005 and 2013, and this plan just continues that pace. But that argument seems equally overstated. As various studies have found, US power-plant emissions aren't destined to keep plunging without further policy. One big reason for last decade's drop was the massive recession, which hopefully won't repeat itself anytime soon. What's more, thanks to the shale gas boom, most of the "easy" cuts have already been made — as utilities switched from coal to cheaper gas. The harder cuts are yet to come, including making greater use of renewable power. That's what this plan aims to do — and in that sense, it's a departure from business as usual.

12) A more immediate question is whether this plan will hold up in court. The EPA does have authority to regulate greenhouse gases — the Supreme Court has said so quite clearly. But the Clean Power Plan is an unprecedented regulation being done under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, a rarely used provision. Industry groups are certain to challenge it in court. See Nathan Richardson for a rundown of the legal risks.

13) Another key question: How will the next president deal with the Clean Power Plan? After all, states don't submit implementation plans for cutting emissions until between 2016 and 2018, when Obama will be out of office. Whoever wins the White House next year could have a lot of leeway to approve those plans. A president hostile to climate policy could allow skeptical states like Texas to submit weaker plans, for instance. Every presidential candidate should be asked about this.

14) Granted, this is true of all of Obama's entire climate agenda. Whether US greenhouse-gas emissions keep falling will depend on whether the next presidentcontinues to cut emissions or dismantles his climate policies (and on whether Congress decides to step up). Likewise, the ultimate trajectory of global warming will depend on how other countries respond, on whether clean energy keeps growing,on various technological developments. No matter how you feel about the Clean Power Plan, it's only one part of a much larger climate picture.

See the original posting here:

Energy Management Tip #2: Air Conditioning

The second in our series of energy management tips for the summer focuses on air conditioning.

In Southern California, most of us have no choice but to run the AC, but for faith-based organizations it can be a surprisingly large expense. So here are a few simple things to keep in mind during the warmer months that can have a positive impact on AC related energy costs.

1. Plan in advance: In a house of worship, not all rooms are created equal. The main building where the congregation meets is generally a huge, high-ceilinged space, and keeping it cool is often as challenging as it is important. On a Sunday or during occasions when this room is used, plan in advance. Set the AC to come on earlier in the day when the air outside is at its coolest, then be vigilant about keeping doors and windows closed to keep the cooler air in. 

2. Keep air vents open: Key to good air conditioning is air circulation, but many people keep air vents closed to reduce energy bills. This actually does the opposite, so make sure they're open.

3. Replace filters: And also clear any debris that may accumulate in the unit or vents. Filters should be replaced about once per month, but sometimes they can last a little longer and still be efficient. We recommend checking them monthly however.

Good luck!

What -- and who -- are actually causing climate change?

This graph, brilliantly put together by the World Resources Institute, illustrates just why energy management is the integral piece of the climate change jigsaw. 

Energy accounts for roughly 75% of all emissions of green house gases. And in the US, as one of the largest polluters, we are making positive steps to reduce waste and increase efficiency. But this is a perfect reminder of the position we're in and leaves no doubt about where our efforts need to be applied. 

Via Fast Company: What-- and who --- are actually causing climate change 

Price of electricity set to rise by 25% for majority of Californians

There were some important changes announced last week that impact the way homeowners in California will be charged for their electricity. The short version is the majority of us will see our bills increase heavily in the coming years (but what’s new?)

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved changes put forward by the state’s investor-owned utility companies (Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric) to reduce the number of rate tiers from four to two, meaning over the next five years electricity bills for modest to moderate users will increase by about 25%, while those who consume large amounts (roughly, if your bill is over $400 per month) will get a 25% reduction.

Right now, we pay for electricity in four tiers, rising as energy use crosses the threshold into each tier. The first tier doesn't cost very much (about $0.12 per kWh), but it gradually increases until the fourth, which really does cost a lot (up to $0.40 per kWh).

The flattening of these tiers means base price goes up and those who use large amounts get a break. It also undermines efforts to conserve energy for the majority of Californians who are conscious consumers of electricity.

The utility companies argue that the two-tier structure is fairer in general, as modest to moderate currently pay less for electricity than it’s worth, but conservation and consumer groups say this is a disaster for those who count the cost of electricity and the impact on the environment.

And we agree. More than 75% of Californians come out of this worse off, and the other 25%, for the most part, are high users because they have big houses and enough disposable income for it not to matter too greatly.

We talk about this in our energy management seminars that we provide to the teams and groups at faith-based, nonprofit, community organizations and small- and medium-sized businesses, with whom we meet regularly to talk about conservation, solar, and issues of the day. These groups are all concerned about this rate change and want to learn more about what they can do to take back control.

So it seems that this ruling could further accelerate the home solar market in the state and will force homeowners to take control of their own energy generation. We certainly hope so, and the more people driven to choose renewable energy can only be good for California.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the facts from the ruling:

The facts:

  • The current structure will shrink from four to two tiers over five years.
  • Modest to moderate users will see an increase of around 25% on their electricity bills. Modest to moderate users make up about 75% of California residents.
  • High users will see a reduction of about 25%.
  • It will start to hit investor-owned utility customers, such as SCE, PGE, and SDGE, in as little as 60 days. 
  • The change does not apply to publicly-owned utilities including LADWP
  • A minimum monthly $10 charge will also come into effect ($5 for subsidized customers) and is still unclear if rooftop solar bill credits can offset this charge.
  • A “super user” surcharge will penalize those who use more than 400% over the baseline and will be implemented over the next four years.
  • A time-of-use (TOU) plan will mean that the amount consumers pay will depend on the time of day of use, although this will be on an opt-out basis. 

Read more about the rate changes here:



Energy Management: A Guide to Summer

Summer is the most expensive time of the year for us in Southern California. It's not just vacations and weddings that ramp up the bills, mostly it's trying to stay cool in our homes and at work. 

Reasonably, we can expect our electricity bills to jump by 40% in the warmer months, because our systems have to work much harder and pull more energy from an aging grid to keep life clement. 

However, in our 'Guide to the Summer,' we'll share regular tips to help manage your energy during the hot months and keep your bills - and footprint - as low as possible.

Here's Tip One: Simultaneous Switch-On:

For faith-based organizations and SMBs alike, we all have a tendency to "turn on for the day" when we arrive on a morning. But when you turn on a lot of equipment at the same time, there will be a spike in power usage, which impacts your demand charges. Charging for demand is the utility company's way of determining the maximum amount of power you need at any given time. This means you are effectively paying to have your maximum amount on standby every minute of every day - even though you'll only hit that peak once per month. Managing your peak demand means you're not being charged a premium for energy you don't use or need. 

Solution: Synchronize your start up at the beginning of the day. Don’t switch everything on at once. Instead stagger the switch-on so you can spread the demand on the utility over a longer period during the morning. Or even better - only turn on equipment when needed. 

Stay tuned for more tips during the next few months - and happy summer from all of us at Sunistics!

Pope Francis and the importance of environmental leadership

Pope Francis delivered his Encyclical Letter this week and once again reminded all about the impact that such leadership can have in one of the most pressing global issues facing us today. 

In taking a firm stand on climate change and other issues threatening 'Our Common Home,' Pope Francis continues to be a beacon of hope for so many people - Catholic or otherwise - as he galvanizes overwhelming public support for a stronger stance on climate change and the social and environmental issues that threaten our way of life. 

His letter was packed full of everything we know as common sense, but also know as something on which our political leadership continues to drag its heels. The overall message we should take from this, as people who share this common vision, is that we should never give up, never lose hope, and never take a backward step in the fight for our planet. 

At Sunistics, we agree he's the #PopeofHope, and celebrate his leadership on this issue that is our reason for being. Here are some of our favorite excerpts from this historical and visionary piece:

The Climate is a common good:

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.
In recent decades, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.
It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.

A Dialogue is needed between science and religion:

Science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.

God did not create Earth for us to do whatever we want with it:

We are not God. The Earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the Earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature.
This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church.

Climate change will hit the poor hardest:

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.

Humanity has a duty to protect the environment, rather than exploit it:

Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

It's tempting to deny or ignore the problem, so don't do this:

Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.