Believe It: Vermont Just Got Even Greener

Supersize your solar panel kit’s power: Vermont solar is bigger than ever before.

Feb 4, 2014 at 1:15PM

Vermont Solar Panel Kit

Source: Wikimedia Commons, PenelopeIsMe; Hillcrest Environmental Center at Middlebury College in Vermont 

Vermont is known for its tree-hugging, Ben & Jerry's binge-eating, environmental hippies. But the state's power supply has historically been nailed to nuclear -- until now. Here's why.

Vermont's dirty little secret
Vermont's natural beauty is only skin-deep. Its 626,000 citizens rely on traditional fuels to keep their cabins warm and their soft lights lit. Nuclear power accounts for a whopping 75% of the state's power -- more than any other state. Depending on your own energy opinion, nuclear power can be a clean and green option -- or Vermont's worst environmental nightmare. 

Regardless of your opinion, the Northern state made significant headway in its rush toward renewables last week – and solar power companies everywhere are celebrating.

Sunny Vermont?
The Vermont House approved a bill last week that paves the way for more residential solar panel systems across its state. Net metering essentially allows homeowners with solar panel systems to sell excess capacity back to the grid when they're not using it. The new approval nearly quadruples the amount of electricity utilities are required to buy back -- up to 15% of peak capacity. 

The practice exists in 43 states across the nation, and Exelon Corporation's (NYSE:EXC) CommonWealth Edison subsidiary put together a video explaining net metering basics to its Illinois power-producing customers:

Source: Exelon Corporation. 

Exelon Corporation has embraced net metering -- because it's been able to. Like Vermont, Illinois has legislation in place that allows utilities to buy capacity from each individual customer -- up to 40 kilowatts. That means Exelon Corporation can buy double the amount of electricity from each of its rooftop solar customers that Vermont utilities can purchase. Regulation varies dramatically by state, with some staying entirely silent on net metering policy altogether.

Net Metering Map

Source: Department of Energy. 

Arizona: The Anti-Vermont
When it comes to rooftop solar, Arizona is the anti-Vermont. Exelon Corporation, Illinois, and Vermont are embracing net metering, but Pinnacle West Capital Corporation's (NYSE:PNW) Arizona Public Service Utility has been lobbying to add extra charges to solar homeowners. Its reasoning is somewhat sound: Since solar panel kit owners don't pull as much power from the grid, they're paying less than their part to maintain power lines, substations, and power plants themselves. 

Pinnacle West Capital Corporation got a bit of what it wanted in November, when state regulators voted to tack on a $0.70 fee per kilowatt of installed solar -- equivalent to around $5 per month for the average household. Pinnacle West Capital Corporation was pushing for around 10 times that amount, but the approval still stands in stark contrast to Vermont's new solar standards. 

Who's right: Vermont or Arizona?
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory ranks states on their solar stats, and comparing Arizona to Vermont is like comparing apples to oranges.

Arizona has 20,930 installed solar panel kits, with over 18,000 included in Pinnacle West Corporation's net metering policy. That makes Arizona the second-most solar state behind California. Vermont has just 1,637 solar panel kit systems installed, and its capacity clocks in at just 4% of Arizona's. 

Solar Panel Kit Systems By State

Source:; Solar Panel Kit Installations by State.

Residential solar installer SolarCity Corporation (NASDAQ:SCTY) has 31 operations centers across 14 states, but Burlington, Vermont doesn't make the cut. Type in Phoenix, Arizona, however, and SolarCity Corporation immediately directs you to its "Energy Advisors" for a free quote. SolarCity Corporation's in-house installers have put up over 2,000 solar panel kits in the state, and it has partnered with Home Depot to renovate more residents' rooftops than ever before. 

The debate on net metering will continue to play out across every state. Arizona is feeling growing pains from its soaring solar use, while Vermont is attempting to stretch its solar potential. Falling prices are increasing solar power's feasibility across the United States, and Vermont's new policy has made it greener than ever.

The energy revolution is bigger than Vermont
The United States' energy position is undergoing a revolution -- and it's bigger than a single state. Finding the right plays while historic amounts of capital expenditures are flooding the industry will pad your investment nest egg. For this reason, the Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 

Justin Loiseau has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Exelon, Home Depot, and SolarCity. The Motley Fool owns shares of SolarCity. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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