As an alternative energy innovation junkie I used to get my climate cooling news from scouring the web, but recently made a green job transfer into California’s very innovation-driven alternative energy industry and have been on such a very steep learning curve (for me) that I got out of that reading loop a bit.
But I am learning how to estimate and design solar systems, so now I get emailed inside news as it breaks from within the solar industry:
On Monday, February 9th 2009, the California Solar Incentive program received 11 Megawatts worth of Non-Residential Reservation Requests for installations from California businesses. This is the highest MW total in one day that PG&E has seen in the rebates it administers for the CSI program.
This is not just Movave Desert type of massive utility-scale installations like PG&E and other utilities are doing – because these are not in the rebate program.
I’m in Northern California where our utility is decoupled and so it is very strongly supportative of us installing more solar power.
This is unlike the South, say, where utilities charge you less if you use more! That’s a good example of a perverse subsidy. Our electric company makes more money by getting more of us off their grid. The great advantage of a decoupled utility.
So the Northern California electric company (PG&E) offers a rebate —dependent on how well we solar estimators design our systems – (lousy rebate for designing a North-facing, in the shade, at a 45 degree angle – great rebate if perfectly aligned to send the maximum of electrons to the grid – you get the picture) and the rebate gradually goes down in steps over the years as more solar gets put up.
For instance, last year when I’d first looked at the solar rebate for my own home, it would have reduced my cost by about $6,400, but now it has gone down. PG&E current initial rebate is at the Step 5 level: so the rebate at the rate of $1.55 per watt installed comes to about $5,000 for the average homeowner. But within about two years (at this rate of adoption) the rebate will be down from $1.55 to about only .10 cents a watt.
Here’s the first email from PG&E:
(I withold the name and title for privacy)
> From: <>
> Subject: PG&E Commercial CSI Incentive Moving Close to Step 6
> Date: Monday, February 9, 2009, 10:36 PM
> > Solar Community in Northern and Central California:
> > I hope this finds you all well.
> > As of this email, we want to inform you that there are
> almost less
> > than 4 MWs available under the non-residential Step 5
> incentive before
> > we move down to Step 6. With your continued success
> under the CSI
> > program, between January 2nd and February 5th,
> PG&E received 82
> > non-residential applications which accounted for
> approximately 11 MWs.
> > If you and your customer have a potential project and
> have not
> > submitted your non-residential application at this
> time, we encourage
> > you to send in your complete documentation for those
> projects which
> > includes the application fee (if applicable).
> Submitting the
> > application fee with the initial application, will
> ensure that PG&E
> > can process these applications quicker. Please follow
> the criteria
> > below for submitting the application fee. This change
> to make things
> > easier was implemented at the end of last year.
> > kW > kW < FEE
> > 10 - 50 = $1,250
> > 50 - 100 = $2,500
> > 100 - 250 = $5,000
> > 250 - 500 = $10,000
> > 500 - 1,000 = $20,000
> > You and your customers will be notified of the
> incentive level
> > assigned to your project upon approval of your
> > For specific project-related questions, please contact
> the project
> > manager assigned to that project. For an updated
> status on your
> > application please visit: https://pge.powerclerk.com.
> And for the
> > status of the current incentive rate please visit:
> > http://www.csi-trigger.com/. If you have a
> reservation, and the
> > project is NOT going to happen, please cancel your
> project so the
> > step MW can be maximized.
> > As you can see, the number of PG&E customers going
> solar and joining
> > the fight against climate change is growing fast –
> we’ve now
> > interconnected over 28,000 solar systems to the grid
> since 2001 and
> > interconnected over 1,100 systems in the month of
> January, and we are
> > committed to increasing this through joint outreach
> and educational
> > efforts. If you or any members of your team are in
> need of
> > educational resources and brochures on the CSI
> program, please contact
> > Thank you for continuing to make solar such a success
> in California.
> > <>
> > Sr. <>
> > Solar and Customer Generation
> > CSI/SGI Programs
> > Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Two days later I got this second email:
Subject: PGE non-residential under review at step 5 exceeds capacity
Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 2:48 PM
PGE non-residential under review at step 5 exceeds capacitySolar Community in Northern and Central California:
After tallying up the numbers for reservations received, on Monday, February 9th 2009, PG&E received 23 Non-Residential Reservation Requests totaling more than 11 MWs! This is the highest MW total in one day that PG&E has seen in the CSI program. At this time PG&E has received enough applications that are currently under review to reach our Step 5 capacity for Non-Residential applications. Once this capacity has been reached, Non-Residential applications will be incentivized at the Step 6 level.If you have already submitted an application to us, you will be notified of your incentive rate upon reservation, as we have not yet determined the exact cutoff date. Please be aware that the incentive rate is not determined until a project is ready for a reservation.
In addition to reviewing the new applications received, PG&E is continuing to contact existing customers regarding their project status and whether these projects are still proceeding. This is something we have been doing over the past year and we will continue to do this. We want to ensure that we can maximize our kWs available in Step 5 if possible. Therefore, if you have a reservation, and the project is NOT going to move forward, please let us know so we can cancel your project and add more kWs into Step 5. We also recognize that many projects are awaiting financing or federal stimulus dollars. Please let our team know that when they contact you.
Also, we will be tracking those projects who tell us that they will be proceeding to insure that they move to completion. And likely this information and tracking will be used in a follow-up CPUC workshop on the incentive steps and dropouts.
For new Non-Residential projects that have not submitted their applications at this time, PG&E suggests that these projects be positioned to Host Customers at Step 6. For an updated status on your application please visit: https://pge.powerclerk.com. And for the status of the current incentive rate please visit: http://www.csi-trigger.com/.
Thank you for your support and efforts
Solar and Customer Generation
And that’s the inside dope. I am not sure if this has been covered already. Like I say, I’m pretty out of the loop these days! But just in case you didn’t know; better late than never. Cool, huh.
Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.