Clean Power 7cee367fd12ab81e6ccfd7ebc32d45ef_XL

Published on May 13th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

2

Solar Power & Other Renewables — Will California’s SB 43 Ensure Access To Solar For Everyone?

May 13th, 2014 by  

Originally published on PV Solar Report.
By Rosana Francescato 

7cee367fd12ab81e6ccfd7ebc32d45ef_XLImage Credit: Mosaic

California’s SB 43 promises to bring solar and other renewables within reach of those who don’t currently have access. Will the legislation achieve that lofty goal?

When it comes to solar power, how do we ensure participation and access? Sachu Constantine of the California Center for Sustainable Energy posed this question at a recent Agrion event on the California Shared Renewable Energy Program.

Large portions of consumers don’t have access to solar and other renewables. Whether they rent, have a shaded roof, or can’t participate for a number of other reasons, by conservative estimates 75% of Americans can’t go solar. And solar provides long-term benefits that we’d all like to share in.

Solar power, Constantine noted, is not just another commodity. “This is a game-changing moment,” he said, “when we really rethink the way our economy fuels itself.”

What’s in SB 43?

Out of these concerns, California’s SB 43 was born. The bill, which passed last year, will let participating customers purchase 100% of their electricity from renewable energy, receiving a bill credit from a renewable project as if it were located on their own property. SB 43 is now in the implementation phase at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

On hand to provide insights were Gabe Petlin of the CPUC, Susannah Churchill of Vote Solar, Jeff Kayes of Morrison & Foerster LLP, Michael Wheeler of Recurrent Energy, and Jeremy Waen of Marin Clean Energy.

Petlin outlined the main goals and requirements of the bill.

Goals:

  • Expand access to renewables to all ratepayers

  • Facilitate a large and sustainable market for offsite renewables

  • Fairly compensate utilities for the services they provide

  • Ensure that nonparticipating ratepayers do not bear the costs of the program

Key requirements:

  • Offer utility customers the opportunity to support renewable energy

  • Up to 600 MW of RPS-eligible renewables proportionally allocated to the three California IOUs between now and 2019

  • Maximum facility size of 20 MW

  • 100 MW set aside for residential

  • 100 MW set aside for small projects of up to 1 MW in environmental justice areas

  • Renewables projects should be in some reasonable proximity to enrolled participants

  • Use commission-approved methods for procurement

  • Customers will pay a renewable energy rate plus an administrative charge, and will receive a bill credit

  • RECs in the program are retired and not counted toward RPS, unless they are unsubscribed

Churchill pointed out that the legislation differs from green tariff programs in two ways: It results in new generation, rather than allowing the purchase of unbundled RECs, and it lets customers save money rather than paying a premium for a green option.

Open questions

The new legislation will allow more people to participate in renewables, but is it community solar?

That depends on how you define the term. It’s telling that the bill shifted from being known as a community solar bill to now bearing the moniker “Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program.” It’s heading in the direction of community solar, yet how close it will get remains to be seen.

As Churchill noted, the devil is in the details. A lot is still to be worked out in the bill’s implementation.

According to Petlin, one key sentence in the bill supports the community renewables aspect, covering a concept some see as a centerpiece to the bill. Yet it is not well defined. The sentence, the focus of ongoing debates, reads, “A participating utility shall provide support for enhanced community renewable programs, to facilitate development of eligible community renewable resources located close to the source of demand.”

What would make a successful shared renewables program in California? Churchill outlined a couple main elements:

  • Fairness: To Churchill — in a sentiment echoed by Waen — this means not only being fair to non-subscribers but also to subscribers. Affordability, she said, is key for the program’s growth. The utilities are still working out the costs, but at the moment they’re proposing a net premium of 2.5 – 3 cents kwh above what customers currently pay for their power. While the premium would decrease over time, we still need to start with a fair price.

  • Flexibility: In the huge market being covered, it will be important to meet a variety of customer preferences such as project size and location. Customers should be able to sign up for a specific project — which would be another difference from a green tariff program. All three IOUs have been required to propose this kind of option in addition to a program that allows customers to buy into a pool of projects.

In addition to whether a customer can subscribe to one project or a pool of projects, another question is whether low-income communities would get a discounted rate. This is not specified in the bill.

And then there’s the question of what can be offered to customers on Day 1. Projects can’t be built instantly. One option would be to start by buying into an existing portfolio and then build new projects. A number of other models may be considered.

The CPUC will make a decision on the IOUs’ proposals in July.

The promise

While SB 43 is not promoting what most of us would consider “community solar,” it holds the promise of increasing access to solar and other renewables.

SB 43, Wheeler said, is creating a new market in which every customer has the chance to be treated as a key account. It can even be seen as part of the sharing economy. And the consumer, Kayes said, is the driver — in a major shift from from not knowing where their power comes from.

Churchill, too, noted that until now, the amount of renewables in our power mix has been largely legislated by states via the RPS mechanism. But that means there’s a ceiling on the amount of renewables. “With shared renewables, we’re allowing customers to drive the amount of renewables in the power mix instead,” she said. “Assuming we can get these programs working right and fairly, it revolutionizes the whole system.”

Of course there’s still a cap on the program. But if the program is successful and consumer demand is strong, this could be a small step to something much bigger.

 
 
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
 
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

is many, many people. We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. :D



  • Matt

    So the utility cutting its cost for peak power, and then charges “net premium of 2.5 – 3 cents kwh above what customers currently pay for their power”. I must be reading the “fairness” clause wrong.

  • Kyle Field

    Looks like a great step in the right direction. I’m glad they’re talking this as a premium to “normal” power as that should help to encourage utilities to embrace it until small utility scale installations reach retail parity. I hate details…oh, details 🙁

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

    cost-of-solar-down
  • Search the IM Network


Shares