Clean Power

Published on September 12th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci


California Passes 600MW Shared Renewables Program

September 12th, 2013 by  

Just when it seemed like the outlook for renewables in California couldn’t get any brighter, the state legislature has passed a bill that will open up access to the 75% of its residents unable to install clean energy on their property.

SB 43, also known as the “shared renewables” bill, passed the State Assembly and Senate yesterday, and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for signature into law.

The bill immediately creates the largest shared renewables program in the US and could supercharge California’s clean energy economy – all without any state subsidies or extra costs to non-participating residents.

Shared Renewables

Shared renewables image via California Shared Renewables

New Access To Renewables For Millions Of Residents

California’s Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program, as the shared renewables program is officially called, allows any customer of the state’s three largest utilities to purchase up to 100% renewable electricity for their home or businesses. Cumulative investments will be capped at 600 megawatts (MW) and the program will sunset in 2019.

For context, California installed 521MW of solar during the second quarter of 2013 – an all-time record for any one state in a three-month period. Considering any new renewables capacity created by the shared renewables program would be in addition to the state’s 33% renewable portfolio standard, this could theoretically push the state’s annual solar installation record further than ever before.

Buying renewable power on the electricity market isn’t a new idea, but California’s shared renewables program and the customers it would reach bring a few new twists to the scene. To start, the program targets people without property suitable to install clean energy systems – renters, business owners who lease offices, those with shaded roofs, people in homeowner associations, and so on.

“SB 43 will allow the millions of Californians who cannot install their own solar unit, windmill, or other renewable power generation system to obtain renewable energy through their utility,” said State Senator Lois Wolk, who sponsored the legislation.

Consumers from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) will be able invest in renewable energy by buying shares of the electricity generated by new projects up to 20MW in size, at a locked-in price that’s added to their existing electricity bill as a credit.

Shared Renewables Benefit All – Even Big Utilities

Since the subscription price includes a credit to the utility for grid use, any increased transmission and distribution costs aren’t spread to other ratepayers who may not be participating in shared renewables investments. And, the program avoids the fight over net metering because utilities aren’t worried about paying ratepayers back for power they generate but don’t use themselves.

California shared renewables

Shared renewables graphic via California Shared Renewables

While the program is capped at 600MW total, 100MW of that total must be reserved for residential consumers ,and 100MW of new renewable energy projects less than 1MW in size must be built in disadvantaged communities – two provisions that generated a diverse band of support as the bill wound its way through the legislature.

Advocacy organization Vote Solar estimates the bill will create around 6,000 new green jobs, allow 20,000 residential ratepayers to participate, and generate over $2.2 billion in economic activity within just a few years.

California added more than 9,000 green jobs in second quarter of 2013, so while the state didn’t need any help holding onto its lead as the epicenter of America’s clean tech market, shared renewables could cement that status for years to come.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • Matt

    Let me ignore who makes/saves money on this plan. Looking at the size of the CA market (521MW installed in Q2 2013), then isn’t 600MW between now and end of 2019 kind of small? By quarter that is 1/25th of the current market, which was already growing. Yes, I know not everyone is able to own, and yes I use Pear so pay an extra 2% for green power. But I not sure I see much benefit of this program. I guess I would have to dig into a lot more detail.

  • Marion Meads

    This is just one creative way of milking out the consumers by the utilites by letting the consumers simply select in their checkboxes that they are paying for more expensive renewable energy source. At today’s solar PV prices, and how the sun shines in California, the cheapest retail price of renewable is from your property. But of course not everyone can have renewable energy from their property, and in order to get a high feeling that they are using renewable, they pay premium price, without really following an audit trail where their electrons really come from. This worse than organic food, because at least when buying organic food, you can trace the real source. What this “shared” renewable name is simply putting a renewable label to the electrons that could come from a coal plant. This is the same as simply putting a “Certified Organic” label on a Chinese produce that was bombarded with pesticides that even the locals wouldn’t touch them, and yet we are buying them as organic, because of the label and the sad thing is that it works on some of us. This shared renewable is simply a relabeling gimmick. So in effect, this is a little bit of a pay back pork barrel for the utilities.
    There once used to be a Solar Transfer company banking on the same logic, but of course, the reason why they folded up is that they were charging less than the utility would charge their customers for a renewable source.

    • Dan Hue

      Shouldn’t we wait until the program is implemented before making that judgment?

  • agelbert

    I wish they would pass a law like that in Vermont. Right now, Green Mountain Power will let you buy renewable energy (cow power, they call it) but it costs more than the already high 14.7 cents a kwh we are paying.

  • beernotwar

    Every state should pass a law forbidding homeowners associates from creating any rule that would prohibit or penalize installation of renewable energy equipment that is otherwise legal for the location it’s to be installed.

    • Matt

      Many HOA in the this part of the country (Ohio) have HOA boiler plate written in the 70s that bans all solar (PV or hot water). Even new communities that claim green. Best part is the sales people don’t even know it exists. The builder (that is who sets up the HOA) just uses the same old document they have always use. It is a total pain to try to change.

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