Thursday, July 4, 2013

California Solar Installation Bill Would Open Renewable Energy to Millions of Residents

If approved, a new bill would make solar power possible for many residents in California who are currently unable to install solar themselves.
With the support of Gov. Jerry Brown, many are hopeful that Senate Bill 43 will pass the full Assembly and that the 500 megawatt pilot program will become a reality come 2014. The proposed changes in to the distribution structures of solar energy and other renewables could be a game changer. According to Sen. Lois Welk, an author of the bill, California stands to only benefit from such a measure, according to Think Progress.
"Three out of four Californians have a strong interest in buying clean energy, and pay into programs to support renewable energy programs, but aren't able to install their own solar unit or other renewable power generation system for a variety of reasons," said Welk. "The innovative program established by this measure will give consumers the option of utilizing renewable energy generated off site. It will help the state meet its renewable energy goals while creating thousands of jobs and encouraging more investment in an important sector of our state's economy. And it won't require any state funds or shift costs to consumers who choose not to participate."
Tom Price, spokesperson for California Shared Renewables, noted that the Assembly approval is the biggest hurdle. Last year, he said, a similar proposal ran aground at this point in the game.
The Details of the Legislation
The initial Shared Renewables program outlined in SB 43 calls for a pilot program in its first year. This would involve up to 500 MW of renewable power to be purchased by customers within the territories of California's three largest investor-owned utilities. After a period of time, the bill allows the California Public Utilities Commission an opportunity to evaluate the health of the program. If it is determined by the CPUC to be successful, they would then have the authority to expand the pilot program.
If, for example, the pilot program spurred 1,000 MW of additional distributed solar installations, the program would generate an estimated $4.3 billion in economic growth, creating 12,700 jobs and stimulating $130 million in tax revenue.
Data from the CPUC suggests that, with minimal alterations to the current grid, up to 12 MW of renewable power from solar facilities could be distributed without any problems to participating customers.
Customers who sign up for the program would be responsible for paying the full cost of the renewable energy. The benefit of this is that, unlike net metering, non-participating ratepayers don't pick up the difference. The participants still pay for their use of the grid. The way these scenarios would operate vary widely depending on the region.
For example, a shared renewable energy facility within the IOU territory could take the shape of a solar power system installed on the roof of a church. Surrounding participants would draw all or some of their power directly from that installation or "facility." Depending the capacity of the system, the participant would have the ability to choose the percentage of their power that they would like to originate from a shared renewable facility. The shared facility would then report to the utility its output regarding each subscriber's kilowatt-hour usage.
Specific Appropriations
To ensure that certain demographics or participants don't take over the program, leaving others still unable to obtain sustainable power, the bill has two built-in accommodations. The first protects residential participants, setting aside 20 percent of the total megawatts available for their use exclusively. Secondly, an additional 20 percent is devoted to smaller energy projects - 1 MW or less - that are located in impoverished or underserved areas or areas that have sustained environmental pollution.- See more at: