In This Issue
Senate Bill (SB) 585, introduced on Feb. 17 by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), will add a new section to the Public Utilities Code to lift the cap on the total cost of the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Program and change it to a cap on the amount that can be collected from customers through the utilities. An additional $50 million may be added to CSI thanks to the legislation.
The bill comes at an important time as CSI funding for commercial, government and nonprofit organizations has been exhausted for customers of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).
Started in 2007, the $2.167 billion CSI Program was expected to continue through 2016. However, at the end of 2010 funding for nonresidential solar systems, including schools, government buildings and businesses, was exhausted PG&E and SDG&E territories, and all new projects in these territories since then have been placed on a waiting list.
Senator Kehoe's bill will allow for additional money to be added to the CSI Program that is currently not allowed due to the cap on the total cost. The bill was passed by a unanimous vote by the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications at the committee hearing on April 5, 2011.
Most cash rebates that you can think of, such as for high-efficiency appliances, use a one-step process that has applicants, contractors or consumers applying for an incentive after the item has been purchased and installed. We all know this as a "mail-in rebate."
CSI Program Administrators (PAs) are proposing a similar simplified process for residential solar systems (<10 kW) in an Advice Letter (AL 2533-E for SCE, AL3768-E for PG&E, AL 13 for CCSE) now pending at the CPUC. According to the advice letter's proposal, the PAs would award rebates after PV installation and interconnection to the utility grid. The applicant or contractor would submit one set of paperwork, including an EPBB Calculator printout, based on how the system was actually installed. Rebates for solar water heating systems through the CSI Thermal Program use a similar one-step process.
The proposed one-step application process would end the need for applicants and contractors to submit paperwork to conditionally reserve funds for a given project. The PAs believe that as the program enters its final steps, the incentive rate levels are becoming significantly lower with each step change, largely removing the need to submit a conditional application for funds prior to installation in hopes of avoiding an incentive reduction brought about by a step change.
"A one-step application process for [CSI] residential rebates reduces application paperwork and processing procedures, saving both CSI Program Administrators and contractors valuable time and money," said Mona Dzvova, CPUC Energy Division analyst. However, some opponents to the one-step process claim that such a change in the program would be disruptive, as contractors must adjust to the new process. The commission is still deliberating the advice letter.
One main objective of the one-step application process is to help significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for solar contractors to apply for an incentive, saving the contractor time and money, according to Ben Airth, CCSE's CSI residential program manager. According to Airth, innovation has been a key component to driving the cost of solar down in the solar industry. However, without the right policy initiatives, the industry is often left with nowhere to turn.
"The one-step process could cut in half the time applicants and contractors spend on gathering documents and signatures and making applications, time that could be reallocated toward sales and marketing to new customers," Airth said.
Currently, the CPUC is reviewing the one-step application proposal and will be soliciting further comments over the next few months.
Date: Friday, April 29, 2011, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The intent of the Rule 21 Working Group is to build consensus among the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), independently owned utilities, generators and advocates for Rule 21 reforms to meet the technical needs and policy goals of interconnecting distributed generation. The Rule 21 Working Group succeeded at this goal in its past work, making California's Rule 21 a national model tariff establishing metering and operating standards for interconnecting distributed generation resources. Following three years of changes in the statutory, technological and generator context, however, Rule 21 is widely agreed to be in need of reconsideration.
The purpose of this kickoff meeting is to initiate discussion of the issues emerging under Rule 21 that may be hindering the achievement of California's distributed generation goals. The following are examples of issues that CPUC has identified.
The CPUC strongly encourages in-person participation at this meeting, although phone-in participation will also be available. A more detailed agenda will be available soon.
Southern California Edison's (SCE's) California Solar Initiative and Interconnection teams recently relocated to a new 250,000-square-foot facility in Rosemead.
The facility is the most recent of five that SCE is either remodeling or building from the ground up that will qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines.
LEED features of the building include
Once fully occupied, the four-story building will serve as the new home to about 750 employees of SCE's Customer Energy Efficiency & Solar division and Human Resources organization. Phone numbers and addresses for the CSI and Interconnection teams will remain the same. For contact information, click here.
In March, two low-income families from Crockett, Calif., received photovoltaic solar systems with the help of the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program and a significant contribution from module manufacturer, Yingli Solar. GRID Alternatives announced that the two projects, built for the Varian and the Paschall families, represent the beginning of a commitment from Yingli Solar to help more than 400 low-income families go solar in 2011, through a combination of donated modules and modules purchased from Yingli at fair market value.
The Yingli donation represents the largest single gift in GRID Alternatives' history and is making a huge difference in the lives of working families such as SASH recipient Heidi Varian (below in photo). "There was no question for either family," Varian said. "Environmentally, it's the right move. If it could be done affordably, there was no question we would do it."
The SASH Program brings low-income families into California's growing solar industry, as solar adopters and as job trainees. The SASH incentive alone, however, does not guarantee these families will be able to afford the cost of a PV system. As a nonprofit organization and the SASH Program Manager, GRID Alternatives helps these families identify other funding sources to cover the cost of their PV-solar system. GRID's partnership with Yingli Solar ensures that these families have the funding partner they need for their solar project.
"Social responsibility is a key pillar in our mission, and we're very proud to announce this partnership with GRID Alternatives," said Robert Petrina, managing director of Yingli Americas. "At Yingli, we believe in making solar power an affordable option for everyone, and addressing our local underserved communities is an important step in achieving this — we're delivering clean energy and job training where it's required most."
For further information about the SASH Program or GRID Alternatives, please visit their website or call 866-921-4696.
The High Penetration Solar Forum, sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in early March in San Diego, was featured in an article by energy writer Onell Soto in the San Diego Union-Tribune, March 25.
The article quotes CPUC Commissioner Michael Peevey and discusses the CPUC's Research, Development and Deployment (RD&D) program. To read the article, click here.
GRID Alternatives, managers of CSI's Single-family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) Program won the Renewable Energy World's 2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Award for Innovation in Policy. The award winners were announced and recognized on March 10 at the Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo, in Tampa, Florida.
According to Renewable Energy World, the award recognizes GRID Alternatives "forward thinking and triple-bottom-line approach to managing the nation's first solar incentive program dedicated exclusively for low-income families." You can read more about the award and watch a short video by clicking here.
Call for Photos of CSI-Funded Solar Systems
Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos here.