In This Issue
After a yearlong stakeholder process to shape an omnibus staff proposal to adjust and modify the CSI program, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Phase 1 Decision at its July 14 business meeting.
Decision (D.) 11-07-031 addresses nearly 20 distinct changes, all deemed "Phase 1 priorities" during a series of prehearing workshops held in late 2010, affecting the general market CSI program as well as its subcomponents, such as the Single-family and Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing programs. Additional CSI program changes are under consideration in Phases 2 and 3, later in 2011-12.
The decision covers issues surrounding virtual net metering and bill credit transfer tariffs, the general market budget, application and project timelines and modifications to the low-income programs including SASH design factor and inspections and the MASH incentives.
Notably, the decision broadened the eligibility requirements for virtual net metering to include all customers and expanded certain aspects of eligibility for affordable housing customers – both MASH applicants and customers that fit the MASH criteria but do not receive incentives. The decision also eliminated the MASH Track 2 incentive grant, moving the $11 million remaining in the Track 2 budget to the Track 1 budget, which was fully subscribed earlier in the program. The decision also lowered MASH Track 1 incentives to $1.90/watt for Track 1A and $2.80/watt for Track 1B to reflect lower costs and to stretch incentive dollars to cover as many wait-listed solar projects as possible.
The CPUC also modified CSI Program rules regarding application-processing timelines, project completion deadlines, inspection requirements, suspension procedures and performance monitoring and reporting services.
Program Administrators are now working with the Energy Division on implementation details, such as integration of the EPBB calculator into the PowerClerk online application database and the adjustment of MASH incentive levels. The program changes are all effective as of July 14, 2011. Please check with your program administrator if you have questions pertaining to any CSI program modifications.
Several business owners and nonprofit organizations in San Diego County recently received news they've been waiting patiently to hear for more than nine months: "You've got a rebate!"
During the past several weeks, California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE), Program Administrators for the CSI program in San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) service territory, notified more than 20 customers from the CSI wait list that their projects now are eligible for rebates.
After detailed analysis of the budget, CCSE was able to apply $2.3 million collected from cancelled projects to provide rebates for more than 2.6 megawatts (MW) in projects on the wait list.
During October 2010, CCSE began placing all new commercial, government, nonprofit and agricultural CSI applicants on a wait list because the nonresidential program had exhausted the funding available for SDG&E customers. Additionally, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) depleted CSI funding for nonresidential solar incentives as of December 23, 2010. PG&E will place all new applications on a wait list to be processed when funding becomes available. Follow these links for more information about the CCSE Wait List or the PG&E Wait List. Meanwhile, Southern California Edison has nearly $60 million remaining for nonresidential incentives as of August 3, 2011.
PG&E has updated its solar and renewables Web site with new content, including a Solar Analysis Tool that lets users explore the financial aspects of installing solar. Solar PV consumers can calculate concepts such as estimated payback period and net present value.
The revamped site features improved navigation and more clearly defined user paths, along with a new look and feel. Content has been expanded to include solar thermal, a section just for contractors and financial resources for consumers. Check it out at www.pge.com/solar.
A new online tool has been created by the California Energy Commission to help the housing market evaluate the value of solar on California homes.
The Solar Advantage Value Estimator (SAVE) will give the industry a long-term and cost-effective method for calculating the added value of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on new and existing solar homes. Accurate assessments of the added value solar brings to homes improves the economics of residential solar projects and helps homeowners see the benefits of going solar.
"This changes the perception of solar in the housing industry that benefits homeowners," said Energy Commissioner Carla Peterman. "Today's changing real estate market requires a credible method to determine a home's value with solar, and this tool is an example of California's leadership to develop new methods to cultivate clean energy."
SAVE calculates the value of a solar PV system on a new or existing solar home including the estimated value in annual energy savings. The tool uses the homeowner's unique address and zip code, the solar system size, specific climate zone data and local electric utility rates.
Once the three-step calculation is complete, the user receives a present-value amount for their solar PV system. Real estate professionals, appraisers and builders can connect this information to potential homebuyers who may be deciding to "Go Solar" or to homeowners who are selling their solar homes.
SAVE was developed through a coordinated effort of appraisers, realtors and public/private stakeholders.
For more information about SAVE and a list of frequently asked questions, visit www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov/tools/calculators.php.
Program administrators for the CSI Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing program have issued the July 2011 Semiannual Progress Report, showing significant advancement in project completions and efficient management of the program's applicant wait lists statewide. The reporting period covers October 16, 2008, through June 30, 2011. Highlights of the report include:
The report outlines new program modifications directed by the commission's recent Phase 1 Decision (D.) 11-07-031, including expansion of virtual net metering, the shift of funding from Track 2 to Track 1 and the elimination of the two-year occupancy permit requirement.
Customers should be aware that pursuant to D.11-07-031 (section 7.3) MASH Track 1 incentive rates have been readjusted to $1.90/watt (Track 1A) and $2.80/watt (Track 1B) and that an application fee is now required for new applications for projects greater than 10 kW.
The bipartisan "PACE Assessment Protection Act" has been introduced in the House of Representatives to revive the property-assessed clean energy financing structure roadblocked because of objections by the Federal Housing Finance Agency last year. It guarantees that PACE assessments will only be allowed for credit-worthy participants and that improvements must be revenue positive. PACE programs could remove the financial barriers of energy efficiency and solar energy retrofits for residential homeowners and businesses. You can read more at the Vote Solar Initiative by clicking here.
The City of Brea recently unveiled more than 1.6 megawatts (MW) of solar energy generating systems across three locations that, when combined, comprise Orange County's largest municipal solar installations and are expected to earn the city more than $4.2 million in CSI incentives.
The efforts are part of comprehensive energy efficiency and solar projects expected to generate an estimated $13 million in net savings over 25 years, plus significant environmental benefits.
The savings have been immediate and the city has already seen results exceeding expectations. Two early examples are a 65 percent reduction in electricity costs at the Brea Community Center for the month of June and a 35 percent reduction at the Civic & Cultural Center.
The solar generating systems were installed by Chevron Energy Solutions at the Brea Community Center, Brea Civic and Cultural Center, and Reservoir City Pump Yard, the latter of which is expected to help mitigate future pumping costs.
The city, working in conjunction with Southern California Edison, also implemented a citywide street lighting upgrade, interior and exterior lighting retrofits and improvements to heating, ventilating, air conditioning and energy management controls to further improve the city's energy efficiency.
The City and Chevron estimate that the solar systems alone will cut the City's carbon emissions by 86,000 metric tons, comparable to removing 16,000 cars from the road. During construction, the project also provided more than 25 local jobs and 125 indirect jobs with an estimated $3 million boost to the local economy.
"The City of Brea's work with Chevron Energy Solutions will save millions of taxpayer dollars by cutting our energy consumption," said City of Brea Mayor Roy Moore. "This project positions Brea as an environmental leader in the county, and demonstrates fiscal responsibility by investing in long-term, sustainable projects that will benefit our community for decades to come."
The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) recently awarded the first CSI Thermal multifamily solar water heating system rebate in San Diego County. The homeowners association of Mission Heights Condominiums in Mission Valley received a check for $72,523 at a "switching on" and CSI rebate check presentation ceremony held July 14. City of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and CCSE's Executive Director Irene Stillings were among those speaking at the event.
"Solar water heating is perfectly suited for condominiums and apartment buildings because a single system can supply the hot water needs for many residents at once, improving the efficiency and long-term sustainability of their buildings," Stillings said. "The Mission Heights homeowners association has taken a significant step forward in reducing their energy use and helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions with clean solar energy."
The installed system has 72 solar thermal collectors manufactured by Vaillant Solar Systems that will provide an estimated 3,800 gallons of hot water a day to the Mission Heights Condominiums. In addition to reducing energy cost for the Mission Heights residents, the project's environmental benefits include cutting natural gas consumption by 10,276 therms per year and carbon dioxide emissions by 60 tons per year.
As part of Pacific Gas and Electric's ongoing efforts to improve customer satisfaction with the CSI Program, its internal Research Department sent an annual survey to customers the first week of August. By soliciting open and honest opinions, PG&E hopes to gauge the effectiveness of the CSI Program and subsequently take action to make changes that will increase overall satisfaction. Please note that all answers are confidential and will not be shared with any third parties.
A GRID Alternatives client in San Diego is showing that the benefits of solar energy and the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program extend beyond individual families to support community engagement.
SASH Program client Lakisha Mczeal Stukes belongs to group of twenty women called the "Babes of Virtue" who prepare meals for people going through tough times, including people at a women's shelter and those living on the street. The meals are funded out of the "Babes" own pockets, although they themselves live on a low incomes. Mrs. Stukes comments, "If each one helps one, all those little bits will make a whole lot of difference."
The Stukes family received a SASH Program photovoltaic installation in June, which will reduce the family's utility bill by around 70 percent. Some of those savings will help fulfill the mission of this generous group of women and their families, as they strive to reduce hunger in their community.
For further information about the SASH Program or GRID Alternatives, please visit the website at http://www.gridalternatives.org/sash, or call 1-866-921-4696.
On July 26, 2011, the City of San Diego kicked off the Reduce Then Produce Group Savings Program in efforts to help homeowners install photovoltaic and solar thermal systems at a lower price per watt.
This new program is part of the San Diego Summer of Energy Independence promotion focused on encouraging city residents to take action on lowering their energy consumption through energy efficiency and solar energy retrofits. GroupEnergy, a California-based company that helps residents pool their buying power to reduce the cost of energy improvements, is facilitating the Reduce Then Produce program in coordination with the California Center for Sustainable Energy and the City of San Diego.
Homeowners that opt into the program will be guided through the Energy Upgrade California (EUC) program to ensure their homes are energy efficient before they become eligible to join the solar group buy pool. With an ambitious schedule, GroupEnergy plans to have all homeowners in the program under contract by early November and all systems installed by the end of the year.
The 2011 InterSolar North America conference in San Francisco drew a host of industry leaders and promising newcomers alike, with 20,000 visitors, 839 exhibitors and a stirring lineup of sessions and speakers. This year's industry expo showed signs of deeper, more specialized solar market development, including increased representation from business "clusters" such as hardware vendors, mounting and roofing solutions and utility-scale materials.
And, as usual, the networking – in a city known for networking – was spectacular as well.
Perhaps the biggest party hit was the Solar Battle of the Bands, a fundraising invitational held by NorCal Solar and friends from Antenna Group, CreoTecc, Kaco New Energy, Session Solar, Trina Solar and Quick Mount PV. Word is out that next year's Solar Battle of the Bands will be a serious throw-down, with rumors of notable solar company bands jamming after hours in anticipation.
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