In This Issue
The California Public Utilities Commission has rejected a proposal from San Diego Gas & Electric's Phase 2 General Rate Case for service in 2013 that would have established a network use charge (NUC) for customers, including solar PV generators, for their use of the electric distribution grid. In a scoping ruling filed Jan. 18, Commissioner Mark Ferron wrote that as proposed, the NUC "may be inconsistent with current law" and ordered the utility to file a revised rate case without the charge by Feb. 17, 2012.
Ferron based his concern about the legality of the NUC on regulations that prohibit utilities from creating new charges that would increase a customer-generator's costs beyond those of other customers in the same rate class who are not generators. While the proposed NUC would have applied to both classes of customers, generators would have been charged on both incoming and outgoing power. Ferron wrote that he does not believe that the issue of whether to allow such a NUC should be included within the scope of a rate case proceeding.
SDG&E has stated that under its current rate design, net energy metering (NEM) customers do not pay their fair share of costs incurred on their behalf by the utility to provide service, including use of the distribution system. As a result, SDG&E contends that non-NEM customers subsidize NEM customers.
The scoping memo and ruling can be read here. The document also lays out the schedule for public hearings, comments and decisions on SDG&E's rate case.
On February 6, Energy Division staff issued Draft Resolution 4481 in response to utility advice letters filed last October to expand virtual net metering (VNM) to the general market. Currently, this metering option, which allows system owners to allocate their system's output as credits to other tenant meters, is limited to affordable multifamily projects. Last year, the Public Utilities Commission voted to allow any eligible multitenant distributed generation customer to participate in VNM. A workshop for expanded VNM was held at the commission in December.
Parties to the DG/CSI proceeding (R.10-05-004) may submit comments to the draft resolution by Feb. 24, 2012, and reply comments are due by Feb. 29, 2012. An original and two copies of the comments, along with a certificate of service, should be sent to: Honesto Gatchalian, Energy Division, California Public Utilities Commission, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102 or FAX: (415) 703-2200
At the January 2012 CSI Program Forum, CSI Program Administrators (PAs) sought industry feedback on the best ways to collect more comprehensive CSI cost data. Currently, the CSI Program collects solely dollar-per-kilowatt cost data and posts it to the CSI data reporting site, CaliforniaSolarStatistics.com, for use throughout the state, nation and worldwide. This data has allowed regulators and policymakers to track the effectiveness of the CSI Program in driving down the cost of solar and is also designed to help consumers compare prices of solar contractors when buying solar systems.
A tremendous increase in third-party-owned residential systems has created a perceived disparity in data collection. Prior to the CSI Program in 2007, the idea of leased residential systems or power purchase agreements (PPAs) had not been considered. Soon after launching, the CSI Program saw 7 percent of all incentive applications for third-party-owned systems. In 2008-09, at the outset of the housing and credit market crash, third-party-owned systems grew to 15 percent of all projects submitted. In 2010, as the housing and credit markets sank even further, roughly 30% of all solar PV systems in California were third-party financed, and in 2011 third-party financing exceeded half of all solar installations, at 54 percent. Analysts and program administrators believe this trend will continue as long as financing remains tight and demand for solar increases.
Because of the large increase of third-party-owned systems in the residential sector, it became clear to policymakers that the collection of only dollar-per-watt cost data is not sufficient to understand how well the program is working to drive down costs. A new way of viewing this information may help give more insight to the PPA/lease market while helping consumers when going solar.
Feedback received at the forum was both encouraging and cautious. The sentiment that cost data can be reported in dollars per kilowatt-hour was for the most part agreed upon by attendees. However, it was cautioned that in any attempts to collect this data, no undue burden should be placed upon the industry. CSI PAs well understand that imposing further burden on solar contractors and integrators would be a step backwards.
If you or your company would like to participate in further discussion, the CSI PAs will host a workshop about cost per kWh reporting at PG&E's Pacific Energy Center on February 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, contact Ben Airth, CCSE Program Manager at Benjamin.Airth@energycenter.org or (858) 244-1194.
The CPUC Energy Division announced that it will issue a request for proposals for energy program evaluation consultants to conduct a three-track study of market transformation and associated issues relevant to the California customer solar market. The main objective will be to identify the primary drivers of solar market development and the potential negative impacts to market growth given the steady decline of California Solar Initiative (CSI) incentives, phasing out of the CSI program and the sunsetting of other support programs, such as the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The study is a requirement of the CSI program, and bidder information is available here.
It's official – San Diego ranks first again among California cities for use of solar energy, with the most systems installed and the greatest generation capacity, according to a report issued in January by the Sacramento-based Environment California Research & Policy Center.
With 4,500 rooftop installations generating nearly 37 megawatts (MW) of electricity, San Diego's solar panels produce more than $9 million worth of power annually. The report notes that the California Solar Initiative, administered by CCSE in concert with SDG&E's interconnection team, has been particularly effective in driving solar power into the residential market.
“San Diego’s No. 1 solar status is the result of innovative state and local policies aimed at growing the solar industry, such as the California Solar Initiative, which has provided clear, well-designed support for solar,” said Andrew McAllister, CCSE’s director of policy and strategy.
Los Angeles came in second place, with more than 36 MW of solar generation capacity. San Jose ranks third, with solar installations totaling 31 MW. In addition, Fresno, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Sacramento and Santa Rosa all have more than 10 MW installed.
In 2000, California had fewer than 1,000 rooftop solar systems, with less than 10 MW of total electric generation capacity. In 2011, California passed the milestone of 1,000 MW of installed solar capacity, with more than 100,000 separate installations
You can read and download California's Solar Cities 2012: Leaders in the Race to a Clean Energy Future, at the Environment California website by clicking here.
Cities with a larger number of installations but less capacity have more residential installations, which tend to be smaller in size than those found on top of commercial or government buildings – accounting for the differences between the top 10 lists by number of installations and overall capacity. (Environment California)
On February 2, program administrators filed the Multifamily Affordable Housing Program (MASH) Semiannual Progress Report for the period of July-December 2011.
The report shows that more than 460 applications have been received and processed in the MASH Track 1 program to date. There are now 147 installed projects statewide for a capacity of 7.26 megawatts, with a statewide average system size of 72 kilowatts, more than $28 million in incentives paid and at a statewide average cost of $7.58/watt. In the last report, filed July 2011, there were only nine systems installed and less than $2 million paid in incentives – that's a 1,500 percent increase in projects.
Performance Data Providers and CSI Program Administrators (PAs) met in San Francisco on January 24 for a workshop to examine ways to improve and streamline performance data provider (PDP) reporting. Systems that receive performance-based incentives are required to subscribe to PDP monitoring and reporting services, which package data according to protocols used by the utilities' billing systems.
In addition to a discussion of reporting methodologies, including clarifications of time stamps and submissions protocols, a surprising take-away from this discussion was the identification of critical points of communication between PDP providers, contractors and host customers. At issue was the question of data reporting roles and responsibilities when systems fail to perform.
"By improving communications, we can save time and money in processing system alerts," said Suzanne Fuller of Southern California Edison. CSI PAs plan to work with the industry in the upcoming quarter to determine roles and responsibilities related to data reporting and system performance.
In northern San Diego County, GRID Alternatives is collaborating with the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians on a Tribal Solar Initiative aimed at increasing energy independence and energy efficiency. GRID Alternatives is installing photovoltaic systems for several homeowners on the La Jolla Indian Reservation through the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program.
To date, GRID Alternatives has installed three solar systems on the reservation, with many more in the pipeline for the upcoming months.
"Working with GRID Alternatives has been a great experience," said Tribal Environmental Director Rob Roy. "The projects we are conducting here are helping the Tribe work toward the goals identified in its energy plan by assisting the Tribe with becoming more energy efficient and independent. GRID Alternatives truly believes in its mission to provide energy savings and assistance to low-income residents."
A recent recipient of a SASH solar system, Tribal Member John Subish, enthused, "This has been a great project and is saving me tons of money each month that I can use for clothes and other things for the kids!"
The La Jolla Tribe believes that this project provides an example of how Native Americans are working to implement renewable energy, partner with their neighbors on issues of concern and continue the tradition of living in harmony with the land.
The California Solar Industry Association (CALSEIA) recently gave approval to local San Diego solar contractors and participants to move forward with forming a local CALSEIA chapter. Invitations to join the chapter are being extended to all members of both the solar PV and solar water heating industry, including solar contractors and integrators, manufacturers, solar financiers, nonprofit companies and any others in the solar community.
The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) facilitated forming a steering committee in fall 2011 to petition CALSEIA for the formation of the local chapter and committee members presented their petition at the CALSEIA annual board meeting in Palm Springs in December 2011.
The next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at CCSE. For more information, contact Ben Airth, CCSE Program Manager at Benjamin.Airth@energycenter.org or (858) 244-1194.
One of the most significant hurdles for homeowners and business owners when considering a solar photovoltaic (PV) system is financing the purchase. The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is hosting Andy Black of OnGrid Solar to present workshops February 13-14 in San Diego detailing the costs associated with PV systems, how to estimate savings and various forms of financing.
"We often get calls from homeowners concerned about whether or not solar is affordable for them and which financing model is the best option," said Jeremy Cox, CCSE's CSI nonresidential associate program manager. "That's why we bring in experts like Black to help guide consumers through the process."
In January, the Pacific Energy Center hosted the CSI Program Forum, a public venue designed to keep an open dialog between the solar industry and CSI Program Administrators. In addition to standard updates, the afternoon session focused on the CSI-Thermal program. Presentations are available on the CPUC website.
Call for Photos and Stories of CSI-Funded Solar Systems
Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos and stories here.
California Public Utilities Commission
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San Francisco, California 94102