New Californian Governor calls for FITs, while Hawaii shows little interest

In an undated posting on the Governor’s campaign website, the then candidate called for building 12,000 megawatts (MWs) of distributed generation out of 20,000 MWs of new renewable generation. Specifically, he asks for the introduction of FITs to accomplish this task.

Brown’s position on distributed generation and FITs is the most ambitious, and the most specific, of any sitting U.S. Governor.

California has lagged far behind other U.S. states since Brown’s previous tenure as Governor in the early 1980s. At best, California produces two percent of its electricity from wind energy and less than one percent from solar. In comparison, several Midwestern states generate more than seven percent of their electricity with new renewables, mostly wind energy.

However, 12,000 MWs of new distributed renewables could produce between 15 and 25 terawatt hours (TWh) of generation, or about five percent to eight percent of current consumption. Furthermore, total new renewables proposed by Brown could generate between 30 and 40 TWh per year for about 10 percent to 13 percent of consumption.

Below is an excerpt from Brown’s campaign website, titled ‘Jobs for California’s Future‘. In the campaign’s vernacular, distributed generation is called Localized Electricity Generation.

"My goal is that by 2020, California should produce 20,000 new megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity, and also accelerate the development of energy storage capacity. California can do this by aggressively developing renewables at all levels: small, onsite residential and business systems; intermediate-sized energy systems close to existing consumer loads and transmission lines; and large scale wind, solar and geothermal energy systems. At the same time, California should take bold steps to increase energy efficiency.

"Below is my plan to get us there. It will produce a half a million new jobs in research, development, manufacturing, construction, installation, and maintenance over the next decade.

"1. Build 12,000 MWs of Localized Electricity Generation

  • California should develop 12,000 megawatts of localized energy by 2020. Localized energy is onsite or small energy systems located close to where energy is consumed that can be constructed quickly (without new transmission lines) and typically without any environmental impact.

  • Solar systems of up to 2 megawatts should be installed on the roofs of warehouses, parking lot structures, schools, and other commercial buildings throughout the state.

  • Solar energy projects up to 20 megawatts in size should be built on public and private property throughout the state. For example, we should create the California Solar Highway by placing solar panels alongside our state highways.

  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) or Legislature should implement a system of carefully calibrated renewable power payments (commonly called feed in tariffs) for distributed generation projects up to 20 megawatts in size. Holding down overall rates must be part of the design."

Interest lacking

In other news, the expected interest in Hawaii’s feed-in tariff program has not materialized, according to a report by the program’s independent observer.

Accion Group found that in the first month of operation, Hawaii’s long-awaited FIT policy had generated little activity, with much of the allocated capacity remaining to be filled.

Hawaii’s experience contrasts markedly with successful programs in Ontario, Vermont, and Gainesville, Florida where applicants, many for photovoltaic (PV) systems, overwhelmed administrators.

Of the total 80 MWs allocated to the program among the three utilities, only 2.6 MWs of PV applications have been filed, says Accion, a New Hampshire consulting company. Accion makes no determination of why the response to the program has been so lackluster.

In addition, 23 kilowatts (kWs) of existing net-metered projects have converted to the FIT program. Twenty MWs of capacity has been allocated to conversion from net-metering accounts through early 2011.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Tier 1 and Tier 2 FITs on October 13, 2010. Tier 3, the final tier in the program, has not been approved and there is no definite date when it will be implemented.

Critics have charged that the program is limited and offers unattractive prices.

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