Shared renewables programs move towards reality in California

Under the rules set by California regulators the state’s three large private utilities will put online 600 MW, with PG&E and SCE to take around 270 MW each.

On December 30th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision setting out rules for utilities to comply with a 2013 law mandating 600 MW of additional renewable energy under community and “green tariff” programs.

SB43, California’s “shared renewables” law was passed in September 2013. This decision by the CPUC was pushed back from July, which the agency said was due to the need to design a fair and effective program and the complexity of that task.

Under the new rules PG&E, SCE and SDG&E will use the Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM), PG&E’s ReMAT “feed-in tariff” or similar mechanisms to procure the 600 MW of solar PV, including 110.5 MW in 2015. The maximum size of individual projects is set at 20 MW.

The utilities will then make electricity from these renewable projects available to the public through voluntary purchase, with customers paying a renewable energy rate plus and administrative charge.

The program is designed for customers who are not able to install solar or small wind turbines because they are renters, they don’t have sufficient credit or their roofs are not good sites to host solar PV. Solar "crowd-funding" company Mosaic estimates that this includes 75% of households and 70% of businesses.

SB43 set out the share of each utility according to its retail electricity sales, which results in PG&E and SCE each assigned around 270 MW, and SDG&E getting the remaining 60 MW.

Additionally, SB43 requires 100 MW to be set aside for participation by residential customers, and another 100 MW to be located in “the most impacted and disadvantaged communities”. Finally 20 MW is reserved for the city of Davis, which bill author Senator Lois Wolk represents. These first two categories will be evenly split among the three utilities.

An important detail of the program is that the renewable energy credits for this 600 MW will be retired, meaning that this entire capacity will be in addition to the mandate that California utilities procure 33% of their electricity generation from renewable energy by 2020.

The CPUC will make a final decision on the proposed rules in its meeting on January 27th.