California: Utilities urge for DG solar to count towards 50% renewables goal

Currently, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requires 33% of annual electricity generation to come from certain, eligible renewables by 2020. There are discussions underway to increase this to 50% by December 31, 2030 via an amended bill, SB 350.

The current, and amended, bills do not count distributed generation (DG), including residential solar PV rooftop, as an eligible renewable energy; something that both Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) see as a mistake. Utility solar is included.

They have both written to the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce requesting that DG be included in California’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) program, thus avoiding "picking technology winners and losers."

"SB 350 ignores DG as a GHG strategy in the RPS construct … as a result SB 350 picks technology winners and losers, maintains inequities to the disadvantage of utility customers, ignores operability issues, and will lead to unnecessary costs,"wrote Darren Bouton, director of state public affairs at SCE. He added, "State policy must better align with utilities to advance DG as a strategic solution for carbon reduction."

PG&E’s Kent Kauss, senior director, state government relations, stated, "Expand the scope of eligible renewable resources to include distributed generation facilities such as rooftop solar that the state already acknowledges are renewable, yet do not count towards the RPS goal."

PG&E has also called for the setting of an "aggressive" 2030 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions target, "instead of increasing mandates for the purchase of one component of the clean energy strategy."

US residential solar landscape

According to GTM Research, the U.S. market will see around 2 GW of residential solar installed in 2015, with Q1 recording 437 MW. In its Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Q1, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research wrote that nearly a fourth of cumulative residential installations came online without state incentives.

In Q1, residential solar saw a Q/Q increase of 11%, thus recording its strongest quarter ever. "… this continued top-level growth remains primarily pegged to demand in California, which drove 53% of national residential installations," wrote the report’s authors. Overall, they expect over three million more residential solar systems to be installed across the U.S. in the next five years.

With 34% market share, GTM Research says SolarCity is the largest residential installer, followed by Vivint Solar (11%), SunRun (3%), Sungevity and NRG Home Solar (both 2%).