California to standardize disclosures for solar contracts, protect solar customers

California solar power

Gov. Brown signed AB 1070 (Gonzalez Fletcher) into law last week. The bill previously unanimously passed the California Assembly and Senate. AB 1070 creates new and important consumer protections measures, including standardized and simplified disclosures, for all residential solar customers.

“CALSEIA greatly appreciates the efforts of Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher to protect consumers and applaud Governor Brown for signing AB 1070,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “We support this new law because it simultaneously helps eliminate confusion in the marketplace while also reigning the handful of errant contractors. It does this without inadvertently harming the ethical California business men and women who are critical architects of California’s clean energy future.”

AB 1070 requires Contractors State License Board (CSLB) on or before July 1, 2018, to develop a disclosure document that must be provided to consumers prior to sale, finance or lease of solar installation. In addition, the law requires the California Public Utilities Commission to develop standard inputs for calculation and presentation of energy savings to potential buyers.

“We should make it as easy as possible for Californians to use solar power and other clean-energy sources,” added Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, author of the bill. “But it’s very expensive and very intimidating for homeowners to invest in solar power. It’s a challenge figuring out the honest companies from the ones trying to rip you off. The more protection we can provide consumers, the more comfortable they’ll be purchasing solar power at a time when each of us must do our part to combat climate change.”

California solar thermal incentives officially extended until 2020

Last week, the Governor previously signed two other important consumer protection bills, SB 242 (Skinner) and AB 1284 (Dababneh), which provide additional consumer protections for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing of clean energy projects. SB 242 mandates PACE providers call homeowners to ensure they understand the terms, and AB 1284 requires the Department of Business Oversight to regulate PACE providers and that PACE lenders to ensure borrowers have the ability to repay their loans obligations.

Since solar investments are independent, voluntary choices made by consumers, consumer protection is considered the cornerstone of the solar industry. With the signing of these three strong bills – AB 1070, SB 242 and AB 1284 – California took major steps to increase protections for consumers in the 2017 legislative session.

— Solar Builder magazine

California’s Clean Energy Storage bill passes Senate

California solar power

While the executive branch attempts to go backward with its energy goals, progressive states continue to march forward as the California Senate passed a bill that would give consumers more access to clean energy and provide the next critical piece for California to achieve its aggressive greenhouse gas and renewable energy goals. SB 700, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would increase availability of local, customer-sited energy storage for schools, farms, businesses and homes.

“In California, we are pushing aggressive renewable energy goals because we know that fighting climate change means taking action now,” said Senator Wiener. “This bill will push us down the path to 100% renewable energy. To meet our goals, we need solar, storage and other renewable energy resources in every city and neighborhood in California, not just those that can afford it. This bill will transform energy storage so that all can reap the benefits of clean, renewable energy.”

Details of the bill

SB 700 would create a 10-year rebate program designed to grow the California local storage market and make storage more affordable for consumers. The rebates would step down as more storage systems are installed and economies of scale are achieved, thereby driving down the installed cost of the systems. Local energy storage enables the integration of large amounts of renewable energy, creates value for consumers by helping them save money on energy bills, and increases grid reliability.

“Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Scott Wiener, Californians are one step closer to taking control of their clean energy future,” said Laura Gray, energy storage policy advisor with the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “This bill would allow homes, businesses, schools and public buildings to use solar and renewable energy at all hours of the day and night. Using a combination of solar and storage, consumers will make the sun shine at night.”

CPUC relaunches Self-Generation Incentive Program with big focus on energy storage

The bill also takes many steps to ensure Californians across the state are participating in the clean energy economy and have access to this program. Specifically, the bill would dedicate a portion of rebate funding for underserved areas and low-income households.

“The California Housing Partnership strongly supports SB 700. By setting aside 30 percent of incentives for low-income homes across the state, along with small businesses and public institutions in disadvantaged and low-income communities, this bill will empower Californians to equitably share in the benefits of energy storage,” said Stephanie Wang, policy director for the California Housing Partnership. “By prioritizing projects that will receive AB 693 Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs incentives, this bill will also support the long-term success of a key solar program for low-income California renters.”

The bill passed by a vote of 23 to 13 in the Senate. The bill now moves to the State Assembly.

— Solar Builder magazine

CPUC relaunches Self-Generation Incentive Program with big focus on energy storage


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced that the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) successfully relaunched on May 1, 2017, amid heavy customer demand for program incentives, particularly for energy storage projects. A total of $50 million was awarded in the first incentive step to projects that include storage paired with solar energy, projects to help offset the impact of reduced gas storage at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, and projects in disadvantaged communities.

SGIP is one of the nation’s longest running programs incentivizing customer investment in clean, distributed energy resources. It provides rebates to support energy resources installed on the customer’s side of the utility meter, including wind turbines, waste heat to power technologies, pressure reduction turbines, internal combustion engines, microturbines, gas turbines, fuel cells, and energy storage systems. In June 2016, the CPUC set the SGIP budget at more than $270 million through 2019. Also, to maximize the value of ratepayer incentives and to create more equitable distribution of funds, the CPUC instituted a lottery mechanism to select projects and replaced a first come, first-served system when demand for incentives is high. In April of this year, in response to the Legislature’s passage of Assembly Bill 1637 in 2016, the CPUC increased the total SGIP budget to more than $500 million through 2019. Nearly 80 percent of that budget is reserved for energy storage projects, with more than $100 million of funds for energy storage projects planned to be made available in June 2017.

Over the past 16 years, more than 3,700 clean energy projects have been funded by SGIP. On May 1, 2017, more than 130 companies submitted applications for more than $90 million in available incentives, more than 50 percent of which were reserved for energy storage projects. In total, hundreds of projects received incentive reservations. Initial data from the May 1, 2017, reopening indicate that the average cost per watt for storage systems seeking SGIP incentives fell from $3.33 in 2016 to $2.55 in 2017.

California Senate Panel approves energy storage bill

“We have successfully revamped our Self-Generation Incentive Program and have reserved rebates for projects across various technologies that will promote reliability and provide clean energy,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. “I am pleased to see that there are so many customers seeking clean energy solutions on their side of the meter, and that the market for these technologies is robust and growing. I am also very pleased that a significant portion of the projects are located in disadvantaged communities.”

Of note in the SGIP results:

● Of the approximately $50 million made available for energy storage projects on May 1, 2017, the majority of that funding was reserved on the day the program reopened.

● Approximately 28 percent of the incentives reserved by large-scale energy storage projects in the territories of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are for projects sited in community census tracts identified by CalEnviroScreen 3.0 as being in the top 25 percent (i.e., most heavily impacted) of disadvantaged census tracts statewide.

● As intended by CPUC policy priorities, energy storage projects paired with solar and/or located in the Aliso Canyon-affected areas performed well in the lotteries. For example, 58 of the 66 funded applications in SCE’s large-scale (i.e., projects over 10kW in size) energy storage lottery, totaling 15.4 megawatts, are sited in SCE’s West Los Angeles Local Reliability Area, an area impacted by the leak that occurred at Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon.

SGIP is funded by the ratepayers of PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, and SoCalGas. It is administered by those utilities in their territories, with the exception of SDG&E, the administration of which is managed by the Center for Sustainable Energy

— Solar Builder magazine

California Senate Panel approves energy storage bill

california energy storage

The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee approved a bill this week that would empower consumers to take part in California’s clean energy future. SB 700, the Energy Storage Initiative, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would create a marketplace for local energy storage to bring down prices and ensure access to storage for schools, businesses and consumers across the state.

“This bill allows the sun to shine at night by encouraging Californians to produce on-site solar power during the day and use energy storage to deploy that clean energy when most needed,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “Getting California to a zero carbon future will require an unbelievable amount of storage to manage renewables on the grid and this bill is a key piece to that puzzle.”

The bill would create a rebate program for local, customer-sited energy storage. Much like the California Solar Initiative that transformed the Solar PV market, this bill would create a declining rebate system to encourage businesses to bring down prices and invest in our renewable future. California’s behind-the-meter storage market is in a similar position as that of PV a decade ago. This bill will provide stable, long-term and multi-faceted policy supports to ensure storage becomes a mainstream and commonplace technology. SB 700 includes provisions to ensure all Californians will participate by dedicating funds specifically to low-income and underserved communities.

“Not only does this bill encourage more private investment in our long road to 100 percent renewable energy, but it ensures access to storage technology around the state,” said Del Chiaro. “This bill will also provide benefits for all ratepayers by avoiding costly transmission and distribution upgrades and will move the state away from natural gas plant investments.”

The bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “With the passage of SB 700 on Monday, policy makers are showing signs of a real appetite to create a marketplace for local, customer-sited energy storage. Environmental groups, consumer groups, workforce training, low-income advocates and businesses see the value of storage. This bill is building momentum but it is a long road to the governor’s desk,” said Del Chiaro.

— Solar Builder magazine

Attention California solar developers: PG&E puts out call for proposals

PG&EApproximately half of U.S. households and businesses are unable to install private solar systems due to space limitations or insufficient sun exposure. To combat this, earlier this year, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) launched its Solar Choice program to extend the option for solar power to customers regardless of their location or ability to physically install private solar systems. The program allows residential and business customers to enroll with PG&E to support the development of new solar projects located within Northern and Central California. But wait, there is more. Starting now, PG&E customers have another clean energy option, and PG&E has announced a call for proposals for renewable energy developers to build projects for this program.

The new Regional Renewable Choice program will expand renewable energy access by enabling customers to work directly with developers of new renewable projects. Through the program, customers will have the option to work with developers and subscribe to the output from a new renewable project equaling between 25 and 100 percent of their electricity use. Participating customers will pay the developers for the new energy directly, and receive a bill credit from PG&E on their monthly energy statement.

RELATED: Community Solar Legal Primer: From project structure to consumer protection 

PG&E is seeking proposals from local renewable energy developers across Northern and Central California to build small- and mid-sized renewable projects ranging from 0.5 to 20 MW for the Regional Renewable Choice program. The energy for these new projects can be from renewable resources including but not limited to solar, wind or biomass.

This program milestone offers renewable energy developers their first chance to submit proposals starting August 31, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2016. Developers will be chosen through a competitive bidding process and are expected to be chosen by December 2016. This request for proposals calls for a development target of 75 MW of renewable resources.

To submit a proposal, renewable energy developers can visit this website. In 2017, PG&E expects to issue two additional requests for offers for renewable energy developers, with the next solicitation occurring in spring 2017.

“The new Regional Renewable Choice program is part of our ongoing commitment to support the growth of solar and other renewable energy sources in California. Building on PG&E’s Solar Choice program launched earlier this year, this new program enables our customers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their electricity usage and allows them to directly be a part of California’s clean energy future. This is a win for our customers and for California,” said PG&E Vice President of Customer Energy Solutions Aaron Johnson.

PG&E has already connected more than 250,000 solar customers to the grid. Through its two new clean energy programs – PG&E’s Solar Choice and Regional Renewable Choice – the company aims to extend access to renewable energy to tens of thousands of additional homes and businesses in its service area.

— Solar Builder magazine