California Legislation Is a Solar Market Accelerator

a guest post by Ken Whiteside, Director of Business Development at ONTILITY, LLC.

California Legislation Is a Solar Market Accelerator

The solar market in California is set to go stratospheric. The state legislature has passed a bill that will open the solar market to 75 percent of California residents and commercial property owners who have until now been unable to install solar: Renters, business owners who lease offices, owners of buildings with shaded roofs, for example.

Known as the "shared renewables" bill (officially it's the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program), the new law immediately creates the largest shared renewables program in the U.S. and could act as a rocket booster to California’s clean energy economy – all without any state subsidies or extra costs to non-participating residents. The law allows any customer of the state’s three largest utilities to purchase up to 100 percent renewable electricity for their home or business. Cumulative investments will be capped at 600MW and the program will sunset in 2019.

By targeting people without property suitable for solar installation, the shared renewables program puts a new twist on an old idea, buying renewable power on the electricity market. Consumers from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) will be able invest in renewable energy by buying shares in new projects up to 20MW in size, at a locked-in price.

Since the contract price includes a credit to the utility for grid use, any increased transmission and distribution costs aren’t spread to non-participating ratepayers. The program avoids complexities and potential conflicts surrounding net metering because utilities won’t be paying ratepayers back for power they generate but don’t use themselves.Of the 600MW allocated to the program, 100MW is reserved for residential consumers, and 100MW of new renewable energy projects smaller than 1MW each must be built in disadvantaged communities.

Advocacy organization Vote Solar estimates the bill will create around 6,000 new green jobs, allow 20,000 residential ratepayers to participate, and generate over $2.2 billion in economic activity within just a few years. Even if those estimates are vastly overly optimistic, the impact will be huge for the entire solar supply chain in California, from manufacturers to distributors and contractors. The opportunities are very exciting.

Ken Whiteside photo Ken Whiteside has been a fan of solar energy for decades. His first hands-on experience was installing solar on off-grid houses around Telluride, Colorado in the 1990’s (summer in the San Juan Mtns. - somebody had to do it). From his home in Austin, Ken writes and works for widespread adoption of solar electricity, smart energy production and use, and sustainability.

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