Tag: "sdg_e"

01/22/14

  06:19:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 405 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Utilities, Residential Solar, Net Metering

Petition to Protect Solar Rights

Vote Solar Initiative websiteOur friends over at the Vote Solar Initiative have a petition campaign underway to garner support for California’s solar program.  We’ve signed on and we encourage you to do so as well.

Last year the legislature passed a major piece of legislation, AB 327, that deals with the future of net metering.  While that was a short-term victory for solar advocates, it put the long-term future of net metering in the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Alas, that result was a decidedly mixed blessing, as departing Commissioner Ferron recently noted:

But recognize that this is a poisoned chalice: the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interests of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You – my fellow Commissioners — all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation

Which brings us back to the petition campaign over at Vote Solar. 

Here’s the petition text in full:

Dear California Public Utilities Commissioners,

I am signing this petition because I believe in protecting Californians’ right to go solar and receive full credit for the clean energy they deliver to the grid.

California has more than 200,000 solar roofs, and we expect to boost that number to half a million by the end of 2017.  The policy of net metering has been crucial to recent growth and the creation of local jobs around the state. Rooftop solar systems reliably produce electricity for 30 years or more, and Californians invest in rooftop solar because they expect long-term bill savings over the life of the system.

Under Assembly Bill 327, the Commission must decide how long solar customers may continue under current net metering rules. Changing the rules unexpectedly for customers who have already made solar investments and signed contracts would be unfair and would drastically slow our state’s solar momentum.

I urge you to stay the course and allow customers who install solar under the current program to continue under current net metering rules for at least 30 years.

We believe that the CPUC needs to hear from as many Californians in support of solar as possible.  Trust me, they are already hearing plenty from the lobbyists for SCE, PG&E and SDG&E. 

Please take a moment to add your name in support of rooftop solar by signing Vote Solar’s petition.

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10/24/13

  10:56:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 615 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, SCE, Commercial Solar, SDG&E, Energy Storage, Solar Policy, SPI 2013

Storage Send-off - Boosts from State & Private Sector

A key to the growth of solar, particularly commercial solar, is the availability of affordable storage solutions.  Two recent developments suggest that we are about to see dramatic growth in this vital market sector.

CPUC Decision

One week ago the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted five to nothing approving a plan to require the three investor-owned utilities (SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E) to procure  1,325 MW of energy storage by 2020, with installation completed by no later than the end of 2024. Both SCE and PG&E are required to procure 580 MW each, with the remaining 165 MW allocated to SDG&E.  200 MW of that 1,325 MW total is to be interconnected at the customer’s site.  In addition, the decision provides a timeline for this to happen with the first 200 MW to be procured by the end of next year.

Other electric service providers, like the munis, will have to procure energy storage equal to 1 percent of their annual peak load by 2020.  Those storage systems can also include customer sited and/or customer-owned storage devices as long as they were installed after January 1, 2010.

Large scale pumped hydro storage (greater than 50 MW) is excluded from the program, but storage obtained from plug-in electric vehicles can be counted.

This is a tremendously significant decision as the mandate will surely drive R&D as well as deployment investment and help provide a ready market for these emerging technologies.

Stem Makes its Move

An announcement this week during Solar Power International shows how that investment is already starting to happen.

Stem offeringsStem - the company with the clever technology for using storage to “smooth out” the demand peaks that drive commercial energy costs - just announced a $5 million project finance fund with Clean Feet Investors (CFI).  From the parties’ press release:

The new financing model, which Stem developed in collaboration with CFI, is designed to open access to a wider pool of customers by removing barriers to adoption, enabling up to 15 MW of energy storage to be deployed. With this financing capability, Stem hopes to follow the dramatic growth trajectory pioneered by the third party ownership model in the solar industry. Stem and CFI plan other innovative financing offers for customers including performance-based and shared savings financing solutions with the capital from this financing.

“In addition to breakthroughs in technology, Stem is focused on driving business model innovation,” said Prakesh Patel, Stem’s vice president of capital markets and strategy. “By working closely with CFI, I believe we have created a unique offering to help accelerate customer adoption of Stem systems. This transaction paves the way for Stem to become one of the first efficiency technologies to achieve bankability.”

“Deployment capital is essential for Stem to get their technology in the hands of their customers – many of whom prefer a “pay as you save” offering,” added Jigar Shah, a principal at Clean Feet, and founder of the largest solar services company, SunEdison.

Allowing companies to install Stem’s technology with little or nothing down will help those companies save money at the same time it allows Stem to ramp up.  This is great news for the solar industry since it is posed to provide the energy that Stem’s system later distributes as needed to offset those costly demand peaks.

Of course, this isn’t exactly great news for the utilities who, if this technology were widely adopted, would see a huge revenue hit as more and more commercial customers were able to lop-off the most expensive energy they now have to procure.  Whether it is the continuation of net-metering on the residential side or the ability to eliminate the worst of demand charges on the commercial side, the pressure on the utilities will only continue to grow.  But for their customers, things have never looked brighter.

08/16/13

  09:17:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 915 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News, Utilities, Safety, Ranting, SDG&E

Utilities Want "Smarter" Inverters and They Want them NOW!

A coalition of major utilities is calling on the California Public Utilities Commission to develop regulations that would require the use of so-called “smart” inverter technology on a “fast track” to address “issues” arising from the growing adoption of solar.  But that got us wondering - is this really a concern now and is a fast track response appropriate? 
(H/t, Solar Industry Magazine.)

The utility group, which calls itself WEIL, for Western Electric Industry Leaders, issued a letter on August 7 urging regulators to require the adoption of smart inverter technology, citing an “immediate need for the new solar generators that residents are placing on the grid in ever increasing numbers to be fitted with ’smart inverters’ to provide the necessary voltage support for us to integrate these resources effectively and prevent costly future renovations and reliability impacts."  Wow, that sounds dire - solar power systems that residents are adding to the grid could create “reliability impacts".  Quick, do something!

The letter continues:

However, if smart inverters are not installed, these voltage swings [due to PV output variability] can potentially damage utility equipment and residents’ home appliances; increase overall cost of maintaining the grid; require continued installation of larger, more expensive alternatives; and could even contribute to distributed outages.

(Emphasis added.)

Is there a single, documented case of PV variability causing damage to home appliances?  If there is, WEIL has certainly not identified it, although the prospect sure sounds scary.

To support all of this doom and gloom, the WEIL folks - headed by San Diego Gas & Electric - have produced a white paper that they claim provides “empirical support for smart inverters."  But here’s the thing - it really doesn’t.  First of all, where they set out to gather data in support of their contentions, the looked at systems far removed in size (and location for that matter) from what “residents” are installing on their homes.  In talking about intermittency issues, the system that they looked at was a 1 MW (AC) PV farm on the end of a rural distribution circuit.  Not clear how that is supposed to tell us about the impact of a 5kW system on an urban resident’s home.  They then applied modeling analysis to a 2 MW PV system to show their improvement.  Again, interesting - and possibly compelling for 2 MW systems - but irrelevant to the issue of what sort of inverters should we be installing on residential projects.  Indeed, the smallest system that they even discuss is a 240 kVA inverter - still not relevant to the broader issue.

So they couch their scary letter calling for immediate action in terms of residential systems - but their “supporting” white paper says nothing at all about such systems.  Nice.

Moreover, SDG&E touts the enormous penetration of solar onto their grid as a justification for the need for immediate action, noting that as of the end of January this year, they had 162.5 MW of customer owned PV capacity.  They also cite how Germany - where solar is so popular - has recently had to adopt expensive retrofits and we should avoid that fate.

But let’s break this down.

SDG&E self-generation peak impactsAccording to the California Energy Commission’s February 2012 forecast for SDG&E electricity planning, 162.5 MW of capacity works out to roughly 3.6% of SDG&E’s current peak demand of approximately 4,500 MW.  That same document predicts that by 2022, the highest estimate for PV from self-generation will be 350 MW out of a forecast peak demand of 5,500 MW - that is 6.4% under the most aggressive predictions for PV penetration (although I know our friends down in San Diego are hoping to beat those numbers).  By comparison, renewables in Germany are around 23% of peak demand today - six times what they have in SDG&E territory and nearly four times what they expect to have by 2022!  So where’s the fire?

WEIL spokesman and SDG&E COO Mike Niggli conceded, inadvertently, that this is not an immediate problem (h/t greentechsolar):

“In circuits that have a decent amount of penetration – about 10 percent to 15 percent – you can start to see significant waveform changes, as you’ve got clouds coming over, systems switching in and out,” Niggli said.

(Emphasis added.)

Kinda makes you wonder how many circuits supporting residential solar customers are seeing penetration of 10 to 15%.  Our guess is none, but in any event WEIL certainly doesn’t cite to any.

Moreover, inverters in this country have to satisfy a number of technical standards which in many cases are in direct conflict with what the utilities are now seeking.  In particular, two features regarding expanded capacity to handle frequency variations and low voltage situations violate the anti-islanding requirements applicable to US inverter designs.  Which is particularly ironic given that those requirements are there, not to protect household appliances, but to keep utility workers safe.  Bottom line - until those requirements are changed, no inverter manufacturer can certify a product for sale with the “smart” features utilities are claiming they must have now.

So what is the real agenda here?  Is there an “immediate need” for these new features to protect homeowners from scary PV?  Not so much.  Or, is there an immediate need on the part of the utilities to slow the march of solar until they can figure out Plan B?  That seems far more likely.

By all means, let’s make solar as “smart” as we can, and if regulations should be modified to help make the transition to a clean energy economy smoother, then they should be modified.  But spare us the scare tactics - it does nothing to improve the credibility of the utilities that signed on to WEIL’s Chicken Little letter.

08/02/12

  10:43:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 320 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, SCE

Green is Now: California's IOUs Hit RPS Target

While a meaningful national energy policy is nowhere to be found, California continues to lead the way, announcing that its three Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) have reached their intermediate target of 20% energy from renewables in 2011.  According to a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Status Report just released by the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Pacific Gas & Electric each exceeded the 20% target for renewables in 2011.  Specifically, SCE lead the way with 21.1% of its energy delivered coming from eligible renewable sources, followed by 20.8% for SDG&G and 20.1% for PG&E.  Collectively, the three IOUs account for roughly 68% of the state’s electric retail sales.  Unfortunately, the report does not provide a breakdown of those numbers by type of renewable energy source.

Most of the gains are the result of utility-scale renewable energy products, but customer-side renewable energy generation - such as that created through the California Solar Initiative (CSI) - has also played an important role in two ways:

  • First, while the system owner of a customer-side facility generally retains ownership of the renewable energy credits (RECs), in some instances they can be sold to an IOU which can then count it toward the RPS goals.
  • Second, since customer-side generation reduces electrical demand that must be served by the IOU, it decreases the denominator in the percentage calculation thereby improving the reported RPS score.

Under the RPS, the IOUs must average 20% from 2011-2013, 25% from 2014-2016 and 33% by 2020.

Growth of renewables in California has been dramatic: between 2003 and 2011, 2,871 MW of renewable capacity came online, with over 300 MW coming online in the first half of 2012 alone.  But future growth stands to be even more dramatic with more than 2,500 MW scheduled to come online before the end of the year!  According to a report in Forbes, that is the equivalent at peak output to the electricity generated by five nuclear power plants - which is good news given the problems at San Onofre.

06/19/12

  05:41:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 645 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, SCE, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, SDG&E, Community Solar

Power to the People - Support SB 843! UPDATED x3!

UPDATE - 3 - The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 12-0 to send the Community Solar bill, SB843, to the Assembly floor for a vote.  Curiously, while all twelve Democrats on the Committee supported the bill, all five Republicans failed to even vote on the measure!  (Not exactly a profile in political courage.)  We will continue to keep you informed of the bill’s progress - since it was amended in the Assembly, it presumably must still be approved by the Senate even after the Assembly (hopefully) passes it on Monday - and the legislative session ends this month so this is in no way a done deal.


UPDATE - 2- SB843 is headed for a showdown hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, Chaired by none other than Run on Sun favorite, Assemblymember Mike Gatto.  The folks over at Vote Solar have a webpage up where you can easily create a letter to your Assemblymember urging a Yes vote on the bill.  Please check it out!


UPDATE - SB843 has passed the State Senate and is now working its way through the Assembly where it was recently amended.  (The amendments appear benign.)  However, we have learned that SCE has come out in opposition to the bill for reasons that are not immediately clear (apart from the cynically obvious ones).  This means that your support is more critical than ever - please contact your State Assembly Member and urge their support for Community Solar!


Solar installations are sprouting up almost everywhere - and California leads the Nation with the most installed solar capacity. That’s the good news.  The bad news is that not everyone who would like to add solar, can.  Eco-minded renters, for example, are excluded - but so are homeowners who would love to put solar on their homes but have sites that are too shaded to be viable.  (Believe me, here in shady Pasadena we know all about that!)

Community solarSo what can be done?  How can we allow rooftop-challenged individuals - and businesses - to participate in the solar boom?  The answer is “virtual net metering” or “community solar."  Under such a program, a solar power system is built and individual utility customers - homeowners, renters, business owners - own a portion of the system’s output.  The solar system “sells” the power directly to the utility and the individual participants receive a credit on their bill in proportion to their share of the system’s output.

For example, let’s say a typical Pasadena homeowner needs a 7kW system to offset their usage whereas a renter needs 1.5kW and a local small business needs 20kW.  A solar developer builds a 200kW system (maybe on a warehouse roof) and could sell corresponding shares to 8 homeowners, 16 renters, and 6 small businesses.  Everyone gets what they need - with no concerns about local shading, or roof ownership, or even leaking roofs!

This fabulous innovation in how solar is deployed could really take the lid off solar installations and greatly expand the universe of people who could “go” solar - even if they couldn’t install solar.  Indeed, one study asserts that providing this innovation in California alone would create 12,000 jobs, generate $7.5 billion in economic activity and generate $235 million in sales tax revenue by 2019!  And it would do this without any additional public funding.

Talk about a win-win!

But we aren’t there yet.  There is a bill pending right now in Sacramento - SB 843 -  that would make this type of community solar legal amongst the State’s three investor owned utilities: PG&E, SCE and SDG&E.

And that’s where YOU come in.

You can show your support for this innovative program by contacting your legislator NOW and ask them to support the bill.  Our friends over at Vote Solar have made this very easy - just click on this link.  (If the link doesn’t work right away, please try again later - this is too important to miss out on adding your support.)

We will be tracking this legislation and will update you on its progress.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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