Looking to build a more sustainable, secure and prosperous energy future for California, Governor Jerry Brown has called for the development of 12,000 MW of distributed renewables like rooftop solar. To put that impressive goal in perspective, it’s more than twelve times the amount of solar that’s been deployed to date under the state’s popular CSI program. Achieving the Governor’s vision requires participation and collaboration from utilities, industry, consumers, regulators and local government alike – no small feat. Addressing those challenges is the focus of a two-day conference taking place at UCLA. Our own Adam Browning will be adding his insights in today’s financing design discussion – but yesterday’s agenda kicked off with introductory remarks from the Governor and a panel of industry representatives.
Solar champion Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner asked the esteemed panel what one thing the state could do to enable industry to meet the Governor’s 12 GW target. Their answers:
* SolarCity’s CEO Lyndon Rive gave two suggestions. First, he proposed a concerted market education campaign. Over just the past few years, the economics of solar have changed significantly for the better. He says it’s time to show consumers, policymakers, investors and others that solar is real, that it’s affordable and that it’s scalable today. Second, he threw in a pitch for raising the current 5% program cap on net metering, the policy that enables solar customers’s utility meters to spin backwards when they’re producing more electricity than they’re consuming. This fair and simple billing arrangement is one of the most effective state-level policy tools for encouraging customer investment in solar PV. The state’s explosive solar growth means the 5% cap, which Vote Solar fought long and hard to raise from 2.5%, will hamper continued solar adoption unless it is raised again.
* NRG Energy’s CEO David Crane suggested expanding the state’s Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM) program. Passed unanimously by the CPUC in December, the RAM pilot program will use a competitive auction process to spur development of 1 GW of mid-sized solar and other renewables for wholesale power production. Crane’s call for more RAM is a nice vote of developer confidence in the innovative procurement mechanism and the new market opportunity it opens up in between California’s CSI program at the large-scale solar projects typically driven under the state’s 33% renewable requirement.
* Google’s Director of Green Business Operations & Strategy Rick Needham highlighted the need to reduce friction at all scales of solar development. He’s referring in part to the myriad barriers and jurisdictional challenges posed by our current patchwork of permitting and interconnection procedures. The arduous and inconsistent local permitting process for rooftop PV featured prominently throughout the morning’s discussion. Along with many great partners, Vote Solar has worked to streamline this unnecessary barrier to going solar. And just this summer, the U.S. DOE has thrown its weight behind addressing these barriers with its SunShot Initiative.
* And Governor Brown himself emphasized the need for authoritative and effective leadership. When communication between stakeholders fails and barriers seem insurmountable, the Governor considers it his role to convene the right people think collaboratively about a solution. Here’s hoping this week’s conference provides just that to put California firmly on a path to 12 GW of distributed renewables.
Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.