Clearing the Way for Distributed Generation
According to CPUC president Peevey, he is staunchly in favor of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which allows a homeowner to finance a rooftop solar installation over time through their property tax. Rooftop solar generally increases property values, and cuts down electricity costs over time. Peevey criticized the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA), the agency that regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for opposing PACE programs. The FHFA position on PACE has proven to be a major hurdle to distributed generation.
Peevey also encouraged local communities to push for feed-in-tariffs, which allows home and business owners to receive credits for excess energy generated through rooftop solar that is fed back into the grid. Peevey noted, however, that utility companies are not enthusiastic about feed-in-tariffs.
Steering Away From Desert Destruction
Over the past two years, the Department of Interior has approved several large utility-scale projects that will destroy dozens of square miles of pristine desert and necessitate hundreds of miles of expensive new transmission lines. Distributed generation is gaining ground, however, since megawatts of rooftop solar installations are being installed throughout the United States, and a recent study by UCLA found that rooftops in the Los Angeles area alone could support 5,500 megawatts of solar installations. The LA rooftop solar potential is five times the amount of energy that will be produced by the massive Blythe solar power project being built on desert habitat, according to Solar Done Right.
Meanwhile, the massive desert-killing projects are threatened by lack of private investment, Congressional plans to slash the Department of Energy loan guarantees, and legal challenges filed by citizens concerned over the projects' environmental consequences. A single project being constructed by BrightSource Energy LLC in the northeastern Mojave Desert has already displaced or killed upwards of 50 endangered desert tortoises.
Distributed generation, supported by feed-in-tariffs and PACE, is a sensible solution to climate change that can keep destructive energy projects off of pristine desert.