Clean Coalition and Sierra Club of California Demand More Robust Feed-in-Tariff

The Clean Coalition and Sierra Club of California filed a petition demanding that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reconsider and strengthen its planned implementation of a feed-in-tariff (FiT). Solar Done Right applauds this petition and encourages the CPUC to implement a more robust FiT. Local clean energy advocates believe that the CPUC’s late May decision on how to implement California SB 32—a law passed in 2009 requiring CPUC and utilities to expand FiT programs in the state—failed to address the law’s requirements and does not fairly compensate ratepayers for the value of distributed generation.

Specifically, the petition notes that the FiT formula in the CPUC decision does not recognize one of the greatest benefits of rooftop solar installations to other utility ratepayers—the avoidance of new transmission and distribution costs, which are required when the utility companies invest in expensive and remote power plants far from the point of use.

The petition calls out CPUC and the utilities for failing to implement the right policies to encourage local clean energy, pointing to Germany as an example of how robust feed-in-tariffs have encouraged 15 times more solar installations than California in just one year, even though California gets far more sunshine.

Utility companies continue to pose a barrier to the deployment of distributed generation and the use of existing FiT programs. Southern California Edison’s own FiT program—known as CREST—has only brought 5.25 megawatts of new projects online out of a total program capacity of 200 megawatts, four years after the program began, in part because of a punitively low FiT rate and administrative delays by the utility company.

California utilities have paid as much as $1.88 per kWh on the market for electricity at peak times.  A robust FiT would be as low as $0.25 per kWH,  according to Solar Done Right, and would supply local clean energy during daytime hours.  As an added benefit, local clean energy generates local jobs, boosts property values, and puts money back in the pockets of ratepayers.

It is California's goal to deploy 12,000 megawatts of rooftop solar.  With over 1,200 megawatts installed already, we have a ways to go to catch up with our goal, but also our potential that far exceeds 12,000 MW.

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