California Community Solar Isn’t Working. SoCal Edison Wants to Redesign It



Southern California Edison is requesting authorities for permission to enhance clean energy supplies for customers that can’t even install rooftop solar.

The utility connects between 3,000 and 5,000 solar roofs a month, but many of its 15 million customers don’t possess their houses or have access to some rooftop for solar energy generation. From rsquo & the company;s own entrance, the program to serve those residents with neighborhood didn’t even work well enough.

Drawing on lessons from California and elsewhere, SCE proposed a suite of clean offerings in late September, such as 100 percent fresh energy and a brand new community renewables option. The former would drive additional renewables growth; the viability would be enlisted by the latter as a client aggregator on behalf of neighborhood projects.

“Community solar will be built by a third party developer, but it's challenging for that developer to collect each of these different small readers,” said Jill Anderson, SCE's vice president for client applications and providers, in a meeting in Solar Power International. “What we're doing is assisting associate customer demand into the market. ”

The usefulness has asked the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to recover around $5.87 million in administrative costs for its brand new “Green Energy Programs,” to be established in 2021.

When successful, the program could create new opportunities for neighborhood in the state . In addition, it would burnish clean electricity options from among the nation ’s investor-owned utilities in a period when community-choice aggregators have been wooing customers with promises of cheaper, cleaner electricity.

Slow start

California's neighborhood market hasn’t even lived around the nation 's front-runner status.

“For a market that is leading the nation in utility-scale, commercial and residential solar, California’s neighborhood solar market is abysmal,” said Austin Perea, a senior analyst covering distributed solar in Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables.

California has set a cumulative 112 megawatts but the projects have tended to become one-offs as opposed to a deal flow, Perea said. Those deployments pale compared to California's 5 gigawatts of capacity.

Measured another way, California's overall solar market accounts for approximately 40 percent of U.S. solar ability. Its neighborhood solar simply accounts for 10% of U.S. solar.

Problems have held back progress. Community developers that are solar anywhere must corral a number of customers to register before a project will get off the ground. California’s pricing policies made that usual.

“The CPUC didn’t approve fair pricing structures for its [utilities’] community programs,” said Susannah Churchill, California manager at advocacy group Vote Solar. “Customers consequently need to pay a top to register for neighborhood solar limiting demand. ”

The adoption numbers for SCE’s existing Green Tariff Shared Renewables (GTSR) software attest to that absence of enthusiasm.

Greater than 1,000 customers are enrolled in Green Tariff, that procures 100% fresh electricity, SCE said from the filing. The program contains an Enhanced Community Renewables part, designed to give users access to energy projects, but no customers have registered in that program.

“Numerous barriers for customers and developers, such as program caps and restrictions that are sizing, make it hard for SCE to join forces customers to GTSR program,” the firm mentioned.

GTSR imposes a limit on non-governmental accounts, from participating, for instance, which blocks big customers. Even a cap on environmental justice projects has prevents programmers from achieving economies of scale.

SCE's new Thing

SCE envisions its newest Green Energy Program providing 181 megawatts of generation.

In response to the earlier issues, SCE wants to lift the cap for its New Green Tariff from 2 megawatts.

The neighborhood renewables program will be revamped.

From the new design, a large commercial customer with 500 kilowatts of loading patrons a neighborhood solar endeavor. The host absorbs at least 80% of the generation, and up to 20 percent will be available to neighborhood residents for subscription. The contracts will last for 10, 15 or 20 decades.

If regulators accept, procurement and construction schedules would push deliver out of community projects of electricity to 2023 or 2022, the utility said.

Instead of leaving it up to developers to make community projects occur, SCE wants to give a hand. 

“Helping the developer connect to the customer is one big step forward,” Anderson said. “That doesn't exist today.”

Utility encroachment into residential energy will put off alarm bells for solar energy business urges, but this is different than a utility-owned residential pilot.

For one thing, all of the solar installation could be bid out into the market; SCE isn’t getting to the development match , just helping their subscriber record is assembled by developers. What’s more, the client base here is precisely those residents who cannot secure rooftop for themselves.

Precisely the usefulness will be at identifying customers remains to be seen. Lots of electricity suppliers have struggled to convert retail client connections into solar prospects. It s also hard to tell what effect that the 80 percent host demand would have on project development; it might nourish these projects’ wellbeing, or it might be quite a high bar to reach. 

The Large picture

This shift that is tiny interacts with all transformations in California&rsquo.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law at September banning carbon emissions from electric generation by 2045; which usually means the total energy mix is led in the management of the green tariff.

“As all of us are beginning to find that we will need to go even further should we're planning to completely decarbonize the grid, finding as many innovative methods to incorporate renewable energy and respond to client demand in exactly the exact identical point is moving us forward,” Anderson said.

Rooftop solar capacity doesn’t count toward California’even though it does decrease requirement, s renewables goals. While making customers feel great in their choices that are clean the larger-scale projects built for the green tariff plan will count toward the targets.

Meanwhile, the major utilities have been grappling into aggregators that are community-choice with client defection, where cities and counties source their own electricity and deliver it through utility wires. CCAs guarantee cheaper in part since they don't even need to pay legacy electricity contracts from the times off before wind and solar got so cheap.

SCE’s program would also offer electricity options than the present energy mix. This may serve to assuage SCE customers who would otherwise look elsewhere for zero-carbon alternatives.

Is the price right?

Finally, the achievement of the energy system will return to price.

Some customers are prepared to pay more that their power comes from clean sources. But when businesses pitch a rooftop system, they try to demonstrate how much cash it will save compared to the utility fee.

SCE has little incentive to undercut its own prices. Its filing touts ” for its 100 percent offerings, which differs from paying less & ldquo; no or low premiums.

It does, however, anticipate the newest community solar to become less expensive. That's because renewable agreements keep getting cheaper.

“The new programs also propose a structure that is common to other tariffs where the program administration costs are shared by all customers and not just those participating,” Anderson added.

Customers who qualify as living in deprived communities are going to receive extra discounts,”therefore choosing green distribution or community solar might even lower their electricity bills,” ” she explained.

“What you ideally want is a discount for your bill in order for a community solar market to really take away,&rdquo analyst Perea said.

Customers can weigh the costs and benefits for themselves, either four or five years down the road, if the proposal is approved by regulators.


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