Selected tags: CPUC

Solar, Wind Prompting Electricity Grid Innovation In California

In a February Wall Street Journal article (“California Girds for Electricity Woes”), reporter Rebecca Smith gives an alarmist and misleading account of California energy regulators’ efforts to secure a cleaner, less expensive, more reliable electricity grid.  Right now, California has plenty of power:  44 percent more generating capacity than it typically uses, including a considerable fossil fuel energy portfolio.  Renewables – large scale, rooftop solar, wind, and, increasingly, energy storage – make up almost 15 percent of the grid, a percentage that will more than double in the next decade.  These clean, innovative energy technologies are working to improve the system by reducing the need for fossil fuels.

The reality is that the grid is changing, driven by California’s quest to secure an environmentally safe and affordable electricity system. Increasing the amount of renewable energy on the grid will mean that more generation is variable; electricity output from solar and wind depends on sunshine or windiness, respectively.    Up to this point, California has met this challenge by backing up clean resources with fossil fuels.  But California’s ratepayers can’t afford to keep doing this, so instead of “girding for woe,” the CAISO and the CPUC met to proactively address our changing future – to move California towards cleaner, less expensive electric grid planning.

This new approach can increase California’s ability to rely on clean energy generation by building greater flexibility into the system – while giving more options to consumers.  Not only can customer-based (“demand-side”) clean energy technologies reduce reliance on polluting power plants, they are quite likely to be more reliable and are potentially more cost-effective.   Demand response, or the ability of customers to choose to save money by responding to a price or electronic signal from the grid operator in times of excess system demand, will be key to integrating large amounts of intermittent solar and wind without back-up fossil or storage.   In fact, during afternoon peak demand, where supply is extremely limited in its ability to serve load, the addition of virtual generation resulting from the participation of DR into the market will actually lower energy prices.

California has already installed a robust digital metering infrastructure – and it’s time to put these meters to work by enabling customers to participate in demand response and other demand-side programs.  Coupled with technologies that now allow for fast, reliable, automated ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ adjustments to electricity use, we can seamlessly integrate variable electricity resources, such as wind and solar, without disrupting energy users.  Customers can choose to become an energy resource instead of fossil fuel plants.  Read More »

Posted in California, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Also tagged , , | Comments closed

On-Bill Repayment Approved By California Public Utilities Commission

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF California Dream 2.0 Blog.

Last week the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved energy efficiency programs and budgets that include an innovative On-Bill Repayment (OBR) program. The OBR program will allow commercial property owners to finance energy efficiency or renewable generation upgrades for their buildings and repay the obligation through the utility bill. The program is ‘open-source’ and is designed to allow a wide variety of contractors, solar installers, and energy efficiency project developers to work with a range of financial institutions to design offerings that best meet the needs of their customers.

The CPUC approval was highlighted today in the New York Times.

In the decision, the CPUC reiterated their intention to have the OBR program operational by March 2013. We understand that some of the utilities have expressed concern that this timeline is aggressive, but were pleased that the CPUC decision noted that the utilities have been aware of this timeline since the original CPUC decision last May.

A predictable timeline for OBR implementation is critical as EDF is working closely with multiple market participants to create a pipeline of projects that can be executed as soon as the program is operational. A successful launch will allow us to demonstrate to other states that OBR can create private investment and new jobs at no cost to ratepayers or taxpayers. We believe that this is a message that will resonate across the political spectrum.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, On-bill repayment| Also tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

On-Bill Repayment In California

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF California Dream 2.0 Blog.

Moving Forward with OBR for Commercial Properties

Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) issued a decision requiring the state’s investor-owned utilities to establish several financing programs, including an On-Bill Repayment (“OBR”) program for commercial properties. OBR programs allow property owners to finance energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects with third-party banks or other investors. Property owners repay their loan via their utility bill and that obligation stays linked to the meter upon a sale of the property.

EDF has been working closely with the utilities, environmental groups, financial institutions, project developers and other key stakeholders to craft a program that provides low-cost financing for retrofits, does not require ratepayer subsidies and has maximum flexibility to allow vendors and investors to decide how best to serve their customers’ needs. We are cautiously optimistic that the utility proposal will meet these objectives when it is released to the public on October 1, 2012.

The CPUC, however, believes that they currently do not have the regulatory authority to extend the OBR program to residential properties. EDF has been pursuing legislation to grant this authority to the CPUC, but, at this time, we do not expect that it will pass in the 2012 legislative session. EDF plans to re-introduce the residential-focused legislation in 2013 with a broad range of supporters, including several key members of the legislature.

EDF has also begun work to establish OBR programs in Ohio, North Carolina and Texas. So far, the reception has been quite positive in each state and we are hopeful that OBR may be a market-based, clean energy solution that has appeal across the political spectrum.

Posted in California, On-bill repayment| Also tagged | Comments closed