Peninsula Advanced Energy Community to kick off with strong support‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

parallax-volts-solar-carport-750x400The Clean Coalition’s Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC) project — which received a grant from the California Energy Commission in March — will officially launch in July. The PAEC is staged to proliferate policies and cross-fertilize projects that facilitate advanced energy solutions like local renewables, energy efficiency, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and Solar Emergency Microgrids. It covers a core region in southern San Mateo County and a broader region that extends across the entire County and appends the City of Palo Alto. PAEC collaborators include numerous municipalities, Pacific Gas & Electric, and a multitude of leading property owners like Facebook, Stanford University, and Kaiser Permanente. See the growing list of PAEC collaborators.

The overall PAEC coverage region is representative of typical urban-suburban California areas: largely built-out and struggling with the pressures of development. The Clean Coalition is confident that the PAEC can be replicated widely across California and beyond.

The State of California encourages the creation of Advanced Energy Communities as places where electricity demand is met through efficiency, renewables, and storage. In order for the PAEC to be successful, replicable, and aligned with the State’s vision, it must meet these strategic goals:

  • A high percentage of power in the coverage regions are generated from local, renewable sources.
  • The energy used by residential and business customers are used as efficiently as possible.
  • New commercial construction consists 100% zero net energy and more than 50% of existing commercial buildings retrofit to zero net energy buildings, all before the CEC’s 2030 Title 24 building energy efficiency requirement.
  • Interconnecting local renewables to the electrical grid is straightforward.
  • The grid is stable, robust, and reliable.
  • Energy storage is affordable and widespread.
  • Electric transportation replaces the internal combustion engine and electric vehicles in the coverage regions support the grid.
  • Solar Emergency Microgrids are installed at all critical facilities, including police and fire stations, emergency operations centers, and emergency shelters.

The Clean Coalition plans to share future updates from the PAEC’s development as they transpire over the next several months.

Reducing risk for solar developers under Rule 21

cpucFor years, the Clean Coalition has been a leading intervenor in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proceeding addressing Electric Rule 21, which regulates interconnection, operation, and metering requirements for distributed generation in California. Past improvements to Rule 21 that the Clean Coalition had advocated for and achieved include publication of interconnection maps, development of pre-application reports on grid constraints, approval of clarifying regulations, and advancing methods to streamline the application and review process. With the support of CPUC staff and stakeholders, on June 23, the Commission adopted important new reforms the Clean Coalition has long sought to reduce risk and uncertainty in the interconnection process. Commissioner Sandoval in particular deserves credit for her leadership in securing unanimous support for our preferred solutions.

The interconnection process has been marred by a lack of cost certainty for developers selling power to the utilities (that is, projects that connect on the utility side of the meter). These developers face costs that are neither pre-established nor standardized, and after a potentially costly study process interconnection applicants are liable for expenses untethered to the original estimates. These risks discourage development and increase project financing costs, leading to higher energy prices.

The Clean Coalition proposed and advocated for a number of measures to reduce this uncertainty, which the Commission adopted in this Decision. These include publication by each utility of a “Per Unit Cost Guide” to improve cost transparency, consistency, and predictability throughout the interconnection process; enhancements to the Pre-Application Report; adoption of clear standards for the review and interconnection of storage devices; and, most significantly, the ability to rely upon utility estimates.

The Cost Certainty Option, building on earlier efforts in Massachusetts, will offer a bankable guarantee that the final costs will be within 25% of the utility estimate by allowing a more detailed pre-contract estimation process that may require an additional 30–60 days. This is further supported by new utility reporting to track and improve estimation processes and accuracy.

The Cost Guide will contain both component costs and examples of a variety of project sizes, energy sources (generation and storage), and locations deemed relevant to interconnection applicants — annually updated with input from applicants.

Following this victory on Rule 21, the Clean Coalition will continue our work creating fair, transparent, and streamlined interconnection processes in both California and New York as these major markets seek to capture the benefits of distributed energy resources. The Clean Coalition commends the Commission and parties to the proceeding for moving forward with solutions that will help shape and expand the landscape of California’s clean energy future.

NEM credits paired with energy storage: a solution

large_WSM_Use_for_features_cover._1The Clean Coalition policy team achieved a win in April for our support of a net energy metering (NEM) bill credit valuation methodology for solar systems paired with energy storage. After filing comments and reply comments on the proposed decision, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ultimately adopted a monthly estimation methodology because it allows for more flexibility and provides the greatest overall system benefits.

“Solar + storage” systems are fundamentally different than solar-only systems because the addition of storage allows NEM systems to store excess energy for use or export at a later time. Using a more restrictive definition for solar + storage systems — which some utilities proposed in a CPUC proceeding — would add complexity to the NEM process and would not take into account the unique ability of these systems to save energy that was generated at one time and use or export it at another time when it is more valuable to the customer or the grid.

The CPUC’s ruling allows for a new way of determining NEM export credits for storage devices with a capacity of 10 kW or less that are an addition or enhancement to a NEM-eligible generation facility. For solar photovoltaic generating facilities paired with a 10 kW or less storage device, the CPUC adopted a process to cap NEM credits on a monthly basis based on modeled monthly production, which the Clean Coalition had supported. The two methodologies proposed by the CPUC were this one, and another that would have established a maximum hourly output profile for a storage-paired system to estimate NEM billing credits. The Clean Coalition supported the monthly estimation methodology because it better facilitates storing surplus generation during non-peak energy usage periods for export during peak periods.

Another solution the Clean Coalition supported — originally proposed by SolarCity — asked that the CPUC and utilities work with project developers to identify operational settings or conditions that would provide sufficient assurance that a small storage device will charge exclusively from the renewable generation it would be paired with. The Clean Coalition typically stands behind efforts to establish configuration or software standards to reduce unnecessary costs or burdens.

The Clean Coalition is pleased with the CPUC’s application of the new methodology — one that ultimately promotes efficient use of the grid, a decrease in fossil fuel consumption, and a healthier, cleaner environment.

Expanding access to solar with California’s Green Tariff Shared Renewables decision‬‬‬‬‬

solar-panel-man-16x9The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a decision last month on the Green Tariff Shared Renewables (GTSR) program, which included a modification proposed by the Clean Coalition’s policy team. The GTSR program requires the state’s largest investor-owned utilities to offer renewable energy options to their customers. The program was established to expand access to renewable energy resources not only for industrial and commercial customers, but also for individual consumers.

100% of a customer’s electricity needs can be satisfied with solar generation through two distinct models: the “Green Tariff” program, whereby a customer purchases solar-powered energy directly from the utility; or the “Enhanced Community Renewables” program, which allows customers to contract directly with solar developers.

The Clean Coalition policy team’s victory in this proceeding was in convincing the CPUC to allow sub-500 kW renewable energy projects to participate in the GTSR program. The decision also addressed a number of other aspects of the Enhanced Community Renewables model of the GTSR program, but the sub-500 kW allowance was one of the Clean Coalition’s main issues of focus in the proceeding.

Making sure the program supports smaller resources sited closer to loads is particularly important for low income communities and communities of color. In opening comments and joint-party reply comments filed in the GTSR proceeding, the Clean Coalition argued that the most suitable multi-family rooftops and parking lots for siting solar resources in disadvantaged communities contain less than 500 kW of capacity on average. Further, siting these projects in these communities would yield economic, health, and environmental benefits, in addition to the locational benefits of generating clean energy close to consumption.

The Clean Coalition believes areas with socioeconomic vulnerabilities and those disproportionately affected by pollution should also have access to renewable energy, and the policy team will continue to push for refinements and improvements to support this goal.

California Energy Commission selects the Peninsula Advanced Energy Community for grant award

The Clean Coalition’s Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC) project, located in the southern portion of San Mateo County, California, was recently selected to receive a grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC). The grant will come from the CEC’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, which recently offered “The EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities.”

The PAEC project, which is supported by Pacific Gas & Electric and numerous local governments, is an opportunity for the Clean Coalition to develop innovative and replicable approaches for accelerating the deployment of Advanced Energy Communities. The CEC defines an Advanced Energy Community as one that: minimizes the need for new energy infrastructure costs such as transmission and distribution upgrades; supports grid reliability and resiliency by incorporating technologies such as energy storage and microgrids; can be replicated and scaled-up to further drive down costs; and provides affordable access to renewable energy generation.

The PAEC project will include all of the above through abundant local solar electricity, zero net energy buildings, Solar Emergency Microgrids, and charging infrastructure to support the rapid growth in electric vehicles. It is anticipated based on the equivalent of 25 MW of local solar photovoltaic, the project will save energy consumers over $25 million, generate over $100 million in regional economic output, create $35 million in local wages, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 800 million pounds over 20 years.

The PAEC region, which is experiencing enormous commercial and residential growth pressure, is representative of similar areas throughout California—ensuring that the PAEC’s success can be replicated statewide. The Clean Coalition will have updates in upcoming newsletters as the project gets underway this summer.