Having aimed for Valentine’s Day and missed, those Cupid’s helpers over at LADWP have transmogrified themselves into lucky Leprechauns as they reset their sights onto everyone’s favorite feast day, Saint Patrick’s Day (aka, March 17 for the uninitiated).
Somewhat less tongue-in-cheek, DWP has announced that the third 20 MW tranche of solar project allocations under LA’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) will open for applications on Monday, March 17. Under their guidelines, all applications received by Friday, March 21 will be assigned a sequence number and then a lottery will be held to allocate the 20 MW among the applicants. LADWP has some updated materials on their FiT website (access it here), but no key to what changes have been made (the proposed changes were very modest) and a promised Frequently Asked Questions section is still to come.
This third tranche has been delayed for weeks while DWP staff prepared their changes.
During the February 18 Board meeting to discuss changes to the program, Staff’s suggestion on how to move things along was to impose a 10-business day deadline to cure deficiencies in FiT application paperwork. Of course, that is the same amount of time that LADWP gives contractors to cure deficiencies in residential solar rebate applications—even though LADWP has taken five times as long to identify those “deficiencies." Given the far greater complexity with the FiT paperwork requirements, we can only hope that LADWP’s review of that paperwork is more insightful and the subsequent interactions more collaborative.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
UPDATE - 2/10 - LADWP has now revealed the reasoning behind their delay in moving forward on the program “tweaks":
The FiT Set Pricing Program was deferred from the February 4th Board of Water and Power Commissioners (Board) meeting so the Rate Payer Advocate may review the proposed changes. The program modifications and enhancements are still expected to go before the Board for review and approval at the February 18th Board meeting.
Given that no change—that is, reduction—to the set-pricing offered under the FiT was made in the proposed changes, it is pretty clear how the RPA will come out in all this. It looks like we may be seeing a threat to the FiT’s viability come the meeting on the 18th. Interested parties should plan to attend.
On Monday we reported on an email that we had received announcing minor changes to LADWP’s Feed-in Tariff program and the anticipated launch of the third tranche of 20 MW on February 14. Now we have learned that the Resolution adopting these changes and authorizing the third tranche, which was to be considered at yesterday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, was pulled from the agenda and “deferred until further notice!”
Bottom line: the third tranche will not be offered as of February 14. Not sure what is going on with this, but here are our thoughts.
In reading the resolution that was to be adopted by the Board, we noted that there had been a presentation made regarding the status of the FiT by staff on December 3rd, but that the presentation was not online. (Thanks to the kind assistance of the staff, we now have the December 3rd presentation here.) As we suspected it must, the presentation reflected the slow progress in moving projects past the adoption of standardized contracts—a prerequisite for construction to begin.
As this chart from the presentation shows, the only projects “in service” actually date from the demonstration program, not the actual FiT. In fact, only a bare handful of projects are even under construction, with the bulk of the first tranche still pending execution of the standardized contract and some still in the interconnection study phase. Keep in mind the standardized contracts (SOPPA on the chart) are just that, standardized take-it-or-leave-it contracts, the form of which was available to participants before they ever submitted their initial applications! So what could be causing this delay? Surely the Board had some pointed questions for staff on this point
We decided to watch the video from that meeting to see if we could gain any insights into how the Board viewed this issue and to see if we could discern why consideration of this resolution was pulled without notice or explanation.
The video—you can watch it here jumping to agenda item 27A—really doesn’t go into much in the way of relevant discussion. (There is a long detour into problems that a SolarCity customer was having with a bill—post solar—that was higher than ever before, and the clear confusion on the part of Board member Barad regarding how net metering works. But that is a topic for another day.)
There was a question as to adequate staffing, but that was not cited as a reason for the delay.
Instead, staff responds by saying that some of the developers (actually, it would appear to be nearly all of the developers) had problems filling out the standard contract. However, the proposed tweaks did not include streamlining the contract so maybe that is why there is a concern about the proposed resolution?
We also hear in the video that the CleanLA/UCLA Luskin Center coalition, which was one of the driving agents behind the FiT, was supposed to be producing a report on the FiT so far—perhaps that report raised issues that caused the postponement? Alas, the report does not appear at the LADWP website, nor can we find it on the CleanLA website.
However, the last person to speak about the FiT is longtime FiT opponent, the Ratepayer Advocate, who once again complained about the cost of the FiT. Indeed he asked that the program switch from a set-price program to a competitive bid program. His complaints are no better grounded now than they were a year ago, but perhaps he has caught the ear of one of the new Board members who pulled the resolution because a change in pricing was not proposed?
For now, all we can do is speculate. But one thing is sadly certain—LADWP is playing Scrooge this Valentine’s Day as the third tranche remains on hold.
UPDATE: The postponement is “until further notice.” We have a more detailed report on the delay of the third tranche of LA’s FiT here.
UPDATE: LADWP has informed us that the meeting scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed. As soon as we learn more, we will update this post.
LADWP has announced that the third 20 MW tranche of its Feed-in Tariff program will launch on Friday, February 14, pending Commission approval.
Outgoing GM Ron Nichols signed off on the Board Packet, and the tweaks to the program suggested therein are set to be reviewed and approved on Tuesday, February 4 at 11:00 a.m.—that is, tomorrow morning—according to the email DWP sent out Friday afternoon. (Can you say, “Friday news dump,” anyone?)
Apparently DWP made an update presentation to the Board on December 3. We say apparently since it is referenced in the new materials, but we cannot find a copy of the report anywhere online. We wonder, for example, if the Board was informed about the surprisingly low number of contracts that have been executed under the FiT so far? As we reported back in early January (going just on published data and without access to the report to the Board), out of 109 projects that originally “won” in the First Tranche lottery, only 3—a 2.7% success rate—have signed contracts.
Hard to say whether any of the “tweaks” being proposed will do much to address that problem.
We observe with some dismay DWP’s observation that “numerous developers have been confused or inexperienced with designing solar for the California market, ” since that could have been avoided (or at least reduced) if the program had given preference to local developers. After all, one of the stated purposes of the FiT was to develop local jobs.
Seems like a missed opportunity and one that has delayed successful project implementation while the out-of-towners get educated on the mysteries and joys of doing solar in the City of the Angels.
Other tweaks include:
Beyond those changes, “staff will post updated sample forms and contracts, answers to frequently asked questions, and checklists on the FiT Website to provide guidance and transparency." A noble goal, to be sure, but it would be a start if they could post their own Board presentations in a consistent manner.
Assuming the Board approves these modifications, the window will open on the Third Tranche on February 14, with a base price for energy of 15¢/kWh. The window will stay open for five business days and all completed applications will enter a lottery to see who will be part of the 20 MW allocation. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone - may your solar dreams come true.
The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program for LADWP has been up and running for nearly a year with the first two tranches in the books. Which raises the question: how have those proposals that were accepted, performed? Here’s our first take…
LADWP quietly posted some update statistics about its program the week before Christmas and we stumbled upon it while looking for information about the timing for the Third Trache (presumably set for later this month, although the DWP website simply says that launch info is “coming soon").
The FiT data comes in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, without supporting documentation, which leaves it open to interpretation.
Collectively, the data reports on 256 total projects, 136 from the first tranche and 120 from the second. Interestingly, the data only records three different status values for these projects: Cancelled, In-Progress and Waiting - there is no category in the data for “Completed".
From the first tranche, out of that total of 136 projects, 20 have been cancelled (14.7%), 45 are in-progress (33%) and 71 - over 52% - are listed as “waiting", though the data does not identify upon whom or what the projects have stalled. The data is somewhat more encouraging for the second tranche with only 1 project cancelled so far (0.8%), 64 are in-progress (53.3%) and 55 are waiting (45.8%). This trend suggests that as projects age they are more likely to either be cancelled or end up waiting on something.
The data tracks four milestone dates post lottery selection: Technical Screening Completed, Interconnection Study Completed, Customer Executed Contracts Received, and SOPPA Execution Date. Curiously, for the projects with a status of “waiting", not a single one of those dates is indicated. As it is hard to fathom how 110 out of 256 projects haven’t even passed the technical screening stage, we conclude that the “waiting” status is unreliable and needs to be corrected by DWP.
Turning to the cancelled projects, all but 3 of them reflect passing of the technical screening, and 15 of the 21 have completed interconnection studies. Since it is at that stage that you would expect a project to be dropped if the interconnection cost has turned out to be prohibitively expensive, it is not surprising that only seven got to the point of submitting their contracts. However, DWP had not executed any of those contracts according to the data. Which means that seven projects got so far as to submit binding contracts before dropping out.
Which leaves the category of “in-progress” projects. Out of a total of 109 so designated projects, only three have executed contracts from DWP, and all three of those were executed on September 13, 2013. This makes for a pretty dramatic winnowing process:
109 start -> 89 pass screening ->31 complete interconnection study -> 20 submit contracts -> 3 have those contracts executed, nearly a year after the process began (all of those with executed contracts came from last February’s first tranche).
Unfortunately, the data does not reveal why we are looking at such a dismal success rate one year on. Perhaps things would look different if the “waiting” segment were more revealing, but it is not.
Here’s hoping that 2014 will provide both greater success in getting projects over the finish line, as well as greater clarity in the process.
We have been teasing out bits and pieces of our new book, Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step, all summer as we neared the end of the publication process. Well today we can formally announce that it is available both at the Run on Sun Publishing eStore (where we get a better royalty - hint, hint!) and on Amazon.com!
Commercial Solar is intended for two primary audiences:
As the title suggests, the book provides an overview of the process by which an interested party - say, a facilities manager - can go from knowing next to nothing about commercial solar to identifying appropriate contractors to provide bids, analyzing those bids to make meaningful comparisons, determining financing options that are appropriate and even overseeing the actual installation process.
The book features a Foreword written by Boaz Soifer, VP of Sales at Focused Energy:
The material could be dry (much of the reading on this subject is), but is instead casual but precise, clearly laid out, and made accessible through handy use of a narrative in which the Facilities Manager of a fictional company undertakes a commercial solar project himself…
In his typical style—approachable, honest, quirky, and occasionally scathing—Jim has thoughtfully flattened out the complex world of commercial solar PV into an understandable roadmap that anyone can follow to project success.
Interested? You can download a two-chapter excerpt of the book for free, here. Better yet, you can purchase the book today from either our eStore or Amazon for just $9.95. If you are interested in bulk sales (i.e., ten or more copies), discounts are available. Please contact us at Bulk Sales for more information.
And of course, we welcome your comments either here on the blog or at Amazon. Thanks for your support.