Earlier this month we wrote about a growing problem in California: as we have increased the role of solar generation in our electric mix, we have found ourselves in the awkward position of having to occasionally curtail that production, or worse yet, pay neighboring states like Arizona to take our excess! This is clearly not sustainable, but fortunately there is a fix in the works in the form of Senate Bill 700, and it just needs the support of the solar community to make it happen. Here's our take...
As everyone knows, the production of a solar power system peaks at solar noon - on a cloudless day providing a nice "bell curve" for power output, like in this illustration from an actual, Run on Sun solar installation. The problem is that the peak demand for electricity does not align with solar's peak; rather, peak demand occurs much later in the day when folks come home from school and work and crank up the electrical devices that define modern living - giving rise to the dreaded "Duck Curve". If only - as our friend Carter Lavin ruminated the other day - there were a way to shift that energy in time from the solar peak to the demand peak!
Of course, there is such a way. It is called energy storage. Storage could provide that time-shift needed to make the most of our abundant solar energy. So why aren't we using it?
In a word - cost. Today, energy storage systems are just too expensive, and the existing rebate system for storage systems, known as SGIP, is a joke. The SGIP process, which is essentially a lottery, is no way to run a rebate program. As we have argued in the past, for a rebate program to be meaningful, it has to be stable and predictable. SGIP is neither.
But this isn't rocket science, and we have a relevant case study right before us - the California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate program. When CSI began, back in 2007, its 10-year mission was to dramatically grow the PV market in California and, in so doing, drive down the costs of solar. Back when it began, Run on Sun was installing systems for $8.47/Watt. By 2014, after CSI ran its course, our install price was down to $4.13/Watt - a reduction of 52% in just seven years! CSI (along with the muni-rebate programs) helped to achieve that cost reduction by providing transparency and predictability that a lottery program cannot replicate. Moreover, the CSI program was easy for even the smallest contractors to navigate, making the program available to all. This is what is needed to bring storage prices down, drive exponential growth (and the local jobs that go with that growth), and stop the madness induced by our present power glut.
So how do we get there, if SGIP is not the way?
Glad you asked - enter SB 700 (Weiner, D-San Francisco), the Energy Storage Initiative (ESI) that would create a 10-year, $1.4 Billion rebate program along the lines of CSI, but for energy storage systems. Here's how CALSEIA describes the bill:
SB 700 would create a 10-year rebate program designed to grow the California local storage market and make storage more affordable for consumers. The rebates would step down as more storage systems are installed and economies of scale are achieved, thereby driving down the installed cost of the systems. Local energy storage enables the integration of large amounts of renewable energy, creates value for consumers by helping them save money on energy bills, and increases grid reliability.
“Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Scott Wiener, Californians are one step closer to taking control of their clean energy future,” said Laura Gray, energy storage policy advisor with the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “This bill would allow homes, businesses, schools and public buildings to use solar and renewable energy at all hours of the day and night. Using a combination of solar and storage, consumers will make the sun shine at night.”
The bill has already passed the California Senate (sadly, on a straight party-line vote), but it faces an important vote as early as July 5th in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee, Chaired by Pasadena's own, Chris Holden. This bill should have bi-partisan support given the urgent need to move to an all-renewables future, but for that to happen, Committee members (and the Assembly as a whole) need to hear from their constituents.
If you are in Chairman Holden's district (which includes all of Pasadena and Altadena) you can reach his office at: 916-319-2041 and urge him to support SB700.
Otherwise, you can find out your member of the Assembly by doing a search using this form here.
Together we can get this bill over the hump - watch this space!