Tag: "feed-in tariff"

07/30/11

  09:06:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 879 words  
Categories: LADWP, Feed-in Tariff

FiT to be Tried - Can LADWP Make a Feed-in Tariff Work?

The folks at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) are talking about creating a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program in their service area, but if the information provided so far is any indication, they have a very long way to go before this program is ready for prime time.

First, before trying to describe what LADWP is doing, we should make clear what they are not.  In particular, this is not a German-style FiT where anyone can put up solar panels and get paid for every kilowatt hour that they produce.  (Ah, for such a program here in California - you would literally see solar panels everywhere!)  To the contrary, this FiT will be entirely unavailable to regular customers.  Instead, this program is designed for systems where all of the energy produced is delivered directly to the grid instead of first off-setting a local load.  In that regard this looks much like a solar farm program, except that participating systems can be as small as 30 kW, but no larger than 1 MW (solar farms are usally in the 1-5 MW range).

LADWP's FiT process flowchart - it only looks complicated
Draft FiT Flowchart - it only looks complicated!

Since no local load is being offset, this is not a net metering arrangement.  Instead, LADWP is looking for project developers to enter into a “Standard Offer Power Purchase Agreement” (SOPPA) based on a “bid base price of energy” that is subject to Time of Delivery adjustments.  The initial demonstration program will consist of 5 MW of selected systems.  Project developers must submit a prescribed FiT Application and pay a non-refundable $1,000 application fee.  If the application is deemed to be acceptable based on LADWP’s “Technical Screening” (more on that later) the project developer must then pony-up a $1,500 Interconnection Study Fee to determine how much it will cost to interconnect the proposed project into LADWP’s grid.  Once that amount is known, the project developer can opt to continue - and pay 10% of the anticipated interconnection cost plus a refundable Development Deposit of $50 per kW - or fold their cards and eat their costs.

When pressed for some guiding parameters, staff was vague.  What, we wondered, was the possible range of interconnection costs?  And without knowing what the worst case cost might be in advance, how could a rational project developer know what to propose for their “bid base price of energy"?  For that matter, what was the anticipated range that would be acceptable to LADWP for the bid base price?  After all, you simply cannot produce energy from a 30kW system as cheaply as you can from a 1MW system.

LADWP indicated that it will likely create some sort of small system (30-150kW) carve out to insure that some smaller systems will be built.  This is important since LADWP’s top priority for selecting which systems can proceed is getting the lowest cost energy.  A possible bid energy price for small systems was in the $0.20-0.22/kWh range whereas larger systems (>150kW) would need to be in the $0.15-0.175/kWh range.  Even so, without knowing in advance what interconnection costs might be - or better still - having a way to choose a site so as to minimize those costs - it is next to impossible to make a rational proposal without being at substantial risk of losing your deposits - to say nothing of your time investment.

As presented at the public workshop, the present design includes a number of “Technical Requirements"  and process steps which could use some clarification.  In particular:

  • Developer Experience - “At least one member of development team has developed one or more similar projects."  What constitutes a “similar project"?  If the team had previously developed a 75kW system, would they be deemed to have adequate experience to propose a 100 kW system?  What about 150 or 500?  And what sort of experience is key here?  The development team will need to bring together many talents - system design, construction, electrical, financial, legal - does it suffice that the team’s lawyer has papered together “similar” projects in the past?
  • Site Control - “Must demonstrate site control over proposed site” - if the entire proposal is speculative until the SOPPA is signed, how much control must the developer actually have over the site at the time the application is submitted?  Would a lease or purchase agreement with appropriate contingencies suffice?  Given the degree of uncertainty with this process, it doesn’t seem reasonable to require full control at the time the application is submitted.
    (This was not explained during the workshop, but it appears from the Draft Guidelines that a contractual option for lease or purchase will suffice.)
  • Inspection & Maintenance Reporting - “Provide Inspection & Maintenance Reports Every Other Year” - staff could not explain what the full scope of this requirement would be and the Guidelines aren’t much more help other than to indicate that the inspection must be done by someone not associated with the project.  This seems unduly burdensome - after all, the project owner has as much of a vested interest in keeping the system performing according to expectations as does LADWP.  Since they will need to be doing their own maintenance anyway, the requirement for an unrelated party to do the inspections simply adds unnecessary cost to the project.

The Demonstration phase is supposed to kick-off this Fall.  We will continue to monitor the development of this program and provide additional information as we get it.

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07/14/11

  02:38:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1089 words  
Categories: AB 920 Payments, LADWP Rebates, LADWP, Residential Solar

Report from LADWP SIP Workshop

Today we attended LADWP’s morning workshop on the relaunch of the Solar Incentive Program (SIP) and, as promised, we are writing to give you our reactions to the event.  We certainly believe that LADWP is trying to do the right thing - and these comments will also be emailed to LADWP staff.  When we get a response, we will update this post.

The program got underway with an introductory statement from LADWP General Manager, Ron Nichols, who told the 150 or so participants that the SIP was an “important part of the big transition that LADWP needs to make” and he thanked us for coming and providing our insight into how to make the program better.  The rest of the program consisted of four parts - an overview of the SIP followed by the participants being divided into breakout groups to address specific issues, then a presentation about the proposed Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program with a breakout session for the Fit as well.  (We will have a later post just about the FiT - the balance of this post will only concern the SIP.)

LADWP promised to make all of its presentation materials available online and you can find them here.  There were some interesting aspects that popped out of the presentation, for example:

  • Staff mentioned several times the desire to avoid the “boom-bust cycle” so common with solar incentive programs.  Instead, they were hoping that this program would:
  • Maintain [a] steady pace of installations and funding so that our customers and [the] solar industry know what to expect and can plan appropriately.
    Foster and grow [the] sustainable solar industry in L.A.
  • However, it was made clear that the program will allocate up to $40 million per year in rebates.  Once that amount is reached, the program will stop accepting rebate applications until the next fiscal year.  That doesn’t really sound like a “steady pace".

  • The program, before the current hiatus, was on track to be fully subscribed (i.e., out of money) by 2012.  The new program expects to be out of money by the end of 2014.  That’s an improvement, but still not great for a program that was designed intended to continue until 2017.

  • All of the rebates under the SIP will be EPBB rebates - that is, paid out all in one lump sum.  This is a good deal for system owners, but a rotten deal for LADWP (click here for our general discussion of PBI vs EPBB rebates.)  The LADWP rep suggested that the overhead problem was too much to handle to implement PBI rebates.  Really?  It would seem that the greater productivity insured by PBI rebates would more than offset the cost, and smaller utilities - like PWP - somehow seem to manage it.

  • Even under the new SIP, there will be no payments made to system owners who produce more energy than they consume over the course of the year.  (In other words, no AB 920 compensation is being implemented.)  It is true that LADWP is expressly exempt (albeit in a very roundabout way) from the requirements of AB 920, but no cogent argument was advanced for not providing compensation along the lines of what every other utility in the state must do.

The breakout session that we attended was dominated (nearly hijacked) by the leasing interests who were not at all happy with rebates for leased systems being paid out as commercial systems, particularly given that the commercial rates were lower.  (Presumably, if the commercial rates were higher, we wouldn’t have heard those complaints.)  This argument seems founded more on greed than common sense - after all, the owners of leased systems qualify for 30% treasury grants and bonus depreciation - tax benefits that are not available to residential clients who purchase their systems outright.  It only seems fair that they should receive a higher rebate since the overall economic benefit is better balanced that way.  (It will be interesting to see if LADWP sticks to its guns on this one or caves to the leasing companies.)

Which leaves us with our questions for LADWP.  We were told that the utility is running on a very tight timeline and that they must have comments/questions on the SIP relaunch by this Sunday - July 17! (Not sure why they picked a Sunday for the comment deadline, let alone one that is just three days away, but that is what we were told.)  If you have questions or comments, please send them to [email protected].  In any event, here are our questions and we will let you know the responses that we get (if any):

  • Step sizes - It appears that we are re-starting at Step 5 with incentive values of $2.20, $1.95, and $2.70/W for residential, commercial and government/non-profit projects respectively.  How big are the Steps?  How will the Steps interact with the $40 million/FY budget allocation?

  • Building Permit before SIP Application - the revised guidelines require a permit be pulled before filing a SIP application.  What is the justification for this?  Most other utilities are either agnostic on the issue (SCE) or require the rebate application before a permit can be pulled (PWP).  Requiring the permit first, cuts into the time available for completing the project before the permit expires.

  • 10-hour testing window - the revised guidelines would entirely disqualify for a rebate any system that was operated for more than ten hours prior to inspection.  There was no justification given for this number and it seems arbitrary.  We could well imagine a scenario where a system is brought online on Friday and allowed to operate over the weekend as a burn-in period before being shut off on Monday.  Why would such a system be rendered ineligible for a rebate?  We believe that a more flexible system should be implemented.

  • Deficient applications - the guidelines talk about “applicants who … submit 3 deficient applications… will be given a 6 months exclusion from submitting additional applications."  This seems unduly punitive and much more information needs to be given regarding what constitutes a “strike” for these purposes.  For example, we are aware of an application under the prior program that was rejected because a calculation was made - consistent with the text of the guidelines - that was inconsistent with the reviewer’s expectations.  Applicants who abuse the system should be excluded, but good-faith disagreements over interpretations of guidelines should not count as a strike.

  • PBI rebates - LADWP really should add these for larger commercial systems under the SIP.

  • AB 920 Compensation - LADWP should join the party and pay net energy producers just like every other utility in the state.

We will write more when we hear from LADWP - but remember, deadline for comments is this Sunday, July 17.

07/07/11

  08:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 960 words  
Categories: PWP Rebates, LADWP Rebates, LADWP, Commercial Solar, Feed-in Tariff, Residential Solar

LADWP's Revised SIP Details Released - UPDATE - 2X (7/13 & 7/9)

UPDATE - 2x - In advance of the meetings this week, LADWP has made available a number of materials so we are linking to them here.

For the Solar Incentive Program (SIP):

For the Feed-in Tariff (FIT):

Hope to see you there - if you have any comments about these, feel free to leave them below.  You can also send comments to LADWP at [email protected].


 

UPDATE - Please note that LADWP has reconfigured their meeting to satisfy popular demand.  Instead of one workshop on the 14th from 2-5, there will now be four, on Thursday and Friday mornings and afternoons.  Here is the revised meeting schedule (along with the necessary links to RSVP):

Thursday, July 14, 2011
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  RSVP
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.    RSVP

Friday, July 15, 2011
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  RSVP
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.    RSVP


We announced earlier that the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) was holding a workshop to discuss the restart of its Solar Incentive Program (SIP) after a 90-day hiatus. We have now received some of the details of the program - along with a copy of their presentation - and want to share some information in advance of next week’s public hearing.

Go solar LA!

First, a reminder - the public hearing on the proposed revisions to the program will be held next Thursday, July 14 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at LADWP headquarters, 111 N. Hope St., Los Angeles in the A-Level Auditorium.  Hope to see you there.

LADWP staff will make a presentation about two customer-related programs, the SIP and a new Feed-in-Tariff (FIT).  The primary difference between the two programs is that the SIP is a net-metering program, meaning the customer who hosts the solar power system consumes the energy produced by the system and uses that to lower their LADWP bills.  Under the proposed FIT program, LADWP purchases all of the output from the solar power system and pays the system owner a at a rate to be determined for that energy.  (In other words - this is NOT a German-style FIT that would benefit residential customers.)  The balance of this post will only address the SIP.

As we had noted previously, the LADWP SIP had been a victim of its own success - resulting in a lengthy application processing backlog, a corresponding inspection backlog and lengthy delays in paying rebates.  Moreover, the program was over-subscribed with more applications coming in than there was money to support them.  Accordingly, a 90-day moratorium was imposed while LADWP went back to the drawing board to revise the program.

It would appear that LADWP put that time to good use - reportedly reducing their application backlog from 800 to zero, authorizing the start-up of 2.2 MW of solar power systems and cutting over 150 rebate checks worth $10 million.  More importantly for the program going forward, they devised changes to bring stability and predictability - or so they say - to the program for the next three years.

So what are the major changes proposed? Here are the highlights:

  • Program funding will be doubled - from $30 M to $60 M each year for the next three years.  This is accomplished through the use of LADWP bond proceeds and approved as part of the FY 2011-12 budget.  Interestingly, the administrative overhead for the system appears to be 10% since the actual program cost is billed at $66M per year for the next three years.  LADWP claims that the cost to fund the program will be 0.7% of the average customer’s bill.
  • Rebate levels will decline significantly - although still higher than those paid by SCE under the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the new rates appear to be lower than what other municipal utilities like Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) are paying.
  • Contractors will be required to pull a permit for the job before submitting a rebate application - in our experience this is opposite from what every other local jurisdiction is doing.  Typically the utilities have either wanted to review your application first as a pre-condition to pulling the permit (e.g., PWP and other munis) or in parallel with the permit process (SCE).  It will be interesting to hear why LADWP wants to go this way.
  • Accelerated inspection procedure - allegedly this will reduce the wait time for net meters to be installed to one week.

Rebate rate details

The LADWP presentation provided a series of charts (not tables) to depict rebate rates going forward.  There are some omissions here that are important - the charts show rebates at different steps, but they do not say how many MW are in each step.  For example, here is the residential rebate rate graph (click for full size):

Proposed LADWP rebates for residential solar power systems

Based on where the “Proposed Incentive Levels” plot begins, presumably we are starting at Step 5.  What the chart doesn’t tell you is how many MWs of applications will LADWP accept before stepping down to the next incentive level.  The lack of data points is also annoying - apparently we are starting at somewhere around $2.20 W.  Nor is there anything said about how the system size will be calculated going forward - will LADWP adopt the CSI calculator that everyone else uses or will they continue to use their idiosyncratic - and error prone - system using PVWatts directly?

Here is the graph for commercial rebate rates (click for full size):

Proposed LADWP rebates for commercial solar power systems

That graph seems to show that the rebate rate when the program resumes will be just under $2.00/Watt.  But again, a question - is LADWP only using EPBB rebates, even for large commercial projects?  Or did they simply omit the graph showing PBI rates?

Finally, here is the graph for Government/Non-Profit rebates (click for full size):

Proposed LADWP rebates for government/non-profit solar power systems

Our best guess is that the rebate rate here is roughly $2.75/Watt.

Obviously lots of questions remain - we will report back after the July 14th meeting and hopefully we will have some answers.

06/24/11

  06:10:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 354 words  
Categories: AB 811/PACE/LACEP Funding, LADWP Rebates, LADWP, Feed-in Tariff

LADWP Announces Solar Workshop - UPDATED - 2x

SECOND UPDATE (7/9):

LADWP has announced that due to overwhelming interest, the single meeting scheduled for the 14th has been replaced with four meetings. Each meeting will be limited to the first 125 participants who RSVP (links below).  Please note - if you registered previously YOU MUST REGISTER AGAIN!

Here is the updated schedule:

Thursday, July 14, 2011
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  RSVP
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.    RSVP

Friday, July 15, 2011
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  RSVP
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.    RSVP

The remaining information below remains unchanged.  We have signed up for the Thursday morning session - hope to see you there.

UPDATED Re: Parking (See below)

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power - the nation’s largest municipal utility - has just announced that it will be conducting a workshop to discuss its revised solar rebate and feed-in tariff programs. This is the first public meeting since LADWP suspended its solar rebate program last April.

Here is the proposed agenda from the LADWP website:

1. Introductions and Overview of LADWP Local Solar Programs
2. Overview of Solar Incentive Program
3. Breakout sessions to discuss Solar Incentive Program changes
4. Summary of Solar Incentive Program breakouts
5. Overview of Local Renewable Energy Program
6. Breakout sessions to discuss Local Renewable Energy Program
7. Summary of Local Renewable Energy Program breakouts

The workshop will be held on Thursday, July 14, 2011, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.  at LADWP headquarters, 111 N. Hope Street, A-Level Auditorium, LA CA  90012.  Parking is available free of charge in the Music Center’s underground structure.  Attendees should enter on Grand Avenue, between Temple and First Streets, look for the LADWP representative at the entrance and and present a printed copy of this invitation at the entrance. The LADWP representative will provide immediate validation and waive parking fees prior to entering the structure.

The Hope Street level entrance to the LADWP headquarters building is accessible despite light construction currently in progress on the building exterior. Upon entry, guests will be asked to sign in at the Security desk, pass through a screening device and wear a temporary visitor’s badge.

The public is invited.  You can RSVP by clicking here.

We will be attending and we will report back on what LADWP has to say.  If you attend as well, please come up and introduce yourself.

12/23/10

  06:30:03 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1687 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar Rebates, PWP Rebates, SCE/CSI Rebates, BWP Rebates, GWP Rebates, LADWP Rebates, Utilities, PWP, SCE, LADWP, BWP, GWP

Solar Economics Heading into 2011 - Part 2 - Rebates

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of our end-of-the-year Solar Economics series. 
You can read Part 1 - Solar Tax Policies - here.)

One of the most important factors in the growth of the local solar industry has been the availability of utility-based rebates for solar power installations.  This year has seen a lot of developments in this area, and unlike the tax arena where the news is all good, the simple, sad truth is that rebates are declining throughout Southern California, with some utilities suspending their rebates altogether and others threatening to do so.  Will the defeat of Prop 23, assuring that AB 32 will go into effect after all, mean that there will be additional funds injected into solar rebates?  Will a feed-in-tarrif finally take hold in California?  And where are rebates now, anyhow?  We will try to answer some of those questions in this post.

Current Rebates - A Utility-by-Utility Review

Please note - for more detail about solar rebates generally, we have an extensive webpage regarding solar rebates and how they work, please check it out.

Southern California Edison (SCE) and the California Solar Initiative (CSI)

SCE is the only local utility that provides rebate funds under the California Solar Initiative (CSI). The bad news? It means that it offers the lowest rebates of any of the utilities in the area. The good news? You can know precisely what those rebates are at any time by checking out the statewide trigger tracker website. The CSI rebate structure is based upon a series of megawatt targets assigned for each of the three investor-owned utilities that are part of CSI. (In addition to SCE, that includes PG&E in Northern California and SDG&E in San Diego.) As each utility reaches the target for a given step, it moves down to the next step in the rebate structure until the megawatt target for that step is reached.  There are 10 steps in the overall program, relating to incentives that started at $2.50/Watt for residential installation when the program began in 2007, and go all the way down to $0.20/Watt at step 10. Each step is further divided into allocations for residential and non-residential (i.e., commercial and non-profit) with the highest rebate rates for non-profit installations (which are given a higher rebate rate because they are ineligibile for tax benefits), then residential and finally commercial.

As of this writing, SCE is on Step 5 for residential customers, meaning that SCE is currently paying them $1.55/Watt.  From an initial allocation of  25 MW in the step, 5.22 MW remain, but SCE has already received applications for 1.41 MW.  Thus, the total remaining in Step 5 is 3.81 MW. After SCE moves to Step 6, the solar rebate rate for residential customers will be $1.10/Watt.

For non-residential customers, SCE is technically still on Step 7.  We say “technically” because from an initial allocation of nearly 82 MW, 22.17 MW remain, but with 26.72 MW of applications already received, the step has a net negative 4.55 MW “remaining". Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a new commercial or non-profit rebate application submitted today would actually be paid a rebate under Step 7. Under Step 8, SCE will be paying $0.35/Watt to commercial customers and $1.10/Watt to non-profits.  (Five-year PBI rebates will be paid out at the rate of $0.05/kWh for commercial and $0.15/kWh for non-profits.  For more on PBI rebates, see our webpage.)

Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP)

The rebate program at LADWP has been on a roller-coaster ride this year - threatening to sharply lower the amount of rebates before last-minute actions by the LA City Council sent the proposal back to Committee for a re-do. Perhaps in response to the Council’s action, DWP is now reporting on its website that it is out of money for solar rebates until next July!  Here is DWP’s announcement in full:

SOLAR INCENTIVE PAYMENT LIMIT REACHED FOR CURRENT BUDGET YEAR

Due to the popularity of our Solar Incentive Program, the budget for incentive payments for fiscal year 2010/2011 is now fully subscribed. Incentive payments will be processed on a first come, first served basis once new funding becomes available, expected to occur on July 1, 2011. Please be assured that your LADWP solar inspection is unaffected by the incentive budget and will still take place and the system will be turned on by the solar inspector upon passing the solar inspection. The anticipated wait times for an inspection can be found below on this website. The payment delay will not have any affect on the incentive amount. We appreciate your patience and thank you for your participation in our Solar Incentive Program and contributing to the greening of Los Angeles.

It is pretty much anyone’s guess at this point what this all means. While there is strong support for the LADWP solar rebate program from the City Council (to say nothing of the support within the City itself), there is also a major political struggle ongoing between the Council, Mayor and the DWP. One clear loser in all of this - potential solar customers in the City of the Angels.

Glendale Water & Power (GWP)

Once upon a time, Glendale Water & Power offered the highest solar rebates around - until they suddenly didn’t offer any at all. Last summer, in a move that can only be described as bizarre, GWP quietly updated their website to announce that GWP would no longer be providing solar rebates for residential customers until July 2011 - if then! Here is the current update from GWP:

Funds/Incentives for this program are currently unavailable until July 1, 2011.

Thank you for your interest in Glendale Water & Power’s Solar Solutions Program. Due to the success of this program and the high interest from our community, we have received an unanticipated number of applications this year, and unfortunately at this time we are unable to continue offering our solar rebates due to program incentive limitations. However, all applications received before July 27, 2010 will be processed this year, and applications received after that date will be added to a waiting list.
New funding for our Solar Solutions Program will be available July 1, 2011. If you have submitted an application to be put on the waiting list, we will contact you at the beginning of June 2011, to find out if you are still interested in participating in our program. If you are and want to proceed, we will request that you provide us the additional documentation needed to continue the application process.
Please be aware that 2011 funding will also be limited. Applications will be processed off the waiting list in the order they were received.
For more information on our Solar Solutions Program, visit our web site at www.GlendaleWaterandPower.com or call the Solar Solutions Program at (818) 548-2750.

Worse still, GWP has advised us that they are suspending solar rebates for commercial customers for five years! (Curiously, we cannot find anything confirming that on the GWP website.)

If and when GWP gets its financial affairs in order, it is anticipated that their solar rebates in 2011 will be paid out as follows: Systems up to 30kW (DC) $3.22/Watt; systems greater than 30kW (DC) $0.394/kWh.  For affordable housing installations, the numbers are higher: $4.02/Watt and $0.596/kWh, respectively.

Pasadena Water & Power (PWP)

Compared to its neighbors in Los Angeles and Glendale, Pasadena Water and Power is a poster child for how to do things right. (Ok, that is perhaps daming with faint praise given the debacle in LA and Glendale, but still, PWP has been predictable and open about their solar rebates.) PWP last lowered its rebates in July 2010, and has now announced that its next rebate rate reduction (for residential customers only) will occur as of February 1, 2011.

As of this writing, PWP is paying $2.40/Watt for residential, $1.40/Watt for commercial, $2.15/Watt for non-profits and a whopping $4.00/Watt for low income/affordable housing installations.  PWP also offers PBI rebates at $0.363/kWh for residential, $0.212/kWh for commercial, $0.325/kWh for non-profits and $0.632/kWh for low income. The February rebate reduction for residential customers will bring those values down to $2.00/Watt or $0.302/kWh.

Burbank Water & Power (BWP)

Burbank Water and Power is presently on Step 2 of a 9-step solar rebate program.  While there are specified installation amounts associated with each step (as there are with SCE’s CSI program), BWP is also committed to reducing its solar rebates by “at least 7% per year until they are zero by the end of 2016."  The present Step 2 has the smallest installed capacity goal of just 825 kW - and as of this writing, the BWP website is reporting that only 30kW remain. Thus, it is anticipated that BWP’s rebates will step down sometime next year.

For residential customers today, the rebate is $3.14/Watt which will decline to $2.78/Watt when BWP drops to Step 3.  (For systems over 30 kW (AC), those rebate rates are $0.464/kWh and $0.415/kWh, respectively.)  Commercial customers are currently receiving rebates of $2.33/Watt which will decline to $2.07/Watt at Step 3.  (For larger systems over 30kW, those rebate rates are $0.288/kWh and $0.258/kWh, respectively.) Finally, non-profit customers enjoy rebates today of $2.67/Watt, headed down to $.2.36/Watt at Step 3.  (For larger systems those values are $0.311/kWh stepping down to $0.280/kWh.)

Feed-In Tariffs, Anyone?

Against this chaotic backdrop of widely (some would say wildly) varying solar rebates, the need for the market clarity of a true, state-wide feed-in tariff (FIT) stands in stark relief. A FIT established at the state level would provide the missing piece for solar growth - long-term predictability. While there are many FIT models, the essential concept is easy - the utility agrees to pay a set price (which could include increases over time) for every kilowatt hour generated for a specified period (typically ten to twenty years). It was Germany’s FIT that made that nation - with the equivalent amount of annual solar insolation as Maine - the leader in the world for installed solar and allowed its solar industry to explode. There is no reason why that success could not be replicated here - but so far utilities are balking at moving forward and the only programs coming out of the California Public Utilities Commission exclude residential and all but the biggest commercial customers altogether.

California can, and must, do better in the coming year. Are the folks in Sacramento listening? Time will tell.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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