Archive for ca fit

LA’s Solar Feed-in Tariff Making A Big Leap

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Los Angeles has long been something of a solar underperformer, given its size and sunny clime. The group Environment California reported that as of late 2011, despite being nearly three times larger than San Diego, LA had less installed solar capacity (37 megawatts to 36 MW) and fewer installations (4,507 to 4,018) than its neighbor to the south. And a 2011 UCLA study found that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was generating less than one-sixth as much solar power per customer as state leader Southern California Edison.

But the city has been taking action to step up its solar game, revamping a broken rebate program and sticking its toe into the feed-in tariff waters with a 10 MW solar pilot program. Now the LADWP is dramatically expanding that feed-in tariff, approving a 100-megawatt program that’s being called be “the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation.”

los angeles rooftop solar

image via Shutterstock

A feed-in tariff has been the major tool for Germany in becoming the world’s solar leader. A FIT works by guaranteeing solar power producers a profitable price for the electricity their systems produce. In LA, the Department of Water and Power will offer 17-cent-per-kilowatt-hour contracts for projects at least 30-kilowatts in size (the equivalent of about six typical home rootftop systems), up to a total of 20 megawatts of new installed power every six month.

The program could become even larger in the near future; DWP said in in March it will entertain a lant to add another 50 megawatts to the FIT.

In addition to clean-sourced electricity, advocates say the FIT will be a jobs creator for LA.

“The full 150-megawatt program will be a major economic driver for Los Angeles, creating 4,500 jobs and generating a half-billion dollars in economic activity at full scale, while also eliminating 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016,” the DWP said.

Still, as admirable as these moves by LA are, the city has a long way to go in making solar a significant part of its power equation. As Southern California clean-energy blogger Chris Clarke noted, “LADWP can deliver around 7,200 megawatts of power to its customers, meaning that a 100-megawatt FiT, when fully subscribed, will account for less than 1.4 percent of the utility’s generating capacity.”

What Is Holding Back Solar Feed-In-Tariff Programs In The U.S. Market?

eed-in tariffs (FITs) have spurred the installation of more than three-quarters of global solar capacity. Germany’s FIT – perhaps one of the best-known programs – has led to the development of more than 50,000 MW of solar power and wind power domestically since its inception in 1990.

But despite this roaring success – which has been duplicated on smaller scales in several other countries – FITs continue to fail to make inroads in the U.S. This market instead relies on a patchwork of often inconsistent federal and state incentives in order to make solar power projects work.

Could FITs ever take off in the U.S.? Where have existing local and state FIT programs failed, and what glimmers of hope can they provide? A recent report by John Farrell, senior energy researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), recaps the frustrating path of the U.S.’ FIT programs and makes recommendations for successful future implementation.

FIT programs – generally branded as Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (CLEAN) contracts in the U.S. – currently exist in 14 states. However, installed capacity under all of the programs totals just 132 MW, according to the ILSR report.

Even if the U.S.’ CLEAN programs were built out to their caps, their installed capacity would represent 1% or less of each jurisdiction’s total electricity scales. In comparison, the cap-less German market already has allowed at least 20% electricity to come from FIT sources.

“Experience shows, not surprisingly, that the larger the scale of CLEAN programs, the greater the cost savings,” the report notes. “Germany has nearly a 50 percent price advantage in project-installation costs, due almost entirely to its large, streamlined market for solar.”

Another shortcoming of the U.S.’ CLEAN programs may be their emphasis on large-scale solar projects. Unlike in Germany, where individuals own 40% of the current renewable energy market, few U.S. programs allow participation by owners of residential PV arrays.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) program, for instance, leads the U.S. in terms of installed CLEAN capacity, with two-thirds of the country’s total, but almost all of the capacity was allocated to projects of at least 1 MW, according to the report. A single 30 MW array took up half of SMUD’s capacity.

The ILSR believes that small-scale, locally owned PV projects represent a more effective use of CLEAN programs.

“It is true that larger projects will have lower per-kilowatt costs, although the difference may be minimal,” the report explains. “But many small projects mean [that] many households (and businesses) begin to have an economic self-interest in supporting further renewable energy developments.”

Better administration
All renewable energy incentive programs are dynamic works in progress, and the German government’s ongoing management of its FIT program has not been without controversy. Last year’s boom in PV installations, followed by an announcement of drastic FIT rate cuts, resulted in political wrangling and negotiations that have yet to be resolved.

It is also worth noting that the U.S.’ electricity market and regulatory environment differ from Germany’s – thus making exact duplication of the latter’s FIT program difficult or impossible.

Nevertheless, the U.S. can learn a couple important FIT/CLEAN program management lessons from Germany, according to the ILSR report.

Price differentiation – i.e., providing different rates for different types of technology and project sizes – has allowed various types of renewable energy to grow simultaneously, in addition to allowing more homeowners and their small-scale projects to participate competitively.

At the same time, Germany’s FIT pricing is “all in,” attracting project investors without the need to add other subsidies and partners – and, thus, streamlining investment. U.S. CLEAN contracts, on the other hand, must be employed in tandem with federal and/or state incentives in order to create an attractive investment.

“The reliance on tax incentives constrains U.S. CLEAN programs,” the report says. “Federal tax incentives are subject to the vagaries of congressional politics. Federal tax incentives also increase complexity, as developers often partner with companies seeking tax write-offs, which, in turn, encourages larger projects and increases the overall cost of the project.”

A successful FIT/CLEAN program must also be priced properly. According to the report, the most important feature of Germany’s FIT program has been its “accelerated” price reductions in recent years. In response to market conditions, FIT rates now drop much more rapidly than in the past.

“American CLEAN programs must similarly adapt to a changing market,” the report notes, adding that currently, few U.S. programs offer any year-to-year price transparency, thus making project development more challenging.

With new CLEAN initiatives forthcoming in the U.S. – including programs from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Long Island Power Authority and the State of Rhode Island – now may be an ideal time for intensive evaluation and possible restructuring.

Despite its criticism, the ILSR is optimistic about the future of CLEAN programs in the U.S. and the role that they can play as solar power continues its downward cost trajectory.

“The CLEAN program makes an ideal transitional incentive, one that can be tailored to the needs and capacities of different states and can be phased out gradually as renewable energy costs decline,” the report says.

Photo: A residential PV installation in Germany. Photo credit: Conergy AG

California Feed-in Tariff for Poor Communities Passes Assembly

May 31, 2012

By Paul Gipe

A bill to create feed-in tariffs for the poor and the disadvantaged passed the California Assembly on 30 May 2012.

The “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 27 and was reported to the Senate.

The move is the first significant action on feed-in tariffs in California during this legislative session. It is also the first time in North America that advocates for the poor and disadvantaged have called for equal opportunity to develop renewable energy through the use of feed-in tariffs.

Introduced by Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), the bill would create feed-in tariffs for 375 MW of small-scale renewable generation that would be specifically designed for disadvantaged communities.

The bill is sponsored by the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).

CEJA’s bill has received support from some 70 non-governmental organizations that includes a who’s who of the California environmental and social justice community, including Sierra Club California, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), and Environment California.

Though CEJA dubs the legislation “Solar for All”, the bill itself calls for “clean energy contracts” from all “eligible renewable energy resources” in California.

  • Project size cap: 500 kW
  • Program cap: 375 MW by 2020 at a “regular annual pace”
  • Term: minimum of 20 years
  • Program launch: 2014
  • Tariffs: “sufficient to stimulate the market” in low-income communities, create a diverse range of project sizes and achieve the environmental justice objectives
  • Reporting: annual
  • Administration and Rate Setting: Public Utility Commission (PUC) & local public utilities
  • Cost recovery: ratepayers
  • Cost cap: 0.375% of forecast retails sales in 2020
  • “Eligible” Technologies: Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste, Energy Storage, Anaerobic Digestion, Small Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Biodiesel, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels

It is not clear whether AB 1990 directs the PUC to set tariffs in two bands for those living in disadvantaged communities who can use federal tax subsidies and those who cannot. The bill only notes that the PUC is to take this into account during its deliberations.

AB 1990 contains a potentially onerous provision requiring that each renewable generator be “inspected” by a licensed contractor every two years.

Though utilities are obligated to provide “expedited interconnection,” they are exempted from the act’s requirements if they claim the grid is “inadequate”, that the generator doesn’t meet the utility’s interconnection requirement, or that the “aggregate of all small-scale renewable generating facilities on a distribution circuit would adversely impact utility operation and load restoration efforts of the distribution system”

Despite these limitations, the introduction alone of AB 1990 by CEJA should put to rest concerns that feed-in tariffs are a regressive form of taxation that penalize the poor. Rather, environmental justice organizers see feed-in tariffs as a more equitable policy tool than existing California programs for developing renewable energy.

CEJA: Solar for All Passes Assembly

AB 1990 Bill Status

AB 1990 Bill History

AB 1990

California Watch: Solar rooftops sought in poor communities

What’s New on Feed-in Tariffs

  • California Feed-in Tariff for Poor Communities Passes Assembly–A bill to create feed-in tariffs for the poor and the disadvantaged passed the California Assembly on 30 May 2012. The “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, passed the House by a vote of 49 to 27 and was reported to the Senate. . .
  • Canadian Auto Workers: WTO Called Upon to Dismiss Japan, EU Challenge to Ontario Renewable Energy Policy–Canadian NGOs and labour unions, including the CAW, have sent an amicus curiae submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) prior to a May 15 hearing into Japan’s and the European Union’s joint attack on the Ontario Green Energy Act. . .
  • Japan Times: Leveling the field for renewables–The government has drawn up a design for Japan’s feed-in tariff system to promote the generation of electricity through renewable energy sources. In a nutshell, it has decided the prices at which the nation’s major power companies buy such electricity and the duration of contracts. In principle they must buy all such energy. It is hoped that this system, expected to take effect in July, will help expand the generation and use of renewable energy, and accelerate advances in related technologies. Electricity fees may rise. The government should fully explain the need for the system and how it will work. . .
  • Karl-Friedrich Lenz’s analysis of Japan’s Feed-in Tariffs–The second fundamental flaw is the fact that the proposal doesn’t distinguish between onshore and offshore wind. That difference has a rather large influence on cost. Therefore, German law pays 8.93 cents for onshore and 15 cents for offshore wind. . .
  • Chronicle Herald: Nova Scotia Plans to Tap into Tidal Energy with FITs–Energy Minister Charlie Parker said his department will ask the province’s Utility and Review Board later this year to begin the process of setting a rate, or feed-in tariff, for the companies working on development projects in the Bay of Fundy. . .
  • Anglican Diocese of Oxford: Solar Feed-in Tariff put on a “predictable, certain and sustainable footing”–Churches exploring solar pv should note that buildings with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of less than D will get a reduced tariff rate. Calls have previously been made to examine possible exemptions from this and the national Church of England Shrinking the Footprint campaign has been responding to the consultation and having discussions with DECC with particular emphasis on the issues for churches in achieving an A – D rated Energy Performance Certificate. It is, however, possible to wire panels on one building into another which is easier to upgrade e.g panels on a church roof wired into a church hall. . .
  • Malaysian Reserve: RE industry may see change in feed-in-tariff, says SEDA–The Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) is looking at adjusting the feed-in-tariff (FiT) for renewable energy (RE) before it calls for the next round of quote in July/ August 2012 as there is an imbalance in the RE resource mix. At a recent talk on renewable energy updates, SEDA chief executive officer Badriyah Abdul Malek highlighted that almost half of the installed capacity for RE being generated, since the beginning of the FiT on Dec 1, 2011, was using solar energy which could be a “wrong signal” for the market. . .
  • Vermont Ups Feed-in Tariff Program Cap Slightly–Vermont’s Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law 18 May 2012 that slightly increases the cap on the state’s Standard Offer Contract program. Senate Bill 214 extends the small existing 50 MW program by a modest amount. . .
  • Saudi Arabia Launches Massive Renewable Program with Hybrid FITs–While North America continues to dawdle on the road to the renewable revolution, the conservative, oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has proposed one of the most sweeping and massive moves to renewable energy on the planet. . .

Nuclear Power, Japan, Feed-in Tariffs, and the Rapid Development of Renewables

  • Andrew Dewit: A Crossroads for Japan: Revive Nuclear or Go Green?–May 5 marked the shutdown of the last of Japan’s 50 viable nuclear reactors, with poor prospects for any restarts before the summer. The central government, the nuclear industry, most big business associations, and many international observers seem convinced that this will invite chaos through escalating fossil fuel costs and the risk of blackouts. But polls suggest a growing segment of the Japanese population see things differently. . .
  • Mainichi: Atomic Energy panel members call for independent probe into secret meetings–Some members of a Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) panel working out new nuclear energy policy have called for a third-party probe into revelations that business operators in favor of the nuclear fuel cycle project were invited to secret meetings before an assessment was altered to help promote the project. . .
  • Guardian: Only renewables – not nuclear – could be too cheap to meter–Germany’s long support for wind and solar energy is delivering zero-cost electricity at times. In contrast, the UK’s new energy policy seeks to underwrite the rising cost of nuclear. . .

 

What’s New on Solar Energy

 

What’s New on Community Power

  • Renewable Energy Tour to Germany & the World Wind Energy Conference 2012–The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association is leading a tour to renewable energy sites in Germany June 30 to July 8 including participation in the World Wind Energy Association Conference in Bonn, and visits to a biogas plant, a wind turbine manufacture, community-owned wind turbines, a leading research institute on grid integration, and a solar power plant. . .
  • Aaron Bartley: Community Power vs. the Kochs–In Germany, where the stranglehold of corporate energy has been loosened, renewables now comprise 20 percent, of national energy production, thanks to national policies such as feed-in tariffs which guarantee a stable price for power produced by wind, solar and geothermal systems. More than half of German energy is now produced in decentralized sites like homes, farms and community co-ops. This trend toward distributed generation conflicts directly with the corporate energy paradigm of centralized control. The German model shows that national policies can have a transformative impact that both increases overall renewable energy production while placing ownership in the hands of farmers, small businesses and homeowners. . .
  • Mount Alexander Community Wind–Mount Alexander Community Wind is a community driven project seeking to establish a locally owned and operated wind plant to supply a significant portion of the energy needs of our Shire. Clean renewable energy will be generated to replace energy derived from burning non-renewable coal. . .

 

What’s New on Wind Energy


This feed-in tariff news update is sponsored by the , An Environmental Trust, and the David Blittersdorf Family Foundation in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.