Virtual Net Metering Public Workshop – Free
In This Issue
On July 2, 2012, the CPUC issued its 2012 California Solar Initiative Annual Program Assessment to the Legislature. Highlights of the report show that in 2011 California reached a major milestone by becoming the first state in the nation to install more than 1 gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of customer-generated solar energy; a record 311 megawatts (MW) were installed in the investor-owned utility territories in 2011 alone.
Another significant achievement was gained in the area of solar costs. Since the program began in 2007, residential solar system costs dropped by 28 percent, making solar more accessible to middle and low-income markets. CSI projects in middle income markets (areas with median incomes between $50,000 and $100,000) have increased by 445 percent since 2007, and now comprise the majority of applications received in 2011. CSI projects in affordable housing markets (areas with median incomes of less than $50,000) have increased by 364 percent.
Important new policies foster growth and development in California's solar markets. Virtual Net Metering allows renters and other tenants of multi-meter buildings to benefit from solar credits on their monthly utility bills, and new calculation methodologies for Net Energy Metering expands the capacity of solar that can be fit onto the grid.
Solar water heating systems are also increasing in popularity. In just over two years of operation, the CSI-Thermal Program has received 704 applications for $4.87 million in incentives.
For more statistics, download the full report from the Go Solar California website.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is committed to renewable energy and appreciates customers (and their contractors) who choose to go solar. PG&E currently has more than 65,000 customers with onsite solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in our service territory, representing about 30% of the total onsite PV systems in the United States.
PG&E continues to see a steady increase in the number of solar PV interconnection applications, up 35% from this period last year, and is interconnecting customers at a record pace. At the same time, this increase in interconnection applications is impacting our ability to process applications within our historic average of 12 business days. Due to this unprecedented increase in the number of new interconnection applications, PG&E's processing time has increased to approximately 25 business days. We apologize for any inconvenience created by delays in safely interconnecting systems to the grid.
PG&E is taking steps to significantly reduce this processing time including adding resources and exploring additional opportunities to increase efficiencies in our processes. We are confident we will return to an interconnection timeline that meets customer expectations over the next few months and appreciate your patience. While PG&E works to meet the increased interconnection demand, we remind customers and contractors that they may not operate any generating facility in parallel with PG&E's distribution facilities until they receive written authorization from PG&E.
For years, the market for solar systems neglected a key segment of California's population: owners and renters of both residential and commercial multitenant buildings. The reason was based in state law requiring individual metering, intended to encourage energy efficiency. Unfortunately, the equipment necessary to wire each individual meter to a solar system is redundant and costly.
That's why virtual net energy metering, or VNM, is so important. Originally developed under the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program as a way to provide direct benefits from solar systems to low-income building tenants, VNM is a utility billing arrangement in which all of a solar system's output is exported to the grid and then allocated as energy credits to the tenants' accounts. Everyday Energy, the largest solar installer under the MASH program, says they have already served between 1,850-2,000 families with VNM and have more in the pipeline.
The success of VNM in solving the issue of tenant equity soon caught the attention of general market solar developers. In May 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a resolution directing utilities to offer VNM to the general market, including a dozen other renewable technologies such as wind, solar thermal and fuel cells that use renewable fuel sources.
VNM reduces project costs considerably, allows building owners to install larger and more efficient system designs, streamlines the paperwork process and opens up the potential to serve new customer segments with solar. For more information on how VNM can work for you, please contact your utility.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has received enough applications to reach Step 9 capacity for residential solar and will begin transition to Step 10 CSI incentives. This announcement comes after a surge of residential applications were submitted during the months of May and June. Applications that fall into Step 10 will be confirmed at a rebate rate of $0.20/ watt and $0.25/ kWh for EPBB and PBI projects respectively. PG&E reminds the industry that a project's rebate rate is not determined until it is reviewed and ready for confirmation. For more information on the current status of PG&E Step change, please visit http://www.csi-trigger.com.
PowerClerk, the CSI online application tool, has recently been updated to allow applicants the ability to change the system owner information for all third-party owned project applications at the incentive claim stage. Previously, if ownership of a third-party project were to change after the initial reservation and prior to the CSI incentive payment, the applicant had to contact the appropriate Program Administrator (PA) and request the necessary changes be made on their behalf.
The PAs forecast this new feature will save time and money for both the applicant and the CSI team. This is just one of the many ways the Program Administrators have worked and will continue to work to make the application process as efficient as possible.
The CSI Program Administers have noted a recent increase in oversized solar systems – sized to produce more electricity than the project site used in the last year. Generally, CSI does not allow incentives to be paid for solar energy systems that exceed a customer's onsite load, but there are exceptions.
Exceptions for oversized systems are allowed only when the electricity load at the site is expected to increase or when there is not a full twelve months of electricity data available. The situation must be justified in an Electrical System Sizing Documentation form and demonstrated with specific site information.
Any time a solar system is oversized for a justifiable reason, or if the customer's utility data is incomplete, the Electrical System Sizing Documentation should be submitted with the application. If the customer has 12 months of previous data and does not intend to make any future additions, then the purchased system must have an expected annual production equal to or less than the customer's last twelve months of consumption.
However, sometimes customers are told that they will be paid for the energy they generate and sold systems that are larger than their onsite load. This is misleading and sometimes propagated by salespeople looking to sell more panels than a customer needs. While the California Solar Surplus Act, or AB 920, allows for net metering payback, the utility buys the excess electricity at a very low rate (about $0.04/kWh) in comparison to what customers pay for electricity. Information on net surplus compensation is available to solar customers through their utilities.
There are several reasons why the CSI program only incentivizes solar systems that are sized to the site load. Foremost, California's policy is to encourage energy efficiency and always recommends increasing the efficiency of the home before installing a solar system — a practice that saves solar customers money in up-front installation costs. For more information on system sizing, visit the Go Solar California website.
Pacific Gas & Electric's Home Energy Checkup replaces the Energy Analyzer previously available for residential customers. The new tool allows residential customers to easily answer questions about their home and behaviors to receive prioritized recommendations tailored to specifically reduce their energy consumption.
To access the Home Energy Checkup, customers must be logged into My Energy, click on the "Ways to Save" tab and then click on "Get Expert Advice" to launch the survey. After completing the survey, customers download a PDF of the results to use for the CSI application process. While customers are logged into My Energy, they can also review their usage, account billing, payment options, notifications and service requests. Nonresidential customers can continue to use the Energy Analyzer until a new audit tool is released later this year.
Two years ago Frank Walters, formerly a TV news editor, got his first experience with solar photovoltaic systems volunteering at a GRID Alternatives installation in the Central Coast. Since then, Walters has been a dedicated volunteer, driving from his home in the Los Angeles area to installations far up the coast.
His determination to become part of the solar industry paid off when he got a job with First Solar at the Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, a 550-MW solar project expected to power 160,000 homes. In May, Walters laid some of the first of the project's 9 million panels. Two other GRID Alternatives volunteers were also hired at Topaz, the largest solar project under construction in the world.
Walters said he came to GRID Alternatives for the installation experience, but he also loved the feel-good moment when he met one of the program's low-income clients. "You're working with a homeowner that's excited – this may never happen otherwise for them. The workers are excited. It's a win-win for everyone," he said.
Call for Photos and Stories of CSI-Funded Solar Systems
Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos and stories here.
Click to view this email in a browser
If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, California 94102