California

California

Thanks to policy leadership, the Golden State is the most robust and diverse solar market in the United States. The state has more than 8.5 GW of solar capacity currently installed, enough to power nearly two million homes. The growing solar industry currently employs more than 54,000 Californians– the number of solar jobs statewide increased by nearly 16% in 2014 alone.

Rooftop Solar:

With the California Solar Initiative rebate program largely deployed, the state’s strong net metering policy has become increasingly central to California’s continued rooftop solar success. Net metering has allowed more than 250,000 homes, schools and businesses in the state to go solar and reduce their electricity bills, but big utilities are working to halt continued rooftop solar growth by targeting this important solar right.

We won an important victory in October 2013 with the approval of AB 327, a comprehensive rate reform bill that creates more certainty for Californians who want to go solar, but many key specifics of net metering’s future in California will be determined during the bill’s implementation at the CPUC in 2015. We say, the interests of a few monopoly utilities should not outshine the rest of us!

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Shared Solar: 

Vote Solar and our allies were successful in our campaign to pass SB 43 in 2013, shared renewable energy legislation that will create a new program of up to 600 MW for the three large IOUs in California. The program will allow renters and the many other Californians who aren’t able to install solar on their own roofs to participate directly in the state’s growing clean energy economy. We see great potential here to offer a variety of options for IOU customers who want to purchase up to 100 percent of their electricity from an off-site renewable energy system. The CPUC approved a decision in early 2015 that authorizes launch of the IOU shared solar programs later this year, and indicated interest in refining and optimizing the programs going forward.

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Utility Solar:

California has a comprehensive set of policies in place that boost demand for wholesale solar and remove barriers to its deployment, including a strong renewables portfolio standard (RPS) of 33% by 2020.

In order to achieve those renewable energy goals, Vote Solar helped establish a program called the Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM) to buy wholesale power from mid-scale solar energy systems. RAM solicitations are now moving forward for 1300 MW of  projects of up to 20 MW in size. In addition, the CPUC has implemented legislation updating the statewide feed-in tariff program for  projects of 1 to 3 MW in size.  And finally, the three investor-owned utilities in California have also established distributed generation PV programs to help meet their renewable energy requirements.

Vote Solar’s leads for California are Susannah Churchill (susannah@votesolar.org) and Jim Baak (jbaak@votesolar.org).