California Energy Storage Rebate Bill Advances In Senate

By Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry Magazine

The California Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee approved a bill last week that would require the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to establish an Energy Storage Initiative that provides rebates for the installation of energy storage systems.

S.B.700, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would mandate that California utilities create an Energy Storage Initiative by December 2018 and submit a budget for approval. Under the legislation, utilities would collect a specified annual amount of funding from 2018 through the end of 2027 to fund rebates for customer-sited energy storage systems. In addition, S.B.700 would dedicate up to 25% of the funds collected to low-income communities and job training.

California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), which publicly supports the bill, says the legislation would create a marketplace for local energy storage to bring down prices and ensure access to storage for schools, businesses and consumers across the state.

“This bill allows the sun to shine at night by encouraging Californians to produce on-site solar power during the day and use energy storage to deploy that clean energy when most needed,” says Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director OF CALSEIA. “Getting California to a zero-carbon future will require an unbelievable amount of storage to manage renewables on the grid, and this bill is a key piece to that puzzle.”

CALSEIA says much like the California Solar Initiative that transformed the solar PV market, this bill would create a declining rebate system to encourage businesses to bring down prices and invest in the state’s renewable future. California’s behind-the-meter storage market is in a similar position as that of PV a decade ago. This bill would provide stable, long-term and multi-faceted policy support to ensure storage becomes a mainstream and commonplace technology, according to CALSEIA.

“Not only does this bill encourage more private investment in our long road to 100 percent renewable energy, but it ensures access to storage technology around the state,” says Del Chiaro. “This bill will also provide benefits for all ratepayers by avoiding costly transmission and distribution upgrades and will move the state away from natural gas plant investments.”

The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

With the advancement of S.B.700, Del Chiaro says, “policymakers are showing signs of a real appetite to create a marketplace for local, customer-sited energy storage. Environmental groups, consumer groups, workforce training, low-income advocates and businesses see the value of storage.”

However, she notes, “This bill is building momentum, but it is a long road to the governor’s desk.”