California Senate Passes Major Clean Energy Bills

By Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry Magazine


Wow! In a single day, the California State Senate passed three major clean energy bills, including one that would establish a 100% renewable portfolio standard (RPS), one that would mandate solar on most new buildings in the state, and one that would create an energy storage rebate program. All three measures now go to the California Assembly for consideration.

In a 25-13 vote on Wednesday, the Senate passed S.B.100, which aims to both accelerate and expand the state’s current 50% by 2030 RPS. The bill, sponsored by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would speed up the renewables mandate to 50% by 2026 and establish an ultimate goal of 100% by 2045.

If it becomes a law, the legislation would put California on par with Hawaii, the only other state with a 100% RPS.

In a press release, de León calls the California measure “the most ambitious target in the world to expand clean energy and put Californians to work” and says it is “critical that we double down” amid climate policy shifts by the Trump administration.

“Regardless of what Washington does, California will show the way forward,” he says. “We are sending a clear message to the rest of the world that no president, no matter how desperately the try to ignore reality, can halt our progress.”

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director for the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), comments, “Transitioning to a 100 percent carbon-free future in an economy the size of California’s requires persistence, commitment and vision. CALSEIA stands at the ready in creating the local jobs, carbon-free electricity, and grid reliability that comes with this cleaner future.”

Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, adds, “Getting 100 percent renewable is 100 percent possible and 200 percent necessary. S.B.100 responds to what survey after survey shows that Californians want: clean energy, clean air and a future for the next generation.”

Also on Wednesday, the California Senate passed two bills sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, to boost clean energy in the state. In a 24-13 vote, the Senate approved S.B.71, legislation that would establish a mandate requiring rooftop solar installations atop most new buildings throughout California.

The statewide requirement would resemble a city mandate Wiener authored and helped pass last year, when he was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and before he became a state senator. Last April, the board unanimously approved a city ordinance requiring new small and midsize buildings in San Francisco to include solar. Smaller California cities, such as Lancaster, also have similar solar mandates.

Under existing California state law, 15% of roof area on all new residential and commercial buildings up to 10 stories tall must be “solar ready,” meaning unshaded and free of obtrusions. As with his San Francisco ordinance, Wiener’s Senate legislation would build on the current state law by mandating that solar actually be installed on the 15% of “solar ready” roof area of new small and midsize buildings in California. That can include either solar photovoltaic or solar water installations.

If it becomes law, S.B.71 would make California the first state in the U.S. to mandate solar installations on new construction.

“Solar is a cost-effective and reliable source of electricity, and S.B.71 will help ensure that it’s installed at the optimum time: when a building is being built,” says Brandon Smithwood, director of California state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This legislation will enable the state to meet its climate goals, while expanding the benefits of solar and its accessibility to even more Californians.”

Susannah Churchill, California director for Vote Solar, says, “California has long led the country on climate action and energy innovation, and we need that kind of leadership today more than ever. This bold solar legislation shows the nation and the world that the Golden State is committed to a clean energy transition that benefits our communities, our economy and our climate.”

In a 23-13 vote Wednesday, the Senate also approved Wiener’s S.B.700, which would establish a new, 10-year Energy Storage Initiative to provide rebates for the installation of energy storage systems.

According to Wiener, the Energy Storage Initiative would be funded by taking the amount of money currently authorized for energy storage under the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) for energy storage (which is set to expire in 2019) and create a separate energy storage program, which will be extended until 2027. With this funding secure for a decade, Wiener says the energy storage market will have certainty and support to develop energy storage technologies, which will make technology more efficient, more effective, and cheaper. Notably, S.B.700 also requires 30% of the rebate program to be reserved for energy storage systems in low-income residential housing and disadvantaged communities, as well as job training and workforce development.

The bill is sponsored by Environment California and supported by over 60 environmental, solar and environmental justice organizations.

“California can continue to lead the clean energy revolution that is cleaning our air and staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” says Dan Jacobson, state director of Environment California. “We can’t continue to use fossil fuels when we have better options. S.B.700 allows solar power to work at night.”

According to Laura Gray, energy storage policy advisor at CALSEIA, the Senate’s passage of S.B.700 “signals that policymakers have a real appetite to create a marketplace for local, customer-sited energy storage.”

Gray says, “This bill takes California’s clean energy economy to the next level by allowing consumers to store renewable energy and use it when they need it most. This will save businesses and schools money, give consumers control over their energy use and ensure that all Californians can participate in our transition to clean, local energy.”

Wiener states, “In California, we are pushing aggressive renewable energy goals because we know that fighting climate change means taking action now. These two bills will push us down the path to 100 percent renewable energy. To meet our goals, we need solar and other renewable energy in every city and neighborhood in California, not just those that can afford it. These bills will transform solar power and energy storage so that all can reap the benefits of clean, renewable energy.”

As previously mentioned, all three of the newly passed bills now head to the California Assembly.


California Assembly Passes Bill To Extend Solar Thermal Incentives

By Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry Magazine

By a vote of 48 to 22, the California State Assembly has passed A.B.797, a bill that would extend consumer incentives for solar thermal technologies. According to the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), the bill is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce natural gas use, meet greenhouse-gas reduction goals and support economic development. It now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

“I am pleased the Assembly took the important step of passing this bill and sending it to the Senate,” says Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, author of the bill. “Using California’s warm sunshine to do something as simple as heating water is sensible for our state and a key way to protect public health, clean up our air, and support local jobs.”

The largest markets for solar thermal technologies, such as solar water heaters, are multi-family housing buildings and commercial swimming pools, such as at schools and community centers. According to CALSEIA, a typical residential solar hot water system can help homeowners reduce up to 80% of their natural gas use for water heating, and costs around $7,500. Under the program extended by A.B.797, consumers would receive a rebate that can be coupled with the 30% federal tax credit to reduce the overall cost of the system.

The bill reported out of the Assembly would extend the existing California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal program for two years to 2020, continuing the program seamlessly. CALSEIA says the California solar thermal market is growing, especially in the multifamily housing sector – with 32% annual growth between 2015 and 2016 in natural gas savings. The bill would also target significant resources for solar thermal on low-income housing and buildings in disadvantaged communities.

“To meet our statewide climate change goals, especially on the heating side of the equation, we need consistent programs that increase access to the sun for California homes and businesses,” comments Kelly Knutsen, senior policy advisor of CALSEIA, co-sponsor of A.B.797. “We thank Assembly member Irwin for her strong leadership on this important issue.”

“There’s no better way to heat our water than by the sun, and A.B.797 is critically needed to promote the continued growth of solar heating technologies,” adds Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California, the other co-sponsor of the bill. “The CSI-Thermal program is an essential part of how we can meet the challenges of our heavy natural gas use and, at the same time, further the state’s greenhouse-gas emission reduction goals.”

According to CALSEIA, solar thermal projects installed under the CSI-Thermal program reduced natural gas use across the state by over 5.6 million therms each year, equal to the annual amount of natural gas used to heat water for roughly 31,500 homes. The program has offset over 30,000 metric tons of CO2(eq) annually, comparable to taking over 6,400 cars off the road each year, the group adds.



Ready For California’s Biggest-Ever Solar & Storage Exhibition?

By Aisha Abdelhamid, Clean Technica

With over 18,000 visitors expected at this year’s solar industry networking events in San Francisco, the July 11 through July 13, 2017, Intersolar North America exhibition and conference will be the most-attended solar-plus-storage event in the United States.

Since establishment in 2008, Intersolar North America takes place annually at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, “in the heart of the United States’ pioneering solar market.”

This not-to-be-missed event will commemorate Intersolar North America’s 10th anniversary in conjunction with its longtime event partner, California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA).

One of the Biggest Renewable Energy Events in 2017

Co-located with Intersolar North America, Electrical Energy Storage North America(ees) will bring together more than 18,000 professionals from the fast-growing energy storage and solar energy industries. ees host exhibitions and conference events focusing on renewable energy storage solutions, from residential and commercial applications to large-scale storage systems designed to stabilize the power grids. Other topics to be featured include energy management, electric transportation, and uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

In addition to Intersolar North America, ees North America is also co-located with SEMICON West at Moscone Center, bringing professionals from the solar, storage, and semiconductor industries together all within one week and in one city.

This engaging conference features 210+ speakers, with over 70 workshops covering solar, storage, microgrids, policy, finance, installation, and future innovation. Not only will you have a chance to learn from industry experts across the solar and storage industries, there is a range of outside activities too! InterSolar and ees are offering unique and fun diversions like daily Tesla factory tours, a sailing tour of San Francisco Bay, a solar winery tour, and, of course, the biggest solar party of the year, Solar Summerfest.

Summerfest will be held at beautiful AT&T Park and will take place on the same night as the MLB All-Star Game, which will be broadcast live on the jumbotron for all to enjoy. The event will offer special tours of AT&T park, special use of the batting cages, custom photobooth baseball trading cards, hosted food and drink stations, and much more!

AWARD Presentations for Exciting Solar & Storage Innovations

Focusing on the innovative technologies and services that make solar power successful worldwide now and into the future, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Intersolar’s flagship AWARD.

The 4th annual ees AWARD presentation will also take place at this year’s exhibition in San Francisco. Recognizing innovative storage solutions driving the energy storage transition, all exhibiting companies from the full value chain of battery and storage technologies are eligible to compete for the prestigious ees AWARD.

Florian Wessendorf, managing director of Solar Promotion International, states, “Our AWARD is a testament to the market’s evolution and highlights the cutting edge of energy storage innovation happening across America and the rest of the world.”


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.”