Get Off My Lawn
Join Date: Aug 2006
Member # 77386
Location: Little Rock, AR
The California Solar Mandate
Lots of spin surrounding this story. Hilarious reading conservative vs progressive news outlets about this one. This seems to be pretty neutral though.
California has been working for nearly seven months on a plan to mandate solar on the roofs of all new-build homes starting in 2020. While the initial fanfare surrounding the bill took place in May, it didn’t become, in the words of Kelly Knutsen, “officially official” until yesterday. Knutsen, Director of Technology Advancement for the California Solar & Storage Association, agreed to talk to SolarWakeup about the mandate: what it means and where the California solar industry will go from here.
SolarWakeup: We thought this was a done deal. What was the vote about today?
Kelly Knutsen, director of technology advancement for the California Solar & Storage Association (Knutsen):There was always the small asterisk that the final part of the process for updating the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards is that the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) had to officially sign off on the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) May 9 vote to update the standards. As the CBSC explained before the discussion, the CBSC confirms that the CEC followed all the proper procedures in developing their updated rule. This is done every three years as one final check on the process to ensure everything is done appropriately. CBSC’s hearing and final vote yesterday confirmed the rigorous process.
SolarWakeup: How many new homes will this affect per year?
Knutsen: California on average builds 80,000 homes per year, per this California Department of Housing and Community Development report. There are exceptions for shading (the code is flexible for these types of instances), so technically not all new homes built will have solar, but 80,000 is a good estimate of the number of new homes every year that will now have solar installed.
SolarWakeup: What affect will this have on solar penetration in California
Knutsen: Each year there are roughly 120,000 solar installs on homes and buildings, and of those installations, currently only 15,000 are on new homes. (FYI — In 2016, there were 149,422 residential solar projects installed (both new and retrofit homes. It’s been on the order of 120,000 to 150,000 annually for past couple years). So, this new rule will see an increase from 15,000 to 80,000 new solar homes (65,000) each year. If retrofit stays the same, that increases overall installations to 185,000 per year, or 54% increase over the current 120,000 installs per year.
SolarWakeup Is the grid ready to handle the influx of distributed solar?
Knutsen: Yes. The grid already safely and reliably interconnects 120,000 to 150,000 residential solar installations each year, so adding another 65,000 each year is on the order of existing installations. In fact, the addition of distributed energy resources has been shown to actually decrease the need for additional transmission lines. PG&E, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, cancelled 13 transmission projects saving ratepayers $192 million – thanks to the growth of solar – making the additional ratepayer costs unnecessary. In addition, in Fresno, the rapid growth of solar has California officials reconsidering the need for a major new transmission line, which is projected to cost between $115 and $145 million to build. Finally, the new standards include a solar plus storage option, which if given the proper price signals, will provide benefits to both the grid and the consumer.
SolarWakeup: How will this affect utilities in the state?
Knutsen: I think the position of the utilities was best summarized in quotes from Julia Pyper’s GTM article on the new standards. In her article, Erik Takayesu, director of grid modernization, planning and technology at Southern California Edison said “[w]hen we look at what we need in the future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to get to the state’s goals of 40 percent below 1990 levels, there needs to be a lot more carbon-free resources that supply energy to the grid, and so we think that this is one component of that.” When discussing the impact to the grid, he added “[b]ut when we look across the system more holistically, when we consider the amount of electrification that’s needed with transportation, electric transportation, building electrification, we think that there will be some offset to the amount of solar that we’re seeing.”
SolarWakeup: Is the next goal to mandate energy storage and, if so, how soon will that discussion start?
Knutsen: The next goal on storage is to make it cheaper, easier and faster to install across the state. Discussions to make that happen are already underway and that will require work on multiple fronts. The state legislature just approved an extension of funding for storage incentives, and the state is working with local governments on ways to streamline the permitting processes through the implementation of AB 546. We worked hard to make the case for the inclusion of the solar plus storage option in the code, which we see as a very important step towards having all homes and businesses in California install storage – a goal we need to achieve in order to meet our ambitious climate change goals.
SolarWakeup: What advice would you give to other states that want to consider doing what California has done? What’s the most important lesson you learned through this process?
Knutsen: The key to California’s success was a well-known, inclusive and rigorous stakeholder process, with good debate, data and analysis from all parties. Like most things in life, building up working relationships over time can achieve good results that work well for all parties. The underlying framework was also there. State laws were passed over time (dating back to the 1970s) that established a state-agency-led process for increasing the energy efficiency of California’s buildings. Having a state agency implement the measure through a known three-year process developed strong buy-in from all stakeholders. Taking it in step-wise manner also helped. Solar was first option for compliance with codes (as was done in earlier versions of the standards) and then once determined to be cost-effective across all climate zones in the state it became a requirement. Flexibility for compliance, such as an understanding about shading, is important to include in a solar requirement. And finally, going back to the point at the top, make sure that it will be implemented. That means having key stakeholders like the solar industry and building community closely engaged in the process and on board with complying gives confidence that the codes will not just be paper on the books, but will provide real direction for real homes that will be built with solar.