June 7, 2012

California Assembly passes FiT bill for disadvantaged communities

On May 30th, 2012 the California Assembly passed a bill to create a feed-in tariff (FiT) system specifically for disadvantaged communities in the state. The bill still needs the approval of the California Senate and California Governor Jerry Brown to become law.

AB 1990, the "Solar for All" bill, would create a FiT system with a project size cap of 500 kW, minimum 20-year contracts, and program cap of 375 MW by 2020. A number of program details, including rates, will be determined by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and local utilities.

"AB 1990 is an important first step to ensure that all communities benefit from renewable energy in California," states Assembly member Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), the bill's lead sponsor. "Currently, communities of color have potential to benefit from renewable energy, but unfortunately lack access."

"AB 1990 would start changing the status quo. This bill addresses financing barriers to starting clean and green technology projects by directing the Public Utilities Commission to create a uniform contract and pricing structure for these projects and targets communities impacted by environmental pollution."

Backing from host of environmental organizations
The bill will now go to the California Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications, after which it will go before the full California Senate.
The bill is backed by a wide range of environmental organizations including the Sierra Club California, Natural Resources Defense Council and Union of Concerned Scientists, and was sponsored by the California Environmental Justice Alliance.

Wide range of eligible technologies
The bill includes a number of eligible technologies, including photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal electric, wind, energy storage, and a wide range of other renewable and unconventional technologies. It should be noted that the project size cap would make solar thermal electric (CSP) plants, with the exception of micro-CSP, impractical.

CPUC to consider access to federal tax subsidies
Energy policy expert Paul Gipe of Wind-Works notes that it is not clear whether AB 1990 directs the CPUC to set tariffs in two bands for those living in disadvantaged communities who can use federal tax subsidies and those who cannot, but that the bill directs the CPUC to take this into account.
If passed, the program will launch in 2014.

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