At Intersolar this week, I spoke on camera with Craig Lewis who is the Executive Director of the CLEAN coalition, a group that seeks to bring feed-in tariffs (FITs) to utilities across the country. Except the programs aren’t called FITs anymore, instead they are calling them CLEAN programs. CLEAN stands for “clean, local, energy accessible now” and careful thought was put into each word.
Lewis explained the original “rebranding” was conceived by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund who believed that Americans are not comfortable with the word “tariff.” The group found through research that Americans are particularly interested in things that are “clean” and “local” and “accessible.”
For a refresher, a FIT is program in which a developer installs some form of renenwable energy capacity at a location that s/he owns. The utility then agrees to pay a set above-market price to the developer for all of the renewable energy that is produced at that location for a contracted amount of time, usually 20 years. FIT prices are determined through a complicated process that looks at the renewable energy generation resource, traditional electricity rates and other factors to determine what price will spur just the right amount of development in a state or region.
Lewis is extremely excited about the growth of CLEAN programs across the country and outlined where they are already in place and where he expects them to pass in the very near future. It’s many more locations than you might think.
The program particularly targets wholesale distributed generation (WDG) – that is, larger commercial rooftops or apartment buildings. These rooftops are perfect for CLEAN programs, explains Lewis, because net-metering doesn’t always make sense (since there are often multiple tenets). Lewis believes that utilities should be looking at WDG over central station solar power because with it, the utility only needs to worry about distribution upgrades to the grid as opposed to transmission upgrades.
There are still many small policy and regulatory tweaks that need to take place in order for the U.S. to fully embrace CLEAN programs, Lewis explained, however he doesn’t foresee a lot of obstacles. He is fully confident that California will be able to enact a statewide CLEAN program before the end of this year.
The video is long but worth a watch if you’re interested in seeing more FITs…or CLEAN programs, I should say…in America. Check it out below.