CALSEIA’s Priorities for 2009

Last year I reported that CALSEIA’s 2008 agenda included extending the federal tax credit, publishing a PV Fire Guideline, implementing the Solar Water Heating Efficiency Act and addressing an assortment of other regulatory and legislative objectives. CALSEIA sponsored a feed-in tariff bill in 2008, which did a lot to educate the legislature and policymakers in California about the possible market opportunity, but this bill did not make it to the Governor’s desk.

Here are some of CALSEIA’s key accomplishments:

  • Published guidelines from the State Architect for permitting PV and Thermal projects at schools.

  • Completed change in energy efficiency regulations affecting solar pool heating systems.

  • Defeated Proposition 7 — which would have excluded projects of less than 30 MW from counting toward the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

  • Successfully helped pass legislation to strengthen the California Solar Rights Act, removing the requirement that rebate recipients must take time-of-use rates and extending the state’s property tax exclusion for solar.

CALSEIA also worked on other legislation, in particular a bill that adds consumer disclosures for residential power purchase agreements and leases.

New Business

For 2009, we will focus unfinished business from 2008 and we will add new agenda items. Below are highlights of what you can expect CALSEIA to work on this year:

  • Address the problems with local permitting. CALSEIA will step up its efforts to work with local governments to address the permitting issues. With a focus on safety first, CALSEIA will work to ensure that the requirements and fees are appropriate and reasonable for solar projects.

  • Simplify incentives. CALSEIA will continue its efforts to reduce the amount of time and effort necessary to file rebate applications and process incentive claims. We want to ensure that the focus of the industry is on high quality installations and customer satisfaction. Less time on paper will help everyone involved with administering incentive programs.

  • Perform ethics training to address unscrupulous company activities. With all the positive press about solar it is bound to attract less than savory opportunists. The long-term success of the solar industry is directly related to the long-term satisfaction of its customers. CALSEIA will continue to educate customers about solar technologies and benefits and criteria that they should use to make a wise purchase decision. We will also point customers to the appropriate enforcement agencies when problems arise.

  • Improved training and standards. CALSEIA will partner with organizations to improve efficiencies — from permitting to installation. These activities will help lower the non-hardware costs of installations.

  • Monitor and participate in activities that are already underway, specifically,

    • Solar Water Heating Incentive Program for California. CALSEIA is working hard to implement the program that was enacted by the California Legislature in late 2007. An evaluation of the San Diego Solar Water Heating Pilot Program is due in January 2009 which we hope will help the California Public Utilities Commission implement the statewide program as quickly as possible.

    • New reports due out in 2009 — the California Public Utilities Commission will issue an evaluation of the California Solar Initiative in July 2009 and issue reports on Net Metering and Distributed Generation in January 2010.

    • PV Guideline. CALSEIA will continue to refine the PV Guideline and work with local Fire Marshals to ensure that they are educated in the technology. We are definitely experiencing education issues with our fire service colleagues (we’ve had to address myths like “PV panels generate energy at night”). Making sure fire departments have good information and educational resources are important to their safety — a high priority for CALSEIA.

  • Local Initiatives. CALSEIA will continue to engage in local activities that impact the market for solar. Specifically:

    • Los Angeles Solar Plan. CALSEIA will work to ensure that the comprehensive Los Angeles Solar Plan (which includes a feed-in tariff, solar water heating, financing, low income programs and utility-scale generation) will be a success.

    • Marin Community Choice Aggregation. CALSEIA will work to ensure that the plan proposed for Marin County to bypass its local utility (PG&E) includes solar and other renewable energy technology. The current proposal does not include solar — utility scale or distributed!

    • Local Property Tax Financing Initiatives. Berkeley’s much hailed financing program was funded as a pilot demonstration program. Other communities have moved to replicate the Berkeley program before the demonstration is complete. CALSEIA will work to educate local governments that are in the process of replicating the Berkeley program to include energy efficiency and solar water heating in the financing program. Berkeley’s program did not include these important energy saving measures but Palm Desert did — so we will work to ensure that these new financing mechanisms apply to PV, Solar Thermal and energy efficiency.

  • Large Scale Solar. CALSEIA will continue to partner with its valued colleagues in other organizations to assist the implementation of permit streamlining and transmission access for large scale solar.

  • Legislation. CALSEIA’s priority for 2009 is the successful enactment of a “feed-in tariff” (FIT, also called a standard offer contract) for distributed solar generation. Principles of the feed-in tariff that CALSEIA envisions are shown in this table:

CALSEIA Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Principles

Applies to

  • Investor Owned Utilities

  • Publicly Owned Utilities

Tariff Rates Differentiated

  • Technology Specific

  • Project size (i.e., similar to SCE Biomass contracts, <1MW, 1-5 MW, 5-20MW)

Tariff Rates include value for

  • Locational attributes

  • Environmental attributes

  • Time of Delivery (utility specific)

  • Other values (congestion mitigation, etc.)

Tariff Rate levels

  • Establish a base procurement level

  • Technology specific rates diminish over time based on established periodic CPUC review (locational and environmental attributes would persist). The CPUC review should allow for sufficient time to elapse to measure response and establish the market

REC Ownership

  • Utilities may acquire the RECs associated with the generation purchased

  • REC value should not be required to be bundled in the tariff

  • REC values for generation used on site remain with the project owner

GHG Emission Credits

  • Utilities may acquire the GHG creditss associated with the generation purchased

  • GHG value should not be required to be bundled in the tariff

  • GHG values for generation used on site remain with the project owner

Project size

  • Any size up to 20 MW

Contract lengths

  • 10-, 15-, and 20-year contracts

Contract terms

  • Standard Must-Take contract

Net metering

  • FIT projects not eligible for net metering

  • Projects selling kWh to a utility may not be net metered

  • Customers may procure and operate separate net metered systems for their own on-site use

Meter aggregation

  • Not applicable to a FIT — this is a net metering issue

Project ownership

  • No restriction on ownership (i.e., utility owned, site owned, power purchase agreement, leased, etc.)


  • Project participates in CalISO Intermittent Resource Program (PIRP)

Project performance

  • Contract must specify generation capacity and power factors

Project construction guarantees

  • Minimal — letter of commitment from product supplier

Other incentives

  • FIT projects are not eligible for ratepayer incentives

Rule 21 compliant

  • If Rule 21 compliant, utility pays for system upgrades, developer pays for interconnection costs

  • If not Rule 21 compliant, utility provides estimate for distribution upgrades, developer pays for both upgrades and interconnection costs

Contract termination

  • Customer may elect a rate available at the termination of the contract


  • Simplicity

  • Speed of transaction

Reservation queue

  • 24-month reservation with milestones at 12-month and 18-month to drop out projects that are not progressing

CALSEIA will continue to educate policymakers and the general public about the paths to market for solar generation and work to ensure that those paths are clear to add new solar generation. Click here to see a diagram of the paths to market for solar electric generation in California. The diagram illustrates the gap for projects that are less than 20 MW that CALSEIA hopes to address legislatively this year.

This year will be a busy one for CALSEIA. Thanks to the support of its members, CALSEIA’s mission to expand the use of all solar technologies in California and establish a sustainable industry for a clean energy future will not be an impossible dream.

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CALSEIA was formed in 1978 to represent manufacturers, distributors and installation contractors doing solar energy-related business in California. It represents solar companies' interests at the California legislature and state energy/regulatory agencies. CALSEIA is led by a member-elected board of directors and its executive director, Mignon Marks.

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