New California Governor Jerry Brown Calls for Feed-in Tariffs

In an undated posting on Governor Jerry Brown’s campaign web site, the then candidate called for building 12,000 MW of distributed generation out of 20,000 MW of new renewable generation.

Governor Brown specifically calls on the legislature to introduce feed-in tariffs to accomplish this task.

Brown’s position on distributed generation and feed-in tariffs is the most ambitious–and the most specific–of any sitting US Governor.

California has lagged far behind other US states since Brown’s previous tenure as Governor in the early 1980s. At best California produces two percent of its electricity with wind energy and less than one percent from solar energy. Several Midwestern states generate more than seven percent of their electricity with new renewables, mostly wind energy.

12,000 MW of new distributed renewables could produce 15-25 TWh of generation, or about 5%-8% of current consumption. Total new renewables proposed by Brown could generate 30-40 TWh per year for about 10%-13% of consumption.

Below is an excerpt from Brown’s campaign web site titled Jobs for California’s Future. In the campaign’s vernacular, distributed generation is called Localized Electricity Generation.

“My goal is that by 2020, California should produce 20,000 new megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity, and also accelerate the development of energy storage capacity. California can do this by aggressively developing renewables at all levels: small, onsite residential and business systems; intermediate-sized energy systems close to existing consumer loads and transmission lines; and large scale wind, solar and geothermal energy systems. At the same time, California should take bold steps to increase energy efficiency.

Below is my plan to get us there. It will produce a half a million new jobs in research, development, manufacturing, construction, installation, and maintenance over the next decade.

1. Build 12,000 MWs of Localized Electricity Generation

  • California should develop 12,000 megawatts of localized energy by 2020. Localized energy is onsite or small energy systems located close to where energy is consumed that can be constructed quickly (without new transmission lines) and typically without any environmental impact.
  • Solar systems of up to 2 megawatts should be installed on the roofs of warehouses, parking lot structures, schools, and other commercial buildings throughout the state.
  • Solar energy projects up to 20 megawatts in size should be built on public and private property throughout the state. For example, we should create the California Solar Highway by placing solar panels alongside our state highways.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) or Legislature should implement a system of carefully calibrated renewable power payments (commonly called feed in tariffs) for distributed generation projects up to 20 megawatts in size. Holding down overall rates must be part of the design. 
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Paul Gipe  is an author, advocate, and analyst of the renewable energy industry. He has written extensively about the subject for the past four decades, receiving numerous  awards  for his efforts. Gipe has lectured before groups from Patagonia to Puglia, from Tasmania to Toronto, and from Halifax to Husum. He has spoken to audiences as large as 10,000 and as small as a private presentation for Vice President Al Gore. Gipe is well known for his frank appraisal of the promise and pitfalls of wind energy, including his stinging critiques of Internet wonders and the hustlers and charlatans who promote them. He led the campaign to adapt electricity  feed laws  to the North American market—the same policy that has stirred a renewable energy revolution in Germany. His most recent book,  Wind Energy for the Rest of Us , introduces Germany’s electricity rebels to a North American audience for the first time. The book, Gipe’s seventh on wind energy, debunks novel wind turbines, rebukes revisionist historians, and argues that renewable energy is too important to be left to electric utilities.

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