California Solar Initiative Making Good Progress Thus Far

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week issuedits annual assessment of the California Solar Initiative, a $2.2 billion effort to install 1,940 megawatts(MW) of solar capacity across the state by 2016. On balance, thecommission’s findings are positive:

  • Three years into the state’s 10-year solar program, California isalready 42 percent of the way towards its general market program goal in the territories of the investor-owned utilities. This figure includesboth projects already installed and those currently holding reservations for incentives and in the process of being installed.
  • California has over 600 MW of solar connected to the electric gridat nearly 65,000 customer sites. Of the 598 MW of capacity installed ininvestor-owned utility territories, 342 MW were installed under the CSIProgram at 31,000 sites, as well as 256 MW installed through otherprograms.
  • Demand is increasing. The CSI Program received a record of nearly300 MW of new CSI project applications since January 2010 – more thanany other six-month period since the start of the program.
  • The program had over 134 MW of new projects applying in April 2010,the highest month on record for new solar applications.
  • For every dollar spent on incentives by the state, there has beenanother $2.62 invested in solar technology in California from othersources.
  • Program data shows a decline in the average cost of solar systems.The inflation adjusted cost trends show that prices have declined sinceJanuary 2007 from $10.04/watt to $8.49/watt for systems under 10 kW.
  • The CSI Program has reduced incentive levels several times since2007 in response to program demand. Incentives started at $2.50/wattacross the state, and now they are as low as $0.65/watt.

While the number of California solar installations is growing at adecent rate, however, the state’s three biggest utilities may just misstheir state-mandated renewable energy targets. By 2010, Pacific Gas& Electric Co. (PG&E), Southern California Edison (CSE) and SanDiego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) are supposed to source 20percent of their retail electricity sales via renewable resources, likesolar, wind and geothermal technologies. As the L.A. Times relays, the utilities are likely to end the yearwith a combined figure of 18 percent.

“It’s highly unlikely thatthey’ll make the exact number by the end of this year,” saidCommissioner James D. Boyd with the California Energy Commission, whichis administering the program along with the public utilities agency. “Ihate to be a naysayer, but … even though many contracts have beenentered, the actual construction and thus the delivery of electricityhas lagged.”

In related news, Mercury News last week ran an interview with CPUC President Michael Peevey. Normally I wouldn’trecommend reading interviews with technocrats, which tend to be totalsnooze fests. But this one goes down easy — and is worth a read. Amongthe topics covered: the on-going deployment in California of SmarMeters; the rejection by California voters of Proposition 16; and Peevey’swife’s electric car.

California Solar Initiative Making Good Progress, CPUC Says


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