Energy Commission Approves Solar Program Changes & Gas Safety Grants

28 Aug 2014

The California Energy Commission this week took another step to promote solar installations under its New Solar Homes Partnership program.

It also signed off on grants totaling $623,000 for technologies to monitor the safety of natural gas infrastructure.

The commission unanimously approved changes to the solar program’s guidebook during the Aug. 27 meeting, including reiterating that the Energy Commission is the sole program administrator.

At its July 22 business meeting, the commission turned the program’s administration over to its staff, terminating agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison as part of a streamlining effort.

The program, which was established in January 2007 with a goal to install 360 MW of solar generating capacity on new homes and residential buildings by 2016, provides financial incentives for installing solar energy systems on new homes and apartments.

Other changes to the guidebook approved this week include: • Extending the time to provide documentation confirming that a project meets the requirements of a utility new construction energy efficiency program.

• Allowing the Energy Commission’s executive director to approve time extensions for projects under specified circumstances, along with revisions to requirements related to timing of solar permits and certificates of occupancy.

• Extending the time period within which the executive director must issue a decision on an appeal from 30 days to 60 days.

The Energy Commission also unanimously approved natural gas safety grants of more than $600,000 to three entities.

The U.S Geological Survey is to receive $328,000 for bi-monthly surveys of levee roads in the Delta that account for about 1,700 kilometers of “high-priority energy infrastructure zones,” according to the commission.

The remainder is to be roughly split between Physical Sciences Inc. of Pleasanton for the development of miniature methane laser sensors to detect pipeline leaks, and Palios Corporation of Santa Clara to test an ultrasonic measurement system.

Also approved midweek were $6 million in loans—$3 million each to the City of Los Angeles and Hartnell Community College District—for each to complete energy efficiency projects.

The college district loan, which is at zero percent interest, is for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures at the Hartnell College main campus. The measures include boiler upgrades and installing solar photovoltaic panels.

The project’s estimated to save the college 1,919,095 kWh and 3,671 therms, resulting in annual energy cost savings of $228,531.

Based on the loan amount, the payback is about 13.1 years.

The loan to Los Angeles, which carries 1 percent interest, is so the city can retrofit inefficient streetlights with light emitting diodes. Upon completion, the project is expected to save the city about 2,238 MWh and $282,956 annually. In addition, the project’s anticipated to reduce 576 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions every year.

The payback timeframe is 10.6 years.

The loan was one of two Los Angeles-related items on the agenda, the other being commission approval of the city of Los Angeles’ locally adopted building energy standards, which require greater efficiency than the state’s 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards.

The meeting also saw the Energy Commission approve about $1 million in grants to applicants seeking to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure along California highway corridors, and at workplaces, apartment buildings and elsewhere. Grants of about $500,000 each went to the County of Sonoma and a company called Corridor Power.

The county said it plans to use its grant to renovate 10 existing electric vehicle chargers and deploy three new electric vehicle chargers in Sonoma County. Corridor Power said it plans to deploy a fast-charging plaza consisting of 10 electric vehicle fast chargers in the northern San Diego County city of Encinitas.

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