CPUC Assigns Renewables Credits to Owners

By Published On: January 12, 2007

Despite concern that owners of solar or other distributed renewable power installations may reap more than their fair share of economic benefits from ratepayers, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a plan to assign renewable energy credits to those who own the installations. “Owners can choose to retire [the credits] or they can sell them for an additional revenue stream,” explained CPUC president Mike Peevey January 11. He added that in the future it’s likely that the commission will allow utilities to bundle up those credits and apply them toward the utilities’ requirement that 20 percent of their power come from renewable resources. While it was seen as a “Mom and apple pie” vote, commissioner John Bohn waxed cautionary about the cost to ratepayers for the move. “We Californians are paying a high price for all the good we’re doing. Most of the costs are being socialized, while most of the benefits are going to the facilities’ owners.” The credits are a vehicle to value the environmental benefits of renewable energy. The unanimous vote was in the context of implementing the state’s Million Solar Roofs plan, by which California aims to install 3,000 MW of solar power in the next decade. It is expected that a market will grow around renewables credits trading to enhance the value of investing in solar and other renewable distributed energy sources with fewer state and ratepayer subsidies. The commission declined to mandate specific metering requirements, participation in the state’s solar subsidy program, or the commission’s self-generation incentive program to maintain credit ownership. In other commission action January 11, the state’s funds to decommission nuclear power plants were protected against out-of-state or out-of-utility transfer in the case of mergers, acquisitions, and utility bankruptcy. While nuclear waste dump sites are disappearing, the commission refused to increase estimates of the cost of storing radioactive waste on site interminably, leaving the issue to the next decommissioning proceeding in three years. The order does direct Pacific Gas & Electric to proceed with decommissioning the Humboldt Bay plant, which has been shut down since 1976. – J.A. Savage

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