By Don Schultz Key inventions of the 20th Century--the system of central power stations, high voltage transmission lines, and the internal combustion engine--are fading. They are unsustainable artifacts in the 21st Century. In the near-mid term, however, these artifacts will be necessary as backup alternatives until the necessary convergence of renewable-powered, self-generation equipment supplies the bulk of power for buildings and transportation. On-site generated electricity is, in fact, the silver bullet to the conundrums of global warming, energy independence, energy security, and grid vulnerabilities. In California, and increasingly elsewhere, these multiple objectives are addressed (but insufficient) by way of the California Solar Initiative (CSI) and the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). However, there is a missing link. That is, the lack of leadership that focuses on the twin goals of assisting consumers in reducing or eliminating their electricity bills for their residences and businesses, and reducing or eliminating their dependence on internal combustion engine vehicles for personal transportation. In the electric sector, the focus should be on reducing or eliminating electric bills, those bills that still charge for grid-delivered polluting electricity as well as undervalue consumer efforts to produce their own electricity. The so-called \u201cloading order\u201d (regulators\u2019 mandate that renewable electric supplies be used before building fossil-fueled power plants) should include the simultaneous installation of not-yet-undertaken energy efficiency measures alongside the maximum use of available space for on-site clean technologies that produce electricity needed for on-site use. For the near-mid or long-term, it matters not whether energy efficiency measures are taken before, at the time of, or after, the installation of self-generation equipment. Remaining needs of consumers--beyond self-generation--to power buildings can and should come from an increase in the amount of electricity provided to consumers by purveyors of electricity that send it over the central grid. These include renewable energy resources--like central (concentrated) solar power plants (aka Big Solar), central Wind Power Plants (aka Big Wind), geothermal power plants (aka Big Geothermal), and Biomass, both Big and Small. Other non-onsite renewables, such as Wave and Tidal Power, will be a bonus. Such matters are typically addressed in the form of state-based renewable portfolio standards. In the vernacular of the on-going effort to restructure California energy markets, these standards apply to Load Serving Entities (LSEs). However, such entities--currently the majority providers of electricity--need to become the minority providers of renewables-based electricity to residences and businesses who are transitioning toward a zero electric and emissions-free bill. In the transportation sector, the focus should be on reduced use of vehicles with internal combustion engines for personal transportation needs that rely on petroleum-based or \u201cbiofuel\u201d fuels that push food prices up, as well as require a lot of fossil fuels to grow, transport, and distribute for use. To paraphrase and expand on the \u201crules of transport\u201d of Ed Begley, Jr,: \u201cWalking is No. 1. Bicycle is No. 2. Public transportation is three. Electric car--people think that\u2019s my No. 1 way of getting around. That\u2019s No. 4. Hybrid car is number five.\u201d A restructured and re-ordered \u201cloading order\u201d in transportation would put as Number 6, the selective infrastructure build-out of refueling stations\/pumps at existing gasoline stations to accommodate (mostly) fleet vehicles and trucks that run on biofuels or use fuel-cell powered vehicles to move goods At this time, the distributed generation silver bullet lies with the various kinds of \u201crooftop\u201d solar electric technologies--from conventional photovoltaics to Building Integrated PV (BIPV) for residential applications (materials that produce electricity from the sun by way of roofing or glass-window materials instead of traditional roofing or glass window material). For non-residential applications--especially small and medium commercial buildings and the agricultural sectors--add clean-fueled combined heat and power (CHP) technologies, known as cogeneration--stationary fuel cells and micro-turbines that produce electricity and heat (and cooling, by way of absorption chillers) and anaerobic digesters on farms that use the captured methane gas to provide onsite electricity and heat for food processing. Surplus electricity, which is likely to be produced from the latter could and should be made available to near-by agricultural operations. All of the CHP technologies must, in California, meet or exceed the California Air Resources Board requirements for local emission standards. In California, and increasingly in the Southwest, the public policy requisites to accomplish this transition are in the works. Consumer demand--with the support of local governments--is pushing state governments; the elements of California\u2019s AB 32 enable (or require per Attorney General Jerry Brown) local governments to meet or exceed state standards. State governments, by way of incentives for energy efficiency and on-site solar projects, are pushing the federal government. The federal government\u2019s policies of denial and retrenchment regarding global warming are not sustainable in the face of public opinion-driven pressures, at home or abroad. If someone created a \u201cnational loading order\u201d policy analysis that integrated both the electric generation and transportation sectors, it would look like a solid bottoms-up, grass roots effort, with consumers (and producers) of clean electricity being the leaders and winners. Such an effort is well underway in California, but will be significantly enhanced by some reform to \u201cnet metering\u201d regulations, such as contained in the recently proposed AB 1920. This bill would lift the (current arbitrary and unjustified) caps on net metering from on-site solar at the \u201cproject\u201d level; a result would be that owners of CSI\/SGIP-funded projects would be able to produce enough electricity for both building and transportation energy needs. Additional legislation will be necessary in California and elsewhere to lift or remove the current arbitrary and unjustified net metering caps imposed at the utility-service territory level. Such caps will need to be lifted anyway to meet the 3,000 MW statewide goal of the CSI. The recently established net metering cap of 400 MW for California\u2019s version of a \u201cfeed-in tariff\u201d aimed at dairy farms is another example of a barrier imposed by the Incumbents (the utilities and the CPUC) to restrict the ability of consumers of electricity to become masters of their own energy future. Caps (on good things such as the terms and conditions for net metering and renewables portfolio standard requirements) should be eliminated. Such reform is necessary for the possibilities to emerge--the possibility of the consumers of energy to become the producers of their own energy, and share any surplus with fellow consumers who are not yet capable. --Don Schultz is a Division of Ratepayer Advocates senior analyst. The views in this editorial are not those of the DRA or California Public Utilities Commission.