Growing renewable energy supplies in California depends upon establishing transparent, long-term prices and terms, according to state policy makers. \u201cFeed-in tariffs will be an extremely important part of implementing the 33 percent renewable portfolio standard,\u201d said Jackie Pfannenstiel, California Energy Commission chair, during a December 1 workshop discussing strategies for developing the tariffs, which offer a steady stream of income to alternative power projects. A feed-in tariff involves paying a set price for renewable supplies over several years, which can include a subsidy--as in Europe. It is akin to fixed mortgage rates. This tariff also includes public, standard contract terms, avoiding closed-door negotiations between utilities and renewable energy developers. Last month, the governor called for increasing the renewable mandate from one-fifth of utility power portfolios to one-third of their power supplies. The head of the state Senate vowed to get a bill passed by the end of March to make the higher renewable standard a legislative mandate (Circuit, Nov. 21, 2008). Pfannenstiel and others pointed to the shortcomings in the investor-owned utilities\u2019 renewable procurement practices and financial difficulties for renewable energy developers. Utilities admitted repeatedly they will fall short of the state\u2019s mandate to have 20 percent of their power supplies come from wind, solar, biomass and other non-fossil resources by 2010. Much of the shortfall was attributed to secret contracts that utilities signed with renewable developers that fell by the wayside. One of the advantages of feed-in tariffs is that they apply to renewable generation that can interconnect to the grid, but do not necessarily need new transmission lines. \u201cOnce it is interconnected, we move beyond debate of phantom projects,\u201d said Steven Kelly, Independent Energy Producers policy director. The Energy Commission urges the adoption of feed-in tariffs because of the surge in alternative power resources in European countries that set public, long-term prices for power from various types of renewable resources able to hook into the existing grid. The tariffs are credited with opening the financing door to renewable developers because they guarantee a price over several years and avoid the cost and time required in working out contracts. \u201cYou can\u2019t get financing until you get a contract,\u201d said Craig Lewis, vice president of customer relations for Greenvolt, a San Francisco-based company that develops concentrated solar photovoltaic projects. \u201cWith a feed-in tariff, a contract is de facto.\u201d The Energy Commission is grappling with what size projects should be entitled to feed-in tariffs--up to 20 MW, those above 20 MW, or all projects, and how best to determine what price to set for photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind, biomass and other renewable resources. Renewable energy developers were not in agreement as to what size projects should qualify for the feed-in tariffs. Private and public utilities oppose mandated feed-in tariffs. The Sierra Club insisted there be no size limit in the number or amount of megawatts covered by a feed-in tariff. \u201cGoing small when learning how to get our feet wet will increase the probability of failure,\u201d said the Sierra Club\u2019s Rick Pingell. The commission wants tariffs that set long-term prices and contract terms for renewable projects to dovetail with ones that fall within the transmission corridors recommended by the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative. Commission members and utility, renewable and environmental representatives also debated the best strategy for how and when to ratchet down power prices in response to a more robust renewable industry and economies of scale. Also under debate was when to launch feed in tariffs. IEP\u2019s Kelly urged the commission not to wait for new transmission to be built. He said a feed-in tariff should allow use of existing high-voltage lines to be maximized, and should be in place while new transmission is being built to transport additional renewable energy. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is launching a feed-in tariff for solar projects under a proposed ballot (see story at page 10). The price for photovoltaic power is estimated to start around 30 cents a kilowatt and drop over time to 17 cents kW. Southern California Edison said it was planning to expand its current standard offer contract beyond biomass projects to include other renewable projects and cap it at 20 MW.