When Arizona regulators allowed the state’s biggest utility to charge a special fee on residential customers with solar panels in 2013, the decision was groundbreaking. Now utilities across the country are making similar moves.
The new proposal calls for a return to two tiers, plus a surcharge for the highest electricity users. The rate structure would impact 75 percent of California’s residential customers, or more than 10 million electricity accounts held through Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
California regulators are considering a new way for residents to pay for electricity, imposing a charge on the greatest energy users while narrowing price gaps for everyone else.
The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar power project in California’s Mojave Desert is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. But 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to data from the U.S. Energy Department.
If the subsidies shrink, the state’s solar-induced economic growth spurt – which has produced jobs, corporate profits and lower electric bills for homeowners and businesses – also could sputter.
For 90 minutes, clean energy production was slashed 1,142 megawatts, enough electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes, while dirtier power from less flexible sources stayed on to keep the system stable. . . It was the largest curtailment of green energy last year, according to grid operators, and it highlights a hurdle for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to increase the state’s reliance on renewable energy. Peak demand for electricity rarely coincides with the brightest sunshine or the strongest winds, so finding a way to store clean power and deliver it when needed will be critical as California relies more on renewable energy.
“I hate to say this, but there’s no such thing as ‘green energy,’” says Doug Bell, a wildlife program manager for the East Bay Regional Park District who’s witnessed the deaths of hawks, owls, falcons, meadowlarks, robins and golden eagles. He and other environmentalists blame wind turbines for 10,000 bird deaths per year.
That’s according to Santiago Seage, chief executive of the Spanish-owned Abengoa Solar, which owns the embattled project. Seage told the trade journal Recharge News that without an extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar plants, his company won’t have the security it needs to invest in building the project.
The move — which means another loss of a publicly held company for the capital region — was effective Wednesday. But it is not a surprise.
Jobs in the the solar sector have jumped 86% since 2010 and employment is expected to continue to rise in 2015 and 2016, although an expiring tax credit may stunt growth, according to the report. . . About 62% of installation firms said they would lay off workers once the 30% federal investment tax credit expires and reverts to 10% in 2017.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is providing significant assistance with electric rates to 10 California employers so they can keep, expand or launch new operations in California rather than leave the state. In just over four months, the utility’s new Economic Development Rate, which was approved by state regulators this spring at PG&E’s request, has already saved or potentially added a total of 861 jobs in the state.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday unveiled a proposed roadmap for developing massive solar and wind projects in California’s Mojave Desert while trying to minimize damage to desert habitat and animals. The plan — covering 22 million acres of public and private land— follows a renewable-energy building boom in southeastern California’s Mojave desert during the first term of the Obama administration, when the federal government gave billions of dollars in loans to developers siting sprawling, utility-scale solar projects in virgin desert.
PG&E residential customers can expect a 5.8 percent increase in their gas and electricity bills starting in September after approval by state regulators Thursday of the utility’s request for rate hikes.
One would think that the nearly universal experience of buying electricity – not to mention its indispensable economic importance – would make politicians reluctant to mess with it.
But one would be wrong. The Capitol’s denizens incessantly tinker with the state’s power system, usually in ways that cost consumers more money. And it’s why Californians are already paying power rates that are among the nation’s very highest and headed even higher very soon.
The California Public Utilities Commission has paid bonuses to what it calls “California suppliers” totaling $52 million. Of that sum, nearly $39 million has gone to one company, Bloom Energy Corp., based in Sunnyvale.