May 30, 2024 - 

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today expanded and improved its existing community solar programs and launched a new community renewable energy program that will allow California to capture millions of dollars in state and federal funding, including the Solar For All grant recently awarded to California by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through support of the Biden Administration.

The Decision doubles the program capacity of the Disadvantaged Community Green Tariff Program (DAC-GT), which is a community solar program that allows low-income customers living in disadvantaged communities to subscribe to a pool of solar projects and receive a guaranteed 20 percent electricity bill subsidy. This program is funded through electricity bills and cap and trade funds.

The Decision also improves the design the of the Green Tariff Program, which allows customers of any income level, as well as commercial customers, to subscribe to a pool of community solar projects, without any cross-subsidies from other customers. The Decision also launches a new community solar program that will allow interested customers to subscribe to a singular solar project. The program is designed to minimize costs to all customers, consistent with direction in Assembly Bill 2316, while providing a mechanism to capture external state and federal funding opportunities.

Key Highlights of the Decision

  • Disadvantaged Community Green Tariff Program
    • The Decision expands the current program to 144 megawatts (MWs) up from 60 MWs.
    • With over 23,000 customers already enrolled and 23 solar contracts signed, today’s Decision is expected to benefit approximately 45,000 additional customers and facilitate 45 new solar projects.
    • The Decision also expands the geographic boundaries of a disadvantaged community to allow for more eligible projects that serve low-income customers.

  • Green Tariff Program
    • The Decision enhances the existing program, which is available to both commercial and any residential customer located in an investor-owned utility territory.
    • The new improvements will help to stabilize the charges or credits for the program and align it with other clean energy procurement efforts.
    • The Decision allows battery storage to be paired with solar projects and creates a pathway for potential expansion beyond the program capacity cap.

  • New Community Renewable Energy Program
    • The Decision launches a new Community Renewable Energy Program that will be available for customers of all income levels, as well as commercial customers.
    • 51 percent of each project’s program capacity is dedicated to low-income subscribers, with the rest of the capacity open to other types of subscribers.
    • Community choice aggregators are allowed to participate in the program.
    • The Decision sets the amount of compensation for solar exports to the grid at costs avoided by each project, with additional compensation and customer subsidies from state and federal funding that does not add costs to electricity bills.
    • A Ruling in this proceeding will be issued shortly to collect feedback from parties on the development of the details of the program, including additional compensation for projects from state and federal funds.

The Decision implements the Legislature’s direction to minimize impacts to customers that do not participate in the new community solar program by prohibiting the program’s costs from exceeding the cost for a utility to purchase the electricity from elsewhere. This statutory direction recognizes that community solar programs are funded through customer electricity bills, and, especially in light of rising electricity bills in California, these programs should be consistent with other efforts underway to reach a 100 percent clean energy future as affordably as possible. Outside of these programs, since January 2020 alone, California has added 10,800 MWs of new clean energy projects to the grid through competitive solicitations, solidifying California’s leadership in pursuing a sustainable energy future.

California also leads the nation in solar deployment, with 35,000 MWs of installed solar capacity providing nearly 30 percent of the state’s electricity generation, compared to a national average of 5 percent. California’s solar capacity also exceeds the peak demand of the entire system on many days of the year. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) recently reported that that on May 13, 2024, actual solar energy output hit a new record high of nearly 19 gigawatts, enough to power millions of homes.

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