Over the past ten years, California homeowners and commercial property owners have installed more rooftop solar than any other state, with about 3,000 MW of solar photovoltaic interconnected to the grid. At the same time, California also leads the nation with about 8,000 MW of large solar projects installed, often in fairly remote desert locations, in the State. There is much excitement about the continued growth of so-called “distributed energy resources” – rooftop solar, small battery storage systems, and control technologies that enable “demand response” or promote energy efficiency. Many stakeholders support the development of a more complex distribution grid, where customers both use and produce energy. Some claim such a grid provides cost and environmental benefits compared to the model of a central power station and a grid distributing power one way to the consumer.
TURN takes a pragmatic approach to this issue. Our overarching goal is to produce the cleanest power system at the lowest possible cost. In California, due to the incredible solar and wind resources located away from metropolitan areas, it is not obvious that building a very large number of small resources on individual roofs and in individual homes makes economic sense. Large solar power generation has almost achieved “grid parity,” producing solar for about 5 to 8 cents per kilowatthour. The same is not yet true for rooftop solar, which costs more simply because one has to install separate systems on many roofs.
TURN supports developing cost effective distributed resources where they makes sense. We believe solar produced on rooftops should be paid a fair price, taking into account that it is renewable energy that does not require transmission lines. However, certain current policies, such as net energy metering and incentives for fuel cells and batteries, do not seem necessary to achieve a clean energy future in California. TURN will continue to evaluate those policies and recommend changes that both help consumers and reduce dangerous emissions from polluting power plants.