Who Should Own Solar Renewable Energy Credits in California?

A week and half ago, we discussed the brouhaha that erupted over Whole Foods' and Renewable Choice Energy's new wind power cards. It turns out that battles over renewable energy credits aren't limited to the consumer market: according to Renewable Energy Access, a conflict has arisen over the ownership of credits that will be produced by solar system owners when the California Solar Initiative goes into effect in January. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has floated a proposed decision that would grant all of those credits to California utilities, and solar advocacy groups are crying foul:
David Hochschild, Executive Director of PV Now, said that utilities have no right to take 100% of SRECs from their customers. "If RECs go to the utilities, it is going to eliminate a very important revenue stream that can help make more projects possible," he said. "If they go to customers it's going to grow the solar market and everyone is going to benefit." ...

But the utilities have argued that they are helping out ratepayers who subsidize the solar and renewable [distributed grid] programs by contributing SRECs toward the [renewable portfolio standard] procurement target. If the utilities have to buy the SRECs, they said, then ratepayers will be paying twice for the renewable energy output for the RPS requirements.

"Due to their substantial funding of renewable DG, it is appropriate that those ratepayers be permitted to count the output of those renewable generators toward meeting the utility RPS requirements," said Pacific Gas and Electric in a written statement to the CPUC.

Both sides have a point, and both sides have invested in the distributed grid. It seems natural that the owners of the photovoltaic arrays would have a claim to the credits they produce, and sale of RECs does create more incentive for investment in solar technology. Since the utilities are responsible for meeting the portfolio standard, though, and required to purchase power from the smaller producers, one could buy their claim that this represents an unnecessarily harsh burden for the companies and their rate-payers. Keep in mind that neither side can call the energy they sell "renewable" without owning the credits that represent the environmental attributes of that energy.The official announcement of an ownership proposal will come today, so we'll likely hear more debate. ::Renewable Energy Access

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