February 21, 2013

Today, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) released a Blueprint for the Development of Distributed Generation (DG) in CA DG cover 022013California  with recommendations designed to help the state capture the greatest range of benefits from its continued support of DG in coming years. The Blueprint highlights that in order to fully unlock the potential of DG in California, policy efforts need to be integrated across a number of areas that are often regulated independently.

California has been remarkably forward thinking in its pursuit of a diverse renewable energy market.  Along with supporting a market for large-scale renewable installations, the state has long recognized the benefits that DG in its various forms can offer. It has fostered a variety of programs to support DG’s growth, including net-metering, feed-in-tariffs and auction-based programs for larger installations.  A number of these programs, however, are reaching the end of their allocated capacity, and increasing attention is being paid to whether the costs and benefits associated with these projects are being fully captured.

IREC’s blueprint identifies policies that will allow California to continue to support DG while driving projects into the highest-value locations in a manner that enables the state to get the most out of its investment.

“The recommendations include suggestions regarding procurement, interconnection, system planning and permitting,” explains Sky Stanfield, attorney with Keyes, Fox and Wiedman LLP, which represents IREC in state and federal renewable energy policy matters. “Achieving the greatest benefits from DG will require strategic action in all of these areas, and IREC’s blueprint helps to identify the ways in which they interrelate.”

  • In the area of procurement, the recommendations focus on strategies to continue to allow customers to self-supply their energy needs through net energy metering, while broadening the scope of DG programs so more customers are able to support and benefit from renewable energy investments.
  • On the wholesale side, the recommendations concentrate on how to refine procurement programs in a manner that directs projects to locations that offer the greatest system benefits.  The state has not always been proactive about providing signals to developers about the importance of siting in the most high-value locations. IREC’s recommendations seek to provide feasible methods for achieving this.
  • Building upon these procurement program changes, the blueprint addresses aspects of transmission and distribution system planning that can be improved to better integrate DG that is wisely sited, thereby preventing unnecessary and duplicative infrastructure investments.
  • Finally, the blueprint addresses changes to the permitting and interconnection process that will facilitate efficient DG development in the state as higher-penetrations of DG are realized.

“California has the potential to get even greater benefits out of its next investment in DG,” says Stanfield. “The IREC blueprint provides a guide to help the state head further down the path toward an economically efficient renewable energy future.”