Residents and businesses looking to install wind power, fuel cells or other alternative electricity generators - but not solar power - will get lower subsidies after a decision made this week by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The new rules apply to the Self-Generation Incentive Program, which provides subsidies to businesses and residents who install power generators on their own property. The new rules require new generation projects to reduce to the net production of global warming-causing gases such as carbon dioxide in order to be eligible for the subsidy. They also reduce the subsidies by as much as half, depending on the technology in question.
"Today's decision represents a team effort between the California Air Resources Board and the CPUC as we strive to reach goals of achieving 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020," said commission president Michael Peevey in a written statement issued Thursday.
A 2006 state law established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Under the rules for the program, applicants must show that proposed generation reduces the amount of net greenhouse gases produced compared with the amount of greenhouse gases produced from normal electricity generation. The exact amount of reduction was left open for a future decision after the commissioners disagreed with staff's method of calculation.
The commission also ruled that some technologies had become popular enough that subsidies could be reduced. Wind turbines will now be eligible for $1.25 per watt, down from $1.50 per watt; fuel cells, which produce electricity from natural gas without burning it, will be eligible for $1.25 per watt, half the previous subsidy; and biogas generators, which are fueled by methane from sewage and landfills, will see no reduction in a $2 per watt subsidy, but companies must buy it on a 10-year contract, twice as long as before.
The new rules require businesses applying to undergo an energy audit, which will highlight areas where the applicants could make better use of their electricity, before they receive a subsidy.
Call staff writer Eric Wolff at 760-303-1927 or follow him on Twitter at NCTRealEstate.