Exploring Policies to Promote Local Renewables

Last July, California Governor Jerry Brown held a conference, hosted by the Luskin Center at UCLA, to launch his initiative to achieve 12,000 megawatts of local renewable energy projects in California by 2020.  Local renewables, often called distributed generation, are projects no larger than 20 megawatts located close to customer demand.

Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment helped to put on the conference and has now released for comment a draft report that both opens a window on the conversations that took place, and sets forth a series of policy options to help reach the 12,000 megawatt target.  The report is the work of the Center, but the Governor’s office has pledged to give close consideration to each of the recommendation.  You can find the draft here, and we would value your comments to help us finalize the document. Credit Jeff Russell, a fellow at the Center, for his thoughtful work in putting the document together.

Here is how we conclude the draft report:

The barriers and solutions discussed in this report are sundry and several. They are, nonetheless, united by a common theme: local energy requires local action. 12,000 megawatts will not be a top-down effort by the state government or utilities. Rather, it will require a renewed focus on communities across the state along with the unique geographical, political, social, environmental and economic factors that distinguish them. Utilities will need to become reengaged with the neighborhoods that they serve by opening up local offices where residents and businesses can go to learn more about the distribution grid, the types of renewable energy systems that the grid can handle and the process for connecting new systems to the grid. Local governments will need to work with utilities to develop land use plans and policies that encourage development of local renewables and that are congruous with the distribution grid and natural resource availability. The state government will need to ensure that state regulations and processes do not unduly
hinder development of local renewables, and that incentives and procurement programs will promote the development of a stable grid network and self-sustaining markets. The renewable energy industry will need to continue to develop creative solutions to financing and technological challenges while working with both regulators and consumers to ensure that renewable energy equipment is safe, reliable and cost-efficient. Californians, who will ultimately pay for and benefit from the state’s transition to a clean energy future, will also drive that process by installing local renewables on their homes and businesses, and demanding that their utilities and elected officials clear the path to get there.

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