Statewide and Regional Programs Needed to Put Solution in Hands of Consumers
SACRAMENTO— Today the Brown Administration released an action plan to address the natural gas reliability concerns created by the Aliso Canyon leak in southern California. The action plan included steps to increase installations of rooftop solar technologies that can reduce natural gas demand in the region as one of many tools that can help avoid blackouts and brownouts this summer. Local rooftop solar energy technologies, including solar water heating, solar space heating, and solar electric systems, can play a meaningful role in reducing dependence on natural gas and meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals in the near and long-term.
“Aliso Canyon shows us that natural gas is not safe or environmentally friendly, despite the “natural” descriptor,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “Instead of burning gas to heat water and run power plants on summer days when the sun shines brightest upon our cities, California should continue to aggressively support solar technologies in Los Angeles and statewide now and into the future.”
Solar heating technologies can directly reduce natural gas usage in buildings. Approximately 25% of the demand for Aliso Canyon is used in buildings, energy that solar heating technologies can provide with no pollution or safety threats. In fact, if a solar heating project were installed on just 7% of the multi-family buildings in the Los Angeles area, it would offset the annual natural gas demand for all buildings served by Aliso Canyon. Further, California homes and businesses use 2.5 billion therms of natural gas annually to heat water, which is equal to the total storage capacity of natural gas in the state, including Aliso Canyon.
In addition, peak-time demand for natural gas-generated electricity can be offset with solar heating systems paired with chiller technologies, as well as, solar electric, or photovoltaic, technologies. The National Renewable Energy Lab recently published a report showing that California could technically install nearly 80 gigawatts of rooftop solar – a capacity equal to forty nuclear power plants.
CALSEIA is encouraging policy makers to step up their commitments and actions intended to increase the installation of rooftop solar technologies in southern California, and statewide. Specific policy recommendations include:
- Pass AB 2460 (Irwin) to expand consumer incentives for solar heating technologies.
- Pass AB 2339 (Irwin/Low) to extend access to rooftop solar electric technologies for consumers of municipal utilities. California’s municipal utilities remain heavily invested in out-of-state coal-fired power plants and need to do more to encourage and invest in renewable energy.
- LADWP should voluntarily allow power purchase agreements for solar systems to help drive more solar installations in the Los Angeles basin.
- Cities and counties should comply with AB 2188 (Muratsuchi) and ensure streamlined permitting programs are set up for both solar heating and solar electric technologies to reduce unnecessary delays and costs.
- All utilities should streamline interconnection processes to avoid unnecessary costs and delays as well as support solar-friendly rate structures.
“To meet our statewide climate change goals and address the challenges posed by Aliso Canyon, we need consistent consumer access to the sun. Today’s action plan is one important step but there is much more California must do to tap into this no-brainer energy solution,” added Del Chiaro. “Ultimately consumers need unfettered and economically viable access to solar powe. Given our monopoly-dominated energy industry, policy makers are going to have to step in and make this happen.”