News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

New Report Lauds Governor's Rooftop Solar Goals

California could have 12 gigawatts of distributed power generation such as these micro-wind turbines in Palmdale | Photo: Walmart Stores/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California Governor Jerry Brown has called for the state to install 12,000 megawatts of renewable distributed generation (DG) capacity by 2020, including everything from residential rooftop solar to landfill gas digestors that serve whole cities. A report released today by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council finds that ambitious goal not only feasible, but a cost-effective way for the state to build its renewable energy future.

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The report, "12,000 MW of Renewable Distributed Generation by 2020," analyzes the technical, economic and regulatory aspects of DG as it exists now, and delineates many of the benefits that promoting distributed generation can provide the state. The report also identifies a number of incentives and regulatory tweaks that can make it easier to develop distributed generation capacity.

Among the benefits of DG the report describes are reduced need for long-distance transmission, which is expensive to build and results in as much as 10% of power lost; reduced need for upgrades to local distribution grids; lessened demand for utility-scale power plants which are often sited on intact habitat or valuable agricultural land; savings due to avoiding volatile markets in fossil fuels; and a more stable grid.

The report identifies a few steps the state could take to promote distributed generation, including allowing for DG in utility planning, finding ways to promote DG in geographic areas that need more development, and continuing the state's emphasis on long-term renewable energy planning to reduce uncertainty over shifts in government policy -- that last especially important as renewable energy becomes a political football in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

The one-sentence version of the report: The 12,000-megawatt DG goal offers substantial benefits to California, and we can get there cost-effectively.

"The Governor's 12,000 MW goal has provides California policymakers with a great opportunity to propel the energy landscape of the state forward," said Joseph Wiedman, lead author of the report. "But we also hope this report will serve as a helpful resource and guide for policymakers in other areas of the country who have similar objectives."

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council is a non-profit organization that works with industry, government, educators and others to promote the safe, affordable and practical development of renewables.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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