Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the addition of Sunrun to Grid Alternatives’ third-party operator (TPO) partners as part of the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) incentive program.
The decision marks the second time Grid Alternatives has successfully petitioned the commission to allow TPO financing for the SASH program. It first added Clean Power Finance (CPF) in 2015.
Until the approval of CPF, TPOs had been forbidden for use in the SASH program over customer-protection fears. Therefore, Grid Alternatives’ no-cost solar systems could only be operated by the three investor-owned utilities in the state.
In 2015, the CPUC reauthorized the program but cut the offered incentive from $6.00/watt to $3.00/watt. To accommodate those cuts and recognizing the maturation of the TPO market in the state, the CPUC allowed Grid Alternatives to petition for the inclusion of CPF as a financing partner. After last week’s approval, Sunrun joins the list as a second option.
Before it approved that deal, however, Grid Alternatives had to prove that CPF met 12 minimum customer-protection standards, including:
- Ensure SASH customers receive at least 50% of the savings, as compared to standard utility rates, from the solar generating equipment;
- Reduce or eliminate barriers for customers with poor credit (low FICO scores) to qualify and participate;
- Address concerns that homeowners may have about moving or selling their home during the TPO contract term;
- Cover maintenance, operations, inverter replacement, and monitoring;
- Prohibit liens on homes;
- Minimize the risk to the low-income customer that the solar system would be removed for delinquent payments;
7. Ensure that all costs are apparent and upfront and that there is no risk that the TPO deal would result in an additional financial burden to the family;
- Standardize financial terms for low-income customers where possible;
- Protect the customer against terms that could change after contract signing;
10. Require that TPO agreements note the potential for additional costs associated with the contract, if applicable;
11. Require the TPO provider to clearly explain that rate changes will affect the economics of a power purchase agreement; and
12. Require that TPO agreement provisions spell out what happens in the event that the solar financing company defaults.
In 2008, Grid Alternatives was selected by the CPUC to manage the $162 million Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) incentive program, which aims to help low-income Californians install solar systems.
Grid Alternatives started offering the TPO model to SASH host customers in 2015. As of July 2016, the company says 389 projects totaling 1.2 MW have been completed utilizing the TPO model and SASH 2.0 incentive funding.
The CPUC said Grid Alternatives has guaranteed SASH customers will receive at least 50% of the savings compared to standard utility rates, including those who move to time-of-use rate under California’s Net-Metering 2.0.