California regulators propose solar + storage resiliency budget for wildfire-risked residents

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The endless battle between the citizens of California and the wildfires that so frequently and devastate that state has a new chapter today, as state regulators have proposed redirecting funds from the state’s Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) equity budget to establish a new equity resiliency budget for low-income, high-fire-risk citizens.

Seeing as regulators shared that there have been no subscriptions in the SGIP equity budget, the funds are not likely to be missed.

In fact, quite the opposite is likely to be true, as the new equity resiliency budget will give vulnerable households located in Tier 3 high fire threat districts, critical services facilities serving those districts, and customers located in those districts that participate in two low-income solar generation programs. Outside of that fund, $10 million will be allocated to storage incentives to support pilot projects in eleven San Joaquin Valley disadvantaged communities.

For a reference of the scope of this budget program, check out this map. The areas in dark red are the Tier 3 high fire threat districts.

And while we know the funds will be coming from the seldom-utilized SGIP equity budget, the question remains as to who provides those funds. In short, the fund will be financed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison Company, Southern California Gas Company and the Center for Sustainable Energy. Each of these companies will carry over SGIP funds accumulated prior to or during 2017 – 2019 for use through 2025, $100 million in accumulated generation technology funds, to be specific. Not off the hook yet, the order also directs PG&E and SCE to transfer $10 million in accumulated non-residential equity budget funds to the San Joaquin Valley pilot budget.

That San Joaquin Valley pilot budget, is aimed at guaranteeing that low-income customers and customers with special medical needs in Tier 3 fire zones will have access to $850/kWh rebates on installed energy storage system.

As the announcement form the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) puts it:

The response for many customers is gasoline-powered backup generators… We can do better. Customers looking for backup power should be installing energy storage.

Another tidbit shared by CPUC is that all of the financial figures stated up until this point are preliminary and are liable to change between now and the hopeful implementation of this proposed action. This means that the budget could be higher or lower than stated, same with the rebate amounts.

Also coming with uncertainty is the timetable for fund availability if approved. The proposal’s announcement outlines that funds could become available any time from January to April of 2020.